Questions And Answers Thursday, 7 September 2006
Questions And Answers Thursday, 7 September 2006
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )
Thursday, 7 September 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Business Climate Change Dialogue—Cross-party
Election Advertising—Validation of Spending
Taito Phillip Field—Ministerial Process
Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill—Crown Stratum
Gulf Cooperation Council States—Free-trade Negotiations
Minimum Wage—Labour, Department
Local Government—Auckland Reform
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Business Climate Change Dialogue—Cross-party Agreement
1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What prospect does he see, following this morning’s Business Climate Change Dialogue, for a cross-party agreement on addressing climate change, an agreement that would place a price on carbon to give investment certainty to business?
Gerry Brownlee: I have in my hand the answer to question for oral answer No. 1, delivered to me by the Government earlier, so I seek leave to table David Parker’s responses to Jeanette Fitzsimon’s questions. She may as well just read them, given that we have them here.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): We welcome the Hon Dr Nick Smith’s announcement this morning that the National Party now accepts that climate change is occurring and requires a Government response to help New Zealanders reduce emissions.
Gerry Brownlee: Word perfect!
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Brownlee. This contrasts with recent statements made by senior shadow Ministers in the National caucus, and we welcome—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister was not asked about National’s position, or even—and you have ruled this may be asked—about what reports he had seen that might allow Labour to get into misrepresenting National’s position. That was not the tone of the question, so the Minister is going way outside his ministerial responsibilities—albeit if it were the Minister’s wish, I would be happy to take leave and explain National’s exact position on those important issues.
Hon DAVID PARKER: The question asked what prospect I saw of cross-party agreement, and, obviously, the answers I am giving relate to that prospect.
Madam SPEAKER: I think that is correct, so would the Minister please continue.
Hon DAVID PARKER: So we are pleased to see that the National Party now accepts that climate change is occurring and that a Government response to curb emissions is required. That contrasts with recent statements by senior shadow Ministers in National’s own caucus. We would welcome any party getting behind the comprehensive programme for responding to climate change that we have under way.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister see a possible way forward in the Swiss approach outlined by the Swiss Ambassador at this morning’s meeting—a system combining both a carbon levy paid back to the public in other ways, which Labour has advocated in the past, and a carbon trading system, as advocated by Nick Smith and the National Party—and if so, how could that combined option be explored?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you would like to know what the supplementary question was so that you can rule on whether it is in order, we have the bit of paper here. Clearly, the supplementary question sent to David Parker’s office, or perhaps from David Parker’s office to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ office, is not in order.
Madam SPEAKER: Is the member seeking leave to table that document?
Gerry Brownlee: No, they have got it. It is actually their document.
Madam SPEAKER: Then that is not a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: It is a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, it is not a valid point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: The question is not in order. We would like you to rule on it.
Madam SPEAKER: The question is in order. Would the member read the question again, please.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I can respond to that by informing the House that no questions passed from my office to the Minister’s office, or from the Minister’s office to mine. I do not know which piece of paper the member has, but it was not a communication written between the Minister’s office and my office.
Madam SPEAKER: We have had a clarification of that. We will now proceed. Would the member ask her question again, so that I can assess whether it is an appropriate question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that there has been some question as to the authenticity of the document, I seek leave again to table the question from Jeanette Fitzsimons and the pre-prepared answers from Mr Parker.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister see a possible way forward in the Swiss Government’s approach outlined by the Swiss Ambassador at this morning’s meeting—a system combining both a carbon levy paid back to the public in other ways, as Labour used to advocate, and a carbon trading system, as advocated by Nick Smith and the National Party on various occasions—and if so, how could that combined option be explored?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I do see possibilities in that. As the member is aware, the Government is presently consulting on a range of policy options under consideration. Those include a variety of sectoral measures and the possibility of post-2012 price-based measures across the economy, and I am sure that that particular idea can be considered, too.
Peter Brown: Is it true that the carbon dioxide equivalents that emanate from New Zealand are so low in total they do not even register on the global model?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is true that New Zealand’s emissions represent 0.2 percent of the world’s emissions, because our population is less than 0.2 percent of the world’s population. It is also true that New Zealand’s emissions on a per capita basis are about the eleventh-highest in the worth. It is also true that for the world to get on top of climate change challenges, every part of the world has to do its bit.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree with Tom Campbell, the chief executive of Comalco, who said at this morning’s gathering that any new deployment of coal should be delayed until carbon capture and storage are fully commercialised; if so, will he commit to climate change policy that allows no new coal combustion until carbon capture and storage have been proven to work reliably in the long term and are available on the market?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Final decisions on that have not been taken, but I do agree with the proposition that if New Zealand wants to do its bit to help the world to overcome climate change problems, it would be a strange policy outcome if our greenhouse gas emissions climbed as a consequence of large additional amounts of coal-fired generation.
Moana Mackey: Has the Minister received any conflicting reports on the need to deal with climate change?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I have received reports that a member of the National Party has said that climate change is just a bit of climate variability, and that he, for one, would like to see a bit more heat to make the grass grow, and would not mind a bit more of a sea-level rise, either. That member was Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, representing the National Party at a Royal Society of New Zealand presentation on climate change in Parliament. National needs to come clean about where it really stands on climate change.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Government has been in office now for 7 years, has had to do a U-turn on the animal emissions levy, has done a U-turn on the carbon tax, has had an energy efficiency strategy that is in tatters, has made a billion-dollar bungle on New Zealand’s climate change position, and has had to drop its policy in respect of the reduction in emissions projects, can the Minister tell the House exactly what this Government’s climate change policy is—or is it, as all the commentators say, a complete vacuum?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I will make two points. Firstly, parts of the climate change policy have been very successful. Notably, the projects to reduce emissions, which were overseen by the Hon Pete Hodgson, brought forward the development of wind-power generation, which does not produce climate change emissions. New Zealand now has a future where we can deploy more wind generation cost-effectively, without carbon emissions. I also make the point, in relation to the animal emissions levy, that Dr Smith—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: No, I cannot hear, and the member who asked the question did ask for an answer. Would the Minister please continue.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; please be seated. As I said, interjections are permitted, but we do need to hear how the Minister is addressing the question.
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is ironic that Dr Smith, this morning and today, has referred to the animal emissions levy. He complained—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was very straightforward: what is the Government’s policy on climate change? Commentators say that it is a vacuum. It is very simple for the Minister to answer. I ask him to please tell us what it is. I know what my policy is, and I am happy to answer questions on that. National is happy to do that. He is the Minister, so he should simply tell the House the Government’s climate change policy.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, the Minister is attempting to do that. Would the Minister please continue.
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is ironic that the member talks about the animal emissions levy. He mentioned that this morning, as well. He complained that we as a Government were not spending enough on it, when he as a member politicked against it under the label of the “fart tax”.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have listened to the Minister’s answer carefully. I am yet to hear from this Government Minister what the Government’s climate change policy is. I have heard nothing yet, and I say to you, Madam Speaker, that rather than for him to give a tirade on what I or my colleague Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith might have said or might not have said, he should simply be asked to address the question: what is the Government’s climate change policy?
Hon Pete Hodgson: The member who has just resumed his seat said that he listened carefully to the Minister’s answer. But he shouted through the Minister’s answer, and has continually interrupted it. I think it would be a good idea if he did listen to the Minister’s answer.
Madam SPEAKER: I will ask members, please. I certainly could not hear. I could hear bits of the answer, but I could not hear the whole answer. So would members please enable the Minister to be heard.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I said that the part of the climate change policy that has been particularly successful was the bringing forward of wind-power generation, so that New Zealand now has a future of cost-effective wind power being integrated into the grid. I also made the point that Dr Smith’s conduct this morning and today, in complaining that more money should be spent on an animal emissions levy, stands in stark contrast to his politicking against that levy under the guise of the then description, “fart tax”. This Government is consistent. We accept that climate change is a problem. We are addressing it; Dr Smith covers for the other Dr Smith, and does not do that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have now listened to three attempts from the Minister, and I still do not know the Government’s policy on climate change. The only snippet we got was about the emissions project, which has been cancelled. I think the House deserves an answer, quite simply, as to what the Government’s climate change policy is.
