Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Wednesday, 14 June
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Resource Management
2. Electricity Supply—Cabinet Policy Committee
4. Electricity Supply—Government Policies
5. Treaty of Waitangi—Negotiations
Question No. 6 to Minister
6. Terrorism—Border Control
7. Accident Compensation—Reports
8. Health Sector Strike Action—Junior Doctors and Radiation Therapists
9. Mâori Health—Plunket Funding
10. Terrorism—Border Control
Question No. 11 to Minister
11. New Zealand Waste Strategy—Core Policies
12. Civil Aviation Authority, Board and Chairman—Confidence
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Resource Management Act—Changes
1. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for the Environment: What reports, if any, has he received on changes to the Resource Management Act 1991?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment): I have seen the most recent Transpower annual report for 2004-05. The only reference to the Resource Management Act in that document was a concern about how the Resource Management Act would work for a major infrastructure project that spans eight or more local authorities. That was exactly what this Parliament was considering when it passed the Resource Management Amendment Bill 2005 enabling the Government on matters of national significance to direct an application to be heard jointly where more than one council was involved. I have also seen Transpower’s latest 6-monthly report, published after that legislation came into force. Contrary to the statements made by Nick Smith in the House yesterday, that report makes no reference at all to the Resource Management Act. The Government had dealt with its concerns, which may explain why Nick Smith failed to table the document in the House yesterday that he said he would.
Madam SPEAKER: I just remind Ministers that their replies should be succinct.
Steve Chadwick: What reports has he seen about the cost of doing business in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The latest World Bank report Doing Business ranks New Zealand second in the world in terms of cost to business in dealing with consents and licences, such as including Resource Management Act consent processes. Clearly this Government has got the balance right in terms of encouraging economic activity as well as environmental sustainability. When National voted against the Resource Management Amendment Bill and the Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill last year, it was voting against the very changes that industry, including infrastructure companies like Transpower, had requested to make consents even more efficient.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does the Minister maintain that the Resource Management Act is not an impediment to improving security of supply of electricity, when Transpower applied for a resource consent with the Auckland City Council 2 years ago for an upgrade of the Otâhuhu-Penrose link and this application involves no new towers, no change in voltage, only small engineering works to lift the crossbars to allow it to operate at higher capacity, but it will not get a hearing until later his year and a consent until 3 years after it applied for it, and how are we going to get secure supply for electricity if a consent as minor as that takes 3 years?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I would be happy to look at the particulars. Obviously one of the things about this Government is that it does not interfere in statutory processes, but I would have to say that like all members of this House I would exercise extreme caution about any claim or statement made by that member.
Steve Chadwick: What proposals has the Minister seen to change the Resource Management Act?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have seen a report that National would “tear the guts out of the RMA”. That was Maurice Williamson in the latest edition of Driver Magazine. I think National needs to come clean with the citizens of this country and tell people that it has no interest in proper environmental safeguards and that it does not care about the huge economic advantage that this country gains from its clean, green image.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does he refuse to accept that the Resource Management Act is not part of the problem with regard to electricity infrastructure, when in 2002 his Government spent $150 million on an emergency generation plant in the Hawke’s Bay because it was the only place where it was possible to get a consent and when it is widely accepted that it is in the wrong place—and Trevor Mallard has said as much—and that consideration is now being given to move it to Auckland or Christchurch; and if spending $150 million on a power plant in the wrong place is not sufficient to convince this Minister that change is required, what would be?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: A recent analysis from the Ministry for the Environment indicates that public works generally are being consented to by councils within 3 months of application. A report prepared for the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Transport 3 years ago concluded that New Zealand performs well, compared with other countries, in terms of the time taken, for example, for roading projects to commence. The average time from inception to start of construction for major New Zealand roading is 2 years quicker than in the UK and 7 years quicker than in the US.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was quite specific in respect of the consent issues around the emergency generation plant built in Napier that was in the wrong place. I have heard nothing in the Minister’s answers that even attempts to answer that question.
Madam SPEAKER: Certainly, the member did have that. The member’s question was very long, just as the Minister’s answers are very long. I ask the Minister to address the question succinctly.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not accept the member’s proposition. The study prepared for the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry of Transport shows that infrastructure projects are consented to very quickly, and comparatively much faster than in comparable jurisdictions.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with Dr Keith Turner that reform of the Resource Management Act is critical to securing the supply of electricity in New Zealand, or does he intend to follow the path of David Parker, ignoring Dr Turner’s advice and then having to make the excuses for the lights going out?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I note that Transpower on its own website makes the following statement: “Transpower recognises that the RMA provides a necessary framework for identifying and managing the environmental effects of development.”
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Dr Keith Turner is the chief executive of Meridian Energy. I made no mention of Transpower in my question. My concerns are as much about the generation as the transmission of electricity. I think the Minister should be required to answer the question.
Madam SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table National’s 34-point reform programme for the Resource Management Act, so that the House can be quite clear about National’s intentions for that Act.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I also seek leave to table a document, which is the electricity transmission grid security Government policy statement of 1997, which says, inter alia, that the changes were intended to ensure that consequences of poor decisions in determining grid security standards rests with Transpower’s customers.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any object? There is objection.
Electricity Supply—Cabinet Policy Committee
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that “improving transmission on the grid into Auckland is a very high priority for the Government”; if so, what specific actions are proposed by the report to the Cabinet Policy Committee which she told the House would be received today?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, the Government has asked for a full analysis of the causes of the outage and for advice on actions to be taken to prevent such an occurrence in future.
Dr Don Brash: Can she advise the House whether any of the recommendations received today are brand new, or did the report contain recommendations that have been patently obvious to everybody else in the last 7 years of her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can advise that the advice I have received today is that under the current Government, Transpower has been investing, on average, around $300 million per annum in its system. That is six times the $50 million per annum invested under National. That is the sort of action we get under a Labour Government.
