Questions And Answers Thursday, 9 November 2006
Questions for Oral Answer
Thursday, 9 November 2006
Questions to Ministers
Growth Carbon Tax
Climate Change, Minister's Statements Transport, Agriculture, Energy, Ministers
Confidence Question No. 4 to Minister Closing the Gaps Policy
Success Tourist Spending
Reports Health Expenditure
Wastage Ngāti Mutunga Settlement
Calculation of Quantum Immigration Service
Confidence Climate Change Conference
Kyoto Protocol New Zealand Qualifications Authority
Text Speak Question No. 11 to Minister Trade and Enterprise
Operation of Programmes
Questions to Ministers
1. DARREN HUGHES (Labour—Otaki) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What is the Government doing to stimulate growth in regional New Zealand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Heaps. In the last week there have been two very recent major regional initiatives announced. The first is in Kapiti-Horowhenua. Thanks to the very good work of my colleague Darren Hughes, $1.96 million will be provided towards a DesignTex project that aims to strengthen the region’s and the country’s textile businesses and enable them to be more globally competitive. The second initiative, announced yesterday, was in the Wairarapa. The Government will provide $1.9 million towards cuisine and fine wine; a major regional initiative that aims to build on the region’s wine and food reputation in order to take it to an international level. It involves an international partnership. Both these initiatives play to the key strengths of the regions. They fit perfectly with this Government’s agenda to transform New Zealand into an export-led, high-wage, innovative economy. [Interruption] The member should read it.
Darren Hughes: What results can New Zealanders expect to see from these initiatives, particularly the most excellent one in the Kapiti and Horowhenua region?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: High-quality, high-wage jobs.
R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that other initiatives such as Export Year 2007 will act positively to stimulate growth in regional New Zealand?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Absolutely, and I thank the member for his work on it.
Carbon Tax—Climate Change, Minister's Statements
2. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: How does he reconcile his statement last year, that “The Government has decided not to implement a carbon tax, or any other broad-based tax, in the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.”, with his statement in this morning’s New Zealand Herald that a State-imposed carbon tax could end plans for a coal-fired Marsden B power station?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): Easily.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Government announce a carbon tax in 2004, saying it was the right approach; then in 2005 drop it, saying it would not work; yet now in 2006 it is again saying the carbon tax is a good idea; and with such flip-flops is it any wonder there is complete confusion about the Government’s climate change policies?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That member obviously should clean out his ears.
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. We are not having the sort of editorialising that goes on. We ask questions and we give answers.
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member should know that I said, in December last year, and have repeatedly stated since, that the Government is considering pricing emissions in the electricity sector through emissions trading, a narrower carbon tax, or other measures. Unlike the National Party, we have been consistent in pursuit of climate change policies.
Georgina Beyer: Has he received any further reports about consistency in climate change policy?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have received reports the Government has been consistent in pursuit of climate change policy. The Permanent Forest Sink Initiative is but one example, which now has widespread support in the House. National opposed it on the first reading of the bill. National opposed it at the select committee. John Key said, at the first reading: “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.” Talk about inconsistency, Dr Smith!
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile the statement made by the Prime Minister at Labour’s conference—that the Government did not proceed with the carbon tax because it could not get a parliamentary majority to put it in place, with his statement made on Morning Report on 22 December: “We haven’t even endeavoured to find a parliamentary majority for the carbon tax, because we don’t think it’s appropriate.”, and his press release made at the time that: “A carbon tax would not cut emissions enough to justify its introduction.”; and who is telling the truth, himself or the Prime Minister?
Hon DAVID PARKER: As was said at the time, it was clear in terms of parliamentary majorities that National, United Future, New Zealand First, and the Māori Party during the election had said they would not support the carbon tax. That means we did not have a parliamentary majority. It is also true that at the time the whole-of-Government review into climate change policy indicated there might be better ways to design a carbon tax, and for both of those reasons we have done that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the statement made by the Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, on this Monday on Climate Rescue Radio, that a carbon tax would not make a lick of difference and would not proceed; if so, why did he yesterday tell the New Zealand Herald the opposite; and who do we believe—the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues, or the Minister of Revenue?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There is no doubt that introducing a price for carbon emissions at the margin for new electricity generation does affect emissions, because it changes the relative profitability or the relative economics of different sorts of generation. If the House wants confirmation of that from other than me, I quote from the same article that Dr Smith quoted from earlier, in respect of comments made by Mr Williams about Mighty River’s proposal at Marsden B: “Whether it’s built will depend on other things such as whether a carbon tax is imposed. If a carbon tax is imposed, it makes the project relatively less attractive. The bigger the tax, the less attractive it becomes. So I wouldn’t disagree with the Minister’s statement.”
