Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 19 July 2006
Wednesday, 19 July
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Taito Phillip Field—Ingram Report
2. Butter—European Commission, Suspension of Trade
3. Immigration Applications—Ministerial Discretion
4. Export Year 2007—Tax Relief
6. Local and Central Government—Relationships
7. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Design Issues
8. General Practitioners—Shortages
9. Kyoto Protocol—Emission Projections
11. Westpac New Zealand Bill—Westpac Banking Corporation Asset Backing
12. Varroa Bee Mite—South Island Infestation
Questions to Members
New Zealand Bill—Submissions and Evidence
2. Westpac New Zealand Bill—Westpac Banking Corporation Asset Backing
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Taito Phillip Field—Ingram Report Conclusions
1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What concerns did the Ingram report she released yesterday outline about work carried out by four Thai people on Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa, and does she agree with the statement in the report “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.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Dr Ingram expressed concern that the workers may have worked on the house out of gratitude or some other sense of obligation, although he found no direct evidence of that. In respect of the second part of the question, the statement is correct, but I do not consider further expenditure of public money warranted.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister accept that it would be a total abuse of office for any member of Parliament to seek the exercise of discretion by the Minister of Immigration on behalf of foreign nationals, and receive in return, in effect, slave labour from those foreign nationals; if so, why will she not authorise the further inquiries identified by Dr Ingram as being required to get to the bottom of the matter?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I have learnt from this very comprehensive and thorough report is that there were significant errors of judgment. The member should note that Mr Field is no longer a Minister.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry, but I was not able to hear the Prime Minister’s response to that question. Of course, those of us down here in the Chamber would be keen to hear her on this subject.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for reminding the House that it is important that people hear not only the questions but also the answers.
Darren Hughes: Has the Prime Minister seen any other reports calling for further inquiries into these matters?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed I have. I have seen a call at 3.36 p.m. yesterday from Dr Brash for me to order a commission of inquiry. I have seen a further report of a call at 5.11 p.m. from Gerry Brownlee, saying: “I think the first point to clear up is that we are not calling for a commission of inquiry.” Which is right?
Tariana Turia: Would the Prime Minister consider that the contribution by the Exclusive Brethren to the National Party is similar to people painting Taito Phillip Field’s house, or are there two standards of conduct operating?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have wondered whether, in return for services by the Exclusive Brethren, the National Party would take certain stands on moral issues. However, I am sure the Brethren have been thrown into some confusion by Dr Brash employing the organiser of the Big Gay Out to organise his engagements.
Heather Roy: Does the Prime Minister accept that the real problem she has with Taito Phillip Field is that she has no moral authority to deal with his abusing his position of privilege, as she herself got away with signing a painting that she did not paint, sped through South Canterbury at 170 kilometres an hour and declared it was not her fault, and broke the electoral law by spending $400,000 of taxpayers’ money on the pledge card at the last election; with that sort of leadership, is it any wonder that her Ministers behave in the same way she does?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If I were an ACT member, I would not be drawing attention to expenditure of parliamentary budgets. I have all the authority I require to deal with Ministers, and I note that Mr Field is not a Minister.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister accept that this Parliament has the absolute right to establish conclusively whether Mr Field did, in fact, receive the benefit of slave labour on his house in Samoa in return for immigration favours; if so, why is she standing in the way of Parliament being able to get to the bottom of the matter?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would like the National Party members to sort out what they are calling for. Is it a commission of inquiry, as Dr Brash wants? Is it not a commission of inquiry, as Gerry Brownlee says? What sort of inquiry is it?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I invite the Prime Minister to release the entire transcript of my comment, because, as she said today, Mr Ingram could find no more than he found because of the limitations of his inquiry. An inquiry conducted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908 would give him that authority, and the question is why she wants to stop that.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; it is a matter of debate.
Dr Don Brash: When did the Prime Minister become aware during the past 10 months that Dr Ingram was being hampered by key witnesses refusing to talk to him, and what action did she take to ensure that Dr Ingram was given the power he needed to get to the bottom of the matter?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not aware that at any time Dr Ingram requested other powers. Indeed, I would like to refer to that part of the report where Dr Ingram stated: “Even if I had possessed the power to administer oaths, and to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, the process of inquiry may not have been significantly more satisfactory.”
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister not understand that the only interpretation that can be placed upon her refusal to get to the truth of Mr Field’s conduct is that she is participating in a cover-up of Mr Field’s improper and possibly unlawful activities; if so, what does that say about the credibility of her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course it does not mean that. It means that, as Prime Minister, I consider that quite enough money has been spent on this matter. I have drawn clear conclusions from it, Mr Field is not a Minister, and I confidently expect that Dr Brash will now pass the baton to the next member because he has run out of puff.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister accept that for a member of Parliament to accept slave labour in return for immigration favours would be nothing short of corruption; if so, why is she prepared to allow that in her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have seen no evidence whatsoever of slave labour. But what I have drawn from the report is that there were errors of judgment, and I have acted accordingly.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does she consider the outcome of the Noel Ingram inquiry to be satisfactory in respect of the behaviour of Taito Phillip Field, when Noel Ingram himself has stated that he has been unable to establish whether Thai immigrants assisted by Mr Field painted the interior of a house owned by Mr Field in Auckland, and has said that he is concerned by “the unsatisfactory nature of the explanations provided by Mr Field in relation to that painting”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Again, I draw the member’s attention to Dr Ingram’s view that even if he had had the power to administer oaths and order the production of documents, the inquiry might not have been significantly more satisfactory.
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister consider the term used by a previous questioner, “slave labour”, curious coming from the man who has always opposed having a minimum wage?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, there is a rich irony in the Leader of the Opposition’s position. I understand that he was prepared to see wages fall to their clearance level, which would probably have meant people paying to do the job.
