Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 


Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 21 June 2006

Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 21 June 2006

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

Questions for Oral Answer

  • Questions to Ministers
  • Taxation—Australia - New Zealand
  • Aid Policy, Pacific—International Whaling Commission
  • Electricity—Transmission Grid
  • Superannuitants—Income Supplementation
  • Police Numbers—Government Target
  • Police Complaints Authority—Review
  • Question No. 7 to Minister
  • Agent Orange—Joint Working-group Report
  • Finance, Minister—Priorities
  • Accident Compensation Corporation—Levies
  • Question No. 10 to Minister
  • Significant Community Based Projects Fund—Eligibility Criteria
  • Health Services—Access
  • Taito Phillip Field—Conflict of Interests Report
  • Questions for Oral Answer

    Questions to Ministers

    Taxation—Australia - New Zealand

    1. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Minister of Revenue’s assessment that “Our major trading partner, Australia, is already looking at significant tax cuts to both business and private incomes in next year’s Budget and we simply cannot afford to ignore what Canberra is planning.”; if not, why not?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The excellent Minister’s statement last December was made referring to the 2006 Australian Budget, which did not reduce business taxation significantly, despite earlier expectations to the contrary.

    John Key: Has he seen the Statistics New Zealand data released today that show net migration from New Zealand to Australia has doubled over the last 3 years, and now, on average, 650 people a week shift across the Tasman; does he consider the growing after-tax wage gap between the two countries to be one of the significant driving forces behind those trends?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, not yet. I have, however, seen the data for the 1990s, which show that every year out-migration to Australia increased, peaking at a 40,000 out-migration, despite the fact that there were two rounds of tax cuts, following which out-migration increased on both occasions.

    Hon Mark Gosche: Has he received any advice on why statutory corporate rates do not provide an accurate representation of the overall rate of corporate taxation?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I have been advised that many of our major trading partners, including Australia, levy on business such taxes as comprehensive capital gains taxes, payroll taxes, and stamp duty on commercial transactions, in addition to company tax.

    John Key: Is he aware of the latest figures showing that the gap between the take-home income of the average Australian worker and the average New Zealand worker, which is currently 33 percent, will in 10 days’ time widen, when the new Australian tax rates become effective, to a gap of 37 percent; can he tell the House what he will do to address that yawning chasm?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The one thing that obviously cannot be done is to reduce tax rates to the point where that would actually close the net after-tax gap between the two countries. It is actually around growth that the difference is going to be closed, over the long term. But even on the most optimistic forecast, that would take quite a long time.

    Hon Mark Gosche: Has he seen any other reports on the impact of the tax changes announced in the recent Australian Budget?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I saw two reports, both of some significance. One was a net 3 percent swing to the Australian Labor Party Opposition, and the second was that two-thirds of Australian voters would have preferred more spending on services rather than the tax cuts—a result mirrored very much by a recent poll in New Zealand.

    John Key: Is he aware that the trans-Tasman wage gap has got so wide that the after-tax income of the average Australian worker, the equivalent of NZ$45,000, is now higher than the pre-tax income of the average New Zealand worker, at $43,000; if so, does that concern him?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of differences in that respect. I am also aware the Australians have higher tax rates on upper incomes, and have a range of business taxation—including, of course, a compulsory superannuation levy of 9 percent of income—which widens their tax wedge. In New Zealand the tax wedge on the average worker is the third-lowest in the OECD.

    John Key: Does the Minister think, in light of Australia’s new tax cuts, that the Australian Tourist Board’s new advertising slogan will change to “Move to Australia and get your tax paid free”?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That would depend, of course, on whether the board continues to hire a New Zealand company to carry out its publicity for it—because a New Zealand company was better than any Australian opposition for doing the campaign.

    John Key: Is he aware that if a single-earning family with two children on the average household income of $60,000 were to move to Australia and keep the same salary, not only would they pay less income tax but they would also get more from the Australian family tax benefit than they would from his Working for Families?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That just shows the importance of extending the Working for Families programme, which that member opposed, attacked, and said should not apply to people on middle incomes. That was an own goal, if ever there was one.

    Aid Policy, Pacific—International Whaling Commission

    2. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will New Zealand be reviewing its aid policy to the Pacific following events at the recent International Whaling Commission meeting; if not, why not?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): New Zealand is held in high esteem for the transparency and fairness of our aid programmes. We have always focused our aid on where it is needed most and we have a longstanding commitment to see a much greater percentage of that aid spent in the Pacific. Making aid conditional on countries complying with the political whim of donor countries is the exact thing we have been seeking to fight against.

    Dianne Yates: What reports has he seen on alternative proposals to the Government’s aid policy in the Pacific?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have seen a report that National’s Murray McCully wants the Government to link aid to the conduct of Pacific nations at the International Whaling Commission. In other words, he wants us to duplicate the behaviour of, for example, Japan in this matter. That is an utterly bankrupt idea—without a shred of integrity—that will work against the very people we are trying to help in the Pacific and who are not directly responsible for every Government decision or political decision made by their Governments. It would also undermine many decades of New Zealand’s principled approach to aid that stretches back past the time of Sir Keith Holyoake—when the National Party had a leader—Peter Fraser, Michael Joseph Savage, that the rest of the world, but seemingly not Mr McCully, regards as having integrity and being a model for others.

    Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister tell the House why earlier this year, he approved a New Zealand aid grant to assist the Palestinian Authority just after the election of the Hamas Government; and would he explain why he gave aid dollars to a Middle Eastern authority that had just elected a terrorist organisation as its Government rather than giving them to our near neighbours in the Pacific?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The first thing one must do when one is involved in running the affairs of the country is get the facts right. Hamas were not an elected Government. Hamas had members elected to Parliament but they were not a Government until a short while ago. Between times, we, like the United States and the World Bank—and they are not known for tossing their money around for unjust causes—decided to fund through the World Bank’s operation for the health and food of the poor people of that country. We have never given one cent to Hamas nor have we decided to. Mr McCully should get his facts right for the first time.

    R Doug Woolerton: What would be the fiscal impact of Mr McCully’s proposed alternative, and what would the ethical implications be for New Zealand?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a very good question. Mr McCully wants New Zealand to line up our cheque book against Japan’s, the world’s second-largest economy at US$4,500 billion compared with our much more modest US$108 billion. That is a fool’s crusade; we could never win. This is all because of some misplaced notion that we can change overnight, with a few more dollars, the behaviour of some countries’ politicians.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Only 3 weeks ago you gave a very considered ruling about the degree to which Government Ministers could answer questions about Opposition policy. You ruled that the only thing Ministers could comment on was reports they may have read. That supplementary question from New Zealand First made no mention of any reports and, as that is the basis of your own ruling, is not in order.