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister say on Climate Rescue Radio: “You ask me what date would New Zealand be carbon neutral. We haven’t picked a date yet. You’ll find it becomes clear in 6 months.”, when the truth is that the Prime Minister’s carbon-neutral promise is a fantasy, and his Government has no intention of ever setting a date by which it will be achieved?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is not a fantasy to aspire to be carbon neutral.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister now tell the House when the Government will meet this objective of the Prime Minister of being carbon neutral, or will he at least tell us when the Government will set a date for that goal to be achieved?
Hon DAVID PARKER: In the future.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Minister seen the advice from Treasury that there is no realistic policy by which his Government can achieve the Kyoto targets by 2012; and what sense does it make to not be able to meet that very modest target, when the Prime Minister proposed the unbelievable target of New Zealand being carbon neutral?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That shows the difference between National and Labour on climate change. We think it is appropriate to aspire to be carbon neutral in the longer term—we did not say in the shorter term; we said in the longer term. National is beset with indifference on this issue, because its own leader even now cannot unconditionally agree that climate change is a problem. I seek leave to table the transcript of an interview with Dr Brash on the regional farming show, when he said: “The National Party, I have to say, isn’t convinced that the science on climate change is finally settled.”
Transport, Agriculture, Energy, Ministers—Confidence
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence that her Ministers of Transport, Agriculture and Energy will be able to develop adequate plans for their sectors to implement the goal she stated yesterday in the House “not to put more carbon into the atmosphere than [New Zealand] is able to offset by other means.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): As has been said, the goal is aspirational. I have full confidence in those Ministers to develop plans to work towards that goal.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Government commit to ensuring that next year’s transport emissions—15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide—will be offset, for example, by converting almost 800,000 hectares of land, which is all of the land from Parliament up to Masterton and Levin, into permanent forest; if not by next year, then when?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not anticipate all of that particular area of land ever being converted to permanent forest.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Government reconcile the damning rhetoric of Labour Ministers and MPs with George W Bush’s record on climate change and the accusations that he is the pocket of oil barons, when the United Nations figures tabled in Nairobi this week show that New Zealand’s emissions have grown since Labour has been in office by 6.8 percent, as compared with 1.3 percent for the US in the same period—that is, emissions in New Zealand have been growing at five times the rate of those of the United States?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Over the short term there have indeed been some differences, but US emissions of carbon dioxide are the seventh-highest in the world at 24.3 tonnes per person, whereas New Zealand’s emissions are 18.5 tonnes per person.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that next year’s agricultural emissions—37 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent—are offset, for example, by converting almost 2 million hectares of land, which is 80 percent of the Waikato region, into permanent forest; if not by next year, then when?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I doubt whether that will ever occur. To remove New Zealand’s dairy industry substantially and a large part of its horticulture industry would make it much more difficult in the long term to meet not merely climate change emissions targets but any other targets the Government sets in any other policy area.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Prime Minister explain the Government’s record of forest plantings dropping in every single year that the Government has been in office, to the point where the last 2 years have seen more trees logged than planted—for the first time since 1953—whereas neighbouring Australia has increased afforestation in every year since 1999 and has planted an additional 450,000 hectares of forest?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member would care to project his figures slightly backwards, he would find that in almost every year during the 1990s forest planting also dropped. It halved between 1996 and 1999. The primary reason for that was the large-scale conversion of land to dairying, plus low timber prices. If the National Party continues to propose policies whereby there is to be no negative impact on any part of any primary sector industry, it will find it quite impossible, in fact, to achieve any targets in that respect.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I know that it is normal to table documents at the end of a question, but given the assertions made by the Acting Prime Minister I seek leave to table the record of forest plantings, which shows that plantings grew—every single year—from 16,000 hectares in 1990 to 98,000 hectares in 1998.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I seek leave to table a document showing the planting rates over the last 30 years, which indeed grew somewhat in the early 1990s, peaked in 1994, and then continued to drop almost every year thereafter.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the Acting Prime Minister’s response to my last two questions, does the Government then agree with the Green Party that a dramatic reduction of emissions will have to play a major role in the Government’s excellent goal of achieving carbon neutrality, and that the goal cannot all be achieved by offsets?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that is absolutely clear. We do need to achieve much greater energy efficiency. We need to achieve a much greater reduction in emissions in terms of our transport usage. Clearly, also, those need to be long-term measures, because dramatic short-term adjustments would have serious impacts upon the economy, leading to massive unemployment and social dislocation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has the Prime Minister stated that energy efficiency is the Government’s priority, when the Government’s own review of its energy efficiency strategy in March this year showed that despite spending $110 million on its much-vaunted strategy, energy efficiency improvements have declined in the 5 years of this Government as compared with the 5 years of the previous National Government?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is no question that the strong economic growth over the last few years has had an impact in that respect. It is now time to ensure that we get greater energy efficiency over the longer term.
Hon Bill English: Why do you always get it wrong?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Of course, if the member who is now interjecting is prepared to close down the aluminium smelter, he will probably contribute in that regard.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, I think you should have ruled that question out of order, because there never were 5 years of the previous National Government. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The member is entitled to make his point of order in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am making my point of order because it is historically a fact, and it is not to be dismissed or stood by in the way that I think you are tempted to do, Madam Speaker. I am making a serious point here. There were not 5 years of the previous National Government. Everybody knows that. The member should have been ruled out of order straight away and asked to ask a question with some historical accuracy. Between 1996 and 1998 there was a coalition Government—and, of course, that was the only time the country was run properly.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Madam Speaker, I encourage you to accept Mr Peters’ point of order. If he is willing to take responsibility for the rise in emissions during the period when he was the Deputy Prime Minister, I think we should allow him to do so.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the members for their contributions. Members are, of course, as they know, responsible for the facts of their supplementary questions. It is not for the Speaker to judge whether the questions are factual.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the formal review done by the Government of its energy efficiency strategy, which shows that after spending $110 million things are a lot worse than they were before.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Question No. 4 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether this question might be held over until later in the session when the Minister of Māori Affairs will be able to be with us. I have a copy of his diary and he is certainly available, but clearly detained in getting to question time.
Madam SPEAKER: It is for the Government to decide who in fact answers the question. Is the member seeking leave?
GERRY BROWNLEE: I sought leave.
Madam SPEAKER: Sorry, I had not realised you were seeking leave. Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
GERRY BROWNLEE: They say “You can run but you can’t hide.”, but the member cannot do either.
Madam SPEAKER: The member will please just ask the question. [Interruption] We are trying to keep order in this House and it is comments like that that create disorder. Would members please just ask their questions and give the answers.
GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It also causes disorder when the Government decides that Ministers are not capable of answering questions and therefore does not let them come to the House.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There is no truth in that matter. As the member can neither run nor hide there is no need for him to raise the sensitive issue.
Madam SPEAKER: I do not think this is getting us anywhere. Would the member just ask the question.
GERRY BROWNLEE: I am happy to take Parekura on over the 100-metres.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, that is our humour quota for the day.
Closing the Gaps Policy—Success
4. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Was the “Closing the Gaps” policy successful?
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Minister of State) on behalf of the Minister of Māori Affairs: I would happily take up Gerry Brownlee’s offer for a 100-metres! I can advise the House that the results speak for themselves, including the lowest Māori unemployment on record, high wage growth for Māori, and Māori participation in early childhood and tertiary education as the highest on record. More Māori are involved in business, and Māori life expectancy has increased. Nevertheless, the Government is committed to doing much more.
Gerry Brownlee: How can the Minister claim to have reduced inequities between Māori and non-Māori when the Ministry of Social Development reported that from 2000 to 2004 the number of Māori living in severe hardship increased by 243 percent, and Dr Susan St John of the University of Auckland stated that families of beneficiaries, 31 percent of whom are Māori, are particularly marginalised by current Government policy, with most missing out on Working for Families?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The Government acknowledges that there is a lot more to be done in the area of Māori social development. As well, the most recent household employment statistics tell us that in the year to the end of September 2006 Māori unemployment had decreased from 8.5 to 8 percent.
Hon Dover Samuels: Has the Minister received reports that secret dinners between the Māori Party and the National Party will close the gaps between iwi and the Māori Party? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: No. The member is right. That question is entirely out of order.
Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister then explain how the Hon Tariana Turia’s proposal to give the seabed and foreshore back to the Crown and extinguish Ngāti Porou and Whānau-a-Apanui takutai moana negotiations will close the gaps?
Madam SPEAKER: That question is also out of order.
Gerry Brownlee: How can the Minister continue to be—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You ruled my colleague Pita Paraone’s question out of order, and frankly I want to know why, because if there was to be, for example, a closing the gaps strategy different from that advocated by the Labour Party, then it might have some features, one of which might be different ownership for the sea and foreshore by the Crown. That is what the proposal is, and I think it is a fair question to ask. Just because the National Party does not like it does not mean it should not be heard by this Parliament. I thought my colleague seriously asked the question, and more important, he has four decades of experience on the problem—a darn sight more than most in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Both questions were ruled out of order because there is no reference to foreshore and seabed within the primary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter, Mr Peters. A new point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This is a new point of order. Is there some sort of rule today that says that if the matter is not in the primary question, it may not be raised by way of a supplementary question, or that everybody must stay on the primary question and nothing else? If that is new ruling, then it has been disobeyed totally, time after time. My colleague sought to ask a question as to how, if there was different ownership, it would affect Māori wealth in the future. He asked what the economic effect would be if the foreshore and seabed were owned by Māori, and not the Crown by inference. Closing the gaps, I thought, was an economic and social strategy.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I refer him perhaps for his assistance to Speaker’s ruling 151/2, which states: “Supplementary questions must arise directly from the Minister’s reply; they must be related to it not indirectly but directly.”
Gerry Brownlee: How can he claim to have reduced inequalities between Māori and non-Māori when as at June this year Māori earned on average 30 percent less than non-Māori, and Māori are 50 percent more likely to be living on less than two-thirds of the average wage?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I will speak slowly this time. The Government acknowledges that there is a lot more to do in Māori social and economic development. I did highlight the point in my answer to the primary question that Māori income is on a steady increase, but we also acknowledge that there is a lot more to do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Minister said that the Government was working on other initiatives to advance Māori, was one of those initiatives contemplating having the foreshore and seabed in the ownership of any group or body other than the Crown; amen?
Madam SPEAKER: I would ask that member to please leave the Chamber. I am tired of the insolence at the rulings of the Chair. I am sorry, Mr Peters. You can finish with this question, but that was totally out of order.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As we are aware, there are negotiations—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry Mr Peters, but your comment “amen” at the end of your question was obviously a disrespectful reference to my former ruling.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As the House is aware there are currently negotiations under way between the iwi of Whānau-a-Apanui and Ngāti Porou to determine their foreshore and seabed customary rights. I see that as a positive step forward in terms of the economic development of those two iwi. However, the foreshore and seabed bill tabled in the House by the Māori Party, intends to extinguish the blue-water rights that Te Arawa have over an area called Ōkurei, or commonly known as Little Waihī. I am sure that the member for Waiariki does not want this to happen.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Who instructed the chief executive of Te Puni Kōkiri to remove its legislative function for monitoring and evaluation in 2005 and to shift resources, and can he explain to the House whether those resources were used for closing the gaps?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: There has never been a lessening on the focus of monitoring mainstream agencies in terms of delivery of services to Māori. What has happened in more recent months is that it is done now through collaboration, not through imposition.
Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister has misled the House, because the chief executive officer of Te Puni Kōkiri reported that before the Māori Affairs Committee.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Speaking to the point of order, the chief executive officer for Te Puni Kōkiri did not say that. He said that there is still a strong focus on monitoring and evaluating mainstream services through a collaborative approach.
Madam SPEAKER: I think this is a matter of debate, not a matter of order.
Gerry Brownlee: How can he claim to have significantly increased living standards for Māori when the Ministry of Health reports that Māori adults are 267 percent more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than non-Māori adults, and that if current Government policies remain the same, by 2020, 50 percent more Māori will suffer from type 2 diabetes, making Māori adults four times more likely than non-Māori adults to suffer from that debilitating health condition?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: As I said to the House there is still a lot of work to be done in the area of Māori social and economic development, as the member clearly heard. The member should also realise that Māori life expectancy has increased dramatically under this Government.
Gerry Brownlee: Noting that comment, is he satisfied that a child born into a Māori family has a six times greater chance of dying of sudden infant death syndrome than if born into a non-Māori family?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The member knows well that those statistics have been around for a very, very long time, including when that party was in Government.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did ask the Minister whether he was happy with that statistic. By simply saying that it has been around a long time is not really an answer.
Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows you cannot require a yes or no answer. The Minister addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: What contribution has he had to perverse Labour Government policies that have seen the proportion of Māori experiencing severe hardship increase by 243 percent, Māori health indicators deteriorate to such an extent as expressed today, while those in prison get underfloor heating, trips to the beach, steak and ice cream, R-rated videos, Xbox Games, high definition LCD TVs, and is prison life the new aspiration Labour has for Māori?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: To the second part of that question, absolutely not. But the member should take the time out to read the Ministry of Health’s monthly reports to the Minister of Health and to the Associate Ministers of Health highlighting the activities that they have committed to decreasing the negative statistics in all areas of Māori health.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the Minister is challenging us to read those reports, can he give an undertaking in the House now to release all the reports that he has received during his time as Minister.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, that is more a matter of a question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
5. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Tourism: What recent reports has he received on international visitor spending?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Tourism): I am pleased to say that figures released today show that international visitor spending in New Zealand increased to $7 billion in the year to June 2006. This represents a massive increase of 16.5 percent on the previous year, or close to $1 billion. This is a huge boost for the economy and, once again, demonstrates the importance of the tourism industry to New Zealand.
Steve Chadwick: What has this Government done for the tourism industry since coming into power in 1999?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Since 1999 the Labour-led Government has established the Ministry of Tourism to enhance the whole-of-Government approach to tourism policy. We have developed the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010 and are currently undertaking a review. We have provided significant funding for a major expansion of the Qualmark quality grading system for tourism, and we have funded tourism infrastructure projects through the tourism facilities grant. This has emphasised the importance of the tourism industry to the economy and this Government’s important commitment to that industry.
6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Is there any financial waste in the health system; if so, where?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I can confirm that over the past 2 weeks the health system has unexpectedly had to invest considerable resources to make sure children do not die from avoidable deaths, after a member of this House intentionally created ill-founded fears about the meningococcal B immunisation campaign. I am not in a position to classify that as waste, but I hope Mr Ryall feels that the political pay-off was worth the public resources that had to be spent to set the record straight in order to protect the health of children in this country.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister read this week’s Auditor-General report on the health funding package that looks at the extra taxpayer money put into the health system in recent years, and what is his reaction to the Auditor-General’s conclusion that it is not possible to say how the billions of extra dollars were ultimately spent?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Auditor-General’s report is a very detailed one, and I suggest that the member reads it all. If he did, he would find that the Ministry of Health had made well-documented decisions on the use of the health funding package. The member needs to keep in mind that district health boards and the Ministry of Health produce annual reports in which the allocation of funding is outlined, and where parliamentarians have the ability to check on that.
Maryan Street: Has the Minister received any reports on the comparative cost-effectiveness of the New Zealand health system?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have seen a report from the widely respected Commonwealth Fund that shows that New Zealand spends less per capita on health than Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany. Despite that, New Zealand’s health system is ranked second for overall quality amongst those six nations. We have one of the world’s most cost-effective health systems, but this Government believes that we can make further progress.
Barbara Stewart: Is the ministry auditing the overall effect of the primary health organisations on the primary-care budget—their cost structures, salary scales, or methods of accounting for taxpayers’ funds—if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes, a review of the system is under way and I believe that a new system will be in place next year, in 2007.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can the Minister be satisfied that taxpayers are getting value for the extra money put into health, when the Auditor-General’s report says that the Ministry of Health has no records of how district health boards specifically allocated the billions of dollars of extra funding, because the ministry says that was the responsibility of the district health boards, but when the Auditor-General asked the district health boards what the money was spent on, those boards admitted that they too were unable to say where the extra money was spent?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Although the Auditor-General’s report is detailed, it would not be the first time that we do not entirely agree with an Auditor-General’s report. There are clear lines of accountability through both the district health boards and the Ministry of Health directly back to parliamentarians, through the select committee process. I welcome that member’s question at the next review process.
Barbara Stewart: Is there any specific section in the Ministry of Health responsible for the reporting and collating of information on primary health organisations’ expenditure, costs, annual reports, and plans; if so, what is it called?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes. It is the clinical services directorate.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can the Minister and the Government assure the public that it is getting value for money in health, when if the Minister does not know where the extra money went, he cannot tell us what he got for it?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I feel very confident that we have a very efficient health system. The National Party has yet to develop a policy—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Members will be leaving this Chamber unless they keep interjections at a reasonable level.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: If we would like to use as a benchmark—as the National Party likes to do—the USA, we would note that its health system costs three times that of New Zealand per person, yet Americans die at a younger age than New Zealanders. That would indicate that we have a more efficient and more effective system delivering services for New Zealanders.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Associate Minister read the Auditor-General’s report?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have not read the Auditor-General’s report. I am advised that it is a very detailed report, and I understand that Ministry of Health officials will be looking very carefully at its recommendations—even though we may not end up agreeing with each and every one of them.
Hon Tony Ryall: How can the Minister expect his answers to be taken seriously, when he is replying to questions on a report that he has not even bothered to read though it is fundamental to his portfolio responsibilities; if he had read the report, would the Minister not know that the Auditor-General has, yet again, exposed this Government’s poor stewardship of health dollars, whereby the Minister is unable to say where the extra money is specifically going and what he is specifically providing the public in return for that money—and does that not explain why, after 6 years of a Labour Government, we can have $4 billion extra spent in health with fewer people getting operations?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: That is complete hogwash. More people are getting operations since—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister will please be seated. I cannot hear the Minister’s answer. I will be asking those members whose voices I can hear to leave the Chamber next time. They happen, unfortunately, to be sitting in the back row, and they know whom I am talking to.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: That is hogwash. More people are getting operations since this Government came into power. We have committed an additional $4 billion to the health system of this country. Each and every New Zealander knows that he or she is getting a better deal and is getting services when he or she needs them, for the most part.
Ngāti Mutunga Settlement—Calculation of Quantum
7. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: How does the Crown intend to ensure that the method of calculating the quantum of the settlement for Ngāti Mutunga will be fair in reality as well as fair in the circumstances?
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Acting Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): The Crown’s view is that the comprehensive redress package offered to Ngāti Mutunga, and accepted by them, is fair in the circumstances. The reality is that the Crown and Ngāti Mutunga acknowledge that the Crown could not afford to pay full compensation for the breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What explanation can the Minister provide for the Crown being unable to adequately explain the methodology for how it determined the Ngāti Mutunga settlement, and does he agree with Ngāti Mutunga that the Crown needs to demonstrate more transparency if the settlement process is to have any credibility or long-term durability?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: During the hearing of submissions in Taranaki the Ngāti Mutunga negotiators did express some concern about the process and a lack of understanding over the formula to determine the quantum. However, they were also very, very forthcoming in saying that the priority for them was in the outcome of the negotiations, because they wanted to put the grievances of the past behind them and start building a future for future generations of Ngāti Mutunga.
Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Yesterday during the Finance and Expenditure Committee proceedings, the Minister of Finance confirmed that the $1 billion fiscal cap imposed by National in 1995 for Treaty settlements will be exceeded; why is this the case, and how will it be funded?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I cannot answer that question in full, but who better to make that statement than the Minister of Finance.
Te Ururoa Flavell: How is the Ngāti Mutunga settlement consistent and relative to the other recent settlements, particularly given the massive breaches suffered by Ngāti Mutunga, including the entire confiscation of their tribal estate and the imprisonment of their people?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The quantum settlement for Ngāti Mutunga was consistent with previous settlements—that of Tainui, Ngāi Tahu, and other groups that have already settled.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What the Minister gave as an answer was basically part of my question. I asked how the settlement was consistent with those other settlements, and I did not actually hear an answer.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The quantum agreed on was relative to previous settlements.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can he confirm that the notion of a fiscal cap of $1 billion was actually abandoned well before the Labour-led Government came into office—under the National - New Zealand First coalition, from memory?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I can.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Was the predetermined settlement figure to be offered by the Crown to Ngāti Mutunga altered in any way after the Crown accepted that the total land confiscated from Ngāti Mutunga was actually 150,000 acres and not 75,000 acres; if so, by what amount; if not, why not?
Hon MITA RIRINUI: The Government had no predetermined quantum figure for Ngāti Mutunga. Those negotiations started in 1999 under a National Government.
8. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the New Zealand Immigration Service; if so, why?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): Yes; because it is a hard-working and conscientious department.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Precisely what is being investigated in his department, when on 10 August this year the deputy secretary of the legal and international services division of the Department of Labour wrote: “I have begun an investigation into the circumstances in which the 91 business applications were approved. I have asked an independent lawyer from a private sector law firm to manage that investigation.”?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member wishes to have a precise answer to a precise matter of correspondence, it would be as well for him to put it in the primary question. I shall endeavour to check and get back to him.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that 64 investor and long-term business visa applications, tabulated in a letter of 5 September 2006 under the signature of Stephen Dunstan for the Secretary of Labour, and copied to the Serious Fraud Office, were decided either on the same day they were received in 2002 or on the day following; if that is correct, were proper procedures followed?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I refer the member to my previous answer.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that 24 of those 64 investor and long-term business visa applications decided in 2002 within 32 hours of receipt were from China; if so, how would it be possible for all document verification to be completed within 32 hours?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Notwithstanding the fact that it is my pleasure to lead a very hard-working and conscientious department, I refer the member to my previous answer.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Will the inquiry, initiated during this Minister’s term, cover the allegation that a former general manager of the New Zealand Immigration Service, Mr Andrew Lockhart, removed two internal auditors who were auditing the records of the business migration branch because they were investigating documents concerning the former general manager’s wife, who was employed by the department?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I refer the member to my earlier answer, and I would say that we take a case by case approach to cases, as he does to sheep.
Madam SPEAKER: The bit at the end was not necessary. Would the Minister withdraw that last comment; it was totally irrelevant to the answer.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that two former Ministers of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel and Paul Swain, refused to investigate these matters; if so, what does the record show were their reasons for refusing to investigate such serious allegations?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I refer the member again to my previous answer, and repeat that there are a range of mechanisms by which detailed answers to such written material may be elucidated. Written and Official Information Act requests are also often used in that regard.
Climate Change Conference—Kyoto Protocol
9. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: When he attends the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi next week, what proposals will he put forward or support to encourage developing countries to accept obligations in the second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): Climate change is a global problem that will have serious impacts on all countries. New Zealand supports broad and balanced participation in global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone should play their part. The Nairobi conference is an early stage of global discussions on future commitments beyond 2012 to address climate change. New Zealand will support measures that advance meaningful progress.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When he says “broad and balanced”, does he agree with the principle that all people have an equal right to emit carbon into the atmosphere, and an equal responsibility to limit those emissions, a principle first put forward 10 years ago in the early Kyoto negotiations under the rather cumbersome title of “Contraction and Convergence”; if so, how will he be advocating that position at Nairobi?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I agree it would be unrealistic to expect developing countries with very low levels of emission to curb their emissions to far lower levels than industrialised countries, whilst expecting no greater efforts on the part of industrialised countries.
Darien Fenton: What is the Minister’s intended focus at bilateral meetings with Ministers of other countries at the Nairobi conference?
Hon DAVID PARKER: New Zealand is taking a lead in world-class research into reducing on-farm emissions from agriculture. My bilaterals with other countries will focus on improving international collaboration on this research, both because it is central to New Zealand’s interest, and because in helping ourselves we can also help the world beat climate change.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile the statement by the Prime Minister that it made sense for a more bipartisan approach on the important issue of climate change, when at the four international climate change conferences in the 1990s, National invited and included Opposition representatives in the New Zealand delegations, and in 2001 and 2003 previous Labour climate change Ministers invited an Opposition representative, but in the latest conference in Nairobi he has chosen not to include any Opposition member; why there has been the change in approach?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It would be rather strange to expect us to invite a member to a conference on Kyoto who opposes it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the letters from previous Labour climate change Ministers in both 2001 and 2003 when National’s position on climate change was no different, and also to note that this is the framework convention on climate change, which was initiated and signed by National when in Government.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that if New Zealand were to get even halfway to the Prime Minister’s goal of becoming carbon neutral, we would be in a very strong position to advocate for equal rights and obligations on a per capita basis, and that this would make it more likely that developing countries would take on climate change obligations too; and as well it would give us some credits to sell?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am not sure I would want to either agree or disagree with that proposition, on the hoof. I would say that in addition to the environmental benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how that might also encourage developing countries to embrace some form of mitigation of their emissions, it would also be in New Zealand’s economic interests, because I am being told by New Zealand’s largest energy users that are multinationals, that their shareholders are telling them they should moderate their direct carbon emissions and their indirect energy-related emissions, because they see a future global cost to greenhouse gas emissions and think it is therefore in their shareholder interests to reduce emissions. I suggest that if that is correct for those companies, it is also true for our country.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will New Zealand be arguing at Nairobi for international bunker fuel, which is used by aircraft and ships and is a substantial emitter of carbon, to be included in nations’ Kyoto commitments to close this huge loophole, and also to avoid distorting the economics of local versus international trade?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not think we are taking a specific position on that. I would say that it is less important than the wider issue. For example, the “food miles” debate that was run against New Zealand, and is indeed being run against New Zealand in Europe at the moment, suggests that those countries ought not to buy our products because of the miles they travel to get there, whereas in reality the emissions embedded in those products, even when delivered that long distance, are significantly lower than are embedded in their own local produce.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority—Text Speak
10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with New Zealand Qualifications Authority deputy chief executive Bali Haque that credit should be given to an answer in text speak if it “clearly shows the required understanding”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): I agree with Bali Haque’s explanation, as given on Radio New Zealand this morning. There has been no change in the approach to the use of abbreviations. Students are actively discouraged from using abbreviations in exam answers. Where students do use abbreviations, then the examiners look for students to demonstrate their understanding of a question—i.e., if students can show an understanding and express this clearly, then they will get credit, if appropriate. If the examiner cannot understand what a student has written, or it is inappropriate use, the student will not get credit.
Hon Bill English: Does that mean that text language will be allowed or not allowed?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: What it means is that abbreviations are usually allowed in examinations, if they are appropriate, but text language would, of course, be inappropriate. Therefore, it would be of no use to the student.
Hon Bill English: When the Minister launched the new draft curriculum on 31 July does he recall saying: “There is a continued emphasis on excellence in literacy and numeracy.” and “Our education system must ensure that all students reach very high standards.”; and does he believe that his statement—that text language will be allowed—is consistent with those standards?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I recall making the statement about standards, and I understand that everybody who has sat an exam in this House will have used an abbreviation at some time when sitting those examinations. To use text language would clearly be inappropriate for a student during the course of an examination, but on this side of the House I think we would have used abbreviations such as i.e. and e.g., perhaps. Young students today may find that something that was in such popular use might be appropriate to use in an exam, but to use it throughout the exam, of course, would be inappropriate.
Ann Hartley: Is there an example of a statement from a person with a high level of qualifications that contains incorrect spelling but demonstrates that the person understands what he or she is talking about, and for which credit should be given?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. The following statement is just one example: “This kind of pigeon English is fine for young people organising their social lives, …”. This is an example of a press statement put out today by Mr Bill English. The statement is understandable, despite “pidgin” being spelt “p-i-g-e-o-n”, as in a bird from the dove family, rather than “p-i-d-g-i-n”, as in simplified language used between persons of a different nationality. But we will give him credit.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree that such use of language in an exam should not get credit, nor should ridiculous abbreviations of text language; and why does he not just stop trying to be cool, and tell students that text language in exams is unacceptable?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will explain to the member again that he would use in an exam, I am sure, abbreviations such as etc., e.g., and i.e. If a young person is explaining something to an examiner and using an abbreviation that communicates it well, then that may well be appropriate. But text speak, clearly, would be inappropriate, and that is why it is discouraged. As for the question of “cool”, I am not sure whether that member would know it if he saw it.
Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister has introduced a distinction between text abbreviations and text language, can he explain to the students of New Zealand just which versions of text language will be acceptable, and which ones will be regarded as wrong?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I will abbreviate my initial answer, because I had it in there for the member. There have been no changes to the approaches taken to abbreviations. Students using abbreviations have been trying to explain to an examiner what they are saying about a question. If they can show an understanding of it and can express the answer clearly, and if the use of language is appropriate, they will get credit. If the examiner cannot understand the answer, or if it is not appropriate, they will not get credit. That has always been the position.
Hon Bill English: Now that students have the impression that text language will be acceptable, because that is what the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has stated, how are students supposed to know what is “appropriate”, as the Minister has described it, and what is inappropriate—why does he not just clear up all that confusion by telling New Zealand students that using text language is unacceptable in National Certificate of Educational Achievement exams?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the students of the country, I say to the member that students are used to sitting examinations through internal assessment all year, and the rules are just the same. Abbreviations, where appropriate, have always been accepted—even when the member sat whatever exam he sat at university. I seek leave to table from the Webopedia the definitions of “pigeon” as a bird and “pidgin” as not a technical use of English.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Question No. 11 to Minister
Question, by leave, postponed.
Trade and Enterprise—Operation of Programmes
12. CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier) to the Minister for Economic Development: Is he satisfied with the operations of all the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise programmes covered by the evaluations released over the last week?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development): No.
Chris Tremain: Is a further, in-depth review necessary of the Escalator programme, which has failed to meet its capital-raising targets, has received 85 percent negative feedback in a survey or participants, and has been described by participants as a gravy train for brokers?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think some of the messages out of that evaluation are getting through.
Mark Blumsky: Is the Minister satisfied with the Beachheads programme, 4 years after its inception, when a review just completed showed that it had little impact on participating firms’ performance, and had incomplete policy objectives, and that the Ministry of Economic Development conducted little oversight of the programme’s development?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is too early to tell whether Beachheads will work really well. The feedback I have had from a number of individual firms is very positive, although it is fair to say that some of the people who are working in this policy area have been diverted to work through large Official Information Act requests and an extraordinary number of questions from that member.
Chris Tremain: Is the Minister satisfied with the Sector Projects programme, when the review found that there was not sufficient information available to determine whether the programme met its policy outcomes, and that the efficiency of the programme could not be measured because New Zealand Trade and Enterprise did not record staff time spent on projects?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the honest answer to that one is that I do not know, because we do not have the information yet. I think the evaluation was done too early, and the information was incomplete, as the member has pointed out. Is it not wonderful to have a Government that is very clear and has done a whole range of evaluations? Most of those are positive, but, of course, there are one or two organisations that are not doing as well as they could.
Mark Blumsky: Is the Minister concerned sthat, more than 3 years after the establishment of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, the September 2006 overview report by the Ministry of Economic Development says that there is no mechanism currently in place to measure explicitly and routinely the success of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise programmes against intended policy outcomes?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes.
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )