Questions And Answers - Thursday, 7 December 2006
Questions And Answers - Thursday, 7 December
Questions to Ministers
Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Kyoto Protocol
1. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: How will the Government ensure that New Zealand meets its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, noting the statement by Victoria University economics senior lecturer Dr Geoff Bertram: “we’re miles in breach of our Kyoto undertakings”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: By doing our utmost to ensure the re-election of a Labour-led Government. Until only weeks ago, the National Party had opposed every meaningful move to address climate change over the last 7 years, and, indeed, kept congratulating itself on doing so, frequently in somewhat scatological terms.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question I asked was how the Government will ensure that New Zealand meets its commitments. I think the House would have expected to hear from the Government some of the policy around climate change to achieve that, rather than some gratuitous argument about who might win the next election, which I think is a decision for the people of New Zealand to make. Before the people of New Zealand make that decision, I think they would like to know what the Government’s policy is to meet those commitments.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. From what I could hear of the answer, I thought the Minister did address the question. I ask all members on all sides of the House to please keep their interventions at a level at which other members can hear both questions and answers.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did the Minister mean yesterday when he said that New Zealand would meet its Kyoto commitments by investing in Kyoto flexibility mechanisms, and is the flexibility he was referring to that of taxpayers’ pockets, which will have to flex a great deal to fund the hundreds of millions of dollars in liabilities?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The liabilities, of course, fall upon the Government. Meeting those liabilities will require a very, very large range of policies that address such issues as afforestation, removing deforestation incentives, energy efficiency, and many, many other matters. The problem the member has is that he believes that it can all be solved, with nobody suffering any consequences at all. That is pure “Pollyanna-ism”.
Sue Bradford: Will the Government follow the example of the Green MPs, who have today announced that we will offset our parliamentary air travel out of our own pockets from January next year and start offsetting carbon emissions from Parliamentary Service and Ministerial Services air travel by paying for the establishment of a permanent forest?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I welcome the Green initiative. Of course, it is a matter for individual MPs of political parties as to what they do in that respect. Certainly, the Government is committed to achieving carbon neutrality. One of the key issues around that is, of course, how the offsetting of air travel may occur over time.
Moana Mackey: Is New Zealand up to date in compliance with our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are in compliance with the reporting commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. New Zealand was one of the first parties to submit its initial report on the calculation of its assigned amount under article 7.4, which is the basis for determining compliance with targets.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware that Treasury currently estimates that it will cost $650 million to meet the quite modest Kyoto greenhouse gas goals for New Zealand, and, assuming a similar price per tonne for carbon, that carbon neutrality, as promised by the Prime Minister, would cost well in excess of $5 billion; if so, does he still think carbon neutrality is a realistic goal?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is absolutely clear that in the long term carbon neutrality has to be a realistic goal. I note, for example, the British Government has just announced some ambitions, in some respects, in relation to carbon neutrality by 2015. What the member again seems to ignore is that major policies will be required to address this area. The party that opposed any form of carbon charge, and whose members ran around giggling like schoolboys and using the words “fart tax” day after day, has clearly not got to grips with the issues surrounding climate change.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Government, in fact, got to grips with the issue of climate change, when after 7 years in Government, we have New Zealand’s greenhouse gases growing at four times the rate of those of the US and three times the rate of Australia’s, when for the first year since 1953, we have net deforestation rather than the planting of forests, and when we have the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment saying we have a complete vacuum in climate change policy in New Zealand under a Government that is 7 years old?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, deforestation has been increasing for the last 10 years or more. Secondly, much of that deforestation—[Interruption] The National Party members really cannot stand facts, Madam Speaker. Much of that deforestation is for the conversion of land to dairy farming, and the members of the party opposite are completely opposed to any kind of internalisation of the cost of that conversion. All they do is stand by the wayside, lamenting. Mr Key, of course, described climate change as a form of a hoax only a matter of months ago, then read the views of the focus groups and changed his mind.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, does the Minister support the research that is going into carbon capture and storage technology in regard to coal; if he does, what will the Government do to encourage the adoption of such technology when it becomes economically viable?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Solid Energy is a partner in that kind of research. Clearly it holds realistic prospects. The Government has never ruled out the use of coal-fired power stations in the longer term. In the meantime, there are still significant difficulties around effective sequestration and capture of carbon from coal production, and that is why the national energy strategy will make it quite clear that we expect to see, once E3P is in place, the vast bulk of new generation come from renewable resources. But, of course, the members of the party opposite only a short time ago were bemoaning the fact that we might run out of electricity in a dry winter, then said we should not have thermal power.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the statement by the Government’s chair of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, Mr Mark Ford, who said this morning at a select committee that the 2001 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy of this Government had failed, noting that since then we have gone backwards on both efficiency and renewables; and, with that strategy being a failure, why should we have any confidence that Monday’s strategy will be any better?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are so many strategy and discussion documents coming out in the next period of time that the only danger is that the logging of the forests used to produce those documents may contribute to global warming.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister quite specifically whether he agreed with the chair of the Energy and Conservation Authority, Mr Mark Ford, who said that the Government’s energy strategy from 2001 had failed. I did not hear anything in the Minister’s answer that addressed that question.
Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, members cannot require a specific answer to a specific question. The question was addressed, in so far as there was reference to reports on the matters that the member raised.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the energy strategy—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Talk about useless!
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Actually, the Government’s policy on climate change is bloody useless. Will the energy strategy provide the substance of how Helen Clark’s promise of carbon neutrality is to be achieved—or was the Prime Minister’s statement just a bold exercise in spin doctoring, to take public attention off the pledge card and Taito Phillip Field’s shenanigans?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It will point to the way forward in a number of key areas, but there are many other policies apart from energy policies that will contribute to carbon neutrality over the long term. If we are to talk of spin doctoring, I say a party whose members changed their minds on the basis of survey groups and public opinion polling is in no position to comment. Nobody believes Mr Key actually believes in addressing climate change issues.
Agent Orange—Treatment of Veterans
2. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Defence: What agreement has been reached with Viet Nam veterans’ organisations to address grievances arising from their service in Viet Nam?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence): I am very pleased to advise the House that a full agreement has been reached between the Government and the Ex-Vietnam Services Association and the New Zealand RSA over resolving longstanding grievances on the part of Viet Nam veterans. I am particularly pleased that this has been achieved in the year of the veteran, and that 34 years after the last serviceman left Viet Nam a strong foundation has been laid for at last resolving those grievances and for bringing closure.
Steve Chadwick: What response to the package has the Minister received?
Hon PHIL GOFF: We have received a very positive response from the Ex-Vietnam Services Association and the RSA. Chris Mullane, from the Ex-Vietnam Services Association, has described the package as “fair and sustainable”, and John Campbell, the president of the New Zealand RSA, has praised it as “a comprehensive and reasonable package”, which is “worthy, just, and fair”. I am also pleased that, by and large, there has been a positive response from all quarters of the House, where parties have heeded the request of the veterans’ organisations that there should be bipartisan endorsement for this policy and that this issue should not be made into a political football.
