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Questions And Answers - Thursday, 11 May 2006

Questions And Answers - Thursday, 11 May 2006

Questions to Ministers

Competitiveness Yearbook—New Zealand Ranking

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “it is time to move to the next level in the economic transformation agenda”, in light of today’s IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook scoreboard, which shows that New Zealand has dropped six places in the past 12 months; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes; in part because the issues outlined in the report are under active consideration by the Government.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister really expect us to accept that she and her Government are on the right path to economic transformation, when the IMD scoreboard shows that New Zealand has plunged 15 places, from 15th to 30th, in terms of economic performance; and what specific measures will her Government take to make the New Zealand economy perform better?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The interesting thing about that question is that if the member had read the report, as perhaps he might read his emails on occasions, he would see that the New Zealand Government made, in this report—which is based on subjective data, primarily—the sixth-highest contribution to competitiveness of any of the 61 countries measured.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister at all concerned that Australia is ranked sixth on the IMD scoreboard, in stark contrast to New Zealand’s 22nd place; and will she now finally accept that her Government’s economic policies are ensuring that New Zealand is left trailing in Australia’s wake?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Australia ranked ninth in terms of its positive contribution from the Government to economic competitiveness. The main difference between the two countries is that Australia digs itself up and exports itself to China and Japan. Unfortunately, we do not have the gas and coal supplies to do that.

Dr Don Brash: If, as Dr Cullen claims on the Prime Minister’s behalf, she is so unconcerned about New Zealanders moving to Australia for higher after-tax wages, why is her Government today launching an expensive Australian advertising campaign to lure expat Kiwis home?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are not in the least saying that we do not want to see New Zealanders coming back to New Zealand, but I was stopped outside and told that Dr Lockwood Smith was chasing people around and finding out they were going to Australia. If Dr Lockwood Smith was chasing me, I would think about going to Australia.

Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen the IMD scoreboard, which states that New Zealand is ranked 55th out of 61 countries for both personal and corporate taxes, and will she now admit that her Government’s high-tax, low-growth policies are anything but the economic transformation that New Zealand so desperately needs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have had over 20 percent growth. On the numbers released today, we have created 313,000 jobs, and we have the highest labour force participation rate in our country. The figure the member cites shows the danger of subjective surveys. [Interruption] Almost every country that rates higher than us in this survey has a higher proportion of tax as a proportion of GDP.

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

Madam SPEAKER: Was it the level of noise?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That barrage from the National members was a disgrace to any parliamentary democracy and any debating chamber, and they should be stopped now. I have never seen that level of behaviour in the House before and it is happening every day.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: No, please be seated.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, I am on my feet. I have not finished my point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member has done his point of order. I am on my feet. I thank the member. His point of order on the level of noise is well made. I was looking to see whether people could hear at the back, and I could see that some were straining. I say to members at the beginning of question time that, of course, they are allowed interjections, but the barracking that is so loud that members cannot hear is discourteous to the House. Could we please just keep the level down.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps the very sensitive leader of the New Zealand First Party has not seen barracking of that order before because he has never had the opportunity to watch himself in Parliament.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. First, when I was making my point of order National members recommenced another barrage. That is totally outside the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings, and those members should be ejected. The second part of my point of order arises from Mr Brownlee’s penchant for rising in the House without any Standing Orders or Speakers’ rulings to back him up, throwing out an insult, and setting his big frame down. With respect, he should be told that if he does not have a point of order and he abuses the Standing Orders process, then he will be ejected from this Parliament. He has done it over and over again. Yesterday he made an allegation that was totally false, and he knew it. The person concerned has denied it and sought parliamentary time to put their side of the story, but Mr Brownlee got away with it. [Interruption] There is no use Dr Brash raising his hands. He wrote the emails. I have evidence of what he did.

Madam SPEAKER: The member who interjected “Is this a point of order?” during the point of order will please leave the Chamber. Points of order are heard in silence, whether or not members agree with the content of the point of order. As members know, most points of order that are raised are not points of order, and we have already had some examples of that today. I have been asking members to please comply with the Standing Orders so we can conduct question time in a way that all people can hear and questions can be asked and answered. I do not know who the member was who interjected, but while that point of order was being made I clearly heard a member ask “Is that a point of order?”, and it came from the Opposition side of the House.

Hon Bill English withdrew from the Chamber.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I appreciate that. It is just until the end of question time, unless he has a question, in which case he may return for that.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The leader of New Zealand First routinely abuses the point of order process. He made a lengthy speech that was not a point of order. I very much regret that you felt it necessary to expel my colleague. He was making a point that all of us were feeling. This is an abuse of parliamentary procedure.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member but that was not a point of order, either. That makes the point really—people want to express themselves. The point of order raised by the shadow Leader of the House was clearly not a point of order, it was a comment on the proceedings. The reason the member had to leave is that yesterday there were numerous breaches of the point of order process when members were speaking, laughing, joking, and interjecting. I am asked to apply the Standing Orders in an even way. I appreciated the member’s honesty. Can we please proceed in a proper way.

Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You put members in a difficult position. I would like you to give this matter some thought. The Standing Orders, of course, do require—and Speakers’ rulings require—that members should be quiet during a point of order. But that requirement is built on a presumption that points of order will be legitimately taken and that there will not be an abuse of the point of order process. I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, that if you wish to retain order in the House, then it requires you to vigilantly police whether members indeed have a legitimate point of order that they are pursuing. Otherwise, it is very difficult for members who take exception to something that has been said—an abuse of the Standing Orders process—to restrain themselves from correcting this matter, or indeed, to directing your attention to the fact that an abuse has actually taken place. That, I believe, was the cause of Mr English’s undoing—indeed, he was trying to draw your attention to the fact that a flagrant breach of the point of order process was being engaged in by Mr Peters. I think the answer to that, is for you to give some thought to the enforcement of the requirements of a legitimate Standing Order.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I want to support the member in that respect. I think it would be very helpful if you started clamping down further on members who continue to raise frivolous points of order that are not points of order, and perhaps those who continue to act in transgression in that respect might be invited to leave the Chamber.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. I thank members for their comments and I am sure all members have noted them. Can we please now proceed.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister accept that in explaining yesterday Australia’s higher after-tax incomes by reference to Australia’s generous endowment of mineral resources, she was implicitly accepting that, on present policies, New Zealanders will never again enjoy Australian living standards?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because even the Lucky Country will, sooner or later, run out of gas and coal.

Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister concerned that as a trading nation, New Zealand’s competitiveness will be severely affected by the impact of peak oil; and if so, what strategies does the Government have to future-proof New Zealand from those impacts, given her recent acknowledgment that New Zealand should be preparing for a post-oil economy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because I regard, in this context, oil as being rather similar to taxation. We ranked 22nd in this survey and by my count, of the 21 countries above us, 12 have significantly higher tax rates than New Zealand, while of the 39 countries below us, 28 have significantly lower rates than New Zealand. A fairly high proportion of the countries above us in this survey have little or no oil, for example, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, Iceland, Finland, and so on. Clearly, oil is not the key matter in terms of competitiveness, when some countries that are relatively oil-rich can rank quite low in these kinds of surveys.

Science—Environmental Challenges

2. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What is the Government doing to ensure that science contributes to addressing New Zealand’s environmental challenges?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): I was pleased to announce today in conjunction with my colleague Mr Benson-Pope a package of $20.5 million over 4 years that aims to enhance New Zealand’s environment. This initiative provides an additional $16 million over the next 4 years for Vote Research, Science and Technology, and $4.5 million over the next 3 years for Vote Environment to clean up contaminated sites. The research through Research, Science and Technology will improve pest management of things like possums and rabbits, and improve the understanding of freshwater ecosystems and streams, rivers, and lakes, and help to combat such pests as didymo in South Island rivers. This, once again, recognises the Labour-led Government’s recognition of how important investment in the environment is.

Moana Mackey: What contribution does this make to the Government’s overall environmental programme?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The new funding will mean this Government will be spending a total of $90 million per annum from Vote Research, Science and Technology alone on environmental research in areas such as climate change, freshwater and marine environments, and land productivity. That money goes alongside $13 million on Enviroschools; the $33.2 million to safeguard biosecurity, announced by Jim Anderton; $16 million today in environmental research; and $4.5 million for contaminated sites. That is $66.7 million of new funding for this area.

Gordon Copeland: How much of the $20.5 million announced today will be directed towards the eradication of didymo, and what results does the Minister expect from this funding boost over the next 12 months?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer to that, of course, lies very much in the hands of the scientists who will do the work, but, as the member knows, since didymo was discovered in this country, New Zealand has become the leader in the understanding of how to deal with this pest. What we expect over the next year is that that leadership will be consolidated because about a quarter of this money will be going into that area.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister how much of the $20.5 million would be directed towards the eradication of didymo. He did not address that part of the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would like Minister like to repeat that bit. It was obviously not heard by the member.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I did say—about a quarter.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware of the development in South Africa of solar panels, which will make it possible for houses to become totally self-sufficient for energy supplies; and does he believe that such an innovation would be good for our environment and a good way to address our power supply problems; and if he does share that view, will he be making contact with the South Africans to see whether such an innovation could come to New Zealand?

Madam SPEAKER: The question is a bit broad.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It lies slightly outside my area but I am responsible for a research programme around energy efficiency—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member is responsible.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: —and for looking at new initiatives, like solar panels. The answer is no, I am not aware of what is going on in South Africa personally but I am sure the scientists are.

Peter Brown: In the light of the Minister’s answer, I would like to table an extract from a scientific magazine that outlines the details of the—

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

Budget 2006—Personal Tax Changes

3. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he intend to make any reductions to personal tax rates or increase personal tax thresholds in Budget 2006; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No, because at this point neither the fiscal nor the macroeconomic position would make that a sensible move.

John Key: Does he seriously think, in a week when Australia announced $45 billion of tax cuts, that a New Zealand campaign launched today in Australia and costing $400,000, with such clumsy billboards as “In New Zealand a cultural wilderness is a concert at a vineyard”, will really make a blind bit of difference in attracting back the half a million Kiwis who now call Australia home?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member lived as close to the Church Road winery as I do, he would not sneer at concerts in vineyards. Also, if he lived almost next door to a New Zealand family that has just returned from Australia, he would not sneer about New Zealanders returning from Australia.

John Key: Is this ham-fisted campaign not just further confirmation that privately this Government is deeply concerned about the impact that Australian tax cuts are having on attracting and retaining New Zealand’s skilled and motivated workforce, and if he is not concerned about that, why is the Government bothering to launch the campaign in the first place?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly, we want to attract New Zealanders back home to New Zealand from Australia, and we are so generous that we would like to attract Australians to come to New Zealand. There is a competitive market out there in the world in that respect. We can be sure that if we saw a National Government again, people would flee the country, as they did during the 1990s.

John Key: Has it come to his attention that 680 people leave New Zealand each week for Australia, in which case will the Government be running this clumsy campaign not only in Australia but here in New Zealand as well, in a bid to stop the flood of talent across the Tasman—or has the Government reconciled itself to the fact that those New Zealanders already know that this administration will not be cutting taxes, as he pointed out in his answer to a question today, at least as long as he is Minister of Finance, which we all mercifully know is not for much longer, when Mr Cunliffe will move along one seat?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that is what psychologists call projection, though in his case it is two seats.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he received reports in a historical context about political parties and tax cuts, namely in the late 1980s and in the latter part of the 1990s, and does that not suggest that although the National Party talks about tax cuts, in contrast to the Labour administration under Douglas and Caygill, the record of the administration under Ruth Richardson and Birch is not to have introduced tax cuts when it got into office, and that the last and biggest tax cuts of $1.1 billion happened when New Zealand First provided the Treasurer in this country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is certainly true that the top tax rate when we became the Government was 33 percent and the company tax rate was 33 percent. It is certainly true that National became the Government in 1990 and the top tax rate was 33 percent and the company tax rate was 33 percent, and that those rates were put in place by a Labour Government. It is also true that the highest level of net out-migration to Australia from New Zealand occurred in late 1998, 1999, and early 2000.