Hon DAVID PARKER: If the House wants to give me the opportunity to list some of the other recent announcements in the last 2 weeks, we have three, all of which are a small part of the matrix that makes up the response to climate change—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: The matrix. We have a matrix!
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is a big word for Dr Smith, but yes, it is a matrix. It is a series of small steps, which will lead to a big difference. Those small steps include vehicle emission testing at warrant of fitness stations, the solar hot water announcements made by Jeanette Fitzsimons last week, and confirmation that the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is proceeding, with minor alteration.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that John Howard expressed the sentiment that climate change is an issue, but that it will not be solved by punishing Australians and Australian businesses by way of additional taxation; if he is aware of those sentiments, does he not believe that is a position New Zealand First should adopt also?
Hon DAVID PARKER: If, as is the case for New Zealand and other countries around the world, business as usual sees greenhouse gas emissions increasing, then there is a need, from a policy perspective, to change the rules so that business as usual is not the outcome and we reduce our emissions. Whether we pursue a regulatory route, as Australia is, or a more efficient emissions trading route, or a combination of the two, there is a moderate cost to the economy. The mechanism goes to how that cost is shared, not as to whether one arises.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen any reports of the article in Nature last Thursday that records that the powerful greenhouse gas methane is being released from the thawing Siberian permafrost at five times the rate previously thought, taking us dangerously close to a climate tipping point, and does he not think it is time to inject some urgency into the policy debate?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have not read that report, but I have to say that my reading, which is quite extensive, on climate change gives me increasing concern rather than reducing concern, and I agree that there is an urgency for New Zealand and the world to moderate their emissions.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned at the image I am holding up of the vast reduction in Greenland’s ice cap in only 13 years, and, given the predicted 7 metre sea-level rise when all the ice goes, does he think that is a reason to inject some urgency into the climate change debate?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Of all the illustrations of the potential problems of climate change and suggestions that it is accelerating, what is happening both in the northern hemisphere, in Greenland and on the polar ice cap, and in Antarctica worries me the most.
Election Advertising—Validation of Spending
2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Why did the Ministry of Justice commence work on the validation of alleged unlawful spending of parliamentary funds on election campaign advertising, and when did that work commence?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: The Ministry of Justice is not currently doing any work on validating alleged unlawful spending of parliamentary funds.
Gerry Brownlee: Can he deny that at one point at least the ministry was doing such work, and can he tell us who instructed it to do that work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The ministry was consulted by Treasury on work referred to in the House previously, but it is not working on validating legislation.
Tim Barnett: Has the Minister considered the need to undertake work on legislative safeguards for election spending to prevent covert funding by extremist groups, secret cash for policy deals, and trust funds hiding large donations from multinational corporations?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am advised that the Minister of Justice is undertaking a review of the electoral finance regime, focusing on electoral expenses, including whether there is a case for more controls on donations—the kinds of donations, undoubtedly, that are hidden within the 92 percent of funds that are hidden in the trust fund by the National Party.
Gerry Brownlee: Is he concerned that the decision to review the way in which election donations are declared is simply an attack on National and a denial of Labour’s own corruption in this matter?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I would imagine that National members would welcome the opportunity to stop having the allegations of corruption swirl around them, as they are doing as a result of their relationships with the Exclusive Brethren Church, which paid $1.2 million to support the National Party in order to try to steal the last election, and National’s own trust fund, where those members hide 92 percent of their funding.
Hon Phil Goff: Given the Minister’s last answer, will he consider making amendments to the electoral law to ensure that funding of political parties is transparent and accountable, so that the public is aware when extremist groups fund very large sums of money to parties like National, or when large corporates buy influence from parties for cash for policy deals—such as the one National entered into in the last election campaign? [Interruption]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am advised that, of course, the Minister would take such—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When that question was being asked by Phil Goff, there were about 15 people on the National benches all shouting at once, which indicates, of course, that their leadership is not capable of controlling them. I have never seen, in my long time in Parliament, so many people all shouting at once. Usually it is left to the spokesperson, the associate spokesperson, or the leader, but there were 15 people shouting when Mr Parker was speaking and, on the second occasion, there were 10. All of those people, by the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings, should be thrown out of Parliament. That is what the precedent is. When will we have it enforced? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order! Otherwise members will be leaving the Chamber; I am on my feet. The member referred to when the Minister was answering the question. Certainly, I could not hear the question that was being asked by the Hon Phil Goff, either. The difficulty has arisen recently that, in fact, there seems to be a concerted campaign to ensure that some questions and some answers are not heard. It is a matter for members to take on board themselves. I, as Speaker, could throw out what would be almost the entire House at times. That is obviously ludicrous. It is not from the back section of the House where the smaller parties sit; I concede that. But, certainly, there have been deliberate campaigns, it appears, to make sure people are not heard. However, it is not on all questions and all answers. I think that that is a denial of the democratic right for people to be heard when they speak in this Chamber. It is for members themselves to take responsibility for that, and I ask them, please, to do so. Of course, members can make interventions on both questions and answers, because that is also a freedom of speech, and members should be able to express themselves here. It is not—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: I have not finished, Mr Brownlee. The point is, however—and it is a serious point—when members say that they do not like the answer or do not like the question, that is not the point. People have a right to be heard. Then the judgments will be made—when we have heard them. But how those judgments can be made, when one cannot even hear the question or the answer, defeats me. So that is why I have come to the conclusion that there must be some deliberate campaign occurring to stop people from being heard. Members have to think about that in this Chamber. It would not be put up with anywhere else in this country.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I respond briefly by saying there is no deliberate campaign on behalf of the National Party. We have repeatedly made representations to the Speaker, through this Parliament, the last Parliament, and the one before that, about trying to get reasonable answers from Ministers. In recent days, Madam Speaker, you have been much to the fore in requiring Ministers to stay away from the sort of extraneous matter that they generally like to stray into in their answers to questions. When that happens the House is generally calmer. But when there is the sort of response—or question, as it actually was—from Mr Goff that was more of a statement than a question, which went on much longer than any of the primary questions on the sheet today would take to deliver, then, of course, this side of the House will get annoyed about that sort of behaviour.
Hon Phil Goff: The question I asked was a question. It started with the question word “will”—that is generally required in this House. I had asked barely five words of the question when, as the Rt Hon Winston Peters correctly pointed out, at least 15 members of the National Party, including its front bench, all interjected and shouted in a way that meant my colleague sitting right next to me probably could not hear the question I was asking him. There was once in this House a Standing Order and a Speaker’s ruling that stated that interjections were to be rare and reasonable. There is no way that the barracking from the Opposition side of the House, which has gone on all week, could be described as rare or reasonable. I ask that that Standing Order and that Speaker’s ruling be enforced.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank members. I accept Mr Brownlee’s statement in this House that the barracking is not deliberate or orchestrated. The effect, however, is the same. I have called a meeting of the whips of all parties for next week to discuss this issue, so the whips have the responsibility also within their parties to attempt to keep order in this House. It is a matter that can be discussed at that point. Of course, if members make comments that are irrelevant to the question or answer, they will get snipping. But, frequently, when there is shouting across the Chamber from whatever side, then, of course, whoever is asking the question or giving the answer will respond. That is human nature. All I am asking is that we try to abide by the Standing Orders and to uphold the democratic right whereby people are allowed to be heard in this country and, particularly, in this Chamber. [Interruption] We have a question that has not been replied to. Would the Minister please ask his question succinctly, and then we will get the reply.