Judith Collins: Why has the Government refused to fund the annual medical check ups for Viet Nam veterans, and refused to refund the tax that Viet Nam veterans paid while on active service for their country, as was recommended by the joint working group?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member reads the document carefully, she will see that there will be a comprehensive medical check up provided for all veterans free of charge, and a specialist visit provided. The member is guilty of what she was nodding sagely about before—that this issue should not be made into a partisan issue. I do not intend to make it into that, but no member with a history of her party’s should indulge in hypocrisy, either.
Steve Chadwick: What are the major provisions of this package? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I have called Steve Chadwick.
Gerry Brownlee: Was that answer in order?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: He made an accusation at the end of it.
Madam SPEAKER: Members will please be seated. I did not hear the accusation because—and this is the last time I will say this to members—it is very hard to hear when members start barracking. Everyone is on his or her final warning.
Steve Chadwick: What are the major provisions of the package?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The package is in three parts. Each part, firstly, acknowledges the past; secondly, puts things right; and, thirdly, improves services for veterans. Amongst its most important provisions—and there are about 25 of them—are, firstly, an apology for, and an acknowledgement of, the legitimate grievances of those veterans that have been ignored for far too long; secondly, a whakanoa, or a welcome home, by the New Zealand Defence Force to make up for the fact that there never was a proper welcome home for these veterans; thirdly, financial compensation for those suffering from prescribed medical conditions—that is, conditions related directly to their service in Viet Nam; and, fourthly and lastly, an endowment fund of some $7 million, the interest from which will provide assistance to veterans and their families who are in need, notwithstanding whether that need was directly as a result of service, indirectly related, or for some other reason.
Judith Collins: Why has the Government still not implemented many of the recommendations made by the Health Committee—a multiparty recommendation—2 years ago following its inquiry into the effects of Agent Orange and other defoliants in Viet Nam?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Again, the member seems not to have heard the description I quoted from the two organisations representing the veterans—unless she believes that she can better represent them—saying that this is a fully comprehensive package and that it is a fair, just, and full package that adequately and sustainably meets the critical needs of veterans. That member and her party did nothing in the decades in which they were in office, notwithstanding that it was the party that sent veterans to Viet Nam.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister will be seated. Those last comments were unnecessary.
Ron Mark: What lessons can be learnt from this issue, considering that it has been 41 years since the first Kiwi soldier was sent to Viet Nam; that it is about 17 years since Geoff Braybrooke, a Labour member of Parliament, brought a member’s bill to the House to address the problems facing Viet Nam veterans; that it is about 7 years since the shonky Reeves report came out, which was influenced by the National Government of the day; that it is about 5 years since the shonky McLeod report came out; and that it is 2 years since the Health Committee reported to the House—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please ask his question. He is making a speech.
Ron Mark: —what lessons can be learnt to ensure that travesties such as these never ever blight this country’s record again?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I will restrict myself to two lessons that I think can be learnt. Firstly, the Viet Nam veterans themselves were blamed for the war in Viet Nam. That was not a decision of the veterans; they were simply professional soldiers who followed the instructions of the Government of the day that sent them to Viet Nam. It was unfair and unjust that they should have been blamed for that decision. The second lesson is that the veterans were sent into a toxic environment. There were inadequate provisions for taking account of the dangers and the risks to their health, and check-ups before and after. I am pleased to advise the member that the modern New Zealand Defence Force is far more attuned to the needs of veterans, in checking and warning veterans, and in ensuring that when people come back from deployment they receive full medical check-ups.
Early Childhood Education—Free Hours Policy
3. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his pre-election statement that “86,000 children will definitely get 20 free hours under Labour”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Education): Yes.
Katherine Rich: Does he agree with the statement of Nelson kindergarten association general manager, Wendy Logan, that it would be difficult to continue under current funding arrangements when his Government’s 20 free hours policy is in operation and that many previously free kindergartens will be forced to start charging fees rather than have parental donations; if not, why not?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, because the funding will be adequate.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister assure the House that the per hour rate that will be struck will not be either the mean or the median rate but, instead, will be high enough to ensure that at least 99 percent of the early childhood education providers will opt into acceptance of the 20 free hour policy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my expectation when somewhere between $80 and $100 a week additional subsidy for the 20 hours is offered that there will be an opt-in at a very high level.
Sue Moroney: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to funding early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen a report of a policy that would charge for the 20 hours, provide assistance for working families only, through a very complicated tax rebate system, which would mean that the more someone earned, the cheaper the early childhood education for that person’s children, would offer no hope to low-income families or their children, and would leave out beneficiaries totally. That was the policy the National Party went to the election on.
Judy Turner: What estimates can he provide the House as to what the uptake rate is likely to be of centres participating in the 20 hours of free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds, when he is offering centres the average of what it costs to educate and care for those children and so half of all centres will be underpaid, particularly those in Auckland where costs are higher?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would like to give the member some advice. No offer has been made, and she should be careful: she would be much better off if she did not believe the propaganda from the Early Childhood Council, which is a subcommittee of the Business Roundtable.
Paula Bennett: How many parents of 3 and 4-year-olds currently attending free kindergarten will not have to pay a fee for kindergarten as a result of Labour’s policy of 20 free hours?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Clearly for the 20 hours, none.
Katherine Rich: Although the Minister early said that rates would be “adequate”, how can early childhood centres decide whether to offer the 20 hours when the Government has not made clear what the rates will be; and why should centres hand out the Ministry’s misleading brochure Twenty Hours Free when it only raises parents’ expectations, and when the centre may not even offer the service at all because it cannot?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of questions in there, but it is my very firm expectation that—given the way the market works in this area, and I have been involved in it for over 30 years—when there is $80 to $100 a week extra subsidy, the centres will take it.
Paula Bennett: Does he agree with the advice of a Ministry of Education official who suggested to participants at a workshop on 20 free hours that it would be a good idea to build another centre adjacent, run it as though it is its own business, and part-way through the day, swap the children from one building to the other so that she could claim for each building’s service as if it were sessional; and does he think this kind of planning will become typical under such an unworkable policy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not believe that anyone with a future as an early childhood official would make such a stupid statement.
Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That cannot be a reasonable answer to that question—just slagging off the associate spokeswoman on education.
Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear a slagging-off, and reasonableness is not within the Standing Orders when it comes to answers. But the Minister did address the question. Ministers do not have to accept authentication of statements made in questions.
Katherine Rich: Does the Minister think that his Twenty Hours Free brochure for parents is misleading, when it says under a heading “More good news” that centres will receive an additional 10 hours of subsidised support, creating the impression that this is something extra, when in fact that same subsidised support has been offered since the early 1990s?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The effect of this policy change is, for most centres and at most rates, actually to double from about 10 to 20 the amount of free hours in early childhood care and education available.
Health and Disability Commissioner—Report
4. TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Health: What is the Minister doing following the report of the Health and Disability Commissioner that progress in tackling the safety and quality of health care in New Zealand has been “slow, patchy and uncoordinated”, and how will these concerns be addressed in ways that recognise, respect, and protect the rights and responsibilities of consumers?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: The health and hospital systems can always, of course, be improved, and this Government is always looking for improvements. That is why the previous Minister of Health, the Hon Annette King, developed and implemented a quality initiative. That is why the current Minister is reviewing the membership and terms of reference of the National Health Epidemiology and Quality Assurance Advisory Committee. The Minister anticipates making positive announcements very shortly on further actions to be taken.
