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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 18 July 2006

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

Tuesday, 18 July 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Living Standards 2004 Report—Health Disparities
2. Taito Phillip Field—Ingram Report Conclusions
3. Police Numbers—Government Targets
4. Poverty—Government Policy
5. Primary Health Care Strategy—Extension to 45 to 64-Year-olds
6. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Internal Assessments
7. Prisoners—Recidivism
8. Hardship—Levels
9. Disability Sector—Fund-raising
10. Electricity Outage, Auckland—Report
11. Aid—New Zealand’s Contribution
12. Foreign Nationals—Health-care Costs

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Living Standards 2004 Report—Health Disparities

1. TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Health: How will the Government address the health disparities outlined in the New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report, which provided evidence that lower living standards increase the risk of poor health and that poor living standards are particularly evident amongst Māori and Pacific communities?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): The Government is, of course, already aware of the link between lower living standards and poor health. That is one of the reasons why the Working for Families package was implemented after the data to which the member refers was collected. Next month the Government will release the social report 2006. I am pleased to advise the member that for Māori, although obesity rates are getting no better, smoking rates are down, suicide rates are down, and life expectancy rates are up. Unlike the New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report, which is something of an attitudinal survey, the social report is hard data.

Tariana Turia: What is the Government’s response to research recently published in The Lancet that reported that Māori experience twice the rate of adverse events in hospital, and is this an example of institutional racism?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There have been two sets of reports in The Lancet from New Zealand on this issue in recent times. I suspect the member is referring to the second of those, which was drawn directly from the Decades of Disparity report. The member is correct; there was a significant widening in disparity between Pasifika and Māori, on the one hand, and the rest of New Zealand, on the other. What is interesting is that the third stage of that report was released by me, as it happens, just a few weeks ago. Researchers are saying that when they release the fourth stage, they will no longer call it Decades of Disparity, because it is their belief that that gap is now narrowing—probably at an accelerating rate.

Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was referring to the report that talked about twice the rate of adverse events in hospital, not Decades of Disparity. I would like an answer to my question.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have read all of those Lancet reports. I can assure the member that we are talking about the same thing.

Ann Hartley: What reports has the Minister seen on cross-sector work to improve the health of New Zealanders?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Last Friday I released a report from the Public Health Advisory Committee, which called on Government and the health community to address the determinants of health, including welfare, education, and housing. This call was welcomed by the Public Health Association, which said: “We are fortunate that we have a Government supportive of public health … There has never been a better time to make progress on key public health issues.”

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister have any concerns that as the incomes of beneficiaries continue to plunge even more people into extreme hardship, and as Working for Families fails to assist them, other departments such as his have to pick up the extra costs—for example, in general and mental health services—and has he had discussions with his colleague the Minister for Social Development and Employment about what more the Government could be doing to make sure people right at the bottom of that survey have enough income for basic survival?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry; I disagree with the member on the construct of the first part of her question. I simply disagree with her remarks. I do think, however, that the link between poor living standards and poor health is well made and well understood, which is why this Government, for example, is so proud of the Primary Health Care Strategy, which rolls out primary health care services as it did earlier to the communities that needed it most. We have got the beginnings of successful results coming through from that strategy.

Hon Tony Ryall: How does it feel to be a Labour Party Minister of Health with a report being presented by a Labour Government department that shows that the very people who that party opposite seeks to represent have consistently gone backwards during the term of this report?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In response to the newly caring member’s question I would assert, as I did in my first answer, that we have a report coming out next month on facts that shows smoking rates for Māori have gone down, suicide rates for Māori have gone down, life expectancy rates for Māori have gone up, and, what is more, that these reverse trends that were set well in train when that member was part of a National Party Government.

Tariana Turia: Can the Minister explain the reasons for the dramatic rise in proportions of Māori and Pasifika people experiencing severe hardship—from 7 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2004 for Māori and from 15 percent in 2000 to 27 percent in 2004 for Pasifika people, and how will the health sector respond to the increased risk of poor health for those communities?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If I were the social development Minister, I would respond to the first part of the member’s question by saying that there were definitional differences between the two surveys. However, we will let him do that. In the meantime, apart from acknowledging the member’s interest and competence in that area, can I just say that it is my view that the decade of disparity is now drawing to a close. We have still got a very large amount to do but it is very good, I think, for us to realise as a country that under the Government, disparities between ethnic minorities and the rest of the population are becoming less, at last, instead of greater.

Tariana Turia: What level of funding has been invested into ensuring health advocacy services are available nationally for all New Zealanders, and what progress has been achieved in developing specific health advocacy services for Māori by Māori and for Pasifika by Pasifika?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Health and Disability Commissioner’s budget was increased, somewhat, recently. I regret to advise the member that I do not have the detailed figures to hand.

Taito Phillip Field—Ingram Report Conclusions

2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What specific findings and recommendations, if any, did Dr Noel Ingram QC make in his report to her following his investigation into allegations concerning Taito Phillip Field, and what actions does she intend to take as a consequence?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Dr Ingram found that no conflict existed, or appeared to exist, between Mr Field’s private interests and the use of his influence as a Minister. The report does imply errors of judgment in respect of Mr Field’s MP role, and those issues are being addressed by the Labour Party leadership and whips. I will also be referring to the Cabinet Office the issue of the adverse perception that may attach to the practice of lafo in respect of gifts to Ministers, although Dr Ingram made no finding against Mr Field in that respect.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister regard the conduct of Mr Field, as outlined in the report, acceptable in either a Minister or a member of Parliament in her Government, and what are the consequences, under her prime ministership, for Mr Field of the findings made against him?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in my primary answer, clearly there were errors of judgment. The member will note that Mr Field is not a Minister.

