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Questions And Answers Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Questions And Answers Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Questions to Ministers

Police—Assaults on Officers

1. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: How many stabbing and slashing assaults have been committed on police officers in each year since 1999?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): The number of assaults on police where a stabbing or cutting weapon was used is as follows: 2000, five; 2001, seven; 2002, 17; 2003, 48; 2004, five; and 2005, six.

Ron Mark: Why, after the Commissioner of Police said that he would resign if front-line officers were not equipped with stab-resistant body armour in the last financial year, are front-line officers still waiting for their personal stab-proof vests to be issued?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am advised that the police would have dearly loved to roll out the stab-resistant vests to all front-line officers by now, but unfortunately there have been delays in manufacturing with regard to the UV protection quality in the fabric. The Deputy Commissioner of Police, Rob Pope, is meeting with the manufacturers to ensure there are no more delays.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that, according to internal budget documents, stab-resistant vests for new police officers will not be available until the 2007-08 financial year; if so, what input did New Zealand First and Ron Mark have in negotiating a budget package for new front-line cops that sees them go without this protection for at least a year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member that New Zealand First had no input into a decision to roll out stab-proof vests for police officers, just as the Minister did not.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister seen reports that suggest that, aside from the explanation she has been given from head office today, the issue of the vests has been caused also by cosmetic changes to the design requested by New Zealand Police head office—changes that should have been made right at the outset when the contract was let, and that front-line officers argue are totally unnecessary and not worth the risks they pose through the delay?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have been advised that there has been no change in the colour of the vests—which I believe was an issue that had been raised by the association. There has been a decision after the trial that there will be no reflector on the vests, either. My understanding is that the delay is to do with the fabric.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister seen these photographs, which show the level of damage that can be inflicted by a knife-wielding assailant on a police officer who is not wearing a stab-resistant vest, despite the officer in these photographs being highly trained in hand-to-hand combat; and can the Minister tell the House when will we see issued the stab-resistant vests that were promised to front-line officers?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I thank the member for taking an interest in this issue, rather than just grandstanding, and say to the member that I am unable to give him an exact date of when the stab-resistant vests will be available. I hope they are available as soon as possible. The delay, I understand, was unavoidable. We need them as soon as possible—I do not like to see photographs like that of our officers, who put themselves in harm’s way every day of the week on behalf of New Zealanders.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a photograph depicting back wounds suffered by an American police officer who was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant.

Leave granted.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that we are in the middle of a point of order. People are warned.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In light of the objections raised earlier by the leader of the National Party about interjections during the asking of questions, the blatant disregarding of the Standing Orders just then—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I have ruled on that. Mr Mark, would you please just proceed.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a photograph of a chest wound suffered by a police officer that was caused by a knife-wielding assailant.

Leave granted.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table another photo showing the wound to the side of a police officer that was caused by a knife-wielding assailant. All of these injuries were inflicted on an officer who was not wearing a stab-resistant vest.

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

Gerry Brownlee: Do we know the source of the photos?

Madam SPEAKER: What is the source of the photos? Could the member please enlighten us?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask the member, to make it efficient, simply to advise the House whether these are New Zealand police officers or whether these photographs are from overseas.

Madam SPEAKER: The member did say US, as I heard him, but if he wishes to clarify—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Then I object, because they are not relevant to New Zealand.

Madam SPEAKER: Would Mr Mark please clarify whether all of the photos are from the United States.

Ron Mark: All these photos are from the United States. The injuries were suffered by an American police officer who was attacked with a knife.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think we have got ourselves into a bit of a pickle here. You asked whether there was objection to at least one of the photos, and there was none. Members cannot retrospectively withdraw leave.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for that. I agree with that. Members should object at the time.

Hone Harawira: Given that the Tasers are to be deployed in areas of high Māori population, what role have police iwi liaison officers had in developing the Taser trial and hosting consultation meetings in the target communities; if they were not involved, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I understand that police liaison officers were involved in the policy development. I do not believe that the liaison officers were, at a local iwi level, involved with local Māori.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like some clarification as to whether Dr Nick Smith would object to me tabling later on a photograph of a New Zealand police officer who was stabbed with a screwdriver.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. We are trying to get some order in this House.

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

2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) 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—not like National in the 1990s.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister explain why she refused to meet with the Auditor-General when he was drafting his June 2005 report into Government and parliamentary publicity and advertising; did that have anything to do with her locked-in plans to use over $446,000 of parliamentary funding to pay for the now infamous pledge card?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member is well aware, the Auditor-General wrote to the two major party leaders asking whether they or their representative would be available for a meeting. My able representative Mr Mallard met with the Auditor-General.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister believe that public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process is enhanced when a political party can secretly accept “cash for policy” arrangements through trusts that keep the identity of large corporate donors anonymous, as National did at the last election?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, I do not think that confidence can be maintained. I look forward to the National Party’s support for clamping down on anonymous donations. I understand that in Australia everything over $250 has to be declared. That sounds like a good idea to me.

Gerry Brownlee: If the ridiculous assertions by Mr Goff were to stand, what conclusion would the Prime Minister expect the public to draw from Labour receiving donations from the unions to focus on employment law, from Toll NZ to give it cheap access to the rail track and a cash deal for its business, from WestpacTrust in order to get the Government’s banking business, and from the various “cash for policy” deals that we know it has done with regard to the eight anonymous donations the Labour Party took during the last election campaign?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would like to know what the privatised accident compensation policy was worth. I would like to know what a policy that promised billions of dollars to private insurance companies was worth to the National Party. I would like to know what the tax exiles paid the National Party. I would like to know what other big corporates paid the National Party. I would like to know why Gerry Brownlee was not told that Don Brash was meeting with the Exclusive Brethren. There are a lot of things I would like to know about National Party funding, because that is where corruption comes in.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it the Prime Minister’s practice to take appointments with chinless scarf-wearers out of her diary after they have been put in there, as Dr Brash ordered to be done in his diary?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, I do understand—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Firstly, the Prime Minister has no responsibility for Dr Brash’s diary. Secondly, that is a total lie on the part of Trevor Mallard, and is a fictitious assertion. Frankly, such assertions from a Cabinet Minister do not enhance the reputation of this Parliament or the Labour Party one little bit.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker, I ask first that you deal with the comment that the member made, and then can we come back to the substance of the point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; I am not quite sure—

Hon Trevor Mallard: The unparliamentary allegation that he made during his point or order.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but I did not actually—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, it may be the practice to call people liars here in the House far too often, but I would like that to be dealt with first.