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker—

    Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Peters. I will just comment first. If anyone wants to take it further, that is fine. Members know that it is perfectly permissible under the Standing Orders to ask hypothetical questions. The fact that the hypothesis comes from an Opposition perspective is actually not relevant. What is relevant is the right to be able to ask hypothetical questions. I interpreted that question to be a hypothetical question. Would the member please complete his answer.

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: As I said in my second answer today, I have seen a report from National’s Murray McCully. That is the reference, and the member knows that full well. He wants us to line up our US$108 billion economy against the US$4,500 billion economy of Japan. That is a battle we can never possibly win. Clearly, National wants us to abandon a policy that has integrity and moral authority and that has won us the trust and confidence of many partners in the Pacific and around the world. In a race with a cheque book—

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Mumble, mumble.

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, so this is not important to the member? When it comes to policy, National puts me in mind of the Dusty Springfield song “Wishing and hoping and thinking and praying”, but it does not have a policy.

    Keith Locke: When will the New Zealand Government lift New Zealand off its near-bottom status in the OECD aid table—it is currently languishing around 0.27 percent of gross national income—and what timetable will the Government establish to meet the accepted international target of 0.7 percent of gross national income by 2015 so that we can re-establish our international aid credibility?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, that is a significant priority for me and my ministry; bearing in mind that we had a massive decline in funding for foreign aid and for the ministry itself of 40 percent by 2002 under, firstly, a National administration. That was turned round in 2002. Admittedly it is not what I would like it to be, but it is far better than it was, and we have hopes and aspirations to lift it much more rapidly than was planned. We will have to rely on our persuasive powers in respect to that.

    R Doug Woolerton: Has the Minister seen any substantive policy alternatives to the Government’s aid policy in the Pacific?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Actually I have seen a policy on the National Party’s website on the question of aid. It is one sentence. Since the election National has put out two statements, one by Simon Power attacking our desire to help better the police force in Vanuatu, and one by John Hayes saying he would deny the people of Tokelau the constitutional right, bound by the United Nations, to self-government and determining self-government—an attack he also made on the Government of Niue, which has seen a very strong response from the Prime Minister just this week.

    Hon Member: Do your job and stop looking at our website!

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I did look at the website. Those members have barely asked a question in this House but they have spent their time sniping on the World Wide Web report Mr McCully puts out to a few misguided people every week.

    Hon Murray McCully: Why is it part of the foreign policy of the Minister’s Government to provide special immigration quotas for the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu to immigrate to New Zealand, as well as providing those countries with substantial aid; and why, when concluding those arrangements, did it not occur to the Minister to tie down a few loose ends like the way those countries vote at the International Whaling Commission?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We have to have an understanding of the way some parts of the world work. Sadly, one of the greatest focuses we have is to ensure that we, by our policies, bring about better governance and less corrupt Government in many of those countries. Some of those political acts are not, though, the people’s fault; they are the fault of some politicians and some Governments. If we take the Solomon Islands, for example, we can see that there is every bit of reason to prove that, in fact, the interference of a foreign Government caused the recent uprising there. What would Mr McCully have us do? Would he have us abandon our modelled project that has some integrity and some honour to it, and start behaving like them? We are never going to do that.

    Darren Hughes: Does the Minister agree that if New Zealand were to withdraw its aid budgets to Pacific nations because of their position on whaling, we would be giving the whaling nations and their aid budgets even more leverage in the Pacific?

    Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is precisely what would happen. In fact, there are some countries that would clap their hands all the way to the bank if we were to depart the scene. But the principal piece of information that this House needs to know is that it is fundamental to our policy, as a good and responsible neighbour, that we seek to improve Governments around us—from Fiji, to Tonga, and all the way to Micronesia. The point is that we are not always successful, and to say we should abandon them for that policy for a temporary victory by Japan is, I think, a very, very bad policy position taken by the National Party.

    Electricity—Transmission Grid

    3. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Is he satisfied that the system established with the electricity governance changes in 2003 and 2004 involving the Commerce Commission, Electricity Commission, and Transpower is the right structure to ensure the transmission grid is maintained and upgraded?

    Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy): Yes, those systems are fundamentally better than those we inherited, but there is always room for improvement.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Minister read the headline of the article in today’s Dominion Post, “Power cut to keep grid on”, which tells of 6,000 Bay of Plenty households that had their power switched off because the grid was so overloaded, and whom does he hold responsible for the transmission system being so dilapidated that such cuts are necessary?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I have read that article, and I would note in response this comment from Dr Doug Heffernan, a transmission specialist and the chief executive officer of Mighty River Power, who on Monday in the Waikato Times said of Transpower: “So the issues you see now really come from decisions that were or were not taken five or 10 years ago.” The reason those decisions were not taken 5 or 10 years ago went to the Government policy statement that that member’s Government, Mrs Shipley’s Government, promulgated, which stated that, in the past, Transpower had been responsible for setting and operating grid security standards. Under the revised Government policy statement, Transpower is required to provide services at a level and quantity determined by its customers rather than by Transpower. The effect of that was to deregulate and delegate to the customers of Transpower decisions as to if and when the grid should be updated. That is why the present system is so much superior.

    Judy Turner: Can the Minister give assurances to Bay of Plenty residents who last night suffered a 3-hour enforced blackout that there will be no further power cuts during the impending cold weather over the next few days?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: Although I am sure a repetition of that event would be very unlikely, I cannot give that assurance. I am awaiting a report from Transpower as to what transpired.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the statement yesterday by Trevor Mallard that Transpower investments of $78 million per year were “embarrassingly low”; if so, whom in Labour does he hold responsible for the embarrassing situation in the years between 1999 and 2004?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: We were not in Government for the 1999 Budget.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question asked who was responsible in the years between 1999 and 2004. We all know that Labour was elected in 1999. I do not think the Minister made any attempt to answer that question.