Hon Phil Goff: Will the Minister consider making amendments to the electoral law, to ensure that funding of political parties for election campaigns is transparent and accountable, so that the public is aware if and when small covert extremist groups or large corporates are making donations in return for policies?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am advised that indeed the Minister will do so, and he is sure that he will be supported in taking that course of action—in fact, welcomed—by the National Party, which, these days, is deeply, deeply embarrassed by the allegations that are swirling around it of relationships with extremist groups and large corporate backers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Although some members have been given a warning, the moment Phil Goff asked the question a second time and came to the end of it, that barrage started again. I and my colleagues do not see why certain sections of this House obey the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings on this issue of interjections being rare and reasonable, and another group, without any care whatsoever for the image of the House, carries on—[Interruption] There he goes again. He has been here for just 5 minutes and he has all the contempt for the institution that anybody could possible muster. He will not last much more than 5 minutes longer. But the fact is that I have never seen the likes of it, and they should not be allowed to get away with it.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Members can express themselves, once the question has been heard and the answer has in fact been given, except for, as has been said, interjections that are rare, and, hopefully, witty—and that has not happened in this House for some time, I am afraid, because they cannot be heard. So I do not see anything wrong with that—members are entitled to express themselves. What happened, however, was that when the Minister started to reply, it started again. So I certainly did not hear all of the answer. I would ask the Minister to reply very succinctly to the question.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Minister of Justice, I am advised that indeed he will, and he is sure he will get backing in that from parties such as National, which is embarrassed by the allegations that swirl around it, about election spending.
Hon Bill English: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree—that was an irrelevant comment at the end. So would the Minister please—
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Oh, well—I wanted to deal with that, but point of order, the Hon Bill English.
Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker, you have now said it is irrelevant. The first two times the Minister made those comments you accepted them as being in order and proceeded to then—
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Would the member please be seated. I could not hear—that is the point. If I can hear what members or Ministers are saying, then I will intervene. But if I cannot, I will not, so I will not accept criticism under those circumstances. I asked the Minister, when I heard what he had to say, to withdraw those comments. They were irrelevant to the answer, and I hope that in future all Ministers hear what I am saying.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: I would like the Minister to withdraw first.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw, Madam Speaker.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In respect of this issue, you need to bear in mind when you are making your rulings just what is being said. There has been discussion in this House about corruption. That is directly related to provisions of legislation under which the Labour Party has been and is still being investigated by statutory officials. Therefore there is some justification in using the word. None of the allegations made by the Minister has any substance or is subject to any investigation under any law by any statutory officer with regard to the National Party, so you are likely to find, for the delicate egos like Mr Peters—
Madam SPEAKER: That is irrelevant, too, if I may say. That is precisely the problem. Would you please withdraw that comment.
Hon Bill English: I withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Bill English: You are likely to find that when Labour introduces material of that nature, for which there is no justification at all, then the Opposition is likely to react to it. I am surprised that Mr Peters is surprised about it, because he has been the expert in the last 10 years at raising insubstantial allegations in this House, as Labour is—
Madam SPEAKER: There goes the member again—
Hon Bill English: —and we are always going to react to it.
Madam SPEAKER: There goes the member again, and therefore you get the reaction.
Hon Bill English: An allegation of corruption is a very serious one. You cannot expect a political party to sit here listening while that is made, with no response.
Madam SPEAKER: And that is precisely it. Those allegations are going across the House. They are matters of debate. It is not for the Speaker to determine the truth or otherwise of any statement. It is for the Speaker to ensure that members can in fact be heard and order maintained.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There has been a remarkable change in behaviour in the House today compared with the last several days. For days we have watched equal barrages across the House from the two major parties. The small parties got so fed up with the situation over the last few days that we collectively decided that when it happened today we were going to leave.
However, one of the small parties decided, in the end, not to join us in that. Today we have noticed a remarkable change, in that the barrage is continuing from one side of the House, which has not learnt about the plan, and the other side of the House is being remarkably well behaved. I think that is an interesting change. I welcome your very strong direction to the House that the behaviour needs to change, and I hope this can be maintained in the future. The small parties have had enough—we really have. We are not prepared to sit here and put up with what has been going on over the last week or so, because it is a complete waste of our time.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. It is not a point of order, but it is a contribution to what appears to be an informal debate that has arisen. That debate should, in fact, take place at the meeting with all the whips. I am aware of the frustrations of those who cannot hear, and who become almost irrelevant to the proceedings accordingly. This is a Chamber for all members, not for just some. Supplementary question, Mr Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee: First, I want to say to that member that if minor parties want to continue supporting a corrupt Government—
Madam SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, please sit down. That is exactly what causes disorder. If you wish to make those comments, as I have already said there is another place and time to do that. This is not a debate.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that you witnessed exactly what happened there, and Mr Brownlee has done that once before in this House. I ask you to consider Mr Brownlee’s tactic of standing up and using a point of order to make a political statement or a speech, and in doing so—[Interruption] Madam Speaker, I am expecting you to throw those members out, because this is a point of order and should be heard in silence. My point is that he deliberately uses a tactic on you of turning his back on you so that he cannot see you—and you know that he cannot see you. When you call him to order, he continues talking because he cannot see you. When you stand on your feet, he continues. He knows that you are calling him, because he can hear you—he is only about five steps from you. It is a direct tactic of his and it is being used to defy you, to bring this House into disrepute, to actually not comply with the Speaker’s ruling. The—
Madam SPEAKER: Mr Mark, you have made your point, and you have made it at great length, and it was not a point of order. That is the point, really. [Interruption] No, I am sorry; that is the point I am making. Please, if members wish to make points of order, make them relevant. Occasionally, they contribute to the House. Can we now have a supplementary question.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister of Justice, the Prime Minister, or any other Minister instructed the Ministry of Justice to work on legislation that would amend section 214B of the Electoral Act to validate the Labour Party’s alleged corrupt practice in breaking the spending cap during the 2005 election?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No work has been done, as I mentioned in the primary answer, on validating legislation. I reject totally any sense of allegation about corruption. The member on that side of the House would know about that because of what National has been doing.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you happy with that answer from the Minister—
Madam SPEAKER: Well, allegations of corruption have been made backwards and forwards. It would be much better if they were not made by anyone, because there will be a response if they are. In other words, one party would be shut down if that were the case. What the Speaker must do is try to make sure that there is an opportunity for everyone to be heard.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. To rule out the use of the word “corruption” is just unacceptable in this circumstance. An Act of this Parliament—section 214B of the Electoral Act—makes it clear that if a person or persons knowingly breach the spending cap during an election, they are involved in a corrupt practice. We are hearing that the Government is about to change the legislation around electoral spending, in order, apparently, to get more disclosure. Well, we do not need disclosure around this one, because the whole country knows that Labour overspent—
Madam SPEAKER: You have made your point. As I said, could members please make their points succinctly. I have not ruled out the word “corruption”. In fact, Mr Brownlee, I thought that was what you were asking me to do. That was the point I was making—that when that word is used, there will be a response. I have not ruled it out.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Has the Minister of Justice received any information on how the Exclusive Brethren may have come into possession of the personal electoral enrolment details of New Zealanders, given that possession of such information is necessary to conduct the level of phone canvassing and push-polling undertaken throughout the country this time last year by the Exclusive Brethren; and whether or not the Minister has received any such information, can he confirm that the passing of such details from a political party to any other organisation is against the law of the land?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not aware of whether the Minister of Justice has received any information, but I can confirm that the activity outlined in that question is illegal.