Butter—European Commission, Suspension of Trade
2. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Trade: What steps has he taken in response to the decision by the European Commission to suspend butter trade from New Zealand?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Trade): We clearly had a very serious situation with the announcement by the European Union that it was going to suspend our butter trade. On hearing of it on Friday night, I immediately sent electronically a letter to the agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, pointing out the serious consequences that such a move would have. I followed that up first thing on Monday morning, European time, with a personal call to commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel. I pointed out to her that it would be very damaging to New Zealand trade, that there was a need for the butter that had already been shipped out from New Zealand to be able to be licensed so it could be sold on the supermarket shelves, and that we then needed to deal as soon as possible with the problem posed by the regulations being ruled invalid. I was very pleased to get a positive response from the agriculture commissioner. She has honoured her word and she has acted in support of New Zealand exports.
Dianne Yates: What specific steps has commissioner Fischer Boel taken in response to his representations?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The most important specific step that she has taken was in response to the specific request that I put to her, which was to allow all butter that was either on the water or in bonded warehouses in Europe to be able to be licensed and therefore sold. That means that Fonterra can have its product on the supermarket shelves through until at least October of this year. That reduces the risk of disruption to our trade while we get on and encourage the European Union to respond by redrafting the regulations as quickly as possible, but obviously in close consultation with New Zealand.
Dianne Yates: On what basis did the commissioner agree to make this change, and will the suspension be lifted by October?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The commissioner accepted our arguments that it was necessary in order to respect and protect the legitimate expectations of the trader concerned and to provide for smoother trade flows, while respecting the judgment of the European Court of Justice. The suspension of the butter trade will actually occur once the new regulations replacing those that have been ruled invalid are put in place. I hope that with a real effort by the commission, working with our officials, that task can be accomplished within the required time frame and without any serious disruption to the trade.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the silence from the Opposition members, will the Minister accept the thanks of the House and the people of New Zealand for his prompt and efficient work, and does he accept that it is a sad state of affairs that the National Party cannot even congratulate him on that very good work?
Hon PHIL GOFF: To be fair, I have discussed the matter with Tim Groser. This has been a difficult situation, and I am pleased that in trading matters generally the Government receives the assistance and support of all parties in the House.
Immigration Applications—Ministerial Discretion
3. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: What discretion, if any, does he or an Associate Minister have in relation to immigration applications, and how does he exercise such discretion?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): The Immigration Act 1987 gives broad discretion to the Minister of Immigration in relation to immigration decisions. The majority of applications are decided by immigration branches according to Government policy. Decisions outside policy can be referred to the Minister, and the majority of those are delegated to the Associate Minister.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the Minister expect a discretion to be exercised to direct a work visa to be issued to someone who had shown such contempt for New Zealand law as to be an illegal overstayer for 8 years and working illegally during that time, and someone who had also been declined refugee status, such as Mr Ingram has reported was the case of Mr Siriwan, who was given such a direction by the Associate Minister in June 2005; if so, why?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is important to note that all matters regarding the Ingram inquiry do not fall within my jurisdiction as Minister of Immigration. With regard to the general point about the criteria used for exercising discretion, it is important that Ministers can, and do, have regard to all of the relevant factors. They, of course, receive representations from members on both sides of the House.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the Minister expect a discretion to be exercised to direct the cancellation of a removal order by the border and investigations branch and the issuing of a work visa to a person who had been an illegal overstayer in New Zealand for almost 5 years and who had been deported from New Zealand following her being declined by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority on two separate occasions; if so, why?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In general terms, every case is different, and Ministers must have regard to all factors placed before them. It is important to note—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: It is very difficult to hear. Would the Minister please continue.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is important to note that such cases are put before Ministers by members from both sides of the House, and all are given an opportunity to comment on draft decisions.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What action would be taken by the Minister of Immigration on finding that a submission made to him by a fellow Minister seeking that he grant a work permit under section 35A of the Immigration Act to allow an illegal immigrant to continue working and supporting his child was false because the child was not, in fact, in New Zealand, as was the case with Taito Phillip Field’s submission on behalf of Mr Siriwan, as reported by Noel Ingram QC?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that matters pertaining to the Ingram inquiry do not fall within my responsibilities as Minister of Immigration and that, in general terms, all cases must be decided on their individual merits.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the Minister expect a discretion to be exercised to direct the issuing of a work visa, as an exception to policy, on the submission made by a fellow Minister, when the submission involved the person working without pay for that fellow Minister and the person had been seen at the home of that fellow Minister by the Minister of Immigration, as was the case in Mr Field’s submissions in respect of Mr Siriwan?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: For the fourth time, I say that thinly veiled references to matters already covered in the Ingram inquiry have been dealt with within that inquiry.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister think it is unduly onerous for Ahmed Zaoui to have to wait over 3 years for the assessment of the security risk certificate hanging over him to be completed; and, in view of the indefinite extension of the security risk certificate process by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, will the Minister entertain either lifting the security risk certificate applying to Mr Zaoui or, alternatively, allowing Mr Zaoui’s wife and children—all of whom are recognised as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees—to have at least temporary residence in New Zealand while that process is being completed?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There is a due and lawful process under way in respect of that case, and it would be inappropriate for me to prejudge matters upon which I am at some point due to receive a briefing.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question asked whether it was unduly onerous and whether the Minister would entertain the two alternatives I have proposed. For him just to talk about a process is not answering the question.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that there is a due and lawful process under way, which I will not prejudge. In respect of the second of the member’s points, I will say that I have received an application for Mr Zaoui’s family to come to New Zealand, and I have declined that on the ground that the process is still under way.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In relation to two or three questions that I have asked in the last few minutes, the Minister has declined to accept responsibility as the Minister of Immigration for decisions made under the authority of the Minister of Immigration. I seek your ruling that the Minister cannot avoid responsibility and accountability to this Parliament. He is the Minister of Immigration; he is accountable for decisions made directly by him and his Associate Minister.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member’s questions pertained to specific historical cases that were the subject matter of the Ingram inquiry.
