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Questions And Answers Thursday, 15 June 2006

Questions And Answers Thursday, 15 June 2006

Questions to Ministers

Elective Surgery—Government Policy

1. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What reports, if any, has he received on the implications of Government policy for patients needing elective surgery?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: The Minister has received many reports, both oral and written, over many months on Government elective surgery policy. These include reports stating that the number of elective surgery procedures has increased by 12.6 percent on a case-weighted basis under this Government, and by more than that when outpatient procedures are taken into account; and reports of a 24 percent increase in hip replacements and a 52 percent increase in knee replacements.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why are patients with serious skin cancers being told that their tumours must get bigger and worse before they can get any treatment; and can the Minister have any idea of what it must feel like for people who have a skin cancer eating into their face, only to be told that the tumour must get worse before they get any treatment, and that they will be culled off the waiting list, anyway.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am advised that the present system is a vast improvement on the one that a National Government implemented in the 1990s, that no Government in recent times has invested more in the public health system than this one, and if anyone in New Zealand believes that Tony Ryall is going to lead any kind of party into Parliament on the back of massive tax cuts, and improve the public health system, he or she has to be dreaming.

Ann Hartley: What reports has he received about the district health board waiting list action?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have received a report of suggestions made by Mr Tony Ryall that boards should ensure, as far as possible, that people are cared for; involve specialists and general practitioners in priority setting; encourage general practitioners to do more minor procedures; and to use private health facilities as appropriate. That is a perfect description of what district health boards are doing, right now. The only thing he did not suggest was that the Government should continue its financial investment in health, open new hospitals and operating theatres, and enable district health boards to employ additional specialists—all of which this Government is doing, as we speak.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that New Zealand has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and that the Government is telling New Zealanders to be sun-smart to prevent getting skin cancer, why, if someone gets it, is he or she told that the cancer tumour must grow and become worse, before the person will even be considered for treatment, and why are those patients being culled from the waiting list, under that Government’s edict?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am advised that the prioritisation system that has been implemented now, is the best that the public hospital system has ever had. There is one kind of egregious presentation that I have always abhorred as a member of this Parliament—that is, someone shroud waving against the indignity that some people might be suffering and trying to make cheap political capital out of it.

Dr Jackie Blue: What would the Minister tell Aletia Hudson, aged 33, diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at Christmas last year, had a mastectomy, was promised a breast reconstruction in a timely way, has since completed chemotherapy and radiotherapy, fund-raised $12,000 for taxane chemotherapy, and should be starting lifesaving Herceptin treatment this month but has not, because she cannot raise the $100,000 needed, only to find out last week that her breast reconstruction operation was no longer possible?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Of course, I am not aware of that individual case. But what I will—

Hon Tony Ryall: You should be.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Oh, I should be! Oh, really! Gee whiz, I would like to be over there one day—[Interruption] Unfortunately for the Opposition, that will not be until after I am dead, because I would be better over there dead than any of them alive! [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Members have had the clearing of the lungs. As they know, barracking is not permitted, though interjections are. Will the Minister start again.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: There will be a time when members opposite who ask silly questions will be required to answer them, when they are on this side of the House. Individual cases will be considered, if details are provided and not shroud-waved here. All I say to the member is that she may be interested to know that in the last 12 months there have been 100,000 cases of elective surgery in this country. Very few of them can happen under a Government that gives away $10 billion in tax cuts, as that member’s party has promised to do.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that exhausted doctors working excessively long hours—12 days without a break, 16-hour shifts, 7-hour night shifts for 10 days, and so forth—will inevitably make mistakes and contribute to the number of adverse events in our hospitals, which already cost 30c in every health dollar, or $890 million a year; and does he agree that if we reduce the hours that doctors work and, hence, the number of adverse events, we would have more funding for elective surgery, primary health care, and illness prevention?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I always feel some sympathy for people who work long hours. I feel sorry for most of the people around here, who work long hours too. But in truth it will not be by grandstanding in this House about doctors’ issues that we will get any improvement; it will be by, first, improving the resource base available to the public health sector, which this Government is doing, and by making sure that people fully comprehend that if any party promises to improve the public health system of New Zealand by cutting $10 billion off the Government’s revenue, then people deserve what they get if they believe that.

Dr Jackie Blue: Does the Minister sleep well at night knowing that there are women all around New Zealand who have been cruelly denied breast reconstruction operations, which were promised to them, and does he agree that this is just one more example of a public health system that is falling apart and failing New Zealanders?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I do know is that prioritising the most urgent cases and doing them in that order on the advice of senior clinicians is a whole lot better than taking advice from any National Party politician in this House.

Hon Tony Ryall: How serious does the Government consider this: in Auckland, only the most serious skin cancers are being dealt with; children with congenital birth defects are being routinely turned away; in the Hutt there is wholesale dumping of skin cancer patients; and in his own area of Canterbury, skin cancer patients are waiting 5 months to see a specialist, then another 3 months until their worsening tumours are dealt with?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The member quotes some figures that he would claim support his case. We will have to see whether that is true. But he does not quote figures like a 75 percent increase in angioplasty since the change in Government. He does not quote a 50 percent increase in knee replacements, or a 24 percent increase in hip replacements, because it does not suit his shroud-waving approach to health. This Government deals with the realities of health care, puts its money where its mouth is, and carries out over 100,000 elective surgical procedures a year, which is more than anything ever dreamt of when we last had a National Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a health board document that shows the state that skin cancer patients now have to be in to get any treatment under this Government.

Leave granted.