Shane Jones: Does he intend to introduce a general capital gains tax, impose stamp duties, or introduce a dedicated health tax in Budget 2006?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, certainly not. However, of course, if the Opposition wants to talk turkey and lift the top tax rate to 45 percent and the second rate to 40 percent, introduce a stamp duty, and have a general capital gains tax, we could talk about some tax gains for low to middle income New Zealanders.

John Key: Why is Jason Walker from Hays Specialist Recruitment wrong when this morning he said on National Radio that the impact of tax cuts would have “pretty serious ramifications, with individuals crossing the ditch.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I invite the member to think for a moment and look in the mirror. In the year 2000 this Government put up the top tax rate; Mr Key came back to New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it correct in a historical context that the highest-ever personal taxes in this country occurred under a National administration with a Minister of Finance called Ruth Richardson, when she imposed a surtax increase in 1991 of effectively, in its worst case, an impost of 92c in the dollar?

Gerry Brownlee: Why did the member vote for it?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Again Mr Brownlee shouted out during the question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, it was after you had finished the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: And the answer is that I did not vote for it. I was expelled from the National Party.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is certainly true that in the 1991 so-called “mother of all Budgets” the National Party attempted to introduce a very rigid income test on the State pension, which it subsequently had to abandon. I do note that in Australia such an income test still exists, so presumably we can expect to see New Zealanders come home again when they get to about 55.

John Key: Why is the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry wrong because it believes that low taxes play a part in attracting skilled workers and welcomes the fact that the Australian Treasurer has had the courage to cut personal taxes in Australia for 4 years in a row, and why does he think that that has a significant impact on attracting New Zealand workers over to Australia?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If we look at the total migration flows we see, in fact, that over the last 5 years net migration flows as a percentage of population have been higher in New Zealand than in Australia.

John Key: Is it not a fact that when it comes to tax cuts, Kiwi workers contrast his inaction with the action of an Australian Government that, for 4 years now, has cut taxes and shared prosperity; if so, does he agree it will not be Australia but New Zealand that will wake up one day soon looking for its skilled and motivated workforce and asking the most obvious question: “Where the bloody hell are ya?”

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am over here. I do not know where he is, but I am right here and I intend to stay here for the long-term future. The public was offered the chance to have unsustainable tax cuts at last year’s election, and it did not get over the line, and now all National can do is to wobble across the plank and try to get to the future.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the context of the history of tax reform and tax changes, can he recall the commitment made by a political party to remove the surtax “no ifs, no buts, no maybes”, and then having got into power on that promise—much like a used-car salesman, with plenty of pre-sales talk but no after-sales service—can he recall that it increased the worst impost of that tax to 92c in the dollar; and what was that party called?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the Minister of Social Welfare at the time the promise was made, I well recall a former member of the National Party—who has since seen a great deal more sense about life—promising in an address in the Wellington Town Hall that “no ifs, no buts, no maybes” the surtax would go, then trying to introduce an income test, and never removing the surtax until it was a condition of coalition Government with New Zealand First. That was the National Party and, indeed, in 1999, once no longer in coalition with the New Zealand First Party, National cut New Zealand superannuation again once it had a tax cut legislated for.

John Key: Can the Minister of Finance recall a Government that left office telling the people of New Zealand there was an $89 million surplus, when there was actually a $3 billion deficit, and can he name that Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member had bothered to check his facts—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: If I cannot hear the member, then I am sure those at the back cannot. Would the Minister please start his answer again.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I wish the Leader of the Opposition would not wave his pinkie at me when the rest are waving their forefingers. In fact, if the member cares to consult his facts, he will find out that the party he belongs to was saying before that election there was a $1.8 billion deficit.

Youth Justice Residences—Siting

4. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): What progress has been achieved in confirming a preferred site for a youth justice residence in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato area?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): In February of last year I established a group to look for a site for a youth justice residence in the Waikato - Bay of Plenty area. In November of last year the group recommended Kaharoa as the preferred site. Submissions from the community were received until 18 March, and at the request both of Kaharoa residents and the local member of Parliament, Steve Chadwick, alternative sites were also pursued. Between now and September all feasible sites will be investigated, and, following that, public consultation on a preferred site will recommence.

Dr Pita Sharples: What developments occurred in the 9-month period between March 2005, when construction costs for the Te Wairenga Road site in Kaharoa were projected at $30 million, and November 2005 when the facility was estimated to cost $40 million to build, and what services were sacrificed in the vital area of youth care and protection, in order to cover the shortfall of $10 million?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There were a number of contributing factors to the increase in cost. Fortunately, there is a proper process for public consultation to be gone through. That time delay means that those costs often accumulate. Because the site has not been signed off, no services have actually been lost, at all, in the youth justice area.

Steve Chadwick: What opportunity has the local community had to contribute to the selection of a suitable site?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The department has gone through an extensive public consultation process to identify a suitable site in the Bay of Plenty and Waikato area. In response to the number of submissions received on this issue, and at the request of the local community and the member asking the question, I extended the consultation period on the preferred site, and agreed to further investigate alternative sites.

Judith Collins: Can the Minister assure the House that the department has not adopted the collaborative working arrangements model used so unsuccessfully by the Department of Corrections in its prison building?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Ron Mark: What confidence can the people of Kaharoa have in this consultation process, knowing that the land at Te Waerenga Road has already been purchased?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Not only is it the absolutely accepted process, but it is also common sense, that before a preferred site is announced, the land is purchased. Otherwise, the price would go up.