    Madam SPEAKER: There was a partial answer, but theMinister may now wish to—

    Hon DAVID PARKER: I am happy to develop on that answer. In the 1999-2000 year, $63 million of capital was spent by Transpower. This year the amount of capital being spent is $295 million. Next year it will be $360 million. The following year it will be $409 million. The following year it will be $694 million. In 2009-10 it will be $894 million. The figures speak for themselves.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, in the answer the Minister has just given, did he decline to mention year 2000, year 2001, year 2002, year 2003, year 2004, and year 2005—in all those years the average expenditure was actually less than what it was during the 1990s—and whom does he hold responsible for the low levels of investment for each of those years?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: I am sure it was an accident on the part of the member who just spoke, but he misled Parliament with those numbers. The numbers are the following: in 1999-2000 the figure was $63 million, in 2000-01 it was $61 million, in 2001-02 it was $84 million, in 2002-03 the figure had already climbed by around 50 percent to $108 million, and, of course, we are up to about $300 million now.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Who provided the incorrect advice that led the Prime Minister to say in Parliament last week: “under the current Government, Transpower has been investing, on average, around $300 million per annum in its system.”, and that led to the Minister’s own statement: “We are spending five times as much on capital works … five times as much every year”; was it a Beehive spin doctor or a ministry official—who was it?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: As the Hon Trevor Mallard said yesterday, he took responsibility for the incorrect advice given to the Prime Minister last week. In terms of the selective quote that the member made in respect of my own comments, he failed to record the prior paragraph of that same interview, when I put the statement in context and was absolutely correct in my comments.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why will the Minister not simply come clean and answer who gave the false advice that led to him on National Radio misleading the country, and to the Prime Minister last week misleading this House?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: Because I will not name the individual within my own office and pillory that person—

    Hon Bill English: So it was your office?

    Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, it was, but I was not here, which is why the Acting Minister of Energy took responsibility. In respect of the comments I made on National Radio, those comments were correct and were not misleading.

    Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the statement on National Radio, in which the Minister said: “We’re spending five times as much on capital works … five times as much every year”, when that statement is incorrect.

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

    Hon David Parker: I seek the leave of the House to table the 1999 Government policy statement, when Transpower was directed to provide services as requested by its customers, rather than to plan them.

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

    Superannuitants—Income Supplementation

    4. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What advice, if any, has he received on how New Zealand - based superannuitants can supplement their incomes to improve their standard of living?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: In an extreme version they could be the Leader of the Opposition, but more generally, as New Zealand superannuation is not income and asset-tested there is no barrier to earning other income. KiwiSaver, of course, will help provide higher levels of retirement income. We are also looking at ways to enhance opportunities for older people who want to work to be able to work.

    Barbara Stewart: Why does the Retirement Commissioner advocate improving retirement income through savings or work, when those who take this advice but do so offshore are penalised by having these savings deducted from their New Zealand superannuation?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: People who make private provision for retirement by savings who are offshore are not penalised by deductions from their New Zealand superannuation. They receive the full rate of New Zealand superannuation on top of overseas private pensions or overseas savings. The direct deduction provisions apply to people with public or State pensions from another country.

    Steve Chadwick: How do New Zealand’s pension portability rules compare with those of other countries?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is quite difficult to make that comparison, because nearly all countries have some form of public pension provision based on entitlement on a proportionate basis—in other words, related to a number of years working as a proportion of a base, say, 40 or 45 years—whereas New Zealand superannuation is based on a relatively short residency requirement alone, of 10 years. That does create some difficulty in comparing portability arrangements.

    Barbara Stewart: Does the Government plan to review the portability of foreign pensions for senior citizens who may be eligible for payments in addition to New Zealand superannuation; if not, why not?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First contains a commitment to investigate ways to improve options for senior citizens who may be eligible for foreign pensions as well as New Zealand superannuation. The Minister is working on those matters in conjunction with other Ministers, and that work is progressing very well.

    Police Numbers—Government Target

    5. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Is she confident that the Government will reach its target of 1,000 extra sworn police before the next election?

    Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): The Government and the New Zealand Police are committed to the recruitment of an extra 1,000 sworn and 250 non-sworn staff over the three Budgets, in line with the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First. As I have said on more than one occasion, it will be a challenge, but it is one that it is possible to meet.

    Simon Power: How can she be confident of that, when the latest figures from the police reveal that there are 59 fewer front-line police now than there were at the end of June last year, meaning she is already starting with a deficit—or has she promised more than she can deliver?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: No, because this programme starts on 1 July, in line with the Budget. The Budget was put in from 1 July. It was always said to be the case—never anything else. However, I am confident, along with the Commissioner of Police, that we will meet the target, and I welcome those members of this House who are supporting such a recruitment drive.

    Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that at present there are 206 fewer sworn staff than have been budgeted for—and that is even before the new funding from this year’s Budget—yet the number of non-sworn staff is over budget by 67, including decoy cops who are recorded as non-sworn staff?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: The number of sworn staff goes up and down. The trend one has to look at is how many there will be at the end of the promise that was made in conjunction with New Zealand First. I have a lot of confidence in our ability to go out and recruit, because New Zealanders want more police to be on the street. That is what we promised, and that is what we want to deliver.

    Heather Roy: What initiatives does the Minister have under way for the police to work with, and to expand the role of, community groups that are already skilled, experienced, and well placed to prevent and combat crime, such as Mâori wardens and Neighbourhood Support, and to appoint special constables to fill existing gaps; if there are none, why not?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to tell the member that a lot of work is done in that area by the New Zealand Police. For example, the police provide, in kind, work worth over $100,000 to Neighbourhood Support. I recently opened the conference of the Community Patrols in New Zealand, in Rotorua, where the Commissioner of Police undertook to provide even more support than the police give now. Those are two examples. Of course, the police work very closely with Mâori wardens, and I am pleased to tell the member that the new Commissioner of Police is one of those who instigated very close association with Mâori wardens. I believe that the police are doing a lot in that respect, and that they intend to do even more.

    Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister made absolutely no attempt to answer my question. We all know that the police are doing a very good job, but my question did not ask what the police did; it asked what initiatives she had underway to expand the role of those groups.

    Hon ANNETTE KING: The police are not separate, in that the Government provides the funding and the impetus for the police to undertake those roles. So the member cannot separate out the money that the Government puts in from the role that the New Zealand Police undertakes.

    Madam SPEAKER: The member did address the question.

    Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that in the year to the end of May, the number of resignations of sworn staff has increased by 27 percent and the number of retirements has increased by 72 percent; what will she do to halt that alarming rate of attrition?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: The rate of attrition in the New Zealand Police ranges from between 4 percent and 6 percent, on an annual basis—and it has for many, many years, even under a National Government. I think that many Government departments would be proud to have an annual attrition rate of 5 percent. I believe that the police are doing a lot to hold police staff within their ranks. I am certainly not going to stop people retiring; they have every right to retire if they want to.