Dr Don Brash: Why should New Zealanders have any confidence in a report that has taken 10 months to complete, when she initially said it would take 13 days, and that failed to interview key witnesses about some of the most serious accusations against Mr Field, because the Government refused to take the simple steps that would have enabled those witnesses to talk?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not aware of any such simple steps. I would observe that initially the Opposition complained the report was not going to be thorough enough, and is now complaining that it is too thorough.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister really imagine that it is completely lost on members of the public that Mr Field constitutes the entire majority of her Government in the House, and that she is prepared to forgive almost any misdemeanour by Mr Field in order to keep her Government in office and herself in Premier House?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think it is worthwhile to note that every confidence vote in this House has been won 61 to 50. The member cannot count.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister expect the public to see this report as anything more than a shabby cover-up arrived at by ensuring that key witnesses could not provide their accounts of the most serious accusations against Mr Field, all of which is designed to protect at all costs the man who constitutes her entire majority in this Parliament?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have already pointed out there is a majority of 11 on confidence votes. I personally regard it as being simply outrageous to accuse a Queen’s Counsel in this country of a cover-up, a whitewash, and a shabby report.

Dr Don Brash: Why has this House had to wait for 10 months for a pointless report from a toothless, powerless inquiry that answers none of the key questions about the conduct of Mr Field, and will the Prime Minister now establish a proper commission of inquiry with all of the powers necessary to get to the bottom of the allegations that the Ingram report did not deal with?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Opposition, which has complained about the time and the expense, now wants a full commission of inquiry. I am speechless!

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister understand that although the Ingram report tells us a good deal about the character of Mr Field, her readiness to leave all the key questions unanswered and key witnesses not interviewed tells us a good deal about her?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member does not seem to understand that an independent, reputable Queen’s Counsel conducted an independent inquiry. I suggest that Dr Brash’s reputation with the legal profession of this country will be mud, with those kinds of attacks on that professional.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What is the Prime Minister’s response to the fact that Mr Ingram believed that up to four Thai people had worked on Mr Field’s house in Samoa, but that he was unable to get any of those four to agree to be interviewed by him, and is that the standard she thinks is appropriate for an inquiry established by her into such serious matters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I believe Mr Ingram has actually done a very thorough report. He notes that at all times Mr Field cooperated fully with him. I think if members actually take the time to read the report, they will see how thorough it is.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Given that the Prime Minister has just said that Mr Ingram did a good job of the report, and given that Mr Ingram gave this advice: “If the allegations in relation to further Thai labour working on Mr Field’s house in Samoa are to be resolved, it would be necessary for an authority with appropriate powers of investigation to inquire further.”, is she prepared to establish such an inquiry with the necessary powers to get to the bottom of these allegations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I take that as a request from the Opposition for a royal commission, spending millions more dollars for no good purpose, whatsoever.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister read the parts of the report that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that there are questions about the practices of Mr Field as a member of Parliament—suggestions that he has misused his position by having people work on his properties around this country and in Samoa—and will she therefore allow the Labour members to support this report going to the Privileges Committee, so that it may exercise the powers that Mr Ingram was denied in his inquiry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said, there were clearly errors of judgment. I have drawn attention to the need for all members, when advocating on immigration or on any other matter—and I note that many members of the party the member belongs to make very firm representations on immigration matters—to be very careful to observe proper boundaries between personal and private matters on the one hand and professional matters on the other.

Dr Don Brash: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is the Prime Minister alleging that any members of the National Party have used improper influence in order to get immigrants visas to New Zealand?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: What objection does the Prime Minister have to the Privileges Committee investigating these matters further, to ensure that there has been no corrupt practice on the part of Mr Field, as is clearly and patently alleged in Mr Ingram’s report?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Whether something goes to the Privileges Committee is entirely a matter for the Speaker, who determines whether there is a case to be answered. I am not even aware that she has the matter before her.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could give us some immediate direction on this. My understanding is that if the House were to grant leave for this report to be referred to the Privileges Committee, that would, in fact, see the matter go to the Privileges Committee.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is a purely hypothetical question. Obviously, processes and procedures exist, and no Speaker rules on hypothetical questions.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to have the Report to the Prime Minister upon Inquiry into Matters Relating to Taito Philip Field referred by the House to the Privileges Committee.

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

Police Numbers—Government Targets

3. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister of Police: What reports has she received supportive of the Government’s stated aim of increasing front-line police by 1,000 over the next 3 years?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): I have seen a number of reports. Two will be of particular interest to members. One consists of enthusiastic comments about the allocation of six new police officers for Hawke’s Bay, which will make life more difficult for the “few rat-bags who do not respect the law”. The second report concerns the organiser of a petition to support the police recruitment campaign. The first report is from Craig Foss; the second, Judith Collins. I would like to thank both those National MPs for supporting the Government’s campaign to put 1,000 more police on the street. I thank those members very much for their kind promotion.

Russell Fairbrother: What other recent reports has the Minister seen concerning the New Zealand Police?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen a whole series of reports attacking the police in the last few months. The police have been attacked for sending specialist staff on customer service courses so that they can provide better service to the public. The police have been attacked for using security guards to maintain watch outside police cells, thereby releasing front-line police to other duties. They have been accused of failing in their 3-year police recruitment campaign, just 13 days after it started. And the police commissioner has been virtually accused of lying. I think it is totally inappropriate for a leadership hopeful like Simon Power to use the New Zealand Police as a stepping stone for his own ambitions.