Dr Pita Sharples: What is the average length of stay for someone on remand in youth justice facilities; and what plans are in place to remedy that situation, given the concern over young people being remanded in police cells?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There are two parts to the answer. In response to the former question, my understanding is that it is 6 weeks. In answer to the latter, I tell the member that young people are generally not remanded in police cells. They generally stay in police cells because there is no alternative suitable facility for them to stay in—and that is not acceptable.

Dr Pita Sharples: What preparations are taking place for the Kaharoa facility to respond to Ron Mark’s “Putting Children in Jail Bill”, given I am advised that 12-year-old children are already locked up in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services’ Korowai Manaaki Youth Justice North Centre in Manurewa?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, indeed, there are children detained at the facility. But in relation to the primary part of the member’s question, I say that no action is being taken on the Kaharoa site at the moment, because it has not been decided that that will be where any future youth justice facility is located.

Dr Pita Sharples: I seek leave to table an article from Rotorua Review on 1 March 2005 about the Bay of Plenty entitled “Rotorua area penned in for prison ‘site’?”.

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

Dr Pita Sharples: I seek leave to table an article from the Daily Post from 23 November 2005, “$1 million paid for controversial youth prison site”.

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

Question No. 3 to Minister

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a speech entitled “Low Flying with the Erebus Economy”, given in mid-1991, because I know that it rebuts what Maurice Williamson is about to say now. It refutes the view that I supported the National Government’s Budget.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Earlier in this session, an interchange occurred between the leader of New Zealand First and the deputy leader of the National Party. Gerry Brownlee actually called out and asked why the Minister voted for it, when we were referring to a move introduced by the National Government on 30 July 1991 to increase the rates of taxation on national superannuation. Mr Peters took the point of order, said that he had been interjected on when you quite clearly pointed out that he had not, but went on to say that he did not vote for that move. I seek to table Hansard, Volume 517, at page 3287, which shows that on the voting record one of the people who voted for that measure was Mr Winston Peters.

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

Question No. 5 to Minister

SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that he is now advising the Acting Prime Minister and essentially running the Government, I seek leave to ask my police questions of the Hon David Cunliffe.

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

Police—Recruitment

5. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement yesterday in the House that “this Government is committed to providing all the resources needed” to recruit an extra 1,000 front-line staff?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): Yes, and I thank the member for all the opportunities he is giving me to reinforce the Government’s commitment to providing the resources necessary to the New Zealand Police to recruit and train 1,000 extra front-line sworn and 250 non-sworn police staff, plus the infrastructure needed to support them over the next three Budgets.

Simon Power: Why are civilians being dressed in police uniforms and being put out on the streets to do the work of fully trained front-line staff when the public could easily mistake them for sworn and fully trained officers, or are these decoy cops designed to give the impression that this Government is putting 1,000 new police on the streets?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, they are not decoy cops put out on the street to appear as if they were part of the front line. We will have 1,000 front-line sworn officers. But what I can say to the member is that for almost 10 years—I repeat, almost 10 years—under a National Government and under a Labour Government we have had temporary sworn staff helping the police. I know that this Government will not count them as front-line sworn police; I cannot guarantee to this House that the National Party did not.

Keith Locke: Is the Minister aware that under the Police Act, it is illegal to impersonate a police officer; if so, why has she allowed the police to dress non-sworn security guards in a police uniform, and what sympathy does she have with people who seek protection from a police officer, only to find out that that officer is a mannequin modelling an official blue uniform without any power of arrest?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised that it is not necessary. I can assure the member that these temporary sworn officers are allowed to wear a uniform because they are sworn. Non-sworn officers are not allowed to wear police uniforms. Sworn officers are allowed under section 51A(b) of the Police Act.

Simon Power: How does a member of the public know, when he or she approaches a person in police uniform in an emergency situation, whether that person is a sworn and fully trained police officer, and if the police have all the resources they need, why are they forced to engage these decoy cops?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As I have said, for around 9 to 10 years the police have been using temporary sworn police officers—

Hon Member: Not in uniforms.

Hon ANNETTE KING:—in uniforms—and I will get to that in a moment—in a number of roles, including jailors, observers in jails, and transporters of prisoners, and sometimes they are used around crime sites after the crime has been committed. The member makes a good point, though, that over those 9 to 10 years, there has been no consistency in what uniform they wear. In November last year the board of commissioners decided there would be a national standard in terms of the uniform that temporary sworn police would wear, and they will be wearing a similar uniform around New Zealand. I have seen temporary sworn police officers wearing overalls, I have seen them wearing part of a police uniform, and in some places I have seen them wearing jackets and trousers. It is not good enough, but I am pleased that the board of commissioners will have a national standard. It did not happen under the previous National Government, but it will happen under this Government. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: If members wish to remain in question time, would they please be silent when the member is about to ask his question.

Simon Power: Can the Minister give an assurance that these civilians will surrender their uniforms once they have ceased duty, in light of the fact that triple murderer William Duane Bell wore a police shirt to gain access to the Panmure RSA; if not, why is such a practice being encouraged?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I can give that assurance. I am advised by the office of the Commissioner of Police that that is correct. I cannot guarantee where people will get second-hand clothes and I cannot guarantee that people will not make their own shirts to look like police shirts, but any temporary sworn officer who leaves the police does have to give back a uniform.

Simon Power: Can she tell the House today how many of these temporary constables wearing police uniforms there are right now, when George Hawkins was able to tell the House on 9 September 2004 that there were 15; and is it true that there are now 330 decoy cops to cover the 379 officers who have left the force in the last 12 months?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In reply to the last part of the member’s question, no, that is not correct, they are not—

Simon Power: How many?

Hon ANNETTE KING: To the last part of the question—the member should read it—no is the answer. The answer to the first part of the question is that there are currently 330.