Madam SPEAKER: Right, yes; I am sorry. In relation to the allegation that was made, would the member please withdraw and apologise for that particular bit. I then also want to deal with the member’s “chinless” whatevers, as well, which seemed to me to be completely irrelevant to the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Thank you, Madam Speaker, but for obvious reasons you do not have to protect me from being accused of being chinless. I offer to withdraw and apologise for that remark.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The substantive question, and of course—

Madam SPEAKER: No. I think the “chinless” remark—withdraw that, please.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I am happy to. I withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: And the purpose of that, if I may say this to members, is that we would be able to maintain better order if people did not put into their questions and answers those sorts of innuendos.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Continuing with the point of order, I say that it is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to have responsibility for her diary, and that is what the question was about. Gerry Brownlee, during the campaign, was misled by Don Brash with regard to the Exclusive Brethren—

Madam SPEAKER: No. That is not part of the point of order.

Hon Trevor Mallard:—and he cannot answer for Don Brash now.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The first part of the question was in order—the part about the Prime Minister’s diary—but the second part was not. So would the Prime Minister please address the first part.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that indeed Dr Brash did meet with the Exclusive Brethren, against the advice of staff, but his concession was to take the meeting out of the diary so that Gerry Brownlee did not know about it—and Gerry did not know until Don fessed up.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated, Prime Minister. That did not, in fact, address the first part of the question. We will now move on.

Gerry Brownlee: What is the Prime Minister’s response to today’s New Zealand Herald editorial, which tells the Government that “It must pay the bill and call it a salutary lesson in the limits to which the public will pay for political puff.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Surprisingly to say, that particular document has not passed past my eyes yet. But I want to say—because, unlike the National Party, I do not rush off to have my prejudices confirmed by the New Zealand Herald—we are awaiting a final report and, further, we are very busy with campaign law reform to stop National rorting elections through covert funding. We will be going to the parties with proposals that clamp down on anonymous donations of the kind National received, because we believe that is where corruption enters into politics.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister believe that the political integrity of Parliament is enhanced if a leader can get up in this House and say he did not get a dime from the Exclusive Brethren, when I have in my hand a document from the Exclusive Brethren that reads as follows: “Accordingly, we have put together an election programme”—with a budget of $1.2 million—“with the goal of getting party votes for National, as this is the only way change will come about.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, such actions by political parties do nothing for confidence in Parliament, and it is impossible to believe that that pamphlet was not prepared with the help of National Party members. It may be that they never told Gerry Brownlee about it, but it was prepared with their help. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I must say, observing the House, that the comments did come from that side, this time, so I ask members on that side of the House to please allow the rest of us to hear the answers.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It was all out of order, anyway.

Madam SPEAKER: It was not out of order, I say to Dr Smith. The question was about the political integrity of Parliament.

Gerry Brownlee: Who was responsible for the $446,000 rort of taxpayer funds: the Prime Minister or the Hon Trevor Mallard?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Labour played by the same rules as Bill English did when issuing his pledge card, and what is good enough for Bill is good enough for others. National played by the rules then; we play by the rules now.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister been made aware of section 214B of the Electoral Act, which gives a particular description to the practice of knowingly exceeding campaign spending limits, and can she deny to this House that she played a part in the Labour Party’s decision to overspend by a million dollars on advertising in the last 2 weeks of the election campaign, so breaching the electoral cap and section 214B of the Electoral Act?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There was an allegation in that question that was unparliamentary, and I ask you to rule it out. The idea that people knowingly breached the law is absolutely incorrect, and criminal activity cannot be alleged by way of questions.

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: My question asked whether the Prime Minister was aware of section 214B of the Electoral Act, which gives a particular description to the practice of knowingly exceeding campaign spending limits. That is in the Electoral Act; I am not making it up. It is not unparliamentary, surely, to read the laws of this country in Parliament. We know that the Labour Party is particularly upset by this particular incident. We are staggered that it does not fix it by simply paying the money back.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that the allegation that was made ruled that question out of order, but unfortunately it was difficult to see where ministerial responsibility lay. Perhaps the member would like to rephrase the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the Prime Minister could answer a question—as you have just told the House—from Mr Goff because it was about the integrity of Parliament, then surely it would be OK to ask the Prime Minister about her knowledge of the Electoral Act, which puts Parliament together in the first place. How can it be some sort of an allegation against the Prime Minister to ask her whether she knows what that particular section of the Act states?

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister has no ministerial responsibility for delivering seminars on the Electoral Act to Opposition members.

Madam SPEAKER: Nor for giving legal opinions. I think the member may like to rephrase his question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have not asked for a legal opinion. I have asked whether the Prime Minister is aware of that section. We know that the Prime Minister spent $446,000 of her leader’s budget on this pledge card. We know that you have ruled that we cannot ask her about that as the leader of the Labour Party. But the issue has gone well beyond that. We have had some days of questioning on this, where the issue has not been affected. I think the precedent is set. It is not unreasonable to ask the Prime Minister what she knew of the spending. That is the heart of this question. If the answer was “I knew nothing.”, that would be interesting. But if it was “I knew something.”, then I think that takes us into different territory. It may be that this question is too hard for the Prime Minister to answer. It may be that it is too difficult for the Prime Minister to answer.

Madam SPEAKER: The member is now giving a speech. [Interruption] I am about to help the member, I hope. Would Mr Brownlee like to put his question again, so that I can judge it.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister been made aware that section 214B of the Electoral Act gives a particular description to the practice of knowingly exceeding the campaign spending limit, and can she deny to this House that she played a part in the Labour Party’s decision to spend over a million dollars on advertising in the last 2 weeks of the election campaign, so breaching the electoral spending cap and section 214B of the Electoral Act?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order 371(1)(b), which states that questions must be concise and not contain, inter alia, inference or imputation.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for drawing that to the attention of all members of the House, but I would ask the Prime Minister to address the first part of that question, please.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No major party sets out to break the law—no more than the National Party did with this commitment card in 2002. I want to say that the only knowing avoidance of election law was the National Party’s dodging of $1.2 million from the Exclusive Brethren spent on a political campaign—and I say to Mr Key that I would be careful if I were him, because he met with them and he did part of the deal. [Interruption]

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Was that barracking, or what was it—just for the sake of the record?

Madam SPEAKER: It was from all members, Mr Brownlee—from all members.

Gerry Brownlee: Why is the Prime Minister so reluctant to indicate whether she was party to the decision to spend $446,000 of taxpayers’ funds on the Labour Party election campaign?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There are very good precedents for issuing pledge cards. Look at it—no rule changes. It was the same rule and the same practice, but National had so much secret money from big funders it did not touch it this time.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Prime Minister been advised by the Minister of Finance or any other responsible Minister of an offer from the Hon Bill English to refund the hundreds of thousands of dollars spend in 2002?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, because I understand that the Hon Bill English, in good faith, believed it was within the rules—just as Labour played within the rules all the way through.

Accident Compensation—Changes to System

3. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any reports regarding potential changes to New Zealand’s ACC system?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): Yes, I have. I have read recently of a policy release from the National Party—shocking though that might seem. It is a rerun of its 1990s accident compensation privatisation agenda—

Madam SPEAKER: I am asking Ministers not to make these statements, please. Just answer the question.

Hon RUTH DYSON: It is a rerun of its 1990s accident compensation privatisation agenda. [Interruption] Either it is driven by pure ideology or it is the price that the National Party has to pay for anonymous campaign funding from the insurance industry.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you going to allow the last part of the answer to that question to stand?

Madam SPEAKER: I wish I could have heard it, Mr Brownlee. Would the Minister please repeat the answer, but more concisely, so that I can know whether it was in order.

Hon RUTH DYSON: Absolutely, Madam Speaker. The accident compensation privatisation agenda is either driven by pure ideology or is the price the National Party has to pay for anonymous campaign funding from the insurance industry.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister should not have made that last comment about the National Party, now that I can hear the answer. [Interruption] There has been a request for the Minister to withdraw just that last remark, so would the Minister please do so.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Although inferences are not to be drawn from questions, it has always been within the rights of members of this House, both during question time and a debate, to speculate on the reasons for parties making particular decisions. The Minister speculated that the very large donations made anonymously by the insurance companies to the National Party were a reason for that. [Interruption] Well, we are told that that was the case. Gerry Brownlee, who claims he does not know what is happening in the National Party, cannot deny it.

Madam SPEAKER: I just remind the front bench on the Opposition side of the House that most of its members would have been ordered out for intervening on a point of order. But the point of order went beyond making a point of order and into making comments. So I ask members to please observe the Standing Orders. The last part of the Minister’s question was ruled out of order. Mr Brownlee, I think we will leave the matter there. It was not a personal reflection.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: But you asked—

Madam SPEAKER: Please, Dr Smith. The second part of the Minister’s answer was out of order, because it related to a party matter. The matter should be left there. It was not a personal reflection; it strayed beyond a legitimate answer.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know how challenging this is becoming for you these days, with the level of interjection and barracking. The problem that has been raised by the alternative parties—ACT, United Future, and New Zealand First—is how difficult we are finding it to hear answers given by Ministers. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of control there appears to be. This afternoon there have been interjections by National Party members on three points of order, the last of which was when you yourself were on your feet. Rather than put your foot down firmly and demand the sort of order that Mr Brownlee was requesting earlier today, you have again shown leniency and again allowed those National Party members to remain. I simply ask, Madam Speaker, in the interests of the alternate parties at least getting to know what is happening in this House, hearing, and being able to participate, that some even-handedness be applied across the House, and where people like Dr Lockwood Smith seek to interject on a point of order, that they be ejected from the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his comments. I did rule on that matter. I ask all members, when they are making points of order, to ensure that they are in fact points of order, not speeches, and that they are made concisely.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to ask about your ruling on this particular matter. It seems that you are not requiring the Minister to withdraw that comment, on the basis that it was not personally directed and, therefore, it was difficult to take offence. It was not difficult for us to take offence, in that regard, because there was a degree of recklessness with the truth behind that particular statement.

Madam SPEAKER: In the interests of moving on, would the Minister please withdraw and apologise for that last remark.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I withdraw and apologise, Madam Speaker.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The last expression used by Gerry Brownlee has been repeatedly ruled out by Speakers, and I ask that it be withdrawn and apologised for.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please withdraw and apologise, Mr Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee: That puts me in a difficult position, because if I had not put it to you in that way, I suspect you would not have asked the Minister to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think you need to speculate on what I may or may not have done. In the interests of moving on, would you please withdraw and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Georgina Beyer: Has the Minister received any other reports regarding potential changes to New Zealand’s world-class accident compensation system?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have. I have seen a memo from the chief executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand, which refers to the National Party’s announcement last year that it intended to privatise accident compensation. It states: “The details of the policy have been deliberately kept out of the announcement after consultation with the Insurance Council.”

Georgina Beyer: Has she received any reports regarding the effects of those potential changes to New Zealand’s world-class accident compensation system?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen numerous reports from New Zealand and overseas that show that our accident compensation scheme is a world leader in every respect. Many New Zealanders, including private businesses, would pay higher levies under a private scheme. In other words, New Zealanders would end up paying for the National Party promise to repay the insurance companies for any funding donations.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister for ACC turned a blind eye to the appalling accident record of Toll Holdings Ltd because of the huge political donation it made to the Labour Party in return not only for her turning a blind eye but for the Prime Minister accepting a huge cash sum, as well as providing it with cash for the railway line and very cheap access to the rail corridor?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer you to the Standing Order I referred you to earlier. Clearly, the Prime Minister would never receive a cash donation.

Madam SPEAKER: I think we will call that a marginal call and I will permit the question.

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member’s question demonstrated his total ignorance of the way the Accident Compensation Corporation’s no-fault scheme operates. That is further compounded by the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Service investigates all injuries, including those of Toll. I seek leave of the House to table the memo of the Chief Executive of the Insurance Council of New Zealand, Chris Ryan, about the Insurance Council’s involvement with the National Party accident compensation privatisation policy.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Was there objection? Perhaps members would like to be silent while these matters are being dealt with, because when they are having conversations it is sometimes difficult to know whether they are objecting.

Hon RUTH DYSON: Was there any objection?

Madam SPEAKER: There was no objection.

Leave granted.

Immigration Service—Operational Arms

4. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Which specific offices, teams, or sections of the New Zealand Immigration Service or the wider Department of Labour was he referring to yesterday when he told the House that information regarding the involvement of Thai nationals with Taito Phillip Field was passed on “through to the operational arms of the department.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): The relevant sections were the department’s border security group and service international group.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that the director of the Pacific division received information on 4 May 2005 about Thai nationals working for free on Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa in return for work visas in New Zealand, and what did the director of the Pacific division do with that information?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, because he is a member of the department’s service international group.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does he confirm, as he told the House yesterday, that the Pacific division received further information emailed by the Apia branch manager, Mr James Dalmer, dated 10 May 2005, spelling out the fact that Thais were working for no pay on Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa; and precisely what did the Pacific division do with that information?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, and the director of the Pacific division recalls that he attempted to pass it on to the Minister’s private secretary. However, the Ingram report concludes that in all likelihood it was not passed to the Minister.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that the director of the Pacific division received still further information on 27 May 2005 about the involvement of Taito Phillip Field’s ministerial office in the cases of Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm; and what did the director of the Pacific division do with that further information?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, and I believe I have already answered exactly the same question on 24 August 2006.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that the team leader of the short-term overstayers compliance team and the team leader of the failed refugee compliance team both received information on 27 May 2005 that Taito Phillip Field’s ministerial office had requested the amount of the removal costs for Ms Phanngarm, and that Mr Siriwan was living with Ms Phanngarm in Samoa; and what did those team leaders do with that information?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, they are part of the divisions to which I referred yesterday and earlier in this question, and, yes, they assumed that the director of the Pacific division was conveying that information to the Minister’s office, so far as we can tell from the Ingram report.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: In relation to the Minister’s telling the House yesterday—and has repeated today—that the manager of the Pacific division had attempted to pass through to the Minister’s office the information received from the immigration intelligence unit on 9 June about the involvement of Taito Phillip Field with Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm in Samoa, how and on what date was that attempt made by the manager of the Pacific division?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I have previously said, the department has accepted that its procedures could have been strengthened; in particular, the information in question was not placed in the usual system that supported the Associate Minister’s decision making.

Rates—Independent Inquiry

5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Local Government: What progress has he made on establishing the “independent inquiry into issues around local government rates funding” that he announced on 23 August?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government): The Government is discussing the terms of reference for the inquiry with a range of parties and consultation is progressing well.

Rodney Hide: Which political parties has the Minister consulted with on the terms of reference for this inquiry, and on what dates?

Hon MARK BURTON: Between myself and officials, or staff from our party, there have been a number of consultations. I do not have the dates with me, but I am happy to supply them. In fact, we are meeting, one way or another, with any party that has expressed an interest—[Interruption] including, I say to Dr Smith, Mr Carter from his own party later today. Unfortunately, the ACT party has not expressed any interest in having a meeting.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister assure the ratepayers of New Zealand that the inquiry will in fact deal with the issues that concern them, unlike Mr Hide’s poorly drafted bill, which pandered to popularism but provided no real solutions?

Hon MARK BURTON: Indeed, and that is entirely why those parties that have a genuine interest are being consulted with, and I particularly refer to the member’s own—unlike Mr Hide’s bill, which, as the member said, would have resulted in communities facing a decline in infrastructure over time, had it progressed.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that as we approach the end of cheap oil it is important that the rates inquiry examines the amount that local government and therefore ratepayers are having to spend on public transport, and the need for more central government assistance for public transport infrastructure; and can he confirm that this important issue will be considered in the forthcoming inquiry?

Hon MARK BURTON: I can confirm to the member that it is important that pertinent issues relating to local government funding are addressed in the inquiry, which is exactly why we are consulting parties such as the Greens, New Zealand First, United Future, and so on, on this important matter.

Mark Blumsky: Will the independent inquiry into issues around local government rates funding investigate the effect of Government-imposed compliance costs on rate increases, given comments made by the Vice-President of Local Government New Zealand, the Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, that it has a huge impact and that those compliance costs have placed a huge burden on some local authorities, and given the evaluation of the Wellington City Council on costs imposed by central government of, just to name two, $1.75 million for the Building Act and $220,000 for the Dog Control Act?

Hon MARK BURTON: I would respond to the member by saying that a factual analysis of the long-term community plan shows that 70 percent of the anticipated expenditure will go on core infrastructure and a further 18 percent will go on core community amenities. I have to say that, of the supposed list of Acts that have brought such costs to local government—and that is typical of the misinformation we have seen from that member’s party—as I pointed out yesterday, some 28 of them carry no cost at all. I refer to legislation such as the amendment of 2000 to the Dog Control Act, which included hearing-ear dogs and allows dogs that provide safety assistance for the Deaf to be in places where dogs are normally not allowed. That is the sort of measure that that member’s party seems to be criticising, when, in fact, the legislation is a response to the stated needs of the community, and often of local government itself.

Mark Blumsky: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question concerned the independent inquiry into issues, not the spending that came out of the long-term council community plan process, and at no stage did the Minister raise or address the issue of the inquiry.

Madam SPEAKER: But your supplementary question did raise those matters, and in all supplementary questions when a member raises more than one thought, it is for the Minister to select the thought to address in that question. So I am sorry, but that is not a valid point of order.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that it is unfair that State highways—for example, Wellington’s inner-city bypass, whose sole purpose is to move Wellingtonians who drive cars a few hundred metres—are 100 percent funded by central government but that, say, improving the rail services on the Kapiti line has to be 50 percent funded by local ratepayers; and can he therefore assure the House that this blatant inequity in local government transport funding will be considered in the upcoming inquiry?

Hon MARK BURTON: It would hardly be credible of me to assure the member of every detail of the inquiry while we are still engaging in good-faith consultation with the parties. But I can assure the member that that process will provide the opportunity, as it is doing already, for parties to put forward their particular concerns that are relevant to the purpose of the inquiry.

Rodney Hide: What is the timetable for announcing the terms of reference, and who will be conducting this well-thought-through, principled inquiry, which is designed to deliver real gains for ratepayers up and down New Zealand, or is the Minister not sufficiently organised to even tell us when he will have the terms of reference done?

Hon MARK BURTON: I anticipate that part of the process for the terms of reference will be complete this month, but it is important not to put an artificial deadline on something as important as this when we are committed to consulting properly with a range of parties.

R Doug Woolerton: Did the Minister read any reports or media statements where Mr Hide acknowledged that his recent member’s bill was an inadequate attempt to address the issues behind rates increases, stating: “I do not pretend that my bill has all the answers.”?

Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, I did read such a report, and I can only say that on this rare occasion I have to agree with that member.

Waiting Lists—Removal of Patients

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: How many patients so far this calendar year have been returned to their general practitioners for ongoing care from first specialist assessment waiting lists and hospital booking system waiting lists, and how many more patients does he expect to be removed from these waiting lists before 30 September 2006?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Over 555,000 people receive either elective or specialist treatment every year. An additional 3 to 5 percent are sent back to their general practitioners. That will be the case for the calendar year through to September 2006.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister seen the open letter from 74 of the Canterbury region’s 80 surgeons criticising the Government’s waiting list policy, which states that compliance with the Government directive “will deny many of our surgical patients the benefits of modern surgery and force them to continue to live with worsening disabilities and in some cases undiagnosed and untreated conditions including tumours that will lead to premature death.”; does he not realise that it is absolutely unprecedented to have virtually every surgeon in a district health board come out and warn the Government that under its waiting list policies, patients will die?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am aware of the views of those surgeons. I am also aware that the Canterbury District Health Board has acknowledged that it could have handled the process better. It has apologised and it has committed an additional $2 million to elective surgery in the next year.

Sue Moroney: Has the Minister seen any reports on the results of patients being returned to their general practitioners for an updated assessment of their condition?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes, I have seen reports that people receiving an updated assessment from their general practitioners has meant that thousands of people have been booked for treatment within 6 months. In Hawke’s Bay, for example, 800 people were given certainty that they would either be seen by a specialist or get surgery. In Nelson-Marlborough, around 200 people were given that certainty.

Barbara Stewart: Has the Ministry of Health considered the likely effects of the current trend to reassessment on overworked and understaffed general practices, and how this constant recycling of patients may affect the recruitment and retention of general practitioners?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have been very aware of the situation with general practitioners. That is why the previous Minister, the Hon Annette King, increased the number of placements at medical schools in order to increase the number of people training. A huge amount of money has been put into primary care to acknowledge the pressure on general practitioners, and to put in place preventive measures that, over time, will reduce the pressure not only on general practitioners but on the hospital system.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister going to take any notice of the fact that 74 of the 80 surgeons at the Canterbury District Health Board have this morning released a letter that warns the Government that its waiting list policy will see people die; does that not expose the fact that this Government’s waiting list cull is nothing other than a cynical, political ploy of data cleansing?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I said to that member before, I acknowledge that those are the views of those surgeons. The Canterbury District Health Board has acknowledged that it could have handled the situation better, has apologised, and has committed $2 million more into elective surgery for the next year.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware of the memo written by a Canterbury District Health Board manager, and leaked to the press, stating that for every culled patient returned to hospital care, another must be axed, and does he consider this revolving door approach to patient care satisfactory?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have not seen that memo and I would dispute that it is a replacement of “one-on, one-off”. The acting chief executive officer, Karleen Edwards, has also said that the health board is working with general practitioners, hospital doctors, and primary health organisations on the process of again referring people into the hospital system.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Minister gloating about 200 extra operations when the doctors of Canterbury have already identified over 500 patients who were culled from waiting lists and who urgently need to have their operations dealt with; and is it not time that the Government realised that it has gone past the stage where it can keep defending this data cleansing of patients, and that it should put its money where the operations should be?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We have increased funding for health from $6.6 billion under the previous National Government to over $10.6 billion. We have committed a huge amount of money to the health system. We believe that the booking system introduced by the previous National Government should be a fairer, more honest, and more transparent system, and that is why these changes are being made.

Hon Tony Ryall: What responsibility will this Minister take when it is his waiting list cull, it is his threats of financial penalties, and it is his pressure for district health boards to meet political ends; and why will he not act, now that the surgeons are telling him that he is letting people die?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not accept the wisdom of the words of that member at all, but I do accept the fact that the district health board has acted, has apologised, and has committed $2 million more in funding to assist the people on the waiting list in Canterbury.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can the Minister explain why it is that, despite the population of Greater Auckland increasing by 160,000 over the past 5 years, there were fewer elective operations performed in the region this year than last, and there were fewer performed last year than 5 years ago; and should we not be seeing more elective surgery as the population grows, rather than fewer?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The answer is yes to the member’s last assertion. He may not have noticed that in Auckland there has been a brand-new hospital built and that the Auckland District Health Board has been shifted into that hospital. We accept that surgery has not been what it should be. It has improved over the last year and we expect that it will continue to improve.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. One is an apology from the Canterbury District Health Board for the fact that patients have been culled from a hospital waiting list without a specialist being involved.

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

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a letter from 74 of the 80 surgeons in the Canterbury District Health Board that warns the Government that under its waiting list policy, patients will die.

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

Universities and Research Institutes—Access to Infrastructure

7. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What is the Government doing to ensure New Zealand universities and research institutes have access to world-class infrastructure?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): Last week the Government launched the Advanced Network, which is a super - high speed Internet 40,000 times faster than the conventional Internet. It will link universities and research organisations here and around the world. The Government is investing $43 million in this major piece of infrastructure. Our scientists can now deal with their data in real time and in large amounts. I welcomed the attendance of National’s communications spokesperson, Maurice Williamson, at the launch. In doing so, he acknowledged the importance of this piece of infrastructure.

Moana Mackey: What other investments is the Government making to transform New Zealand’s economy through science, and what reports has the Minister received of support for those investments?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government invests around $640 million a year in research and science through the science portfolio alone, which is a 65 percent increase since 1999. Although that spending has been widely supported, unfortunately we do not enjoy the support of the National Party’s spokesperson on this sector, Dr Paul Hutchison, who made a joke of himself in Queenstown last week when he chose to attack Labour’s science policy.

Madam SPEAKER: I have asked Ministers not to make those kinds of comments. Mr Maharey, please withdraw that comment about the member.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw.

Dr Paul Hutchison: How can the Minister expect New Zealand universities and research institutions to carry out world-class research, when the regulatory environment imposed by this Government around biological science is such that the chief executive officer of HortResearch said only 7 days ago: “In reality, the costs mean this won’t happen in New Zealand and the opportunity for world leadership here in New Zealand is lost.”

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I expect our science institutions to do science consistent with biosecurity and biodiversity, but I also expect them to be able to get an idea from the Opposition spokesperson, who likes to criticise these things, of such basic things as how much money he would spend on science.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What is the Minister doing to ensure that New Zealanders who are doing research into promising marine energy technology, such as tidal currents and waves, have access to world-class infrastructure for testing their machines and their integration into the grid, given New Zealand’s urgent need for more renewable electricity generation?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member may like to know that one of what are called the road maps for major areas of science being prepared by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology—and, hopefully, it will be delivered around the end of November—will be on energy, and that it will look at those kinds of renewable resources, like marine energy. Hopefully, it will be a point of discussion for the member, because we do need to resolve those kinds of issues—and fund them—going forward.

State Houses—Sale and Disposal

8. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Why did Housing New Zealand Corporation dispose of 420 houses, including 149 by sale, in the 2002-03 financial year, 563 in 2003-04 and 510 in 2004-05; and what is the Government’s policy on the sale and disposal of State houses?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Housing): As part of normal business, Housing New Zealand Corporation disposes of properties which become vacant in areas of low demand, when leasing arrangements with private owners expire, or when houses are demolished or shifted for redevelopment. Some were also destroyed by fire. Throughout the last 7 years under Labour, the total number of State houses has significantly increased. Unlike the National Party, this Government does not have a policy of selling State houses while we have families in urgent need of secure accommodation.

Phil Heatley: What are the Minister’s plans for the $520,000 State house in Invercargill, the $690,000 State house in Christchurch, and the State house in Auckland worth $2 million, so that we get more State houses in those cities for the same investment?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The value of those State houses is in the land they sit on, not the homes themselves. The Government has asked the Housing New Zealand Corporation, as a prudent landlord, to actively look at each of those high-value properties when they become vacant to determine whether the property should be sold, with the proceeds reinvested in new houses elsewhere; whether the site has redevelopment potential and can accommodate more houses on it; or whether we should rent the house to a new tenant.

H V Ross Robertson: What steps has the Government taken to increase the number of State homes?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Since the change of Government in 1999 we have added more than 6,000 homes to the State housing stock, and 827 homes since the last election. We still have a long way to go to recover the 13,000 houses that National sold during the 1990s—13,000 houses sold mostly to speculators.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister agree with the assessment contained in New Zealand’s History Online that sales of State houses “skyrocketed during the 1990s, fuelled by National’s desire to reduce the state housing stock”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I do, and I remind the House that most of those houses were not sold to tenants but to speculators.

Phil Heatley: Why are thousands of needy Auckland families allowed to languish on the waiting list while three lucky Auckland families enjoy State houses worth well over $1.4 million, and one very lucky tenant lives under a $2 million roof?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I remind the House that that member’s party sold 13,000 houses. I am amazed it missed those three.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am afraid that it is a predictable point of order, it is just to say that I could not hear the latter part of the Minister’s answer.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister address the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am surprised the National Party missed the three houses that the member quoted.

H V Ross Robertson: How was the Government’s policy on the sale of State houses developed?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government worked with community organisations and churches to develop our housing policy because we were forced to pick up the pieces for shattered families locked out of State houses by market rents and an aggressive sell-off of State houses. I can only speculate as to how much influence property speculators had in the development of National’s housing policy—perhaps it was more cash for policy!

Phil Heatley: With the Minister having been in Government for 7 years now and the waiting list at 14,000, why does he not better arrange the housing stock and get more houses for his bucks if he really cares about low-income people?

Madam SPEAKER: I just remind members that they ask questions, and they do not preface them with statements.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: We would have 13,000 of those families or individuals off the list if National had not sold off the houses.

Phil Heatley: Does not the idea of trading in grossly high-value houses for higher numbers of respectable but average-priced houses fit in with what the Minister is already doing, given that the Minister disposes of 400 State houses year in, year out for all sorts of reasons, and why does he not trade up the $2 million one?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member clearly was not listening to my earlier answers when I said that we would look at it as those houses become vacant. I remind the member that the 400 houses he refers to could be many, many hundreds of kilometres from Auckland. Some of them have burnt down, and some of them were leases we have terminated because they were owned by private landlords. Once again the member does not have his facts right.

Phil Heatley: What confidence should needy families on the waiting list have in this Minister’s conscience, when he accepts State house tenants who are earning $95,000-plus after tax, tenants who are running boarding houses with five, six, and seven boarders, tenants who vandalise State property, and now other tenants who are enjoying the comfort of million-dollar homes?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: What an astonishingly short memory that member has. Market renters entered State houses under the period of the National Government. The $2 million house that the member quoted a few minutes ago was tenanted 8 years ago, under a National Government.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table question for written answer No. 11513, which shows the valuation of State housing across the country.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the three last annual reports of the Housing New Zealand Corporation, which show it sells 500 houses year in and year out.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the State house waiting list, which is now at 14,500 across the country.

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

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a press release from my office, which illustrates that National sold 13,000 houses during its period in office.

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

Disarmament and Arms Control—Cluster Bombs

9. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: What steps will New Zealand take to press for the legal regulation of cluster bombs in light of the experience in Lebanon?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control): New facts are emerging from the Lebanon on the seriousness of the humanitarian situation that has been created by the use of cluster bombs. These, I believe, give urgency to the need for much stronger international controls over the use of such munitions. I have asked that the New Zealand delegation in Geneva take a lead in calling for strong and legally binding controls to restrict the use of cluster bombs. That message was delivered at a meeting on the inhumane weapons convention that took place in Geneva yesterday.

Hon Marian Hobbs: What information has emerged from the use of cluster munitions in Lebanon?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The latest information I have from the United Nations Mine Action Service is that the situation there is, without a doubt, the worst post-conflict cluster bomb contamination that it has ever had to deal with. The information I gave the House last week was that 10 percent of those bombs did not go off on impact, and were therefore potentially lethal for civilians, particularly children. The latest estimate is that 50 percent are not being detonated on impact, and are there, waiting for an innocent person to come along. There have been, so far, 68 confirmed casualties, 12 of those proving fatal. That is a situation we cannot tolerate. One hundred thousand cluster bomblets are currently estimated to be lying on the ground in places in the Lebanon where people are living today.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister push for a ban on cluster bomb trading, to restrain hold-out countries like the United States from providing these abominable weapons to users like Israel?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Of course, in principle we want to see the total elimination of cluster bombs. There simply is not a majority in the international arena to support that. We are therefore targeting our efforts at goals we think we can achieve, in terms of where those bombs can be used—certainly, excluding civilian areas—and in terms of the use of obsolete weapons. Some of the weapons used in the last 3 days of the war in the Lebanon had a 100 percent failure rate; they were munitions dating from 1973. Clearly, that sort of munition ought also to be banned.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister may have misheard my question, which was about trading, not about the manufacture and possession of cluster bombs. In the small arms area and other areas of arms control, trading is an important target.

Hon PHIL GOFF: What we are seeking to do, working with like-minded countries, is to do the achievable, which is to limit the use and design of cluster bombs. That is a good place to start.

Hon Marian Hobbs: While trying to achieve the achievable, does the Minister think we are going to get any support for our campaign?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are clearly countries, regrettably, that believe that cluster munitions should be produced, traded, and used in any circumstances. They will not be supportive of what we are trying to do. But we do have a strong group of like-minded countries—the Scandinavian countries and countries like Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Mexico, and Jordan, which hold very similar views to New Zealand. I believe that through our working with these countries, and in the face of the humanitarian crisis obvious to everyone in the Lebanon, the majority of countries will eventually be persuaded to support our point of view.

Social Development and Employment (CYF)—Associate Minister’s Statement

10. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF): Does she stand by her reported statement last week that “police may have become overly cautious and are referring too many family violence cases to the service”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF)): I stand by all my reported comments that were made in the Radio New Zealand interview. It may be that the member’s attention span is such that she did not hear my other comments, including the comment that increased referrals from the police and other agencies were a good thing—

Madam SPEAKER: I have mentioned this before. That was an irrelevant comment. Would the Minister please start again and remove all irrelevant comments from the answer.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I stand by all my reported comments that were made in the Radio New Zealand interview. My other comments included the comment that increased referrals from the police and other agencies were a good thing, but that notification to Child, Youth and Family was not always the best course of action. Sometimes it is better for the child, or the family, to be referred to another agency. The police and Child, Youth and Family are in full agreement on that.

Anne Tolley: On reflection, does she admit that it was irresponsible to suggest that the police are too risk-averse, when reports released today show that police child abuse caseloads have doubled in the past year and the police describe themselves as being swamped?

Hon RUTH DYSON: What I consider to be irresponsible are that member’s press statements, which are factually incorrect, very lazily written, and irresponsible in total. With regard to the police action, I note the comments of the acting deputy commissioner of operations, Peter Marshall, who has stated that in all districts the child abuse systems are being managed appropriately.

Hon Mark Gosche: What is Child, Youth and Family doing to ensure children and families are referred to the most appropriate agencies for help and support?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Child, Youth and Family is working with other agencies, including health, education, and police, to ensure best practice in all its referrals, including those to agencies other than Child, Youth and Family. As the police spokesperson said in the report referred to in the primary question, Child, Youth and Family is working closely with the police to develop a case management process with the result of a sharing of responsibility between a number of agencies. Everyone agrees that that results in better outcomes for children and families.

Judy Turner: Does she agree that most notifications are considered medium to low risk, and that a timely way to respond to those would be to have such cases investigated by competent community agencies through the differential intake model?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do agree with that, and that is exactly the process that has been introduced into Child, Youth and Family.

Anne Tolley: Would the Minister not rather have 10 overly cautious complaints from the police than have one slip through the cracks, especially in the light of Child, Youth and Family being previously unaware of 80 percent of all child homicide cases?

Hon RUTH DYSON: My preference would be that every suspicion of child abuse was notified to the appropriate agency. If that member had bothered to listen to the whole radio interview, she would know that that was exactly what I said, and she would not have misrepresented my interview in her press statement and again in the House today.

Judy Turner: What progress has the ministry made in the development of the differential intake model proposed by United Future, and where is it at in terms of its implementation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The differential response model has already begun at sites throughout the country. The legislation to back up that process has yet to be progressed through the House, but I am pleased to report to the member that that will not delay the spreading of the model throughout the entire country. It is a very good model and it is working, and that member should take a lot of credit for its proposal.

Anne Tolley: Why have two recent reports from Child, Youth and Family, one into child homicide and one into the increased child abuse notifications, failed to discuss or even acknowledge the number of actual established cases of child abuse, which have increased from 6,000 in 2000 to 13,000 in 2005?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member, yet again, misrepresents facts. Notifications, calls, or referrals are different from actual cases of child abuse.

Anne Tolley: Will the Minister, in order to have meaningful discussions with the cross-party working-group on family violence, produce evidence to the group on the increasing trend of established child abuse, which the two previous reports have omitted; if not, why not?

Hon RUTH DYSON: If the purpose of either of the reports had been to report on that question, then they may have included that, but it was not the purpose of either of the reports.

Anne Tolley: How does the Minister reconcile the statement in the unreleased internal report on notification increases, which states there is no clear evidence that violence, abuse, or neglect overall has changed, with figures that she has released in replies to written questions, which show that cases of established child abuse have risen, from 6,000 in 2000 to 13,000 in 2005?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I do not know whether anybody in the country other than that member thinks that a reduced tolerance of child abuse, and therefore increased notifications, are not good things. I welcome the increased notifications. It is important that our processes ensure that those notifications are made to the appropriate agency.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the item in the Dominion Post this morning from the police themselves, stating that they are swamped with child abuse cases.

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

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table a transcript of the item on Morning Report where the Minister says the police are more inclined to refer cases to Child, Youth and Family because they are getting a little risk-averse.

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

Hon RUTH DYSON: I seek leave to table the release from the acting deputy commissioner of operations in the police, stating that the police have systems in place, and that in all districts those systems are being managed appropriately.

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

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the later release from that very same assistant police commissioner, which states that reported cases of child abuse have doubled in the past year.

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

Drugs—Border Control

11. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Customs: What reports has she received on the success of the Government’s investment in initiatives to reduce drug importations?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Customs): I have seen a report detailing a significant drug bust by the New Zealand Customs Service netting approximately 5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine. This has an estimated street value of $5 million. I commend the New Zealand Customs Service, as its work in this area contributes to safer communities for all families, young and old.

Dianne Yates: How is the Government’s investment in this area reflected in the Customs Service’s drug seizures?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: This year there have been 42 significant drugs seizures by the Customs Service and 36 arrests, all of which have proceeded to prosecution. In the calendar year to date, the New Zealand Customs Service has seized up to 110 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine and in excess of 1.38 million capsules of precursor substance used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The Government has made a significant investment in tackling drug problems, from reducing supply and demand to community programmes, increased law enforcement powers, and continued information-sharing methods, to name but a few measures.

Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Housing): I seek leave to table a document from the Housing New Zealand Corporation showing that the statement made by National’s housing spokesperson, Mr Phil Heatley, in this House this afternoon that there are 14,000 people on the corporation’s waiting list is incorrect. In fact, there are 11,651—which, of course is fewer than the 13,000 National sold off.

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

Hon Member: There is.

Madam SPEAKER: There is objection? Thank you. As I have said, if members would please be quiet when I am putting the question, it would be a lot easier to hear whether there is any objection. There is objection.

Te Ohu Kai Moana—Appointment of Directors

12. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Did he satisfy himself, when appointing directors of Te Ohu Kai Moana, that they were independent of the Labour Party and the Labour Government; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs): No. Appointments are made on the basis of merit.

Gerry Brownlee: If Shane Jones’ position as a member of Parliament and as chairman of Te Ohu Kai Moana does not involve a conflict of interest, why did the Prime Minister summon him to her office about 12 months ago and tell him that she did not expect him to be in that position very long, after he had repeatedly told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he had no intention of giving up the $86,000-a-year job of chairman of Te Ohu Kai Moana?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The first question is the relationship between the primary question, which has to do with appointments made by this Minister to that commission, and the supplementary question. Shane Jones, of course, was appointed by the previous National Government.

Gerry Brownlee: Well, I suppose it depends on how you rule, Madam Speaker. I think Mr Mallard is obviously showing some sensitivity here. The reality is that Mr Jones serves on that commission at the behest of the Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is responsible for the appointment, but the Minister is not responsible, and cannot answer for, the Prime Minister. So if the Minister responds just in terms of his ministerial responsibility.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I reiterate that Shane Jones was appointed to the commission in 1993 by the National Government. I am not too sure whether it checked whether he was a member of the Labour Party. Shane Jones has previously advised publicly that he will have stepped aside as chairman of Te Ohu Kai Moana by the time of the next annual general meeting in February 2007. This was announced by Mr Jones at Te Ohu Kai Moana’s AGM this year.

Gerry Brownlee: Is he aware that on 5 October 2005 Mr Jones said that he was “in transition from the world of Maori fisheries into the realms of parliamentary life”, and that he would give up his position with Te Ohu Kai Moana once he had made that transition; and by allowing Mr Jones to maintain his position of conflict of interest, is the Minister implying that Mr Jones has still not fully taken up the role of a member of Parliament, even though he chairs Labour’s Māori caucus?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think there are two points. One is the question of responsibility, and, again, there is an implication that there is a conflict of interest, when, in fact, there is not.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. The question has to relate to the Minister’s responsibility. The Minister has no responsibility for Mr Jones as a member of Parliament, though he does for him as a board member. So would Mr Brownlee like to work his way round that.

Gerry Brownlee: The pedantics of asking a question and avoiding the sensitivities of the Labour members are becoming more difficult.

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is the Standing Orders, actually. The ministerial responsibility is the key responsibility.

Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, how many times have you ruled that a Minister may give an opinion? This question asked “Is he aware …?”.

Madam SPEAKER: Because that is the Standing Orders. The awareness has to relate to the ministerial responsibility. All I am asking is that there is no reference to Mr Jones as a member of Parliament. But, of course, there is responsibility for his appointment in that position.

Gerry Brownlee: If I may respond to you, Madam Speaker, the Minister is responsible for ensuring that there is a board for Te Ohu Kai Moana, he is responsible for making sure that there is a chairman of that particular organisation, and he is responsible for the $86,000 that Mr Jones is currently double-dipping in salary. Surely the Minister can answer questions that relate to the various comments that Mr Jones has made about his potential exit from this particularly, one might say, enriching position.

Hon Trevor Mallard: It is not hard to create a question round that. If the member wants a seminar later, I will give him a hand.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not relevant, either. If Mr Brownlee could just re-put his question in terms of the Minister’s responsibility. The Minister can give an opinion, but it must relate to his ministerial responsibility.

Gerry Brownlee: All right, I will ask this question. Why does the Minister consider that Mr Jones can carry out the dual roles of the $86,000-a-year chairman of Te Ohu Kai Moana and a member of Parliament, when his own fellow member Maryan Street was required to relinquish her position on the Crown Forestry Rental Trust because it was considered inappropriate for her to hold the two roles?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: We need to go back to the beginning. Section 44(2)(f) of the Act requires that we have regard to the purpose of Te Ohu Kai Moana. The directors of Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd are to have commercial expertise and business skills, and are to be well versed in matters of tikanga. The other issue is that the initial directors of Te Ohu Kai Moana were appointed from the incumbent Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission commissioners. Mr Jones has all those abilities that are needed in that role.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister telling Parliament that there is no one else capable of filling this position, and that only Mr Jones can take the $86,000-a-year salary—in addition to his parliamentary salary—for that position?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Matters relating to the finances of Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd are its responsibility. I want to be very clear, just taking a basic commercial step forward, that it was important to continue the confidence in the leadership that really had attracted the Japanese investors—and Mr Jones had that. Most certainly, that was his role. It is important that members take note that he has stated when he is transitioning out. I would ask the question of the members on the other side of the House who are on 70 directorship boards—what about that?

Hon Trevor Mallard: When the Minister is making his decisions as to what is appropriate and what is not, will he take into account practices such as the case of Nathan Guy—I think he is a member opposite—who indicated he would stand down from a council but has not done so, or the practice of over 70 directorships currently being held by double-dippers opposite?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am very thankful the member reminded me of that, because I am quite certain that Jim Bolger is not a member of the Labour Party, and he does a good job at a great bank that this Government set up. Mr Jones was educated at St Stephen’s College, he is a graduate of Harvard University, and he is renowned for his prowess in the sense of talking on the marae. He is both bi-literate and bilingual, and it is hard to find directors like that in this country.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It may surprise the Minister that Jim Bolger is no longer a member of this House, and therefore he is not double-dipping. Not one of the members who hold directorships on this side of the House has been appointed by the Government.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Would the Minister consider it appropriate and acceptable for Mr Jones to take a parting gratuity from Te Ohu Kai Moana in addition to his $86,000-a-year salary when he finally relinquishes the chair and seat on the board, or would such a gratuity fall into the category of lafo or koha?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Matters relating to Te Ohu Kai Moana Trustee Ltd are not my responsibility. But I do want to talk about koha, and I want to ask the question—[Interruption]

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Did you hear that outrageous interjection?

Madam SPEAKER: No, I did not.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, an absolutely outrageous interjection was directed at the Minister by a member opposite.

Madam SPEAKER: If the Minister took offence, then he would ask that to be withdrawn and apologised for.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am used to outrageous insults. Seeing that the member brought up the subject of koha, I ask myself whether Te Ohu Kai Moana ever provided koha or some other form of contribution to the Labour Party. As Minister I have no responsibility for such matters. [Interruption] Yes, that is right. I am aware that when the Maori Fisheries Act was passed in 2004 the commission provided crayfish as a koha for the celebratory function here in Parliament, and Gerry Brownlee subsequently boasted that he ate more crayfish than anyone else—even more than me. That is the truth.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. At the risk of making an unbecoming comment, I think it is abundantly clear to everybody that I have certainly not eaten as much crayfish in my life as has that Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps you could give me some guidance on an issue of misleading the House. Both Trevor Mallard and the Minister of Māori Affairs claimed that National appointed Shane Jones in 1992 to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. Of course, under the Maori Fisheries Act that was passed 2 years ago, what Mr Jones chairs at the moment is a new entity. I find it surprising that the Minister—

Madam SPEAKER: That is a debatable matter.

Phil Heatley: No, no. I am surprised that the Minister who—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Heatley. You sought guidance; you have got it. It is a debatable matter. [Interruption] Please be seated. If you have a new point of order, that is fine. I have ruled on that point of order

ENDS


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