Madam SPEAKER: As I heard the Minister’s answer, he said he was not responsible for the report and then went on to address the question relating to immigration. So, in effect, that is not a valid point of order. He addressed the question relating to immigration, in this sense, by pointing out what the approach and the policy is on that matter. He may not have done it specifically, but he did address that question on the approach.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My recollection of the Minister’s response is different from your own. I do not recall the Minister saying to the House that he was not responsible for the report; he said he was not responsible for the matters that were the subject of the report. That is a very different response. I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that to the extent that the matters covered by the report fall within the purview of the Minister of Immigration, he indeed is so responsible, and should, therefore, answer questions accordingly.
Madam SPEAKER: As I said, of course the Minister is responsible for matters relating to immigration. He did address the question on that—obviously not to the satisfaction of the member, however.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you missed the point. In Mr Cunliffe’s last answer you will recall that he said, in a somewhat supercilious fashion, that for the fourth time he made the point that the question related to matters in the report for which he was not responsible. That is simply not the case. Whether the matters are in the report is irrelevant to the responsibility he has to Parliament to account for his portfolio responsibilities.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the Minister, specifically, direct the issuing of a work visa, as an exception to policy, on the submission of a fellow Minister, involving a person working without pay for that fellow Minister, and whom the Minister saw in Samoa in that fellow Minister’s house, prior to making his direction that a work visa be issued to that person—does the Minister accept accountability for that decision?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member is referring to a hypothetical set of circumstances, then I decline to give a hypothetical answer. If the member is referring to an actual case that he wishes to put before me, he is most welcome to do so.
Export Year 2007—Tax Relief
4. R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports regarding the virtues of providing tax relief to aid the performance of exporting companies, and is he considering providing tax relief for exporters as part of Export Year 2007?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The most recent report of many I have received on this and similar matters is from David Skilling of the New Zealand Institute, along with comment in support of it. All aspects of business taxation are being considered as part of the business tax review, which is a provision of the confidence and supply agreements with both New Zealand First and United Future.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister see the potential value in changes to the taxation regime for exporters, especially in the wake of recommendations of the report of the New Zealand Institute, which outlines changes to the tax regime as an important part of providing incentives for New Zealand business to expand into overseas markets?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly I believe that these matters are worth considering alongside other changes within the taxation system.
Shane Jones: Has the Minister seen any reports on the priority that should be accorded to changes to business tax, such as tax relief for exporters?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports indicating that no specific tax relief should be given to exporters and that any relief in business tax in general should wait until after some billions of dollars a year of personal tax relief—and only if it can then be afforded. That was a National Party policy at the last election.
John Key: Is the Minister of the view that New Zealand companies that export to America could, in fact, be in need of some export incentives following the performance of New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, who clearly set back our relationship with America by rudely interrupting Senator John McCain, a friend of New Zealand; or will the Minister reserve his view about tax incentives for New Zealand companies that export to America until we see whether they are in even greater need post Mr Peters’ meeting with Condoleezza Rice?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure the slightly hurt feelings of two or three New Zealand reporters who were asked to leave the interview as a result of a misunderstanding will not affect New Zealand’s trade with the United States.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand First has been a key contributor to the discussions surrounding Export Year 2007, and that New Zealand First has long advocated policies aimed at boosting our trade performance, such as tax abatement schemes on new exports?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that New Zealand First has consistently promoted support for stronger exporting and, indeed, for savings—unlike some parties in the House, which regard both savings and exporting as somehow irrelevant to economic performance.
5. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Is she satisfied that police effectively prioritise their time and resources; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): In general, yes. The responsibility for prioritising time and resources rests with the commissioner and the district commanders, but it is clear that some confusion has arisen in some districts in the past around traffic enforcement priorities. I was pleased to see in today’s Manawatu Standard that district commander Mark Lammas, whose district has been in the news lately, makes it clear that Commissioner Broad’s 5 July policy directive is to be the only basis for all traffic enforcement. At the end of the question I will seek to table that article from the Manawatu Standard and an 18-month-old memo from the Levin police that illustrates the need for Commissioner Broad’s clear policy statement on 5 July around road policing enforcement policy.
Simon Power: Does she stand by her previous statements that the police do not have traffic ticket quotas; if so, how does she reconcile them with the memo from Levin police that states that for those officers who did not issue the “required level” of tickets it may “affect their annual pay increments” and that if they did not want to issue tickets they would be busted down to part-time employees and “lose 20 percent of their pay”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Shock, horror, probe! There is not, and never has been under this Government, a quota for tickets. I cannot—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I ask members, for the last time, to give to those who are replying to questions the same courtesy that is given to those who ask questions, to enable them to be heard.
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is not, and never has been under this Government, a quota for traffic tickets. I cannot confirm what the policy was under the previous Government. The memo the member is talking about is from a senior sergeant at Levin Police Station, written 18 months ago. I think it is important, as I said in my first answer, that any misconceptions from the police around issuing tickets as a quota should be cleared up, which is exactly what the Commissioner of Police has done with his directive. I am pleased there is now a very clear directive from the commissioner, because it reflects the Government’s policy, not some policy made up by a police officer.