    Kate Wilkinson: Can the Minister confirm the contents of a report from Deputy Commissioner of Police Lyn Provost, which states: “The sworn police staff is an ageing population,” with only 13 percent under the age of 30, and that older staff tend to “move away from front-line general duties.”; if so, how will she meet the target of 1,000 extra front-line cops?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a very good question, because one of the recruitment drives of the New Zealand Police is to recruit people in a younger age group. Over a number of years, the police had concentrated on the age groups of people in their 20s, and going up to their 30s and 40s, and one of the recruitment drives is for school leavers. I think I recall some criticism from National for undertaking that policy; I do not know why.

    Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the estimate of the deputy commissioner that due to attrition, the police will actually need to recruit 2,250 police in order to get the 1,000 she has promised; and will she tell the House today what percentage of certainty she believes she has in reaching that target?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: That, certainly, has been confirmed by the deputy commissioner, who also told the member that it is possible to do that. I have confidence in her figures regarding the police being able to provide not only for attrition but also for additional staff. Let me take the example that the Royal New Zealand Police College has been training about 250 new cops a year. It is already training up to around 650, and it has managed to do that before we have even started the major campaign.

    Simon Power: I seek leave to table the report from the Deputy Commissioner of Police to the Minister of Police that confirms that 2,250 recruits will be needed—taking attrition into account—before there is any chance of having 1,000 new front-line and sworn staff.

    Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

    Leave granted.

    Ron Mark: Supplementary question, Madam Speaker.

    Madam SPEAKER: I just remind members that the normal practice is for documents to be tabled afterwards. If members have supplementary questions, could they please rise to ask them before that.

    Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House whether she has seen the contradictory reports in the media, whereby on the one hand Simon Power from National is spreading doom and gloom about the Government’s inability to recruit the 1,250 extra police, and on the other hand Simon Power’s colleague Judith Collins is so confident that the Government is going to hit that target of 1,250 extra police that she has launched a petition in her electorate, Clevedon, to make sure she gets her fair share of the extra police that will arrive?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: In response to the first part of the member’s question, I say that, unfortunately, Simon Power has become known as a perennial whinge bag. In relation to the second part of the question, I would like to congratulate the member for Clevedon, who has confidence in the New Zealand Police. Maybe she has a little more knowledge about the police than National’s spokesperson does. I have confidence that we will go out and recruit those police, and I am hopeful that the member will have her wish granted.

    Judith Collins: I seek leave for the Minister to say whether she will sign my petition.

    Madam SPEAKER: That is not a sensible point of order.

    Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that the best recruiters of police officers in this country are police officers, that we have, in total, 10,000 sworn and non-sworn officers in the country right now, and that if each one of those officers was to recruit one extra person, we would have a surplus of police officers of something around 8,750?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm what the member has said—police are the best recruiters of new police. I think it is also helpful, however, to have local members of Parliament, like the member for Clevedon, also go out and assist in the recruitment drive, knowing that policing is a very good profession for people—not only for the young but for those who are a little older, as well. It is just a shame that there are some who would love this programme to fail. I cannot for the life of me understand why they want it to fail, other than that they hope they may get a couple of votes out of it.

    Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm, or offer a view on, one of the greatest threats to police recruitment, which is dissatisfaction and loss of confidence inside the police force, and can she comment on whether the involvement of a former National Party parliamentary candidate by the name of Dale Stephens, who headed a security company called Specialised Guard Services and who subsequently employed an ex-gang member and rapist as a security guard in a central police station to oversee an inmate who was on suicide watch, is one of the things that does not help the police in maintaining their confidence and satisfaction levels; can she offer the National Party any advice on how to select good candidates?

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question has nothing to do with the primary question.

    Madam SPEAKER: Yes. Not only is that the case but the Minister has no responsibility for that.

    Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can I rephrase the question?

    Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. The question was far too long in the first place. You have had the opportunity to ask the question, and it is time to move on. You may ask another supplementary question; that is perfectly within your right.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The fact is that the question really asked whether someone who was running a security company that the police had a contract with was running it in a way that would encourage police recruitment in this country. It might have been a long question, but it was relevant in that context. This is a big issue that has just been exposed in the last 24 hours. The fact that the man was a National Party candidate may be neither here nor there—it may be part of National’s typical behaviour—but it is still a relevant question.

    Madam SPEAKER: I think members must take from this that when they ask supplementary questions, they should be succinct. Supplementary questions should contain within them only one thought, not a stream of consciousness, which frequently—[Interruption] I am not talking about only this particular member’s supplementary question; I am talking about many supplementary questions that come from members. So would members please take note of that. Questions should be succinct, short, and carry one thought only, and then members are likely to—[Interruption] It may well be too many, the Hon Bill English says, but that is for someone else to decide.

    Ron Mark: Can the Minister inform the House of what possible impediments there could be to attracting good recruits into the police force, given the work conditions that they may sometimes find themselves facing?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I do agree with the member that integrity is an important part of recruitment into the New Zealand Police. I think the point the member is trying to make is that those who work with the New Zealand Police are expected to have a level of integrity as well. Unfortunately, sometimes people do not see the difference between those who are working in, say, a private security company, and work that can be done in conjunction with the New Zealand Police, so therefore there can be some spin-off from those sorts of arrangements that have not worked out.

    Police Complaints Authority—Review

    6. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree with comments made by the previous Minister of Justice, the Hon Phil Goff, when releasing the Review of the Police Complaints Authority, that “There is a strong public view that police investigation of complaints against themselves is neither independent or appropriate” and that “It is critical that there is full public confidence that such investigations are independent.”?

    Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): Yes.

    Nandor Tanczos: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that there is an independent investigation into the recent allegations that police have been obtaining so-called voluntary DNA samples through coercion—for example, the instance where a 17-year-old was pulled over for a minor driving offence, then told that a $400 fine would be waived if he gave a sample, and the instance where another 17-year-old was offered cigarettes in exchange for a DNA sample?

    Hon MARK BURTON: It is my understanding that either those matters are under investigation or there are appropriate channels to which a complaint can be made, such as the independent Police Complaints Authority.

    Tariana Turia: Tçnâ koe, Madam Speaker; tçnâ tâtou. Is the Minister aware that the Police Complaints Authority investigation into the death of Mr Wallace, who was shot by police in Waitara in April 2000, cannot proceed until there is a finding from the coroner, and does he believe that it is appropriate for the Wallace whânau to have to wait 6 years for a finding; if not, what will he do about it?