Simon Power: Can she confirm that the use of these “temporary constables” is completely justified under the vague wording of the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and New Zealand First that agrees to provide another 1,000 police staff?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can give an absolute assurance to this House, so members should watch my lips—

Simon Power: I’m trying not to.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I realise that; I know that it is very attractive to the member. I can assure the member that the 1,000 extra sworn police will be full-time sworn officers. They will not be temporary sworn officers, which we have had in New Zealand for about 9 to 10 years. The issue was never raised by National members when they were in Government and it has not been raised for the last 6 years, but I can give an absolute guarantee—the member is watching my lips now—that there will be 1,000 new sworn police officers in the police force. Watch our lips!

Ron Mark: In view of the debate, can the Minister tell the House which Government implemented a policy of bringing civilians into the police force to do police work, which Government introduced a policy of using Armourguard security officers to do police work, which Government promised the country 900 extra police and then did it by merging the Ministry of Transport with the police, and which Government slashed the number of police officers by 450 and then gave the police a computer to chase crooks with; and was it not New Zealand First that forced an increase in the police establishment in 1996 of 500 police officers—and has now, again, increased it by 1,000 police officers, with, on top of that, the Government’s agreement to another 250 non-sworn staff as well? What is bad about that?

Gerry Brownlee: If it’s go good, why did the member walk away?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would not be surprised if that member walks away—out of the House. That was an excellent question. The answer is the National Party, and what I think members get upset about is that big “h” word that comes to mind whenever—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a genuine point of order. My colleague asked a very serious question. I am dying to know which party it is but I cannot hear, again because of the barrage from the National Party.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please answer the question. [Interruption] Please be seated. I know it is Thursday but would members please keep the level down. I was straining to hear what the Minister was saying, as well. I also say that questions should be questions and not speeches. Answers should also be given as succinctly as possible.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Very succinctly and in capital letters, I tell members that it is the National Party.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table section 51A of the Police Act about the misuse of police uniform.

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

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a clipping from this morning’s Dominion Post with a photograph of a woman who looks suspiciously like a fully trained police officer with powers of arrest, but is not.

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

Police—Rural Police Stations

6. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Police: What progress has been made on instituting and reinstating sole-charge and small police stations in rural areas?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): There are 64 one-person police stations currently situated around the country. New Zealand Police is looking at opportunities to improve the conditions of those stations, both for the public and the police. The Government has already started with 15 new, improved police stations for rural communities, which are either already opened or planned to be opened over the next year.

Darren Hughes: Has she seen any reports on policing in rural communities?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have seen a rural policing report prepared by the police, which highlights the establishment of a rural liaison portfolio. [Interruption] The member for Whangarei, who is trying to interject, would be very pleased to know that the leader of that team is the district commander in his own area: Viv Rickard, who is a very good district commander, I know that the member will agree. In rural policing there are established opportunities for relief, training, covering leave, time management, and supervision for the police who work in those areas. I have also seen a report from the Manawatû-Rangitîkei Federated Farmers meeting with local members of Parliament, which sets out very positive actions that have been taking place for rural communities in the central region. I understand that the Opposition spokesperson on police was at that very meeting.

Simon Power: How do rural members of the public know, when they approach a person in police uniform and in an emergency situation, whether that person is a sworn and fully trained police officer, a decoy cop, or the lead singer from the Village People?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised that from the time that temporary sworn police officers have been used, they have been used mainly as jailers—as the people in jails who observe those at risk of taking their own lives, and who transport prisoners. I think mainly the public who interact with temporary sworn officers would probably be either on the way to jail or in the jails themselves.

PlunketLine—Quality of Service

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement, “What I’m satisfied by is that PlunketLine, in terms of calls picked up, was not providing a good service”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. As she has now told the member twice in the last 8 days, the rate of calls not picked up by Plunket was high, at some 87.3 percent in the year ended December 2005.

Hon Tony Ryall: What was her Government’s long-term plan when it inserted into its contract with McKesson New Zealand, the following clause: “McKesson will use its best endeavours to ensure that Healthline, incorporating PlunketLine, will be delivered via one nationally available 0800 number by 1 July 2005. Funds for this contract will not be used to promote the PlunketLine number after this date.”; and was it always her plan that PlunketLine would cease to exist?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Most certainly not. That was certainly never the intention. Of course, as one might recall, some little time ago the National Party severely criticised the Ministry of Health for letting out contracts without going to tender. As a consequence, the Ministry of Health went to tender. An independent panel made the decision that the contract should go to McKesson.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that Plunket is answering calls to PlunketLine as we speak, and Plunket is meeting every term of its contract; if so, why is she culling this vital extension of PlunketLine?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes and no. The decision was not made by the Prime Minister.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is she the same Helen Clark who said: “The reasons why the Government and its many health bureaucracies won’t fund PlunketLine go beyond mere penny-pinching.”; and is it not time she admits that she has read the country wrong if she thinks parents enjoy listening to the Prime Minister bag Plunket in the House day after day?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: She is indeed the same Helen Clark who quite rightly criticised the National Party for failing to fund a 24-hour well child health service. She is the same Prime Minister who heads a Government that still provides a 24-hour well child health service. She is somewhat bemused to find that the party that supports competition in New Zealand opposes competitive tendering for a contract worth some millions of dollars.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is she the same Helen Clark who said: “But would it not be tragic if the result of cutting back on Plunket Line’s hours or its closure altogether was to be an increase in the number of infants’ and children’s deaths … Plunket Line does deal with real emergencies and with situations which if not dealt with speedily could become emergencies,”; and is it not time that the Prime Minister admitted it is not good for her to be attacking Plunket day after day in the Parliament?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: She is indeed the same Prime Minister who supported then, and supports now, a 24-hour well child health service—a service that a National Government Cabinet, of which he was a member, refused to fund.

Jo Goodhew: What would the Prime Minister say to the Plunket volunteers who today are out raising money to help Plunket and who formerly believed that the Prime Minister always supported PlunketLine?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: She would say to them that she still does, and that the Government is providing $34 million a year to the Plunket Society.

