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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 5 September 2006

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )

Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

1. Savings—Support Mechanisms
2. Speech from the Throne—Political Integrity of Parliament and Electoral Process
3. Transport Network—Government Policy
4. Immigration Intelligence Unit—Ministerial Briefings
5. Members of Parliament—Payment for Services
6. Election Advertising—Labour Party Pledge Card
7. Te Arawa Lakes—Settlement Process
8. Prisoner Transfer—Service Delivery Agreement
9. Rates Rebate Scheme—Response
10. School-leavers—Qualifications
11. Marine Species—Benthic Protection Areas
12. Land Tenure Review—Conservation, Department

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Savings—Support Mechanisms

1. SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on mechanisms to support savings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I have seen a range of reports welcoming the passage of the KiwiSaver Bill last week, with only the National Party voting against the third reading. A number of those reports suggest the capped exemption from the specified superannuation contribution withholding tax will encourage greater savings.

Shane Jones: What other reports has he seen on the value of tax incentives for supporting savings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a range of reports supporting tax incentives for longer-term savings, particularly from Mr John Key and Mr Bill English. Despite that fact, both of them voted against the changes in the House last week; they voted against a tax cut.

John Key: Has the Minister seen reports in the New Zealand Herald today suggesting that the Labour Party may be looking to underspend by $400,000 next year and the year after, so that it can pay back the $882,000 of taxpayers’ money it owes; is that his idea of savings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen frequent reports of a strange religious group spending $1.2 million on behalf of the National Party to save it from having to attribute that money in its expenditure.

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I could not hear the answer to my colleague’s question, and I am sitting within 5 feet of him. I really do not think that is fair to members elsewhere in the House who would like to hear the answers to questions.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, would the Hon Dr Michael Cullen please briefly repeat his answer.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports of the Exclusive Brethren spending $1.2 million to support the election of the National Party, to save it from having to spend the money itself.

John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the House settle. That was no better than the first time, so would members please enable other members to be heard when they are asking or answering questions. An essential right that members have in this House is to be heard.

John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am still dealing with this point of order; then I will take your point of order.

John Key: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: I am asking him to repeat the answer, because no one could hear it.

John Key: It is a new point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I know, and I will take a new point of order when we have dealt with this matter.

John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am continuing the point of order that was raised before, which was on whether the Minister could be heard. I am very happy to take your point of order, Mr Key, but I just want to finish this one first. Would the Minister please give his answer, as briefly as possible.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How on earth can the Minister’s answer be a continuation of the point of order? Where does that in any way comply with the Standing Orders of this House? If he is being asked to give an answer, that is one thing. But to turn down a member who raised a point of order because a Minister wants to give an answer is not within the Standing Orders, and it should not become a new rule for the House.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I thank the member but I do not need any assistance. What I was trying to do, Mr Brownlee, was to maintain some order in this House by dealing with matters in a logical manner. I am quite happy if you want Mr Key to take his point of order, but it will not detract from the fact that we will go on, and every member in this House who is not heard, whether or not he or she is asking a question or answering it, will get the right to be heard—however long it may take.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With all due respect, a member giving an answer to a question would obviously be treated with respect if it were an answer to the question, and not some extraneous matter that was simply a red herring and a dodging of the issue that was put to a Minister.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That point of order could have easily been raised on the question, but since I regarded it as a patsy, I thought I would answer it.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that either of those comments is extremely helpful. But the point is that one could hear whether it answered the question. That is the whole point, Mr Brownlee.

John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I call the Hon Dr Michael Cullen.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, I have seen reports of the Exclusive Brethren donating $1.2 million of pamphlets and other material for the National Party, to save it from having to attribute that expenditure.

Hon David Benson-Pope: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have my microphone turned on and I still cannot hear Dr Cullen’s answer.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have been very strict in your rulings about members asking questions in areas for which they have responsibility. Dr Cullen does have responsibility for the Public Finance Act and compliance with it. He has absolutely no responsibility for how any private organisation—the Exclusive Brethren or otherwise—might spend its money. So I simply ask that you require Dr Cullen to answer the very reasonable question about savings in a specific vote covered by the Public Finance Act for which Dr Cullen is responsible, rather than allow him to stray into irrelevancies on which he has absolutely no responsibility.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank you Dr Smith, and if I could hear the answer I would rule accordingly, if that were the case.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports of savings being made, in terms of attributable expenditure, by the Exclusive Brethren donating $1.2 million for services to the National Party. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: If members have cleared their lungs, we will now have a supplementary question from Doug Woolerton.

Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member Mr Mallard has just called Dr Brash a liar. That is unparliamentary, and he should be asked to apologise and to withdraw that comment.

Madam SPEAKER: If the member did say that, I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw and apologise.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. One of the things you are expecting of this House is some decorum, and, indeed, my colleague Nick Smith raised a point of order just before on which you said you would rule if the Minister strayed outside his authority to answer questions. There are two issues I wish to raise with you, Madam Chair—

Madam SPEAKER: Madam Speaker.

John Carter: Madam Speaker, I beg your pardon. The first is of course that the Minister did not refer in any way to the question that was asked of him by John Key about the statement in the paper, and the second one is that it is very likely that we will not have decorum in this House if Ministers keep misusing the truth. The fact is that that Minister knows that what he stated in his answer is quite inaccurate, and he is very likely to cause disruption and disorder in this House, along with any other Minister, if that is to continue. You may wish to rule on that matter. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: This is a point of order; they are heard in silence.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The first point I would make is that despite the previous attempt by Dr Nick Smith to bring Mr Key’s question inside the Standing Orders, it had nothing to do with the Public Finance Act in terms of the way in which it was phrased. Indeed, it could have been challenged as being irrelevant. There is a longstanding rule in this House that if one makes a silly point or asks a silly question, if that is not challenged then one will get an answer back on a similar basis to the way the question was framed. Secondly, if Mr Carter wishes to state in this House, as a matter that is subject to challenge under privilege, that the Exclusive Brethren did not fund $1.2 million worth of pamphlets and other material for the National Party, then that would be very interesting indeed.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I—[Interruption] I am on my feet.

John Carter: Point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I have not finished ruling on this point of order, Mr Carter. I have heard what Dr Smith said and what Dr Cullen said, and I think that members should take note that if they ask and answer questions within the context of the Standing Orders, it would certainly contribute to the orderliness of this House. As it turned out in that particular matter, obviously members of the Opposition expressed themselves in such a way as to prevent me hearing all the answer.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not privy to the donations made to the National Party—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: This is a point of order, I remind members.

John Carter:—but I would make the point, Madam Chairman—

Madam SPEAKER: Madam Speaker.

John Carter:—Madam Speaker; I beg your pardon—that to the best of my knowledge the Exclusive Brethren spent their own money on their own pamphlets, and not on National Party pamphlets.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a matter of debate, not a point of order.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was challenged to make the statement, and I have made it. I want that to be noted in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: That may well be the case, but it is still not a point of order.

Rt Hon Helen Clark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am looking here at a document where it states the Exclusive Brethren went to the Chief Electoral Officer wanting a budget to be spent of $1.2 million with the goal of “getting party votes for National”, which directly contradicts what the member said.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Pay it back!

Madam SPEAKER: Order, Mr Mallard, please. That was also not a point of order.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree with Tower Group chief executive officer Jim Minto’s comments that the rejection of a compulsory savings scheme by New Zealanders in 1997 was the result of baby boomers being traumatised by the memory of the State-controlled Muldoon era, and of a desire never to return there, and that Winston Peters’ idea for a superannuation scheme was right on the money?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, and, somewhat sadly, no. I think the scheme actually was as well designed as any compulsory superannuation scheme could be, but it was overwhelmingly rejected by the public. As I said on the night, the number who voted for it was probably slightly smaller than the number who thought Elvis Presley was still alive.

Speech from the Throne—Political Integrity of Parliament and Electoral Process

2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the statement in the Speech from the Throne in 1999 that her Government would “restore public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, by keeping our promises—unlike National, which betrayed the electorate through the 1990s, particularly superannuitants.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister now accept that her handling of the Taito Phillip Field affair over the past 12 months—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please contain himself.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister now accept that her handling of the Taito Phillip Field affair over the past 12 months has damaged public confidence in Parliament and in the political process; and does she, with the benefit of hindsight, now wish to express any regret to the New Zealand public about her actions or inactions?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, because unlike Robert Muldoon I am not going to go around ordering inquiries into private members. If I did, I would start with Don Brash and the covert election funding.

Tim Barnett: Does the Prime Minister think that public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament is enhanced by a party leader denying knowledge of a campaign in support of his party and then later having to admit that he was briefed about it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, Parliament is damaged by such behaviour, particularly when one knows that Dr Brash met the group and planned the campaign.

Madam SPEAKER: It is questionable whether there was ministerial responsibility, but as no one heard the answer, we will move on to the next supplementary question.

Dr Don Brash: What is the Prime Minister’s response to the poll in the New Zealand Herald that showed that 81 percent of New Zealanders want the Labour Party to pay back the taxpayers’ money unlawfully spent on the Labour Party’s pledge card?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are going to raise points of order from now on when unsubstantiated assertions are made. There is no published report yet that states that that spending was unlawful. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that that was a point of order. The member was talking to the point of order, and there were interjections. That is the last warning. Even if there is a barrage, those who interrupt during points of order will leave this Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could the Leader of the House tell us, then, why the Prime Minister talked, as late as yesterday, about retrospective legislation being a possible direction from the Auditor-General in order to sort out this particular problem that the Labour Party has?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Madam Speaker, responding very simply—

Madam SPEAKER: This is a matter for debate, but please continue.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: —there has been no Auditor-General’s report yet.

Gerry Brownlee: We can go round and round on this forever, but the reality is that the Labour Party has overspent the Parliamentary Service budget by some $446,000, and has overspent the electoral cap by at least a similar amount—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated, Mr Brownlee. There is no final report with a final determination yet. That is a fact. Once the report comes out, then everyone will know. Can we please continue.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Prime Minister please give a straight answer to the obvious question; if the Auditor-General finds that the Labour Party pledge card involved an unlawful use of taxpayers’ money, will the Prime Minister confirm that she expects the Labour Party to pay it back?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not believe that rules should be changed after the event, otherwise we will be seeking the bill for Bill English’s commitment card released in 2002.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House to table the rules for Parliamentary Service expenditure that were changed early in 2003, late in 2003, and in 2004 in the year prior to the election, all of which were rules constructed with Michael Cullen very much to the fore in those discussions, which makes it very, very clear that it was not a problem in 2002 but it most certainly was in 2005.

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

Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Prime Minister advise how “public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process” can be restored by actions in the Wigram electorate on the day before the 2005 election, when tens of thousands of dollars were spent on full-page advertisements in local papers, and expensive full-colour leaflets personally attacking the sitting member were delivered to every household, supporting the National Party’s electoral campaign, all authorised by an unidentified person said to live at a property that was in fact vacant, and which later transpired to be the actions of the Exclusive Brethren?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Let me make it very clear that although the National Party has repeatedly stood against Jim Anderton since he first stood as an Independent in 1993, there is no way that we are in any way responsible for the deep dislike of him held by many of his constituents.

Madam SPEAKER: I am pleased we have got that sorted! I am not sure that it was a point of order.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That spending would have been part of the $1.2 million campaign, with the goal of “getting party votes for National”, which the Exclusive Brethren mounted, and which Dr Brash, having originally denied knowledge of, finally fessed up about. Why did he not tell the truth all the way along? [Interruption]

Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was very close to the loudspeaker turned on at my desk but I do not have a clue what the Prime Minister just answered to the House. [Interruption] The noise from the National benches continues when I am raising a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I must say that on this occasion the noise was coming from all quarters of the House. I ask you all please to give courtesy and respect to each other so that members are able to be heard. You can express yourselves in between questions and answers, but not during them.

Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister been informed as to the total amount of the Labour Party leader’s 2005-06 budget, which was found by the Auditor-General’s draft report to have been spent unlawfully; if so, what was that amount?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Labour played by the rules, the same rules that led to the National Party’s pledge card—the same rules.

Tim Barnett: Does the Prime Minister think that public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament is enhanced by one party attacking others for spending that is exactly the same as that party itself has undertaken in the past?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can that question possibly be in order? It has already been made clear to the House today that the rules around the Parliamentary Service’s money expenditure were changed, largely at the behest of Dr Cullen, in 2003—ably assisted by the co-leader of the Greens at the time—and that those rules were exceptionally clear in 2004. So how on earth can there be an assertion that somehow some party has also breached those rules, when there has been no mention of that fact by the Auditor-General—other than the mention of the Labour Party’s pledge card?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I have in my hand the record of the rule change of 28 November 2003. The only change was that any publicly funded advertising had to display the parliamentary crest and a contact point; previously, it had had to display either the crest or a contact point. That makes no difference to the comparison between the 2002 National Party pledge pamphlet and Labour’s 2005 pledge card.

Madam SPEAKER: I will rule on the points of order. Those were not points of order; they were debatable points. I think we are up to answering the question on the Table.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course it does not enhance public confidence in Parliament for one party to say: “Yeah, our pledge card was all right.”—that is, the National Party one—and then not want anyone else to fund one. I say, further, that the real corruption in politics is Dr Brash’s “cash for policies” and refusal to say where his money came from.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—

Hon Annette King: It had better be one.

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Gerry Brownlee: I will take it as a supplementary question, then.

Hon David Cunliffe: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: No, come on, let us be sensible about this. Does the member have a point of order?

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It may assist the House, but I suspect that the microphones, at least on this side of the House, may not be turned up appropriately. Like my colleagues, even with my ear to the speaker I cannot hear what the Prime Minister is saying.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that observation. We now have a supplementary question.

Dr Don Brash: What discussions did the Prime Minister have with the Ministers of Finance and Justice that caused their departments to commence work on legislation to validate the potentially unlawful spending by the Labour Party; and why will the Prime Minister not tell New Zealanders how much taxpayers’ money the Auditor-General has found to have been spent unlawfully?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, the Auditor-General has made no such finding. He has not made a final report.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister not yet understand—

Hon David Benson-Pope: Tell us about the Business Roundtable.

Madam SPEAKER: Order! Continue please, Dr Don Brash.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister not yet understand that displays of hubris and arrogance on her part are diminishing public confidence in her and her Government, by the day; and when will she and her Ministers start to show the public the respect they are due—

Hon David Benson-Pope: What is that member’s relationship with the Business Roundtable?

Judith Collins: Oh, how about his with a tennis ball?

Madam SPEAKER: Continue.

Dr Don Brash: Madam Speaker, I had understood that questions were to be heard in silence.

Madam SPEAKER: No, they are not heard in silence. [Interruption] Please be seated. No, I did not say that earlier on. I have given a ruling on this. Interjections are permitted, with questions or answers. It is when people cannot be heard giving them that in fact there is a breach of the rules. So, Dr Don Brash, please continue.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister not yet understand that displays of hubris and arrogance on her part are diminishing public confidence in her and her Government, by the day; and when will she and her Ministers start to show the public the respect they are due, in relation to both the Taito Phillip Field affair and the use of taxpayers’ money to fund the Labour Party pledge card?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The arrogance is being caught red-handed taking support from the Exclusive Brethren, which Dr Brash solicited and about which he did not tell the truth. I say to Dr Brash to tell the truth to Parliament today.

Heather Roy: Does she accept that members of Parliament, and especially the Prime Minister, are honour-bound to accept the findings of the Auditor-General as an independent Officer of Parliament when he makes adverse findings into their spending, even if it is financially uncomfortable?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that the report is about Parliamentary Service control of expenditure, and I would remind the member that her party is one of the parties that spent within the rules over which some retrospectivity is now being suggested.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest respect, I do not believe that the Prime Minister addressed the question. [Interruption] At least the member is staying awake. It was about the relationship of members of Parliament to any finding of the Auditor-General, given that he is an independent Officer of Parliament and the fact that we have to be honour-bound by his finding. What we got was a bit of a diatribe about the ACT party and nothing about the relationship of Parliament, the Prime Minister, and MPs to the findings of the Auditor-General.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member’s question made an assertion about the nature of the inquiry. The Prime Minister responded properly, by questioning that assertion, which is a perfectly legitimate way of addressing a question.

Madam SPEAKER: I think that is right.

Rodney Hide: Actually, it made no reference to any inquiry.

Madam SPEAKER: As I heard the question, it made reference to the Auditor-General’s report.

Rodney Hide: It made reference to the fact that the Auditor-General is an independent Officer of Parliament and that if he makes an adverse finding about the way MPs spend money, whether we are not honour-bound, as a consequence, to take heed of it. There was nothing about any particular report.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the difficulty here is that we do not have the report. As I understood it, the question made reference. The Prime Minister chose to address the context of the question and that was perfectly permissible. It may not be an answer that obviously the member wanted, but he wants to continue with his point of order.

Rodney Hide: The difficulty is that the Leader of the House said that we cannot make reference to the report, because it is not yet published. The Prime Minister is quite happy to make references in her answer to the report, which has not been published, when it suits her, but not when she is asked about it, because, again, it has not been finalised or published; yet here we were, asking our little supplementary question and we have had to sit through Parliament all this time in order to ask it, and we got a dismissive answer. I believe that the issue of the relationship of MPs, of Parliament, and particularly of the Prime Minister, to the Auditor-General is one worthy of a proper answer being addressed by the Prime Minister. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to uphold the rights of smaller parties that have not yet been able to hear an answer, to get an answer to the question to which they have sat through all this time for an opportunity to ask.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the difficulty is that the House is dealing with hypothetical situations. Although the question did refer to the draft report, we do not have a finding. Until there is a finding, the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to deal with the question whichever way she chooses to do so. Obviously, that is not to the satisfaction of the member. I am fully aware that his party has few supplementary questions, but I think the point has been made through points of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that so far the only identified and accepted unlawful overspending in the campaign was by the National Party, which failed to account for GST, and the person who pleaded innocence about that is the person who chaired the committee that set up GST in the first place, Dr Donald Brash?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that, and I can also confirm how wondrous it is that a man so involved in the design of GST does not understand it.

Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the National Party would like to amend legislation to enable it to pay back the money that is due, while the Labour Party is keen to amend legislation to prevent it from paying back money that is due.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member was free to pay the money back, but, of course, he knows he would have then overspent. He had buckets of covert money—cash for policies—that he will not tell the truth about.

Transport Network—Government Policy

3. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What decisions have been taken recently to further the Government’s aim to provide a world-class transport network, which moves people and goods safely, sustainably, and efficiently, as a centrepiece of its drive to transform the New Zealand economy?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport): A very good question. Following the Government’s substantial funding allocation announced in the Budget, the Land Transport New Zealand board recently approved funding for several land transport projects, all of which contribute towards a world-class transport network. Those projects include funding for the construction of the State Highway 2 Dowse to Petone project, two major projects in the Waikato region, and the Kerikeri Heritage Bypass. Funding was also approved for the design and construction of ramp signalling in Auckland, and the design of the State Highway 1 Cambridge bypass. But there is even more. Funding has also been approved for the travel plan programme for Auckland, and for investigations into the State Highway 16 Te Atatu Road to Royal Road six-laning project.

Darien Fenton: How much will be spent on land transport this year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Land Transport New Zealand will allocate $2.3 billion towards land transport activities this year. The Government is spending $360 million on passenger transport this year alone. This is a huge increase from the 1990s, when funding for passenger transport was frozen at $40 million for almost a decade.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that 99-plus percent of New Zealand’s external trade comes and goes by ship, and does she, therefore, accept that if we want a world-class transport network and all that goes with it—as outlined in the principal question—the Government really needs to do something positive to expand our shipping industry?


Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that with rising oil prices and accelerating climate change, a world-class transport network must include a world-class rail system capable of moving people and goods between major cities; if so, how much of the $2.3 billion being spent this year on land transport is she spending on upgrading the rail system?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Government has committed a considerable amount of money to rail. First of all, we have bought back the rail lines of this country. We are spending $600 million on rail in Auckland over the next 5 years, and we have committed $200 million to improving rail transport around New Zealand. I would have thought the Greens would welcome that. Certainly, this Government is committed to rail—something that was not happening under the previous National Government.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There was only one question in my question, and that was how much of the $2.3 billion being spent this year is being spent on upgrading the rail system. I got a lot of figures about previous years, but I did not get any figures about this year’s spend.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: She’s just hopeless.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Would that member who is interjecting like to take his pills? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: We will call that a draw. There should have been no interjection on the point of order, and there should have been no retaliatory comments. We will start again.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The figures I gave were not past figures; they were forward figures.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: The Minister referred to repurchasing the rail track. That decision was made in 2003. She referred to the decision to spend $200 million to upgrade the rail track, which was made at that time. Very little of that figure remains to be spent in this Budget year—I think something like $180 million out of that $200 million has been spent so far. I am really searching for an answer to my question about how much of this year’s Land Transport New Zealand budget will be spent on the rail system.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Was that a point of order, Madam Speaker, or was it a question?

Madam SPEAKER: It was both, really. Could the Minister please clarify so we can then move on.

Hon ANNETTE KING: In my answer I outlined the $600 million we are spending on rail over the next 5 years in the Auckland area. I outlined the $200 million that will go—and some of it has already gone—into rail. But it is done over the course of a 5-year appropriation.

Peter Brown: Do the Minister’s comments today to the Maritime New Zealand conference that the “Maersk review has implications for you and for the whole transport sector” indicate that she is supportive of New Zealand coastal shipping, and will she, therefore, ensure that it plays a positive role in feeding cargo from provincial ports to the ports that Maersk would ultimately choose to serve?

Hon ANNETTE KING: My comments about Maersk today relate to the fact that a decision by Maersk needs to take account of all modes of transport, because moving freight around New Zealand—if Maersk decides to use two ports—would affect rail, road, and sea transport. We need to take account of all modes of transport, if that decision is made.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree with the purpose clause of the Land Transport Management Act that transport should be responsive to travel demand; if so, what has she done this year to re-balance spending in order to respond to the hugely increased demand for public transport—a more than 30 percent increase in patronage of commuter rail in Auckland, for example—and the reduced demand for new roads, with traffic levelling off and declining over recent months?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not just this year that the Government is taking account of the need to improve passenger transport; the Government has been doing so in each year that we have been in Government. As I said in an earlier answer, the National Government froze funding for passenger transport at $40 million a year; it is now $360 million. That has happened in the term of this Government. The commitment is to improve passenger transport, but one has to have roads on which buses can travel, as well as improving the transport system in terms of rail.

Immigration Intelligence Unit—Ministerial Briefings

4. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does the immigration intelligence unit contribute information to ministerial briefings on immigration cases when the Minister is considering whether to issue a special direction?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): I am advised that the immigration intelligence unit to date has not been directly involved in briefing Ministers on whether to issue a special direction.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What did the two members of the immigration intelligence unit do with the information emailed to them on 4 May 2005 by Mr James Dalmer, the branch manager of Immigration New Zealand in Apia, alleging that Thai nationals were working in Samoa for a Cabinet Minister for free and had “been promised work visas for New Zealand on completion of that work”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that, as is normal practice, they would have passed that information through to the operational arms of the department.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: To precisely whom, and to which sections of his department, was the further email drafted on 9 May 2005 by Mr James Dalmer, immigration branch manager in Apia, sent—the email that spelt out the fact that Thais were working for no pay on the house owned by “a Samoan and New Zealand dual citizen politician”—and what did those sections or individuals do with that information?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Paragraph 123 of the Ingram report indicates that that email was passed to the immigration intelligence unit and to the department’s Pacific division. Paragraphs 157 and 158 of the same report indicate that it was probably not passed through to the Associate Minister.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What did the manager of the immigration intelligence unit do with the information he received during a discussion with Mr James Dalmer on 10 May, where they decided whether Taito Phillip Field’s name should be included in the email containing further information about Thai workers not getting paid for working on his house in Samoa and having been promised work visas for New Zealand on completion of that work?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As recorded in paragraph 210 of the Ingram inquiry report, I am advised that that information was considered not necessary or appropriate to pass on, because it was unconfirmed intelligence that, at that time, may not have been seen as reliable.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When on 27 May two members of the immigration intelligence unit received yet a further email from Mr James Dalmer regarding a member of Taito Phillip Field’s ministerial staff emailing the New Zealand Immigration Service to ask about Ms Phanngarm’s removal costs and stating that Ms Phanngarm was living in Samoa with her partner, who Mr Dalmer knew was the Thai working on Taito Phillip Field’s house, what did the immigration intelligence unit do with that third layer of information confirming Taito Phillip Field’s involvement with Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm in Samoa?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Phanngarm issue is not directly related, but I am advised that the same action was taken as per the earlier question: it was passed on to the operational branches of the department.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When on 9 June 2005 Mrs Maxine Field went into the Apia branch of the New Zealand Immigration Service with a copy of Taito Phillip Field’s letter claiming that the Associate Minister had agreed to 2-year work permits for both Mr Siriwan and his partner, Ms Phanngarm, and the Apia branch manager, Mr Dalmer, emailed the immigration intelligence unit asking bluntly whether the Associate Minister was aware of Taito Phillip Field’s involvement with those Thais prior to his decision, what did the immigration intelligence unit do with that fourth layer of confirmed information it had prior to Damien O’Connor making his decision on 17 June 2005?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Once again, this is very simple: it passed it through to the operational division—in this case the manager of the Pacific division, who, he said, attempted to pass it through to the private secretary in the Minister’s office—and the Ingram inquiry clearly considers it unlikely that it was passed to the Associate Minister before he made his decision. [Interruption] If the member with the pills does not believe me, I suggest he read the Ingram report.

Madam SPEAKER: There was no need for that comment.

Members of Parliament—Payment for Services

5. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Prime Minister: What did she mean by her comments yesterday “There can be no money sought, [or] offered, for giving a service to a member of the public”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No money should be paid by anyone for work done by MPs for that person. Cash should not be paid for policy, either. That is why Labour will support changes to electoral law to flush out National’s covert funding.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the Prime Minister made her comment yesterday, was she taking into account the provisions of the United Kingdom House of Commons Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament which states: “Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.”—incidentally, that bill was on a principle first established in the House of Commons in May 1695—and do her comments now mean she considers that the time has come for something akin to that code of conduct to be applied in New Zealand to make clear what reasonable public expectations there are of the behaviour of members of Parliament in these types of situations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I agree with the contents of the code of conduct as read by Mr Dunne just now. Further, I understand that a code of conduct proposal is before the Standing Orders Committee and I support its members giving it their full consideration.

Hone Harawira: Has she read the statement from the Māori Party issued at 1 p.m. today that stipulates that any cash donation given to a member of Parliament will be processed through the party mechanisms, and does she believe that this is a policy that could be applied to all members of Parliament?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course donations should be processed through parties, but I repeat that no money should be given for any service rendered by a member of Parliament. The National Party should not accept cash for policy either.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can we assume that the 1999 union campaign to change the Government was repaid by the Labour Party in their Employment Relations Act policy that had special union education provisions for those members? If that was not cash for policy, who knows what was?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The matter the member raised could be dealt with quite simply if the National Party showed the list of who actually gave them the money instead of the anonymous organisation covering 90 percent of it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Brownlee made an unparliamentary comment about members of the Government and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear what the comment was but if the member did, would Mr Brownlee please withdraw and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee: I said that the Government was corrupt. It has been said inside and outside this House for weeks and I am not withdrawing it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Offence has been taken, in the same way I am sure that if Labour stated—as I think we did previously—that Dr Brash lied in saying he did not know about the Exclusive Brethren, we would be required to withdraw and apologise; Mr Mallard was previously this afternoon.

Madam SPEAKER: Previously objection has not been taken.

Gerry Brownlee: I understand the member’s sensitivities and I—

Madam SPEAKER: Just withdraw and apologise, thank you very much.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Prime Minister—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Members, please do Mr Dunne the courtesy of allowing him to put his question so we can all hear it.

Sandra Goudie: The Speaker has ruled that interjections are allowed during question time.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the Speaker has ruled that, Ms Goudie. She has also ruled, in fact, that when those cannot be heard, they should be heard—[Interruption] I am on my feet and speaking. Would the member please leave the House.

Sandra Goudie withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Prime Minister concerned that a principle that has been established for some 400 years—about not accepting cash in return for services offered as a member of Parliament—may not be accepted by all members of this House; if so, what steps does she think ought to be taken to deal with that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It would be an appalling thing if that principle were not accepted, and that indeed is what would lead Parliament to adopt a code of conduct, which I would like to see covering National’s “cash for policies”, as well.

Hon Peter Dunne: I seek leave to table the United Kingdom Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, prepared pursuant to a resolution of the House of Commons on 19 July 1995.

Leave granted.

Election Advertising—Labour Party Pledge Card

6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Has he seen the file note dated 30 August 2005 of a phone conversation at 9 a.m. between David Henry, then Chief Electoral Officer, and Mike Smith, General Secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party; if so, what was the advice Mr Henry passed on to Mr Smith about the Labour Party’s pledge card?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice): No.

Gerry Brownlee: Is he able to confirm that in the weeks leading up to the election, Mr David Henry made approaches to both the Labour Party and the Tauranga National Party candidate, Bob Clarkson, to warn them about the need to stay under the Electoral Act’s spending caps, and that while Mr Clarkson cancelled his planned advertising in order to stay within the law, the Labour Party just kept on spending and ignored the warnings Mr Henry had given?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I have explained to the House before, the Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for the preparation and conduct of parliamentary elections and the supervision of candidates’ expenses and donations. It is not appropriate for me to interfere in that process. [Interruption]

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Nick Smith has just made an unparliamentary comment, and I have taken offence.

Madam SPEAKER: Did the member make an unparliamentary comment?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I said they were corrupt cheats. That is nothing compared with what Mr Mallard—

Madam SPEAKER: Objection is taken. Would you please withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do find it ironic that the Prime Minister specifically made exactly that allegation against Dr Don Brash earlier in the day. You chose to take no action and Mr Mallard chose to take no action. I would like to know why there is a differing standard between what you expect from one side of the House and what you expect from the other.

Madam SPEAKER: No, there is no differing standard.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, I ask that the Prime Minister be asked to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. You should have asked at the time, and if you had, I would have asked the Prime Minister to withdraw and apologise. Members have the solutions in their own hands.

Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We did not hear Minister Burton in the response that he gave.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please repeat it.

Hon MARK BURTON: The Chief Electoral Officer is responsible for the preparation and conduct of parliamentary elections, and for the supervision of candidate selection, expenses, and donations. It would not be appropriate for me to interfere in his statutory responsibilities.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen evidence of correspondence from the Exclusive Brethren Church to David Henry, the then Chief Electoral Officer, in which the Exclusive Brethren ask: “if it would compromise National’s position if we communicate to MPs and candidates our strategy and show them draft publications before they are published.” ?

Hon MARK BURTON: As I have said to a number of members who previously asked me about records and correspondence from the Chief Electoral Officer, I do not routinely see them. It would not be appropriate to do so. But, frankly, it would not be a surprise to me if that were the case.

Gerry Brownlee: Is it a fact that nearly 3 weeks before the 2005 election, Mr Henry told Mike Smith, the Labour Party general secretary, that the pledge card was an election expense regardless of who paid the bill; and does he find it disturbing that the Labour Party then went on to spend over $1 million in advertising after that conversation, and breached the spending cap?

Hon MARK BURTON: Again, I repeat for the member’s benefit that I am not in receipt of the correspondence, or the file notes, from the Chief Electoral Officer to any political party, nor should I be. The statutory relationship between that officer and the Minister of Justice has to be kept at arm’s length.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister find it concerning that after the phone call of 30 August warning the Labour Party that it was breaching the law, and a follow-up letter on 2 September confirming what the Chief Electoral Officer had previously said in a telephone discussion, Labour went ahead and spent $585,000 on newspaper advertising in the last 2 weeks of the campaign, in flagrant disregard of his advice, which led to a breach of the spending cap?

Hon MARK BURTON: It is another variation on the same question. The answer remains the same. It is not appropriate for me to be in receipt of the correspondence between that statutory officer and various members of Parliament. If I were, I may well have received the document the member, Lynne Pillay, referred to regarding National Party expenditure. I did not receive that either.

Gerry Brownlee: Would he find it concerning that after again receiving a letter from the Chief Electoral Officer on 12 September instructing Labour that its arguments against his decision were spurious, Labour spent $416,000 on advertising in the final week of the campaign, knowingly putting itself over the electoral spending cap; and would he not expect a party in that position to have tried to avoid overspending, or to at least have shown some respect for the Chief Electoral Officer and his opinions on those matters?

Hon MARK BURTON: As the member understands, I am sure, by now, I am not in receipt of that sort of information from the Chief Electoral Officer. Frankly, if I were, nothing I have heard today would concern me as much as the $1.2 million spent to buy an election on behalf of a political party.

Lynne Pillay: I seek leave to table an email of 8 June 2005 from a group of Christian businessmen who had put together extensive publications throughout New Zealand, about building trust in a Brash-led National Government.

Leave granted.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister of Justice confirm that if National were able to pay the $110,000 GST receipt currently owed, we would, even then, not breach the spending cap, unlike his own party, which, because of its having dipped deeply into the taxpayer’s purse, has well and truly breached the spending cap; and if he cannot answer that, why does he claim to be the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for electoral acts?

Hon MARK BURTON: I cannot answer that for two reasons: firstly, I do not have ministerial responsibility for electoral spending; and, secondly, I do not have access to a critical piece of the information—even if I wanted to—that the member referred to, and that is the 80 percent of the National Party’s expenditure hidden inside trusts. I apologise; I would not want to mislead the House—it is 92 percent of the National Party expenditure that is buried and hidden in trusts.

Gerry Brownlee: Does it concern the Minister of Justice that a Labour back-bencher can claim to have emails that transferred between the Exclusive Brethren and the Electoral Office, which are available, apparently, for tabling in this House but that he himself claims he has no such knowledge of those various communications; and if in fact there is a breach of security around the Electoral Office, will he offer his resignation to the House?

Hon MARK BURTON: No, but I can perhaps help the member and introduce him to a facility that is available to parliamentarians and is called the Official Information Act, which is why some of the information his colleagues have is available for him to ask the very questions that he is asking.

Te Arawa Lakes—Settlement Process

7. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Does he agree that the current approach to processes of iwi authenticity and mandate for the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement are robust; if so, how does he justify the statement of his Associate Minister in the House last week that he was unable to give an assurance regarding Ngāti Rangiteaorere that iwi will not multi-vote, on the basis of whakapapa links to other iwi involved in the claim?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes, but I would note that the member seems to be confusing the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement with the Ngā Kaihautū o Te Arawa Executive Council settlement, to which the Associate Minister last week was actually referring in his remarks.

Te Ururoa Flavell: How can settlements be robust when negotiators from iwi such as Ngāti Tama, Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Awa, Te Uri o Hau, and other tribal nations have concluded that the process is flawed and the rules are inconsistent?

Hon MARK BURTON: It remains my conviction that the process is indeed robust.

Pita Paraone: Does the Minister think that reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill will have any impact on the terms of the settlement and the effect of the bill; if so, how?

Hon MARK BURTON: Yes. I think they give effect to the intent of the negotiation in good faith between the two parties.

Te Ururoa Flavell: In light of the inconsistencies, how can any settlement be considered to be full and final, and what is the Minister’s response to the call from iwi to return to Parliament to seek a just, full, and final settlement?

Hon MARK BURTON: I think it is presumptuous for those not involved in a negotiation to call on those involved in a negotiation to return to Parliament when they have negotiated in good faith and reached settlement in good faith. I note that those settlements have been reached over a number of years by a number of Governments. I think we must respect good-faith negotiations properly concluded.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I seek leave to table a publication by the Crown Forestry Rental Trust called Māori Experiences of the Direct Negotiations Process: Case Studies and Personal Experiences of Various Negotiators on the Negotiation Process with the Crown to Settle Claims under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Leave granted.

Prisoner Transfer—Service Delivery Agreement

8. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Can he confirm that the agreement between the Department of Corrections and Chubb New Zealand Ltd for the provision of prisoner escort services includes a procedure to “Assess prisoner needs on assuming custody based on advice from authority handing over (risk assessment form): … youths under 20 to be segregated”?

Hon MITA RIRINUI (Associate Minister of Corrections) on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: Yes, that information is contained in the Chubb policy and procedures manual.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the report in the Sunday Star-Times that security guards transporting Liam Ashley from the court were not given any risk assessment form, in contravention of the procedures agreed to with the Department of Corrections; if so, whose responsibility was it to ensure that this assessment was made and passed on?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: The tragic circumstances surrounding Liam Ashley’s death are currently under investigation, and I cannot comment before the report is released.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the Department of Corrections form entitled Escorting an At-risk Prisoner does not specifically refer to the offender’s age amongst the risk categories listed; why is that the case when the agreement between Chubb New Zealand Ltd and the Department of Corrections clearly states that prisoners under 20 are considered to be at risk and must be segregated?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: I am advised that that procedure is followed. I cannot comment on Liam Ashley’s situation until the investigation is completed.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister give this House an absolute assurance that all private security companies contracted to the Department of Corrections are properly licensed and that all of the security guards in the employment of those security companies are, firstly, properly licensed and, secondly, properly trained; if he can give us that assurance, can he tell us how?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: I am advised that the contractors’ performance and compliance with contractor legislation are monitored on a daily basis and reported on on a monthly basis.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm reports that Chubb New Zealand Ltd previously offered to introduce a specialised van with individual compartments, but the Department of Corrections turned that down because it was considered unnecessary and too costly; what actions has he taken to see that individual compartments are installed into prisoner transfer vans?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: I am advised that the Department of Corrections does have high expectations of Chubb Security when prisoners are being transported. Whether those standards were met in Liam Ashley’s case is something we will have to wait to see, as the case is subject to investigation.

Simon Power: Has the Minister followed the convention of individual ministerial responsibility and offered his resignation to the Prime Minister; if not, why not?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: No, because it is not necessary.

Rodney Hide: Has the Minister set a timetable for the completion of the investigation by the Department of Corrections into this tragedy; if he has not set a deadline, why not—does he not really want the report—and if he has set a deadline, what is it?

Hon MITA RIRINUI: No deadline has been set. I advise the member that there are currently five investigations taking place. We expect that it will take some time before we get to the bottom of the matter.

Rates Rebate Scheme—Response

9. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Local Government: Has he received any reports on the response to the Government’s newly expanded rates rebate scheme?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government): Yes. I have been advised that as at 1 September, rates rebates totalling over $10.8 million have been approved for 23,855 New Zealand households. This compares with just 4,200 households that received a rebate for the whole of the 2005-06 year.

Steve Chadwick: Has he seen any other reports welcoming the Government’s rates rebate scheme?

Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, indeed I have. I have seen the comment of the president of Local Government New Zealand, made in April 2005, that Local Government New Zealand is thrilled with the change. I have also seen a report from a Coromandel pensioner, Pat Williams, that the rates rebate offer was welcome. He said: “I am happy. I received the full $500 rebate. It’s a good thing.” He is absolutely correct.

John Carter: Is the Minister aware that the costs he and the Helen Clark Labour Government have loaded on to local government ratepayers are conservatively estimated to be at least $500 million—10 times the amount he intends to give in rates rebates?

Hon MARK BURTON: I am aware that the member keeps repeating things that, outside this House, I would describe with a three-letter word—but I cannot here, so I will not. That member is the member who constantly repeats that 67 pieces of legislation have been imposed that impose costs. Well, I can tell the House that of those 67 pieces of legislation, 26 have been shown to impose zero cost on local government, and 28 of them were introduced in part or in whole because local government had asked for them. This Government has contributed $661 million in the last 12 months. It is the biggest-growing contributor to local government coffers, bar none.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware of any reports, formal or otherwise, from local government on an independent rates inquiry that has been set up as a result of New Zealand First’s initiative?

Hon MARK BURTON: I am aware of numerous reports—far more than you would give me time to refer to, Madam Speaker—praising and acknowledging that this independent inquiry is indeed the appropriate way to proceed with looking at longer-term rating issues.


10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: What proportion of students leaving school in 2005 left without a qualification?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Under the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), students leave school with a Record of Learning that shows how many credits they have attained.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question!

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: How long was the member deputy leader? I cannot remember.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please answer the question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will start again. Under NCEA students leave school with a Record of Learning, which shows how many credits they have attained. Students who gain 13 or fewer credits at any level are recorded as having little or no attainment. This figure was 13 percent for 2005. Above that, we record what students have attained. For example, in 2005, 67 percent of school-leavers achieved beyond level 1 in NCEA. As much as it is possible to make a direct comparison, in 1984, 43 percent of students left school with School Certificate.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister issue figures last week claiming that only 13 percent of students leave school without a qualification—with his definition of a qualification being students who earn 13 or more NCEA credits—when, in fact, students need 80 credits to gain even the most basic school qualification, being NCEA level 1; and were not his claims misleading?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I understand it, last week the Ministry of Education released information on attainment at school. I thought it might be useful to explain to the member that under NCEA students get a record of attainment—that is, the number of credits are stacked up, and they are on their Record of Learning. Under NCEA they do not get a qualification like School Certificate; they get a Record of Learning.

Moana Mackey: What improvements were evident in the 2005 school-leaver statistics?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The figures show students are attaining higher levels of achievement. A third of students are leaving school now with a university entrance qualification in the sense that they have the number of credits needed to go to university. More are staying until year 13. As I said before, 67 percent of school-leavers are achieving beyond level 1, which is great. One of the good advantages of NCEA is that those leaving with partial attainment, or lower levels of attainment, can use those credits to build a qualification through, for example, an apprenticeship or polytechnic course, because their Record of Learning shows what they have achieved.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the true picture is this: 27 percent, or over 16,000 school-leavers each year, leave school with no formal qualification because they did not achieve NCEA level 1; and why did he issue figures showing quite a different picture?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I cannot say that. What I have to say to the member is that the way in which NCEA works is that students get a Record of Learning of what they attain. That is what they get. The member is stuck in the 1990s. I know that he favours School Certificate, but that is not how it works any more.

Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister continue to try to hide failure by removing from students’ Record of Learning any record of failure, and by now counting as students with a qualification students who achieved one-sixth—that is, 13—of the 80 credits required to get any kind of formal qualification; and does he not think that it misleads students to tell them that if they get 13 level 1 credits, they have any choice at all in life?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: What students get is an accurate record of what they attain. For example, if they get 13 credits, they are told that they have achieved little or nothing. Above that, they are told what they achieve. I know that the member would like to have School Certificate back, but this system tells students what they get, rather than being the kind of pass/fail system we had before. And, no, I do not hide failure; I constantly tell people about the National Party.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not necessary.

Hon Bill English: Why is the Minister telling the public of New Zealand that 16-year-old students with 13 level 1 credits, which is less than someone can get from one weekend’s outdoor education, have a school qualification, when they need 80 credits to get a school qualification—and why does the Minister not sit down until the question has been asked?

Madam SPEAKER: Well—

Hon Member: Well, we thought it had finished.

Hon Bill English: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. Some of the questions get longer, as some of the answers do. Would the member please ask the question.

Hon Bill English: I will ask the short version, OK. Why is the Minister telling the New Zealand public that—even though students need 80 credits to get the most basic school qualification—if students get 13 credits, they have a qualification?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Ministry of Education released the figures the member is referring to, and the ministry would record that students who got 13 credits got little or no qualification. “Little or no qualification” is what those students would be told. Above that, they would be told what they attained. The member insists on superimposing School Certificate on NCEA, because he likes norm-referenced learning, but he should get used to the notion that NCEA is the way we do things now, and he should keep up with the programme.

Marine Species—Benthic Protection Areas

11. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: What concerns, if any, does he have that according to a 2006 NIWA report, the industry-proposed Benthic Protection Areas will provide less than a quarter of the protection for all marine species than would otherwise have been provided by an “equivalent area chosen solely for its biodiversity values”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Fisheries): I am aware of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research report to which the member refers. It is one of many factors that will require consideration when the Government makes a final decision on the industry’s benthic protection area proposal. It is hardly reasonable, however, to claim that the industry proposal phase fails to achieve something it was never designed to realise. The industry’s proposal is about protecting the seafloor and what lives on it; it is not about protecting fish, which New Zealand does through the quota management system.

Metiria Turei: Would the Minister like to retract his comment that “It is untrue for anyone to suggest that the proposed areas have no value to the fishing industry.”, made in response to a question in this House in February, when the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research reports that “The BPA proposal has by far the lowest costs”, and “would result in a minimal loss of fishing opportunity”; and does that not just demonstrate the ridiculous inadequacy of the Minister taking a purely industry-driven approach to protecting the marine environment, including fish stocks, from bottom trawling?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I repeat again that this is an industry proposal that the Government is considering, and it has been taken for wide consultation to industry as well as to non-governmental organisation stakeholders. I would have thought that an industry proposal to preclude bottom trawling from over 30 percent of the entire exclusive economic zone, which has not yet been touched by bottom trawling, and which will be kept in pristine condition in perpetuity, would at least have been a glass half empty that the Greens and other non-governmental organisations could have welcomed.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister accept the expert view of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research that the fishing industry proposal is “a poor option for the long-term protection of fish diversity”, because the proposal focuses on areas that have “low fishing diversity and very low fishing value”, which is clearly indicated on the map I have here that shows the blue areas; if so, will he now re-evaluate the industry’s proposal to protect those areas, based on credible scientific research from the Government’s own Crown research institute, and not from the vested interests of the fishing industry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I reject the suggestion that the 30 percent of the exclusive economic zone being set aside under the industry’s proposal is of no conservational consequence. Thirty years ago many of the areas currently bottom trawled were un-fished, because technology did not allow such deep-sea fishing as technology does today. So we can now fish deeper today than ever before, and although the majority of the benthic protection areas proposed by the industry are in areas too deep to trawl now, they will be closed to preclude any further bottom trawling that new technology might allow. And because they have not been bottom trawled at all, they will be extraordinarily important in the scientific evaluation of areas of bottom trawling versus those not bottom trawled.

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a map of the trawling closure areas, which shows that the proposals of the industry include areas that have too few target fish, are too deep or too rough to bottom trawl, are already fished out, or are already designated a no-trawl area.

Leave granted.

Land Tenure Review—Conservation, Department

12. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Conservation: Is he satisfied with the Department of Conservation’s advocacy role in the land tenure review process; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Broadly, yes. My department provides advice to Land Information New Zealand as part of the tenure review process, established by the Crown Pastoral Land Act of 1998.

Hon David Carter: Did the Department of Conservation sponsor the conference involving the New Zealand Ecological Society, held in Wellington between 28 August and 1 September; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Department of Conservation funds and supports a range of different environmental conferences. If the member wishes to find out exactly what the level of our support was, I suggest he put in a written or oral question to me on that, and I shall provide the correct information.

Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have just asked the Minister whether the Department of Conservation sponsored it, and the Minister’s answer was that if I wanted to know I should put it down as a question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Charles Chauvel: What conservation gains have resulted from tenure review?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: There are some iconic gains. The Labour-led Government has established six high-country parks by linking existing Department of Conservation land with land coming into protection. As a result of tenure review, the Birchwood Station purchase, and the Molesworth transfer, these parks are an enduring legacy for future generations of New Zealanders to enjoy. I am really proud I had a hand in making them.

R Doug Woolerton: What percentage of the land that has had its tenure review completed has gone to the Department of Conservation, and what percentage to farmers as freehold title?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Since 1992, 58 percent of the land has gone into freehold to farmers—that is about 162,000 hectares—and 42 percent, some 117,500 hectares, has gone into Department of Conservation management, owned by all of us.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware that the president, the vice-president, and two of the four councillors of the New Zealand Ecological Society are current Department of Conservation employees and that the conference was sponsored by the Department of Conservation, and does that demonstrate any conflict of interest?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I replied to the member earlier, the Department of Conservation funds and supports a whole range of different environmental conferences, initiatives, and workshops right around the country, and Department of Conservation staff are involved in a whole range of extracurricular conservation activities, which I am very pleased about.

Hon David Carter: Is it appropriate for this ecological society to put out a press release dated 31 August, entitled “Land Tenure Review Failing the Public Interest”, when the Department of Conservation is the main antagonist in the land tenure review process?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I guess that is a lot more ethical than taking cash for policy, which the National Party does.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not relevant. That is not an appropriate reply to the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is the member going to be asked to withdraw and apologise for his unfortunate remark? The Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues—the woman who does no work at all—is laughing through a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Laughing is not interjecting.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, I suppose it is doing something, which is a little unusual—

Madam SPEAKER: I am asking the Minister to withdraw and apologise. Would the Minister please stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister should now address the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Could the member repeat the question.

Hon David Carter: I am only too happy to, and the Minister should listen carefully. Is it appropriate for this ecological society to put out a press release dated 31 August, entitled “Land Tenure Review Failing the Public Interest”, when the Department of Conservation is the main antagonist in the land tenure review process?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Department of Conservation is not an antagonist in the process; it is an adviser on significant inherent values of land going through the land tenure process. I cannot be responsible for what Department of Conservation staff do outside of their employment. I note that the member has not said that the Department of Conservation made such a statement.

Hon David Carter: What recent studies have been done by the Department of Conservation or Landcare Research to ascertain whether biodiversity has been lost, maintained, or enhanced within the Department of Conservation estate?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: A recent study put out by Dr Susan Walker of Landcare Research indicated that biodiversity values were not being met through the land tenure process. We are reviewing the process at all times and would like to see the best possible outcomes, so the Minister for Land Information and I are both looking at the process at the moment.

( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )


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