Questions And Answers - Thursday, 25 May 2006
Questions And Answers - Thursday, 25 May
Questions to Ministers
Venture Capital Market—Investment
1. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for Economic Development: What steps is the Government taking to promote investment in the venture capital market in New Zealand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development): Budget 2006 delivered an additional $60 million boost to the Venture Investment Fund that, with private sector leveraging, will deliver $180 million to young firms with high growth potential. Through the fund we hope to speed up the commercialisation of new research and innovation, and turn them into successful business opportunities.
Hon Marian Hobbs: Has he seen any evidence that alternative views on foreign investment in Australia have been considered?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. I happen to have a copy of a document on foreign investment in Australian industry. It is essentially an exercise in how to sell one’s country.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister confirm that as part of the confidence and supply agreement between the Government and New Zealand First, 2007 has been nominated as Export Year, and that this venture capital funding is part of the preparation for 2007?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: “Yes.” to the first part, and “I am sure it will help.” as far as the second part is concerned.
Hon Marian Hobbs: Has the report he referred to in his answer to my second supplementary question been used extensively?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the short answer is no. A copy of the book has been borrowed from the Parliamentary Library three times since 1969, when it first went there. In fact, the most recent borrower was the late Rt Hon Sir Robert Muldoon, who borrowed it in 1986. I think it is fair to say that this book on selling out one’s country has not been a universal success. The author, of course, is Donald Brash.
2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Communications: Did he or his office ask Vodafone to send him a letter of apology dated Tuesday 23 May; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Communications: The Minister is advised that following the raising of the issue in the House, his office sought from officials a copy of the letter he was advised that Vodafone was drafting in November. On discovering a letter had not been sent, Crown Law contacted Vodafone’s counsel. Vodafone finalised a letter, originally drafted in November, and sent it to officials.
Hon Bill English: Can he confirm he is currently in the process of considering recommendations from the Telecommunications Commissioner and a commercial case from Vodafone regarding the regulation of mobile termination rates, and that millions of dollars of revenue are at stake for Vodafone?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It was made clear to Vodafone by Crown Law in November that that action was completely unrelated to any other matters that may come before the Minister, including the mobile termination rate decision. Ministers on this side of the House, unlike those who were in the National Government, do act in a professional manner.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain to the House why he is trading political favours with a large multinational company, given that he is responsible for regulating it, and is he surprised that Vodafone came up with a grovelling letter, when he is about to make a decision that could cost it millions of dollars?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Minister is not trading favours.
Hon Bill English: How can it be seen in any other light than that, when the Minister effectively requested from Vodafone a letter of apology regarding a court case he was involved in the day he had been attacked over it in Parliament, and when at the same time he is considering the regulation of mobile termination rates, which could cost Vodafone tens of millions of dollars?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Relatively easily. The Minister had understood that a letter had come. He asked for it when it was clear that the letter, which he was told had been drafted in November, had not arrived. Crown counsel asked for a copy of it.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he has just given the House the completely misleading impression that he asked for a letter dated November, when in fact the letter was dated 23 May—the day after submissions closed on his decision about mobile termination rates, which could cost Vodafone tens of millions of dollars?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am advised that that letter was drafted on or before 16 November 2005.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree that he now has no choice but to reject Vodafone’s commercial case and accept the tougher recommendations of the Telecommunications Commissioner, because if he does not it will look as though he is returning a political favour done for him by Vodafone?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. The Minister understands how to make a decision professionally.
Hon Bill English: What sort of banana republic is the Labour Government now running, when a Minister responsible for a multimillion-dollar regulatory decision has coerced Vodafone into doing him a political favour, Vodafone has done it, and he has to make a decision within the next few weeks; what sort of banana republic is that?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is clear that times have changed since National members made statutory decisions. Members opposite know—
Hon Bill English: Trading favours!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Members opposite may trade with the Exclusive Brethren, with Telecom, and with others; this Government does not.
Transport Strategy—Roading Infrastructure Funding
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: What analysis was undertaken and by whom, in terms of the New Zealand Transport Strategy, before he announced that an extra $1.5 billion would be allocated largely to roading infrastructure?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Relevant agencies contributed to the Government’s analysis, which underlined significant funding shortfalls, important congestion and safety issues, and considerable uncertainty about the forward path without firm and rapid action.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Government sought any advice from Crown Law on whether announcing a list of projects to be funded with the new money is legal, given that they are not part of any land transport programme and given Land Transport New Zealand’s statutory independence in this respect?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government consulted with Land Transport New Zealand and Transit about the list of indicative projects.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Did some of the analysis done to justify that expenditure increase in roading include a look at the Allen Consulting Group report from 2004, which showed that if $2.4 billion was spent on just four major roading projects, the benefit to the country in economic, social, and environmental terms would be about $4.50 for every dollar spent?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That report was not looked at in the specific context of the Budget decisions, but clearly Ministers were aware of that report.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I ask the Minister again who provided what analysis that this list of roading projects was better at meeting the requirements of the Land Transport Management Act—namely, assisting economic development, assisting safety and personal security, improving access and mobility, protecting and promoting public health, and ensuring environmental sustainability—and that this was better than spending a greater proportion of the money on public transport; was it his finance officials, was it transport officials, or was it Land Transport New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Spending on public transport has been significantly increased under this Government. Many hundreds of millions of dollars are, in fact, being spent on public transport. On the point the member originally asked about, I reply that the relevant statutory authorities provided the list of indicative projects.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister share my view that the best advice Jeanette Fitzsimons and the Greens could be given is that they should read the Allen report, where they might get some idea, at least, of the economic importance of roads to this country?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I would not regard the Allen report as the last word on this matter. The Government does believe in an appropriate mix of transport funding via the means of new roads, maintenance of roads, and public transport. I emphasise again that quite a lot of the roading work is for safety issues—it is about saving people’s lives and saving people from serious injury.
Keith Locke: Why did the Government set up the Auckland Regional Transport Authority to decide which projects best meet Aucklanders’ needs, and then refuse to fund the public transport priorities that that body determines and, instead, override Aucklanders’ wishes and impose lower-priority roading projects?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I see an increasing number of press statements coming out of the Auckland Regional Council from its members, specifically the chair, disassociating themselves on behalf of Aucklanders in that particular regard. But this Government has never set up any agency to decide a wish list from which we would pay for whatever that agency wanted. If that is the basis on which the Greens would be funding any transport proposals then, of course, they would have to build a lot more roads than we are proposing to build within this Budget.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will spending an extra $1.5 billion on roads mean that the National Land Transport Programme—and I quote from the Act—“ensures environmental sustainability”; and what analysis did he receive about how the biggest roading programme in New Zealand’s history will affect carbon dioxide emissions, air quality, water runoff, and noise pollution?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of those factors, of course, are taken into account in terms of planning consents when roads are being built. It is equally true to say that large amounts of traffic that is stuck in traffic in Auckland, going nowhere and pouring out fumes, is probably a particularly bad way of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions.
Helplines—Social Development and Employment, Minister's Statement
4. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he stand by his statement to the House on Tuesday that “The services provided by the 211 helpline are fundamentally quite different from the citizens advice bureau advice.”?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: The response to that is a categorical “Yes”. The 211 family helplineline is a centrally based and staffed helpline. The service operates 7 days a week, and 13 hours a day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is supported by a continuously reviewed, updated, and web-based national directory of over 6,000 service providers, and a portal to other websites providing knowledge and information on parenting, family, and social issues. The Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux operates a substantial number of local “shop fronts” accessible by phone from a single 0800 telephone number that automatically directs calls to the nearest branch. Those branches operate independently throughout New Zealand and have different opening hours according to local governance policies, although their base hours are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Judith Collins: When the Minister said the 211 helpline and citizens advice bureaus were fundamentally different, was he aware that of the Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux’ 600,000 inquiries per year, 60 percent of those are phone inquiries and the Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux itself considers the helpline is a duplication of what it already provides?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: The 211 family helpline services and citizens advice bureaus are very complementary. This is demonstrated by the fact that the 211 family helpline referred 400 calls to the citizens advice bureaus in the pilot period, and the citizens advice bureaus referred 60 calls to the 211 helpline in the same period. The Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux features prominently on the 211 family helpline website.
Georgina Beyer: What reports about support for the 211 family helpline has the Minister seen?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: I have seen an email dated 15 August 2005 from a then Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux chief executive, Nick Toonen, to the Bay of Plenty Citizens Advice Bureau offices stating that the national board “decided that the Association should formally engage in the 211 community helpline, with this engagement developed and tested through our further phase of the helpline pilot. The board noted that this engagement is not likely to include direct involvement in the call centre providing the helpline and that the stats for Rotorua and Tauranga bureaux do not appear to have been adversely affected by the pilot over the March-June period.” This would seem to reinforce the complementary nature of the two services.
Judith Collins: If the Minister is aware of the number of phone calls from the Auckland-based 211 helpline to the Rotorua Citizens Advice Bureau asking for advice, why do we not just cut out the middle man and stop this wasteful duplication and give the Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux a bit more money instead?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: Any member who has even the faintest notion of waste or that this service should be scrapped might think it worthwhile to obstruct access to family support services. This Government supports families. A survey of families in the pilot area showed there was a need for the service. Of those surveyed, 93 percent said there was either a very big or some need for this service. The 211 helpline received 15,918 calls over the pilot period. That was equivalent to an average of a call from one in every four Bay of Plenty families.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is there any chance of a translation?
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; that is treating the House trivially.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Normally, Ministers are supposed to keep their answer succinct and to the point. I think the House has been very indulgent of Mr Okeroa and nobody has given him much of a hard time despite all the ramblings.
Madam SPEAKER: Of course, questions and answers should be succinct. I do remind the House of that. The question was addressed, however.
Paula Bennett: Does he stand by his statement that one in every four families has used the 211 helpline; and if he does, why have no families ever called the helpline twice?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: The answer to the first part of the question is yes. The answer to the second part of the question is that the services provided in the first place are quite adequate and we do not need to ring twice.
Judith Collins: When I asked the Minister on Tuesday why taxpayers were funding a service where each staff member answers, on average, only three calls per day, and that costs over $50 per call, did he say: “That is not the advice I have.”, when he was the person who supplied those figures in the first place?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: What the Minister said I am unsure of, so I am not in a position to offer the appropriate response.
Judith Collins: If the citizens advice bureaus already handle 600,000 inquiries, for Government funding of 805,000 a year—that is, for $1.34 per inquiry—why does the Minister not just give them the money he has wasted on his 211 line and get the bureaux’ hours extended?
Hon MAHARA OKEROA: We have tried to impress on that member that there is no waste, and that both of these services are complementary.
Biosecurity Inspections—Sea Containers
5. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Are there any written guidelines for biosecurity inspectors upon finding contamination within a sea container; if not, why not?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Biosecurity): Written guidelines for biosecurity inspectors are included in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s quarantine service process procedure. There are guidelines for the clearance of imported sea containers. Although the current version of those procedures is not as detailed as would seem desirable, quarantine officers are thoroughly and specifically trained in the actions to be taken, if contamination is found.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the report of the Auditor-General into managing biosecurity risks associated with high-risk sea containers highlights the fact there is no written guidance on what to do when a contamination is found by a biosecurity inspector; and what steps is he taking urgently to improve that situation?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: There are two groups of officials who inspect containers. There are the quarantine officers of Biosecurity New Zealand, who examine all high-risk containers at the border. They are specifically and thoroughly trained. There are also accredited inspectors, usually from private sector situations, who are accredited to open containers when they are delivered to, for example, warehouses. Those inspectors are also trained. That has been the new system since 2004, and that is where the detailed description of actions to be taken, I think, is wanting. That is what the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will now turn its attention to.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Can the Minister tell members of this House what further improvements have been made to the sea container system?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Prior to 2004—which means for all the period of the 1990s and the period up to 2004—only 25 percent of containers were inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s quarantine service inspectors. Now 100 percent of containers are inspected by those quarantine service inspectors, or by accredited industry persons—a huge change compared with the past situation.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that, as part of the confidence and supply agreement between the Government and New Zealand First, there will be an investigation undertaken into the feasibility of requiring all used-car imports to be decontaminated offshore, and would he agree that if the requirement for offshore decontamination were policy, it would greatly enhance New Zealand’s protection against threats to its biosecurity?
Madam SPEAKER: Before the Minister replies, would members please lower the tone. There was an interjection during that question. It was not respectful of the member. Members are on their last warning.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: All used vehicles—100 percent—arriving in New Zealand are inspected internally and externally either offshore or on arrival. A risk analysis is under way, which is a major piece of work, to see whether an import health standard is necessary. These processes and procedures would be developed after that risk analysis. I might say that New Zealand First has been very helpful in supporting that process.
6. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the decision making of Immigration New Zealand offices around the world; if so, why?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Associate Minister of Immigration): on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes, but as with any large organisation there is always room for improvement.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is he satisfied that a father of two foreign fee-paying secondary school students in New Zealand should be issued with a work permit through the Immigration New Zealand office, having been declined such a work permit on two occasions by the Immigration New Zealand office in Auckland; if so, why?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Every application is treated on its merits. For instance, people who cannot obtain a visa in New Zealand may then obtain one offshore, if their circumstances have changed. People can make multiple applications, and if their circumstances have changed, then those applications will be treated individually. The member will know, of course, that I am not permitted to speak about individual cases. If he has evidence that he can provide to me, I am quite happy to investigate it.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why would a father of two foreign fee-paying secondary school students be granted a work permit through the Immigration New Zealand office in Korea that states he could work for “any employer” in “any position”, when the manager of international students at the secondary school involved was told by the Immigration New Zealand office in Auckland that the man “did not qualify in any way, and would definitely not be getting a work permit”?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As I have just told the member, he will be aware that I am not permitted to speak about individual cases. Each case is treated on a case by case basis in respect of individual circumstances. I invite the member to bring to my attention any information he has, and I will have the matter investigated.
Steve Chadwick: What is the Government doing to ensure high-quality and consistent immigration decision-making?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: In April this year the Government launched the discussion document on the review of the Immigration Act. The review is part of a wider programme that will lead, firstly, to a new legislative foundation; secondly, a new policy framework; and, thirdly, a new integrated service delivery model.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why would he blame the recipient of such a work permit, who incidentally cannot speak a word of English, for being part of a scam, when both the Immigration New Zealand operations manual and its website have made it very clear that, since the special guardian visa was introduced, variations to those temporary visas—such as the granting of a work permit—had to comply with work visa and permit policy provisions in New Zealand?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I apologise for being shrill. As I have said to the member, every application is determined on a case by case basis, according to individual circumstances. If he has information of wrongdoing or potential wrongdoing, I am quite happy, if he gives it to me, to have it investigated.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is he concerned that the mother of three foreign fee-paying students should have gained a residence permit through the London office of Immigration New Zealand, when the woman was previously in New Zealand on a guardian visa, has now returned to Nigeria to join her husband, and has no intention of living in New Zealand, yet through the granting of the residence visa by the London office now has three children qualifying as domestic students in New Zealand?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: For the benefit of the member, again I say that if he has information of wrongdoing and he gives it to me, I will have it investigated. Every case is treated on its merits, on a case by case basis. If the member delivers to me the information, I will have it investigated.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister acknowledge that there are several flaws both in our immigration legislation and in our systems, and will he acknowledge also that the agreement for a review, which was negotiated between New Zealand First and the Labour Government, will address many, if not all, of these flaws?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I acknowledge both those points. That is why, as I said to the honourable member previously, we have announced a review and a discussion document. The review is part of a wider programme that will lead to a new legislative foundation, a new policy framework, and a new integrated service delivery model. I acknowledge the member’s two points. Of course we can do better, and that is why we are having a review of the Act.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why did he state on Tuesday this week that he had seen no evidence that applications that had been declined in New Zealand had been granted offshore, when his department was advised some time ago that a person whom the Auckland office had said would definitely not get a work permit had attained a permit through the Korean office to work for “any employer” in “any position”—or does his department not trust him with that kind of information?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I will not repeat the answer about the individual case; the member, I think, by now is aware of that. It is possible for people who have been declined work permits in New Zealand to gain them when they reapply offshore, if their individual circumstances have changed, because all cases are treated on their individual merits. If the member has evidence of wrongdoing, he can give it to me and I will investigate it.
Early Childhood Education—Government Programmes
7. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to ensure New Zealand children get the best educational start possible?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): This Government is giving every New Zealand child a good start in life, through quality early childhood education and by lowering the costs to parents. The Government recently announced in the Budget a further investment of $162 million over 4 years, and that will help us to implement up to 20 hours per week of free early childhood education for 3 to 4-year-olds in teacher-led services, benefiting around 92,000 children in the first year. We have increased the funding rates for providers by $30 million, and boosting playcentres by an additional $4 million will of course ease the pressure on them. Of course, I acknowledge the outstanding work of my predecessor in helping to develop those policies.
Moana Mackey: What reports, if any, has he received about the cost to parents of early childhood education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen information from the New Zealand Childcare Association, stating that the average cost of childcare in New Zealand is around $40 per day, which of course will go down further with Working for Families and the introduction of free early childhood education. I have also seen a newspaper article from Australia, showing the average cost of childcare is higher than that. The Sydney Morning Herald found childcare centres charging $90 a day, and one, in a place called Bondi Beach, is planning to charge over $100 a day. That is just one of the many costs that families would face if they took the advice of “Digger” Don Brash and went to Australia.
Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not allowed. Would the member please withdraw.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister consider removing some of the restrictions around the Government funding of early childhood education—for example, by not limiting it to 6 hours on any one day—so that the availability of quality childcare better reflects the actual working times of parents than it currently does?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I will. But along with the early childhood sector, we prefer at the moment to use the current funding formula, which has the 6-hour cap. We all believe that once we have had some experience with 20 hours of free education, we will have an opportunity to see whether we ought to move to the suggestion of the member or stay with the current system.
Moana Mackey: What other costs would someone face as the parent of a preschooler in Australia?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the parent of a preschooler in Australia, someone may face a personal tax rate of 45 percent, a Medicare levy of 1.5 percent, and an accident compensation levy of 2.47 percent on top of his or her childcare costs. In New Zealand one would pay less tax overall, according to the OECD, pay an accident compensation levy of less than 1 percent, be eligible for paid parental leave of 14 weeks, get tax relief through the Working for Families package, be eligible for childcare subsidies, get childcare costs reduced, and see free early childhood education be introduced in 2007. Those figures once again show how misleading the National Party has been in its drive to ask New Zealanders to go to Australia.
Biosecurity Inspections—Sea Containers
8. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki-King Country) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Does he stand by his statement yesterday, following the release of the Auditor-General’s report on high-risk sea containers, that he “was pleased the report did not identify any critical biosecurity risk issues in the importation of sea containers.”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Biosecurity): Yes. I am advised that none of the areas identified for improvement in the Auditor-General’s report—which the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, of course, accepts as a constructive contribution to this issue—represents a critical biosecurity risk. New Zealand is internationally recognised as having some of the toughest border controls in the world.
Shane Ardern: How does the Minister reconcile those comments with the ones he made on Morning Report today that this report presents “a bit of a wake-up call”, and “there are some issues there. We have to do better. We will struggle to meet rigorous standards.”, and that the report’s criticism of training was “fair”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Because all those points are true, and I agree with all of them—more than I agree with the member’s statement earlier this week that biosecurity funding had gone down, when it has demonstrably gone up.
Shane Ardern: Why, despite import health standards for sea containers being a major criticism in the Auditor-General’s 2002 report and in the 2006 report tabled yesterday, are the standards are still being heavily criticised?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The new system of container inspection was introduced in 2004. This came after a long period when only 25 percent of all containers coming into New Zealand were inspected at all. Most of that period was under the responsibility of the previous National Government. Biosecurity has faced an increase of 57 percent in containers during that time. The Government has lifted its baseline funding by 89 percent. Of course, biosecurity is challenging at any border in the world. Anyone who has been around the world knows that New Zealand’s biosecurity procedures are tougher than those of most countries.
Shane Ardern: Why, then, in the face of this report, has biosecurity funding—which is far from being boosted by the $32 million, as the Minister has suggested—fallen by $5.9 million in last week’s Budget; and, in the face of this report, is it the case that there is no money for the 15 critical issues that were raised in the Auditor-General’s report that was tabled in the House yesterday?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: It is actually $33.1 million, and the member clearly has no understanding of the difference between one-off incursion expenditure, which is not included in Budgets, and the baseline expenditure, which goes up, over the next 4 years, by $33 million.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: So there were no incursions this year.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Someone on the front bench who has been in a Cabinet of any description at some time in their lives should take the member aside—and should include Mr Nick Smith with him—and teach him a lesson on Government accounting.
Shane Ardern: How can the Minister expect the land-based industries to trust proposed import health standards for honey when the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry itself has not been able to fully implement the sea container health import standards after 4 years of trying?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Again, I advise some of the senior members in the National Party to take aside Mr Ardern and talk to him about biosecurity, international trade obligations, and the evidence-based system that we have to operate as the most dependent export economy in the world. When they have done that, he should come back and see me.
Madam SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister would like to add to his answer to that question.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: The evidence-based biosecurity system that New Zealand operates by—and every reputable country in the world aims to act by—requires scientific evidence as to whether any imported good would be a health risk to New Zealand. The scientific evidence this Government has is that heat-treated honey from Australia or the Pacific Islands will be perfectly safe. If the member wants to put his scientific evidence up against all the international experts we have consulted, I would like to see it.
Shane Ardern: Why did the Minister use the excuse on Morning Report: “Up to 2004 there were no important health standards on containers”, and then repeat that in the House today and say that the Auditor-General “says that as well”, when the previous import health standards for managing biosecurity risks associated with sea containers have been in place since 1998?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: In 2004 an extraordinarily high new standard of import health safety regulations were brought in by Biosecurity New Zealand. At the same time, New Zealand faced a 57 percent increase in containers, and Biosecurity New Zealand set itself the highest standards in the world to meet. The fact that it has not yet met those high standards does not mean to say this Government and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry are not determined to meet them. I wish that Mr Ardern, like may other people around the world, would at some time start praising New Zealand and the systems we have, rather than running them down all the time.
9. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What has the Government done to support New Zealand music?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): At the end of the sixth New Zealand Music Month, it gives me great pleasure to tell the House that more than $5 million per annum has been invested by this Government in New Zealand On Air, Creative New Zealand, Te Mângai Pâho, and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission. At least $19 million has gone into the support of New Zealand music through the funding of orchestras—especially the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra—opera companies, Sounz, the ballet, and grants to composers and performers. The Government has also supported New Zealand music through the universities and the arts curriculum.
Hon Mark Gosche: What evidence is there of the success of the Government’s music policies?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The National Party members appear not to like New Zealand music, either. One example is the enormous success of the voluntary code of practice met by New Zealand radio broadcasters. It aimed to have 20 percent of New Zealand music being played across New Zealand radios. That percentage was up from 1.9 percent, when National was the Government, to 20.77 percent last year, and we will exceed even that this year. We are seeing top New Zealand musicians selling New Zealand music. It was 28 percent of sales in New Zealand Music Month 2005. We have also seen magnificent exports, with Breaks Co-op up in the top 40 in the UK.
Hon Mark Gosche: What is the Government doing to support the export of New Zealand music?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am very proud to be in charge of an area that demonstrates that New Zealand and New Zealanders are dynamic and willing to take risks to make better exports for all of us, so we have better lives. We have put more money into New Zealand on Air, with $850,000 per annum going into Phase Five, a programme that promotes New Zealand music to the international news media, and we have provided $444,000 extra to the Music Industry Commission for the Outward Sound programme, which National obviously does not know about. We have put $178,000 into promoting New Zealand music at music fairs and trade fairs around the world. We have also put money into the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Sounz, to tour New Zealand music internationally—to great acclaim. I am very sorry that the music coming from the other side of the House is such a sad dirge.
Te Puni Kôkiri—Mâori Affairs Committee
10. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Was he satisfied with the performance of Te Puni Kôkiri at the Mâori Affairs Committee yesterday?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): Yes.
Hon Tau Henare: Does he stand by his comment in the House on 11 May 2006 that Leith Comer was carrying out Te Puni Kôkiri’s statutory monitoring role well, when Leith Comer himself told the Mâori Affairs Committee that he had consciously moved resources out of the monitoring area, and the committee’s financial review found that Te Puni Kôkiri was failing to meet this fundamental legislative requirement?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The answer to the first part of the question is yes; in respect of the second part of the question the member is twisting what was found in that report.
Dave Hereora: What achievements did the Minister tell the committee about yesterday?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I told the truth. I told the committee that more Mâori are working than ever before. I told the committee that more Mâori are participating in education, at all levels. I told the committee that the Mâori asset base is growing and is being well-used. I told the committee that Mâori are making a strong contribution to this economy, and that common-sense people are recognising this. I told the committee that Mâori are celebrating success across sports, arts, and culture, and there is an abundance of it.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Did the Minister advocate for the cutting of funding for local level solutions for Mâori in this year’s Budget, or was this programme cut because, as he himself has described in this House, advocating for Mâori is “tiresome”, and he could not be bothered arguing for it?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Sometimes we do feel like that when working with our constituency. But they are great people. I also added that we loved them, irrespective of how they made us feel. But we did allocate $14.8 million in 2005—and certainly outreached for 4 years. I do care about the Mâori people, and this Government has done the right thing—unlike the last time National was in Government. What did the National do when it was last in Government? It stripped $1.3 billion—tax cuts—out of social services. When it sniffed the recession coming on it sold all the State houses and put Mâori on the road. That was under Tau Henare’s watch. He did nothing!
Gerry Brownlee: When he praised his ministry’s performance on the basis of the report of the Controller and Auditor-General, which found that Te Puni Kôkiri had not significantly breached any law, did he mean that breaking the law was OK for Te Puni Kôkiri, provided the Auditor-General does not catch it?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I meant no such thing.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Is Te Puni Kôkiri’s inability to answer basic questions before the Mâori Affairs Committee one of the high performance achievements of his ministry that he takes personal pride in, or is his view closer to the way he described his ministry in its performance as being “tedious”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: When I came in as Minister, the ministry had $55 million. It now has $156 million. We certainly had our ups and downs when I became the Minister, when I was bullied and barraged by that member over there. But 6 years on our position is certainly one of wanting to move Mâori from dependency to development. What is wrong with that? And this Government has achieved great things, like a 70 percent decline in poverty—30 percent of that being Mâori poverty—and attention to early childcare, 27 percent of that being Mâori. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with Mâori getting into a better space?
Hon Tau Henare: How can the Minister justify his claim—
Hon Dover Samuels: Got the right paper, Tau?
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been booted out of this House for less than that. I do not want to regurgitate that, but I honestly believe I have been hard done by—[Interruption] And there we go again. That is the second time.
Madam SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to leave the Chamber, please, for intervening on the member.
Hon Dover Samuels withdrew from the Chamber.
Madam SPEAKER: I thought it was the Minister who actually made the comment.
Hon Tau Henare: It was both of them.
Madam SPEAKER: It was both of them. I think both Ministers should leave the Chamber. As the member said, one has to be fair about this.
Hon Parekura Horomia withdrew from the Chamber.
Tariana Turia: I seek the leave of the House for the Minister Parekura Horomia to return and answer the next set of supplementary questions.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, it is a bit of a dilemma. Normally—
Tariana Turia: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: I am addressing the question. The member will please be seated. I am addressing the member’s question. The normal practice is, of course, that if members are asked to leave, and they are to ask a question or to answer it, they will be asked to come back. I shall follow that practice. I do not need any help from the members. I think we had better ask for the Minister to be called back.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I ask that a messenger be asked to find the member concerned if there is a requirement for him to come back to the Chamber. Thank you.
Hon Tau Henare: How can the Minister justify the claim he made yesterday that Budget appropriations should not be discussed by parliamentary select committees?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I did not say that.
Hon Tau Henare: How can he justify the claim he made yesterday, that Budget appropriations should not be discussed by parliamentary select committees, and if he really believes that, where does he believe Budget appropriations should be discussed—in the TAB?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I do not frequent the TAB—unlike that member opposite—and certainly the appropriate place is in select committees and in consultation with the Treasurer.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is an intriguing answer from the Minister. I wonder whether we might now have an indication from the Minister of Finance—I presume, as opposed to the Treasurer.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, as the member well knows, but he can ask a supplementary question if he wants further clarification.
Gerry Brownlee: No, I do not want to waste a supplementary question on this matter. But I just wonder when the Minister of Finance might be available to come to the Mâori Affairs Committee to discuss Vote Mâori Affairs with the committee.
Madam SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify the situation. We had a question from the Hon Tau Henare and an answer from the Minister, in which he denied making the statement that Tau Henare alleged he made, then we had a second question, based on the assumption that he did make the statement. I believe the Minister, and I think as honourable members we are obliged to believe the Minister. He denied making the statement that Tau Henare said he made.
Madam SPEAKER: There is nothing to prevent members from asking questions. Consistency is not required under the Standing Orders.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave to table a report on the goings-on in the select committee yesterday, which has a detailed verbatim description of what the Minister said in the select committee.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Question No. 11 to Minister
Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Authorised text to be inserted by Hansard Office
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to change that word. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Vote Mâori Affairs—Budget 2006
11. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: He aha a ia i kore ai e tuku tono pçrâ i tâ tçtahi nûpepa i kî, mô tçtahi pûtea kia pakari ai te Ao Mâori, â, ka taea e ia te whakamârama ki tçnei Whare te take ko tçnei te tau tuarua kâore i kapohia e ia he rawa hôu hei pûtea mô tôna tari?
[Why did he reportedly not submit a Budget bid to strengthen the position of Mâori, and what explanation can he give the House for this being the second consecutive year that his department has not received any new funding?]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): This year the Government made it very clear that there would be limited funding for new initiatives. I asked Te Puni Kôkiri to look at how it could better utilise existing funding, and how that funding could be aligned with the Government’s priorities and the aspirations of the Mâori people. It is about Te Puni Kôkiri being able to continue to work with Mâori to support Mâori, and to make the most of its resources and assets, its knowledge, its skills, and its leadership capability. The member is wrong; Budget 2005 did provide more money for Vote Mâori Affairs.
Dr Pita Sharples:
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is part of the general premise of where Te Puni Kôkiri is moving, and manaaki tauira is out of that area. When it started to be delivered there were about 8,000 students receiving tertiary education; there are now 90,000 students—only 11 percent were using it. The money has not been cancelled and it has not disappeared. It has moved to strengthening teacher capability in secondary schools, in order for young people to be encouraged and developed, so that when they get tertiary education they do better.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister’s failure to seek more funding in the latest Budget round lead him to agree with the National Party view that there has been considerable wastage in Te Puni Kôkiri’s activities, and that it is extremely hard to work out exactly what that ministry does?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The financial report with its recommendation on how Te Puni Kôkiri has performed is there for that member to read. If he got out more often amongst Mâori like I do, as the real Mâori spokesperson, he would see that a lot of good action is done by Te Puni Kôkiri. [Interruption] That member never ever went out; he stayed home from Thursday night through to Sunday night.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister may sling off at me all he likes, but he does have some obligation to address the question. The question was whether he agreed that Te Puni Kôkiri has had considerable waste attached to it, and that it is very, very hard to work out exactly what it does.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am very clear, along with a whole lot of Mâori people, about exactly what Te Puni Kôkiri does. That my friend over there is slow in picking it up and understanding it is not my problem.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I believe that if Mâori can get to Harvard, and that is mainstreaming, I am supportive of it. If Mâori people can build a house and keep their family comfortable, and that is mainstreaming, I believe in it. If mainstreaming means that Mâori become business owners and business managers, I believe in it. But I also believe in recognising our tikanga and culture and keeping it strong. That is what I believe in.
Hone Harawira: Could the Minister please explain, in light of comments in this House associating Vote Mâori Affairs baseline funding with the fact that Mâori unemployment has dropped from a record high of 18.9 percent to 8.6 percent, why on the East Coast, his own electorate, in 2001, 50 percent of the population receiving the unemployment benefit were Mâori, and in March 2006 that percentage had increased to 64 percent; why in Waiariki the percentage increase in Mâori unemployment grew from 49 percent in 2001 to 66 percent in 2006; and why in my own electorate of Te Tai Tokerau the percentage increase in Mâori unemployment also grew, from 53 percent in 2001 to 64 percent in 2006—and what will Te Puni Kôkiri be doing to address these disparities?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: A number of issues are relevant to the statistical assumptions of my learned friend from Te Tai Tokerau, but first I want to remind him that when we came in the unemployment rate was 22.6 percent, and it tracked down to 6.4 percent. It has now risen to 8.1 percent. At the end of the day, that is about a lack of industry and a lack of skills, and that is what this Government is focusing on. It is about a strong economy, as we were reminded by Dr Cullen yesterday, but these people do not seem to like it.
Dr Pita Sharples: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was specifically directed to unemployment on the East Coast, in Waiariki, and in Te Tai Tokerau, and it was not answered.
Madam SPEAKER: No, the member cannot require a specific answer. But the Minister certainly addressed the question of unemployment.
How much did Vote Mâori Affairs get in recent Budgets?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This Government has been in power for 6 years. When we came to office, Vote Mâori Affairs was $55 million. The previous Government got rid of $200 million in that area—got rid of it. Budget 2005 provided $14.8 million forKâpohia ngâ Rawa over 4 years. Budget 2005 provided $4.6 million for Mâori radio broadcasting over 4 years, $2.5 million for the Hui Taumata action task force, and $200,000 for Mâ Te Reo to help all New Zealanders understand this great language well.
Hone Harawira: In response to the Minister’s comments that the figures I gave were an assumption, I say they were not. I seek leave of the House to table the numbers on the unemployment benefit as at March 2001 and March 2006.
Dr Pita Sharples:
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA:
My response to my learned elder Dr Sharples is that I also added, after he had asked the question, that this was the place to bring that issue, but I thought it was not the place to make his insinuation and wero—his challenge—about the Mâori members and the Mâori ministry, and that that was for other places. That is what I meant.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to disturb my colleague, but I think it is time for the Minister of Mâori Affairs to leave.
Madam SPEAKER: We will ask the Minister to leave the House.
Transmission Gully—Construction Date
12. NATHAN GUY (National) to the Minister of Transport: When does she envisage the first bulldozer will appear working on the designated route for Transmission Gully?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Transport): The Minister already has envisaged that. That is why Transmission Gully is, for the first time, on a 5-year programme.
Nathan Guy: With the huge delays currently being experienced by motorists, which will only get worse, does she think it is acceptable that Transit will take another 5 years before it will state that Transmission Gully is viable, or will she tell Transit that 5 years is too long to wait for another report and instruct it to proceed with urgency?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Ministers do not instruct Transit; we have had an interchange on that matter previously this afternoon. There is a great deal of geotechnical work to be done. There is also the small matter of Wellington local authorities coming up with their share of the funding, according to all the agreements we previously had in respect of that.
Nathan Guy: With all the reports, investigations, and studies commissioned over the last 10 years on the viability of Transmission Gully, does she think that the $80 million spend and a 5-year delay by Transit will add any significant value, or will it be just another $80 million spent on work that has already been done?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that question summed up the National Party: one builds a road without doing the geotechnical work first.
Darren Hughes: What funding has the Government already committed to the Wellington region, and is the Minister aware of any other alternative funding proposals that include Transmission Gully?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In March 2004 the Government announced an additional $225 million as part of the Investing for Growth package. In June a further contribution of $255 million was made as part of the Wellington western corridor package, then the Government contributed up to $405 million conditional on regional agreement. I note that this particular project, despite the questioner asking these questions today, did not appear in the National Party manifesto or in its proposed fiscal plan.
Nathan Guy: Dos the Minister agree that a further 5-year delay will increase the cost of the project, even just accounting for inflation, to the stage that it could become unaffordable?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I reply again to the member: we will not repeat the mistakes the previous Government made when it decided to build a road for the Waikato, without discovering first what the area was like. We are now trying to stop that road from slumping all over the place as we are building it. We need a geotechnical survey before we build a road through an area that has not been surveyed for that purpose. He, of course, would not do that. He would just keep spending and spending, and if anything went wrong, he would probably blame Mâori for that.
Hon Judith Tizard: Can the Minister give us any reports on the proposal from Roger Sowry, the previous transport spokesperson for the National Party, that the National Party’s highest priority was a six-lane highway between Auckland and Wellington; could he tell us what effect that may have on Transmission Gully and other proposals?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member exaggerates slightly. I seem to recollect Mr Sowry proposed a four-lane highway between Auckland and Wellington. What he did not tell Wellingtonians was that it would start in Auckland and arrive in Wellington a long, long time from now.
Peter Brown: Is it not true that Transmission Gully has been on the political agenda since the late 1980s - early 1990s, when it would have cost a good deal less, and that National did absolutely zilch when it had the opportunity?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is true that there were 9 long years when not a single bit of tarmac was laid for Transmission Gully under the National Government. But I do have to say that all the experience is that the cost of most roads tends to increase as one finds out what one has to do in order to build them.
Mark Blumsky: If Transit takes 5 years, as it plans, to do another report, and that report ends up stating the road is not viable, what is Plan B; how will the Minister tell the angry, frustrated motorists that one may well need to start from scratch again in 5 years’ time?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Plan B is actually already on the agenda; it was Plan A before Wellington decided it wanted that as Plan A instead.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Minister seen any previous reports from a former Mayor of Wellington opposing Transmission Gully?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have to say there has been consistent opposition from the mayors of Wellington to the building of Transmission Gully, but maybe the member stumbled over the truth sometime during the election campaign.
Mark Blumsky: I’m sure Fran is listening.
Madam SPEAKER: Please ask the question.
Mark Blumsky: How can the Minister have confidence in the board of Transit, when Transit stated in the Dominion Post just this week it was questioning whether it should rip up the asphalt between Pukerua Bay and Plimmerton—a project it has just recently completed, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars—and return the entire route back to just two lanes, which is a truly ridiculous suggestion, as I am sure the Minister would agree.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I sure there is some sense of frustration in Transit about the length of time Wellington has taken to decide upon its preferred operation, in terms of the western corridor. There have always been arguments on both sides in that respect. Members opposite put their fingers in the breeze, and decide on the basis of whatever way the wind is blowing which is the best road to build.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table a 1995 report on geological factors relating to Transmission Gully.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table a 1996 assessment of environmental factors.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table a 2004 Transmission Gully motorway cost estimate.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table a 2005 cost and programme review update on the Transmission Gully motorway and the coastal route.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table two items from the Dominion Post of Tuesday 23 May. The first is headed “Congestion on a road to nowhere”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. There is objection.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table another item from the Dominion Post this week, entitled “Drivers in for decade of delay”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.