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Questions and Answers Thursday, 26 October 2006

Questions and Answers Thursday, 26 October 2006

Questions to Ministers

Mathematics—Teaching Skills

1. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to further improve the teaching of mathematics in New Zealand schools?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Today I announced that from next year the Government will fund tuition fees for 600 primary teachers per year to allow them to undertake postgraduate study in mathematics. This is the first stage in a scheme that the Government plans to extend to such areas as English, science, social studies, and technology to ensure that teachers have more opportunities to enhance their knowledge and expertise in important subject areas. The new scheme recognises that the most important factor in lifting student achievement is effective teaching backed by strong investment in professional development.

Moana Mackey: What else is the Government doing to support professional development for teachers?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government will invest around $110 million this year in the professional development of teachers, along with $58 million for projects that are giving teachers the skills to lift numeracy and literacy standards for all students. As a result of this investment, our evaluations are showing major improvements across all of the 1,700 schools involved, with the highest improvement amongst students who were previously the lowest achievers, and a lift in achievement across Māori and Pacifica students.

Hon Bill English: How does the Minister tally that rosy view of schools with the Education Review Office annual report that yesterday told the nation that 30 percent of schools do not have any meaningful or useful information about the achievement or the progress of their students; and will he take any action on the back of that startling piece of information?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member will know, the Education Review Office is a Government agency, paid for by the taxpayer, and, of course, we take all of its reports seriously .

Hon Brian Donnelly: How do New Zealand students currently fare in international studies on mathematics achievement, and does the Minister believe that the announced investment will increase our relative rankings?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That is an excellent question. Our results show that in fact we are amongst the best in numeracy and mathematics. In the study of trends in international maths and science, or the IMSS study as it is known, conducted in 2002-03, New Zealand was one of only six countries to report a significant improvement in mathematical achievements between 1994 and 2002. New Zealand’s year 9 mean performance in mathematics was significantly higher than the international means for 46 countries participating at that educational level. Increases in maths achievements between 1994 and 2002 were particularly notable for Māori and Pasifika boys.

Moana Mackey: What gains to the New Zealand population would there be if everyone reached a high standard of basic numeracy?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It would, for example, allow the leader of an organisation that contracted for services with a broadcaster to understand that the organisation has to pay GST. If the GST added up to $115,000, and if there were a fine of $100,000 attached to it, that leader would know that the organisation had to pay back $215,000.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect to the comment the Minister just made, has he received any reports as to the wisdom of attending a reception being put on by Minister Dunne, titled “Twenty Years of GST: The Best Path Forward”—one of the architects of GST being the leader of the National Party, and the reception being one he could possibly attend and explain why he has not paid GST back?

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry, but that question was very wide of the original question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, the original question was on the issue of mathematics, as was the secondary question. But the point at issue was the use of mathematics when it relates to things such as taxation. Right then it was on the floor, and I am begging your indulgence, Madam Speaker, because a very, very important occasion is coming up there, with a celebration of 20 years of GST. You will remember that it had to be “good for you”, which was the Labour slogan, but my real issue is that if it has to be “good for you”, then it has to be paid.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but I have ruled on the matter. The member’s question was far too wide of the original question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: It has to be a different point of order. My tolerance for questioning my rulings is at zero today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, Madam Speaker, you should not presume that that is the object of the point of order. I want to seek the House’s leave, including your own, to table this invitation, with particular reference to some members who should be there.

Leave granted.

Ingram Report—Immigration, Minister’s Statement

2. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he still rely on the Ingram report because it is an authoritative, comprehensive report written by a Queen’s Counsel, as he confirmed to the House on Wednesday, 30 August 2006?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): I still believe that it would be inappropriate to question the integrity of a Queen’s Counsel who has produced a report based on the information available to him.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How wise is the Minister to rely on the Ingram report, when Noel Ingram states: “I have found no evidence to support an allegation that Mr Siriwan or Ms Phanngarm were promised work in New Zealand.”, when Sunan Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states: “Taito told me, while I was at his house at Māngere, that if I come to Samoa to work as a tiler at his house at Afiomalu, he will get me back to New Zealand with a work permit.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As has been noted to this House, there is clearly a conflict of evidence, and that matter will need to be investigated by the New Zealand Police.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How wise is the Minister to rely on the Ingram report, when Noel Ingram QC concluded that “the evidence does not support a finding that Mr Field knew that Mr Siriwan was working on his house at the time he wrote that letter.”—the letter Mr Field wrote to the Associate Minister of Immigration, Damien O’Connor, on 18 May 2005—when Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states: “Taito said to me … he will give me WS$200 per week for food, and I could live at his new house in Afiomalu, where I was to work.” and that “Taito had come to the house at Afiomalu and he saw me on my knees sanding and levelling the floor to have the floor ready for tiling. … This was approximately the end of March 2005.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Those are matters that the police will no doubt investigate. I note that Mr Siriwan had the opportunity to speak to the inquiry and did not make those allegations then.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How wise is the Minister to rely on the Ingram report, when the Ingram report failed to uncover the facts contained in Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit that, in addition to the “four months to put tiles in Taito’s house”, he was “asked to do painting in the whole inside of Taito’s house. This took two months.”, and that as well as confirming that he was never paid for the 4 months’ tiling work, he said: “I confirm that I was never paid for this painting job”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I can confirm that it would be an error of judgment for the member to place reliance upon contested evidence when the matter is still under investigation by the New Zealand Police.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How wise is the Minister to rely on the information in the Ingram report, when Noel Ingram failed to uncover the fact not only that Taito Phillip Field had done a deal with Mr Siriwan to go to work on Mr Field’s house in Samoa for no pay but also that in respect of paying for his air ticket to Samoa, Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states that he went to Taito’s house and gave him $400 towards his air fair and “I told Taito that I had already spent $360 to buy silicon and other water proofing materials to take with me to Samoa for Taito’s house.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It would be an error of judgment for the member to describe as fact matters that are the subject of a conflict of evidence. To allege so would be to undermine the police inquiry and to question the integrity of a Queen’s Counsel.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How wise is the Minister to rely on the Ingram report, when Mr Sunan Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states: “we have not been free to speak the truth about our situation. … I have never been free to speak out. I was told what to say to the lawyer who came from New Zealand to talk to me.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Those recycled press clippings are now old news, but—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. Again, we are falling into barracking. The Minister is entitled to be heard, and other members in the House are entitled to hear him.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that those matters are the subject of a police inquiry. The member may well ask why the person alleging those matters feels free to speak now, when he did not feel so free earlier.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I seek leave to table the sworn affidavit of Sunan Siriwan, dated the 26th day of September 2006 and sworn in front of a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Samoa.