    Hon MARK BURTON: It is not my practice to comment on cases that are currently under consideration before those jurisdictions, but it is not unusual when an inquiry is in progress in one jurisdiction for the independent Police Complaints Authority to delay its consideration until the finding is available from that other jurisdiction.

    Keith Locke: How many of the 2,496 cases accepted for investigation by the Police Complaints Authority in the last financial year did not involve and rely on police officers doing much of the authority’s investigation, and, in relation to that, does the Minister accept the main thrust of Justice Gallen’s review of the Police Complaints Authority, which is that the authority should have its own investigatory capacity, rather than rely on one part of the police to investigate the same institution?

    Hon MARK BURTON: I do not have the actual numbers with me, but I certainly accept the general thrust of Justice Gallen’s report. That is why the Government moved to put in place independent inquiry capability with the Independent Police Complaints Authority. It is already done, already funded—particularly targeted at serious inquiries.

    Tariana Turia: Tçnâ koe. Has the Minister read Mâori Perceptions of the Police, which reports a very strong perception from Mâori that the Police Complaints Authority would be self-protecting and biased in favour of the police, should Mâori bring a complaint against the institution or individuals within it; and what assurance can he provide to Mâori that this is not the case?

    Hon MARK BURTON: I understand that that may be the perception of some, but I think a study that dealt with the authority showed overwhelmingly that investigations by the police have been thorough and fair, and that supervision by the authority, in particular, has been effective. That is the overwhelming experience. As I said before, in reply to the previous supplementary question, the Government has already implemented the recommendation in Justice Gallen’s report that the authority have independent investigative capability—it does, in particular for serious cases. I think that should further reinforce public confidence.

    Tariana Turia: I seek leave to table the Mâori Perceptions of the Police report.

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

    Nandor Tanczos: Will the Government reconsider its decision to put the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill on hold until the Bazley inquiry has presented its findings, which were initially due in November 2004, but were then extended to February 2005, then extended to May 2005, then extended to March 2006, then extended to May 2006, then further extended until September 2006; when does the Government envisage that we will see the outcome of that inquiry, and when will this Parliament see the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill progress through this House?

    Hon MARK BURTON: As I think the member will appreciate, the decision to delay progressing the bill, which is ready for its Committee stage, until the outcome of that inquiry was made, I think, correctly, because it is likely that relevant recommendations will arise. However, given the necessary further delay, I am actively reconsidering that decision now.

    Question No. 7 to Minister

    JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon): I seek the leave of the House to hold this question over until the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs is in the House.

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

    Agent Orange—Joint Working-group Report

    7. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: Has he received the joint working-group’s report on Agent Orange; if he has, when did he receive it?

    Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of State Services) on behalf of the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: Ministers Goff and Barker received the report on 28 April.

    Judith Collins: Does the Minister stand by the assurance he gave me on 6 April that he would release the report unedited by the Government; and, if he does, why has he not released the report by now?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: The Ministers are considering the recommendations of the report, and that is obviously their first priority. But I can assure the member that the report will be released in full and unedited.

    Judith Collins: Why did the Minister refuse to tell the Social Services Committee last Wednesday whether he would release the report within the next 12 months, and would he now like to take this opportunity to table the report?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: No, he would not like to take the opportunity to table the report, because the Ministers intend to consider the recommendations of that report. It is a priority for the Ministers, but due consideration must be given. The report will be released in full and unedited at a suitable time.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the subject of reports into Agent Orange, is the Minister aware that in 1996 New Zealand First secured an agreement with the National Party to fully investigate the effects of Agent Orange on the children of Viet Nam veterans, that by 1999 that investigation had been totally corrupted by the National Party with the Reeves report and the McLeod report, which concluded our troops have never been sprayed—which was a shameful lie—and that there is a word for that, starting with “h”?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: It is my understanding that was the case. I presume the member feels that there is a word for that, which starts with “h”, in that now there is considerable concern from the Opposition about the release of this report and action being taken.

    Judith Collins: Can he understand that veterans might feel less than satisfied with the answer the Minister gave about when the report would be released, when the former Minister opposed the Health Committee’s inquiry into Agent Orange, his own department’s McLeod inquiry said that Agent Orange did not happen and therefore did not matter, and now, after weeks of holding the report, the Minister last week could not say whether he would release it in the next 12 months, when that Minister knows that the report is highly critical of his own department?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not consider that 6 weeks since the Minister received the report is a very long time—after all, it took the select committee 13 months for its inquiry. It has been 6 weeks since it was received and they need time to be able to examine it, and for recommendations to be looked at. That is what the Ministers are doing and it will be released in due course.

    Madam SPEAKER: There are no more supplementary questions.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: There are now.

    Madam SPEAKER: There are now? Thank you. Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Sit down, Bill. I’m talking.

    Madam SPEAKER: Come on! Both of you sit down please. I am on my feet. We will not have those exchanges across the House. It is treating the House with disrespect. The member was on his feet to make a point of order, I presume. Is that correct?

    Hon Bill English: Yes.

    Madam SPEAKER: Would you please proceed.

    Hon Bill English: There was no exchange; there was simply a statement by Mr Peters. You have given the House quite a misleading impression of what happened. Can you now explain what is happening with the allocation of supplementary questions. The member rose to ask one and you said that there are no more supplementary questions for New Zealand First. He said: “There are now.”, and then you took the call. That has to be explained.

    Madam SPEAKER: Members, of course, are entitled amongst themselves to transfer supplementary questions. I would ask, however, that if they do so, they inform the Speaker first. There is nothing wrong with the practice. I was not informed. I was assured it had been transferred, and that means presumably it has come off one of the Labour Party’s supplementary questions.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you just clarify this point. Members are all aware that questions are regularly reallocated among members within a party. Do I take it that what has happened here is that the Labour Party has allocated Winston Peters one of its supplementary questions, and the New Zealand First quota has been used up?

    Madam SPEAKER: That is correct.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know why you even entertain those points of order because arrangements here, whether they be for one question or more, are of no moment to any other party at all. Members of the ACT party have been away for about 6 months—in the army, and dancing—and National members have been asking all their questions, and we have never raised a point of order.

    Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order, Madam Speaker, with respect. We have never protested about that. We have never wasted Parliament’s time raising a point of order. [Interruption]

    Madam SPEAKER: The member will be heard in silence.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Exactly! Every chance they get to try to interrupt the questioning of New Zealand First they have taken. They simply cannot take it.

    Madam SPEAKER: That was not a legitimate point of order. I have already, on more than occasion, explained this practice. I have no intention of explaining it again. All I ask is that the whips do keep the Speaker informed of the transfer of questions.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: In addition to the way this matter was handled by the National Party in 1999, when it produced a totally discredited report, does the Minister also remember—[Interruption] See, here we go again.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not just long-standing practice but also a Standing Order that the question must begin with a question word.

    Madam SPEAKER: And I wish all members actually did it.

    Hon Bill English: And that is a legitimate point of order.

    Madam SPEAKER: Yes, it is a legitimate point of order, and I shall make sure it is enforced with all questions in the future from all parties.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If a person is in his or her first sentence, how could you make such a ruling that the person has not started with a question?

    Madam SPEAKER: The member did not have a question—

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is pretty logical.

    Madam SPEAKER: Would you please proceed with your question.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the way this matter was handled in 1999, does the Minister remember Geoff Braybrooke—a Labour member—bringing two members’ bills to the House under a National Government that it promptly voted down, and is there an “h” word for that?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that is the case.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I could pick up on the very technical point that he started again without a question word, but the more important point is that the current Minister can have no responsibility for the actions of a Parliament that is now about three Parliaments ago.

    Madam SPEAKER: I do not know whether that was a responsibility; I think it was asking—[Interruption] I am sorry but would you please repeat the question, and make it a question this time, please, Mr Peters.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister remember—[Interruption]

    Madam SPEAKER: If members wish to remain in the House, they will be quiet to the end.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: —with regard to National’s actions when it was governing all on its lonesome—with the help of Tau in 1999—that Geoff Braybrooke brought two members’ bills to this House that that National Government promptly voted down; is there an “h” word for that?

    Madam SPEAKER: I ask all members in future to desist from using that term—“h” word. It is unparliamentary.

    Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that is the case.

    Hone Harawira:Tçnâ koe, Madam Speaker; tçnâ tâtou te Whare. He aha ôna mahi kia whakatikangia ngâ rerekçtanga o ngâ utu penihana e utua ana i raro i Te Ture Penihana o te tau 1954 mô ngâ hôia i whara, me ngâ utunga i raro i Te Kaporeihana Âwhina Hunga Whara mô ngâ môrehu hôia i hoki mai i Vietnam, 60 pai hçneti o râtou he Mâori?

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

    [What actions will he be taking to address the differences in pension payments and compensation available for injured soldiers under the War Pensions Act 1954 compared with accident compensation—differences that clearly disadvantage Viet Nam veterans, nearly 60 percent of whom are Mâori?]

    Hon ANNETTE KING: Unfortunately, I am unable to answer that question at this time, but I am certain that if the member puts it down as a question to the Minister, he will answer it.

    Judith Collins: Can the Minister please confirm to the House whether the joint working-group’s report on Agent Orange will be released within the next 12 months?

    Hon ANNETTE KING: The Minister is not prepared to name the date or time the report is to be released. It will be released in due course.

    Finance, Minister—Priorities

    8. SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What are his priorities as Minister of Finance?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): As I recently told this House—

    Madam SPEAKER: Order, I cannot hear the answer, and I am sitting reasonably close. Would members please desist from barracking; interjections are permitted.

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If we cleared the House of the Opposition, we could have a quiet conversation. As I recently told this House, the most important thing a Government can do in the modern world is to do all it can to ensure its citizens can enjoy a good life, bring up their children in decency, enjoy a good job, have decent housing, and retire with dignity. My priority as Minister of Finance is to ensure that we have the prudent fiscal settings to allow this for now and into the future.

    Shane Jones: Has he received any reports of alternative priorities that could be pursued by a Minister of Finance?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I mentioned yesterday, an alternative priority I am aware of is the suggestion that the Minister of Finance’s first thoughts in the morning are to ask himself how his shares did overnight, as Mr Key yesterday admitted he does about his Merrill Lynch shares. This may explain his opposition, with unwonted vigour and enthusiasm, to any change in the offshore investment tax regime that would increase his tax in that regard.

    John Key: Is the Minister aware that he is quite incorrect—my first thought when I wake up in the morning is to imagine which of the pretenders, from Trevor Mallard to David Cunliffe, will be the next Minister of Finance when the Minister finally gets the flick in a couple of weeks?

    Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, all I can say is that if the first thing the member thinks of when he wakes up is Trevor Mallard, that is called having a nightmare. And since the member dragged my wife into debate yesterday, I think it is a terrible insult to his own wife that he wakes in the morning and thinks of Trevor Mallard. Furthermore, why, in that case, did the member tell a dinner party the exact opposite—that he thought about what had happened to the price of his Merrill Lynch shares overnight—or was he just big-noting as usual?

    Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to put it on the record that the feeling is not mutual. I never think of Mr Key first thing in the morning.

    Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

    Accident Compensation Corporation—Levies

    9. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Port Waikato) to the Minister for ACC: Does she consider that ACC is fair and transparent with regard to ACC levies; if so, why?

    Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister for ACC: Yes, the proposed levy rates are publicly consulted on each year and are independently reviewed by external actuaries.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does the Minister consider it fair and transparent that from 12 April the part-time self-employed are being charged the full-time employed levy rate irrespective of what they earn, and does she agree that those earners should have been explicitly informed?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: I do think that determining levies according to the structure of business—self-employed versus non - self-employed—is unfair, and that is why I am considering addressing any inequities. I hope the various competing viewpoints of business on this matter can be reconciled.

    Darien Fenton: How do today’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) levy rates compare with rates from earlier years?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: Although the motor vehicle levy has both risen and fallen since the change of Government, over that same period the average self-employed levy has come down by 6 percent, the earners rate has come down by 7 percent, and the average employers levy has dropped by a massive 43 percent. That is the sort of result we can expect when we do not have the privatisation of ACC on our minds.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: How is it fair for ACC to impose full-time levies on low-paid part-time employees, forcing them to pay, in one case, over $1,300 more than the earnings justified; and is that not an example of the ACC monopoly sneakily collecting yet another levy to add to the 43 extra taxes imposed by the Labour Government in the last 7 years?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: I thought at that point that the member’s question was about a part-time employee. Of course, employees have their levies removed from their wages, and if they are employed part time they will have a part-time wage.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: Which ACC helpline worker does the Minister believe was correct—the worker who claimed that charging full-time employed levy rates to part-time workers was a mistake, or the worker who claimed that part-time self-employed workers were dishonest and could not be trusted to tell the truth about their working hours—and does either comment not show failure by ACC?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: I think we have now confirmed that we are talking about workers. I repeat my answer that my understanding is—

    Dr Paul Hutchison: Self-employed!

    Hon PETE HODGSON: Self-employed workers—are they bosses, or are they just working for themselves? If the question is about the self-employed, I refer the member to my answer to his first supplementary question. If it is about employees, I refer the member to my answer to his last supplementary question.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has, either deliberately or out of ignorance, still not answered the question after four attempts. My colleague made it quite clear in his first supplementary question that he was referring to part-time self-employed people. That has not changed all the way through. He has now asked four supplementary questions and got no answer. It is unfair to the House if the Minister insists on answering a completely different question about a completely different group of people and thereby avoids answering the question as to why full-time rates are being levied on part-time self-employed people.

    Madam SPEAKER: No, I listened really carefully and I think the Minister did work his way through to identifying what the issue was, then did address it by reference to his other answers.

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

    Paula Bennett: Oh, here we go.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: We just had an interjection from someone who knows full when that when a point of order is being taken—and I had started it—she cannot intervene.

    Paula Bennett: He hadn’t started!

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: She is doing it again.

    Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am afraid—Paula Bennett, I think it was—I have been very lenient on this, but we are hearing numerous interjections from that part of the House when people are on their feet. Members are on their last warning.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that while the question was being answered by the Minister we in this part of the House could hear barely a word. The noise was deafening. Frankly, our position from here on in will be that if we cannot hear what is being said we will demand that the answer be given a second time so that we can hear it. We do not believe that one side of the House should be able to get away with this every darn day. It is unfair on the rest of the House and on the public as well.

    Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member, so I ask members to control the level of their interjections, please.

    Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker, you know that this House has always worked on developing its own disciplines and understandings. If the Minister consistently refuses to answer a question, then that is going to create some interjections. In fact, this question time has been one of the quieter ones we have sat through. It is a bit like the way the House is asked to tolerate Mr Peters’ continued points of order that are not points of order. He just keeps at it. We are asked to sit in silence. You have just thrown out one of my colleagues, consistent with the—

    Madam SPEAKER: I have not done that, Mr English.

    Hon Bill English: You threatened to.

    Madam SPEAKER: No. I have put the House on warning consistent with the Standing Orders. So everyone is on their warning. Would they please not interject. Please continue.

    Hon Bill English: I was about to say “consistent with the Standing Orders”. You were trying to enforce them. But if that member continues to raise points of order that are not points of order, it is going to be very difficult to expect the House to behave in a polite and orderly way. So, on the matter that you are dealing with at the moment, I would suggest that there are going to be interjections when Ministers do not answer the question. If the cross-benchers cannot hear it, then that Minister who either sits inside or outside Cabinet—we are not sure which—should tell his colleague the answer to the question.

    Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Firstly, the member did raise a legitimate point of order. A point of order about excessive noise in the House is certainly a point of order. Secondly, you had ruled that the Minister had addressed the question. It is not for the National Party to decide whether a Minister has addressed a question; it is for you decide that. For the member to now say that the Minister had not addressed the question when you had already ruled that he had is, in fact, to question your ruling. It is not for the National Party members to act as the referees in this place; that is your job.

    Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member did raise a legitimate point of order. I ask members again, because it is very hard, on occasion, to actually hear what the answers are. Also, I just remind members that, as I have said, interjections are permitted, but the Standing Orders and the Speakers’ rulings state that they should be rare and reasonable. I think that in recent times we have not given enough attention to that particular ruling.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: How can the Minister stand by the statement made on the inside cover of the annual report of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC): “The environment is changing, but what will always remain constant are the principles we apply.”, when, from 12 April, ACC has just applied the principle of trusting no one and, at the same time, overcharging thousands of honest, part-time, self-employed New Zealand workers?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: I talked about inequities amongst self-employed people in the answer to the first supplementary question by the member. They are under consideration, and I urge businesses who have differing viewpoints on the way forward to try to reconcile their differences.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table ACC invoices, which demonstrate that ACC has been overcharging honest, low-earning, self-employed workers for at least 3 months.

    Leave granted.

    Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table ACC’s annual report, which, despite ACC demonstrating distrust since April of all part-time, self-employed workers, states that the environment is changing but its principles remain the same.

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

    Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a pamphlet from ACC entitled “Understanding your ACC levies”, which makes no mention of the distinction between full-time and part-time levies.

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

    Question No. 10 to Minister

    MARK BLUMSKY (National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister of Internal Affairs, to whom I am addressing the question, appears to be snowbound. I wonder whether I could seek leave to hold back the question until a day when he is present.

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

    Significant Community Based Projects Fund—Eligibility Criteria

    10. MARK BLUMSKY (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he have confidence in the application of the eligibility criteria for the Significant Community Based Projects Fund; if so, why?

    Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs: Yes; because the Minister is advised that the criteria were applied by an interdepartmental advisory group, and, in addition, a team of independent auditors assessed applications against financial and governance elements of the criteria.

    Mark Blumsky: How does the Minister explain the discrepancy between his statements in the House on 15 June that the $8 million loan from the Wellington City Council to the Karori sanctuary was not an issue, and that, to quote the Minister, his officials had told them that “it was not a problem”, and the explanation given by his department to the sanctuary and Wellington City Council officials on 8 June that the loan was the major criterion on which their application was declined?

    Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am advised that the independent auditors felt that the loan did not meet the cash requirements.

    Mark Blumsky: How does the Minister justify giving away $32 million of taxpayers’ money based on criteria that are not available to applicants or taxpayers, given that his department told the Karori sanctuary and Wellington City Council officials on 8 June that the sanctuary’s application had failed to meet criteria that they did not even know existed and that had never been published, and can he tell the House what other criteria are being used, or could be used, that are not currently publicly available?

    Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am holding the information sheet about the Significant Community Based Projects Fund, which was issued before people applied and which includes all the criteria.

    Mark Blumsky: How does he explain the discrepancy between his statement in the House on 15 June, and the letter to the editor of the Dominion Post today by the manager of service delivery at the Department of Internal Affairs, which states that the sanctuary’s application was not marked down because it had asked for $6 billion instead of $8 billion, given that his department told the Karori sanctuary and Wellington City Council officials on 8 June that if the sanctuary had applied for $8 million instead of $6 million it would have met the application criteria, but because it did not do so its application had failed?

    Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is not consistent with the advice that was given a couple of hours ago to the Minister whom I am standing in for today.

    Mark Blumsky: I seek leave to table the criteria for receiving funding from the Significant Community Based Projects Fund, which do not mention at all the word “loan” or the other criteria that have been mentioned, such as a 5 percent shortfall.

    Leave granted.

    Mark Blumsky: I seek leave to table a report from the chief executive officer of the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, which confirms the fact that the officials are totally contradicting the Minister, and talks about criteria that the sanctuary was marked on that are also not in the criteria just tabled.

    Leave granted.

    Health Services—Access

    11. MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made in ensuring long-term, affordable access to prescription drugs and doctors’ visits for all New Zealanders?

    Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): An agreement reached yesterday means that the roll-out of cheaper doctors’ visits and low-cost prescription drugs for 45-year-olds to 64-year-olds will proceed from 1 July this year, and for all New Zealanders from 1 July next year. Importantly, the agreement allows general practitioners to protect the viability of their practices, and allows the Government to future-proof the primary health care strategy. This is a victory for general practice, it is a victory for the Labour-led Government, but, most important, it is a victory for the health of New Zealand families.

    Maryan Street: What is the cost of this year’s roll-out of the primary health care strategy, and has the Minister had any reports on alternative policies for this age group?

    Hon PETE HODGSON: The Labour-led Government is investing $110 million to enable this year’s extension of affordable primary health care. National’s stated policy is to put doctors’ fees and prescription charges back up for this age group. I think this House is entitled to know whether another U-turn is coming.

    Taito Phillip Field—Conflict of Interests Report

    12. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Prime Minister: Has she received the report of Dr Noel Ingram QC into allegations of conflict of interest involving Taito Phillip Field; if not, when does she expect to receive it?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No, but as I have told the member many times, I expect to receive the report when it is finished.

    Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Has it been standard practice in her administration for a person such as an overstayer, who needs a document to provide that he or she would not be removed from New Zealand while a permit or visa application is being considered, to be charged a fee; if so, what has been the normal size of that fee?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no advice on that matter. I suggest the member put that question down for the Minister of Immigration.

    Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If her administration has not been charging a fee for the provision of such documents that purportedly protect an overstayer from removal, pending consideration of a permit or visa application, would a person alleging that he or she had to pay such a fee cause her concern as to the possibility of a corrupt practice?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The only fees properly payable in New Zealand for consideration of an immigration application are those charged by the Immigration Service itself. If the member has other matters he wishes to lay before the Government, I suggest he raise a question directly with the Minister.

    Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What explanation does the Prime Minister have, therefore, for a person alleging that in order to obtain such a document from her administration through the electorate office of Taito Phillip Field, $2,000 in cash had to be paid to a family friend of Taito Phillip Field?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no knowledge of such an accusation. If the member wanted to make that allegation, he should have properly made it to Mr Ingram, and whoever has made the allegation to the member should have properly made it to Mr Ingram. I have received no advice about it.

    Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is the Prime Minister prepared to provide immunity to people, to encourage them to feel able to tell her inquiry exactly whom they have had to pay cash to, with neither invoice nor receipt, in order to obtain certain documents from her administration?

    Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Any person who wants to make such an allegation and lay such a complaint should immediately take it to the police. I want to say for the record that, of course, if that person goes to the police he or she will have immunity. No corruption is tolerated by this Government—Dr Smith might have tolerated it but we do not.

    Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a breach of the Standing Orders to allege corruption with respect to another member, as the Prime Minister did just now.

    Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear that, I must say.

    Hon Bill English: The Prime Minister said Dr Smith may have put up with corruption but she did not. That is a very serious allegation to make in this House and it should be withdrawn.

    Madam SPEAKER: If the member—[Interruption] Would the member who is sitting to my immediate left please be quiet. Would both members please be seated; I am on my feet now, so I am making it clear. Please be seated. My understanding is that if the member took offence at the allegation, he should raise the matter and ask the Prime Minister to withdraw and apologise. He has not done that.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order is that you have just had a complaint from Mr English about an issue of corruption, yet the question, which is along the same lines as one last week, was to do with corruption. Today, even though question time is finished and the question is over, that member of Parliament—an experienced one—has still not produced one shred of evidence against another member of Parliament. He gets up and asks questions that have in them very serious allegations. He makes them up by innuendo and inference, and he is still not prepared to produce one shred of evidence to back up what he is saying—the very complaint Mr English made.

    Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker—

    Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The member need not speak to it. It is not a valid point of order.

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

    © Scoop Media

     
     
     
     
     
    Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

     

    Wellington: Predator Free Capital Plan

    Wellington City Council (WCC), the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and NEXT Foundation, today announced a joint collaboration to make Wellington the first Predator Free capital city in the world. More>>

    ALSO:

    Gordon Campbell: On Judith Collins’ Efforts At Self Correction

    Thousands of prisoners currently in prison may be entitled to an earlier release than expected – and compensation – because Corrections has incorrectly calculated their term of imprisonment. Unless of course, the government buries its mistakes by changing the law and retro-actively getting itself off the hook… More>>

    ALSO:

    More Justice & Corrections

    Sector Opposes Bill: Local Government Bill Timeframe Extended

    The Minister of Local Government Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has asked the Select Committee to extend the report back date for the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 2). More>>

    ALSO:

    Breed Laws Don’t Work: Vets On New National Dog Control Plan

    It is pleasing therefore to see Louise Upston Associate Minister for Local Government calling for a comprehensive solution... However, relying on breed specific laws to manage dog aggression will not work. More>>

    ALSO:

    Not Waiting On Select Committee: Green Party Releases Medically-Assisted Dying Policy

    “Adults with a terminal illness should have the right to choose a medically assisted death,” Green Party health spokesperson Kevin Hague said. “The Green Party does not support extending assisted dying to people who aren't terminally ill because we can’t be confident that this won't further marginalise the lives of people with disabilities." More>>

    ALSO:

    General Election Review: Changes To Electoral Act Introduced

    More effective systems in polling places and earlier counting of advanced votes are on their way through proposed changes to our electoral laws, Justice Minister Amy Adams says. More>>

    Get More From Scoop

     

    LATEST HEADLINES

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Parliament
    Search Scoop  
     
     
    Powered by Vodafone
    NZ independent news