Telecommunications—Local Loop Unbundling

8. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Communications: What will be the benefits to New Zealanders of the Government’s decisions announced last week to require the unbundling of local loop and sub-loop copper lines and the associated policy decisions?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Communications): Cheaper, faster broadband to all New Zealanders. Access to advanced broadband services means economic growth. Along with initiatives such as the digital strategy, it will ensure New Zealand’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it correct that the benefits to rural users of the local loop unbundling are not likely to be commensurate with the benefits accruing to users living in higher-density areas, resulting in risks to future investment and rural infrastructure; if so, what is the Government doing to ensure rural broadband users will get equitable provision?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: All New Zealanders should benefit from this package. The Government recognises that rural New Zealand is the heartland of the economy, and we will not ignore this vital sector. Existing relevant initiatives include Project Probe, the Broadband Challenge, and the Digital Strategy Community Partnership Fund. A rural services package will be developed for next year’s Budget.

Maryan Street: Has the Minister received any reports suggesting significantly different approaches to telecommunications?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have not seen a substantive alternative policy, but I have seen a report stating: “The National Party has not got a policy or a consideration of one in place regarding telecommunications.” A second one states: “We are not putting many fresh ideas up, deliberately.” The third one is my personal favourite: “National would not reverse the unbundling decision.” The first is a quotation from Tony Ryall; the second one is from Maurice Williamson; and, wait for it—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Down at the back of the House here we are dying to hear to whom those three quotes are ascribed, but we cannot hear it from down here. Some of the elderly colleagues from the National Party at the back over there cannot hear, either.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has made his point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am making this request on their behalf as well on my own.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister also talk into his microphone, please. That would make it a lot easier.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have not seen a substantive alternative policy, but I have seen reports stating, firstly: “The National Party has not got a policy or a consideration of one in place regarding telecommunications.”; secondly: “We are not putting many fresh ideas up, deliberately.”; and, thirdly: “National would not reverse the unbundling decision.” The first is a quotation from Tony Ryall, the second is from Maurice Williamson, and, wait for it, the third is from Dr Don Brash.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the Minister aware of responses by groups including the ACT party, the National Party, and the Business Roundtable—which advocate the efficacy of market mechanisms for both business and the delivery of social services—to the Government’s decision to establish a level of competition in broadband supply, and is he able to describe the nature of these responses without using the “h” word?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I think National’s position is best described by a letter to the editor in the Dominion Post last Monday: “Have I got this right? The National and ACT parties are in favour of free competition in the marketplace and opposed to monopolies, unless the monopoly is owned by a private company, and then it is Okay?”. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I do not want to ask the Minister to start from the top. Would he please now just continue on, and would you please lower the tone.

Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Because of the barrage of noise coming from that side I was not able, in fact—and I asked the question—to hear the answer from the Minister, and I ask whether he could repeat it, please.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question, with some rapidity.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The quote was: “Have I got this right? The National and Act parties are in favour of free competition in the marketplace and opposed to monopolies, unless the monopoly is owned by a private company, and then it is Okay?”. The answer is that no one knows. Maurice Williamson hates our policy but has none of his own. Don Brash says that National would not reverse it.

Nandor Tanczos: How does the Government intend to prevent Telecom from delaying the benefits of local loop unbundling by deliberately obstructing negotiations over reasonable terms of access, as has happened overseas; and will the Government provide for regulation of the price Telecom charges its competitors for access to the local loop?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: By implementing internationally accepted principles that will be enshrined in legislation, which I hope the member’s party will fully support.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that businesses in New Zealand would be better off with a 50 percent or more reduction in their mobile phone bills, and with other reductions in their telecommunication charges, than with tiny tax cuts; and can he understand why the National Party keeps wittering on and on about tax cuts, yet opposes reducing telecommunication and mobile phone charges, which would greatly benefit businesses in New Zealand?

Madam SPEAKER: That question was outside the Minister’s responsibility. Would you like to rephrase it so that it is within the Minister’s responsibility? It was relating to tax, as I heard it.

Sue Kedgley: Does he believe that unbundling the local loop, and thereby reducing mobile phone charges and telecommunications charges, would benefit business more than a tiny little tax cut; and can he, therefore, understand why the National Party continues to witter on and on about tiny tax cuts, while refusing to support unbundling the local loop and reducing telecommunications charges to business?

Madam SPEAKER: If the Minister could address the first part of the question, quickly.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The international evidence is that the measures that this Government has promised to introduce will make a significant positive impact on the New Zealand economy to the tune of billions of dollars of GDP.

Housing New Zealand Corporation—Management of Housing Stock

9. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Does he have confidence in the Housing New Zealand Corporation’s management of its housing stock?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Housing): Yes, because in the past year the Housing New Zealand Corporation has allocated houses to 10,000 families, it has upgraded more than 2,000 houses to make them drier and more energy efficient, and it has added more than 1,000 State homes to the housing network to meet demand, and because since July 2003 more than 1,500 tenants have been moved to smaller, more suitable houses, freeing up homes for larger families on the waiting list.

Phil Heatley: Why has the amount of damage done by Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants risen by a staggering 75 percent this year compared with last year, up from $6.9 million to $12.1 million, with a good part of this financial year still to go?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Social housing always presents any Government with challenges, but I am proud to say this Government is working very actively to provide decent homes for all New Zealanders.

Georgina Beyer: Prior to 1999, was any programme in place to upgrade older State houses for modern living—for example, ensuring kitchens could accommodate basic appliances like fridges?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: No; disturbingly, it appears that there was no programme in place under National. It took the Labour-led Government to introduce one, in 2001. Since then, 2,618 properties have been modernised—an example of the good stewardship occurring under this Government of the State’s second-largest physical asset.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many more houses would the Housing New Zealand Corporation management be managing were it not for the fact that a National Government, under Murray McCully, engaged in the wholesale sale of them; and is that not a reason for me to report the outcome of today’s question time as to the results, side by side, to the SPCA?