Tariana Turia: What were the grounds for the Health Advocates Trust services, which pioneered Māori-specific advocacy services within the Northland and Auckland catchment, not to be repurchased; and does that decision not contradict the health and disability legislation requirements to meet the needs of vulnerable populations?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I am acting on behalf of the Minister I do not have information on why that contract was not renewed. But if the member wants to put that question in writing to me, I will see that officials give her a full response.
Sue Kedgley: Why, when each year 1,500 people die as a result of adverse events in our hospitals—which is three times the annual road toll—and that costs taxpayers $870 million a year, will the Minister not require that hospitals report publicly on adverse events, so that New Zealanders can compare records in this area, as called for by the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Health Committee?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think all of us are aware that in one sense hospitals are dangerous places, because people who are very sick usually go there and sometimes adverse events occur in them—that is true. As a front-line constituency member in an electorate in Christchurch that is very close to two hospitals, and knowing what other people around the world think of our public hospital system, I say to the member that basically New Zealand has a very fine public hospital system that we should be proud of. Work is being done continually to improve the situation, and that will continue.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was very interesting to hear the Minister’s comments about public hospitals, but I specifically asked the Minister why he would not require mandatory reporting of adverse events. He did not even attempt to answer that question, and I would appreciate it if he did so.
Madam SPEAKER: I think that the Minister did address the question. As members are reminded, they cannot require a specific answer to the question.
Tariana Turia: How is the Minister directing the Health and Disability Commissioner to respond to the findings released in mid-2006 from a survey of 6,579 patients admitted to 13 hospitals, which reported that Māori patients had a higher risk of experiencing preventable adverse events in hospital than did patients of non-Māori and non-Pacific origin?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I cannot be certain of how the Minister is dealing with that issue, but, again, if the member wants to put a written question to me, I will make sure she gets a full and appropriate answer.
Ann Hartley: What evidence is there that the Health and Disability Commissioner complaints system is working to advantage patients?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I note the commissioner states in his report that there is growing evidence that investigating systemic failures in care and recommending improvements is making a positive difference to the health and disability sectors. The Government welcomes the role of the commissioner both in improving our already world-class complaints systems and providing leadership on quality improvement.
Immigration, Minister’s Statement—Ministerial Discretion
5. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his statement to the House on 20 July this year that “The Minister of Immigration is accountable for decisions being made when ministerial discretion is being exercised.”?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Acting Minister of Immigration): Yes.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: In what way did the previous Minister of Immigration, the Hon Paul Swain, demonstrate that accountability when the Department of Labour’s workforce deputy secretary, Mary Anne Thompson, raised with him her concerns about the number of representations being made by Taito Phillip Field on behalf of failed asylum seekers?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As has been previously brought to the member’s attention, ministerial discretion is exercised because no two cases are alike and not all circumstances can be foreseen when policy is written. Members on all sides of the House accept this when they put forward representations for ministerial discretion.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was the action of the previous Minister of Immigration, the Hon Paul Swain, consistent with his accepting accountability for the exercise of ministerial discretion on immigration matters, when he asked the deputy secretary Mary Anne Thompson to pass on her concerns to the previous Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor, instead of the Minister taking up such a serious matter himself with the Associate Minister?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I reiterate my answer to the previous question.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister repeat the substance of the answer.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As I said to the member, and as he knows—and I would argue that this would be the case in respect of any current or former Minister of Immigration—ministerial discretion is exercised because every case is different. As I have previously said to the member, if he has issues or facts in relation to wrongdoing, then he should give them to me and I will have them investigated, or he has the option of taking them to the police.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I realise that Ministers have only to address a question, but my question in fact asked about the failure of the previous Minister, Paul Swain, to speak to his Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor, about the concerns raised with him by his deputy secretary from the Department of Labour, and whether that failure was consistent with the requirement for accountability by that Minister.
Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister should address that question again, please.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I have seen no evidence in the member’s statement to back up his assertion.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister of Immigration, in answering questions in this House, has told this House that Paul Swain had serious concerns about Phillip Field’s submissions raised with him by Mary Anne Thompson, and that he had asked her to talk to his Associate Minister about it, instead of his talking to her about it himself. The Acting Minister has simply said that there is no proof of what I have said in the question I have just put to him, but the Minister of Immigration told this House that that was what happened. I am asking whether that is acceptable accountability.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has addressed the question. It may not be to the satisfaction of the member, but he did address the substance of it.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am troubled that you can suggest the Minister has addressed the question when he has simply denied the basis of my question, because that is not addressing it at all.
Madam SPEAKER: But Ministers can do that. That is the point, actually. It is for others to judge the substance of the answer.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In this case, the Minister of Immigration provided the House with some information in answer to a question.
When a subsequent question about that information was asked, as Dr Smith has just questioned, the Acting Minister simply replied that the previous answer was wrong. If question time is to be at all valid, then I think Ministers do have to make some attempt to be consistent in their own answers.
Madam SPEAKER: As I said, it is not for the Speaker to judge the quality of the answer. But the Minister did address the question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I urge you to reconsider this. If the answer we have just heard from the Minister is to be an acceptable answer in terms of the Standing Orders, then on every single question the Opposition puts to the Government, a Minister need just say: “Well, we don’t see any merit in the content of the question.”
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I have ruled on this matter twice now, and it has been raised for a third time. It is not for the Speaker to judge the quality of the answer, but the question was addressed. If you wish to have different sorts of answers, then I beg you to go to the Standing Orders Committee, so that we can change the Standing Orders.
Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: If that member makes one more comment challenging my ruling, he will not remain in the House.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is very unfair, because it is frustrating to the Opposition when we get a Minister one day giving information to the House, then just a few days later denying any knowledge of it.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Frustrating it may well be, but taking it out on the Speaker is not acceptable.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Orders 370 and 371, which you have suggested might need to be changed—you basically said that if I have a difficulty with your ruling, I should have the Standing Orders changed—have requirements in respect of questions. In respect of the content of replies, Standing Order 377 provides that an answer must be given “if it can be consistently given with the public interest.” The public interest in this matter is absolutely vital. A piece of information went to a Minister of Immigration. The question of whether it was passed on to an Associate Minister of Immigration is critical to one of the most contentious issues in the House this year. You tell me to have the Standing Orders changed. I have absolutely no difficulty with the Standing Order. I simply ask you, as Speaker, to require this Minister to answer the question, or address the question, consistent with the public interest.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: An answer was given. What that Standing Order means is that a Minister can decline to give any answer if the Minister considers that it is not consistent with the public interest. I am afraid that is what that Standing Order means. There are circumstances where a question may be put and to give any answer is not consistent with the public interest, and a Minister may decline to do so. I have been in this House long enough to see a Minister not give an answer at all, but simply sit in his or her chair, and that is allowable—the Minister is the judge. But, in this respect, the Government could well have raised a point of order on the actual question that was asked. It is not for this Minister to judge whether another Minister’s action was a proper exercise of ministerial accountability. If any Minister is to be asked that, it can only be the Prime Minister. No one Minister in this Government is responsible to any other Minister, except the Prime Minister.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes. The Standing Orders are clear about the public interest requirement. I know that members have raised this issue before, and I am quite happy to go away and do a ruling on it, and it will be consistent with other rulings—if members read them. It is, in fact, for the Minister to determine whether to give a reply is consistent with the public interest. That is why I have told members before that if they wish that to be different, then it is in their own hands.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When the previous Minister of Immigration, the Hon Paul Swain, met Mr Sunan Siriwan when he was working on the floor of Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa, only a few days after the deputy secretary had raised with the Minister her concerns about Mr Field’s representations on behalf of failed asylum seekers, what action did Mr Swain take to follow up on Ms Thompson’s concerns, as the accountable Minister for ministerial discretion on immigration matters?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am confident that the previous Minister acted appropriately at all times, and the Ingram inquiry bears me out.Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When the previous Minister of Immigration, Paul Swain, received the letter from Keith Williams stating: “You, sir, visited Taito Phillip Field’s home along with the Hon Phil Goff. You and all your members of the party were introduced to Sunan Siriwan by Taito Phillip Field.”, and outlining the deal, which was that “If Sunan Siriwan went to Samoa for 3 months to tile Mr Field’s house, he would be given a work permit by the New Zealand Immigration Service and then allowed to return to New Zealand.”, what actions, if any, did Mr Swain take, as the accountable Minister for decisions where ministerial discretion was exercised, other than just to send that letter on to the Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As I have just said, I am confident that the actions of the previous Minister were appropriate at all times. The Ingram inquiry has borne me out in that respect. Again I say to the member that if he has issues or evidence of wrongdoing, there is a live police inquiry and he should exercise his due rights.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If the Minister of Immigration is accountable for decisions made where ministerial discretion is being exercised, did the Prime Minister ensure that the previous Minister of Immigration, Paul Swain, exercised appropriate accountability when she received the letter dated 3 August 2005 from Keith Williams blowing the whistle on Taito Phillip Field’s secret deal with Mr Sunan Siriwan?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I will raise this point now. I do not see how the Minister of Immigration is responsible for the Prime Minister’s exercising of ministerial accountability. I do not see what possible ministerial responsibility this Minister holds for the actions of the Prime Minister in that regard.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I take the point. I have been listening to the member’s questions to ensure that they are within the ministerial responsibility. So far I have let them relate to the previous Minister’s responsibility, in effect. I would ask the member to confine the question—I know that it is a fine line—to the ministerial responsibility.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Let me change the question slightly, then. If the Minister of Immigration is accountable for decisions made where ministerial discretion is being exercised, what record does the Minister of Immigration have of any contact from the Prime Minister when the Prime Minister received a letter dated 3 August 2005 from Keith Williams telling her of the secret deal that had been done between Taito Phillip Field and Mr Sunan Siriwan?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As has been pointed out, I am sure the Prime Minister and the previous Minister of Immigration acted appropriately at all times. If the member has information to the contrary, he has a course of action available.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. At the risk of annoying you, that seems to me to be a totally inadequate addressing of the question. He was asked whether there was any correspondence between the Minister’s office and the Prime Minister’s office subsequent to her becoming aware of the fact that a deal had been done between Mr Taito Phillip and Mr Sunan Siriwan. To simply say: “Well, I think they all acted appropriately.” may well address the question, but most certainly is seen to be dodging it. It is not at all in the public interest if he is to give an air of ministerial responsibility around these matters.
Madam SPEAKER: As I have said to the members before, and at the risk of my irritating the member—although the question is not really whether we are irritating each other—the question is the Standing Orders. It is not for the Speaker to judge the quality of the answer; that is left to others.
Public Services—Ownership and Access
6. SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What is the Government’s policy with respect to ownership of and access to public services?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I thank the member for his question. This Government believes in a high level of public ownership of public services, but, more important, it believes that access to those services should be on the basis of need. That is why, for example, we have been so active in making visits to the doctor cheaper, making the obtaining of prescriptions cheaper, limiting the increase in student fees, and introducing a range of other measures.
Shane Jones: Has he received any other reports on this very significant matter?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Can I thank the member for his even better question. I have received a report of a poorly attended public meeting called by the self-described most famous man in Auckland, John Key, and other National MPs. At this meeting Mr Tau Henare is reported as saying: “Everything will be simpler for everyone when everything is made user-pays.” It will be interesting to see how this policy area will be “inoculated”, to use the term used in the book The Hollow Men.
Gerry Brownlee: Would the Minister consider the actions of Television New Zealand in making available its satellite broadcast unit to Commodore Frank Bainimarama to assist his overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Fiji to be consistent with the policy of the Minister’s Government in respect of the use of, ownership of, and access to public services?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If that is true, certain—[Interruption] I have no evidence. I have no reports. Mr Brownlee’s word is not sufficient on this matter, in the absence of a proper report, I have to say. I invited the member previously to seek leave to move a motion, without debate, in the House deploring that action. He did not do so. However, had Mr Guyon Espiner been included in the deal, I might have taken a different view!
Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that regardless of the Government’s policy in respect of maintaining ownership of, and access to, public services, any strategic asset sales in this current parliamentary term would constitute a breach of the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and New Zealand First?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to confirm that, and, equally important, it would be in breach of the Labour Party manifesto.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister accepts the allegation that Television New Zealand made its satellite broadcast unit available to the Commodore in Fiji, why has he not taken time, since it was brought up this afternoon, to find out just exactly what Television New Zealand was up to, or is it now the Government’s policy to encourage such reality television?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I would not regard the Fijian coup as reality television, at all, apart from anything else; it seems to be unreality television, as far as I can see. The member may also have noticed that I have been in the House. It is my job. I am the Leader of the House, and given the number of points of order that the member raises all the time, I have to pay attention right the way through.
Stadium, Auckland Waterfront—Cabinet Reports or Papers
7. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues: What reports or papers, if any, has she presented to Cabinet for $320 million in funding on a national amenity to be built in Auckland?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues): All papers to Cabinet on this matter were from my colleague the Minister for the Rugby World Cup. I have passed on a range of proposals and have received regular briefings on the Auckland venue proposals.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that, apparently, the Minister has not given any papers, reports, or recommendations to Cabinet, why did she then tell the New Zealand Herald that all she had to do was convince her colleagues that they needed to invest $320 million in the Auckland waterfront?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The particular proposal—which, after all, is part of a New Zealand - wide Rugby World Cup—was for a rugby stadium in Auckland that can cope with 60,000 people. When the Government on 27 November made the decision to support the redevelopment of the Eden Park stadium, subject to resolution of design, funding, and governance issues, it seemed to me a good idea to lead a discussion in Auckland about the future of Government involvement on the waterfront, and that is what I intend to do. I will convince my colleagues, and they will still be the Government.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that it is again becoming increasingly difficult to hear the answers.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister is so convinced that she will convince all her colleagues to pay $320 million, how, then, does she reconcile her statement in the Auckland City Harbour News that she welcomes the decision to revamp Eden Park, with her statements in the same article that the waterfront stadium was “a lost opportunity” with “enormous potential” and that: “we should be developing a national stadium and centre in Auckland.”? That article was published on 1 December, not 27 November.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Golly, 1 December did, after all, come after 27 November. The figure I was referring to was the investment the Government made in Te Papa, which, as a foundation development of the Wellington waterfront, has indeed made a difference. I am suggesting that Auckland, as New Zealand’s main international city, should expect a similar investment from the Government, and I will work towards a suitable facility.
Keith Locke: Why did the Government pursue the much more expensive, poorly costed, and environmentally offensive waterfront stadium option when 6 months ago it had a full design for Eden Park and had detailed costings, adding up to $320 million, provided by WT Partnership, a highly reputable quantity surveyor—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Not detailed at all! What rubbish!
Keith Locke: Is the Minister for Sport and Recreation answering this?
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member just ask the question. We are straying into questions becoming speeches.
Keith Locke: What specific disagreements does the Minister have with the detailed costings provided by WT Partnership months ago?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I did not see any carefully costed, detailed plans for Eden Park. That option too was financially uncosted and unfunded. It was also environmentally offensive to many people in Auckland. The Government decided to make sure that the enormous public and private investment in any facility was well spent. I think what this Minister and this Government have done has now been thoroughly welcomed by everyone who has reflected on it, and it means that we might get some movement on the waterfront, as well as a suitable facility for the Rugby World Cup.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Minister now believe that hundreds of millions of dollars should be spent on upgrading Eden Park and that we should also develop another national stadium—I am basing this on the article in the Auckland City Harbour News—also at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, on the waterfront; which is it?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The member opposite obviously has not caught up with the business and trade convention centre that has long been proposed for the waterfront. A number of other options are being looked at. It seems to me a really good thing that we meet our obligations to host the Rugby World Cup, given the more than $300 million economic benefit that will accrue to New Zealand as a result, and that Auckland gets the infrastructure it needs. I do not believe that those are mutually exclusive.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister is supporting a national convention centre, what discussions has she had with the Minister of Finance to spring $300 million from him to build the national convention centre on the Auckland waterfront?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I do not agree with the assertion that member makes, and, given that his major assertion for the benefit of Auckland was a tunnel under the harbour, I really wonder whether National Party members care about what happens in Auckland or in the Rugby World Cup. Come up to speed, Wayne.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister knows how to address other members.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does the Minister accept that her discussions with the Minister for the Rugby World Cup were detailed, frequent, exhaustive, and exhausting?
Madam SPEAKER: Members will please lower the temperature of the House.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The discussions were always constructive.
Keith Locke: I seek leave of the House to table the detailed costings on the Eden Park design that were provided some months ago by WT Partnership.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to check that the member is not going to do what he did yesterday when he tabled a document and got the date wrong by a year.
Peter Brown: Noting the House’s interest in stadiums and stadium construction, I seek leave to table a document on the construction of the Arsenal Emirates Stadium, a magnificent stadium built under budget, within time, and at a cost of £390 million.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is total objection.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I seek leave to table an article in the Auckland City Harbour News dated 1 December, headed “It was time to shut up”, quoting Judith Tizard.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an article from page 2 of this Tuesday’s New Zealand Herald in which various Auckland MPs, including Labour MPs, proposed how to properly develop the Auckland waterfront.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Market Development Assistance Scheme—Announcements
8. RON MARK (NZ First) on behalf of R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister for Economic Development: What recent announcements have been made regarding an increase of funding to the Market Development Assistance scheme?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development): The Prime Minister has made an announcement of a $33.75 million funding boost to mark the launch of Export Year 2007. The boost in funding means that New Zealand exporters will receive support to break into offshore markets. This Government knows that increasing our export capacity is at the heart of transforming our economy. That is why overall funding for the Market Development Assistance scheme has gone from nothing to $5.8 million in 2005-06, and to $33.75 million now.
Ron Mark: What initiatives will be undertaken during Export Year?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The list is very long, and the Leader of the House will not let me say it all, but as well as the $33.75 million increase there will be an expansion of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Path to Market pilot programme, which supports new exporters into Australia. A very successful conference of chief executive officers and founders of more than 50 of our largest exporters was held last Friday to brainstorm what the sector can do going forward. Resources will be made available for primary and secondary schools, as well as for tertiary courses, to help lift aspirations in this area.
Ron Mark: What has been the public response to this New Zealand First initiative and, specifically, to the launch of Export Year?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have received a number of positive responses relating, in particular, to the high popularity of the Market Development Assistance scheme and the Government’s response to the proposals of New Zealand First and Government Ministers. One of these positive responses came from the Employers and Manufacturers Association. The Market Development Assistance scheme was heavily oversubscribed. It has not been able to keep up with demand, so it is pleasing to see a Government moving to put this right. There was, however, one wally in Christchurch who had a different view.
Te Puni Kōkiri—Confidence
9. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does he have confidence in his ministry; if so, why?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs): Yes; because its employees are hard-working and conscientious people.
Hon Tau Henare: Why did the Minister tell the House on 22 November that Te Puni Kōkiri’s expenditure on contractors and consultants has decreased, when Te Puni Kōkiri’s annual reports from 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 show an increase of expenditure on those consultants by up to 67 percent?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I understand that the use of consultants and contractors is a lot less than it was in that member’s time as Minister, and it is comparable with that by other organisations. It is not true that it has increased.
Dave Hereora: Does the Minister have confidence in a long-term role for Te Puni Kōkiri?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. I have as much confidence as the new National Party has, even though the edict of user-pays is starting to creep back in. I have seen a list of the National Party spokespeople, and I note that there are two spokespeople for Māori affairs, one of whom has a role specifically related to Te Puni Kōkiri. Given that National’s previous leader wanted to get rid of Te Puni Kōkiri, I am very pleased that the Māori spokespeople from National have now recognised the ministry’s importance.
Hon Tau Henare: Can the Minister explain why Te Puni Kōkiri’s expenditure on contractors has risen by an amazing 243 percent since 2001—which just happened to be while I was not here?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The use of contractors and consultants by the ministry or by departments is an operational matter. Therefore, the responsibility is that of the chief executive. I tell that member, because everybody is poaching the staff, then that is certainly a better use—
Hon Tau Henare: You’re an embarrassment.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: If there is an embarrassment, it is that member.
Hon Tau Henare: Is the Minister concerned that the Auditor-General has advised that Te Puni Kōkiri regional offices do not monitor progress in meeting contract milestones, do not ask for or even receive financial information detailing how contracts were being fulfilled, and do not even apply the ministry’s own operational guidelines to those contracts?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I assure the member, again, that my ministry advises me that the expenditure on contractors and consultants has decreased. I tell that member, in relation to his question, that Te Puni Kōkiri has built up a huge reputation with ministries, and the results for Māoridom are showing that.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that you could argue that the Minister addressed the question, but it is like asking how tall the palm tree is and getting the answer that it is Tuesday. The answer bears no relevance to the question. I do not think the Minister addressed the question, because it was about something completely different. I accept that answers can be along the lines of questions without actually answering those questions, but I do not actually think the Minister addressed the question this time.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. If members wish me to rule on these matters, then I ask members to keep the interventions down, because I could not hear what the Minister was saying.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Kia ora, tātou. Is the minister aware that Te Puni Kōkiri’s website promotes Vaka Moana, which “takes us forward as a nation, helping us to see ourselves as a part of the Pacific family”; in light of that, what advice has Te Puni Kōkiri offered the Minister about the impact of Government statements against the actions in Fiji, in the context of the Pacific family?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: My ministry has not given me any advice on what should happen in Fiji. This Government has been explicit in its view of what has happened in Fiji.
Hon Tau Henare: Does the Minister agree with the advice of the Auditor-General that Te Puni Kōkiri cannot provide any information on cost effectiveness, as required by section 40 of the Public Finance Act; and how does the Minister intend to rectify this problem?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I can attest to the high consistency by Te Puni Kōkiri in working closely and better with other Government agencies, and more so in being the closest interface between any Government agency and the Māori people—more than the distant stance that that member has.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked about the information provided with regard to cost effectiveness and section 40 of the Public Finance Act, and what the Minister intended to do to rectify the problem that Te Puni Kōkiri has—not something about something else that bears no relevance to the actual question.
Madam SPEAKER: I note the member’s point. But I also noted carefully the Minister’s answer, which did indicate that Te Puni Kōkiri had been working with other agencies to address that. So the answer may not satisfy the member, but the Minister did address the question.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware of the tribunal ruling that the Crown must consult tangata whenua about the Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Authority, legislation on which is rumoured to be introduced into the House shortly; and what advice has his ministry given him about Māori views on that authority?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are ongoing discussions between countries in relation to the situation of therapeutic products and so forth. I continually get advice in respect of flora and fauna, and on a whole lot of matters that are relevant to that issue.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I follow my colleague Mr Henare in respect of the Minister not actually answering the question. I accept that some of the information the Minister gave might be relevant in the bigger picture, but it is not specifically relevant to my question. I ask whether the Minister could rethink an answer—or perhaps you could give some guidance on that?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I note to members that when general questions like this are set down and then a variety of issues are specifically raised in relation to them, then often the answers that emerge are not satisfactory from the member’s point of view. But the Minister did address the question. I also further note, while I am on my feet, that when members do ask in questions for a Minister’s opinion, or for the Minister to agree with something, then they are likely to get an answer that gives that opinion. It will not necessarily be factual.
Shane Jones: Has the Minister received any advice on the impact of the decision of the Māori Party to support the coup in Fiji, in relation to Māori relationships with the rest of the Pacific?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, but I have a view about that.
Hon Tau Henare: Does the Minister agree with the advice by the Auditor-General—and here is the kicker—that Te Puni Kōkiri cannot provide sufficient information to justify its expenditure in 2005-06?
Paula Bennett: Got a view on that?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have a great view on that. The Māori Potential Framework approach that the ministry is taking provides for a balanced approach between focusing on addressing issues of disadvantage and making the most of Māori talents, skills, and assets. That person was moved over because he was not doing anything about Māori affairs. The problem with that member is in his heart and his head.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I accept your earlier rulings about the addressing of questions, but surely to goodness you cannot accept that that reply addressed my question, which basically asked whether he agreed with the advice of the Auditor-General that Te Puni Kōkiri could not provide sufficient information to justify its expenditure in the last financial year. The Minister’s answer had absolutely nothing to do with that question. Surely to goodness you cannot allow him to get away with not even addressing the question.
Madam SPEAKER: Given the level of intervention while the Minister was, I believe, attempting to address the question, it seemed that the members who were intervening were not interested in the answer. If the Minister wants to add further to his answer, and if we could have a reasonable level of noise in the House, I ask him to do so.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, I do not agree, because a lot of progress has been made. I want the member to be specific about what he started to say. A lot of progress has been made. When the member started Aotearoa Television, it went down. This other one has gone up, and that is what I want to say to him.
Central / Local Government Forum—Topics of Discussion
10. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Local Government: What were the major topics of discussion at the 12th Central and Local Government Forum this morning?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Local Government): A raft of reports were discussed at the Central / Local Government Forum, many of which addressed some of the key issues facing local government and New Zealand going forward. These include sustainability, climate change, infrastructure, affordable housing, and regional economic development.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any other reports about the future of local government in New Zealand?
Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, I have seen a report that states that the member’s bill in the name of the latest leader of the National Party to reform local government in Auckland is actually part of a wider plan to effectively abolish local government in New Zealand and create a so-called local government tsar who would do little more than oversee the permit and approval process. Further, not only did the self-proclaimed most famous man in Auckland barely manage to pull in 30 people at his local meeting, at least one genuinely famous Auckland National Party stalwart threatened to withdraw whatever support he had for the National Party when he heard of Key’s extremist plans for local government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How is this in order?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister was asked for reports; the Minister gave reports. However, the Minister is not responsible for National Party policy.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister advise the House on the progress of the independent inquiry into revenue-raising mechanisms available to local government, and the sustainability of dependence on property rates for this purpose?
Hon MARK BURTON: Following the confirmation of the terms of reference that were developed in consultation with parties that showed a genuine interest in this matter, including the member’s own party, an outstanding panel of New Zealanders was appointed. I have met with the panel, and the review is now well under way. The panel is to report back by 31 July 2007.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that after the 2001 elections the number of local body councillors who identified as tangata whenua was close to 6 percent, which is considerably less than the demographic proportion of the population at 15 percent, and what initiatives are being introduced to ensure that local bodies foster Māori capacity to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority, as they are required to do under the Local Government Act 2002?
Hon MARK BURTON: I am aware of the statistic the member has given us, and I believe that it is accurate. I point to one example, which was the fine initiative in the member’s bill introduced into the House by my colleague Mita Ririnui.
11. JACQUI DEAN (National—Otago) to the Minister for the Environment: Has he received the recent report from the Ministry for the Environment that pinpoints a further deterioration in rivers already polluted by nutrient run-off; if so, what is his response?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Yes. The Ministry for the Environment has recently released two technical reports on water quality. They are a snapshot of lake-water quality in New Zealand and stated trends in the National River Water Quality Network from 1989 to 2005. The reports confirm that approximately one-third of our rivers and lakes are under pressure for both volume and water quality. They confirm that our major water-quality challenge is managing non-point-source discharges. This reinforces the importance of the Labour-Progressive Government’s sustainable water programme of action and the leadership being taken by the agricultural sector to improve water quality for all New Zealanders.
Jacqui Dean: How can spending half a million dollars on a fluffy water-awareness campaign—“New Zealand. A valuable body of water.”—showing fully clothed people standing in pristine bodies of water possibly remedy the poor state of New Zealand rivers?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: There is no question that raising awareness of the importance of water to New Zealand is relevant to the education process that we have to go through here, in my view. However, I am aware that half of all advertising is wasted. The problem is that most of us do not know which half it is.
Martin Gallagher: What far-reaching and very significant actions is this Government taking to improve water quality?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: One of the key outcomes sought under the Water Programme of Action is improved water quality.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Inaction!
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Like the member’s inaction that lasted 3 days in the deputy leadership of the National Party, presumably. That member should never ask for what he wants—he might get it. The Government is a partner in significant current work programmes that target improved water quality. This work builds on the significant investment in science and extension activity by the partnership of Government, industry, and local government, which has developed management tools and approaches that will, with time, reduce the impact of runoff and non-point discharges to water.
Nandor Tanczos: In light of the interesting work being done around the use of nitrogen inhibitors to reduce nitrate losses from farms, is the Government involved in, or aware of, any work being done to study the effects of nitrogen inhibitors on soil or soil microbiology?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, there is considerable work being done on nitrogen inhibitors, the effect of nitrification of soil, leachate into waterways, and so on. Lincoln University is well ahead in programmes of this kind and the Government is taking those matters into account as it moves through the climate change programmes with our industries—particularly the agricultural industry—and budgetary considerations are being given as we speak.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder if the Minister did not quite understand my question. I am aware that there is work being done on the use of nitrogen inhibitors to reduce nitrate losses. What I was asking specifically about is the effects of nitrogen inhibitors on soil and soil microbe biology. The reason for the question was that I am not sure that there is a full understanding of what the unintended consequences—
Madam SPEAKER: I think the member had the opportunity to put his question and the Minister had the opportunity to address it. He addressed the question, and if the question is to be more specific, then it should be framed more clearly. [Interruption] I have ruled on the matter endlessly in this particular session.
Tariana Turia: What remedial action has the Minister taken following angry protests in Palmerston North last month which highlighted the issuing of 190 permits to local companies to allow the discharge of pollutants into waterways that are likely to result in the death of the Manawatū River?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am aware that the Ministry for the Environment and all other Government agencies with any concern for the future of New Zealand’s ecological environment would give consideration and concern to such matters. But in the real word, of course, these things are going to take some time, and usually local authorities are giving exemptions on the basis that time is also being given for industry and other users and polluters to sort out what is happening to their environment and give them the occasion and the opportunity to rectify matters.
Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister confirm that the whole subject of water quality, and, in particular, reference to nutrient runoffs, is included in the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour-led Government and United Future, and that part of that policy advanced by United Future is to plant trees on marginal strips around our rivers and lakes?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes I can, and, of course, the Government is actively involved with its support partners in promoting the kind of developments that the member has spoken about. Budgetary consideration will be given to active involvement.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Look at forestry, you’re going backwards!
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, a bit like the member’s political record. The Government is giving considerable attention to the development of appropriate measures for these matters and that will be dealt with in the Budget.
Jacqui Dean: How will the half a million dollar publicly funded campaign, “New Zealand. A valuable body of water.”, improve water quality when the website it directs people to has only one practical tip and that is that running a full load of a dishwasher uses less water, less energy, and is more hygienic than washing by hand?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think I already indicated that raising the consciousness of New Zealanders about the importance of water and its future use and efficiency of use are important educative matters. When Government departments or any other industry body is doing that, they should be applauded for it. The quality of what they do, of course, is always in the eye of the individual beholder.
Jacqui Dean: Who came up with the idea of spending half a million dollars of public money on the “New Zealand. A valuable body of water.” ad campaign for a website that contains thought-provoking gems such as “Freshwater can be found in two places, underground … and above ground …”, “Surface water includes things such as lakes, rivers …”, and “Water availability problems occur when water demand outstrips supply …”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: As in all these original ideas, if there is proven to be success we will find that many authors came up with the idea; if there is not, then we will find there will be orphans.
Jacqui Dean: Why, instead of spending half a million dollars on a fancy ad campaign showing people standing in pristine bodies of water, do we not show them just standing in rivers like the Manawatū, the state of which was enough to get more than 200 people marching down the main street of Palmerston North recently, screaming for the Government to do something?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Well, I think at least this programme would have paid for its GST.
Jacqui Dean: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Try as I might, I cannot see how the Minister, in any way, addressed my question on the health of the Manawatū River. I am very interested in his reply.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer, please.
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Well, if the member is suggesting that the Ministry for the Environment or any other Government agency—or local government agency, for that matter—is not interested in the health of the Manawatū River, then she is not living in the same world as I am. Of course these matters are important, and all the initiatives the Government takes are meant to make a contribution to that welfare.
Jacqui Dean: Why, instead of wasting so much money merely trying to get people to think about something, does the Minister not spend his half a million dollars of public money on something concrete aimed at people actually doing something?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: If the member really wants to go down the expenditure route, rather than focus on quality, I say that the Government is contributing $36.7 million towards reducing nitrogen levels in Lake Taupō, a project it is funding with Environment Waikato and the Taupō District Council. It forms the largest project of its type in the history of New Zealand. The Government is contributing $4 million towards building a structure to divert the outflow from the Ōhau Channel that links Lakes Rotorua and Rotoiti, and it is assisting the improvement of the water quality of Lake Rotoiti. There is much more than that, and if the member is really asking for something she should expect to get the answer.
Jacqui Dean: I seek leave to table a picture of a man standing up to his waist in water, which is the Labour Government’s answer—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there objection? Yes, there is objection. [Interruption] The member has displayed the document. She should read the Standing Orders on such matters, please.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise a point of order not to question your ruling that you previously made, because of course no member would dare to do that, but simply to seek a clarification. I raise this point of order because the Green Party, like other small parties, has a very small number of questions. We have one question per day most days, and we have four supplementaries, so we do not have the ability to squander questions as some other parties do. But I questioned whether the Minister answered my specific question, and I raised that not because I thought he was trying to evade the question but I genuinely thought he had not heard it properly. Often the noise in this House means that Ministers cannot fully hear questions. I asked one question, not a number of questions, and I asked a very specific question. It was a point of information; I was not trying to score a political point. I know that that is rare in this House, as well. So my question for clarification is: how can I be more specific, in relation to your finding, than to ask one question—and a very specific question?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Unfortunately in this place good intentions do not get members different rulings from bad intentions, in asking questions. I accept that the member had good intentions, but he has to be treated the same way as other members in response to their questions.
Madam SPEAKER: I think that members have to be reminded, also, that the purpose of supplementary questions is in fact to elucidate, through those questions, what the primary question was. Obviously, that does not always satisfy the member, as in this instance, but the Minister did actually address the question. It may not, as I said, have been to the satisfaction of the member. I would also just like to remind members that points of order are used to raise matters of order; they are not used to elucidate an answer through a point of order.
Urgent Question--Leave to Ask
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Brownlee raised some issues previously. I would like to indicate that if he wants to seek leave again to ask an urgent question—provided it does involve ministerial responsibility—I would now be in a position to reply on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting at the end of ordinary question time.
12. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for the Environment: What is the framework within which decisions are made regarding new housing?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Labour) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Decisions on new housing are made within the framework of a council’s district plan. A district plan is developed through a public process. It sets out the environmental issues for the city or district, and identifies area or zone-specific objectives, policies, and methods to address them. Depending on the plan’s provision, a resource consent may be required.
Hon Marian Hobbs: What reports has the Minister seen with regard to property developers following due process?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen a report that details a meeting at which the Mayor of Waitakere City was threatened that “he could expect trouble” unless the council approved consents for a new Titirangi house. That threat was made by Tim Groser, National member of Parliament, at a public meeting hosted by John Key. Here is yet another example of John Key not caring how his MPs behave, while they blow smoke in the face of the public and due process. At the same meeting Tau Henare said that everything would be simpler if everyone was required to use user-pays.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister’s concluding remarks were impossible to hear in this part of the House.
Madam SPEAKER: I agree.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I ask that those concluding remarks be repeated.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please do that. I remind Ministers and members that answers should address the question and questions should relate to ministerial responsibility.
Hon RUTH DYSON: Am I to repeat the entire answer, Madam Speaker?
Madam SPEAKER: No. Could you summarise what the answer was, please.
Hon RUTH DYSON: Tim Groser, a National member of Parliament, threatened the Mayor of Waitakere City at a public meeting hosted by John Key. It was the same meeting at which Tau Henare said that everything would be simpler—
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. David Bennett, Paula Bennett, and Sandra Goudie are warned. I can hear your voices. It is probably unfortunate that you have louder voices than others. I accept that, and it is why you are still in the Chamber. But please make your contributions a little lower.
Hon RUTH DYSON: The threat to the Mayor of Waitakere City, which was that he could expect trouble unless the council approved consents for the new Titirangi house, was made by Tim Groser, a National member of Parliament, at a public meeting hosted by John Key. It was the same meeting at which Tau Henare said that everything would be simpler for everyone if everything was user-pays.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What credibility should the House give to claims made by Bob Harvey, the Mayor of Waitakere City, when the High Court found his conduct in respect of the Resource Management Act and Whangamata to be quite unreasonable and the Minister who has made the assertions has a conviction for drinking and driving, which is something Mr Groser has never had?
Madam SPEAKER: I am wondering where ministerial responsibility lies in that question. Would—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order—
Madam SPEAKER: I am genuinely seeking to know.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You allowed Ruth Dyson to get to her feet and make accusations about the personal conduct—
Madam SPEAKER: No, she was asked for a report.
Hon Dr Nick Smith:—which has nothing to do with ministerial responsibilities—of Mr Groser in his application to build a house in Waitakere City. For you to allow that, then to say: “Oh!”—but for me to somehow question the credibility of Bob Harvey, who we all know is a Labour Party hack—
Madam SPEAKER: I am quite happy for the Minister to answer the question. As I had heard it before, reports were called for. As we know, we have been through this with rulings, and that is permissible. But would the Minister please address the question.
Hon RUTH DYSON: There are two points I would like to make in reply to the supplementary question. The first is that none of the information in the report I am relying on was received from Bob Harvey. The threat was made to Bob Harvey, and nothing in my report came from him. The second point relates to both his integrity and mine. Neither of us have been charged and convicted of contempt of court.
TVNZ—Satellite News Coverage, Fiji Coup
1.GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What reports has he received about Television New Zealand’s alleged involvement in providing satellite news gathering equipment to facilitate Commodore Frank Bainamarama’s announcing live-to-air his overthrow of the Fijian Government from the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Suva, on Tuesday of this week?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: I think the member’s question does not represent fairly what Television New Zealand (TVNZ) did. During Commodore Bainamarama’s broadcast, TVNZ was the only news organisation present with cameras. Fiji TV was present but did not have a camera. TVNZ was requested to provide feed for a range of other news organisations that were present, as is quite common in these circumstances, including Fiji. A news organisation covering an event of public significance is not necessarily commenting on whether it approves of that. Its duty is to report information of public significance. Clearly, the coup is a matter of great public significance, both in Fiji and in New Zealand.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think it credible for him to answer that Fiji TV was present at the commodore’s request without a camera; secondly, does he think it reasonable that, outside of the normal broadcasting times, TVNZ allowed the commodore to broadcast live to the world the fact of his intention to overthrow a democratically elected Government—was that good judgment on the part of TVNZ?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not advised that that is the case. I am advised that other news organisations sought permission to use TVNZ’s visual coverage. For example, had a TVNZ news camera been present to observe Dr Jonathan Coleman blowing smoke at and insulting, using obscene language, a woman, I hope that TVNZ would have had the courage to show that on the news, to show the character of the member.
Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that was necessary—
Hon Member: It’s the truth.
Madam SPEAKER: No, the last bit was entirely unnecessary in terms of the answer to the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you saying I cannot refer to that member’s conduct as being inappropriate?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am talking about the comment being unnecessary in the context of the answer.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: And that TVNZ should have censored such a matter, if he had been filmed doing it? He has got away with it only because it was not filmed.
Madam SPEAKER: No, that is enough. [Interruption] No, there are no more supplementary questions. I refer members to Standing Order 379(3).
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I request that you consider allowing me to ask my supplementary question again, because it is a pattern with this Government that whenever it gets embarrassed it just goes off and creates some smokescreens.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point—[Interruption] Please be seated! Leave is being sought for another supplementary question. The member is entitled to seek leave of the House for anything. Are you seeking leave for that? That is my understanding.
Gerry Brownlee: If I sought leave, I would expect it to be declined. I am asking you to consider the answer that Dr Cullen gave, and the relevance of it to addressing a question about Fiji—
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry; would the member please be seated. I asked the Minister to withdraw and apologise, and he did. I dealt with it at the time. [Interruption] No, he addressed that question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to indicate to the member that if he does seek leave for a further supplementary question, the Labour Party will not object. We do not mind that when we are winning.
Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During that interchange Tau Henare made a very unparliamentary comment about the Deputy Prime Minister for which he should be asked to withdraw and apologise.
Hon Tau Henare: Which one?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I say that the member accused me of being a liar when I said that Dr Jonathan Coleman had blown smoke in a woman’s face and insulted her with obscene language. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order! If the member wishes to remain in the House, please.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think the Hansard record will show that I accused the Deputy Prime Minister of being a liar.
Madam SPEAKER: No, no it wasn’t you.
Hon Jim Anderton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have all just heard the Deputy Prime Minister being accused twice. That is completely unacceptable to the House. Mr Tau Henare should apologise and withdraw, or he should leave the Chamber.
Hon Tau Henare: I am not sure whether the Minister heard, but I did withdraw and apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear it, either, but I thank you for assuring the House of that—there was too much noise. The member has withdrawn and apologised.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to ask one further supplementary question.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a further supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Gerry Brownlee: Why did the State broadcaster decide to turn up to Queen Elizabeth Barracks at the request of Frank Bainimarama, who had no authority to direct anybody other than the threat that he was about to overthrow a Government; and was it good judgment on the part of the broadcaster to assist him in broadcasting his message not only to the Fijian people but to the whole world?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A press conference was held. Whether or not the person engaged in that was engaged in actions that anybody in this House would approve of is irrelevant to a news organisation being present. News organisations cover all kinds of horrible events. What the member is arguing is that Television New Zealand should have engaged in self-censorship on a matter of international public importance. I might add to that that any picture of Commodore Bainimarama giving a press conference is not likely to help the commodore’s case.