Questions and Answers - Thursday, 20 July 2006
Questions and Answers - Thursday, 20 July 2006
Questions to Ministers
Early Childhood Education—Accessibility
1. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to put quality early childhood education within the reach of all New Zealand families?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Today I am announcing $9 million in new grants to assist 42 early childhood education providers to plan for and build new early childhood centres. The funding, which goes to low socio-economic, rural, and isolated communities, will provide for nearly 500 new places across New Zealand’s growing network of early childhood centres.
Moana Mackey: What else is the Government doing to lift the quality of early childhood teaching and lower the cost to all parents?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Heaps, but I will just limit myself to the following. Through this year’s Budget, the Government will invest an additional $162 million in early childhood education. That includes $128 million to implement Labour’s policy of 20 hours a week of free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds, $30 million to help centres to employ more qualified teachers, an extra $4 million to ensure playcentres remain financially sustainable, and, overall, ensuring that people carry on remembering how much Labour is doing for early childhood and how little National did.
Hon Tau Henare: Does the Minister believe that the downgrading of the Parents as First Teachers programme in the Hawke’s Bay is something that he is doing to put quality early childhood education within the reach of all New Zealanders?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It has not been downgraded.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister explain why a parent who works 5 hours per day for 4 days will have 20 hours of early childhood provision subsidised by the Government, whereas someone who works two 8-hour days will have only three-quarters of his or her childcare subsidised?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is referring to the fact that we have agreed with the early childhood sector that we will introduce the free 20 hours at 6 hours per day. The reason it is being introduced in that way is that the current way of funding the early childhood education sector is for 6 hours per day. The sector agrees with us that we should introduce this new policy with current arrangements, monitor it, and change it when necessary.
Foreign Affairs, Minister—Confidence
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
Dr Don Brash: Does she believe the behaviour of the Minister in Washington yesterday, when he interrupted Senator John McCain, potentially the next President of the United States, as the senator was in the middle of answering questions from journalists; if so, why?
Hon Maurice Williamson: Ah McCain, you’ve done it again.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, he has; he has supported New Zealand. Indeed, “McCain, you’ve done it again.”—I thank Mr Williamson for that. There is no indication that Senator McCain took any offence. He probably was not used to the aggressiveness of the New Zealand media in seeking interviews.
Dr Don Brash: How can she possibly be happy that Mr Peters rudely interrupted the man who could be the next President of the United States when he was in the middle of comments lavishing praise on New Zealand, advocating a free-trade deal with New Zealand, and suggesting that New Zealand should be regarded as an ally?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, of course, what Senator McCain was saying was that he did not see our nuclear-free policy as any impediment to a free-trade deal, which is directly contrary to what Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith PhD has been trying to tell the country for umpteen years.
Peter Brown: Can the Prime Minister confirm that all official reports—and I stress “official reports”—show that the New Zealand - US relationship has indeed been enhanced by the visit of our foreign Minister and that any person looking at the substance, against the spin, would see that the language and tone used by senior US officials demonstrate clearly the strengthening of this relationship?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, and, of course, Mr Peters also had a fruitful meeting with Condoleezza Rice—another person who could be the next President of the United States. Of course, if Mr Peters were to meet all the people who could be the next President of the United States, he would be very busy indeed over the coming months.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister think it is telling that Mr Peters had no press conference with the US Secretary of State after his meeting with her today and that his meeting with her was cut short, from 1 hour to 30 minutes, and does she not think that Mr Peters may well have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, Mr Peters does not model himself on the Leader of the Opposition.
Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that it is not the practice of the Secretary of State ever to have a press conference with another foreign Minister after their meetings, though the Secretary of State would do so for the Prime Minister of New Zealand, such as when Colin Powell had that meeting and described our relationship as being “very, very, very close friends”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is my understanding, and, indeed, United States politicians hold far fewer press conferences than their counterparts in New Zealand are accustomed to holding.
Heather Roy: Is Winston Peters a better person for the job of Minister of Foreign Affairs than his predecessor, the Hon Phil Goff, or is Mr Peters’ appointment simply the price that this country has to pay for the Prime Minister to keep her job as Prime Minister?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: They are different but both excellent men in their very different ways. But I do note that Mr John Key was boasting some months before the election that National had already offered the Foreign Affairs job to Mr Peters.
Keith Locke: Did Mr Peters raise with American leaders New Zealand’s abhorrence at the gross human rights abuses at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre; if not, why did the Government miss such a valuable face-to-face opportunity to express New Zealanders’ concern that a country such as America is so undermining international human rights standards?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no information on that point. It would seem particularly inappropriate to have done that with Senator John McCain, who has himself raised some questions about those matters.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that the Prime Minister cannot give us the specific information now, could the Prime Minister find out whether Mr Peters did raise that question and report back to the House?
Madam SPEAKER: Is that a supplementary question?
Keith Locke: No, it is a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, it is not a point of order, but I remind the member that he could put it down as a written question.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen the comments of veteran reporter Barry Soper, who described the Minister’s behaviour in Washington yesterday as “embarrassing, arrogant, and insulting”, adding that it was the most embarrassing thing he had seen in 26 years of travelling with Ministers and Prime Ministers, and does that assessment not cause her to review the wisdom of appointing Mr Peters as the Minister of Foreign Affairs?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the last point, I would remind the member that his colleague Mr Key was boasting some months before the election that National had offered that job to Mr Peters—and I have no doubt that if that had been the price of a coalition with National, National would have paid it.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree with the account in Mr Peters’ press release of yesterday’s incident, or does she believe the statement by Barry Soper that the release was “full of untruths”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The press release I have relates to a productive trip to Washington for Mr Peters. It outlines whom he met, it states that we have a longstanding relationship with the United States, and it states that the discussions raised were across a wide range of areas. All of those seem to be purely factual statements to me.
Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to confirm that this is not the first time that a particular Television New Zealand reporter has engaged with politicians under one auspice only to portray the result on national television as being something completely different?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Modesty prevents me from commenting on that question any further.
Question No. 3 to Minister
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki): I seek leave to correct the second word in the question—“whakapona” should read “whakapono”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Te Reo Māori—School Programmes
3. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Education: E whakapono ana ia ki tā te Kaiwhakahaere Matua o Te Taura Whiri i te Reo a Haami Piripi i kī rā, “kāre te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga i te whakamanako i Te Reo Māori, ā, kāre hoki i te whakauru āhuatanga Māori ki roto i ngā hōtaka ako o ngā kura”, koinā te kaha aro pono mai o taua tari ki Te Reo Māori, āe rānei, kāre rānei; ki te kore he aha ai?
[Does he believe that “the Ministry of Education does not give te reo Māori the acknowledgement that it should and is failing to push Māori in school work programmes”, as stated by Māori Language Commission Chief Executive, Haami Piripi, is a true reflection of his ministry’s commitment to te reo; if not, why not?]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): No. I understand that the comment was from a discussion on the Te Karere programme about the need to strengthen our acknowledgment of Māori language learning in the school curriculum. The new draft curriculum, which is being launched on 31 July, includes specific acknowledgment of Māori language learning. I am also pleased to announce that, for the first time, a draft curriculum to support the teaching of te reo Māori as a curriculum subject is being developed. That is due to go out for national consultation at the end of this year, following regionally based trials.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha te take e pānui atu ana Te Ara Reo a-Iwi i ngā ara ki Te Reo Māori ki Aotearoa whānui mō nga Tari Kāwanatanga e ono, arā, Te Tari Hiranga Tangata, Te Ratonga Manene, Te Tari Koporeihana Whare, Te Tari Taiwhenua, Te Koporeihana Āwhina Hunga Whara me Te Tari Pirihimana engari, e ngaro nei Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Why does the Office of Ethnic Affairs Language Line advise New Zealanders that they can request Māori language services at six Government departments—namely, Work and Income, Immigration New Zealand, the Housing New Zealand Corporation, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Accident Compensation Corporation, and the New Zealand Police—but the Ministry of Education is not included in that list?]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was not aware that they were not being referred to the Ministry of Education. It is probably because of the very wide range of schools, which of course would deal directly with parents who were concerned about the issue. But I am happy to take that up with the member and see whether it would be a useful development.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What else is the Government doing to support the teaching of te reo Māori in New Zealand schools?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government supports the full range of te reo Māori learning. That includes providing nearly $18 million a year to support teaching in Māori immersion, $7 million a year for Māori medium resources, $5 million over 4 years for the teaching of Māori in mainstream settings, and $500,000 through Budget 2006 to develop a Māori language education outcomes framework. I should say that today my colleague Parekura Horomia is launching a radio dramatisation of the first Māori language novel. It was developed in partnership with the Māori Language Commission, and will be a welcome addition to the resources currently available in the Māori language.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha i kore ai a ia i kite i ētahi pūtea hōu mō ngā rawa ā-reo Māori nei i te wā e umere ana ngā kura mō aua rauemi?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Why did he not seek any funding for Māori language resources, at a time when schools were screaming out for such resources?]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will just take the member back to the fact that we already have, in the Budget, substantial money that is still being rolled out—$18 million around Māori immersion, $7 million around Māori medium resources, and other areas in the Budget, like the $500,000 for the language education outcomes framework. There is the fact that we are regionally trialling the curriculum I mentioned before, and the fact that next year it will go out nationally. All that funding is there already. That is why I do not at the present time need additional funding above that. We have a large amount to implement right now.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Hei whai haere i te whakaaro nui o Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o te Rotoiti ki te whakamōhio i te kupu ‘kura’ i te taha o te kupu ‘school’ i ō rātou tohu ā-kura, he aha tā te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga i te taha o LTSA ki te whakakōhatu i Te Reo Māori hei reo tūturu i Aotearoa nei?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Following the initiative of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Rotoiti to introduce the word “kura” alongside the word “school” on their bus signs, what work has the Ministry of Education initiated with the Land Transport Safety Authority to affirm the official status of te reo Māori?]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member is right. That is a matter for Land Transport New Zealand, but I have personally made it clear that I am comfortable with having both words on the bus.
Taito Phillip Field—Ingram Report
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) on behalf of GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does the Ingram report exonerate and vindicate Taito Phillip Field of any wrongdoing?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): On behalf of the Prime Minister, as I have said, Dr Ingram found that no conflict of interest existed or appeared to exist between Mr Field’s private interest and the use of his influence as a Minister. The report did find significant errors of judgment.
Hon Bill English: Why does she regard the actions of a millionaire MP, who used formerly illegal immigrants as slave labour in return for political favours, as only “errors of judgment”, not political corruption?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member may use as much pejorative language as he likes. Those are not the findings of the report.
Hon Bill English: Can she confirm to Parliament that the Ingram report examined Taito Phillip Field’s conflict of interest only in his capacity as Minister of the Crown, not in his capacity as a member of Parliament; and why did Labour refuse leave for a Privileges Committee inquiry, which can investigate his conflicts of interest as a member of Parliament?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the first matter, the member is, of course, correct. Those are the terms of reference. If the member would stand back from the particular circumstances of the case and think about the circumstances in which the Government would start launching inquiries into the affairs of members of Parliament, as opposed to Ministers, he might have pause for thought.
Hon Bill English: Can we take it from the last answer that the Prime Minister agrees with the view of the National Party that Taito Phillip Field’s actions as a member of Parliament have not been investigated, were not covered by the Ingram report, and therefore ought to be investigated?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Quite a range of matters in relation to Mr Taito Phillip Field’s role as a member of Parliament were investigated. It was not an appropriate matter for Mr Ingram to conclude anything in relation to conflicts of interest in that respect. If we were to have a commission of inquiry every time allegations were made about a member of this House, we really would have a very large number—starting off with any number of members on all sides of the House.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister not see the difference between allegations made about members of Parliament in a general sense, and highly specific information contained in the Ingram report, which suggests, if not describes, paying workers below the minimum wage and not paying PAYE or GST—actions regarded by her Government as exploitative and potentially illegal for every citizen of New Zealand except Taito Phillip Field, where they are apparently not meant to be investigated and are regarded as simply errors of judgment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The matters the member raises can, of course, be brought to the attention of a range of authorities that act independently in those matters. I note the member’s support for the so-called 90-day bill that removes the rights of all workers.
Hon Bill English: At this time of the 90th birthday of the Labour Party, which was celebrated in a high-profile event in Taito Phillip Field’s electorate, can she outline how using slave labour in return for political favours is consistent with the principles of equal opportunity for all, and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said before, the member may use as much pejorative language as he likes; those are not the findings of the independent report. I note that the one person in this House who I know opposes any kind of minimum wage and wants to remove most protections that workers have is the Leader of the Opposition, who has given speeches on that matter frequently in the past.
Hon Bill English: Does this Prime Minister have any sense of shame about any action she is willing to defend, if it prolongs the stability of her Government and her period in office, or will she surprise everybody by acknowledging that this is the worst breach of standards of public life in a long, long time and there ought to be severe consequences for it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If we had a commission of inquiry on every member of Parliament, we might well find that that statement was not true.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister now telling the House that the reason why these matters should not be investigated further is that they are actions that are similar to actions taken by every other member of Parliament, and can she understand why the rest of us might find that grossly insulting?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but what the member seems to have ignored is that Mr Phillip Field is no longer a Minister, was not reappointed to the ministry, and has not been reinstated—whereas National kept everybody on, no matter what they did when they were Ministers.
Hon Bill English: Can we take it from the Prime Minister’s statement that when she removed Taito Phillip Field from the Cabinet after the 2005 election, she already knew what matters were going to be brought forward by this inquiry?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of allegations had already been made. That is why the inquiry was being held. That is why Mr Phillip Field could not be reappointed to the ministry while the inquiry was under way. Mr Field has not been reinstated, unlike Dr Nick Smith, who, found guilty of contempt of court, kept his place on the front bench of the National Government.
Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency—Legislation
5. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of State Services: Does the Government still aim to introduce legislation to the House this month to set up an Australia New Zealand therapeutic products agency; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of State Services): No. Consultation on the proposed Australia - New Zealand therapeutic products agency is ongoing.
Sue Kedgley: Has she seen Australian consultant Val Johanson’s damning report predicting that if New Zealand joins the Trans-Tasman therapeutic goods agency, compliance costs for natural health products will escalate, over 50 percent of small dietary supplements businesses will close down or move offshore, and the cost of natural health products will significantly increase; and can she explain why she would want this to happen in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have seen that report. I do not agree with everything in it, but certainly, in terms of the consultations, we are looking at ways we can ensure that those who make complementary medicines in New Zealand will not be unduly affected by the cost of compliance.
Darien Fenton: Has she seen the reports from opponents of the scheme stating that traditional Māori medicines and healing would be legislated out of existence; and is this correct?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have seen such reports. Their information regarding Māori and other traditional medicines is wrong. The authors have been told that is the case, but for their own purposes they continue to peddle this misinformation.
Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister acknowledge that there has been significant public opposition to the agency, and that the establishment of the agency is in doubt because New Zealand First will not support the accompanying legislation; if so, for how long does she intend to pursue this rather futile exercise?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I will continue to negotiate a joint regulator until all the issues have been finalised. It will then be up to this Parliament whether the proposal is accepted. But I would note that this regulator and the negotiations around it have been almost 10 years in duration. They started under a National Government and continued under this Government for the very good reason that we are progressing our joint relationship with Australia. This proposal is seen to be an advance on CER, which I think it is to the benefit of New Zealanders.
Sue Kedgley: Why has the Government spent $6 million to date on a project that has never had parliamentary endorsement or approval, and why will the Minister not admit that she does not have sufficient support in this House to get the legislation through, and that she does not have support amongst most people in the dietary supplements industry; why will she not call it quits, stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and convene a working-group across all parties in this House to come up with a New Zealand - based alternative?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Because more than those in the complementary medicines sector are involved in this joint regulator. I am certain members of this House have received letters from those in the pharmaceutical industry who are in favour of it, from those in the over-the-counter industry who are in favour of it, from those in the medical devices industry who would like to see changes but are in favour of it, and from some of those in the complementary medicines sector who want to see regulation that protects New Zealanders. What I have not ever been able to understand from that member is why New Zealanders should have to put up with this sort of thing happening in this country. These are herbal medicines, complementary medicines, that have to be withdrawn from our market because they are not regulated in New Zealand. These so-called complementary medicines have in them undeclared prescribed medicines. They have been put into the so-called complementary medicines, and that is able to happen because we do not regulate them in this country.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with Marcus Blackmore, head of Blackmores New Zealand, that in Australia regulatory creep has resulted in a drug-based model of over-regulation, of unnecessary red tape that is too complex, too costly, and bears little relation to the public risk involved; and does she further agree that we should have random testing of all products in New Zealand under the present legislation, that all members of Parliament in this House agree that we need a simple regulatory system that will ensure all complementary medicines are true to label, and that it should be in existence now with random testing?
Hon ANNETTE KING: If it were so simple that all one needed in a regulatory system was a random test, then we would have a very poor system indeed, because it is exactly what we have now. The only way these products are detected is by a random test. What we ought to have is good manufacturing practice and, in every part of the process, knowledge of what has been put into the product. That does not occur in New Zealand. We find out by chance in this country, by a spot audit, not by products being manufactured in a proper way, as is done in every First World country around the world.
Foreign Affairs, Minister—United States Visit
6. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Trade: Is he confident that the current visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the United States will have a positive effect on the effort to get a New Zealand - United States free-trade agreement; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Trade): Yes, I am reliably informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that Winston Peters had a very successful meeting with Condoleezza Rice this morning. Trade matters, of course, are not specifically within the Minister’s portfolio, but I am told by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that the meeting was characterised by both sides as being friendly, constructive, and forward-looking, which I believe is very positive for our overall relationship.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister judge Mr Peters’ meeting with Senator McCain yesterday to have been a success; if so, how?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I judge that meeting on the substance of the meeting, and again I am informed that it was a positive and constructive meeting with a senator whom both Winston Peters and I have met before in New Zealand, and who is a very strong supporter of New Zealand’s case, both for the resumption of training in military matters and for a free-trade agreement. I judge it on the substance of the meeting, not on the spat that might have occurred between some journalist and the Minister because they had a disagreement.
Dianne Yates: How does the Minister assess the level of support within the United States’ political and business sectors for free-trade agreements with New Zealand?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There is very strong support within the corporate business and congressional sector for free-trade negotiations. If I use as an example Tom Donohue, who is the President of the US Chamber of Commerce, or Governor John Engler, who is the President of the National Association of Manufacturers, I can say that both have been strong advocates for such an agreement. Within Congress the New Zealand caucus now has 65 members. Included amongst those members, or supporters, are Senator John McCain and Senator John Sununu, who both, on leaving New Zealand, after meeting with Winston Peters and myself, wrote personally to the President advocating for such an agreement.
Hon Murray McCully: In what way did the decision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Peters, to interrupt Senator John McCain in mid-sentence as he was promoting the case for a free-trade agreement between New Zealand and the United States advance the prospect of such an agreement being reached?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I understand that the Minister was advised that this was a photo opportunity only. He has a certain amount of time for discussions with his counterparts and he did not want that time to be taken up with questions from journalists who could have asked those questions after the meeting.
Dianne Yates: What support is there within the administration for starting free-trade negotiations, and what is the likely time frame?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs is Chris Hill. He has been very supportive of New Zealand’s case, much more so than I can remember of anybody in the administration over the last 6 years. I have to say that both the former US Trade Representative, Rob Portman, and the current Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, have shown some sympathy for New Zealand’s position. It is likely, however, that major negotiations that are taking place between the US and Korea and Malaysia, which are amongst their top trading partners, will take up most of the time that is left within the current trade promotion authority. I think our position at the moment should be to position ourselves for the next opportunity to come up when there is a new trade promotion authority.
Hon Murray McCully: If the approach taken by Mr Peters in his discussions with Senator McCain yesterday was as successful as the Minister has just told the House it was, can we take it he will be using such an approach as his own model for future negotiations overseas; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I think the Minister and I have slightly different approaches in these matters, but I can assure the member that the independent reports I have from those who were at the meeting—and neither the member or I were there—were that this was a substantive, positive, and constructive meeting. The fact that there was a disagreement between the Minister and the media is neither here nor there in relation to his good relationship with his counterparts.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister believe that the earlier statement made by him that the Government’s relationship with Mr Peters is the sort of relationship one has with one’s mother-in-law has any application in relation to events in Washington yesterday; if so, what is that application?
Hon PHIL GOFF: With due deference to my late mother-in-law, I had a fantastic relationship with her, but I do know that she liked her own space and I like my own space.
Hon Murray McCully: Has the Minister been advised why it was that Dr Cullen was appointed Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs in Mr Peters’ absence, rather than himself as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and can he reassure the House that no adverse conclusions should be drawn regarding his working relationship with Mr Peters as a result of that oversight?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member can be absolutely assured of that. The member may be aware that I am frequently out of the country on trade business. For the sake of continuity it is very good to have the Deputy Prime Minister acting in that role.
7. R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he believe that high-value, high-tech products developed from a huge, stable commodity base provide more certainty for increased exports than new, unproven enterprises?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: Yes, to a certain extent. But we do need a balanced portfolio of products, and that means added value products from our existing product base and new products that either use new technology or exploit emerging new market opportunities.
R Doug Woolerton: Has the Minister put any proposal to Cabinet seeking more funding for the Waikato Innovation Park; if not, will he consider doing so in the near future to aid the expansion of innovation within the pastoral sector, which remains the backbone of our economy and export industry?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: At the moment we have received no formal request for additional funding for the Waikato Innovation Park. Of course, an initial $2 million was funded. The park has been so successful that it is now looking for further space, and initial discussions are under way with the park around the financing of that.
Immigration Service—Ministerial Discretion
8. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: What accountability, if any, does he accept for decisions made when ministerial discretion is being exercised in giving directions to the New Zealand Immigration Service on cases that are exceptions to policy?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): The Minister of Immigration is accountable for decisions being made when ministerial discretion is being exercised.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why was a ministerial discretion exercised, in response to submissions from Phillip Field in the case of Mr Sunan Siriwan, to direct that a work visa be issued, when Mr Siriwan had been an illegal overstayer in New Zealand for 8 years, working illegally during that time, and had also been declined refugee status—a ministerial decision that an experienced immigration consultant described publicly as “defying logic and precedent”?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I clarified yesterday, and upon which you ruled, Madam Speaker, the Ingram inquiry does not fall within my responsibilities. Ongoing immigration matters do.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yesterday I listened very carefully to your ruling, and it is out of order for the Minister to quote your ruling to reinforce his position. You did not rule yesterday that the substance of the Ingram inquiry was outside the responsibility of the Minister. In fact, yesterday our member did not ask questions about the Ingram inquiry itself; he asked questions about matters that were raised in the inquiry. So we seek from you a reassurance that the Minister will not be able to use your rulings to reinforce his wish not to answer any of these questions.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker, although I have no wish to draw the Speaker unduly into the debate, I note that yesterday’s ruling stated, according to the uncorrected transcript: “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.”
Madam SPEAKER: I will rule on the point of order. As I recall yesterday, I ruled that the Minister was not responsible for the report but is responsible for matters relating to immigration—not the report itself. Therefore, perhaps we could have the question again for the benefit of members—not an additional supplementary question, but the same question—then we can start again.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why was a ministerial discretion exercised, in response to submissions from Phillip Field in the case of Mr Sunan Siriwan, to direct that a work visa be issued, when Mr Siriwan had been an illegal overstayer in New Zealand for 8 years, working illegally during that time, and had also been declined refugee status—a ministerial decision that an experienced immigration consultant described publicly as “defying logic and precedent”?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Ministerial discretion is exercised because no two cases are alike and not all circumstances can be foreseen when policy is written. It is important that policy and practice are humane as well as robust. Members on all sides of the House accept this when they put forward representations for ministerial discretion.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why was ministerial discretion exercised, in response to submissions from Phillip Field, to direct that a removal order be cancelled and a work visa issued to Ms Phanngarm—the partner of Mr Siriwan—who had been an illegal overstayer in New Zealand for almost 5 years, who, Noel Ingram said, the Refugee Status Board had found to be “an entirely incredible witness”, and who had been declined refugee status four times and deported?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I have said, no two cases are the same. Ministerial discretion is exercised on the basis of the information made available to the Minister at the time. If members opposite have additional information they wish to put forward in relation to a current case, then that, of course, will be considered.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why was ministerial discretion exercised, in response to submissions from Phillip Field in the case of Ms Ngaosri, to direct that a 12-month work permit be granted, when Ms Ngaosri had been an illegal overstayer in New Zealand for some years after having been declined a request for a special direction by the Minister in 2001, and declined refugee status in both 2002 and 2003?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If members opposite are going to trawl through every exercise of ministerial discretion by members on this side of the House, then I am sure they will be interested in some of the decisions of the Hon Tuariki Delamere or, for example, of the member who asked the question, when he was Associate Minister of Immigration.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Has the Minister investigated whether there were any unusual circumstances in the pattern of decision making involved in the 262 special directions given by his office over the period 2003-05 inclusive, in response to submissions on immigration cases from Taito Phillip Field?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Current and past Ministers and Associate Ministers have received submissions from all sides of the House. Some members work harder than others. The member Dr Lockwood Smith has put forward 21 submissions in the last 3 years, which is not as many as his colleague Mr John Key has put forward.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister very specifically whether he had investigated whether there were any unusual circumstances in the pattern of decision making involved in those 262 special directions in response to Taito Phillip Field’s submissions. That was a very specific question. The Minister may not wish to answer it, but he has either investigated those decisions or he has not, and the House has a right to know.
Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, no member has a right to a yes or no answer. The Minister did address the question, though obviously not to the satisfaction of the member.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Can the Minister confirm that several members of the House asked the Minister of Immigration to intervene in the multiple case of Chinese Indonesians who had claimed refugee status in New Zealand and had had their claims declined, and who remained in New Zealand and worked in the country illegally, on the advice of a pastor of a church in Auckland, and supported by the MPs?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I can confirm that current and past Ministers of Immigration have received requests for discretion from members on all sides of the House.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was a special direction given in the case of Mr Bulakorn Nakhen for him to be issued with a work visa in February 2005, or did the New Zealand Immigration Service issue the visa in response to a letter it had received from Phillip Field in which he sought, according to Noel Ingram QC, to “ ‘clarify the understanding’ he had allegedly reached with Mr O’Conner whereby Mr Nakhen ‘would be allowed to re-apply for re-entry via a legal permit preferably a Work Permit …’ ”; and does the Minister consider it acceptable for either a fellow Minister or a member of Parliament to write directly to the New Zealand Immigration Service telling it of agreements allegedly reached with his office?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that in the case mentioned by the member, no ministerial discretion was exercised.
9. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What work is being done to improve the oral health of New Zealanders?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: In addition to the $40 million child and adolescent oral health package announced in the Budget, the Government will be undertaking the largest oral health survey in New Zealand’s history. The survey will involve over 7,000 participants, and has been welcomed by the New Zealand Dental Association.
Sue Moroney: What reports has the Minister received on factors contributing to a decline in the oral health status of New Zealanders?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have seen reports that a lack of dental therapists has resulted in more children developing cavities. Māori, Pacific, and rural children have been the hardest hit. Amazingly, the lack of dental therapists is a direct result of the National-led Government’s decision to completely stop training new therapists. The Labour-led Government has restarted the training programme, and the first new graduates entered the profession late last year.
Judy Turner: When will the Minister step in with some money so that the Catholic Sisters of Compassion no longer have to fund a Saturday dental clinic for children in Lower Hutt, who currently cannot access services in a timely way when needed?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government has already announced expenditure of $100 million over the next 5 years for dental services. It is the first time, for a long, long time, that we have seen a real commitment from a Government to oral health services in this country.
10. 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 district commanders. I accept, however, there has been some confusion over the past few years, about the concept of performance measures in regard to traffic enforcement. That confusion was put to rest by Commissioner Broad’s policy directive on 5 July.
Simon Power: Does she stand by her statement made in the House yesterday in relation to the two central district memos pressuring officers to issue more traffic tickets: “It is interesting that this problem has come out of one district.”; and does she still think it is interesting that there is now a third memo—this one from Marlborough and dated 6 June—ordering all officers to issue at least two traffic tickets a shift, until the end of the financial year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I do stand by what I said yesterday. It is surprising that the two memos came out of one district, but the member might be interested to know that the story he has just quoted was in the Marlborough Express in June.
Russell Fairbrother: The Minister mentioned in her primary answer that there has been confusion over performance measures; does she have any other information on this?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have been trying to get to the bottom of the confusion, and members might like to listen. I have done a lot of work on the issue. It is now apparent that the use of infringement notices and traffic offence notices—performance measures—was first introduced in 1997-98 in line with Treasury guidelines. I also have with me the New Zealand Police road traffic enforcement agreement 1999-2000, and it lists the data that must be provided by each district. The data includes speeding offences detected per hour, drink-driving offences detected per hour, and contacts per hour, to name but a few. This particular agreement was signed by one Clem Simich, Minister of Police, and by transport Minister, Maurice Williamson. I also happen to have with me a 1997 press release that says: “Police have to issue a set number of traffic tickets and detail their time on the beat this year, as part of a Government push to make the force more businesslike.” I am glad I have finally got to the bottom of why districts have been allocating tickets on individual police numbers. I am glad I have got to the bottom of it, at last. I can say that the issue is finally being cleared up by the new Commissioner of Police. I can tell members that no such performance indicators now exist. When the member opposite stands up and tries to blame it on this Government, with a hidden agenda, New Zealanders should have a look at what was going on.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that both questions and answers are meant to be succinct, and that continuous barracking does not aid those who wish to hear the answers to hear them.
Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was a speech. If the Minister wants to reply in that manner she should call a press conference. Not only that, her answer was allowed to continue; it should have been stopped a lot earlier. When there is barracking from this side of the House—and on many occasions you have said there is too much noise coming from this side—it cannot be stopped when a Minister like that carries on in that manner, which was giving a speech, not giving a response to a very clear question. [Interruption] There should not be interjections when I am speaking. I ask that you ask the Minister to apologise for her response to these matters.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Are you speaking to the same point of order?
Ron Mark: Yes, I am. I rise to take this point of order because I could not hear the detail of the answer. Given that New Zealand First was the first party to raise the issue of quota ticketing in the House, I was extremely interested to hear the quotes from the documents—in particular, the times and the Ministers involved—but with the barracking and the noise, despite no matter how hard the Minister tried, I could not hear. It is partly due to the fact that I have suffered hearing loss on one side, due to my military service, but that is just something that—[Interruption] Mr Power may disagree with what I am saying, but it is against the Standing Orders to interrupt on a point of order, as Mr Ryall knows. Both members should be ejected from the House if equality is truly to be applied.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think I should, in all fairness, admit that Government members were doing a fair amount of the barracking on that occasion, for which I apologise. We were, of course, stunned to find out that these actions were the result of National Party decisions in 1997. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I know it is Thursday, but members should just settle. We are nearly at the end of question time. I have ruled on the matter. If I am asked to intervene each time there is a long question or answer, it will be accompanied by a whole lot of points of order objecting. I ask members to actually exercise some control in these matters.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that in order to make issuing traffic tickets a “first priority” and “everything else is secondary” for front-line officers, the Tasman district commander pulled the plug early on “Operation Vanquish”, which targeted real crime including dishonesty crimes and, according to the memo, had made “a fantastic impact into Marlborough’s crime scene and criminals”, and how can she still claim that traffic tickets are not being given priority over real crime?
Hon ANNETTE KING: My understanding from the Tasman district is that it had one of the highest rates of road crash and deaths for a district in New Zealand. I happen to have the comments that the superintendent made at the time. He stated: “Our staff are the people that knock on the doors and tell people that fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, are dead. They remove seriously disfigured human bodies from roadsides. We have the power to change this. We have the duty to do so.” I would prefer to take the word of Superintendent O’Fee, who actually faced that high death toll in the Tasman district and wanted to do something about it.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister received any reports about the Hon Tony Ryall, when he was the spokesman for law and order in the National Party, cautioning New Zealand First about attacking the quota ticketing controversy because it really was about road safety and getting the number of lives lost down, and if she has not seen those reports, would she like to have one?
Madam SPEAKER: No, the Minister has no responsibility for that.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Ministers are routinely asked to comment on whether they have seen reports, and they are always permitted to answer questions on whether they have seen reports on matters relating to their portfolio. This is clearly a matter relating to the Minister’s portfolio; it is about quota ticketing. It is clearly a matter that has been debated in the House by Mr Ryall and myself, and it is about a report I am asking the Minister to comment on, and the conclusion to my question is, if she has not had such a report, would she like one? She is perfectly able to comment on that.
Madam SPEAKER: No, normally there are not comments on shadow reports in the way in which the member has phrased the question. He would perhaps like to reconsider while I call the next supplementary question.
Russell Fairbrother: What would be the likely impact of cutting back on traffic enforcement?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think it is very clear that when the policy to insist on indicators for district performance was brought in under the previous National Government, we started to see a drop in the number of road crashes and road deaths. I do not know why National members would not want to take some credit for it—they do not—but I have to say that because the New Zealand police have been policing to reduce deaths and injury on the roads, we have seen a dramatic drop from around 700 deaths in 1999 to about 404 deaths last year. A lot of people’s lives have been saved in that time.
Simon Power: If what the Minister claims is correct and the purpose of prioritising traffic tickets over other crime is to save lives, why do all these memos mention the end of the financial year as the target?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I would imagine it was because in the original agreements, which go right back to 1991, they were done in a year and were signed every year. I would imagine that is the case. But I think it is time we accepted that New Zealand does have a high road toll, we have too many people hospitalised from accidents, and we should stop making excuses for people who receive tickets when they break the law.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In your generosity you have given me an extra attempt to ask that question in a manner that is acceptable. Are you saying that it will be counted as the first of my supplementary questions?
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, you can have your supplementary questions.
Ron Mark: Well, I shall come back to that, thank you Madam Speaker. Is it not a fact that the controversy causing the public such angst in terms of traffic ticketing and quota ticketing has its roots in the previous National Government’s decision to merge the traffic officials into the police and that National Government’s decision to require beat officers and detectives to issue traffic tickets, and will the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and Labour not look at that issue in respect of evaluating the costs and benefits of demerging traffic officials from the police? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I have asked members to take notice of the fact that questions and answers should be succinct. I would also note that in supplementary questions it is one supplementary question. So would the Minister succinctly reply to one of those matters, please.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The decision to include infringement notices and traffic offence notices as performance measures against speed, drinking, restraint, visible road safety enforcement, etc., commenced in 1997-98.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s not a quota.
Hon ANNETTE KING: That was when the numbers of tickets that needed to be issued was first decided. I say to the House that the effect of that decision has seen the road toll come down and lives saved, and I wonder why members opposite do not take some credit for the fact that the number of lives lost started to come down then.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the policy directive from Commissioner Broad came on 5 July—after the first memo came to light—and would that policy ever have changed, had these revelations not been brought to her attention?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot say for sure, but I would wonder, when they came to light in the newspaper as a headline in 1997, why it was not fixed by National members then if it was such a problem. If it was such a problem, why did they not fix it then? That is what I would ask. But I have been the Minister for 9 months, and the issue came up in that time—in July. I then set about addressing the issue with the commissioner. That has been done.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister not accept that a lot of this controversy arises as a result of the National Government’s decision to merge the responsibility for traffic with the police, and is it not New Zealand First’s intention to work with the Government, under the confidence and supply agreement, to evaluate the costs and benefits of demerging traffic enforcement from police duties during this term of Government?
Hon ANNETTE KING: A review into the merger of road policing and general policing is being undertaken by the State Services Commission, and will be reported to both parties in November this year.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree that although, in the Prime Minister’s words, “one swallow does not make a spring”, three memos do make a policy, and can she reassure the House that there are no further memos instructing police to give priority to ticket writing over other crimes—since she was not able to give that assurance to the House and the public of New Zealand yesterday?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I said in this House yesterday that I could give no such assurance. I am being upfront, because I cannot give such an assurance. But I also said that I would be interested if there were any memos of that nature after 5 July. I would be concerned, if that were to happen, and would ask the Commissioner of Police to account to me for it.
Simon Power: I seek leave to table said Marlborough police district memorandum that requires the district commander’s priority to issue two traffic tickets per shift.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is the agreement of the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Police with the Commissioner of Police, 1999-2000.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table a press release from July 1997, where the police are told to issue a set number of traffic tickets and detail how they spend their time.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. There is objection.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table an article about Superintendent Grant O’Fee, district commander for the Tasman Police District, regarding Operation Life, in which he says it is his staff who have to knock on the doors of people when their families have been killed.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask for guidance, please. Given that the Minister, in answering that question that I did not even get to hear, was quoting from official documents, my understanding is that under the Standing Orders it is not a question of her having to seek leave to table those documents—thus giving National the chance to veto such leave to save embarrassment—she is actually formally required to table those documents. Is she not?
Madam SPEAKER: No. No one sought leave to have them tabled. The member, at the time, should have sought leave if he had wanted it. Can we please move on?
Ron Mark: I seek leave under the Standing Orders, given that the Minister quoted from official documents in giving an answer, for her to table those documents.
Madam SPEAKER: She has tabled them.
Civil Defence and Emergency Management—Wairarapa and Wanganui
11. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Civil Defence: Was he satisfied with the response of regional civil defence and emergency management personnel in the Wairarapa and Wanganui regions in the last 2 weeks; if so, why?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Civil Defence): I am very satisfied with the response of the local civil defence personnel during the periods of adverse weather throughout New Zealand. Coordination activities undertaken by civil defence and emergency management personnel in the Wairarapa and Wanganui regions was swift and effective. I congratulate all personnel on their efforts in response to the various emergencies.
Georgina Beyer: Can the Minister advise on any specific action, as a result of effective agency engagement between the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management and other key agencies, in the areas during the response phase of those emergencies; if so, what?
Hon RICK BARKER: Yes, I can. On Sunday, 9 July, a three-span bridge was knocked out at Mangamahu, cutting the area off. On Wednesday, 12 July, I contacted Transit, which said it had a bridge and, if requested, was willing to build it, but it had no funding to do so. The office of the Minister of Transport suggested that I contact Land Transport New Zealand, and within hours of my having done so, Land Transport had agreed to fund the Bailey bridge in its erection. We had a bridge, engineers, and funding—all to the delight of the local mayor, Michael Laws. I thank the good Minister of Transport, Annette King, for responding to my request, and I thank local government staff for their hard work during that time. This response shows how effective local decision-making, with national support, can be.
John Hayes: I seek leave to table a request from the Carterton District Council that appeared in today’s edition of the Wairarapa News, which asks the Government for $200,000 for flood repair to damaged roads.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree that there has been a “loss of confidence” in the Government’s 2002 New Zealand waste strategy because key elements have not been implemented, as reported by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment): No. The member must be speaking in support of the parliamentary commissioner’s particular focus on the development of economic instruments, such as taxes, levies, charges, and permits. Although the Government believes that economic instruments are potentially one important element in changing wasteful behaviour, we realise that other tools and work programmes can contribute significantly to that objective. Our success in meeting waste reduction targets, while working collaboratively with stakeholders, confirms that is an appropriate strategy.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain the purpose of providing every one of the 600 delegates to the Local Government New Zealand conference this week with a single yellow child’s gumboot, stamped with the Ministry for the Environment’s logo; is that gimmick a good use of public money and the right example to set on waste? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I am waiting for order, so that the Minister can respond and we can hear the answer.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It would have been more useful if the member had read out the line that is written on the gumboot. It is in relation to issues around climate change. I have heard that member urge the community to consider climate change. As far as the gumboot is concerned, I advise the member that the Ministry for the Environment tells me that the gumboot is a penholder. However, given its size, it might be more appropriate for the member to use it to contain National Party policy.
Dave Hereora: Is the Minister aware of alternative approaches to working collaboratively with stakeholders, including local government, on matters such as waste?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware that the National Party has suggested two alternative and rather unpalatable approaches to working with local government. One approach is “an overbearing form of leadership that demands obedience, and that stifles free thought and innovation, that dictates rather than leads.” That statement was made by Don Brash, who was apparently describing Nick Smith’s new-found interest in economic instruments to the Local Government New Zealand conference. The other approach is Don Brash’s own view that the local government leaders are a frustrated middle management group, who are introverted in their thinking and are merely awaiting inspired leadership to reform their ways. That is why one mayor who spoke to me said the Leader of the Opposition had referred to them as being dicks who did not know what they were doing.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind members again that their answers and their questions should be succinct.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain to Parliament how providing 600 mayors and councillors with a left-footed yellow gumboot with the words: “Are you thinking about climate change?” on it may stop global warming?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The member has just illustrated the usefulness of focusing on this issue. I inform him that Local Government New Zealand gave those members who did not wish to use the penholder the opportunity to recycle those boots for the use of young children. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would members please control themselves if they wish to remain in the Chamber. I will not call the member until there is silence. Members can sit here until 6 o’clock, if they like—until we have silence, please.
Nicky Wagner: Why, when there are serious and urgent environmental issues all over New Zealand, did this Government last month choose to spend $125,000 on a lightweight, glossy booklet, which was described as a gift from the retiring chief executive Barry Carbon, and this month to spend $1,000 more on single children’s gumboots to give to 600 mayors and councillors, all of which will end up in the landfill; does that not illustrate a culture of both waste and extravagance in his ministry?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Absolutely not. I would like to thank both that member—for reasons she will understand in a moment—and Dr Smith for their really helpful publicity for an excellent publication. I am pleased to announce now that largely thanks to that fantastic publicity, the print run for that publication has been exhausted, such has been the public demand for it. I have since authorised a rerun of that excellent publication.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given that the Government has no policy on climate change, that emissions in New Zealand have increased at four times the rate of the United States and three times that of Australia, that the Government’s carbon tax has been thrown in the bin, that its animal emissions levy has been canned as well, and that there is now no climate change policy in New Zealand, does he really think that a single yellow gumboot—passing the boot to local government—is the answer?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: As the member is aware, I do not have ministerial responsibility for climate change issues. In terms of policy on this matter, I say that this Government has substantially more policy than the Opposition. On Monday the National Party told us that councils should have more choice about how to handle waste. On National Radio Nick Smith has said exactly the opposite of that—another example of the total discord within National. With regard to the boot, there have already been some really useful suggestions about where it will go this weekend in Christchurch.
Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When my colleague last spoke, there was some distortion with the microphone. She is probably not aware of it. I wonder whether she can now move to another microphone to ask this supplementary question.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that; I was going to suggest it myself.
Nicky Wagner: Can the Minister tell the House how much the 600-odd gumboots cost, including the cost of, no doubt, extensive policy and public relations advice, and the cost of every one of them being embossed with the ministry’s logo; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I will be happy to provide that information for the member if she puts down a written question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister believe it was good value for money for taxpayers, through his ministry, to provide every mayor and councillor at the Local Government New Zealand conference with a 5-year-old’s yellow gumboot?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I think it has been extraordinarily good value in focusing on climate change, and I thank the member for his contribution.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Government’s great contribution to the climate change debate: a child’s yellow gumboot, for a left foot.