Metiria Turei: How does the Minister explain to the families and victims of various serious crimes that the police are using precious time and resources to arrest paraplegics, tetraplegics, and wheelchair-bound people for the medicinal use of cannabis, when 63 percent of New Zealanders believe that doctors should be able to prescribe cannabis as a medicine to patients who desperately need it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I can justify the action of the police in arresting people who break the law. It is against the law to smoke cannabis. Unless there is a change in the law, the police have every right to arrest people who break the law.
Simon Power: Does she stand by her response to my written question, received yesterday, which states that the police do not receive bonuses, financial or otherwise, if they issue a particular number of traffic offence notices; if so, how does she reconcile that with the Levin memo that states, with regard to “good performers”, that their performance appraisals will reflect this fact and “I’m also looking at some other benefits to top performers.”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Again, no, there is no bonus given for the issuing of tickets, but I am not going to make any excuse for the police not carrying out their duty to reduce crime, crashes, injury, and death on our roads. If that member wants to make a big issue out of tickets, rather than concentrating on the big picture, so be it. Most New Zealanders want our roads to be safer. Most New Zealanders do not want to receive a call in the middle of the night, telling them that a loved one has been killed. They want safer roads. The only people who get tickets in New Zealand are people who break the law. I can only assume that member supports lawbreakers.
Russell Fairbrother: Can the Minister provide an example of what she considers to be the police effectively prioritising their time and resources?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I am pleased to tell the House that 30 search warrants were executed in Wairoa today by the police. That has led to 16 arrests for a range of criminal activities, and 11 of those arrested are gang members. I think that is a good example of prioritising around organised criminal activities. I am sure Chester Borrows, MP for Whanganui, will be pleased to see that the British police who chose to go to Wairoa are helping to make an impact already.
Simon Power: Can the Minister give the public an assurance that issuing traffic tickets is not being given priority over other crimes, when police officers like those who received this memo are told: “While I realise that some staff may have more skills at catching crooks than writing tickets, I do expect that all staff will get involved in traffic enforcement.”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: All general duties police are expected to be involved in road policing and other policing duties. I make no excuse and no apology for that. I believe it is right and proper than when police are out in their cars, they also police what happens on the roads. For the life of me, I cannot see what is wrong with that.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that as a result of the confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First, there is now a greater priority given to significantly increasing police numbers, thereby increasing police time, and how does that compare with the previous National Government’s priority of addressing crime by way of the INCIS computer and cardboard cut-outs, thereby reducing police time?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That is the irony of questions from the National Party on policing, because not only was the National Government responsible for the issues the member has mentioned but also it was responsible for a report on the police that, if it had been implemented, would have seen police being removed from the beat—not 100 police but many hundreds. The infamous Martin report would have decimated the New Zealand Police. The police have not forgotten it, and they certainly will not forget the commitment to them from this Government and New Zealand First.
Simon Power: Does the Minister think it is appropriate to pressure police officers to issue a certain number of traffic tickets by not only threatening to dock their pay but also posting up a “name and shame” list that ranks officers according to the number of tickets they issue per hour?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not think that is appropriate behaviour. [Interruption] I think that rather than the member opposite screaming across the House, in an effort to get his name on television again in his leadership bid—Mr English, if members would like me to name him—if he were to read the press release from Mark Lammas, who is the district commander, he would see his response to that memo. It really distresses me that all the Opposition does is to attack the New Zealand Police. No matter what the police do, the Opposition attacks them. How about a bit of praise and support for the fantastic job that they do, day after day? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I cannot hear what the Minister is saying. Would she please repeat her answer.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am very happy to do so. I am most distressed at the Opposition tactics of day after day—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I am serious about this. Members are trying to listen to answers as well as to questions. Some members will be asked to leave the Chamber unless they keep the level of disruptive intervention down. Would the Minister please succinctly answer the question.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You are quite right, of course, Madam Speaker. I am one of the quiet ones who is trying to hear the answers, but the difficulty that occurs is that the Minister, rather than addressing the question, is using the opportunity to take pot-shots across the House. That is what brings the House into disorder. I am sure that if the Minister addressed the question, rather than going outside the Standing Orders to make cheap political points, there would be a lot more order in this House. I suggest that we have a standard whereby just as we are required to stick within tight rules with regard to questions, so too when Ministers answer questions they are required to stick within tight rules.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In fact, of course, that latter point is honoured much more in the breach than in the observance on many, many occasions, and to talk about pot-shots being taken only in answers is to draw a very, very long bow indeed. We have to sit on the Government side of the House and listen to questions that include all sorts of pot-shots, and we have listened to them in total silence.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. I thank the member for his contribution, but normally those responses are also in response to interjections. So I ask all members, in asking and answering questions, to stick to the point. I ask the Minister to please answer the question succinctly.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am distressed that day after day Opposition members attack the New Zealand Police. They do not give the police the praise they deserve. Those people are out working for us 24/7, carrying out jobs most of us cannot even imagine, and all that Opposition members do is to attack the police. I am not responsible for the issuing of tickets; the police are. So although members opposite think they are getting at me, they are actually attacking the police.
Simon Power: Will the Minister now apologise to the Prime Minister for the embarrassment she must now feel, given that the Prime Minister has already told the country a number of times that the first central district memo was a daft one-off that had “nothing to do with police policy”, and that “I don’t think one swallow makes a spring”; or how many memos like this one will it take before the Government concedes that this is not a one-off event but is policy?
Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, no, I will not be apologising to anyone—and I certainly would not apologise to that member, who constantly makes up the story to suit himself. The first mistake he made was that it was not the Prime Minister who said that was a daft memo; it was district commander Mark Lammas. The Prime Minister quoted district commander Mark Lammas, who said it was a daft memo. It is interesting that this problem has come out of one district. The district commander addressed it in his statement today, but, more important, the Commissioner of Police addressed it in his policy statement on 5 July. There is a very clear policy statement for the New Zealand Police to follow. I will be judging the police on how closely they follow that directive.
Simon Power: Can she reassure the House that there are no further memos from any district instructing the police to give priority to ticket-writing over other crime?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot. What I can assure this House of, and those who are listening, is that there is no Government policy to have a quota for tickets. There is no such Labour-led Government policy, although I am happy to go back to see what the policy was under the National Government. But there is certainly no such policy under this Government. What I will be judging the police on from this day forward is the policy directive issued by the Commissioner of Police. I expect his directive to be carried out by police officers around New Zealand. Should there be memos that reflect anything other than that, then I would be very concerned, indeed.
Simon Power: I seek the leave of the House to table the memo under discussion, which reflects the fact that if a certain performance in respect of the writing of tickets is not met, that “may affect their annual pay increments”.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table the statement put out by district commander Mark Lammas’ statement in relation to that 18-month-old memo, which the member thought he had got as a scoop, when it was not.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. [Interruption] There is objection? The Minister asked for leave to table a document. I did not hear anyone object—
Hon Member: Yes, I did.
Madam SPEAKER: The member objects. I am sorry; I did not hear the objection. But if the member says there was an objection, then the document will not be tabled.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a convention, when leave is requested, that it is done without extraneous comments, and the Minister used extraneous comments. She should ask for leave properly.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind all members that when they ask for leave, they take note of that matter.
Local and Central Government—Relationships
6. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Local Government: What reports has he received, if any, on the relationship between central government and local government?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government): I heard a speech made by the President of Local Government New Zealand, Mr Basil Morrison, at the Local Government New Zealand annual conference on Monday. In this speech he welcomed investment by central government in building local government capability and commended the Government’s expanded and revised rates rebate scheme. Indeed, as I myself acknowledged yesterday to the conference, the building of the strong and mature, mutually respectful working relationship plays a critical role in ensuring the well-being of New Zealand.
Steve Chadwick: What other reports on the relationship between central government and local government has the Minister received?
Hon MARK BURTON: At the same conference, I heard another speech bizarrely directing local government to stand up for themselves—as though they do not—and to not be meekly steamrolled by Labour, as well as a further patronising description of local government leaders as “frustrated middle management” and “introverted in their thinking”. These insulting comments—and I want to assure members that local government leaders were deeply insulted—were made by the current National Party leader, Dr Brash. How this contrasts with a report I have recently seen that states: “This Labour Government is better connected to this city than any other administration in our country’s history.” That came from former Auckland mayor and former National Party local government spokesperson, John Banks.
John Carter: Does the Minister think that relationships between local and central governments, and between central government and ratepayers, are enhanced when the Helen Clark-led Labour Government continues to shift responsibility from central government to local government, as reported in the speech by Wellington mayor, Kerry Prendergast, yesterday, where she told the Local Government conference that the Wellington ratepayers will have to meet an extra $750,000 out of their ratepayer pockets to administer the Building Act, an extra $220,000 because of the Dog Control Act, an extra $160,000 because of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, in excess of $1,000,000 because of the earthquake legislation, that the Food Act will cost the Wellington ratepayers an extra $35,000, and that some ratepayers will have to meet more than a $4,000 rate increase if the water quality standards go through?
Hon MARK BURTON: Perhaps that is the speech Dr Brash should have tried yesterday. But, firstly, I can say that what does enhance the relationship is the response that was able to be given that in the last 6 years the investment from central government in local government has gone from 8 percent to 13.3 percent of local government’s entire expenditure; $665 million has transferred. Secondly, many of the matters the member raises are, of course, cost recoverable. Although National members may regard sanitary conditions and clean water as optional extras, New Zealanders do not. They demand First World standards, this Government is committed to them, and in my experience, most of Local Government New Zealand agrees with us.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind members this is question time, not the general debate. So both questions and answers should be asked and answered succinctly.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha ngā pūrongo kua tae atu ki a ia mō te kaha, ngoikore rānei o ngā kaunihera ā-rohe ki te whakatinana i te hōhonutanga o Te Ture Kāwanatanga ā-Rohe 2002 ki te “poipoi i a Ngāi Māori kia whaimana ai tana noho i aua rōpū ā-rohe”?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What reports has he received about the effectiveness of local bodies in implementing the requirements of the Local Government Act 2002, to “foster Māori capacity to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority”?]
Hon MARK BURTON: I have not received any recent reports, but I would be happy to follow up that matter with the member and give him a written response to his inquiry.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Design Issues
7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What is he doing to address National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) design issues that act as “disincentives to maximising student motivation and achievement” and “could have a negative long-term impact on persistence and endeavour factors seen as necessary for being successful in the future”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): The research the member is referring to found two areas of potential demotivation for NCEA. The first was the notion that 80 credits can be viewed as a maximum and not a minimum. The second was the fact that unit standards do not offer an excellence grade, which may demotivate students. Both of those issues are being looked at. The first is being looked at by trying to address the issue through awarding the certificate on the basis of the number of merit or excellence grades, and the second by considering whether unit standards should have excellence grades attached to them. Both of those issues have been looked at for some time by the Secondary Principals’ and Leaders’ Forum and the technical overview group, and I am awaiting some opinions from them.
Hon Bill English: What does the Minister plan to do about the large number of students who can, without record or penalty, show up to an exam, take a look at the questions, and decide they will not sit the exam—for instance, the 22 percent of the 29,000 pupils who entered for level 2 English this year, and who came along, looked at the exam, decided they might fail it, so walked out?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I cannot imagine that there is not someone sitting on the other side of the House with a university degree who has not had the same experience, but what this boils down to, according to Luanna Meyers’ research, is that we are looking forward to joining up effective teaching with NCEA, to provide better motivation and understanding for students who are sitting these exams. That is what she suggests should be done, and that is what we will focus on.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Why did the Government commission this research?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As members in the House will know, motivation is an issue in any assessment system. It has been an issue in School Certificate and university entrance previously. We wanted to know whether there were issues in NCEA we needed to address. The research told us that NCEA is fundamentally sound. It allows schools to shape teaching around the way different students learn. Students, teachers, and parents were overwhelmingly positive about the impact of internal assessment on study habits, behaviour, and achievement. Students are very positive about the mix of internal and external assessment. As I noted earlier, there were two areas of motivation that we thought needed to be addressed from that research, and they are being addressed.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the report referred to shows that students perceive unit standards to be easier than achievement standards; and could it be that the decision to include pass/fail unit standards in NCEA, made after the breakdown of the National - New Zealand First Government, has added significantly to the reported impact of NCEA on student motivation?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm that unit standards, of course, came into being under the previous National Government, which did not seem to feel the necessity for anything other than a pass/fail approach. That is one of the reasons we are looking at that now, to see whether we should join an excellence grade to that particular assessment process—and, once again, it is one of the ironies of having the National Party question the system when they invented the pass/fail system in the first place.
Judy Turner: Does he accept that not all students are being given the same opportunities to gain NCEA credits, due to inconsistent policy that sees many schools encouraging their students to resubmit improved work to get a second chance at failed NCEA credits, while other schools prevent their students from having this opportunity; if so, will he now insist that NCEA assessment rules are applied universally?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not know of any examples of students resubmitting the same work. If they did, all they would get is exactly the same response from the examiner. However, the system does allow for new work to be submitted, and that is something to be encouraged.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister informed schools that the published results for NCEA on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website include 163,000 void results, which makes a nonsense of the pass rates because they all count as failures for thousands of students who never sat the exam?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Schools are fully informed and the results are on the website so that schools can have a transparent assessment system, unlike the one that the member seems to favour, which would be School Certificate where no one knew anything about anything.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that schools have not been told that there are 163,000 void results, and that I have had to extract this information from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority after it first denied having it, then delayed publishing it, and then I had to do the analysis to show the difference between two full sets of national results, so there is no transparency about thousands of students who enter for an exam, turn up, decide that it is too hard, do not sit it, and suffer no penalty?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Given the common knowledge around schools that these figures exist, I just want to thank the member for his excellent work using the qualifications that he has gained over the years and making it available to schools that were not aware.
Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister, in answer to a previous question, say that this information was publicly available on the website and schools knew it, and then in answer to that question sneakily acknowledged that, in fact, it is not publicly available, that the Opposition extracted it, and that it is published nowhere—when is he going to start telling the truth in this House?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I said that my understanding is that all information is available. I have talked to many schools that understand exactly what Mr English is talking about. But if he wants to spend his days reanalysing figures, I thank him for doing that work.
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Is there a shortage of general practitioners in New Zealand; if so, where?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): In general, no. By international standards New Zealanders have very good access to general practitioner care, and, certainly, better access than in the UK, USA, Canada, or Australia. However, the distribution of general practitioners within New Zealand is creating problems in some communities, with the Kapiti coast being a well-known example.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does this Government continue to count the problem with endless reports, when Annette King herself was calling for action to keep general practitioners in New Zealand as far back as September 1999, at a time when the number of general practitioners in New Zealand was at a record high, and when year after year in her term as Minister of Health the number of general practitioners in New Zealand dropped—yet this Government continues to call for more reports?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me give the member an answer to his question. Since 1999 the following things have happened. The number of doctors entering medical school has gone up because the Hon Annette King increased the numbers. The number of general practitioners who are leaving New Zealand in order to pay the interest on their student loans may have dropped because, contrary to the best wishes of the National Party, this Government removed interest on student loans. But, wait, there is more! A Waikato University business school survey reminds us that since 1999, when the Hon Annette King made her comments, the profit per general practitioner owner has gone up by about 50 percent. I can further assert that for a salaried general practitioner, the value of a general practitioner has gone up since 1999, when the honourable member made her comments, by about 50 percent. What is more, between 2002 and 2003, and between 2003 and 2004—which are the latest statistics—the number of general practitioners in this country went up.
Moana Mackey: What reports has the Minister received on factors that could lead to a shortage of general practitioners in New Zealand?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have received reports that cuts to primary health spending in the order of $500 million would lead to increased doctors’ fees for patients, decreased profits for practices, the undermining of the long-term viability of practices, and the encouragement of an exodus of general practitioners from New Zealand. Unfortunately, that is the policy of the National Party and Tony Ryall. There is a word for those who shriek about general practitioner shortages and simultaneously plot to undermine New Zealand’s general practices.
Barbara Stewart: Have the Minister’s comments in May—that the health workforce was one of his main priorities for the 2006-07 year—resulted in any action as yet to head off the critical shortages in the general practitioner workforce predicted by the Medical Association in March this year?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The critical shortages that the member refers to are not borne out by the fact that general practitioner numbers have been going up in recent years. But, 19 days into the new year, I can say that we have made useful progress on the health workforce issues. I will be announcing some further details in a few weeks.
Sue Kedgley: What is the Government proposing to do about the fact that, since 1 July, nurses employed by general practitioners now earn up to $195 a week less than nurses in district health boards, and what is the point of handing over millions of dollars to primary health care when without pay parity we may not have the workforce to implement the Government’s flagship Primary Health Care Strategy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: This calendar year the taxpayer is investing $560 million into the primary health care sector. That, coupled with the fact that the Waikato University business school survey shows that the profit per general practitioner owner is now in excess of $150,000 net of tax, would lead me to the view that both parties are to be encouraged to reach a resolution in their forthcoming negotiations.
Hon Tony Ryall: What sense of urgency does this Government demonstrate with its own Health Workforce Advisory Committee’s final report, which states that it hopes its set of strategic principles will prompt wider discussion amongst the health and disability support sector, and lead to the development of yet another set of agreed principles, and these, in turn, will lead to the fulfilment of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee’s overall workforce vision; what does that do for the thousands of people around the country who cannot get on a general practitioner’s book, including a thousand people on the Kapiti coast, and the people of Horowhenua, where a general practitioner is now commuting from Kerikeri 3 days a week to provide service there?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member raises two separate issues in the one question. Let me attempt to address them both. The member may be aware that during the 1990s, in the area of the health workforce, precisely nothing happened, which was why there needed to be a period of scoping and advice. The advice was provided by the Health Workforce Advisory Committee and other groups. That period has now come to a conclusion. The Health Workforce Advisory Committee will present its final report in August, at which time I will wind it up. In respect of the Kapiti situation, I am happy to advise the member that, contrary to his viewpoint, 200 people have gone on to the books of that primary health organisation in the last 4 weeks—
Hon Tony Ryall: A thousand aren’t.
Hon PETE HODGSON: There was never a thousand; there was a total of about 500. The remaining 300 are being rung as we speak to see whether they have found a general practitioner. The member should get at least some facts right—one would be good.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Government not accept that, apart from a new Minister of Health, the best way to keep general practitioners and the rest of New Zealand’s workforce in this country is to cut personal taxes now?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Because to pay for those tax cuts we would need to strip hundreds of millions of dollars out of the primary health care system, we would need to put up fees to go to the doctor, and we would need to cut the after-tax profit of general practitioners. That is precisely what the National Party has in mind, and I am glad the member has outed himself on that point.
Jo Goodhew: Does the Minister not realise there is a crisis in rural New Zealand when people in Gisborne, Timaru, Blenheim, and the Kapiti coast cannot find a general practitioner to register with, when the Levin general practitioner commutes 3 days a week from Kerikeri, and when 1,900 patients from Waimate currently have no GP; it is all very well to invest millions in subsidised visits to general practitioners, but is it not of no use at all if there is no general practitioner to visit?
Hon PETE HODGSON: There are about 3,000 registered general practitioners in this country at the moment—give or take. Twenty-five years ago there were 2,000. That is what an increase looks like. In respect of rural health, it is interesting to note that the last report of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners pointed out that there are disproportionately more general practitioners in rural areas than in non-rural areas. But, yes, I do acknowledge there are problems in certain parts of the country—for example, Kapiti. Certainly, there are problems in Levin—the instance that the member raised.. The reason for that is that this Government has got a deinstitutionalisation policy going on from the Kimberley Centre. It will be finished in a few weeks, and this House should applaud the end of the era of institutional care.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a document of comments made by the Hon Annette King in September 1999—when the number of general practitioners in New Zealand was at a record high—calling for action to keep doctors.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Tony Ryall: The second document is a report from the New Zealand Government’s Health Information Service, which shows there are fewer general practitioners today than there were 6 years ago.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I seek leave to table a document with the results of a Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey, which shows that of five nations New Zealanders have the best chance of getting a same-day appointment, and the least likelihood of having to wait 6 days or more to see their general practitioner.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Kyoto Protocol—Emission Projections
9. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What is the latest projection of New Zealand’s emissions balance for the first commitment period from 2008-12 under the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): I am pleased to advise the House that the 2006 annual update of the projected emissions balance for the first commitment period is 41.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This is a decrease from the 64 million tones deficit calculated in December last year.
Hon Marian Hobbs: What expectation does the Minister have for the emissions projection and future?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The projection is based on many variables, and change in any one of them will affect the total. This volatility will reduce over time as we move from projections to measuring actual emissions during the first commitment period. That said, the climate change work programmes we announced earlier this month will deliver durable long-term policies, which I expect to improve New Zealand’s emissions profile.
Hon David Carter: What confidence can New Zealand have in the new calculations, considering the Government’s earlier claims that we as a country would be banking a cheque for half a billion dollars with the ratification of Kyoto?
Hon DAVID PARKER: As I already acknowledged, there is some volatility in these figures because they rely upon a number of variables, but, as I also made clear, that volatility will reduce as we get closer to the actual measurement of figures rather than projections.
Metiria Turei: Now that the liabilities are looking better, how much of the remaining liability does he think can be met by decreasing emissions and increasing sinks in New Zealand rather than buying credits from overseas?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Members may be aware that the work programmes that have been announced include a framework for assessment of the expected carbon emissions reduction as a consequence of the work programmes. So as those policy positions are finalised, the carbon effects of them will become clear.
10. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Commerce: How many new regulations affecting business has the Government introduced since 1999, and does she agree that this has put additional pressure on businesses?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): It is not possible to provide the number of new regulations affecting business gazetted since 1999 in the time available, as that would require an individual search of each regulation to identify whether it affected business, and then whether it was new or whether it replaced, in whole or part, an existing regulation.
Katherine Rich: Does the Minister accept Business New Zealand’s calculation that since 1999 over 2,000 new regulations affecting business have come into existence, many of which were not needed; if not, why not?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I understand that that is not a net figure.
Maryan Street: How does New Zealand compare to Australia in light of Gary Banks’ report, Reducing the Regulatory Burden: The Way Forward?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: New Zealand compares very well to Australia, and I remind the House that Gary Banks said we should not: “engage in a ‘race to the bottom’ and abandon worthwhile regulations. There are important economic, social and environmental goals that warrant regulation, and should not be traded off simply to improve business competitiveness.”
Katherine Rich: What is her response to the Business New Zealand – KPMG compliance cost survey showing that the average compliance cost per firm has risen from $45,000 in 2003 to $53,000 in 2005—a 17 percent increase in just 2 years?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am advised that the reason why the member left out reference to the 2004 year in that question is that, in fact, between 2004 and 2005 the costs of compliance recorded by respondents actually fell.
Katherine Rich: Does she consider the $28,000 spent on her business consultation website to be value for money, given that out of the 41 submissions received in the first 2 months of her review, 30 of them were entered into the website by her own officials?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As the member has been advised, that is a result of people who have been writing to me setting out their concerns. As we have not yet actually advertised the website, I would say we are off to a very good start.
Katherine Rich: What does she consider to be the greatest concern for business: her Government’s 2,000 new regulations since 1999, the increase in compliance costs by 17 percent in just 2 years, or the fact that she told the Commerce Committee that she models her commerce and small-business role on that of Judith Tizard, Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The most important thing for businesses is that they have the opportunity to succeed. They need to have the economic and social environment to do that. This Government is delivering for business.
Westpac New Zealand Bill—Westpac Banking Corporation Asset Backing
11. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Will he be insisting that Westpac Banking Corporation advise their New Zealand customers what assets and liabilities will be backing their investments, before they are shifted across to the new company Westpac New Zealand Ltd, as a condition of him advising the making of an Order in Council, which states the new company’s assets and liabilities, as provided for by clause 6 of the Westpac New Zealand Bill; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Assuming the bill remains unchanged on its passage through the House, and of course I cannot pre-empt that, the answer is no. I am advised that that would not be necessary.
Rodney Hide: Does he think that is adequate disclosure, when essentially the 1.3 million customers of Westpac are to be shifted into a new company compulsorily, and only after they have been shifted will they discover what their financial assets and liabilities are, through his Order in Council?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is, I think, factually incorrect. What is happening here is the culmination of a policy under, certainly, successive Governors of the Reserve Bank in terms of local incorporation of Westpac. I am advised that the Reserve Bank will ensure that Westpac advises its customers of the transfer, and the disclosure statement for the new entity showing its likely balance sheet will be available to customers before the transfer occurs.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister tell us why it is important that Westpac New Zealand Ltd be registered as a bank in New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is important in terms of the general framework of prudential regulation, and, in fact, because Westpac was different from all the other Australian-owned banks in terms of the structure it had.
Varroa Bee Mite—South Island Infestation
12. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki-King Country) to the Minister for Biosecurity: How long does he estimate the varroa bee mite has been in the South Island, and why did surveillance not pick it up sooner, as it has been confirmed in at least 41 sites over a 40-kilometre area?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister for Biosecurity): The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry estimates that varroa bee mite arrived in the South Island about 9 or 10 months ago. The surveillance programme that detected it is conducted each year in May and June. The varroa was first found on 15 June this year.
Shane Ardern: Why did the Government not already have in place a funding approval for an attempted eradication of the varroa bee mite in the South Island, given that the Minister himself has stated that it was only a matter of time before the bee mite would reach the South Island and we know from past experience in the North Island that delays in response eliminate the opportunity of eradication, and is there no one in this Government who is willing to make a decision, given that the Minister himself is overseas at the moment?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not think it was ever accepted that it was inevitable. I think Biosecurity New Zealand and the bee-keeping industry tried very hard to keep varroa from the South Island. The pest management strategy that was agreed to by the industry had an annual monitoring programme, varroa was detected, and Biosecurity New Zealand has acted immediately on that. It has to clearly identify the extent to which varroa is present in the Nelson region, and a decision on whether eradication or management will take place will be made very soon.
R Doug Woolerton: Do I take it from the Minister’s answer that he is absolutely sure that the varroa bee mite cannot be eradicated completely from the South Island?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The full report is yet to be analysed by the Minister. I would love to think that eradication was possible. The reality is that unless every single bee-keeper and keeper of bees in the Nelson region is prepared to be part of a management or eradication programme, it is virtually impossible to guarantee absolutely that eradication can take place.
Questions to Members
Westpac New Zealand Bill—Submissions and Evidence
1. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee: What submissions and evidence have been heard on the Westpac New Zealand Bill?
SHANE JONES (Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee): The Finance and Expenditure Committee heard evidence from the Westpac Banking Corporation and received advice from the Reserve Bank, Treasury, and the Inland Revenue Department.
Rodney Hide: Were submissions called for more widely, particularly giving an opportunity for the customers of Westpac to make submissions?
SHANE JONES: The member will be aware that under our Standing Orders, the member in charge of this private bill petitioned the House for it to be introduced. As a part of the petition, the member in charge of the bill gave notice to the House that the bill had been published for 2 consecutive calendar weeks in newspapers and that the bill was given to persons having a direct interest in it. I am only sad that the member who asks these questions has been absent from all of those meetings.
Westpac New Zealand Bill—Westpac Banking Corporation Asset Backing
2. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Member in charge of Westpac New Zealand Bill: Is she proposing any amendments to the Westpac New Zealand Bill to advise New Zealand customers of Westpac what assets will be backing their deposits before her bill shifts them into the new company Westpac New Zealand Ltd; if not, why not?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Member in charge of Westpac New Zealand Bill): No. The amendments are in the hands of the Finance and Expenditure Committee.
Rodney Hide: Does she think it is fair on the customers of Westpac to be compulsorily shifted into a new company without knowing what assets and liabilities will back their investments, particularly when the Government is being careful with its $750 million tax claim against Westpac, which will not be with the new company that is being set up?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have two responses. First of all, the vesting order process provides, I think, transparency for New Zealand customers. Second, I am slightly worried by the compliance costs that would be borne by the New Zealand customers of Westpac if his process were carried out.