Madam SPEAKER: I do not understand the second part of the question, but the Hon Chris Carter can answer the first part .

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When are you going to ask a member of Mr Peters’ standing and long experience actually to ask a question that is reasonable? Time after time, you either turn his question down or, in fact, ask that part of it be left out—in other words, not answered—which does indicate that there are aspects of his question that fall outside the Standing Orders. Will there not be a time when you simply say the question cannot be answered? I would have to argue that that question was extremely thin in its relationship to the primary question.

Madam SPEAKER: The first part of the question seemed to me to be within the Standing Orders, and, as I have indicated, the Minister should address just that part. It is not for the Speaker to comment on the quality of questions, whether primary or supplementary questions—just to make sure they are within the Standing Orders.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can report to this House that under the National Government 13,000 State houses were sold. Less than one-third of them were sold to tenants, and most were sold to speculators, who made a great deal of money out of them at the State’s expense.

Phil Heatley: Why has the amount of damage done by Housing New Zealand Corporation tenant guests risen by a staggering 73 percent this year compared with last year—up from $1.5 million to $2.6 million—with a good part of the financial year still to go?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member seems to be confusing damage and repairs, and adding the figures together. What he is doing is trying to distort the figures that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has provided to him.

Phil Heatley: What is going on at the Housing New Zealand Corporation; the clientele has not changed, and by the Minister’s own admission the number of properties has gone up by only 2 percent, yet tenant damage and guest damage are set to double this year compared with last year—why are they getting so out of control?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member makes a number of allegations that are manifestly false. He says, for example, that the number of State houses has gone up by only 2 percent; in fact, this Government has added 6,000 houses to the housing stock. What I can say is that the Housing New Zealand Corporation—

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: —which has been the repository of over $2 billion of Government spending—

Phil Heatley: Point of order—

Hon CHRIS CARTER: —since 1999, is working very hard to provide—

Phil Heatley: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: I am terribly sorry; I could not hear over the barrage.

Phil Heatley: In the Minister’s answer to the first question he said that the number of State houses had gone up by 1,000 this last year. I referred to the number of houses going up by not more than 2 percent in the last year. There are about 60,000 houses, and 1,000 is certainly less than 2 percent. The Minister then abused me in the House, saying I have not got my facts correct, but they are laid out right before us—the number of houses did not go up by 2 percent in the last year, and vandalism is up by 75 percent.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure what the point of order was, but would the Minister please address the question. If we could have a little less rowdiness, then we might be able to hear the answer, and maybe that confusion would disappear.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I said in my initial answer, the Government has added almost 1,000 houses in the last year. That might be only 2 percent of our existing total, but 1,000 houses is an enormous investment. I would like to remind the House again that Mr Heatley seems to be confusing repairs with damage. He is adding both figures together to give a distorted amount of money.

Phil Heatley: What ramifications will Maryan Street’s damage insurance bill, which forces landlords to insure tenants for damage caused by their guests, have for this country’s largest landlord, the Housing New Zealand Corporation?

Madam SPEAKER: I just note that the Minister has no responsibility for a member’s bill, but if there is a general—

Phil Heatley: It is the impact on the Housing New Zealand Corporation.

Madam SPEAKER: It is the impact. That part of the question is in order. Would the Minister please address just that part.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The bill has not been passed yet, so we are still working through, at the moment, theoretical policy. But we are, of course, looking at it.

Phil Heatley: As the Housing New Zealand Corporation owns 15 percent of all rental properties, will not its atrocious performance at curbing vandalism drive up the insurance premiums—I am talking about Maryan Street’s bill—for every mum and dad landlord renting out a house?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: That remains a very theoretical point. What I can say is that the Housing New Zealand Corporation is engaged in a very active programme of enhancing and modernising the housing stock, which, I remind this House again, is the State’s second-largest asset.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Housing New Zealand Corporation vandalism bill for last year, and its vandalism and damage bill for this year, to date—not repair bill, but damage and vandalism bill.

Leave granted.

Contaminated Sites—Clearing

10. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent initiatives has the Government taken to assist with the clean-up of contaminated sites?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment): Protecting and enhancing the environment is a key priority for this Labour-led Government. New Zealand has, unfortunately, an unwanted legacy of potentially contaminated sites from activities like pesticide manufacture, coal gas production, mining, rubbish disposal, timber treatment, sheep dipping, and so on. Budget 2006 is providing an additional $4.5 million over the next 3 years, through Vote Environment, to clean up contaminated sites. This new funding represents a 150 percent increase in the amount of money that will be available annually to councils to clean up such sites in New Zealand.

Steve Chadwick: How has the Government been addressing the issue of contaminated sites?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The Ministry for the Environment’s Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund is an example of local and national government working together to make a real difference to the environment and local communities by returning high-risk sites to safe and productive use. Since 2003 the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund has allocated a million dollars a year for the clean-up of the Mâpua site near Nelson, considered New Zealand’s most contaminated, with the other $1 million being available to councils on a contestable basis. Setting the ongoing funding for the clean-up of Mâpua to one side, this new funding represents a 150 percent increase in the amount of money that will be available annually to councils to clean up such sites.

Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that at this rate of funding for cleaning up contaminated sites it would take about a further 50 years to clean up the other 30 to 40 most heavily contaminated sites in New Zealand, and centuries to clean up the 8,000 to 10,000 contaminated sites in New Zealand that pose a threat to our environment and to human health?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can confirm, given the financial constraints and demands on ratepayers and constraints on local government, that I believe the funding is set at what is currently an appropriate level.

Question No. 11 to Minister

KATHERINE RICH (National): I seek leave to hold my question over until the Minister is in the House and available to answer it.

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

New Zealand Focus Store—North Asia Sales

11. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What are the total sales for the New Zealand Focus store in Hong Kong from November 2005 to April 2006, and is the store on target to create an increase in sales of New Zealand products to the North Asia region of approximately $25 million over the first 3 years?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Associate Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: The Hong Kong focus centre is a New Zealand - branded retail and information centre that provides a business platform for New Zealand exporters to reach the Hong Kong and Greater China markets. I am advised that the centre is on track to achieve the goal of increasing exports by $25 million over the next 3 years. That is a net economic benefit target and does not refer just to sales from the centre itself. It is as yet too early to provide accurate total sales data encompassing all of the relevant channels.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would have thought that in order to be able to address that question, which asked what the total sales were for the store, an answer would have included a dollar figure and some numbers.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. Members know that they cannot require specific yes or no answers, or specific facts, in answer to their questions. But the question was addressed—at great length, I might say. I take this opportunity to remind members that when they give answers, they should be as succinct as the questions should be.

Katherine Rich: Does the Minister know the total sales for the New Zealand Focus store in Hong Kong; if so, will he tell the Parliament?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that total sales data are not yet available. I seek leave to table a statement, dated today, by Malcolm Harris, chief operating officer for New Zealand of Fisher and Paykel, one of the tenants at the centre, who says that it applauds the Government initiative, it is about time for it, and it hopes we can open more centres.

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

Darien Fenton: What New Zealand products and services are featured at New Zealand Focus?

Gerry Brownlee: Tell the member it was page 2.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It was indeed page 2. The ground floor is home to a display and retail area showcasing New Zealand food, beverages, and natural health products. The mezzanine floor provides a showcase of New Zealand education and travel, and the top floor offers an area for exhibitions, business presentations, functions, and other promotional activities.

Katherine Rich: When the New Zealand Focus store in Hong Kong cost approximately $1.4 million to establish, and costs an estimated of $1.3 million per annum to run—that is $3,500 a day—what kind of commercial retail operation is New Zealand Trade and Enterprise running if it does not have basic figures like sales data and information that any other retail business in the world collects?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It may help if I explain to the member that this is not a retail business. It is not a supermarket. It is a regional headquarters and sales and marketing hub for the entire greater region. It has multiple distribution channels, and the data on some of those channels are not yet in.

Katherine Rich: Does the Minister think the store is a success, when we have had contact with nine companies that have products in the New Zealand Focus store in Hong Kong, and eight report not one single inquiry from the store, and none attribute new sales to the placing of products in that store since it opened in November 2005?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: For reasons that I have already explained, this is a multichannel operation. But I can report anecdotally that Dominion Breweries has successfully launched new lines in China, that two new wine brands have been launched in China, and that one skin-care brand has been launched in China as a direct result of this operation.

Mark Blumsky: Can he confirm a recent report from one of the suppliers who recently visited the store that the key feature of the New Zealand Focus store, which is promoted as a fully functional Fisher and Paykel kitchen fitted with operating appliances to be used for business demonstrations and training, 5 months after opening still had not one single kitchen appliance working up to that time because of the lack of an electricity supply, and can he tell us how many food demonstrations and how much training have now been held in the Fisher and Paykel kitchen, 8 months later?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I do not have all that data in front of me, but I do have a statement from Fisher and Paykel that it applauds the Government’s initiative, it wants us to open more stores, and it is about time for this initiative.

Mark Blumsky: When he said, in an answer to a parliamentary question, that previous trading experience and an understanding of the New Zealand - Hong Kong trading environment were two key criteria for picking the company to manage the retail store, why was the company selected when, in advertising for a manager prior to opening, it called itself a new trading company, looking for someone with knowledge of New Zealand and a knowledge of the retail trade?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that of the three short-listed candidates, the company concerned scored the highest total points against the assessment criteria.

Families—Separation

12. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Courts: What initiatives has the Government put in place to assist New Zealand families when a separation occurs?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): Today I launched a new parent information programme called How to Help Your Kids When You Separate. When parents determine that there is no option but to separate for the good of their own mental health and that of their children, parents can also look to free professional support to help them and their children. This programme is about supporting parents to support their children when no option is left but to separate. It ensures that we are doing our part to maintain strong, healthy families in whatever form they take.

Martin Gallagher: In terms of helping families, what precisely will the programme do and, specifically, what resources have been allocated to this programme in order to help families?

Hon RICK BARKER: The programme will focus parents on the most important issue, the children, and how they cope with separation by alerting parents to the issues for children, and will advise them on communicating with children in order to seek their kids’ views and involve them in decisions, and on a range of matters that can help kids when parents separate. The initial cost of the programme is about $6 million, with an ongoing allocation of $1.7 million. This is money well spent in assisting children at a time of stress and need for support.

Judy Turner: Can the Minister confirm that in the early pilots of this programme, 97 percent of participants said that this programme should be a mandatory part for those using the Family Courts to settle custody issues; and if he can confirm that, can I expect the Government to take up my offer to use my already drafted member’s bill to amend the Family Proceedings Act so that family education is a standard part of custody proceedings?

Hon RICK BARKER: I can confirm that the figures quoted by the member are in fact the case. I can also confirm that the strong support from Judy Turner and her party for this programme has been very gratefully appreciated. With willing partners we have made a success of the pilot. Now that the programme is being rolled out nationwide and is available for 15,000 parents per annum, we will be able to assess the success at this point and consider how effective the voluntary aspect has been. I thank the member for her support so far and look forward to that continuing into the future.

Questions to Members

New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill—Evidence

1. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee: Has the committee yet heard evidence on my New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill?

LYNNE PILLAY (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): No.

Gordon Copeland: Does she recognise that today is the first anniversary of the first reading of the New Zealand Bill of Rights (Private Property Rights) Amendment Bill and its referral to her committee; if so, does the committee yet have a firm date in mind to both hear evidence on the bill and report it back to the House?

LYNNE PILLAY: The Justice and Electoral Committee is a conscientious and hard-working committee. It has already reported on three bills this year, and has a further seven bills and two inquiries before it. The committee will decide on the progress of the bills.

ENDS

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