First Home Ownership—Government Assistance

2. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Housing: What is the Government doing to help New Zealanders buy their first home?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister for Building Issues) on behalf of the Minister of Housing: Homeownership has long been part of the Kiwi dream. The Labour-led Government is committed to active support for Kiwi families to buy their first home. Our Welcome Home Loans have already helped more than 1,600 families buy their first home. From next year, couples in the KiwiSaver scheme will be able to get up to $10,000 towards a deposit. We are currently developing a shared equity product to assist families in higher cost housing markets so they can also take a step towards home ownership.

Georgina Beyer: What reports has the Minister seen on the success of these policies?

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that when questions are being asked they are heard in silence.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I have indeed seen reports. Members may have heard Mr O’Hagan of Feilding on Morning Report yesterday, who said the Welcome Home Loan helped his family get out of the rent trap and enabled them to buy a 3-bedroomed home. He stated: “One of the great things is that we feel we are paying into something that is an asset for us… No one can sell the house out from underneath us.” I have also comments from the National housing spokesperson, Mr Phil Heatley, who said he would scrap the scheme. National would give their leader, Don Brash, a $95 a week tax cut by destroying the homeownership dreams of lower-income Kiwi families and throwing 1,600 families out of their houses.

Sue Bradford: Has the Government investigated whether a capital gains tax on property other than the family home would help reduce speculation in housing and make first homes more affordable for many?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: That matter is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance.

John Key: Does the Minister really think $1,000 a year—the contribution the Government is putting up under its KiwiSaver scheme—will make a meaningful impact on allowing young New Zealanders to buy a home; and if he really does think $1,000 a year will make a meaningful difference has he been to Auckland recently?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I know the member has stated publicly that he does not want any State houses in his electorate, for his own political purposes. I say that, along with the KiwiSaver scheme, whereby a couple will get Crown funding of a $10,000 grant, as I have said, we are also investigating a shared equity scheme. Officials are also advising Ministers on raising the 100 percent cap to reflect the current national lower-quartile mean house price. One of the reasons the lower targets are there is that house prices have increased; that is a fact.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister advise us whether—from constituents or others—he has found people who believe that $20 a week does make a difference, despite what John Key has just told us?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I can certainly confirm that. I can also confirm that there are 350,000 Kiwi families out there today—three in four families in fact—getting on average $88 a week from this Government. This is better than the $10 a week most Kiwis would have received under the National Party’s tax cut in which Don Brash, of course, would have had a take home pay increase of 95 bucks a week.

Pita Paraone: Tçnâ koe Madam Speaker. Would the Minister be prepared, now that the Government has replenished the stocks of State housing, to consider the reintroduction of the abolished rent-to-buy scheme to assist Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants into homeownership?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I can say this Government has no plans whatsoever to sell State houses, unlike the National Party who sold 13,000 State houses—two-thirds of which went to developers. [Interruption] I also ask if the person interjecting—Gerry Brownlee—is prepared to agree with National’s housing spokesperson, Phil Heatley, and to go and tell the 88 recipients of the Welcome Home Loans package in his electorate that they are prepared to scrap it and pull the rug out from under those people?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to let that member know there are not 88,000 in my constituency.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order. The Minister said “88”, as I heard him.

Terrorism—Border Control

3. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Police: Does the consolidated list of designated terrorist entities maintained by the New Zealand Police contain all of the terrorist entities listed in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s consolidated list, as asserted by Assistant Commissioner Jon White yesterday; if not, how many more entities are listed by Australia but not by New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): No, it does not, and Assistant Police Commissioner White did not assert that all terrorist entities on the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s consolidated list were contained in the New Zealand designated list.

Hon Murray McCully: Does she accept as factual the unanimous report of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee to this Parliament in relation to the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 that states: “The Government has not yet used section 22 to designate any terrorist individual or group that is not included on the UN list … By comparison, Australia has listed approximately 88 terrorist individuals or groups under UNSCR 1373 …”; if so, why did she tell the House yesterday: “there are not 88 terrorists on an Australian list.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, I accept the select committee’s report, and I also accept that the same report went on to state that New Zealand does things differently from other countries in relation to designating terrorists under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1267 and 1373. I accept that we do things differently—

John Key: That is wrong.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not accept that it is wrong. Let me get to the crux of what this whole matter has been about. The member Mr McCully went on Morning Report and referred to “the list of 88”. Mr White said he was not aware of those figures. Mr White did not know what figures Mr McCully was using. Mr White went on to say that he was referring to a list of terrorist entities designated under the Australian criminal code. That is the Attorney-General’s list. There is not on the website “a” list that states that “these are the 88”, as that member said.

Hon Murray McCully: Would the Minister have expected Assistant Police Commissioner White, as the Government’s primary adviser in relation to the Terrorism Suppression Act, to have read the select committee report on the Terrorism Suppression Act; and can she tell the House why he did not read it and why, therefore, he did not know about the Australian list?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That member is making assumptions about Assistant Police Commissioner White, which I refute. Assistant Police Commissioner White is a very well informed officer, and he is responsible for putting forward names of those who should be designated in New Zealand—he coordinates that. He also has a lot of information around people who are acting in a way we would not want them to—that comes from international lists and intelligence. His job is to ensure, along with other agencies, that we keep New Zealand borders safe. I am very confident that that is what they are doing.

Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister confirm the advice that officials gave to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that they were “finalising and implementing a process” for making section 22 designations in New Zealand; and can she explain why Australia has been designating terrorist entities under the same UN resolution since at least 2002, while New Zealand officials are still working on a process to do so?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is because we have a different Act from the Australian legislation. Our Terrorism Suppression Act requires us to use the legislation that is provided. Australia does not have the same legislation as New Zealand. We put in place a very high test to decide who will be a terrorist under that Act. The Australians use regulations. This Government decided that it would not do that, and so there is a high test. However, I have to say that the officials in New Zealand have been working very long and hard on these issues, and New Zealanders need to be assured that they are very much on top of these issues.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree, in view of her reference to a high test and because so many innocent people are detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, that we cannot trust either George Bush’s unique terrorist list or the subsidiary list of his deputy sheriff, John Howard in Australia, that we should stick to the UN list, and that we should also follow the lead of the European Parliament on Monday and vote for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Each country will do things that suit its needs. This Parliament decided that it would have a particular Act that takes a different approach from legislation in other countries. But at the end of the day the outcome is the same. We are determined to have safe borders for New Zealand. We use international lists, we use intelligence, and we use our contacts with like-minded countries to ensure that we have a lot of information that I am sure Dr Brash knows a lot about, but that we do not make a song and dance about because we certainly do not want to be telling terrorists what work we are doing.

Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister wish to revise her statement to the House yesterday: “Assistant Police Commissioner White knows exactly what he is talking about.”, in light of his appearance on Radio New Zealand this morning to admit that the statements he made on the same programme a day earlier were 100 percent wrong?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, and I will tell the member why. He should go back and read the transcript. The member talked about “the list of 88”. There is no such list of 88; there are 88 names of individuals and organisations amongst a list of over 1,600 names. The member never made that clear on the radio. The 1,600 people include those on the UN list, plus those individuals and organisations that Australia has named because they should not be financed. Under section 8 of New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act, we ensure that those people who are terrorists cannot be financed. We do not list them in the same way as the Australians do, because we do it differently. The select committee report states that we do it differently. Different countries have different approaches. What that member is trying to do is confuse a whole lot of issues. Let us remember where this started. The member tried to say that Mr Ali was a designated person. He was not designated; he is not on any designated list, anywhere. The member has tried to make a feast out of it.

Hon Murray McCully: How can New Zealanders have any confidence that this country is safe from the threat of terrorism when the assistant commissioner of police who is responsible for counter-terrorism is an incompetent bungler who has no understanding of who is on and who is off the list of dangerous terrorists, when the Prime Minister will not front up to the House to answer questions, and when the Minister of Police is too lazy to put time into getting her head around a matter that is vital to our national security?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There is only one lazy, incompetent, useless member in this House and that is the member over there who has just asked this question. I will tell members why. He has one purpose in mind, which is to garner a few votes for his party. He does not care one jot about the security of New Zealand. He does not even know Assistant Police Commissioner White, I believe, because if he did he would never have said that about a very fine public servant.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a copy of the motion passed in the European Parliament on Monday calling for the US government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. It is a motion that would fit nicely on our own Order Paper.

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

Aged Residential Care—Nursing Staff Collective Agreement

4. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Does he believe that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation multi-employer collective agreement has had an impact on those providing aged residential care; if so, will he be ensuring district health boards are cognisant of this when quantifying the impact with the aged residential care sector?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I accept that there is some potential for the district health board, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, and midwifery multi-employer collective agreement to impact on non-Governmental providers of health and disability services. The quantum of any impact will be determined by the outcome of negotiations between employers and employees.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that district health boards refuse to accept that salary inequalities between district health board nurses and aged-care nurses, resulting from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation multi-employer collective agreement, are causing severe recruitment and retention problems in the aged-care sector; if so, what action does he intend to take?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: This Government has put in $23.9 million to provide for inflationary and demographic pressures in the sector. Because of the assistance that New Zealand First is giving to this Government, a further $17 million a year will be provided from 2006-07 for aged residential care services. That seems to me to be one of the most significant increases in this sector, even though I am not in any doubt that there are labour and skills shortages in it. The truth, of course, is that everyone in this House knows that the real problem facing New Zealand now is not job shortages but skills shortages, and that is another story altogether.

Sue Kedgley: Is he aware that in 2002 the then Associate Minister of Health Ruth Dyson directed that regulations relating to minimum staffing levels in aged care be made; if so, why is the Ministry of Health now backing away from that commitment and recommending that there be no regulations at all for minimum staffing levels, given that a New Zealand Nurses Organisation audit of aged-care and dementia facilities has recently found that many aged-care homes habitually staff way below the number of registered nurse hours that the indicators say are safe?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I must admit I personally find it very hard to believe that any district health board or the Ministry of Health would issue an edict that states that the staffing levels and qualifications of people looking after the elderly do not matter. If the member has such a missive, I will certainly undertake to have a look at it, and make sure the officials report to me or the Minister of Health. But I repeat that this Government is cognisant of the fact that there are difficulties in this sector. It is about to put into this sector, in combination with our colleagues in New Zealand First, somewhere around $40 million extra, which is the largest cash injection in recent memory that I am aware of.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: When will home-care workers receive the travel allowance money that Labour promised them before the election, taking into consideration the fact that the situation is so bad that on the day petrol went up by 6c a litre, one provider lost 300 staff; what is taking so long?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Of course, the Government is aware of those kinds of pressures, and, as I said, it has been putting money into this sector—both the public and the private areas. It never ceases to amaze me that day in, day out the National Party members get up in this House and ask the Government to spend more money, when they actually promised to reduce the revenue that provides the Government with money to spend. When those members explain that to us, will they please put it in writing so that I can frame it and put it up in my office.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister perceive any contradiction between himself and his ministry acknowledging that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation multi-employer collective agreement has increased aged-care providers’ costs, and the district health boards denying that the multi-employer collective agreement has increased providers’ costs; if not, why not?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The truth is that delivering fair pay to public sector workers is one of the priorities of this Government, and, of course, other sectors—

Hon Members: What about the others?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: We are the employer in the public sector. Members opposite should go out and tell all the private sector employers that they are in touch with that they intend to increase the pay and conditions of their workers, if they want to do that. This Government is responsible for public sector workers. As a good employer, we have provided that, and we hope that other sectors will follow our lead. But the member should remember that the Government has already committed over $2.2 billion to the primary health sector, and $40 million to the sector that I have just talked about, and that over the last 6 years, since we have been in Government, $6 billion a year extra has gone into the health system, which could never have been managed if the National Party’s tax cut promise had been realised.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Health report that has a recommendation that the Government not proceed with setting regulations for minimum staffing levels for aged care.

Leave granted.

Wage and Salary Increases—Finance, Minister's Statement

5. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “We cannot afford large wage and salary increases across the board.”; if so, what level of wage and salary increases does he consider would be affordable?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, in responding to a question yesterday from Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith. But it is just under 22 years since we had a Minister of Finance who thought it was appropriate that he set the actual levels of wage and salary increases across the economy. He was, of course, a National Government Minister of Finance.

John Key: Does he agree that although oil prices may be beyond his control, he does in fact have it within his power to improve after-tax wages by championing fair and across-the-board tax cuts, or is he happy to sit back and see an overwhelming number of New Zealand workers take a real drop in their income?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is wonderful to respond to that question, when this afternoon we have had at least three National Party members call for large increases in Government spending, and when we have had a member say that a $1,000-a-year grant to assist with housing is not worthwhile and that $10 a week is somehow worth more than $1,000 a year.

John Key: Is he aware that people earning the average pre-tax weekly income of $826 would have seen, under National’s proposed tax plan, their personal after-tax income increase by 4.2 percent—an increase well above the inflation rate?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I am aware of is that the cost of that was $2.2 billion a year, which is more than the cost of the entire primary health care system to the Government, plus the cost of all elective surgery. I am aware that junior doctors have had an 11 percent pay increase, on average, simply from the interest-free student loan policy, which Mr Key opposes.

John Key: Does he stand by his statement, made in February, that he will be taking a clear line with State sector CEOs on labour costs; if so, does he think he has been at all successful in doing that, given that at least one Government department—Te Puni Kôkiri—has publicly announced that it plans to pay more attractive salaries?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said yesterday in response to the repeated questioning from Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, who was very worried about inflationary pressures, indeed we still have to ensure we do not lose highly skilled staff. On that basis, of course, we could afford a reduction in income for the members of the Opposition.

John Key: Does he consider that private sector employees may find it just a little rich to be told that wage increases are unaffordable when, under this Government’s big-spending policies, wage growth in the public sector has been higher than wage growth in the private sector in every single quarter since 2001?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I was not referring specifically to the private sector, but I wonder whether the member took the earplugs out this afternoon as his colleagues Mr Ryall, Dr Coleman, and at least one other member called for large pay increases for public sector workers. National Party people say that as long as people go on strike, they will give them whatever they want. What a Government that would make!

John Key: What contact has he had with the unions on the issue of wage increases and what has he said to them, given that the Council of Trade Unions says that his call for wage restraint is “unfortunate and misplaced” and the Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party, says that calls for wage restraint are out of order and that it is pressing on with its campaign to lift real wages in New Zealand; does he think they will be supporting National in their drive for tax cuts, given that National will be delivering a 4.2 percent wage increase if they do support it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is interesting to note that the member continues to argue that we can afford whatever number of tax cuts one would like to think up with no impact upon social services and no impact upon Government borrowing, no matter what the economy does and no matter what the Government has done in the meantime. But for his information, I advise that I met the Council of Trade Unions this week. It has no intention of supporting Mr Key or anybody else in the National Party.

Hone Harawira: Kia ora, Madam Speaker; tçnâ tâtou te Whare. On this International Justice for Cleaners Day, which recognises the below-poverty wages earned by cleaners, what level of wage and salary increase would the Minister support for cleaners around the country, including the people who clean our offices here in Parliament?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not interfere, as did a previous National Minister of Finance, in individual wage settlements. Those are a matter between employers and employees. But in responding to Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, who was so worried yesterday about inflation, I repeat for the benefit of National members that large, across-the-board wage increases are inflationary in the current situation. If those members were a responsible Opposition, they would not be winding up those kinds of increases.

Arms Trade Treaty—New Zealand Support

6. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: What is the Government’s response, if any, to the Million Faces petition delivered to him today by Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms, which calls for New Zealand support for a draft arms trade treaty?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control): I had the privilege this afternoon to receive that petition, on the forecourt of Parliament, together with the member and a number of other parliamentarians. The Government very much welcomes the petition, which supports our view that there needs to be an international treaty to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. In fact, we have spoken out publicly in support of that before at the UN, and at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, and we will again promote it at the First Review Conference of the UN Programme of Action for Small Arms and Light Weapons, which starts in New York in about 10 days’ time.

Dianne Yates: Why does the Government believe that taking action in this area is important, and what evidence is there of the seriousness of the problem?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The evidence suggests that each year up to an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 people die as a result of small arms. Illicit trade into countries that are suffering from internal conflict is a key part of that problem. Kofi Annan has stated that in terms of the carnage small arms cause, they could well be described as weapons of mass destruction. With the conflict situations that New Zealand soldiers are dealing with right now in Timor-Leste and in the Solomons, I think that the importance we are placing on the issue of controls on the illicit trade in small arms is well justified.

Dianne Yates: What would an arms trade treaty do?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The concept is at an early stage, but it is a response to the fact that, unlike weapons of mass destruction, there is no treaty that governs the transfer of conventional weapons, despite the widespread havoc they are causing. As a first step, New Zealand is working with other Governments on a transfer control initiative, for a discussion at the UN review conference. That will try to put in place a mechanism that allows States to screen legal transfers of small arms, based on undesirable end-users. For example, legal sales of arms to countries that were major abusers of human rights would not be allowed.

Electricity Supply—Cabinet Policy Committee

7. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Did the report to the Cabinet Policy Committee yesterday identify why power to 700,000 people could be disrupted for hours by the failure of a single earth wire, and when will this vulnerability be fixed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Energy): Yes, and the report we will receive next week may be able to give a time-scale on reducing the vulnerability.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did Helen Clark tell Parliament yesterday that “Transpower has been investing, on average, around $300 million per annum in its system.”, when the annual report for Transpower shows capital expenditure of $61 million in 2000, $65 million in 2001, $89 million in 2002, $104 million in 2003, $93 million in 2004, and $106 million in 2005—making the Prime Minister’s statement grossly incorrect?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not sure which years the Prime Minister was averaging but I can give the member an assurance that current levels of capital investment are about 500 percent more than the level approved during the time he was a Minister.

Maryan Street: Has the Minister seen any evidence that previous Government policy may have led to under-investment in the national grid?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. Under the previous approach, in which the market was supposed to sort everything out, investment in the national grid fell as low as $52 million a year. By contrast, this Government is spending about $300 million per year on improvements to the national grid. This year it is spending about $300 million a year on capital expenditure, and I expect Transpower to spend substantially more in the future because of the need to do more catch-up work as a result of gross underexpenditure following the negligent approach Nick Smith and his colleagues led.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has the Government stated that Transpower has no issues with the Resource Management Act because the Government addressed all of its issues in the amendment bill last year, when Transpower in its submission to the select committee identified eight areas where the bill fell short of the changes that were needed to ensure it could provide a secure national grid, and now having had Monday’s massive blackout will the Government reconsider those proposed amendments to the Resource Management Act from Transpower?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No amendment to the Resource Management Act will stop an attachment to a pole coming loose.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Government today issue a press statement saying that Transpower had no issue with the Resource Management Act now, when it was specifically mentioned by its chief executive officer, Ralph Craven, in a presentation to the Energy Law Association on 10 November last year, where he said that the time and cost associated with resource consents was impacting on getting timely upgrades, when in March this year, at the Commerce Committee, Transpower again raised the issue of the Resource Management Act, and when on Monday after the blackout its spokesperson specifically raised the issue of the Resource Management Act, and is the only reason Transpower is not saying the same today that the bully-boys in the Government who are squirming have sat on Transpower and told it that it should not tell the truth any more?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We do not take that approach to State-owned enterprise chief executive officers. It may have been the approach that occurred previously. I can give an absolute assurance that I have made no such threat and, in fact, I have not spoken to Dr Craven since the events of Monday.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, in response to parliamentary written questions about a Transpower failure affecting 30,000 Nelson households on 25 March, in which I asked what caused the failure, what investigation would be undertaken, and what steps would be taken to fix the problems, did he duck all four questions, saying it was “just an operational matter”, and can he today assure the House he will not use the same technique to deny the public and the Parliament the information on what went wrong on Monday?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In fact, it appears a wire did not break; it appears the thing the wire was attached to broke. That is clear; that is undeniable. We will have some more reports next week that the member can salivate over.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why in February last year when the chief executive of New Zealand’s largest electricity company, Dr Keith Turner, warned the Government very explicitly that the transmission system was in trouble—saying that the grid was overworked, that lines could not be taken out for servicing, and that this was unheard of in the developed world—did the Minister not seek an urgent report and action plan to address those shortcomings, given that he was the Minister of Energy responsible for the sector at that time?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because I was aware of a massive increase in the investment in the transmission system between that year and this year—in fact, more than a doubling.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the annual reports from 1995 to 2005 showing the capital investment programme of Transpower, making a lie of both the Prime Minister’s claims and those of the Minister with regard to the changes in investment.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document, but the member, in seeking leave, said that the Prime Minister and a Minister had lied—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I will say they were incorrect. I change it to “incorrect”.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will withdraw and apologise for his comment about a lie.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I seek simply to say that the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy were incorrect with regard to the capital expenditure of Transpower.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the news release today from the Government that states that Transpower had no difficulties with the Resource Management Act after it had been amended, and Transpower’s own submission to the select committee, which tells a very different story.

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

Road Toll—Initiatives

8. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What initiatives are being taken aimed at further reducing the road toll?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport): On Monday I announced a consultation programme, See You There—Safe As, which aims to seek the ideas of communities and stakeholders on ways of reducing the road toll that would have broad community support. The programme has a specific focus on the disproportionate risk faced by young and novice drivers. In order to make further substantive road safety gains, we need to engage with communities and enlist community support. This is the start of an ongoing process of improving dialogue between communities and those developing and deciding policy in these areas.

Hon Mark Gosche: Can the Minister outline what progress this Government has already made in reducing the road toll?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. The road toll is coming down, but we cannot afford to be complacent. Since 1999 the road toll has dropped by approximately 30 percent. In addition, the number of deaths per 10,000 vehicles now stands at 1.2, down from two in 1999, and is heading towards a target of 1.1 by 2010. But we have to do more. Our young people are at risk, particularly those between the ages of 0 and 14. The greatest cause of death of children in New Zealand is road accidents.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister expect that by significantly increasing funding for roading, as the Government is at long last prepared to do, the road toll will be further reduced?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I think it all helps, not only in terms of road construction but also in terms of the road safety programme.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that the road toll would further decrease if greater use was made of coastal shipping to move freight; if so, will she be supportive of implementing favourable measures to encourage the development of our shipping; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think we need to utilise all our transport routes to move freight around New Zealand—road, rail, and sea. I have not considered the proposal put forward by the member. He may have further ideas on it.

Significant Community Based Projects Fund—Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

9. MARK BLUMSKY (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he agree with the Prime Minister when she reportedly said that the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary was the sort of project that the Significant Community Based Projects Fund aimed to help; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes.

Mark Blumsky: Does he agree that the sanctuary had proved itself against the fund’s criterion of securing commitments for significant community support towards the project cost from funding sources other than central government, given that it had secured an $8 million interest-free loan from the Wellington City Council, and only after extensive community consultation?

Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, it is true that the project for a visitors centre and car-park at the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary did meet many of the criteria set down by Cabinet. There were some concerns, however, about some financial aspects of the project.

Russell Fairbrother: What does the Significant Community Based Projects Fund aim to do, and how much has been distributed this year?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Significant Community Based Projects Fund aims to help those significant community projects that have been stifled of capital over a number of years. It is to be a funder of last resort, and a number of very, very good projects have been funded. An amount of $19.3 million has been allocated, including to the velodrome in Invercargill, the Chinese gardens in Dunedin, the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust in Waikato, the Oparara Valley project on the West Coast, and Auckland’s agricultural and pastoral showgrounds. Those are excellent, deserving projects and won support in their own right.

Madam SPEAKER: Just keep the level of chat down, so we can hear the member.

Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister reconcile his officials’ advice to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary—that its application had been declined because it had failed to secure significant community support for the project from sources other than central government—with the fact that at the time that the Wellington City Council approved a loan of $8 million to the sanctuary in June 2005, those same officials had advised the sanctuary that the loan would not pose a problem with its application, and also with the fact that of the $15 million previously raised by the sanctuary, 64 percent had come from the community at large, and is he therefore now prepared to request his officials to review their decision?

Hon RICK BARKER: The application was not for the sanctuary itself; the application was for a visitors centre—[Interruption]

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sitting not very far from the Minister, but with the noise I cannot hear a word he is saying.

Madam SPEAKER: I sympathise with the member.

Hon RICK BARKER: The first point I would make in answer to the member’s question is that the application was for a visitors centre and car-park, not for the sanctuary itself. Secondly, the officials did acknowledge to the group that the loan was there and told it that it was not a problem, but that is not to say there were not other financial concerns about the entire project. There were concerns, and they have been outlined to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary.

Mark Blumsky: How much confidence does he have in the grants process, when the Wellington City Council was absolutely certain, in giving the $8 million interest-free loan, that the loan would be repaid, whereas his officials sat in their office and, without consulting the council and without consulting the sanctuary, deemed that the loan could not be repaid, and used that as one of the main reasons for declining the grant?

Hon RICK BARKER: I am confident about the process. The criteria were clear and the process was transparent. Every application had to go through exactly the same process. They were all judged fairly and equally. I have to say to the member that it was not just the loan that was at issue; the officials have explained to the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary their concerns. I make the point to the member that another funding round is coming up next year.

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have a slight dilemma, in that I have used up my party’s allocation of supplementary questions for today but the Minister has failed to answer the first part of my original supplementary question, which was whether he would order a review. I cannot ask a second supplementary question, but he did not answer the first part, so perhaps he could be invited to comment on it now.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer.

Hon RICK BARKER: Is this a supplementary question, Madam Speaker?

Madam SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] I have in the past ruled in the same way when members have not phrased their questions properly—and, yes, Mr Hide, I remember quite clearly that once I gave you the benefit. Would the Hon Rick Barker please add to his answer.

Hon RICK BARKER: No.

Mark Blumsky: Can the Minister understand why his colleague the Hon Marian Hobbs found the decision “bloody hurtful”, when the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary clearly met a different criterion of securing demonstrated community support, given that it attracted over $13 million in community funding, that 350 volunteers had put in over 250,000 hours of volunteer work, and that the sanctuary has 5,500 members—yet his department deemed that it did not have enough community support?

Hon RICK BARKER: What the applications to this fund have shown is that there is an enormous amount of energy out there in New Zealand for significant projects. All the projects we had to turn down were deserving, and it is very difficult to judge one as being better than another. I am well aware of the outstanding work being done by the Karori sanctuary, but I would say that it is rather ironic that criticism based on public concern comes from that member, as 70 percent of Wellingtonians said they opposed the sale of Wellington Airport, yet that member, Mark Blumsky, sold it.

Mark Blumsky: Can the Minister understand the statement made by his colleague the Hon Marian Hobbs that she had huge doubts about the decision and about the process around the decision, when she and many others cannot see the logic behind criteria that result in the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary’s application for $6 million of taxpayers’ money failing, but that would have approved an application from it for $8 million of taxpayers’ money?

Hon RICK BARKER: The member’s last statement is simply not correct. I can understand the frustration felt by Marian Hobbs, but I am confident that the process was clear, transparent, and robust.

Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister tell the House when the grant policy for significant community activity and events was put in place, and was it in place when the National Government was last in power?

Hon RICK BARKER: I can say that this is a fantastic ______________ and

it shows Labour’s commitment to strengthening communities. We are prepared to invest in communities, unlike the National Party. This is a Labour process, and if National has its way, which it will not, and imposes huge tax cuts, then all these sorts of activities will be gone—gone well before lunchtime.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We notice that the Labour whips have indicated to Marian Hobbs that there are not enough supplementary questions left on their side for her to ask a question. If you were to recognise her, you could take the question off us.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It goes on the list of “not points of order” that I am keeping at the moment.

Electricity Supply—Auckland Issues, Minister

10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: What responsibility does she accept, if any, for Monday’s power blackout in Auckland, and what steps is she taking to ensure it does not happen again?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): Like of the Minister of Energy, I am deeply concerned about the power outage and I will keeping in close contact with the report he is seeking, to make sure that this matter is fully investigated and that all possible steps are taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

Rodney Hide: As the Minister responsible for Auckland issues, what issues exactly does she take responsibility for?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: This Government is determined that Auckland will have infrastructure so that it can be internationally competitive. I do not intend to duplicate the work of other Ministers, but to enable Auckland’s messages to get through to Wellington and to work with this Government, which wants to support Auckland.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister’s title is “Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues”. It is not an unreasonable question in the House to ask her what issues she is actually responsible for. We just heard the Minister completely miss the question, not address the question, and leave the House wondering why we have this Minister. I say to you, Madam Speaker, that if we are to have a question time, Ministers do have to address the question. I cannot imagine a question more to the heart of the business of this Minister than simply asking her what are the issues she is responsible for, because that is her title.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question as to how she saw the responsibility, so the question has been addressed.

H V Ross Robertson: What is the Government spending on the national grid in the Auckland area, and how does that compare with spending under a previous administration?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: This year in the Auckland area we spent $83 million on grid projects. In comparison, the previous National Government spent just $52 million on the entire national grid in the 1998-99 year.

Paula Bennett: Does the Minister remember producing a glossy booklet entitled Growing an Innovative Auckland in 2003 with her mate the Prime Minister, which states: “We’re carefully managing electricity and energy supply risks.” and if she does remember, is the Government going to take responsibility for Monday’s power blackout or is 7 years not long enough and was it just another of her vacuous promises?

Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Judith Tizard. [Interruption] I ask the member to be seated until the barracking has stopped. As members know, interjections are permitted; barracking is not. Would the member now please address the question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is important to note for the record that the barracking was from Government MPs who, I think, were supporting Paula Bennett in her question.

Madam SPEAKER: Another non - point of order.

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The booklet was put out to explain to Aucklanders what this Government is doing, and I am happy to table this document later. It describes the cross-Government work on the strategic direction of Auckland, sustainable development, infrastructure particularly relating to transport, and other infrastructure including energy, social policy, economic development, and regional and local governance. This Government is extremely busy on working for Auckland and is starting to deliver infrastructure that will make Auckland internationally sustainable.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister concede that if there had to be a blackout in Auckland, it might perhaps have been better all round—particularly for Mr Hide—if it had occurred on Sunday instead of Monday?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Did the Minister find any time within her onerous schedule, or any respite in her back-breaking workload over the last 7 years, to advise the Minister of Transport that building the biggest shopping complex in the country at Sylvia Park, without building any extra roading, was a recipe for chaos; and if so, could this House have a copy of those reports?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Minister of Transport did not, of course, build the shopping complex. But the situation at Sylvia Park does demonstrate how the Ministry of Transport and Transit New Zealand need to work with developers rather than just having to deal with the consequences of developments. Otherwise, taxpayers—particularly petrol-tax payers—bear all the costs.

Rodney Hide: In light of Auckland’s recent power blackout, can the Minister give an assurance to the House that there are no known risks the Government is aware of to other major Auckland infrastructure such as that for gas and water supply; if not what are those risks?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No Government and no Minister can give that assurance. The idea that there are no risks—

Hon Maurice Williamson: What do you do?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I do not have a magic wand.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the House please settle.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am well aware that the Minister does not have a magic wand, but my question was about whether the Minister was aware of any known risks to Auckland’s gas and water supply. Once again, this Minister chose not to address the question.

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Of course there are known risks.

Rodney Hide: Now she wants to try to speak on a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Perhaps we could ask the Minister to add to her answer.

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Of course there are known risks. How can any system not have known risks? What this Government is doing is undertaking to evaluate those risks and try to avoid them causing a collapse of Auckland’s power or gas system as happened under the National Government for 5 weeks.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was excellent because we got the first part—

Madam SPEAKER: I ask you, Mr Hide, to make it a point of order and not a statement.

Rodney Hide: I am going to, because we are making progress. We got the first part of the question addressed; now we need the second part of the question addressed. That is: what are they?

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, the question has been addressed.

Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave to table a booklet that states: “We’re carefully managing electricity and energy supply risks.” That was written by the Minister in 2003.

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

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Minister take an interest in occupational safety and health issues in Auckland; and if so, what is she going to do to stop attractive young women being dropped head first by podgy middle-aged men who have lost their grip?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a legitimate question. Can we move now to [Interruption] Order, please. We have a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I feel obliged to tell the House that I have not lost my grip but I was asked to appear on Dancing with the Stars with Beatrice but the Earthquake Commission had a few objections.

What reports has the Minister received on known risks to infrastructure in Auckland?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Minister of Energy has received reports on this issue. I have discussed these with him—

Hon Member: What about you? What are you?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am part of the Government. Actually we work quite collaboratively. I would like to point out that having been a member of the Auckland Electric Power Board from 1977 to 1983, I have seen innumerable reports about the risk to Auckland infrastructure. Unlike members opposite, I take them seriously.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister confirm that the 12 known risks for which Transpower sought approval and funding consent in Auckland last year have all been approved, and work is scheduled to fix all of them?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I am delighted to confirm that.

Paula Bennett: I seek leave to table a document prepared by Treasury, which is a stocktake of Auckland policy work streams as at 15 June 2006—a monthly report.

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

Mâori Purposes Bill—Responsible Minister

11. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Is he the Minister responsible for the Mâori Purposes Bill introduced on Tuesday, 13 June?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): Yes.

Gerry Brownlee: What are the technicalities being rectified by the amendments to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are several technicalities in relation to the retrospective decisions that need to be made in relation to a whole lot of other issues, and the member knows that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If I knew, I would not have asked the question. What about an answer?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If the member is now implying it is an undertaking of the Opposition members that they never ask questions if they know the answer to them, that is going to be a very interesting matter to consider in the future. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I ask members to settle down. We are nearly through question time, but I cannot hear members if they keep laughing and chattering amongst themselves. We have a point of order where I think Mr Brownlee is asking that the Minister further addresses the question. Would the Minister like to further address it.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Certainly it is about time limits on historical claims, and that party knows about that. It is about retrospective validation of court orders. It is about changes to the Mâori Land Court, and changes to the Maori Fisheries Act and the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act. I am sorry that the member did not know that.

Dave Hereora: What is the objective of the Mâori Purposes Bill?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Mâori Purposes Bill is an omnibus piece of legislation. It provides tidy-up amendments that do not warrant enactment as separate amendment Acts. It can also validate and authorise matters of a private or public nature relating to Mâori.

Gerry Brownlee: How many cases did Judge Norman F Smith make decisions on or preside over without proper delegation or a warrant, and why is he so keen to validate his decisions against the rights of those who lost those cases?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Judge Smith is an experienced judge, and it is recognised that he is able to make those decisions. There were 88 decisions in that sense, and I remind that member very clearly that this issue is not just of this year. This is not the first time that legislation has been introduced to validate decisions made in the Mâori Land Court. I understand that the National Government introduced legislation in 1991 to validate the decisions of deputy judge Ashley McHugh. Does the member remember that?

Gerry Brownlee: Does he agree that a court, with no right or warrant to do so, can or should deprive people of their customary or ancestral rights; if not, why is he advancing retrospective legislation to do just that?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is for exactly the same reason that you lot did.

Madam SPEAKER: The Speaker is not involved in this matter. Would the Minister rephrase his answer and maybe add to it a little.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As those members do understand past Government history, I say it is for the same reason that the National Government did that in the 1990s. They should ask John Luxton, or ask Mr Kidd. I was going to say they should ask Mr Tau Henare, but he did not do much.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question related to the Minister’s own view of things. For him to simply turn around and say that last time we were in Government we operated a similar shonky sort of policy that had to be fixed up after we went out of office is not acceptable. I want to know whether he thinks it is right and fair for people to have had their rights deprived by a court that had no authority.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This Government is about putting wrongs right. It certainly is about changes in the court, and ensuring that the decisions are put beyond doubt and not left there wobbling, like you people left them.

Gerry Brownlee: Does he have confidence in the Chief Judge of the Mâori Land Court now that he knows the chief judge has not even understood the law that gives his court the authority to act?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This issue goes back some time. Yes.

Gerry Brownlee: Can he tell the House why it is a necessity in this day and age to put an extra six judges into the Mâori Land Court, and can he be confident that the current chief justice of the Mâori Land Court, now that his appalling record of administration is exposed, is capable of handling such a large court?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It has been a pleasure, certainly, to be part of this Government over the last 6 years. The Mâori fisheries legislation and the settlement of the aquacultural issues means that there is a lot more work. If those people understood the better side of the economy—that Mâori are taking their rightful place—they would know that is what this business is about. There is a lot more business about us going forward, not backwards or downwards as that party would want us to be.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question was entirely about the extra judges, and the confidence that the Minister may have in the Chief Judge of the Mâori Land Court. He may want to say that regular appearances in court by Mâori are part of the progress this Government wants for them, but that does not actually address the question that was asked of him.

Madam SPEAKER: Could the Minister amplify his answer, please.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have the utmost faith in the judiciary of this country—as a New Zealander, but firstly as a Mâori.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tçnâ koe, Madam Speaker. Tçnâ tâtou katoa. Given that the Mâori Purposes Bill seeks to validate decisions made without legal mandate, does that mean the Minister supports the Native Land (Validation of Titles) Act of 1893, which Moana Jackson has described as “validating the illegal acquisition of Mâori land”; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This Government is about putting things right. Certainly, I respect a lot of the things that Moana—[Interruption] I am so sorry that we have some trolls in this House; they are in the wrong water. Certainly, there needs to be some correction in these courts. Some people want to lock Mâoridom and believe that Mâori are not there, and we are not about that. I do not agree with Moana’s point at the end of where he is.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Will the Minister carry out extensive consultation with whânau, hapû, iwi, and Mâori organisations, given that this bill has a significant impact on Mâori, or will that be considered a tedious and tiresome exercise?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, and I agree with Dr Sharples when he said in August 2005: “It is in the country’s best interests that we move forward in these claims and the issues in this proposed bill, and it is settled as fast as possible to remove the negativity.”

Biotechnology Industry—Development

12. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: What steps is the Government taking to support the development of the New Zealand biotechnology industry?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development): I am advised that biotechnology was worth $811 million to New Zealand in 2004-05, up from $475 million in 2002-03, and that the sector employs over 2,400 people. Some of the highlights emerging from the biotechnology industry in recent months have included a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease, a possible treatment for diabetic heart failure, and diagnostic tools to test for bladder cancer and to predict risk of colon cancer.

It is almost universally accepted that biotechnology will be an essential part of creating a dynamic, knowledge-based economy. I am heartened by the warm welcome we have received around the country for the $1.2 million that our Government is providing in support of this vital and forward-looking industry. I also welcome the fact that there has been a total absence of criticism from members opposite, which is something that I consider comes pretty close to support.

ENDS


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