Dr Don Brash: Why do the Prime Minister and her Ministers continue to deny that the Resource Management Act has caused considerable problems to Transpower in its endeavours to upgrade the national grid, when Transpower told the then incoming Minister of Energy, Trevor Mallard, in December 2004 that it strongly supported a revamp of the Resource Management Act to boost the Government’s powers to intervene in projects and has, indeed, made a similar point in every annual report since 2002?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Transpower has been in touch with the Government today to say that it has not said anywhere that it blames the Resource Management Act for Monday’s blackout. That is the fact.
Dr Don Brash: What has been achieved by the high-level ministerial infrastructure group chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister since it was set up 3 years ago, and did it ever consider the weakness of the national grid’s single entry point into Auckland?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The purpose of that committee was to undertake an infrastructure stocktake. The stocktake revealed years of underinvestment because of failed market models. Under this Government, investment in transmission is running at six times the level that it ran at under National.
Dr Don Brash: Why will the Prime Minister’s Government not take responsibility for the fact that it has now been in office for 7 long years and just deliver the solutions so clearly needed by New Zealanders, instead of receiving yet another report stating that something should be done by somebody, sometime?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Far from something being done by somebody sometime, the Government has seen investment in transmission go up more than six times. The Government does not rely on failed market models of the kind that that member and his party endorse.
Rodney Hide: What responsibility does the Prime Minister take, as Prime Minister, for the power blackout in Auckland on Monday, and does she believe that as Prime Minister she can do anything to improve the situation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As Prime Minister I lead a Government that is committed to infrastructure investment and has increased the expenditure on transmission to six times more than the expenditure under National. That is how we on the Government side of the House deliver.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect on the answer the Prime Minister gave to my supplementary question. The question was quite specific. I asked what responsibility the Prime Minister accepts for the power blackout—she chose not to answer that—then what she as Prime Minister could do to mitigate the situation and make it less likely to happen again. The Prime Minister chose not to address that. She chose to address neither part of the question. The Standing Orders require that the Prime Minister address the question.
Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did address the question, by addressing what had been done. If the answer did not satisfy the member, then that is not a matter for the Speaker. I do not arbitrate—
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have not finished. As members well know, it is not for the Speaker to arbitrate on the quality or fullness of answers. The question must be addressed, and the Prime Minister did address the question.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I beg your indulgence to explain how the Prime Minister’s saying that the Government has increased investment by sixfold—or by a hundredfold or a thousandfold—in any way addressed either part of the question. The question asked what responsibility the Prime Minister accepts. She chose not to address that part of the question—not once; not in any way. She was asked what she could do as Prime Minister to mitigate the situation. She chose not to address that part of the question, either. The point I am making is that of course—[Interruption] Look, I would need to live a long time to expect to get an answer out of this Government that satisfied me, but it is required to try to address the question. The Prime Minister repeatedly chose not to do so.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled that the Prime Minister did address the question. It is not for the Speaker to explain anything more than the fact that the question was addressed. If it was not addressed to the member’s satisfaction, as the member has said, then that is not a matter for the Speaker.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Maybe you could help the House in this way. Is there any answer to any question that the Prime Minister could give that would be deemed by you not to have addressed the question?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member is now clearly challenging your authority and your rulings. The rules around that have not changed during his long absence from this Parliament.
Madam SPEAKER: No, they have not. I ask the member to stand and withdraw and apologise for his comment.
Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member.
Rodney Hide: Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter. If this is a new matter, that is fine, but I have ruled on that matter.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Maybe for the benefit of those of us who are in Opposition you could, at a suitable time, provide that explanation for us, to stop the confusion.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sure that the member is fully familiar with the Standing Orders and Speakers’ Rulings.
3. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he stand by his statement that he remains committed to providing grandparents raising grandchildren “with the sort of allowances provided to foster parents”; if so, what actions have been taken to achieve this?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): In the 2005 Labour manifesto we said that we will “Extend the support provided for grandparents raising grandchildren and other carers on a pension, in particular those taking on caring due to family breakdown, to provide them with the sort of allowances provided to foster parents.” I am committed to delivering on this policy, and I am pleased to inform the member and the House that this issue is under active consideration.
Judy Turner: Will the Minister confirm that he is willing to work with United Future on future policy work regarding kinship carers, in an effort to bring action to this area, which has been overlooked for too long; if not, why not; if so, what areas does he consider the most pressing?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I can confirm that, and I welcome the interest and involvement of the member in ongoing policy development in that regard.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister consider giving grandparents raising grandchildren any assistance with expenses, such as the legal fees they may incur in gaining custody, when a parent of their grandchildren can get legal aid to maintain the status quo; additional help for grandchildren with special needs; or consideration of the financial circumstances of grandparents who are raising more than one grandchild. If not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am certainly happy to look at those issues. I point out to the member that the current entitlements include family assistance, the orphans benefit, the unsupported child’s benefit, and the foster care allowance, as appropriate.
Judy Turner: Can the Minister explain whether the difficulties in closing the widening care gap are primarily financial or legislative, and can he provide details of those difficulties?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, I do not have information before me that would enable me usefully to answer that question at this point.
Electricity Supply—Government Policies
4. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: What Government policies, if any, have contributed to the electricity security of supply problems that saw Monday’s blackout in Auckland and led Keith Turner in February 2005 to note that New Zealand’s electricity grid is so overworked that some lines cannot be taken out of action for servicing, and state that: “That is unheard of in the Western developed world”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Energy): The previous Government policy of industry self-regulation led to a significant under-investment in the national grid. That is why we established the Electricity Commission, and I am advised that investment in the grid is now 500 percent—that is, six times—higher than it was when we became Government. Having said that, I say that the power cuts that occurred on Monday are not good enough and we will take appropriate action.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the statement by Judith Tizard on radio this morning that Government members did know how vulnerable the electricity system in Auckland was, because they had seen a whole series of reports; and, if they did know how vulnerable it was, why for goodness’ sake did they not do something?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The Government has done a lot in this area—for example, through Government systems, the approval last year of an additional $83 million for investment in transmission in Auckland. Twelve separate projects were put up by Transpower, and 12 projects were approved.
Shane Jones: Can the Minister provide us with some information on the background of the Ôtâhuhu substation and security supply considerations?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I am happy to. The substation was opened in 1927. A 110 kilovolt line was added in 1952. It became the main power supply for Auckland in 1954. The 220 kilovolt line was added in 1966. The earth wire was built in 1966. So the systemic problem at that substation has been there for some time. As far as electricity grid standards are concerned, under the policy introduced while Nick Smith was a Cabinet Minister, security standards were shifted from central control to that of consumers. This meant that the ultimate liability for breakdowns under a National policy was with consumers. This Government shifted it back. We have boosted the money, but this Government still says that what happened on Monday is not good enough and we will get it sorted.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the statement by his predecessor, Mr Pete Hodgson, when he launched the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, that it was far better to spend money on campaigns to reduce demand than to spend it on lines or power stations, noting that the most recent review of the strategy shows that improvements have been less than in the time when we did not have a strategy and when we did not spend $100 million; if so, why would he stand by such a ridiculous statement today?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think we have been making considerable progress—in policy development in that area and, more important, in grid investment. And we are doing it because we do not—as Nick Smith did, when he was the Minister of Conservation—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know the member is very keen to try to talk about things 7 years ago. I actually asked a very specific question as to whether he stood by Pete Hodgson’s statement that it was better to spend $100 million on an energy efficiency campaign or to build lines and power stations. The Minister has made absolutely no attempt to say whether the Government stands by that statement.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. We will hear the Minister finish his answer, and I am sure he will address that.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will start again if the member prefers me to repeat it. We need to do both, and I think we are making considerable progress in both. We are making much more progress in transmission, because we are taking central responsibility rather than putting it on to consumers—the mad approach taken by Nick Smith when he was a Cabinet Minister.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was the Minister, in stating on National Radio this morning that the answer was to get more engineers in charge—and noting that he is a former teacher and that Mr Parker is a former lawyer—indicating his support for a change of Government, so that I and my associate Phil Heatley, who are both engineers, might be able to be put in charge?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Literacy is important, balance is important, and I want engineers doing engineers’ work—not bureaucrats, as Don Brash wants.
Treaty of Waitangi—Negotiations
5. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Has the Government made any important advances in Treaty settlement negotiations recently?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes. Most recently, last Friday, the Crown signed an agreement in principle with the Ngâti Whâtua o Ôrâkei Mâori Trust Board. The agreement in principle covers Ngâti Whâtua o Ôrâkei’s outstanding claims in central Auckland, Waitakere, North Shore, and part of Manukau. The agreement in principle is a major milestone that will address historical grievances in the Auckland urban area.
Dave Hereora: Is the Ngâti Whâtua o Ôrâkei agreement in principle a one-off, or is there a growing momentum in the Treaty settlements process?
Hon MARK BURTON: There is, indeed, a growing momentum in the settlement process. The recent Budget provided additional funding to the Office of Treaty Settlements allowing it to respond to the increasing number of groups ready to begin settlement negotiations. Currently the Government is in negotiations with over 20 groups covering hundreds of claims. In the very near future the Government will be seeking support for the Ngati Mutunga Claims Settlement Bill, the fourth settlement achieved in Taranaki.
Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that the Ngâti Whâtua proposed settlement includes the right of first option to purchase over 170 Government-owned properties with a value well in excess of $1 billion, which will therefore mean that rather than being a $10 million settlement, this is a settlement that, over time, will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars?
Hon MARK BURTON: I can confirm that, as with many previous settlements—in fact, most previous settlements—there is a right of first refusal on a range of Government properties. If and when any of those properties become available they will become available at the prevailing market price, and, therefore, it represents a comparable but better protected arrangement than previous settlements.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the extra $5 million made available to his department for Treaty negotiations over the next 5 years, after adjustment for inflation, means he will have less money year by year than he had last year?
Hon MARK BURTON: No, I cannot confirm that. I can confirm for the member, as I did this morning, that the Office of Treaty Settlements is currently recruiting an additional negotiating team to boost its ability to enter into direct negotiations with claimants.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. As you will see, Madam Speaker, this question relates to the operation of the Security Intelligence Service, and, accordingly, it was lodged this morning addressed to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service, the Prime Minister. During this morning my office was advised that the Prime Minister’s office had advised the Clerk’s Office that the Security Intelligence Service was not responsible for identifying terrorists, nor for stopping them from entering New Zealand.
Leaving aside the rather interesting question of what that leaves members of the Security Intelligence Service to do other than eat their lunch, it raises a serious problem for the Opposition. I want to refer you to Speakers’ rulings on page 138, and specifically to rulings 3, 4, and 5. Those rulings make it clear you are not obliged to accept the transfer of a question by a Minister, and the Speakers’ rulings make it clear that where the information that is the subject of the question is so substantially held by one Minister, your transfer of such a question would be an abuse. Speaker’s ruling 138/5 makes it clear that you do have the power to refuse to permit a transfer if the personal knowledge of the Minister who has transferred the question might be such that another Minister would have difficulty giving the appropriate answer.
I refer you to the fact that yesterday I asked a primary question and some supplementary questions about the operation of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, and clearly that was my intent with this question today. The designating authority under that Act is the Prime Minister and no one else. I put it to you that the Prime Minister, in such a position, would have knowledge within her grasp that no other Minister could be expected to have. Indeed, there is only one Minister we can hold responsible and accountable in this House for the operation of that legislation.
I make one other submission, which is that this involves a matter of national security. Members of the Opposition have to accept in such matters that there are some things we cannot know. We do accept that and we try to behave with restraint in that regard. I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that there is a reciprocal obligation on the part of the Prime Minister in this case, where there is information she can provide, to be forthcoming and candid in providing it. Can I suggest that transferring the question is hardly consistent with such an approach. I invite you, for all those reasons, Madam Speaker, to overrule the Prime Minister’s attempt to move this question to the Minister of Police.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The question refers to the Security Intelligence Service and other law enforcement authorities in relation to matters regarding terrorists, etc. There are two points that need to be made about that. The first is that the police are the lead agency in respect of the prevention of terrorism, not the Security Intelligence Service. The second is that the Security Intelligence Service is not, in fact, a law enforcement authority; it is an intelligence agency, which is not the same thing. I am sure members will realise there is an important distinction between those two. I further add that the Terrorism Suppression Act is not within the responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank both members.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have heard both sides of the argument at some length, so I thank the member. I am prepared to rule.
Gerry Brownlee: So you will not take my point of order?
Madam SPEAKER: No. I have not dealt with the point of order that is already on the table, so if I could deal with that then I would be very happy, Mr Brownlee, to take your next point of order.
Speakers’ rulings 138/3 and 138/5 referred to by the member do not appear, in this instance, to be engaged, because of the nature of the question. There is no one Minister who is so primarily responsible for the subject that that Minister, and only that Minister, can be expected to reply to it. The basic rule is that the question should be addressed, of course, by the Minister primarily responsible, and that is in Speaker’s ruling 137/6. A question such as this one, relating to the Security Intelligence Service and other law enforcement authorities, clearly crosses a number of portfolios and could be answered by any one of a number of Ministers. It is for the Ministers to decide which Minister should answer the question in these circumstances, and the Speaker cannot intervene. I refer members to Speakers’ rulings 137/7, 137/8, and 138/1.
Mr Brownlee, you have another point of order. I do not want to relitigate the matter on this one, but if it is a different point of order that is fine.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It relates to Speaker’s ruling 139/5, which makes it very clear that where a Minister indicates a question is outside his or her area of portfolio responsibility, or challenges its validity, it has to be reconsidered. Notwithstanding all the points Dr Cullen made, it remains a fact that if the New Zealand Police are the enforcement agency, they are working under direction from the Security Intelligence Service. The policy place is the Security Intelligence Service.
There is no dispute about who the Minister responsible for the Security Intelligence Service is, and this question—both when it was first lodged and when it was altered afterwards to accommodate the Prime Minister’s office—most certainly goes to the heart of the confidence the Security Intelligence Service has that its policy will be enacted. I think that on such a serious matter, the Prime Minister should reconsider whether 138/2 is an appropriate course for the Government to fall on, because, quite clearly, it would mean the Prime Minister is indicating that many matters relating to the Security Intelligence Service have nothing to do with her, and therefore sit well outside the normal perusal of this Parliament. That is not right.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution. In effect, although it raised a different Speaker’s ruling, it was substantially about the matter I have ruled on. But I will deal with the matter the member has raised specifically. Speaker’s ruling 139/5 deals with the situation where a question has been disallowed. That is not the case here; the question has been allowed. As I said, I do not want to repeat the considered ruling that I have given; I have ruled.
6. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Police: Can she assure New Zealanders that the Security Intelligence Service and other law enforcement authorities have a robust process for identifying potential terrorists and denying them access to New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): Yes. The New Zealand Police, which has responsibility for coordinating the terrorist designation processes for individuals and organisations, advises me that the process is a robust one.
Hon Murray McCully: Will the Minister confirm the statement of Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White, the head of counter-terrorism, on Radio New Zealand this morning that the 88 terrorists designated by Australia and those designated by Canada, on those countries’ own initiatives, “also cover ones listed by the United Nations and have thereby been designated by New Zealand”, or does she accept that Assistant Police Commissioner White is completely wrong in that statement, and that although Australia and Canada have designated the approximately 450 terrorists listed by the UN Security Council, each of those countries has also designated further terrorists who have not also been designated by New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In respect of the last part of the member’s question, I can confirm that that is the case. However, what is unable to be confirmed is Mr McCully’s figures of 88 terrorists on an Australian list and 50 on a Canadian list. The website will tell the member that, in fact, Canada and Australia have designated the UN list, as New Zealand has, although in the process of doing so those countries have also included—in Australia’s case—19 entities. However, 15 of those entities are already on the UN list, which means that four on the Australian list are not on a New Zealand list.
Rt Hon Helen Clark: Four?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Four—not 88. Let us take the case of Canada. Mr McCully said there were 50 on its list; 39 entities are listed, and 15 of them come off the UN list, which leaves 24, not 50.
Hon Murray McCully: Is the Minister concerned that the assistant commissioner of the New Zealand Police who is responsible for counter-terrorism, whom the Prime Minister has identified as the chief adviser on terrorism matters, does not understand the two different categories of terrorist that are defined in the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, and, as a consequence, was this morning labouring under the completely incorrect impression that New Zealand had formally designated the 88 people designated by Australia as terrorists, whom we, in fact, have not so designated at all; if so, what does she propose to do?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have confidence in Assistant Police Commissioner White. I do not have confidence in that member, who, I believe, is using figures to make political mischief.
Hon Murray McCully: Will the Minister now expect that Assistant Police Commissioner White, having realised his serious error, should consider urgently recommending to the Prime Minister that she now designate the 88 people designated by Australia as terrorists whom he thought we had already designated but, in fact, had not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I realise the member had already written out his question, so, obviously, he did not listen to my answer. But I am happy to table the information I have been provided that shows there are not 88 terrorists on an Australian list. In fact, as I said, there are 19, and 15 of them are already on the UN list, which leaves four. I have been provided with that information; I am happy to table it so that the member can read it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware that the leader of the National Party for the time being, Don Brash, was fully briefed by the intelligence and security people on Rayed Mohammed Abdullah, then declared himself to be happy with that briefing and the form of enforcement; and what does she conceive this question to be, other than a perennial attempt by that member to be the leader of the National Party, or a vote of no confidence in the leader of the National Party?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think the answer is all of the above.
Hon Murray McCully: Would the Minister accept that, given the relatively open border between New Zealand and Australia, it would be a very good idea if our anti-terrorism authorities were working off roughly similar lists of suspected terrorists under our respective terrorism suppression legislation, and can she explain to the House why this is not the case?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In fact, New Zealand works very well with a number of countries, and they do work off the same designated terrorist list. In fact, the man who is the subject of this question is on no designated terrorist list. What the member is trying to do is to confuse a designated terrorist list with the fact that a man who was not on a designated terrorist list entered New Zealand.
Hon Murray McCully: What confidence can New Zealanders have in this country’s counter-terrorism arrangements when the assistant commissioner of police in charge of counter-terrorism does not know who is on our list of terrorists, how they got on that list, or who is on Australia’s list, and when the Minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service runs for cover rather than answering simple and straightforward questions in the House?