Leave granted.

Police—Assaults on Officers

3. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does she share the concern expressed by Commissioner of Police, Howard Broad, regarding the increase in attacks of a serious nature on police, and what does she consider to be the reason for the increase in attacks on police?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister of Police): Yes, I am concerned by any assaults on police, but I am particularly concerned about the serious assaults. No one can say definitely why there should be an increase in any particular year, but I know that the police themselves are concerned about alcohol and drug use and abuse in society. It is difficult to quantify such factors, though it is well known that alcohol features in around 70 percent of incidents requiring police attention.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister of Police agree with the President of the Police Association, Greg O’Connor, when he states that focusing the deployment to the front line of the 1,000 extra police recruited over the next 3 years will help cut assaults on police, and has the Government considered the possibility of increasing the penalties for assaults on police officers, as suggested by New Zealand First as another means of deterrent?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I know the Government has considered the proposal put forward by New Zealand First regarding penalties. We are very happy to work with New Zealand First to ensure that the 1,000 new police are, indeed, on the front line doing a very good job in trying to reduce violence in this country.

Ann Hartley: What is the Government doing to make the job of police safer?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No Government can make the job of police safe. There will always be risks associated with policing. But a number of initiatives are being taken that aim to mitigate these risks. These include the roll-out of the stab-resistant body armour scheduled for implementation later this year, the current police Taser trial, and the recruitment of the extra 1,000 front-line sworn police.

Simon Power: Does the Minister of Police concede that there is a connection between the 53 percent increase in serious assaults on police since 1999 and the 26 percent increase in total violent crime under her watch in light of the statement by Detective Inspector Steve Rutherford of Counties-Manukau that “The reality is that violence has escalated.”, and the fact that police officers are the ones who deal with these incidents face to face; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The facts are that recorded crime per 10,000 population is nearly 20 percent down on that which it was 10 years ago. We acknowledge that we have been particularly focusing in the area of domestic violence. We have been catching and convicting more people for violent offences, and we will continue to do that. The sad reality is that drugs and alcohol play an increasingly harmful part in this process, and we hope to do everything we can to reduce that.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister give an absolute assurance that there will be no general arming of the police with guns, and that she will not leave this issue of whether we end up with Tasers to internal struggles within the police force?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There is no enthusiasm and no intent to arm our police force. We are, however, going through a trial with Taser equipment to try to offer better protection to police in difficult situations. That will be an objective assessment and we await the outcome of that trial.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister accept that the high number of reported serious assaults on police is not a true reflection of how many officers are injured on the job, as many officers who are assaulted do not report their injuries, and if the Minister is not aware of that, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware of any officers not reporting incidents. If the member has any information I am sure that the Minister of Police would be happy to accept that and to follow up on it.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister aware of what Mr Broad was referring to when he stated that strong forces wanted police to carry guns if the Taser trial proves unsuccessful, and if the Taser does prove to be an effective countermeasure, will she be recommending that Tasers be deployed in every police car?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I spoke directly with Howard Broad, the Commissioner of Police, over those words. He regrets using the words “strong force”. However, he does acknowledge that the police are hoping the Taser trial is successful. If it is, I am sure the Minister or the commissioner will look at deployment of that useful tool across the country.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a chart from this year’s annual report of the police, showing that the recorded assaults on police have not increased over the past decade.

Leave granted.

Ingram Report—Work Permits

4. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Has the New Zealand Immigration Service received an application for a work permit from Mr Sunan Siriwan and Ms Aumporn Phanngarm?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): No.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If such applications were received, would it be relevant information in considering them that Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states: “My partner and I wish to apply for work visas to go to New Zealand as set out in the Minister’s letter. … We waited and waited and nothing was heard from Taito in regards lodging of our applications for work visas.”; is it correct that there was a time limit in the then Associate Minister’s special direction that the Thais be granted work visas for New Zealand?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that no application for a work permit has been received from Mr Siriwan and Ms Aumporn Phanngarm.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister might choose to repeat what he likes, but the Standing Orders require him to answer my question. My question asked for information far beyond whether a work permit application had been received from Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm.

Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, he cannot require a specific answer to the question. The Minister is obliged to address the question. His answer did relate to the specific question.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would it be relevant information in consideration of applications for work visas for Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm that Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states: “In December 2005, I asked Taito when he was in Samoa to lodge our visa applications. He told me to hold off because there have been problems in New Zealand. … Taito told me not to lodge my work visa just yet, until he says so.”; has that delay, demanded by Taito Phillip Field, put the Thai couple beyond the 6-month visa eligibility period authorised by the then Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member has now corrected himself and addressed the question to a work visa application. I can confirm that a work visa application, not a permit application, has been made. As a former Associate Minister of Immigration he should be able to tell the difference. No doubt the Immigration Act review will assist by simplifying that matter.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Standing Orders actually do require a Minister to answer a question, and the nature of that answer must be that it addresses the question. For the Minister simply to give any answer that he may choose is not within the Standing Orders. I can absolutely assure you, Madam Speaker, that if you check the Standing Orders, you will see that that is correct. Standing Order 377 states: “(1) An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” It is a Standing Order that is often overlooked in this House, but an answer that seeks to address the question must be given.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Speaking to the point of order, I understand that it is accepted in this House that a Minister is not responsible for the accuracy or veracity of the question that is being posed. These matters are matters of law and policy and it is incumbent upon the member to get the accuracy of his question right.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is obliged to address the question consistent with the Standing Order the member quoted. However, the Minister did address the specific question that was asked, and the subsequent questions he also addressed. So would the member like to continue.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When considering the applications of Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm, will consideration be given to the fact that Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm followed the directions set out in then Associate Minister Damien O’Connor’s letter of 23 June authorising that they be issued with work visas, and obtained their police clearances from Thailand, got their medical checks, paid Taito Phillip Field $2,000 in cash for Ms Phanngarm’s removal costs, but held off lodging their visa applications because, as set out in Mr Sirirwan’s affidavit: “Taito told me not to lodge my work visa application … He told me to hold off because there have been problems in New Zealand.”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It would be quite inappropriate for a Minister of Immigration to comment on an application that was still under active consideration by the department.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would it be relevant information in considering the applications of Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm that Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states that, after Taito Phillip Field recently gave him 1,000 tala in cash: “Taito told both of us twice that day, that if police from New Zealand come to Samoa to talk to us, we must tell the police from New Zealand: that Sunan and Aumporn did no work at Taito’s house and did no tiling. Taito told us to tell the New Zealand police that we never worked at Taito’s house; we must tell police that we worked outside; we must tell the police that we did not see Taito at his home.”; would that kind of manipulation by a Labour member of Parliament be helpful or unhelpful to Mr Siriwan’s or Ms Phanngarm’s applications?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Without wishing to pre-empt in any way the consideration by the department, I observe that it may be pointless for Ms Woodroffe to be representing the people concerned when Dr Smith is attempting to prosecute the case through the House of Representatives. His attempt to do so reminds me of a comment in the Dominion Post on 25 October 2003 describing as amateurish the attempts of Dr Lockwood Smith to support Dr Don Brash in his coup attempt. It stated: “National values confidence”—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. Would the Minister please be seated. That was not relevant to the question.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When considering the immigration applications of Mr Siriwan and Ms Phanngarm—in addition to their New Zealand - born child— would it be relevant information that Mr Siriwan’s sworn affidavit states that as a result of working for Taito Phillip Field for many months for no pay, he now has nothing: “I gave Taito my last NZ$2,000 that I had from New Zealand. I sold my gold chain before I left New Zealand so I had money to bring with me to Samoa. Now I have nothing.”; would that kind of exploitation by a Labour member of Parliament be helpful or unhelpful to Mr Siriwan’s and Ms Phanngarm’s applications?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It would be inappropriate of me to comment on an application still under consideration by the department.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I seek leave to table the affidavit of I’o A Tuakeu-Lindsay confirming the Thai translation services received by Mr Sunan Siriwan and Aumporn Phanngarm, sworn on 17 October 2006 in front of a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Samoa.

Leave granted.

Climate Change Policies—Reports

5. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What recent reports, if any, has he received on increasing support for the Government’s climate change policies?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): I have had reports that the Labour-led Government has gathered significant support for its approach to climate change. We welcome the consistent and principled support of the Greens, of United Future, and of the Māori Party. We also welcome the recent conversion of the National Party, which, despite stridently opposing the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill at its first reading, at the Commerce Committee, and during the election campaign, has done yet another flip-flop. Last night it supported the essentially un-amended bill in its second reading in the House.

Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister explain why the Government’s policies are garnering public support at this time?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because they encourage Kiwis to do the sensible things they are believe are good for them and our country: initiatives like improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles, improved insulation, and solar water heating, to name but three. The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative ties in with the policies the Government has in place to respond to climate change. That initiative will also improve water quality and give new business opportunities for landowners. If, however, the member is asking me how National could have credibly opposed that bill previously, I am afraid that I cannot supply the answer to that.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the Minister cannot comment on National’s policy.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can he claim that there is increased support for the Government’s climate change policies when everyone, from Government officials to Greenpeace to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says that the Government has no policy and has no idea how it will meet its Kyoto Protocol targets, and when its key policies on the carbon tax, the “fart tax”, the energy efficiency strategy, the negotiated greenhouse agreements, and the projects to reduce emissions in forestry have all been put on hold or canned?

Hon DAVID PARKER: How that member would love that to be true and for the situation to be as grim as that. It is not. We are taking a principled approach to it. I remind the House—

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Hon DAVID PARKER: I remind the House that in the first reading of the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill, John Key said: “I rise on behalf of the National Party to give the good news to the people of New Zealand—that is, the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill is a load of rubbish and the National Party will not be supporting it, for very, very good reasons indeed.” Well, it looks as though John Key is another member of the club of climate change “Donny-come-latelys”—or perhaps he is the next johnny-come-lately—but nevertheless, we welcome—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How is this in order? I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be silent. I cannot hear the answer to the question, I say to Dr Smith. So if that is his point of order—I do not want to pre-empt it, but if it is—I would ask the Minister to address the question without editorialising.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I will read from Hansard in respect of the first reading of the bill, when John Key said—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Standing Order requires that the Minister address the question. I would love to quote the full brilliant speech of my colleague John Key, but that was not my question. My question was—and perhaps you would like me to repeat it—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, please.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: —how can he claim that there is increased support for the Government’s climate change policies, when everyone, from his own officials to Greenpeace and even to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, says that the Government has no policy and has no idea how it will meet its Kyoto Protocol targets, and when its key policies on the carbon tax, the “fart tax”, the energy efficiency strategy, the negotiated greenhouse agreements, and the projects to reduce emissions in forestry have all been put on hold or canned?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister’s reply was that in the previous reading Mr Key described the bill as very stupid and useless, etc., and that last night the Opposition voted for it. Therefore, of course, support for the Government’s policies has increased.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister was attempting to address the question. If we have a new supplementary question, I call the Hon Dr Nick Smith.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you clarify for me whether Dr Cullen is the “Minister of Everything” or whether David Parker is the Minister, because we on this side of the House are a bit confused.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, as the member knows. The Minister was talking to the point of order. Would the member please be seated if he wishes to remain in this Chamber. The Minister was clarifying a point; it is not unusual to do so through points of order. Can we start again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Smith has already had the number of supplementary questions that would require you to invite my colleague to ask the next supplementary question. I do not want to make a complaint here, but if I thought for a moment that someone regarded the National Party as having more rights than my party does, then I would protest. I am not at that point now, but I am just making the issue very clear that my colleague Peter Brown should be the next person to be called.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the member is quite right; I apologise.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that four of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions are the USA, China, India, and Australia, all of which are building, or planning to build, more coal-fired power stations, two of which will not sign the Kyoto Protocol, and the other two of which are exempt until 2012; if he does accept that, does he believe we must keep things in perspective and inform the public of New Zealand that anything we do down here will, on a global basis, have only a minimal effect?

Eric Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In relation to my colleague Nick Smith having his call taken away, I refer you to Speaker’s ruling 25/4—

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you very much. I do not need any assistance on this matter. I called the member; I saw him. The matter is over.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I agree with the member to the extent that it is true that countries like China and India are building thermal electricity generation capacity, and that in order for the world to get over the challenge of climate change, it will be necessary for countries like China and India to also moderate their emissions. None the less, it also remains true that countries like the United States are taking measures to reduce their emissions. Countries like New Zealand actually have higher emission rates than those countries, and it is important that wealthy countries like ours do our bit.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Government’s policies on climate change have been so successful, why have New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions increased under this Government at a faster rate than that of any other OECD country, at three times the rate of Australia and at four times the rate of the United States, and why has New Zealand simultaneously achieved in 2005 the first year of net deforestation in 46 years; if that is success, for God’s sake will the Minister tell me what failure would look like?

Hon DAVID PARKER: One of the mains reasons why New Zealand’s emissions have grown since 1990 is that the thermal power capacity that the country had already built has been utilised more of the time, instead of New Zealand building more hydro capacity.

Gordon Copeland: Has the Government, in developing its climate change policy, given any thought to a humanitarian resettlement plan for countries such as Tokelau, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, which are likely to disappear as sea levels rise; if so, what is that policy; if not, does the Minister agree that it needs to happen in association with our Pacific neighbours?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The Government is beginning to give consideration to those issues. They are still away from us in the future, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs is taxed with them. They are difficult issues; they are real, potential consequences of climate change. Indeed, recent reports out of both Australia and the United Kingdom are making increasing reference to the security implications of climate change if we do not get it under control, because the number of people who could be on the move worldwide, as a consequence of increases in sea levels, is measured in millions, not thousands.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the advice of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on 10 October this year, which states: “It is our view that there is currently a policy vacuum in climate change.”

Leave granted.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware of the repeated calls, particularly since March this year, of the climate change science community, the academic community, the non-governmental organisations, and the general public for this Parliament to reach a cross-party agreement on the fundamentals of climate change policy, so that we can take the country forwards rather than look backwards; if he is aware of that, what steps has he taken to attempt to reach some cross-party agreements, and what response has he had to his efforts?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Following the recent change of heart by the National Party in respect of climate change issues, those questions have been put to me both in the House and outside the House. I respond now, as I have responded previously: we believe we are developing sound policy in response to the climate change challenge. I think it reflects well on the National Party that it backed the Climate Change Response Amendment Bill yesterday in the House. I think we are getting closer to reaching agreement across the House as to what the appropriate price-based measures are in the electricity sector. I look forward to the contributions of all parties to the development of these policies, and, of course, to the processes of Parliament, including select committee processes and the very extensive consultation processes that we have running around these policies. Those avenues enable parties to come together.

Ingram Report—Prime Minister's Statement

6. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she still maintain that the Ingram report was “very comprehensive and thorough”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister tell this House, and the New Zealand public, why they should have any confidence in her Government and the findings of the Ingram report, given the evidence that Sunan Siriwan was told by Taito Phillip Field to lie if he was questioned by the New Zealand Police; and is that acceptable behaviour for a Labour member of her Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Any allegations can be considered by the police. Mr Siriwan was, of course, interviewed by Mr Ingram.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister now accept that Mr Siriwan did not speak to Noel Ingram QC because he was under such extreme pressure from Taito Phillip Field not to speak to Noel Ingram QC?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Siriwan had the opportunity to speak to the inquiry.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister accept that the Ingram report is full of gaping holes because she refused to give Noel Ingram extra powers of investigation when he asked for them, and because potential witnesses were not assisted with independent legal advice; and was that because the last thing she wanted was for the truth about Taito Phillip Field’s activities to be uncovered by the investigation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, no, and no.

Gerry Brownlee: Does she think it is acceptable for Taito Phillip Field, a member of her Government, to attempt to obstruct the police investigation into his activities; if not, what specific actions will she take as a result of the information that has become public today?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Any new allegations and evidence can be referred to the police and considered by them.

Gerry Brownlee: Why, despite all of the information that has now come to light, does the Prime Minister continue to express confidence in Taito Phillip Field as a member of Parliament?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Field is on leave and the police are undertaking an investigation. Unlike the members opposite, we are not going to direct the police as to their conclusions.

Paritutu Dioxin Serum Study—Errors

7. TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Health: What advice has the Minister received about the nature of the significant errors identified by independent forensic accountant John Leonard in the Ministry of Health’s Paritutu dioxin serum study?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): I have received advice that the report of the forensic accountant contradicts the findings of the study conducted by Environmental Science and Research that was peer reviewed by scientists at the United States Centers for Disease Control, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Massey University New Zealand, and Hatfield Consultants in Canada. However, John Leonard has made serious claims and I have instructed the Ministry of Health to have his report independently reviewed. I can advise the House that this review will be carried out by Dr Allan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley.

Tariana Turia: Why did the Minister fail to investigate the serious anomalies with the Paritutu dioxin serum study 1 year ago when they were brought to his attention in a letter dated 7 October 2005?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I receive some thousands of letters a year and I am afraid I do not recall that one. But I will say that the Government has every interest in making sure that accurate information is made available to the people of Paritutu and indeed to the wider public.

Barbara Stewart: Has his ministry considered carrying out DNA tests, similar to those on Agent Orange victims, in order to conclusively identify the effects of exposure to the dioxin; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My understanding, and I am going from memory, is that Dr Neil Pearce from Massey University is conducting further investigations into various chemicals, including dioxin, and that attached to his study are some DNA disruption studies.

Maryan Street: How does the Minister respond to claims that anonymised data from individual patients was withheld from the international peer reviewers of the Environmental Research and Science report, and does he agree that these claims are very serious?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do agree that they are serious claims, and I am pleased therefore to inform the House that they are wrong. The anonymised data in question was provided to the international peer reviewers. It has so far been withheld from public release, due to privacy concerns from some in the community and from the ethics committee that approved the study. Regardless, serious claims have been made about the Environmental Science and Research report and I have, as I said in my primary answer, instructed the Ministry of Health to analyse them and respond as soon as possible.

Sue Kedgley: Would he like to use this as an opportunity right now, in the House today, to offer an apology to affected New Zealanders for the physical and emotional suffering they have endured as a result of successive Governments subsidising 2,4,5-T, encouraging its widespread use, and, long after it had been banned in most other countries of the world, for allowing it to be manufactured right next to a residential area, and for downplaying, denying, and falsely reassuring residents about the health effects of dioxin; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The events over the past four or five decades have certainly been a chapter of interesting changes of viewpoint and, indeed, probably reflect not only changes in New Zealand society over that time but also changes in our view of what is an acceptable risk. Clearly, what happened then is not acceptable now.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I explicitly asked the Minister whether he would apologise to the affected residents. The Minister did not answer my question.

Madam SPEAKER: I think he addressed the question, but if he wishes to make his answer explicit he may do so.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me say, uncomplicatedly, that I do not feel entitled to apologise for 4 ½ decades of activity by a series of industries—that is to say, the primary sector, a series of chemical companies such as Dow and its variously named subsidiaries—and a series of Governments. I am, myself, a person who got through university by spraying an awful lot of gorse. I have no idea what my dioxin level is, but I bet it ain’t that good!

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Government felt able to make an apology to Vietnam veterans—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, as the member knows.

Hon Harry Duynhoven: Can the Minister confirm that an independent review, as he has outlined, will be done, and that if that review of the existing data shows a need for further investigation, a longitudinal study tracking down the residents who were in the Paritutu area at the time of highest exposures is likely to follow?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is such a study that is under contest; that study has already been carried out. What I am reviewing—as I am sure the member would want, given that he represents the residents in question—is whether John Leonard’s independent forensic accounting expertise was accurate. In either case, I will happily make that information public.

Tariana Turia: What has changed between October 2005, when the Minister denied in writing that there was any evidence of data manipulation to cover up dioxin exposure levels, and the New Zealand Press Association’s report of Tuesday, 24 October, in which the Minister is quoted as saying: “It's clear that there's room for doubt so we better have another look…”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: What has changed is that there was a very long television programme, which spent a very long time telling the public of New Zealand that a gentleman thinks there has been a mistake. The gentleman raises valid questions. The fact that he did not know that this stuff had already been peer reviewed several times is perhaps a reflection on the television company. Nonetheless, valid questions have been raised, and we will take another look at the issue.

Sue Kedgley: Will the Government now honour a promise made by Don Matheson, a public health official at the Ministry of Health, to residents at a public meeting in New Plymouth 4 years ago that if there was proof that Dow caused the problem, the Government would initiate legal proceedings against Dow; if the Government will not, does the Minister acknowledge that that will send a terrible message to multinational corporations that they can come to New Zealand, pollute our local environment, poison our local residents, and get away scot-free?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry that I am unable to confirm that that undertaking was made 4 years ago. As to whether the Government should take anyone to court, an immediate question is what we can charge them with. As I recall, in my legal advice to date, I do not know of any law that was broken at the time. If, on the other hand, the member has legal advice to the contrary, I would be pleased to receive it.

Tariana Turia: Will the Minister now undertake to review the—[Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Even you heard that outrageous comment from Nick Smith. In light of what he said, he should be asked to leave the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. I notice that he has the next question, and he should stay—[Interruption]—no, that was a disorderly intervention and the member knows that. The member should stay until his question is answered.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you just explain to us the basis on which that intervention was any more disorderly than any number of interjections that have been made during question time today? It was not made during a question, it was not made during a point of order, it was not unparliamentary, but I suppose it could be said that it was personal, because it was aimed at one member of Parliament. But I would say that in the common sense of almost all members here today, that intervention was no different from any other today.

Madam SPEAKER: I take the member’s point, and it was raised yesterday, which is why I am making this ruling. A member was on her feet asking a question, and there was an interchange across the Chamber that was not directed to the question but that was interfering with the person asking the question. That is the basis for that ruling. I want members, please, to show courtesy and respect. Interjections are fine when on the question, but that one was not on the question. It was a gratuitous comment that was put across the Chamber. That is the basis of that ruling.

Tariana Turia: Will the Minister now undertake to review the Taranaki District Health Board’s August 2002 birth defects study, as was recommended, in light of the new evidence in John Leonard’s report?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If the evidence in John Leonard’s report stacks up when reviewed by Dr Allan Smith of the University of California at Berkeley, then I think that the Government does need to consider Dr Smith’s report when it is received.

Tariana Turia: I seek leave to table a letter of 7 October 2005 from Andrew Gibbs to the Hon Pete Hodgson, and a letter from the Hon Pete Hodgson to Andrew Gibbs in response to Mr Gibbs’ letter of 7 October 2005.

Leave granted.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a letter from Annette King to Andrew Gibbs, where the Minister says that all the monitoring and investigation carried out around the Ivon Watkins-Dow issue showed there was no significant exposure of dioxins into the local population, which is completely erroneous.

Leave granted.

Whangamata Marina Decision—Conservation, Minister's Statements

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his answers to questions in the House on 14 March 2006 in regard to the Whangamata marina, in which he stated “I followed due process” and “I followed the legal process under the Resource Management Act”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): In general, yes, but I accept the court’s advice.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister possibly tell the House that “In general, yes,” he did follow the law and due process, when the High Court found his decision “unfair”, and “in breach of the common law standards of natural justice” and that there was more than one error of law; will he now apologise to the Whangamata Marina Society for his repeated breaches of the law? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: If members wish to hear the Minister’s answer, would they please enable him to be heard in silence.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I, too, would like to quote the court. Justice Fogarty stated: “There are no findings in this judgment which would warrant an extraordinary direction by this Court that the present Minister of Conservation should not continue to be seized of this case. The errors identified can be corrected … clearing a way for reconsideration by this Minister.”

Charles Chauvel: Who will make the final decision about whether to grant the two restricted coastal activity permits required under the Resource Management Act for the Whangamata marina?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would note that Judge Fogarty said in his judgment that my decision was not biased, predetermined, or irrational, and he directed me to remake my decision using a better process. After careful thought, I decided it was important to remove any suggestion of predetermination in a new decision taken by me. Accordingly, I have delegated the authority to make a new decision to my colleague David Benson-Pope, the Minister for the Environment, who is in charge of the Resource Management Act.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister, in his statement on 19 September following the High Court decision, say that he would be making the final decision on Whangamata but then, on 12 October, in the exact hour in which the Auditor-General dropped his explosive report on Labour’s illegal campaign spending, announce he would pass the decision to David Benson-Pope; why did he hide the decision that way—was it that he was so embarrassed that he had been rolled by Dover Samuels and his caucus?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: At no point during the period before I delegated the decision did I say I had come to a decision. I said I was considering it. And, of course, unlike that member I do not have a contempt of court ruling against me.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why should mum and dad taxpayers have to foot the bill of up to $250,000 awarded by the High Court in costs to the Whangamata Marina Society on top of the $150,000 his unlawful decision has cost Crown Law in its defence; and, if the taxpayer is to foot this $400,000 total bill for his illegal conduct, is not resigning the honourable thing to do?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Once again, that member illustrates his freedom with terminology. At no point did Justice Fogarty say my decision was unlawful. I guess that is why that member is currently before the courts being sued for $15 million for libel.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can he tell the House that the court did not find he had acted unlawfully when it said that he had made an error of law; what is the difference?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I repeat that Justice Fogarty said that I was still able to make the decision and that I had not acted unlawfully.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will his Government support National’s proposition to remove the Minister of Conservation’s veto over such consents, noting that in over 400-plus consents considered by Ministers since 1991 only once has a Minister overturned a decision of the Environment Court—and that was subsequently overturned by the High Court—and, further, that this High Court decision makes the Minister’s discretion very narrow and that this additional ministerial step just adds delay to the consenting process; would it not be better just to respect the decisions of the Environment Court?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: What an extraordinary question that is from a member of a previous National Government that brought in the Resource Management Act and put these very provisions in it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House—noting that the Minister has tried to tell the House that he did not act unlawfully—to table, in order that members may read it, Judge Fogarty’s report, in which he found the Minister of Conservation breached the law on three different counts.

Leave granted.

Local Government—Youth Involvement

9. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What is the Government doing to increase opportunities for young people to be engaged at a local government level?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Youth Affairs): The Youth in Local Government conference recently held in New Plymouth is just one example of initiatives supported by the Government—

Madam SPEAKER: There is chipping across the Chamber. David Bennett, you are on your last warning. It is what causes disorder in this House, and I have been asked to keep order. [Interruption] It was not to the Minister; it was across the Chamber. The member is on his last warning.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been asked to exit the House because, during a question from a member—

Madam SPEAKER: The member is quite right. Please go, David Bennett, in the interests of consistency—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, that is not the point, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, he should go anyway.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, Madam Speaker, you seem to have a bias whereby you are very keen to kick National members out. The reality is that Winston Peters, while a member was asking a question in circumstances identical to mine, made an interjection, and he should be asked to leave the House on the—

Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member. If he did that, then he should go, too. You both should go. That is what is causing disorder in this House. It is not related to the debate, at all.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I most certainly did not. Nanaia Mahuta is the answerer of the question. She was on her feet when I said “See you, Nick.” The reality is that that is not offensive under the Standing Orders or any prior rulings.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I want to raise that Dr Nick Smith is still in the House. He left the House, having been told to do so, and came back in to raise a point of order. Members cannot come back into the House, having been ordered out, because they feel like having a point of order. I am afraid that he is not here on a legal basis at the present time.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. No, he is not. Would the member please leave until the end of question time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When Dr Smith was exiting the Chamber, as you required him to do, there was an intervention by Mr Peters, who said “See you later, Nick.” That is a complete contradiction; he has just admitted he said it, and he is still here. He should go, too.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree. [Interruption] No, I am sorry but I have ruled on this—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, hang on—

Madam SPEAKER: No, do not challenge my ruling. Do that at your peril. I want both the Rt Hon Winston Peters and David Bennett to please leave the Chamber. The only way we are going to get order here is if, in fact, we stick to the Standing Orders. It is this chipping across the House that is causing the problem at the moment. Please leave the Chamber until the end of question time.

David Bennett withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a new point of order; I will leave but I want to make this point of order. Is it your precedent now that one cannot make a comment when a speaker is on his or her feet as a Minister in reply? Because that is new. That is the offence with which I am being charged now, falsely, by Mr Tisch. He knows full well that when they started out the allegation was that I said what I said during a member asking the question. That was wrong. Nanaia Mahuta had well started her answer when I said what I said—and I do not deny it. But you will remember this: as he walked out he said “Stay awake, Winston.”, which is where the whole thing started in the first place.

Madam SPEAKER: That is precisely the problem in this House. It is people having private conversations and exchanging abuse across this House. We have to get some semblance of order, and I have been asked to do it. The Standing Orders state that we respond to questions and answers. I will ask the Minister, the Hon Nanaia—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have asked you a question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, you are going out for—not that. It is because of the chipping, not because of being on your feet. But please leave the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Youth in Local Government Conference recently held in New Plymouth is just one example of initiatives supported by the Government that encourage young people to have a real and positive role in decision making in their community. Sixty-eight young people from youth councils, at least nine mayors, and several councillors from all over New Zealand attended the conference. It was an opportunity for young people in councils to share information and ideas concerning young people.

Sue Moroney: How does this contribute to the Government’s vision for young people contained in the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: This strategy is about supporting opportunities for young people to be the best they can be: healthy, confident, connected, vibrant, and resilient. The Youth in Local Government Conference is an example of how young people develop the skills and attitudes they need to make a positive contribution to their community. By encouraging young people’s participation at a local government level they are valued, and they have an opportunity to express their opinions and ideas and to contribute to community decision-making.

Question Time

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Minister for Transport Safety): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to raise an issue, which is, I think, a very important one for the House to consider, and that is the events that just happened during the past question. I did not want to interrupt my colleague the Minister in her answers, but I think there is a really important issue of order here that is worthy of your consideration and the consideration of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Please come to the point.

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The point I am making is this. Last week I was asked to remove myself from the House because I, apparently, had interjected on what I had thought was a speech but actually was a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Points of order are heard in silence, remember.

Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I left immediately but, on my way out, let the whip know that I was the duty Minister. Later in the afternoon, because I, apparently, had delayed leaving, it was asked that I be named, which was a complete and utter surprise to me. I find it absolutely incredible that a member goes to leave the House, then comes back to argue the point with you on a point of order. I know that you have dealt with it, but I think it is an issue in terms—

Madam SPEAKER: That is precisely the point—I have dealt with it. Please be seated.

High Country—Farming

10. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister for Land Information: Does he stand by his statement that “The government is committed to high country farming that is environmentally sustainable and economically viable”; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Land Information): Yes.

Hon David Carter: As the Armstrong report is an interim report and has been disregarded by the Government, will Donn Armstrong now be asked to present a final report?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I do not envisage engaging Mr Armstrong any further. The Crown charges its high country lessees at an annual rate of 2 percent if paid on time on the land value, excluding improvements. The 1982 Clayton report dealt with Crown pastoral leases and stated that that rate of return to Crown was more than generous to lessees. It noted that discounts are often capitalised into value by the farmers who get the discount, and it also stated that charging on the basis of land value excluding improvements, and a percentage thereof, was preferable to a rental based on carrying capacity.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Why is the Government having discussions with high country farmers about the impacts of rent increases?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because the Crown wants a fair financial return on its high country land both by way of rent and in valuation of its interest during tenure review. But it is not the intention of the Government to make rents unaffordable, which is why the Government is discussing with high country farmers ways to achieve rental outcomes that are fair, reasonable, and durable for both parties. Rents set in accordance with the law at higher levels will be affordable for many, but may be unaffordable for some. Possible options for those for whom it is unaffordable include rent reductions in return for additional sustainable management contributions such as pest and weed control or improved public access.

Jacqui Dean: Is he satisfied that the high country farmers in the South Island have been good custodians of the land since 1948—yes or no?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Overall, yes. But that does not mean to say that they should get it for nothing.

Hon David Carter: Is the Minister aware that under current leases farmers’ income can be derived only from grazing, and does he argue that a sheep with a view will grow more wool than a sheep without a view?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I am aware that that is the restriction on land use, but I am also aware that the bundle of rights that is enjoyed and protected by lessees goes further than pure pastoralism, and includes rights of exclusive occupation, which is why one of the remedies for those lessees for whom rents may be unaffordable is that they give up some of those rights but retain their rights of pastoralism.

Hon David Carter: Will the Minister confirm today that the valuers acting for Land Information New Zealand were instructed on 13 October this year to immediately apply amenity values to valuations, and if that is the case, what is the purpose of the Minister’s sham consultation round that he now promises the high country farmers?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The round of consultation is not about what the law requires me to do; it is about the consequences of that for lessees.

Hon David Carter: Why does the Government want to set high country rents according to their views and not income, yet sets State house rentals for a multimillion-dollar house in Ōrākei with views over Auckland harbour on the basis of income and not its views?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member makes an interesting comparison. It does seem somewhat strange that a property of thousands of hectares would have the same rent as a State house.

Physical Activity—Push Play Day

11. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: What action is being taken in the lead-up to national Push Play Day on 3 November to get more New Zealanders physically active?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Sport and Recreation: Sport and Recreation New Zealand is currently running Push Play Nation, a campaign that aims to increase awareness of physical activity and to encourage New Zealanders to form a habit of being physically active. The media campaign provides ideas on how to be active, including in the workplace. It culminates in Push Play Day on Friday, 3 November, with activities running in regions around the country. Of course, members opposite believe that if people get a tax cut they do not need to engage in physical activity.

Dianne Yates: What reports has he seen on initiatives to encourage greater physical activity in the workplace?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A number of such proposals are around, but I have also heard a suggestion that in this workplace—Parliament Buildings—attempts to make exercise facilities available to all staff are being frustrated by members opposite, particularly by one who reportedly used to coach rugby at St Bede’s College by driving his car along the sideline in order to avoid walking.

Child Support—Highly-paid Debtors

12. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Revenue: Can he confirm media reports that state that almost 400 dads, on salaries of $100,000 or more, owe $6.3 million in child support?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue): I can confirm that 387 persons are in that category. They owe around $4 million in child support payments, with a further $2.25 million owed in outstanding penalties.

Judith Collins: What estimates has the Minister been given of the number of wealthy fathers who are hiding their income and assets to avoid supporting their children?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I do not have an estimate of the actual number, but I can tell the House that the Child Support Amendment Bill (No 4), which was recently passed, and which the member’s party opposed, gave us the capacity to initiate reviews of people’s affairs in order to catch people who employ trusts and other devices for precisely that purpose.

Paula Bennett: Can the Minister confirm that three-quarters of all liable parents are currently not meeting their child support commitments, and that his way of reducing that debt is to write it off?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The answer is yes and no. Three-quarters of people are not meeting their commitments. We made a change that gives us the capacity, if they enter into arrangements, to write off the penalty owed, not the principal payment owed to the custodial parent. I need to make the point, for the benefit of the member, that the penalty payments have never been paid to the children concerned. It is actually revenue, if one likes, that is collected. It is far better to enter into arrangements where some child support is paid to those who require it, rather than continue the situation where we were getting none at all.

Paula Bennett: Why would wealthy people who have never met their child support commitments in the past suddenly become responsible parents once those penalties have been written off?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The member is getting it back to front. The position is that their penalties will be written off only if they enter into arrangements. She seems to be putting the cart before the horse. The point I made in response to an earlier question is also relevant here. For the first time now, Child Support and the Inland Revenue Department have the capacity to look into people’s affairs in that situation, if they are using other mechanisms to shield income and thereby reduce their liability.

Judith Collins: Has the Minister considered stopping indebted liable parents at the border before they go on their overseas trips, to prevent them from leaving the country when they have outstanding child support payments; if not, why not?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I have asked officials to look into that for me and give me a report, which I am expecting to receive fairly shortly.

Judith Collins: When is the Minister going to get tough on the delinquent fathers who turn up in our electorate offices, whingeing on because they have to pay $14 a week for their three children, and telling us that their rights come first; when will he get tough, for those kids?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I have no tolerance at all for people who abscond on their responsibilities. The legislation that was passed recently gives us a mechanism to get tougher with them. I have indicated in response to questions this afternoon that other measures are under consideration. I simply say to all liable parents that they have obligations, and we expect them to meet them.

ENDS


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