Gerry Brownlee: Would he expect any Minister who was aware of or saw the letters from the Chief Electoral Officer sent on 2 and 12 September 2005, stating that the Helen Clark pledge card and the fold-out brochure should be included as election expenses, to take every necessary step to ensure the Labour Party did not commit a corrupt practice under the Electoral Act; if not, is that because Labour Ministers, and this Prime Minister, think they are above the law?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will not reply to what is a hypothetical question, but I would refer the member to the commitments card in 2002 under the name of Bill English, and would ask the same question of him in a hypothetical way.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table the letters of 2 and 12 September from the Chief Electoral Officer to the Labour Party, which make it abundantly clear that the pledge card spending had to be included in the election expenses, and would be considered so—
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I seek leave to table the commitments card under the name of Mr Bill English—a commitments card that was used in 2002.
Gerry Brownlee: Have Government officials done any work to override or amend the Auditor-General’s powers under section 65Z of the Public Finance Act to direct Ministers to report to Parliament on matters relating to unlawful expenditure of taxpayer dollars?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance and clarification to assist us in maintaining order. I draw your attention to Standing Orders 103 and 85. Standing Order 103, “Members to address Speaker”, states: “A member on being called to speak addresses the Speaker and, through the Speaker, the House.” I also remind you that all members, when they receive their induction training here, are taught that not only must they address the Speaker, and the House through the Speaker, but they must face the Speaker. Standing Order 85(1), “Disorderly conduct”, states: “The Speaker may order any member whose conduct is highly”—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would members please respect the member’s right to make a point of order? If he would make it succinctly, however, it would help the House.
Ron Mark: Well, Madam Speaker, the two paragraphs are very clear, and my point to you is that members standing and turning their backs on you is not in accordance with Standing Order 103, and that Standing Order 85, “Disorderly conduct”, as I raised with you, does give you the power to throw such a member out of the House, I would have thought.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I think—[Interruption] I do not need any assistance from you, Dr Smith. I thank the member for his points. I had noticed that often members, in fact, do address the person who asked the question, or the person to whom they are asking the question. So, at times, I do not take that as disrespect. Also, at times, I notice that the positioning of the microphones means that some people’s bodies are in different shapes, if I can put like that—leave it there, please! Yes, it is a matter for the Speaker to determine at what point members’ conduct is unacceptable and they should leave.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister—
John Carter: Holiday over, is it?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, would the member please—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is Mr Carter exempt from the rules of this House?
Madam SPEAKER: No. The rules are, as I said, that members are allowed to make interjections on both questions and answers, but members must be heard.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, OK.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You’ve been away too long.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, but I never lost my mind like you did.
Madam SPEAKER: Please, members. And may I say welcome back.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Now, let us have some order, please, where we just stick to the rules.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He always gets nasty.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: There he goes again. That boy is cruising for a bruising, I tell you.
Hon Members: Oh!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yeah, you are. Could I ask the Minister whether the Ministry of Justice, in its examination of electoral spending, is aware that in one party’s case of $1.86 million of campaign transfers at the last election, $1.74 million came from secret trusts—that is, only $12,000 came from the party rank and file—and that, second, that same party was involved in a long protection racket in respect of Telecom, and that is why it was given free Telecom services and took a million dollars—[Interruption] Those young ignoramuses would not know the facts, but I do. They do not know the truth and the sham that is being portrayed in New Zealand today.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that that was meant to be a supplementary question, and I am surprised that you did not step in when the member clearly strayed beyond the bounds of the supplementary question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please phrase his supplementary question succinctly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am setting out the circumstances of a worthy examination by the Ministry of Justice. The last thing I want to say—
Hon Bill English: Point of order!
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, it is a question, Mr English. As I understand it, Mr Peters is asking the Minister whether he has any reports of this. He is giving a list of matters, and that is not infrequently heard in this House.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. He stood up and said: “I am making out the case …” or “I am doing …”. There was no question word—no indication of a question whatsoever—and you should not be defending that kind of stance. He got up, he did not take a point of order, he did not ask a question, and you let him continue.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened very carefully, Mr English. We will start again. Rt Hon Winston Peters, with a question, so that everyone can hear you.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Will the Ministry of Justice, in its examination of electoral spending, have regard to the fact that one party in the last campaign made $1.86 million of campaign transfers, of which $1.74 million came from secret trusts and only $12,000 came from the party rank and file—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee is entitled to be heard in silence on a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Quite apart from the fact that members of the National Party can, one by one, stand up and confirm to the House just how much money the rank and file from their own electorates sent to our headquarters for the campaign—it was embarrassing; many of us had to get trucks in to send it up because people were so keen—it is an utter nonsense for you to allow Mr Peters to suggest that the money came from secret trusts. Everyone knows that every trust in this country annually sends a financial return to the Ministry of Economic Development. There is no such thing as a secret trust, I say to Mr Peters. It is a legal entity, and there is nothing wrong with it whatsoever. We had heaps of cash; we can tell him how much it was. We know that it is Mr Peters’ day to come back and dig the Government out of a hole, but this is not the way to do it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: First of all, what was the point of order? The second thing is I did not name any political party, but, clearly, we have already had an admission of guilt! The last thing I want to say, to finish off my question to the Minister of Justice, is to ask whether the Ministry of Justice will look into the $1 million paid by Fay Richwhite to the National Party in order to buy it absolute protection against proper investigation.
Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, my point of order was a legitimate one under Standing Order 371(1). If you look at 371(1)(a), (b), and (c), you can pick up any one of those for the words that Mr Peters used there. He, of course, is prepared to lecture other members in the House on procedure because they have been here only a short time; he has been here quite a long time, and should know better than that.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, if Mr Peters in his question was asserting those matters as a fact, then he can be challenged on it. If it is a hypothesis, however, it can proceed. As Mr Peters said in relation to the first part of the question, no particular party was, in fact, named. So that part of the question, I think, can remain, but the rest cannot.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just missed the last part of the hypothesis that Mr Peters put, and I ask whether he could repeat it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to make it very clear that this is not a hypothesis. The fact is—
Madam SPEAKER: Well, if it is a fact it can be challenged.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In a past campaign, Fay Richwhite did buy itself some political protection in respect of the BNZ and the wine-box inquiry, and paid the National Party $1 million. Junior over here has been around for 5 minutes and would not know what day it is!
Madam SPEAKER: Mr Tanczos was seeking, because he could not hear, that the last part of the question be repeated—was that correct? I ruled the last part of the question out of order, so, to move on, would the Hon Steve Maharey please respond.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The way of answering the question would be, I think, to draw attention to the fact that the Government is undertaking a review of the electoral finance regime that is focused on electorate expense, of course, as has been well announced. That would be an opportunity to look at such things as ceilings on advertising expenditure, appropriate restrictions on electoral advertising, third-party advertising, apportionment rules, clarification of election expenses, whether more controls on donations are needed, and other matters as raised by the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: As part of this review or examination of electoral spending, and in view of the consumer protection legislation in this country, will there be any judgment or examination of value for money on the basis of the millions of dollars spent on the National Party and the ACT Party—all gone to waste?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This matter lies outside the delegation of the Minister of Justice, but I am sure that the National Party, which has these allegations swirling around it, would be very willing to comply with—
Madam SPEAKER: We do not need those last comments.
3. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What is the Government doing to support adult learners?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister for Tertiary Education): In 2005 the Government supported over 400,000 learners in adult and community education. Adult learning helps people to gain skills, improve their confidence, expand their knowledge, and reach their potential. This week the Government celebrates Adult Learners’ Week, which aims to raise the profile of adult learning, recognise the efforts and achievements of learners and teachers alike, and inform people of learning opportunities available in the community. This has been endorsed, of course, by the House. I thereby thank Judy Turner, Dr Pita Sharples, Metiria Turei, and the Hon Bill English for their support of Adult Learners’ Week.
Hon Marian Hobbs: What is the Government doing to support adult literacy?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Tomorrow the Government also celebrates International Literacy Day. One of the key priorities signalled in the Government’s newly released tertiary education strategy discussion document is to build strong foundations in literacy, numeracy, and language. Moving forward, the Government will look to invest in increasing language skills in the workforce and raising foundation skills for parents to support their children’s learning.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why he and his predecessor, Steve Maharey, have put in place policy that is, as we speak, destroying New Zealand’s traditional structure of adult and community education, which used to be provided cheaply through schools, and which will now be provided through a very expensive bureaucratic mechanism that will see most of the money end up in polytechs?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The intention is, of course, to continue to have schools to provide adult education. But I would point out the irony of a man who campaigned on the tightening up of rules that he put in place in the 1990s, now complaining that these changes might be a little tighter.
Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker; tēnā tātou katoa. What support, access, and equitable funding are made available to attract Māori and Pacific adult learners to programmes that meet their aspirations and needs, given the contrast between current record low levels of unemployment in the general population and the high levels of unemployment in Māori and Pasifika populations?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: One of the changes in the adult community education area is to set priorities that will, of course, be of use to Māori learners—that is, targeting learners whose initial learning was not successful, raising foundation skills, encouraging lifelong learning, strengthening communities by identifying community needs then meeting those needs, and strengthening social cohesion. All of these areas will have some benefit to the learners the member is referring to.
Taito Phillip Field—Ministerial Process
4. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: If, as he told the House yesterday with respect to Taito Philip Field’s involvement with Thai nationals in Samoa, “the information in question was not placed in the usual system that supported the Associate Minister’s decision making”, exactly how was the information used?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): The Ingram report records at paragraphs 144, 155, and 157 that the information received on 9 June was used by the group manager, service international, in calling the Associate Minister of Immigration’s private secretary to provide that information.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If, as the Minister told Parliament yesterday in respect of information received on 10 May, “the director of the Pacific division recalls that he attempted to pass it on to the Minister’s private secretary.”, on what date or dates did that happen, or is the Minister now telling us that he misled the House yesterday?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I believe that that matter was covered in my earlier point of order.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If the director of the Pacific division attempted to pass on information, be it on 10 May or whatever, to the Associate Minister’s private secretary, why did the director of the Pacific division not tell that to the Ingram inquiry?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In my earlier point of order I made it clear that it was the director of service international who attempted to pass the information. Paragraph 157 of the report sets out Mr Ingram’s view of the likely sequence of events.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why did the group manager for service international tell the Ingram inquiry that he received the information he passed on to the Minister’s private secretary in a fax direct from the Apia branch manager, Mr James Dalmer, not from the director of the Pacific division—how does the Minister explain that?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is not for me to revisit the conclusions of the Ingram inquiry. Mr Ingram concludes that a number of the recollections about the transmission of information in that regard appear to have been misplaced.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What is the truth of the Minister’s statement yesterday that the director of the Pacific division recalled—that is what the Minister said—attempting to pass on the information to the Associate Minister’s private secretary?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The truth of that matter was clearly covered in my earlier point of order. I apologised. It was the director of service international who gave that recollection to Mr Ingram.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Who else from the various sections of the Minister’s department attempted to advise the Minister’s private secretary of information on Taito Phillip Field’s involvement with the Thais in Samoa prior to the Minister making his decision on their cases on 17 June 2005?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The information I have to hand is that the director of service international attempted to pass on that information on 9 June, but that the Ingram report inquiry, at paragraphs 157 and 158, makes clear the conclusion that in all likelihood the information was not passed to the Minister. I do not have any other information on that, to hand.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table statements made by the president of the Labour Party, suggesting that the Ingram report has many factual inaccuracies.
Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill—Crown Stratum
5. [to come]
6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied with the health workforce; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): New Zealand has a hard-working, world-class, and growing health workforce. There are 5,000 more doctors and nurses working in our public hospitals than there were in 1999. This Government wants to do even better, however, and I have today announced a new task force to progress and finalise a series of changes to medical training.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has he seen the concerns of the surgical workforce and others, reported widely today, that district health boards have been culling patients without specialist clinical input, and can he guarantee that across the country, patients have been culled from waiting lists under clinical supervision, rather than being culled by a hospital manager more accountable to the Government’s political objectives than to the patients’ health?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen reports of that nature and I have also seen reports in the media correcting the facts. In Canterbury, the Canterbury District Health Board has encouraged specialists to talk to their colleagues in primary care and will continue to do so. Members may recall public notices issued jointly by the district health boards and primary health organisation providers, which is further evidence of improving linkages between the primary and secondary sector in Canterbury.
Maryan Street: Has he seen any reports on respect and support for New Zealand’s health workforce?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. I have seen a report today that a doctor with 30 years’ experience as a cardiologist, along with the Dean of Medicine at Auckland University, along with two professors of nursing, with over 60 years’ combined experience, and further a former president of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, have been attacked by Tony Ryall and the National Party as “do-nothing bureaucrats”. The new members of the workforce task force are some of New Zealand’s most well-respected health professionals, and I find Tony Ryall’s lack of respect for them appalling.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister stand by his answer that he gave two questions ago, which suggested that he believes that the surgeons are lying when they say they were not involved in the culling of patients from Canterbury, and what would he say to that surgical workforce, which says there has been no clinical basis to the waiting list cull, and that patients will die as a result of the Government-ordered data cleansing of waiting lists—a view that has been supported by specialists and managers around the country today?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yesterday the Canterbury District Health Board publicly apologised to patients and staff as a result of the way some patients have been referred back to general practitioners. They apologised for the way they have been referred back, so that would suggest that in some cases there have been difficulties, but the corrections to the allegations made yesterday morning do stand and are valid.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why does not the Minister admit that the waiting list cull is not about health, is not about patient care, and is not about clinical safety—it is all about cynical manipulation of the waiting list to claim some sort of pathetic credit; and is not that the reason why the surgical workforce around the country is nearly unanimous this week in its criticism of the Government, and now the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, members of the Council of Trade Unions, have accused this Minister personally of political indifference, a preoccupation with data cleansing, and arrogant political interference?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No one can argue that this Government has not invested heavily in health. No one can argue with the fact that under this Labour-led Government we have 5,000 more doctors and nurses working in our public hospitals. No one can argue with the fact that we have built more public hospitals than any Government in New Zealand’s history. We are proud of our record in health, and we will keep working with health professionals to add to our successes.
Hon Tony Ryall: How will replacing the Health Workforce Advisory Committee with a new health workforce task force fix the staffing crisis; and surely, after 40 reports, visions, strategies, and surveys, and 7 years, this Government could give the country some action on our workforce crisis?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I will remind the member that in attacking the series of reports that have been produced over the past few years, he is actually attacking the health professionals and medical and nursing organisations that have prepared them. What happened was that we came out of the 1990s and, therefore—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. It is impossible to hear. Would members please keep it down, so that other members can hear the replies. It is almost as though members do not want to hear the replies.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I will remind the member that in attacking the series of reports that have been produced over the past few years, the member is actually attacking the health professionals and medical and nursing organisations that have prepared them. What is more, those reports were needed because, coming out of the 1990s, there was a view about that the Employment Contracts Act would do it and that planning for workforce was a wrong-headed idea. That is why this country ran out of radiation therapists and dental therapists, and why we had shortages all over the place. This Government is progressively addressing those things, because we do not have a free-market approach to the health workforce of this country.
Dr Jackie Blue: Has the Minister seen his ministry’s latest breast-screening data for women aged 45 to 49 years of age, which shows that only one woman in five has actually been screened—which is exactly what the previous Minister of Health was told would happen—and what will he do to sort out the health workforce crisis so that women are not at risk of dying of breast cancer?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The number of women with breast cancer is climbing very quickly. In the area of 45 to 49-year-olds, it is climbing much less quickly, but that is because this Government extended the breast screening to two separate age groups and, as a result of that, more women now have more testing for breast screening than ever before, and more women are being protected by the early detection of breast cancer than ever before.
Nathan Guy: Is the Minister satisfied with the full-time emergency ambulance workforce in places like Horowhenua, where numerous emergencies are attended by single-crew ambulances—with one example being when a Levin patient with severe chest pains remained in an unstable condition all the way to Palmerston North Hospital, with no one monitoring the patient—and will the Minister now acknowledge that lives are being put at risk, as there are single-crew ambulances all over provincial areas of the North Island, and what will he do about this extremely urgent health workforce issue?
Hon PETE HODGSON: From memory, approximately—
Paula Bennett: Do a task force.
Hon Member: Have a committee. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Members ask questions on the assumption, presumably, that they want answers. So would they please allow the Minister to answer.
Hon PETE HODGSON: From memory, 82 percent of all ambulance services are double-crewed and 18 percent are not. This is a somewhat significant improvement on what occurred during the 1990s and, as years go by, we will improve the services still further.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the document “Meeting the challenges: Health workforce development plan 2000: September 2000”.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the document “Cancer screening programmes workforce development strategy 2001”.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the document “Health Workforce Advisory Committee annual report: Minister of Health 2001”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the document “The primary health care and community nurse workforce survey 2001”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table the document “The rural general recruitment and retention in New Zealand report to the Minister: a first phase of analysis of surveys to assess the fluctuations in the workforce 2001”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Tony Ryall: Well, I also seek leave to table the documents “New Zealand annual rural workforce survey 2001”, the “Clinical training agency strategic intentions 2002”, the “Health technicians training 2002”, the second annual report of the Health Workforce Advisory Committee 2002, the “Mental health workforce development framework 2002”, the annual rural workforce survey of 2002, “The New Zealand health workforce: a stocktake of capacity 2001”, the New Zealand health workforce “Framing Future Directions” discussion paper 2002, the “Disability workforce analysis report 2003”, The New Zealand Health Workforce: Future Directions — Recommendations to the Minister of Health 2003, The New Zealand Health Workforce: Framing Directions Analysis 2003, the “Clinical agency strategic intentions 2004”, the “Disability support services survey provider survey 2004”, the “Health workforce”—[Interruption] Well, that was a service provider survey from 2004—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member just read what is to be tabled, please.
Hon Tony Ryall: Well, Madam Speaker, I am tabling them.
Madam SPEAKER: Continue, please.
Hon Tony Ryall: The “Health workforce fourth annual report 2004”, the “Health workforce”,—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes.
Hon Tony Ryall: This is a list; there is just one question—the “National screening unit workforce development action plan”, the “NZER ageing New Zealand health and disability demand projections report”, the “Pacific development report”—[Interruption] Oh, I do not think that Mr Peters is interjecting on a point of order, because he would not behave like that—the “Disability support services survey 2005”, the “Health Workforce Advisory Committee 2005”,—there is not long to go—the “Health Workforce Advisory purpose and practice 2005”—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: The member is on a point of order at the moment. The member will finish the point of order.
Hon Tony Ryall: —the “Strategic principles 2005”, the “Care and support discussion paper 2006”, the “Health workforce advisory fit for purpose and practice advice to the Minister 2006”, the “Health workforce advisory national guidelines environment 2006”, the “Health workforce summary of the national guidelines for the promotion of healthy working environments”, and—the latest—the “Terms of reference for the new health workforce task force”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have never ever seen any member of Parliament in my career in this House abuse the House in that way, with respect to what is a very special privilege: the right to publish documents that are usually—not in every case—not known to the pubic and have not been published. In this case every document is public, and the member just sought to waste the House’s time. It is 1½ hours since we started question time, we have got to question 6, and he tries that trick. What is so special about the National Party? The rest of us have certain rules we have to abide by. I think it is deadly serious that National members can, with all the concern that has been expressed by members of other parties in this House today and before, get up and carry on in the same darn way. Frankly, Madam Speaker, if they are going to behave like that I do not think a Minister has any obligation to reply, at all. Not just one person interjected but about 12 people did at once. I do not think they should be allowed to carry on as though they are something special. They have lost three elections in a row.
Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that that was a point of order. Members, on quite frequent occasions, seek leave to table documents that are in the public arena. The only other comment I would make is that if members do not wish to hear the answers to questions, then obviously it will be up to the discretion of the Minister whether to give them one.
Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table the July travelogue from the pre-hospital care union, which documents 16 shocking emergencies—that is one every second day—attended by single-crew ambulances in Horowhenua, including the transporting of a manic psychiatric patient to Palmerston North Hospital.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: Does the Minister of Health believe that the list of documents just read by the member opposite, and ridiculed, were valuable pieces of information that the public should see prepared, and that those documents were in fact a useful use of health professionals’ time?
Hon PETE HODGSON: It is from that sort of effort that we have seen a very significant increase in Pacific Islanders in the New Zealand workforce, a significant increase in Māori in the New Zealand workforce, and a significant increase in the provision of breast-screening services throughout New Zealand. It is why we have ended up with more people in ambulances, it is why we have improved our mental health workforce, and it is why we have more than 5,000 extra nurses and doctors in our health system since the change of Government. That is the difference between a Government that does something and a Government that does nothing.
Gulf Cooperation Council States—Free-trade Negotiations
7. JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Trade: Has he received any response to his approach earlier this year to the Gulf Cooperation Council States to open negotiations for a free-trade agreement?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Trade): Yes. Foreign Ministers from the six countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council—Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar—yesterday agreed to begin negotiations with New Zealand on a free-trade agreement. Scoping discussions for the negotiations will begin in the next couple of months. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: We will have some order in the House.
Jill Pettis: How important economically to New Zealand will a successful outcome to these negotiations be?
Gerry Brownlee: There are no restriction now. What are they wasting their money for?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the windbag on the Opposition side of the House can shut up for a moment, I will answer his question.
Madam SPEAKER: I know that interjections will inspire further interjections, but that remark was not appropriate. Will the Minister please stick to the answer.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I will answer two questions—one delivered officially and one by interjection. Firstly, New Zealand exports merchandise goods to the Gulf Cooperation Council States to a value of approximately $720 million. That makes those States, collectively, about the same size as an important market like Germany to New Zealand. Secondly—
Gerry Brownlee: That’s right; there’s no restriction.
Hon PHIL GOFF: To answer the member who keeps interjecting, I say he does not know what he is talking about. There are tariff restrictions; he should do his homework instead of just mouthing off and wasting the time of the House. The agreement is important, because it will strengthen and protect the competitive position of New Zealand’s exports—
Gerry Brownlee: Come on, name three of them!
Hon PHIL GOFF: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Time and time again in the House today members have objected to a continuing barrage from members that is not rare and reasonable, is against the Standing Orders of the House, and is against the Speakers’ rulings. I ask you to enforce those rulings.
Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, I take you straight to the Standing Order that is about answers to questions. The Minister is trying to make out that somehow there is a massive gain to be made by New Zealand trade people going over there and entering into some sort of arrangement with the Gulf States. There is no—
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, Mr Brownlee. It is not for the Speaker to judge the quality or content of the answers. However, the member is right that if members cannot be heard, then one wonders what is the point of continuing with question time. So I ask that the Minister please continue with his answer.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order goes to the requirements for the answering of questions. Surely, Madam Speaker, the questions have to be of value to the public—the Standing Orders state they have to be in the public interest. When one knows full well there are no trade restrictions in that part of the world, at all, and when the Minister cannot stand up and outline one of them—because none exists—I ask what on earth the new public information is in that.
Madam SPEAKER: This is a debating matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the answer and at the end of the question that was asked by the member, the continual barrage from Mr Brownlee was that there were no restrictions now. He did not say it once; he said it 10 times. Then, to make up for his ignorance, he said “name three”—well, there are finance, residency, and employment restrictions for a start; anybody would know that, but, of course, that buffoon does not—but you did not throw him out for his outrageous behaviour.
Madam SPEAKER: Neither was that a point of order. Could we please continue.
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member may allege that there are no restrictions, but I would invite him to talk to Fonterra, to Meat and Wool New Zealand, to our wood exporters to the Middle East, and to iron and steel exporters to the Middle East. He will find that there are restrictions on entry to the Middle East. What is more, at the specific request of those organisations, we have entered into these negotiations in order to preserve the competitive position of New Zealand exporters. The member should not speak out of such deep ignorance always.
Jill Pettis: Further to the answer the Minister has just given to the supplementary question, could he advise the House which New Zealand exporters have shown a particular interest in the negotiation of a free-trade agreement?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Dairy products and meat are particularly important exports to the Gulf Cooperation Council. They are facing tariffs of approximately 5 percent. Others countries, like those in the European Union, for example—
Gerry Brownlee: Tell us about the non-existent tariffs.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Madam Speaker, he is still doing it. He has ignored your rulings previously. He cannot bear not to hear the sound of his own hollow voice, and I ask you to ask him to desist.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry—would the Minister please continue. It is very difficult to hear, however. If members wish to remain with us for the rest of question time, I ask them to respect other members’ right to be heard.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Fonterra and Meat and Wool New Zealand, in particular, believe a free-trade agreement is necessary to avoid competitors gaining preferential access in this expanding market. But the free-trade agreement will also benefit the forestry, horticulture, and manufacturing industries. It will also help those emerging industries like information and communications technology, construction materials, services, medical equipment, and education.
Minimum Wage—Labour, Department
8. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Labour: Does she have confidence in the way the Labour Department investigates issues related to the minimum wage; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Labour): Yes. I am confident that the department thoroughly investigates all workers’ complaints it receives in relation to breaches of the minimum wage legislation.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In that case, can she explain why the weekend media provided additional information about employment relationships, and in particular a relationship between Mrs Field and Mr Suriwan that was sufficient to launce a police inquiry but apparently insufficient for her department to investigate employment law breaches?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I have said to the member on a number of occasions, if there is any evidence at all that an employment relationship has been established and breaches of the minimum wage legislation or any other employment relations legislation have occurred, the department will investigate.
Darien Fenton: What is this Government doing to ensure a fair minimum wage for New Zealanders?
Hon RUTH DYSON: This Government has raised the minimum wage every year since it was elected to lead the Government in 1999, and it is committed to raising it to $12 an hour by 2008 if economic conditions persist. This stands in stark contrast to the last National-led Government, which over 9 years raised the minimum wage by less than $1 in total, which is not surprising given that its leader does not even believe there should be a minimum wage.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How is it that the Weekend Herald investigation can find out that Mrs Field signed Sunan Siriwan’s immigration documents as the employer and that his visa was granted on the condition of continued employment with Mr Field, and why does the Department of Labour not think that that is sufficient for an inquiry, instead of just reading the report?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The inference that the Department of Labour has done nothing other than read the Ingram report is completely untrue. The member should know that, given that he has written twice to the department and provided not one single shred of evidence of an employment relationship. I have invited the member to provide evidence. The department has invited the member to do so. Why does he not?
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Department of Labour aware that the Weekend Herald stated: “Mrs Field filled out Samoan immigration employment sponsorship forms promising to be his employer”, and why does that not engage the department to make its own inquiries for a change?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I have said, if there is any evidence at all that leads the Department of Labour to conclude that there is an employment relationship—including anything that is in the media—the department will investigate.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is the same old point of order, Madam Speaker. I cannot hear what the Minister is saying.
Madam SPEAKER: I will have to put members on notice. Those voices I can distinguish—and there are some that are terribly distinguishable in this House—will be asked to leave the next time there is an interruption where a member cannot be heard. Would the Hon Ruth Dyson please start again.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I just repeat my assurance to the House that if there is any evidence at all that an employment relationship existed and that a breach of the minimum wage legislation or any other employment relations legislation occurred, as alleged, the Department of Labour has indicated it will investigate.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Who does the department believe: Mr Williams, President of the Labour Party, who apparently thinks Mr Taito Phillip Field paid $20 an hour to the Thai workers, or Andrew Little, President of the New Zealand Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, who accepts the truth of the Ingram report that Mr Field’s gross underpayment was unacceptable and they are finding a new candidate for Mangere?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Given that Andrew Little is a highly regarded lawyer and general secretary of a major affiliate to the Labour Party, I am sure he has a lot of credibility with his views on matters of law, which was not what he was commenting on at all. This is unlike the member who has made a number of errors in his allegations about matters of law, both in the House and to the department. Nothing that Mike Williams, the President of the Labour Party said on Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson or subsequently reported in the paper gave any inclination—let alone evidence—of an employment relationship. It merely referred to the fact that when the job was re-evaluated by an alternative person to Dr Ingram, the price that the person doing the work would have then been paid was $20 an hour. There was no evidence of an employment relationship and that is what there has to be for a breach of the minimum wage. The member should know the law.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is it the case then that the Minister completely disbelieves Mr Williams—who apparently heard a fabricated story from Mr Field that he had paid $20 an hour to his Thai employees—or should we believe Dr Ingram who after hearing evidence found that Mr Field paid less than one-third of the proper rate for the job?
Hon RUTH DYSON: If the member continues to say things that are not true about the report or about quotes from the president of the Labour Party, it does not make them the truth. What the member is alleging is not factually correct. The Ingram report stated nothing about payment of less than the minimum wage; it mentioned a contract less than the market rate. Mike Williams said that at the re-evaluated price for the contract, the worker would have been paid $20. Neither Dr Ingram nor Mike Williams said anything about an employment relationship. Misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of progressing the debate, may I suggest.
9. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports, if any, has he received in regard to the future of New Zealand’s unemployment rate?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I have seen a report that states: “Labour’s claim that it can bring the unemployment rate down to 3 percent is also a hoax on all the people who think if they voted Labour they would get a job.” That was Bill English in 1999, when the unemployment rate was running at double the current record low rate of 3.6 percent. No doubt National also agrees with ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie, who told Radio New Zealand on 11 August that maybe in order to curb inflation it would be better if unemployment rises.
Russell Fairbrother: What other reports has he seen where commentators have just got it wrong?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am pleased to see a report in the Timaru Herald today that corrects the misleading statements of National’s Jo Goodhew. Although Labour has reduced the number of people on benefits in Timaru from 5,085 under National to 3,564 now—a reduction of 1,521 clients, or 30 percent—Jo Goodhew was telling her constituents the complete opposite of that. Instead of celebrating success, it is sad that all National can do is misinform people and bag New Zealand at home and abroad.
10. KATE WILKINSON (National) to the Minister for Courts: Does he agree that justice delayed is justice denied; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): I do not agree with the member’s assertion; it depends on who caused the delay and for what purpose.
Kate Wilkinson: How can the Minister justify his answer in the House on 29 August that this Government is “doing heaps” by increasing the number of High Court judges in Auckland and Wellington only, and only by three; and how does this help the High Court in Christchurch, where the median waiting time for trials has ballooned from 143 days to 203 days, or the High Court in Gisborne, where it has gone from 109 days to 262 days—or are Christchurch and Gisborne at the bottom of the heap and not considered for his queue reduction strategy?
Hon RICK BARKER: The increase in the number of High Court judges represents a 10 percent increase. While it is true that High Court cases have increased by approximately 63 percent over the last 5 years, in actual fact the waiting time has increased by only 20 days. Many courts have, in actual fact, had a decrease. The member picks and chooses her statistics.
Martin Gallagher: In terms of the previous answer, what is the Minister doing to review and improve court processes, and how does that compare with work done previously?
Hon RICK BARKER: This Government has invested substantially in courts. We have put $165 million into them. We have tidied up court buildings, we have built new courts, and we have put in an information technology structure. It is completely different from the case we inherited, where we had a paper-based system, dilapidated courts, underfunded courts, an inadequate numbers of judges, inadequate staff, and no staff training. We have made a dramatic turn-round.