Hon ANNETTE KING: What I find interesting is that the Leader of the Opposition has been briefed on this case, and it appears that he is getting someone else to fire his bullets—because that member has been briefed. What is also interesting is that Assistant Police Commissioner White knows exactly what he is talking about. That member, even in the time that he has been asking these questions, has changed his tack. I put my faith in Assistant Police Commissioner White, not in Murray McCully, who is trying to make a political point.
Keith Locke: Would we not all know a lot more about the Ali case from the Government, from lawyers, and even from Mr Ali himself, if he had been arrested and put through the normal deportation process, rather than being summarily expelled under the draconian section 72, which had been used only once, in 1991, to expel a Russian spy; would it not have been better to go down the normal deportation track, particularly when the Minister of Immigration has assured us more than once that Mr Ali did not pose an immediate threat to our security?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think that what should reassure New Zealanders is that this man was detected and deported.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it the Minister’s understanding, being part of the process as the responsible Minister, that there was a briefing by the security and intelligence people of the leaders of various political parties, Dr Brash being one of them; and does she understand that, therefore, if Dr Brash was unhappy with it, he would have expressed his view on that briefing, and that his failure to do so would surely bring some obligation upon other members of his caucus to either doubt the leader or keep their mouth shut?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have to say I totally agree with the member.
Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the sake of the House’s information, I want to say that I made it clear that I had been briefed by the head of the SIS, and I was very content with the action he had taken—nothing to do with when the guy came into the country, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but it is a point of information. [Interruption] He is not the only member who has made a point of order in this House that was not valid.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Seeing that the leader of the National Party has put that issue before the House, which Government was in power when Saudi Arabia, the former country of residence of Rayed Mohammed Abdullah, was made visa-free, and what was the month and year of that governmental action, if it was not 1999 with the National Party in Government?
Madam SPEAKER: There is no ministerial responsibility for that. [Interruption] I have ruled on that. There is no responsibility.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek leave to table some documents. First, I seek the leave of the House to table a transcript of Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White speaking on Radio New Zealand this morning.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek the leave of the House to table the Australian list of names that have been designated under UN Resolution 1267 and UN Resolution 1373. The list contains the designated names that I referred to in my question.
Madam SPEAKER: You have identified the document. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek the leave of the House to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 350 in order to give the House some undertakings in respect of allegations made about the confidential briefing given to the Leader of the Opposition.
Madam SPEAKER: Is it personal to the member?
Hon Murray McCully: Absolutely; I understand the Standing Order. In view of the accusation that was made across the House, I wish to give an assurance to the House that after the Leader of the Opposition had received his confidential briefing from the director of the SIS, he rang me to tell me that he had received a confidential briefing about a matter upon which I might be approached for comment. He told me that he had been briefed on it, felt unable to tell me anything further, and would appreciate it if I made no public comment on that matter if journalists approached me. I give the House an undertaking that Dr Brash has not at any time discussed with me the contents of his briefing from the director of the SIS.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an OPEC document that details the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. It explains why both National and Labour want to keep Saudi Arabia visa-free despite security concerns.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise this point in order to bring some accuracy to the House, and I ask you to bear with me. I am raising it in order that the House’s records be accurate. Throughout question time, both yesterday and today, there has been much reference to a Mr Ali. The name of the person in question, as far as I am aware, is Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali. After that, he will have a surname, which will be his tribe—al followed by whatever it is. To continue to refer in the House to this man as Mr Ali is actually to refer to his great-grandfather, whose name was Ali. In the Muslim world the first name is the given name, so his given name is Rayed; the second name, Mohammed, is the name of his father—so he is the son of Mohammed. Because other people who look at our records will see that we have been inaccurate, I ask that we give some consideration to this. As we insist that we call each other by our proper names, and as we insist that when we refer to public officials we name them correctly, I ask that in this House we at least get our record straight and refer to this man as Rayed, or as Mr whatever his tribe name is, and not continually refer to him in the House record as Ali, because that is not his name—it is the name of his great-grandfather.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I am sure that members will have taken note of the point.
7. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any recent reports concerning New Zealand’s no-fault ACC system?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): As a matter of fact, I have. I have seen a report of a health-care conference in Auckland where an American speaker from the Harvard School of Public Health, Edward Dauer, speaking at that conference, described the Accident Compensation Corporation’s system of dealing with medical injuries as “the most sophisticated in the world”.
Georgina Beyer: Did the report elaborate on those comments?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, it did. Those comments were backed up by a medical law expert, Dr Marie Bismark, whose research shows that compared with the private American system for dealing with medical injuries, which is based on expensive litigation, our no-fault accident compensation scheme is faster and fairer, more patients can get compensation and rehabilitation, and our scheme also contributes to future improvements in the health-care system.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she intend to implement the recent ministerial panel’s recommendation that “those with impairment, regardless of cause, be entitled to a comparable level of medical, social and vocational rehabilitation as those who receive ACC cover”; if so, given the huge cost implications, where will she get the money from other than from significant extra taxes?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In fact, some parts of section 31 of the committee’s report have already been implemented. An example is the extension of the support from Work and Income services for people on an invalids benefit or a sickness benefit, which showed at one trial site a reduction of 14 percent in the number of people on an invalids benefit, compared with those who are without such services. That is not extra expenditure. That is extra finance to the Government and extra investment in New Zealanders. I thought the member might support that.
Peter Brown: In the light of that favourable report from the overseas expert, what credence does she give to many, many New Zealanders who have some real, genuine concerns and complaints about the Accident Compensation Corporation and the system?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am sure that a scheme as comprehensive in terms of cover as New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme is not without fault. Any systemic issue that the member wants to draw to my attention will certainly receive the appropriate response.
Health Sector Strike Action—Junior Doctors and Radiation Therapists
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What action will he take to avert the current industrial dispute in hospitals that is disrupting the lives of thousands of patients?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): I will continue to encourage the district health boards and the unions involved to seek a resolution as quickly as possible, in the interests of the New Zealand public.
Hon Tony Ryall: What steps has he taken to satisfy himself that the public safety will be assured, and is he prepared to repeat the commitment of the previous Minister of Health, that in health the buck stops with him?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The issue of life-preserving services is not a matter of policy, or just of policy; it is a matter of law. My interest is to see that the law is complied with.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister realise how bad this strike is going to be? We have called around the district health boards today, and close to 20,000 patients will be disrupted—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question was finished in about six words. To then give the House a speech on activity in the morning, which is interesting for the National Party, is not part of the question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member re-put his question, as succinctly as possible please.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Surely you will allow some leeway.
Madam SPEAKER: I have allowed leeway, Mr Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee: You have asked him to reword his question. He was wording it perfectly satisfactorily. Mr Mallard may not be very happy with it, but clearly that is because a major political point was about to be made, which Ministers make constantly in their arguments and answers, and they are allowed to get away with it.
Madam SPEAKER: I just note for members that for some reason today both questions and answers have been of extraordinary length. While that is informative, the Standing Orders do require both to be given as succinctly as possible. I have already drawn members’ attention to that in the House today. I am not asking the member to change his question; I am merely asking him to ask his question consistent with the Standing Orders.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister stand by his answer in the House yesterday that only 10,000 patients will be affected by the industrial action in our country’s hospitals, when today we have called around the nation’s hospitals and found that close to 20,000 patients will be affected by the strike—with his own Ministry of Health admitting today there is a very real risk that the strike will see even more New Zealand patients culled from hospital waiting lists as a result—and how, after 7 years, it is everybody else’s responsibility but his?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is easily riled. I said in the House yesterday that more than 10,000 people were involved, and I believe that more than 10,000 people will be involved. If, indeed, the member is correct and 20,000 people are involved, then that simply reflects just how much health service is delivered by this health system under this Government. I regret that more than 10,000 people will have their appointments or procedures postponed if strikes proceed and I urge both parties to search for agreement, if at all possible.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister realise that even if the strike is cancelled or shortened, 20,000 patients will have to be rebooked into the system, making other patients wait longer, and that his most senior officials admitted in a select committee today that there is a very real risk this will mean even more patients will be culled from hospital waiting lists under this Government’s edict?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am aware that if, for example, a resolution were reached today and the strike did not proceed, many, many people—thousands of them—would have had their first specialist assessment or their surgery postponed. The reason for that is, of course, that district health boards have been planning for this eventuality very carefully for months.
Maryan Street: Are district health boards and unions required to plan for the provision of urgent care in hospitals during strikes; if so, is the Minister confident that this planning is taking place now?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. As a result of reforms introduced by this Labour-led Government, which were not in place under the previous Government, both boards and unions are now legally required to plan for and provide life-preserving services during strikes. I am advised that this planning has progressed well, and I wish to recognise afresh the contribution that senior doctors and nurses will make if the strike does proceed tomorrow.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Is it not correct that the Minister and his ministry have deferred responsibility for response to the strikes to individual district health boards, and that there is no official in his ministry who is in charge of ensuring a uniform, coordinated district health board response to the junior doctors’ strike?
Hon PETE HODGSON: District health boards and unions are responsible for industrial negotiations between them.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Is the Minister not alarmed by the fact that his ministry has admitted that the last time it briefed him on the strike was Monday morning, and should he not be taking a more direct interest rather than palming off the responsibility; or is it like everything else we debate in this Chamber—that, even after 7 years in Government, when things go wrong it is always someone else’s fault?
Hon PETE HODGSON: District health boards and the ministry began briefing me on the issue of contingency planning several months ago in order to assure me they were meeting their legal requirements. Briefings have been regular and have become more so in recent weeks, including every day this week.
Hon Tony Ryall: Not by your officials.
Hon PETE HODGSON: Can I just say to the member that I receive briefings from district health boards and from the ministry.
Peter Brown: Can the Minister advise how many employment-related disputes in the health sector have resulted in industrial action since Labour came to power in 1999, and can he also advise whether the trend is increasing?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I am afraid I cannot. I do not have that information at my fingertips.
Mâori Health—Plunket Funding
9. TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Minister of Health: What percentage of the $34 million allocated to Plunket is dedicated to addressing Mâori health, and how is this demonstrated in the contract between the Ministry of Health and Plunket?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): Just over one-fifth of all new babies in Plunket’s care are Mâori, but they probably receive somewhat more services than that, because Plunket’s services are targeted somewhat towards lower socio-economic groups.
Tariana Turia: Is it correct that Plunket has not performed well in the highest-deprivation area of deciles 8 to 10; and what will the Minister instruct the Ministry of Health to do about that in the development of its Well Child contract?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I substantially disagree with the member’s assertion that Plunket has not performed well in the area of deciles 8 to 10, though it is true that it took Plunket a while to get there. The Government believes that Plunket’s face-to-face contracts are generally of a very high standard.
Sue Moroney: Has the Government’s investment in Plunket increased since 2000; if so, by how much has it increased?
Hon PETE HODGSON: This Labour-led Government has increased public investment in Plunket by more than 60 percent since 2000. This Government values the Well Child services that have made Plunket the institution it is today, and this Government is willing to invest heavily in these services in order to improve the health of all New Zealand children.
Tariana Turia: Why is Plunket negotiating with the ministry to use the $2 million of underspent funding that should have been spent on Mâori and Pacific health to pay for the multi-employment collective agreement with nurses; and what action will the Minister take to instruct the Ministry of Health?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member has raised a matter about which I was unaware. I say to her that funding for Plunket is targeted not by ethnicity but by socio-economic deprivation, therefore it is difficult for me to agree with her assertion that some Mâori and Pacific funding has gone somewhere else.
Tariana Turia: Does the Minister consider that this underspend and reallocation of funding will address the disparities in Mâori health; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government’s approach to the Well Child contracts, be they with Plunket—which provides about 80 percent of the contracts—or with the other 60 or 70 Tâmariki Ora Well Child Schedule providers throughout the country, is based in part on socio-economic deprivation, but it is not based on ethnicity.
10. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Which offshore immigration office granted Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali a student visa?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): I am advised that the office concerned was Dubai and that the visa issued was in the surname of Ali, which was the surname applied under by the person concerned.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why does the Minister have confidence in the decision making of offshore offices, given that, as he has said, Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was using his own passport with his own photograph and with only one further name added, and was listed in the US 9/11 Commission Report as an associate of terrorists when he was granted that student visa by the Dubai office to study at an English language school in New Zealand although he spoke excellent English?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have confidence in a multilayered security system that enabled us to identify Mr Ali, locate him, monitor him, and return him swiftly to his country of residence. New Zealanders can have confidence in our security systems.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How can the Minister have confidence in the decision making of offshore immigration offices, when the office in South Korea granted a work permit to a man whose applications Immigration New Zealand in Auckland had twice declined, saying he did not qualify in any way and would definitely not be getting a work permit?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I have said to the member in the past, if he wishes to bring individual cases to the attention of the Government, he is always welcome to provide that information and we will act appropriately upon it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which party was in Government—[Interruption This is a sad one all right, but there is much more—when Saudi Arabia, the former country of residence of Rayed, known as Rayed Mohammed Abdullah, was made visa-free, what was the year of that Government’s action, and is there an “h” word that describes these questions?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am able to confirm that Mr Ali was a long-term resident of Saudi Arabia and that it was the previous National Government that made Saudi Arabia visa-free. The date of that action was 1 July 1999, the then Minister was the Hon Tuariki Delamere, and the then Prime Minister was the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What assurance can the Minister give that no other persons granted visas to be in New Zealand are security risks, when in some Middle Eastern cultures—as we have already heard today—what we call a surname is not necessarily used, and when our immigration screening procedures seem to depend so much on a surname and can so easily be thrown by the inclusion of a further, possibly perfectly legitimate, name?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: My confidence is based on the following data. In 2005-06, to the end of May, 2,005 people were removed or deported or voluntarily departed from New Zealand, 611 people were stopped from boarding aircraft to New Zealand, 1,322 people were refused entry at the border, 49 successful prosecutions for immigration fraud took place, 78 prosecutions were still before the courts, 22 people were declined a visa before they posed an unacceptable risk, and this one got part-way through the process.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why was someone deported without interrogation as to what he was up to when he had known links to the 9/11 terrorists, had come to New Zealand on a student visa to study English although he spoke excellent English, and was so keen to have further flying lessons that he approached no fewer than three different aero clubs; why was that person not interrogated as to what he was up to?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Quite obviously, I am not at liberty to disclose the details of what questioning may have gone on with that individual, as I am not at liberty to discuss other security-related operational details of that case.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why, then, has the Prime Minister confirmed that Rayed Mohammed Abdullah Ali was deported from New Zealand without interrogation, when the Prime Minister herself stated publicly: “taking on a new surname and having flying lessons when he had enrolled to learn English showed a willingness to deceive”; why were greater efforts not made to find out the motives and the plans behind that calculated willingness to deceive, in the interests of international security?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: While we are in the business of quoting the Prime Minister, my personal favourite is the following: “I consider it a no-brainer that someone who has been a roommate of a 9/11 terrorist, and who is having pilot training, is here for no particularly good purpose.”
Question No. 11 to Minister
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When I set this question down for the Minister for the Environment, because it relates to the New Zealand waste strategy and the five core policies in it, I included a brief outline of what those five policies are, which is a sound legislative basis for waste minimisation and management, efficient pricing, high environmental standards, adequate and accessible information, and efficient use of resources. My staff were told that my question could contain only three of those policies. It does not make any sense to me at all that that should be the case, particularly when a brief look at the questions today shows that my question is not a particularly long one.
Madam SPEAKER: This is obviously a matter that was discussed with the Clerk’s Office. The assessment made at that time was that the inclusion of the other matters was not necessary to render the question intelligible. I note the member’s point that some of the other questions are a bit longer, but it would be for that reason—that it was necessary for sense. However, as this is a day for reminding members that all questions and answers should be succinct, I think the point is usefully made. I think the question is understood by the Minister, but I thank the member for raising it.
New Zealand Waste Strategy—Core Policies
11. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he support the five core policies of the New Zealand waste strategy, three of which are: a sound legislative basis for waste minimisation and management, adequate and accessible information, and efficient use of materials?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment): Yes.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that the core policy of efficient pricing would be assisted by a waste levy, as supported by both local government representatives and most of the waste industry, and contained in Part 5 of my Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill, due for its first reading this afternoon, and at what level does he think it needs to be set to provide an effective disincentive for waste generation?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I am generally supportive of a waste levy, and to that end I have asked the Ministry for the Environment to facilitate discussions between stakeholders such as local government and the industry. In respect of the level, I would like to see further discussion of that matter if agreement cannot be reached by those parties as part of the select committee process that I expect will follow.
Nandor Tanczos: Does he agree that efficient use of materials would be assisted by the implementation of extended producer responsibility, as contained in Part 6 of my bill, to encourage brand owners to design waste out of their production and delivery systems, and does he agree that the danger of wholly voluntary agreements such as we have to date is that they allow irresponsible brand owners to free-ride?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Broadly, yes. I have been pleased with the progress to date in the voluntary regime, for example, in the printing and packaging industry, but I do acknowledge the reality of the free rider issue, and I look forward to it being further canvassed in select committee discussions.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister believe that the Government should lead by example in the area of waste minimisation, as my bill requires; if so, how is replacing beige wastepaper bins with green wastepaper bins, as is currently being done in Parliament, consistent with that; and how is replacing water carafes and glasses with disposable plastic cups and energy-efficient water coolers consistent with that?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am pleased to confirm to the member that the Govt3 project is encouraging Government agencies to improve the sustainability of their activities, and that all 43 core public service agencies are now involved in that programme. I am advised that the Parliamentary Service has had a recycling scheme in place since the early 1990s and is currently in the process of relaunching that brand. Although I am a little surprised that the member objects to his waste bins turning green, I can confirm that I have no responsibility for the decisions of the general manager of the Parliamentary Service.
Civil Aviation Authority, Board and Chairman—Confidence
12. Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga) to the Minister of Transport: Does she have confidence in the board and the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority in light of the comments by chairman, Ron Tannock, that the CAA had not grounded Air Adventures because it had not stuck to its own “no-compliance, no-fly” rule; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport): Yes, for the following reasons. Firstly, Mr Tannock was not the chair of the Civil Aviation Authority at the time of the crash of the Air Adventures plane, and only one board member from that time remains on the board. Secondly, it is not the board that makes the decisions relating to the enforcement of the Civil Aviation Act and the suspension or revocation of aviation documents. Under the Civil Aviation Act, it is the Director of Civil Aviation who has statutory independence from the board and the Minister in making these decisions.
Hon Maurice Williamson: In light of the fact that Mr Tannock said that the authority had to face up to the responsibility of the accident, and given the often-used quotes by this Government about accountability, can the Minister tell this House the names of anybody—the chair, board members, senior management, or low-level functionaries—who has either resigned or been sacked from, or been disciplined in some way by, the Civil Aviation Authority?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot, but I can tell the member that the board has taken the recommendations from the coroner’s report and the auditor’s report very seriously. The board has undertaken to implement all the recommendations—and not only to implement them but to ensure they are shown publicly to be implemented. That is certainly far more progress than I can remember coming from any other similar accidents.
Hon Maurice Williamson: How does the Minister square away things within this Government when a “low-level messenger”, as the Prime Minister called him, was sacked on the day he leaked a Cabinet paper, but the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, who openly admits the authority caused the death of eight good people by its failure to act—he admitted that; those are not my words—is not touched in any way?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I explained to the member that the board, in fact, does not make the decision as to who will fly and not fly; it is made by the director. The board’s responsibility is to deal with the director, and I will certainly leave that in its hands. I am confused by Mr Williamson, because on 6 June he put out a statement in the morning saying that we had to deal with the management; by the evening he had changed it to the board. So I am not sure whether he wanted us to deal with both of them. I cannot deal with the director, but I am comfortable with what the board has undertaken to do.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, is the Minister aware that in section 665 of the coroner’s report on the Air Adventures crash he states: “One man, one aircraft and one part-time assistant were not a safe critical mass, and the safety processes of the Civil Aviation Authority should have detected that and prevented the flight in question.”; and, if the Minister is aware of that statement, will she inform the House just how she will ensure that the authority will detect such flights and will prevent them from taking off?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Those issues are addressed in the recommendations. There were 31 of them: six relate to the Minister of Transport and are now being looked at by the Ministry of Transport to provide me with advice; the others relate to the Civil Aviation Authority, which has undertaken to implement the recommendations; and one relates to Crop and Food Research, which is one it will implement. So I believe that action is being taken and that the issue is being taken seriously, not only by the Civil Aviation Authority board but also by the Government.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Given that the Minister says she cannot take direct action with management but only with the board, what has she directed the board to do about this issue in terms of making somebody—anybody—within the organisation take some responsibility for the ghastly crash that the Civil Aviation Authority admits would not have occurred had it done its job?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have required that the board ensures that all recommendations are implemented, and that each month the progress on those recommendations and their implementation will be made public and published. That is the action I have taken. The member is aware that the civil aviation industry—I know it will have been filling his ear—believes that the approach that ought to be taken in civil aviation is one of making quality improvement rather than of putting people’s heads on stakes. I do not believe that that is the appropriate action for the board; I want it to implement the recommendations. The board needs to ensure that the director does implement them.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Can I ask the Minister if she has any concerns about paragraph 545 of the coroner’s report, which states that the law enforcement unit of the Civil Aviation Authority—which is ostensibly ring-fenced from the Civil Aviation Authority operational groups—was subject to considerable pressure from the General Aviation Group not to take action against Bannerman; and, if that is the case, why is the person and head of the General Aviation Group not being disciplined for taking that action against the supposedly independent ring-fenced body within the Civil Aviation Authority?
Hon ANNETTE KING: He may well be disciplined by the director.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Really?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not know that, but he may well be—that is up to the director. Anyone who has half a brain over there on the Opposition benches knows how the Act works; I know Maurice Williamson knows how the Act works. I cannot tell the director how to run his outfit. However, I know that Maurice Williamson also knows that one of the recommendations is to look at that part of the Civil Aviation Authority, and the authority has undertaken to do just that.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Can the Minister give this House an assurance today, 14 June 2006, that no operators out there flying today have such question marks over their operation as Mr Bannerman did, and that everyone out there is operating in a safe and proper manner?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The reassurance I received was from the board, which received it from the director, and the board believed there were no safety issues out there today.
Hon Maurice Williamson: In light of that answer, can the Minister now name one operator—just one—who has been grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority for poor, shoddy operation in the last 12 months, or since the Bannerman crash, or since the Auditor-General’s report, or since the coroner’s report?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not think I can, off the top of my head. But I can remember that Air Chathams was grounded—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: That was years ago!
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it was not years ago, because the first Audit Office report, I think, goes back to the late 1990s, and I know that Air Chathams was grounded after that. I cannot give an accurate answer; that is just from my memory. However, I am happy to find out for the member. But I did think, when I spoke to him, that he was a strong believer in an industry that looked not for “name, blame, and shame” but for trying to have quality improvement within this industry. When I have met with members of this industry, that is what they have told me. Whether they are from those organisations that own parts of the industry or those that operate it, they say “Let’s learn from the experiences—”
Hon Maurice Williamson: Should he be left flying?
Hon ANNETTE KING: It is quite obvious from the coroner’s report that he should not. That was a decision for the director and, I think it is fair to say, for the chairman, who has already said that. The chairman has already said that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So why are we persisting with two regimes, depending upon the size of commercial aircraft, when most countries have one, and when the current system is prejudicial against the interests of the safety of low-capacity aircraft passengers?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The model, itself, I do not have a great problem with. The fact is that what is identified in the coroner’s report is the general aviation sector—planes with nine or fewer passengers: helicopters, top-dressing planes, and so on—an area where there has been some concern for a small number of operators. I want to assure this House and New Zealanders that there is no concern at all with our Air New Zealand, our Freedom Air, Qantas, and so on. That sector is not of concern. This coroner’s report goes to the area of some of those operators who have thought—and probably not for the first time—that they can get away with something they ought not to be able to get away with.