Moana Mackey: Has she seen any other reports concerning rural policing in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have. I have seen a report that attacks the police and the good people of Wairoa. Chester Borrows MP said that the four British police who chose to go to Wairoa must have been given “a bloody good brochure”. I am forwarding his comments to the Wairoa Star and also to the local mayor, because I think they would be very interested in what the National Party really thinks about rural towns in New Zealand.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm to the House that the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour Government and New Zealand First that provides for the extra 1,000 sworn front-line police staff also includes “a target of achieving ratios comparable with those in Australia by 2010”, which will give a further increase to policing numbers under this Government?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm that agreement, and I can also acknowledge the member’s party for the work it has put into ensuring we are able to recruit 1,000 extra police over the next three Budgets, unlike the snivelling, whingeing members opposite, with the exception of Judith Collins and Craig Foss, who want it to fail.

Poverty—Government Policy

4. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does he stand by his statement in the House on 25 May 2006 that “this Government has achieved great things, like a 70 percent decline in poverty—30 percent of that being Māori poverty”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs): Yes, I stand by my statement that this Government has achieved great things.

Gerry Brownlee: What reports was he referring to when he told the House on 25 May that this Government has achieved great things, like a 30 percent decline in Māori poverty, when the recent Ministry of Social Development report showed that the percentage of Māori experiencing severe hardship has increased 150 percent—more than one in six—on his watch?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Several reports show that Māori have progressed quite dramatically in the last 6 years. The Government having introduced the Working for Families package, I am advised by the Ministry of Social Development that there will be a 70 percent reduction in poverty levels of households with children and low income thresholds. I am also advised by the ministry that there will be significant benefits for those Māori families that are eligible for assistance.

Dave Hereora: Is he concerned about the number of Māori on the unemployment benefit?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is a concern that Māori are overrepresented in beneficiary numbers. However, Māori unemployment benefit numbers fell from 41,500 in June 1999 to 13,500 in June 2006. That is the lowest level for 20 years, and it is only one of several positive indicators that are happening for Māori under this Government’s watch.

Tariana Turia: Why did the Decades of Disparity study show that socio-economic factors account for only half of the widening gap in death rates between Māori and non-Māori during the 1980s and 1990s, and what does this Minister think accounts for the other 50 percent of the widening gap?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The decade of disparity is well over for Māori. Certainly there are issues that have to be broached, but life expectancy has increased, suicide rates have fallen, participation in early childhood education has increased, the number of students leaving school with higher qualifications has increased, there have been sharp increases in Māori participation in tertiary education, and a hang of a lot more.

Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, I do not believe that the Minister answered my question. A recent report that has come out states that socio-economic factors account for only 50 percent of the disparity. I would like the Minister to tell me what has caused the other 50 percent—what has created this situation for Māori people.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did generally address the question. If he wishes to add anything further to his answer, he may do so.

Gerry Brownlee: What contribution has the Minister made to the Labour Government’s polices that have seen the proportion of Māori suffering severe hardship—defined as going without basics such as decent shoes, home heating, and fresh fruit and vegetables—more than double from 7 to 17 percent while he has been the Minister, and can he confirm that none of those people will be eligible for Working for Families?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have contributed heaps in relation to the benefits to Māori. I remind the member that in 1993 the proportion of Māori families with low incomes was 42 percent; it had fallen to 24 percent in the year 2004. That is about a lot more kids with shoes, a lot more parents with better education, and a lot more people getting into their own houses for the first time.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that during his time as Minister not only has unemployment fallen, as he said, to the lowest level in 20 years, but also, according to income statistics, Māori have achieved higher increases in median hourly rates than any other ethnic group—both signs that Māori are doing better because of the policy that this Minister has supported?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly, and I can add that Māori are going into employment four to five times quicker than Pākehā are.

Gerry Brownlee: If everything is so wonderful under his ministry, why, after $930 million worth of spending on the closing the gaps programme, has the percentage of Māori in the severe hardship category increased from 7 to 17 percent, and why do Māori incomes still trail non-Māori incomes by over $7,000 a year?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The majority of Māori do not perceive severe hardship as that member perceives it, or as some reports do. I also tell the member that his leader noted the improvement. He said: “That adaptability and resourcefulness, that openness to opportunity, that entrepreneurial spirit, is something that survived the trauma of colonisation, and is today reflected in a Maori renaissance across a wide range of business, cultural and sporting activity.” Thank you for that supposed leader’s statement!

Gerry Brownlee: If the failure of the $930 million closing the gaps programme is not real, why did he feel compelled last week to tell his department to stop writing reports, and to get out in the field and start doing some work to lift Māori; and why has it taken him 7 years to wake up and realise that it needs to be doing more than it is?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That member needs to watch this Government over the next 7 years, when he will see the fruits of all that effort. That I may not be as boisterous as the member in pushing my own figures is another issue. I did tell the Māori ministry to get out there amongst our people, and I have asked the Māori ministry to do it more often, like its Minister does—travel these roads to see all the good things happening for Māoridom.

Primary Health Care Strategy—Extension to 45 to 64-Year-olds

5. MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on the success of the 1 July roll-out of affordable primary health care to 45 to 64-year-olds?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): The 1 July roll-out of cheaper doctors’ fees and lower-cost prescription drugs was the most successful stage of the Primary Health Care Strategy to date, with nearly 100 percent of practices on board. Nearly 700,000 New Zealanders saw the cost of doctors’ visits drop by around $27 and are now paying no more than $3 for most prescription medicines. This is what can be achieved when Governments invest in the health of families instead of having reckless tax cuts for the wealthy.

Maryan Street: What reports has he seen on support for the 1 July roll-out?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen reports that the lowering of fees has been welcomed from groups right across the New Zealand health sector. I have, however, seen proposals to raise doctors’ fees for New Zealanders in the 45 to 64-year-old age group and stop all future extensions of the strategy, to free up $500 million to pay for tax cuts. That proposal is from the National Party, and it is another reminder of why its members will be warming the Opposition benches for a lot longer than 9 years.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can the Minister confirm that of the roll-out money for cheaper doctors’ visits for middle-aged people, only $3 million will be spent on community service cardholders—the New Zealanders with the worst health and the greatest financial needs—while $60 million will go to people who do not have community service cards; and is this really the best way of targeting those people with the greatest health needs?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The National Party just does not like universality, does it? It does not like it. It does not like the idea that one can have a right as a citizen of this country and that that right is available to one, irrespective of one’s condition. The reason community service cardholders have a lower decrease in their fees is that they already had a larger decrease in their fees, earlier. I have one other question for the member, however: who is the Opposition spokesperson on health? Dr Jonathan Coleman is listed in last night’s Australian High Commissioner’s residence do as the Opposition spokesperson on health. Is that what has happened, because I thought it was that guy there?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: That was not an answer to the question. The member is quite correct.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the Minister would like to ask questions, I would be happy for him to sit on this side of the House, and I am sure we will be happy to take up the seats on the Government side.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware of reports that some general practitioners are charging up to $18 to see an under-6-year-old child, and what action is his Government taking to make health care for under-sixes free, as it once was?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member raises a good question, as she usually does. I am hopeful we will be able to reduce somewhat the incidence of charging under-6-year-olds, but I do remind the member that the median fee for under-6-year-olds is zero—that is to say, most practices charge under-6-year-olds nothing at all.

Maryan Street: How can the Minister have confidence that he has ensured low fees for middle-aged New Zealanders when Hawke’s Bay and Otago practices have raised their fees since 1 July?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member again raises a good question. One hopes that these are glitches in the roll-out in those two practices that I am aware of. If, however, they are not, then they will be managed contractually.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Internal Assessments

6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What proportion of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) internal assessments moderated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in 2005 were found to be faulty?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): The moderation process works as follows. Each year schools negotiate with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority as to what will be checked. For each standard, eight pieces of work are provided, ranging from “excellence” to “not achieved”. The work submitted is required to be samples considered to be on the borderline of each of those levels of achievement. The schools are then given feedback, which supports the professional development of the teachers. Samples checked by the authority in 2005 made up 3 percent of all internal assessment. Of that 3 percent, around 29 percent were rated by moderators as not being to the national standard and 10 percent were said to be invalid, meaning that there needed to be improvements in the way that questions were put to students.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm, therefore, that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has acknowledged that 40 percent of the internal assessment tasks it moderates turn out to be faulty and that this represents wrong results for thousands of students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No. What I can confirm is that of the 3 percent of the overall internal assessments that came into the authority during the year, 29 percent were rated by moderators as not meeting the national standard and 10 percent were rated as having a question that was not the right kind of question to elicit the right kind of work.

Moana Mackey: Is the Government seeking to making improvements in the assessment process of NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We are now in the third year of NCEA, and, overall, the assessment process is working well. With ongoing professional development and feedback, it will improve further. The assessment system, of course, relies on the professional integrity of teachers—in the same way that we rely on the integrity of doctors and lawyers. I was concerned that a recent media article portrayed four teachers in four schools as acting unprofessionally. It is my position that where unprofessional behaviour has been identified, the accreditation of the school and the registration of the teacher should be considered. As Graham Young of the Secondary Principals Association said yesterday: “Teachers need to demonstrate they can be trusted. If that can happen, we have a professional teaching occupation operating within self-managing schools in an environment of high trust and high accountability.”

Hon Brian Donnelly: Has the New Zealand Qualifications Authority instigated the application of item response theory mechanisms to the modification of NCEA, as recommended by John Hattie in his March 2005 paper Professional Opinion on the Major Issues to be Addressed in the NCEA; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The answer is yes. The authority works closely with John Hattie and other leading assessment experts.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister tell the House that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority works closely with John Hattie on NCEA when, in fact, it does not; Mr Hattie has written no reports, had no commissions, and had no formal discussions with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority about NCEA—only about Scholarship?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is exactly what I told the House—that John Hattie, along with other people like Terry Crooks, has worked closely with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority on Scholarship, and much of that work has been applied to NCEA.

Hon Bill English: When is this Minister going to answer a question honestly, given that the member from New Zealand First asked him about NCEA and the Minister said John Hattie was working on it with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, then the Minister said that Mr Hattie was talking to the authority only about Scholarship; why can this Minister not give a straight answer and tell the House that, despite the Minister’s best efforts to mislead the House, John Hattie has done nothing with NCEA?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Replying to the member who has made an art form of misleading, can I say that what I have said consistently is that an expert group has worked on Scholarship and that much of that work has been applied to NCEA.

Hon Bill English: Why it is acceptable to the Minister that 39 percent of internal assessments moderated by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority are found to be wrong, that, by his own figures, 97 percent of internal assessments are not checked at all, and that thousands of students are getting the wrong results because the assessments are faulty and no one knows and no one tells them?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Let me go through it again for the member. The moderation process is not a marking process; it is a process that, after all the results are in, relies on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority negotiating with schools to send in to it 3 percent, across the board, of all the internally assessed work that is undertaken.

Hon Bill English: So is it a sample or not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: So that is a sample of the work that is undertaken.

Hon Member: Random sample.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is not a random sample; it is a sample of the borderline assessments that schools want to have moderated in order to know whether they have got it right. They send the work in, it is moderated, they get feedback, and they improve their performance. That member probably got his university entrance qualification—because he is so smart—by accreditation. That was internally assessed; that was not moderated. God knows what work he did to get through!

Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek leave to table the paper by John Hattie from March 2005, Professional Opinion on the Major Issues to be Addressed in the NCEA.

Leave granted.

Prisoners—Recidivism

7. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he consider a reimprisonment rate of 37 percent after 24 months a satisfactory outcome, with each prisoner costing the New Zealand taxpayer almost $77,000 each year; if not, what is this Government doing to lower it?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections): No. However, the average cost per prisoner for 2004-05 was $59,000 and that cost to the country is too high. The Government has reviewed rehabilitation programmes, and we are implementing more intensive and better targeted programmes that include an increased emphasis on drug and alcohol treatment.

Hon Peter Dunne: What is the Minister’s response to a recent Treasury review of criminal justice, which recommended the introduction of contestability into the supply of correctional services as a means of encouraging innovation in reducing reoffending, and will he be adopting that recommendation?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government is currently looking at all aspects of the justice system, including corrections. Privatisation of prisons is not one of those areas. Our experience is that it is cheaper to house prisoners in a State-run system than it was in the one private facility we had in Auckland—cheaper by $10,000 per year.

Lynne Pillay: What other initiatives does the Department of Corrections have in place to reduce reoffending?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Many. On 1 May I launched an extensive work employment strategy for prisoners that over the next 3 years will boost employment hours and lift the number of New Zealand Qualifications Authority units attained from 4,800 to 16,000. We have case managers and work brokers working in every prison. We have reintegration case workers. We are boosting the accommodation support beyond the sentence, and we are committed to two new drug and alcohol units before the end of this financial year.

Simon Power: How are New Zealand’s reimprisonment and crime rates to change, given Treasury’s assessment that the crime reduction strategy adopted by the Government has “no particular focus on stopping inter-generational crime or consideration of the role of early interventions in areas such as education, health, income support and housing”, and what good is a crime reduction strategy that does not actually address the factors that might actually reduce crime?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The fact is we have the lowest rate of crime this country has seen for 20 years. The anomaly is that we have an increasing rate of imprisonment. We are working on every area of justice to overcome the anomaly that we have the lowest crime rate but still have an increasing rate—an embarrassingly increasing rate—of incarceration, in this country.

Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister justify his continued ideologically cloistered approach to prison management, when there is evidence and advice available that contestability from private prison providers will encourage innovation in reducing the rate of reoffending—as was the case with the Auckland Central Remand Prison?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I point out to the member that the cost per prisoner per year in the Auckland Central Remand Prison was $44,000. We are currently holding prisoners in remand at a cost of $33,000 per prisoner per year. We took a leaf out of the privatisation book by looking to Railways and Air New Zealand, and we as a Government learnt from the lessons of the past.

Simon Power: Does he believe that private prisons could deliver worse outcomes than the public prison service, when in the last year prisoners have had trips to the beach and slap-up steak and ice cream dinners, and can he confirm that when the contract to manage Auckland Central Remand Prison was tendered the public prison service was the fourth preferred contractor out of four?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of the details of that tender process, but if the member wants to ask a question I am perfectly happy to give him the answer. We are not ideologically locked into privatisation of every single area of Government responsibility, and I think it is a timely reminder for this House and the people of New Zealand that the National Party is determined to privatise every single thing it can get its hands on.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that much of what the State prisons are looking to implement now in the way of best practice has been taken from the achievements of the Auckland Central Remand Prison, and, that being the case, if Labour were to be in negotiations at some future time with New Zealand First and the issue were put on the negotiating table of providing a privately managed prison in order to give ourselves a benchmark against which we could judge the performance of the State prisons, can the Minister tell the House how that might be handled?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We are happy to look at any idea that might improve the management of our prisons in this country. We look on a regular basis around the world for international best practice. One of the lessons we have learnt from Australia is that a private prison establishment has been taken over by the State again because in Australia they believe that the State system can run some of those establishments better—as we, indeed, did ourselves.

Hardship—Levels

8. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Why did levels of severe hardship rise between 2000 and 2004, as reported by the Ministry of Social Development?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): While the overall proportion of people with fairly comfortable to good living standards was reported as unchanged between 2000 and 2004, there was a reported 3 percent movement of those within hardship categories, from some hardship to severe hardship, and that is clearly of concern. To quote from the report itself: “A confident explanation for the rise is not possible mainly because of the limited data collected in 2000.” The Ministry of Social Development is doing some further work to explain this variation, and it expects to publish it in 2007. But I can tell the House that that research pre-dates the Working for Families package, which will have significantly improved the living standards of all groups.

Judith Collins: Why did the numbers of Pacific Island New Zealanders living in severe hardship rise from 15 percent in 2000 to a whopping 27 percent in 2004, despite his Government introducing the Pacific Value Jobs initiative?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I just commented on that question, but I am able to confirm to the House that, across the whole community, social well-being improved in that period over a very large number of indicators, including an improvement in housing affordability, a reduction in the share of households—including in the Pacific community—with low income, an improvement in market income per person, an improvement in employment participation, a reduction in unemployment, an improvement in participation in tertiary education, an increase in the share of school-leavers with higher qualifications, and, pleasingly, of course, an increase in participation in early childhood education.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not believe that the Minister addressed the question of why the number of Pacific Island New Zealanders living in severe hardship has risen. He talked about some of the initiatives from the Government, but he did not actually address that question.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister did actually address the question quite fully.

Georgina Beyer: What did the New Zealand Living Standards 2004 report have to say about the effect of adverse life events?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The report identified the accumulated effect of life shocks with regard to hardship. What I can tell the member is that many families are still clearly suffering from the accumulated life shocks suffered under 9 years of a National Government, which drove down income through the Employment Contracts Act and, of course, wielded cuts to the provision of health, welfare, and housing. Working for Families, cheaper doctors’ visits, and more affordable housing are just three of the things that have been introduced by this Government to act to address inequality.

Judith Collins: What did the Pacific Aim-Hi to Employment (PATE) initiative cost, and how did it affect the number of Pacific Island New Zealanders living in severe hardship between 2000 and 2004?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not have that information in front of me. If the member would like to put down a question, I would provide it for her. But I can tell her and her colleagues that since June 2004, 28,000 people have moved off the unemployment benefit—including Pacific Island people—8,000 have moved off the sole parent domestic purposes benefit, and total working-age benefit numbers have reduced by an extraordinary 29,000 people. I can also tell the member that, in terms of the Pacific Island cohort, the unemployment level when National was last in Government was 12,017; that number is now an extraordinarily low 3,175.

Judith Collins: How effective have initiatives like PATE and Help Our Pacific People into Employment (HOPE) been in raising the living standards of Pacific Island New Zealanders, or is the Minister going to tell the House he simply does not know?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Well, I think, cumulatively, the social initiatives of this Government have been extraordinarily effective. A good piece of evidence has been handed to me today in the form of an article in the Gisborne Herald headlined: “Families package good policy making”, which reads as follows: “The Working for Families package has had a positive impact on families in Gisborne, despite negative talk to the contrary, says Tai Rawhiti Age Concern. Chief Executive Francis Toroa said the Working for Families package was one of the best supplementary assistance packages to date. ‘That’s what’s being communicated to me,’ said Mrs Toroa, ‘by family members who are on one income and needed that extra assistance. It has raised their living standards substantially.’ ”

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was not about Working for Families; it was about initiatives from his ministry. The Minister clearly was not addressing the question. He obviously does not know the answer; he should just tell us if he does not know.

Madam SPEAKER: I am reluctant to ask the Minister to expand on his answer, but I do think he addressed the question.

Judith Collins: Why will this Minister not just admit that this massive rise in severe hardship—from 15 percent in the year 2000 to a whopping 27 percent in the year 2004—is, in fact, testament to the failure of his Government’s race-based policies rather than dealing with the real issues for people?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Because that is not the case. I will repeat, for that member, what I said earlier. Since the mid-1990s there has been improvement in a huge number of social indicators for the whole community, and for the Māori and Pacific communities. There has been an improvement in housing affordability, a reduction in the share of households with low incomes, an improvement in market income per person, an improvement in employment participation, a reduction in unemployment from 161,000 under the National Government to less than 40,000 now, an improvement in participation in tertiary education, an increase in the share of school-leavers with higher qualifications, and an increase in participation in early childhood education—something that member obviously missed out on.

Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table the report—because clearly the Minister is not aware of it—Pacific Value Jobs Initiative: Final Evaluation Report. It is a report of his own ministry, and he clearly needs to read it.

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

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I seek leave to table an article from today’s Gisborne Herald entitled: “Families package good policy making”.

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

Disability Sector—Fund-raising

9. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues: What reports, if any, has she received on fund-raising in the disabilities sector?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Disability Issues): I have seen a report of a fund-raising scam that abuses the public’s trust and goodwill. It involves a Christchurch millionaire property developer who sells pens on the street under the guise of collecting for Wheelchair Tennis, but who gives to that organisation only $5 of the $20 he charges. This person is none other than the three-time ACT candidate John Peters.

Darien Fenton: What other details have emerged from that disability scam?

Hon RUTH DYSON: By Mr Peters’ own admission, he scams money off the unsuspecting public by sitting in a way designed to make people believe he is a paraplegic. He agrees that people might be a bit misled by this. It seems, as far as the ACT party is concerned, that it is OK to bash beneficiaries but that millionaires ripping off the public is quite acceptable.

Electricity Outage, Auckland—Report

10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Does he agree with the Connell Wagner report’s findings that major 220 kilovolt lines were strung above other circuits in a manner not “in keeping with current practice, especially at such an important node”, that the failed earth wires were not bonded in accordance with Transpower’s own “current standard practice”, and that “Transpower’s routine inspection and maintenance regime failed to detect and replace seriously deteriorated hardware” that would “have been clearly visible for many years” with “at least a reasonable inference open that the inspection was not carried out”?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy): Yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given that it is over a month since the blackout affected Auckland, can he tell the House whether those crucial lines have been inspected?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and those who assess the Government’s response on transmission issues will contrast the prompt, practical, and open steps that the Government has taken since those events, with Dr Smith’s blatant misrepresentation last sitting week when he said, and I quote from Hansard: “in the last 7 years not 1 kilometre of new transmission wire has been constructed, despite a 20 percent increase in power usage;”, in the very same month that he was proudly standing next to a transmission tower in the Transpower monthly magazine, where an extra wire was being strung.

Steve Chadwick: What has the Minister done to advance the implementation of the recommendations in the Connell Wagner report?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As the House already knows, the report was commissioned by me and immediately upon its receipt I supplied a copy of it to Transpower, together with a letter from me that I have also released, which highlights the four short-term remedial steps I think should be taken, and are highlighted by Connell Wagner. I am expecting a response from Transpower by this Friday, which is my deadline.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree that Transpower erred in putting so much management time into complex lease-back tax deals with the grid, rather than focusing on its core function of ensuring that it was properly maintained; if so, why has his Government made a policy decision to encourage State-owned enterprises to do more deals outside their core functions?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I do not agree with that. I actually think Transpower did the country a favour, and has saved New Zealand power consumers and taxpayers many millions of dollars as a consequence, but that is no reason for the poor maintenance procedures that have been shown with regard to the Ōtāhuhu site.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the statement in today’s Dominion Post by industry veteran Mr Govind Saha: “The New Zealand energy sector has no leadership and the electricity reforms have failed to deliver on their goals,”, and: “We have lost our way in the last six years … We are playing the game but we don’t have a captain.”, and does the Minister accept responsibility for that indictment on his Government’s energy policy?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I certainly accept that the Bradford reforms in the late 1990s were deeply flawed and that we have some way to go to fix all the defects that were left, but we are making progress.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I made it plain to the House that the comments I was quoting were in today’s Dominion Post—not in 1989—and the quotes referred to the last 6 years, and under my maths that takes us back to the year 2000. I seek for the Minister to answer the question and not simply try to hide it away by talking about who might have been in Government 8 years ago, which is well outside the quote that I gave.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am happy to respond to that, because the point the quote made was that the reforms had not worked—and I agree.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with this statement made by Roy Hemmingway on TV3 last night that on 19 June—only a week after the Auckland blackout—“We were caught a bit flatfooted. We did not have the generation available to meet that specific couple of hours because plants in New Plymouth, Huntly, Roxburgh, and Manapōuri were out.”, and what steps will the Minister take to ensure that the Electricity Commission is not caught flatfooted yet again?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would say that when Mr Hemmingway said “we” he was not referring to the Electricity Commission; he was referring to the New Zealand electricity system. I agree that on that night, when we did have record demand—we had the highest demand ever recorded in New Zealand—we coped, but only just. One of the reasons it was “only just” was that some of the plants that should have been—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: People’s lights got turned out. There were blackouts that night.

Hon DAVID PARKER: People’s lights did not go out in Auckland as a consequence of—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It was in the Bay of Plenty.

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, not as a consequence of there being inadequate generation on the night—no, they did not. But I do agree that we only just coped. The reason we only just coped was that some generating plant that one would expect to have been made available was not. I also agree that that again undermines one’s confidence in the current policy settings.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table today’s Dominion Post—

Hon Trevor Mallard: No.

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I can understand that member is a bit edgy, because he was the previous Minister of Energy with responsibility for the policy settings that the current Minister has just criticised.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the House please settle, and would the member please get on with his leave application.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the article quoting comments made at the energy conference held in Wellington this week, where this Government’s energy reforms were damned and it was said that we had completely lost our way in the last 6 years.

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

Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table Transpower’s June newsletter, which has a very nice photo of Dr Smith inspecting progress on the new line between Blenheim and Stoke.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to have clarification of the page the Minister wants to table. Can he confirm that that is an existing line between Stoke and Nelson, not a new line?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot. I can confirm—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: So we can hear the answer, as we have sought a clarification, would members please be quiet.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that it was one of two projects on that page, including a 123 kilometre line, where an additional line was put—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: There’s no new line.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Oh, it is not a new line? A new line is not a new line—well, that is a new line!

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

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware—and if he is not, will he inquire—as to how many shackles, bolts, or what have you, have been found to be condemned since the Ōtāhuhu mishap, and if it is a significant number, does he share the view that perhaps the best service the Government could do is to have the lines and what have you inspected by an independent organisation, as occurs, for example, in the maritime industry?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have so far been advised of two additional D-shackles that were in need of repair, or removal and replacement, at the Ōtāhuhu site. It is possible that there have been others replaced in other parts of the country that I am not aware of. The Connell Wagner report discloses that the reason for the corrosion of those particular shackles was the electrical bonding of the join, if you like, between the end of the earth wire and the facility to which it was attached was not of the best practice and, therefore, it led to corrosion of the D-shackle. The remedial measures to avoid that sort of problem recurring in the future are set out in the Connell Wagner report.

Aid—New Zealand’s Contribution

11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he agree with Bob Geldof that our low aid level is “the great shame of New Zealand” and that “the spirit of the electorate” is “not being made manifest by the pathetic 0.27 percent this Government gives to the poorest people on the planet”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): No.

Keith Locke: Given that the Pacific has been deemed to be the region most likely to fail to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, how can the Government have an excuse for not having any timetable to move from the measly 0.27 percent of gross national income (GNI) in foreign aid, to the international standard of 0.7 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The “measly” figure the member refers to is in the broad order of $400 million a year. To achieve 0.7 percent would take approximately an additional $700 million a year. New Zealand also provides additional income to the Pacific by way of remittances, which run to many hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Our aid has been praised in terms of its quality; it is not tied. And we were one of the first countries to remove all tariffs on the least developed countries, a move that the Green Party opposed.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that no other country counts remittances in its overseas aid, and is the quality of our aid so great that our measly 0.27 percent of GNI somehow compares with the six European nations that give in excess of 0.8 percent of GNI and the many other countries that approach the international standard of 0.7 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, our figure is actually almost exactly the weighted average for the OECD countries that give aid. A number of OECD countries are not actually aid donors at all. The European countries the member refers to have very much higher per capita GDP than New Zealand has. Finally, I note that Ireland, the home country of Mr Bob Geldof, has received far more over the last 20 years by way of remittances from the European Union than it has given by way of foreign aid. If the European Union cares to give us a few billion dollars a year, I am sure I will have no difficulty in raising our foreign aid by $700 million a year.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that the increase in development assistance in the Budget last year—21 percent—gave us, in fact, the highest-ever level of official development assistance in this country’s history?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is indeed true. We have moved from 0.22 percent to 0.27 percent—and, indeed, next year it is due to reach 0.28 percent—of GDP. No doubt we would all like to do more, but I must say also that whenever we increase aid I get a lot of letters asking why I am not spending that money on hip replacement operations, new roads, or something else.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister check his figures—because I think he will find that the OECD average is actually 0.42 percent of GNI—and will he review the projection he just mentioned, to increase our aid level from its current 0.27 percent to 0.28 percent in the next Budget; if not, could he explain how he will reach even the intermediate target of 0.35 percent by 2010 that Labour promised before the election, let alone the international target of 0.7 percent by 2015?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are large demands on next year’s Budget. The party that the member belongs to would like me to spend nearly $1 billion on electrifying the Auckland railway line and on building a loop within that railway line. That, of itself, would cost more than the amount required to raise our aid budget to 0.7 percent for 1 year.

Foreign Nationals—Health-care Costs

12. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: How much debt is currently owed by foreign nationals to district health boards, and how much of this debt has been written off in the past 12 months?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): In the coming financial year the Ministry of Health will provide $2.6 million to cover the cost of bad debts to district health boards. This includes cover for ineligible patients. I am advised that this figure is about half the total cost.

Hon Tony Ryall: How much is owed to district health boards by foreign nationals currently; and would the Minister in answering that question—the Minister having had notice of the question since well before 11 o’clock—confirm the total of $7 million publicly revealed by seven district health boards?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have tried to give the member the best information I have, and I will try to put it succinctly. The debt appears to be of the order of $5 million a year, of which the Ministry of Health pays about half.

Hon Tony Ryall: It’s already $6 million.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Well, it depends on whether the member has more than 1 year in his figures. The debt is concentrated substantially in the three Auckland district health boards, with a little bit in Tai Rāwhiti as well.

Hon Tony Ryall: How can the public have any confidence that the Minister realises New Zealanders are missing out on much-needed care because of illegal immigrants getting operations in public hospitals, when he has not even bothered to make rudimentary inquiries about the sheer scope of that debt across the country—a matter that has been repeatedly raised with him by district health boards?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The fact of the matter is that not all district health boards send this information in centrally. I will say to the member that our best guess is that the figure is of the order of $5 million a year. However, I say also that any person who is acutely unwell in this country and goes to a New Zealand hospital will receive treatment without question. It is unethical not do that, and we will continue to do that, because this Government is a compassionate one, and this country has some compassion—and if the last train to compassion has just left the National Party, then that is that party’s problem.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that people with hepatitis B, hepatitis C, renal failure, HIV, and cancer have been granted residency by Immigration New Zealand and have subsequently turned up on the doorstep of the Auckland District Health Board looking for treatment at the taxpayer’s expense; if so, has he discussed this matter with the Minister of Immigration?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member will be aware that the Government’s immigration rules not only are strong but also have recently been tightened. She is correct to point out that some people who are recent immigrants to New Zealand rock up with expensive health conditions, but we need to look a little more closely. Some of these people were granted permanent residency before they developed their condition, and others were granted permanent residency for compassionate reasons—such as the woman who ended up on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times. That woman was 7 months pregnant. Her child will turn 4 in 2 months from now, and he has a mother.

Hon Tony Ryall: How many New Zealanders would be spared being culled in the Minister’s culling of hospital waiting lists, if the Government would only enforce its own immigration rules instead of—as happens at the moment—allowing illegal immigrants to use our valuable tax dollars for elective surgery under the Minister’s sloppy and ineffective system?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If the total cost is $5 million—I have not, in the time, been able to confirm that, but it is of that order—then we are dealing with a situation in which of every $1,000 spent on health in this country, about 50c goes on bad debt. That is the perspective the member should keep in mind. I will say again that any person—tourist, illegal overstayer, or whoever—who goes to a New Zealand hospital acutely ill will be treated, and questions will be asked later. It is not ethical to turn people away, and in this country we do not do so.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister like to keep this perspective in mind: his willingness to do absolutely nothing about the number of illegal immigrants getting surgery in our hospitals means there are not the resources to get treatment to people who have been culled off waiting lists, such as the woman who was forced to have a colostomy bag put on because this Government culled her off a waiting list—what is he going to do about that woman?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If the member wants to do angry, I invite him to reflect on this. Ten months ago he stood on soapboxes around this country and said: “We don’t need increases in health expenditure; we can afford tax cuts.” Had his party formed a Government, there would not have been $750 million extra in 1 year in the New Zealand health system, because his party in Government would have given it away in tax cuts. There is a word for that, and it begins with “h”.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two reports—one that shows that the three Auckland district health boards are owed in excess of $4 million by foreign nationals, and a second report that shows lower North Island district health boards are owed close to $2 million.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.

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

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