Kate Wilkinson: How can the Minister expect us to believe that “the challenges are being addressed” or “staff numbers have increased”, when, in the South Island, court staff numbers have not increased by one person at all, for 3 years—or is access to justice in the South Island not a priority for this Government?
Hon RICK BARKER: I can justify it quite easily by pointing out to the member that, of the many good statistics, criminal summary cases across New Zealand have decreased by 20 percent. Secondly, if the member was watching, she would have seen that I put out a press statement recently saying that the number of staff in the Christchurch court has been increased.
Kate Wilkinson: How can he justify his answer in the House on 29 August that “It is very easy to go and find a court here and a court there that has an increase in its queue.”, when median waiting-times for High Court jury trials in each and every South Island High Court have increased; and how can 100 percent of South Island High Courts be brushed off as “a court here and a court there”?
Hon RICK BARKER: In terms of High Court cases outstanding in the civil jurisdiction, Rotorua has had a reduction of 55 percent, Timaru a reduction of 50 percent, Napier a reduction of 41 percent, Dunedin a reduction of 40 percent, Palmerston North a reduction of 22 percent—I could go on. There are substantial reductions in many, many registries, including in the South Island.
Kate Wilkinson: Which statement does the Minister stand by: the one he made in the Otago Daily Times of 18 August that “Better use was being made of settlement conferences and mediations in civil matters”, or his response to written question No. 11333, provided on 31 August, that “Mediations in Civil proceedings occur outside the Court system. The number and proportion of civil proceedings settled by way of a mediation is unknown …”—or does he just not know?
Hon RICK BARKER: The member confuses both of the issues.
Kate Wilkinson: Is mediation, then, just another euphemism for dumping cases off the court waiting list, or will cases be referred back to the lawyer, no doubt for further legal action on the basis that justice delayed is justice denied?
Hon RICK BARKER: Mediation is a very important tool in resolving issues, and very often cases are resolved in mediation without the cost of a lengthy trial, and to the satisfaction of both parties. If there is no satisfaction, the case goes to trial.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a copy of the Magna Carta.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon David Benson-Pope: I seek leave to table an article in today’s Timaru Herald, entitled: “Goodhew accused of misleading electorate”.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table the Bill of Rights 1688, which the Minister of Justice has today repudiated.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
11. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Has he received any reports indicating that the chlamydia epidemic may be much more widespread than previously estimated; if so, does he intend to increase surveillance on chlamydia?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): Yes, I have received a report on chlamydia from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research. The report states that the total number of confirmed and probable chlamydia cases has increased a lot—by almost 40 percent, if one looks at reports coming in from sexual health clinics, and it has almost doubled if one looks at reports coming in from family planning clinics and student and youth health clinics. That is in the 5-year period ended December 2005, and is quite a big increase.
Barbara Stewart: How often does the ministry review the list of notifiable conditions, and is there any intention to make chlamydia a notifiable disease; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know the answer to the first question. Making chlamydia notifiable, in my view, is not the most important thing to do. I think the most important thing to do is to increase surveillance, as the member suggested in her primary question. There is some indication that some of the tests may not be as good as they could be; so we have to look at that. Then we need to progress the treatment. This disease is easily treated. A person needs to take two tablets, once. In the case of sexual health centres, those tablets are available on site; no prescription is needed.
Gordon Copeland: Has the Minister, in line with historical and international precedents, put in place statistical capture to establish whether a link may exist between the chlamydia epidemic and the re-emergency of syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, and the legalisation of prostitution; if not, will he act on this suggestion?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member draws a series of long bows, but the short answer to his question is no.
Barbara Stewart: Would he concede that his ministry should at least put in place routine anti-natal testing for chlamydia in order to protect new-born babies against the unnecessary risk of eye and lung disease?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I do. I think that where an expectant mother accesses general practitioner services—for example, in the first triennium—chlamydia testing is close to routine. The problem is that not all pregnant women do access their general practitioner, which is why maternity services are under review, and a discussion paper is being looked at now.
Barbara Stewart: What action, if any, has his ministry taken, following the recommendation of the Family Planning Association at the conclusion of a screening pilot funded in part by the Ministry of Health, that routine screening for chlamydia should be made available?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Routine screening for chlamydia is available. The question is whether it should be opportunistic or whether it should be left to the individual. It seems to me that there is a case for moving it to opportunistic, by which I mean that a person is offered chlamydia screening, proactively, even though the person fronted up to the doctor or the sexual health clinic for some other reason.
Local Government—Auckland Reform
12. JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: Does she stand by her statement on the radio yesterday, regarding local government reform in Auckland, that “I don’t want to spend time on reorganisations. They take a huge amount of time.”; if so, why?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): Yes, I do, as a personal view, having been through the reorganisations in 1989. However, I also support any move that will help Auckland to become an internationally competitive world-class city, and any initiative for reform needs to come from wider Auckland.
John Key: When the Prime Minister meets with the four Auckland city mayors today, will she be saying to them, “I don’t want to spend time on reorganisations. They take a huge amount of time.”; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The Prime Minister has already met with the Auckland mayors. What I will say is what I have been saying for the last 15 years that I have been in Parliament: having seen the amount of time that reorganisations of local government take, I would prefer that we had one plan and got on with it to fix Auckland.
H V Ross Robertson: What actions has the Government taken to assist Auckland local government?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: We are working closely with Auckland local government, business, and communities. For example, we have invested heavily in land transport. We are spending more than $7.3 billion on Auckland roads and public transport in the next 10 years—over $559 million this year alone. We have embarked on New Zealand’s largest State highway building programme. We have worked with Government and Auckland leaders to launch a vision aimed at achieving a common view of transport projects in Auckland, because we recognise that Auckland must be a world-class city if it is to help New Zealand to meet its prosperity potential.
John Key: Is it not the case that her stated position is the complete opposite of the Prime Minister’s, who was reported in the New Zealand Herald as hinting that the Government will consider reducing the number of Auckland councils and as saying that stronger government at the regional level will help to push the city forward; is it not also the case that her position is completely opposite to that of the Minister of Finance, who was also reported in the New Zealand Herald as saying there is a strong indication that central government would be prepared to give the process of centralisation in Auckland a big shove; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No, because the Prime Minister has also said that we need to keep the “local” in local government. Auckland has regional government and there is nothing that could not be done in Auckland now, within the present structures. Aucklanders should get on with it. I am really concerned at the time that is taken for structural reorganisation, when in fact what we need is action—which is what this Government is doing.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but there are no more supplementary questions for the member’s party.
John Key: I would say “on your butt”, but I guess it is a sore point.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please just get on with the question.
John Key: If my member’s bill on local government reform in Auckland is drawn out of the ballot, will the Minister support its first reading; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I have not seen that bill. But, given the history of the National Party’s contribution to the structural reorganisation of Auckland, I would be very surprised if it were a positive move.
John Key: Are we in fact misinterpreting the Minister’s comments that “I don’t want to spend time on reorganisations. They take a huge amount of time.”, and did she actually mean that local government reform in Auckland would take a huge amount of her own time; precisely what other commitments does she have that make her such an industrious and overstretched Minister?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: One of the roles I have taken as Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues is to meet with every territorial local authority and with regional government, the business community, and the voluntary sector. Many of those organisations are calling for reorganisation, but many of them, having been through the changes in 1989, would prefer just to get on with their work.
John Key: What kind of sinecure is it to be the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, when the Prime Minister is meeting with the four Auckland mayors about the possibility of an Auckland “super city” and she is not even present or invited?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Having been to every one, but one, of the Auckland Mayoral Forum meetings this year, I have made it very clear to Auckland that my job is to facilitate the access of Auckland leaders to the relevant Minister. I have no problem with that. Unlike that member, who appears to be usurping the role of his leader, I have no leadership aspirations.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )