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Questions for Oral Answer - Tuesday, 20 Nov 2007

Questions for Oral Answer - Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Questions to Ministers

Accident Compensation Corporation—Physiotherapy

1. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any recent reports regarding the way in which physiotherapy services are funded and accredited by ACC?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister for ACC): Yes, I have, and the report has been made publicly available. The reviews of physiotherapy services formed part of the confidence and supply agreement between the Labour-led Government and New Zealand First, and I know that the previous Minister for ACC and myself have enjoyed working closely on this issue with the member who asked the question.

Peter Brown: When does the Minister expect the formal Government response to the report to be made public?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The formal Government response will be made public as soon as possible.

Darien Fenton: What action will the Labour-led Government be taking to ensure the recommendations as set out in the review are addressed?

Hon MARYAN STREET: A formal Government response to the report will now be developed and considered. In the meantime, the Accident Compensation Corporation will be working through the issues raised, including providing more flexible guidelines on the number of treatments a claimant should have and giving providers better information about fraud and investigation processes.

Peter Brown: Has any time line been developed regarding the prompt implementation of the non-fiscal recommendations of the report; if so, when are the non-fiscal recommendations likely to be implemented?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes; and the non-fiscal recommendations are in fact being implemented immediately.

Peter Brown: Has the Minister read the response to the report of the New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists; if so, when does she anticipate that the chosen funding option will be implemented?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes, I have; and the funding options will be considered as part of the usual Budget process.

Electoral Finance Bill—Freedom of Expression

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement, in relation to the Electoral Finance Bill, that “This Bill does not restrict free speech. It simply restricts rights to ‘purchase’ speech through advertising.”; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): Yes; this bill does not restrict freedom of speech, but it does restrict the rights to purchase speech. The bill sets out to prevent any individual or organisation buying an election because it has the financial clout to do so.

Hon Bill English: If the Government is serious about that definition of free speech—that is, that it is still free speech despite restricting the right to purchase speech through advertising—why does it not apply to the Government and politicians the same restrictions on the right to purchase speech through advertising as it now wants to apply to private citizens and organisations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Any member of Parliament who wants to advertise as a candidate at an election would be covered by this bill. Any member of Parliament who carries out his or her normal duties as a member of Parliament when it is an election year has the right to carry those out, so long as he or she does not electioneer. The absurdity of what Bill English has been saying is that members of Parliament have $64,000 to spend on promoting themselves. I do not know what he spends his money on, but I know members on this side of the House do not spend their money on electioneering. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I ask the member to give her answer in silence, and to just address the question without any peripheral comments.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am addressing the question. It is an important question, because members on this side of the House do not spend their electorate budget on electioneering. It is against the rules to electioneer, and just as Tony Ryall and Judith Collins hold up pamphlets I could at this moment hold up Nick Smith’s pamphlet, put out only in the last few weeks, that says “Change the Government … nick4nelson.” Tell me that that is not electioneering. It is electioneering. That is not allowed under the rules, and it should not be allowed under the rules. However, members of Parliament should be allowed to go about their legitimate business in an election year.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that the important thing to ensure in electoral law is that the voice of the New Zealand public is heard at election time, not just the voices of well-funded lobby groups?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Absolutely, and it is interesting to read the press releases that have come out since the bill has been reported back by the Justice and Electoral Committee. The only negative press releases we have seen repeated every day come from the National Party. I would prefer to listen to organisations like the National Council of Women, which represents many more people than the members across there at this stage. It says that this is a much better bill for the work that has been done on it.

Heather Roy: How does this bill not breach freedom of speech under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act when, by closing third party registrations before candidate nominations, a group could spend only $1,000 on speaking out about a candidate whose views it opposes, and is this Government not railroading this bill through the House before it can be challenged in the courts for being inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The date by which a third party can register that it wants to be involved in the electoral system—in fact, wants to campaign for a party or candidate—is, in this bill, writ day. I believe that the date could be changed to the date for closure of nominations.

Hon Bill English: More amendments!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, I have to say that every electoral bill that has ever been before this House has been subject to amendments in the Committee stage. I ask the member to show me one time when such a bill has not. Those comments are nothing more than crocodile tears.

Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister was a little diverted from answering my question, by retaliating across the House. Perhaps she would like to address my question, rather than interjections.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member asked about the date by which a third party can register. I addressed the question. The fact the member asked several questions means that she probably has to sort out her questions better.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the new definition of “publish” in terms of election advertisements now includes any manner of bringing a political view to the public, including comments on Internet forums, press releases that are put out, even if they are not published by the media, and someone going down the street door-knocking and saying: “Vote National.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That question borders on the ridiculous. The law of common sense applies, as it always has in electoral Acts. The law of common sense applies, and the member knows that. One could argue that under the Electoral Act now a press release could be covered, but it is not covered because trivial matters are not taken into account. The law of common sense applies. A bit of common sense from the National Party would be appreciated.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister understand how depressing it is for the House to find that after months of listening to the last justice Minister, who had not read the law and did not understand it, we are now afflicted with another one who has not read the law and, on her third day of answering questions, is reduced to saying this law will work only if we ignore it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Mr English might like to tell New Zealanders that they are dumb and do not know what they are talking about, because that is exactly what he is saying today. Let me read to the House what the National Council of Women said about the changes that have been made to this bill. The council believes that the Justice and Electoral Committee listened to the concerns that were raised by the council and that the committee addressed those concerns, and it says that the council supports the intent behind this bill. Those sorts of people believe that we got it right: that we know what is happening. Only the National Party says we have not. One has to ask why the National Party protests so much. Why is it so upset about this bill, when a consensus has been built in this Parliament around what should be in the bill?

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that if someone goes door-knocking down a street, knocking on doors and saying: “Vote National.”, then under her law that action constitutes the publication of an election advertisement, and therefore such persons constitute a promoters under the law; and if those persons are promoters, then when they knock on a door, they will have to give their name and address to the person they are addressing, present the authorisation by the financial agent for the party for which they are canvassing, and then say: “Good morning.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If the person were a National Party campaigner, he or she would probably be told to buzz off. I say to that member—[Interruption] I am answering the last part of the member’s question about saying “Good morning.” The member is wrong. That example does not apply. No one expects someone who knocks on the door to say: “This is an election advertisement.” That example is patently ridiculous, and everyone who has listened to those examples, given to the member by David Farrier off the National Party blog, says they are ridiculous.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister bothered to go and read her own law, which states that any expression of a view that encourages any member of the public to vote one way or another, communicated to the public in any manner, constitutes an election advertisement, and the other part of the law, which states that anyone who publishes an election advertisement is a promoter—that is in her law—and that any such advertisement must include his or her name and address, which is why, for instance, placards must now include the name and address of the person who is holding them?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Under the Electoral Act as it stands, one could argue that a placard should have an authorisation on it. But I have to say that nobody I know of has been prosecuted under the current Act because he or she held up a 1c placard that did not have his or her name on it. The law of common sense applies. I suggest to the member that he apply it.

Hon Bill English: Where in the Electoral Finance Bill does it give some kind of exemption, by applying the law of common sense—because I have seen no reference to it whatsoever, nor any evidence that common sense has been applied?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Let me just put it to the member that the current Electoral Act has loopholes in it we could drive a bulldozer through. In fact, three High Court judges said in the Clarkson case that there were huge loopholes in the current Act and that anyone who had intent could drive a bus through them. So in response to the member asking where everything is in the Act, I say the law of common sense has applied and has been applied.

Hon Bill English: When a well-meaning citizen or community group picks up—

Hon Chris Carter: They certainly won’t be knocking for National.

Hon Bill English: Well, they are now. Can the Minister tell the public and the House what will happen when a well-meaning member of the public or community group looks up the Electoral Finance Bill and reads the Draconian provisions that mean that any person expressing a point of view in any form at all about whom to vote for is covered by the Act and has to comply with its regulations; and whom does that person approach to find out which rules now no longer apply because of common sense, and which rules will continue to apply because Labour wants to clamp down on public opinion?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not Labour that wants to clamp down on public opinion. We have here a National Party that is desperate to spend the money from its mates that it has horded away—money the National Party thought it would be able to buy the 2008 election with. The National Party now finds that the majority of this House will not allow it to spend the money in the way that it did with its sneaky little deals with the Brethren and others. That hurts, but the people of New Zealand believe that there ought to be a fair, open, and transparent approach to the Electoral Act. That is what they are getting. And that is what the majority of this House will vote for.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What a bunch of cheats!

Hon ANNETTE KING: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Nick Smith has just made an offensive remark. I require him to withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw and apologise. I did not hear the remark, because of the noise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I said that the Labour Party is just a bunch of cheats. I think that is true. If we look at the intent of the Electoral Act, we see that there is no intention other than to try to favour the Labour Party.

Madam SPEAKER: I ask the member to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I reluctantly withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I ask the member to withdraw and apologise in accordance with the rules.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that the rules around who can spend what and who can say what during election campaigns should be determined largely by the people of New Zealand; if so, does she also agree with the Greens that a citizens’ assembly, a group of randomly selected members of the public resourced with independent advisers, would be a much more democratic way to make electoral finance law? [Interruption]

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member who has just asked the question can tell from the response from the National Party that those members do not encourage democracy at all. They do not encourage it at all, because as soon as the member mentioned allowing the public to have a say, they all went into their position of moaning, grizzling, and so on. I say to the member that there is a lot of merit in the Greens’ proposal and, as has already been said to the member, it is something that we would consider. But the rabble over there will not consider it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In the light of the questions from Mr English, has the Minister received any—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would have thought that someone of Dr Cullen’s experience would know that that is not how to start a question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In the light of the questions from Mr English, has she received any reports that National Party canvassers do not say “Hello”, do not say whom they are, and do not say whom they are calling on behalf of; if so, does that explain why National has lost three elections in a row?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: No, the Minister is not responsible for National Party canvassing. [Interruption] If this level of noise continues, then I will be asking members to leave the House, because it is impossible for me to hear. I could not hear any of the answer from the Minister before.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I was just about to say that—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am not asking the Minister to repeat that. Members are on their last notice.

Financial Literacy—Government Resources

3. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Education: What new resources is the Government providing to improve the financial literacy of New Zealanders?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education): This morning at Raroa Normal Intermediate School here in Wellington I launched four new books for students on financial literacy. The books, with their accompanying teacher’s notes, are the latest in the Figure it Out series, which supports our numeracy strategy and helps to realise the Labour-led Government’s goal of ensuring students are confident and capable both mathematically and financially, recognising that everyone needs to be able to make considered, sensible financial decisions throughout their lives.

Hon Marian Hobbs: What alternative approaches to financial literacy is the Minister aware of?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen disturbing reports of a party whose various spokespeople have promised to increase funding for private schools, to reintroduce bulk funding for all schools, and to both offer and not offer 20 hours of free early childhood education at the same time. Curiously, these statements come from National MPs, who are also promising to slash public spending to fund tax cuts for the rich. Only this Government can be trusted to properly invest in education $4 billion extra a year; an approach supported by a majority of New Zealanders in the Fairfax poll published this weekend.

Hon Brian Donnelly: How do the Figure it Out booklets mesh with the new curriculum that was launched earlier this month?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: They absolutely mesh with the new curriculum. They lead to inquiry learning and individualised learning, which is exactly what the Government wants to see students doing in order to equip themselves for the 21st century. I seek leave to table the four copies of the Figure it Out financial literacy books.

Leave granted.

Electoral Finance Bill—Election Advertisements

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: What is the penalty in the Electoral Finance Bill for a Government department, a Crown entity, a State enterprise, or a Crown-owned company which publishes an election advertisement?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): The new provision in the bill, as reported back by the select committee, makes it clear that Government agencies are not able to electioneer. If they breach this provision, the State Services Commission and the Auditor-General would be required to act. In addition, nothing in the bill exempts these agencies from the penalty provisions that apply to corrupt and illegal practices under the bill.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Government try to insert a clause in this bill that exempted Government departments from the electoral advertising laws, and then turn round and withdraw that exemption; was she party to both decisions?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The answer to the last part of the question is “No”. The answer to the first part is that the member has just spoken a load of dishonest tripe; it was not the Government—

Hon Member: You can’t say that!

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can, because it is dishonest tripe and the member knows it.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure I may have leapt to my feet just a little ahead of your own consideration of this matter and I look forward to your decision about whether the Minister’s answer is appropriate and whether she should be required to withdraw the comments that she has just made.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has not sought for the Minister to withdraw the comments but I do think the Minister’s answer was going outside the scope of the question. I ask the Minister to address the question, please.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am addressing the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That would seem, to members on this side of the House, to be almost a reward to the Minister for what has to be bad or, at least, unruly behaviour or comment in the House likely to lead to disorder. Her remark was deeply offensive to every single person in the National Party, including me. I would like you to consider whether it should stand in the Hansard record.

Madam SPEAKER: If Mr English wishes the Minister to withdraw that comment, then of course she should, and she should apologise for it. However, I will just make this other comment. If I interrupted every member who made a comment that was likely to cause disorder, there would hardly be any conversation in this House today. I thank Mr Brownlee for bringing this matter to the attention of us all and I assume that questions will be asked correctly and answers will also be given succinctly and keeping to the point. Now would the Minister please just withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise. The member started his question by asking “Why did the Government attempt to insert this clause?”. That was tripe. The Government did not try to insert this clause at all. This clause, which the member released in a big exposé to the public yesterday, was written in the select committee to try to put in place belt and braces to show that Government departments cannot electioneer. I happen to have the clause—the big exposé—in front of me. The first of part of it takes the Cabinet Manual and puts the rules around what Government departments can do, and then—of course the member has not read it—it states who cannot publish an election advertisement, and states that Government departments cannot do that. You see, the part that was not straight in the press release was the second part of that amendment. I say to Mr Smith that the second part of the amendment was not outlined by Bill English.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Ministers get a pretty fair go at answering questions. Generally if they have a long answer they discuss that with you in preparation. This Minister’s answer is developing into a general debate speech. I think she needs to be brought up on that, otherwise this practice will be encouraged.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. This is a supplementary question, so often it is difficult for Ministers, obviously, to be able to anticipate the question. The question did make a statement. The Minister was attempting to address that statement with the information she has. Normally this House wants Ministers to address the question. I would ask both those who ask the questions, and Ministers who respond to them, to do so succinctly. We have had some very long questions in the House today, just as we have had some long answers. The two probably go together. Would the Minister please succinctly conclude her answer.

Hon ANNETTE KING: In conclusion, I say that the attempt by the select committee to write a clause that made it clear that Government departments could not electioneer should be applauded, because the current Electoral Act has no such clause. It is very clear that Government departments will not and should not electioneer. They will face difficulties if they ever try to, and I do not believe they would.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the new definition of “election advertisement” is considerably wider than when the Auditor-General drew up his rules many years ago, and has she communicated to Government departments that any civil servant who signs off a publication that encourages people to vote one way or another by reference to Government policy will be guilty of an illegal practice and liable for a $10,000 fine?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Any public servant or Government department that attempts to electioneer will not only face any penalties that exist in the new bill but will also face the State Services Commission and the Auditor-General.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of the widespread practice of Government departments posting ministerial press releases on their websites, and can she tell us whether this press release posted on the Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ website and headed “Labour committed to pay and employment equity” would constitute an election advertisement?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Press releases now, under the current Act, are not taken as election advertisements and never have been. I could get press releases that came out when Bill English was Minister of Finance or Minister of Health, which say similar things, and he has never appeared before any court or commission. Such a press release is not taken as an election advertisement. However, the policy is a blimin good one, I think.

Hon Bill English: Now that the Minister has answered the question about the existing law, can she confirm she is aware that the law is about to change under her ministerial custody, and can she answer the question that I asked: would a press release posted on the Ministry of Women’s Affairs’ website and headed “Labour committed to pay and employment equity” constitute an election advertisement under the new rules?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it would not.

Hon Bill English: So is it now the case that while no one else is allowed to publish anything that might encourage people to vote one way or another by reference to an issue, it will be OK for the Public Service to publish press releases like “Labour committed to pay and employment equity”, and how does that comply with the new rules?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The press release is a fact. That is the policy. That is what the policy is. It can hardly be an advertisement saying “Vote Labour”. It is just a fact.

Hon Bill English: What is her opinion, since she is keen to give it out, about a KiwiSaver ad published, say, a week before the election that uses the line: “The Government will start you off with $1,000 and match your savings with up to $1,040 a year”, and does she regard that simply as a statement of fact, or, a week out from the election, as an attempt to persuade voters how to vote?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This is the member who claims he has read every part of the bill and knows it backwards. The member clearly knows that it would not count as it is talking about the Government. It is not telling people to vote for Labour or for National. The Government is made up of a number of parties, including the Progressive party, and United Future and New Zealand First are part of the support to this Government. Obviously, it is not an election advertisement.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Despite the last answer, will the Government give a clear undertaking that if National gives a cast-iron promise to abolish the matching tax credit in KiwiSaver, the Government would make sure that there is no Government advertising pointing out that fact, and simply rely upon the Labour Party to advertise that fact?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am sure that is possible, if the Minister of Finance will allow it.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the explanation she has just given is actually wrong and that the provisions in her bill do not refer just to a particular party, but to what she calls a type of party, and that therefore a Government amounts to a type of party; and also that her bill does not refer just to telling people how to vote, but an election advertisement can include reference to any issue, not just to any party?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is bordering on the ridiculous. The Government is a type of party! In fact, this Government is a number of parties.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that she is bordering on the reckless by giving civil servants the message today that they can run highly political press releases on Government websites, and that the Government can say what it likes, right up to the election day, about how much money it is going to give people, when the law is quite clear that both of those will constitute election advertisements, and people who take part in them will be committing illegal acts?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is wrong. They do not constitute an election advertisement. They are a press release. They do not say “Vote Labour” or to vote for a candidate. That is quite patently wrong. What we have today is a National Party that is absolutely desperate to try to stop a bill that has the majority of this Parliament’s support, going through. We have to ask why it is trying to stop it. Why is it taking this approach, when I can have here the press releases from people whom New Zealanders would respect, who believe that this bill as it has come back to the Parliament is a far improved bill? In fact, the Coalition for Open Government believes that this bill is better than the current Electoral Act.

Hon Bill English: How is it that the Minister is now suddenly so sure of her opinion, when the definitions are brand-new, they have not been tested by any precedent with the courts, the police, or the Auditor-General, and why is she not showing just some restraint in advising public servants that they can take actions that, on the face of it, break the law if they run Labour Party political messages?

Hon ANNETTE KING: What the select committee has done, to its credit, is bring in a clause that makes it absolutely clear that Government departments cannot electioneer. That did not exist under the Act that the Government brought in, in 1993. It is clear now. I suggest that any people who have any doubt go to the Electoral Commission for advice, but I suggest they do it openly and they do not write a letter to the Electoral Commission, as the Brethren did to the Chief Electoral Officer: “Give us some advice, but tell us how to do it so nobody knows we’re going to spend money promoting the National Party.”

Shared Fisheries Proposals—Māori Involvement in Working-groups

5. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Fisheries: What strategies, if any, has he put in place to ensure that whānau, hapū, and iwi will be involved in a respectful and meaningful way in any working-group developing joint policy proposals on shared fisheries?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Fisheries): The Government consulted extensively on proposals for shared fisheries during 2006 and up to February this year, including provision for the input and participation of tangata whenua through the Ministry of Fisheries’ iwi forum network. The resulting input was carefully considered in the preparation of subsequent policy proposals. I am taking steps to advance some of those proposals, particularly those to improve information on amateur catch, and to facilitate better representation of amateur fishing interests in management processes. Progress in other areas such as allocation has been deferred, to provide an opportunity for a cooperative initiative among Te Ohu Kai Moana, the Seafood Industry Council, and the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council to develop shared fisheries proposals. If Cabinet is of a mind to proceed with any of those proposals, then further discussions with tangata whenua and other stakeholders will occur before any final decisions are made.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Why is the Minister continuing to ignore in excess of 18 Māori fishing organisations—including Te Ohu Kai Moana—that represent iwi interests that have been critical of his proposals, including the amendments to section 10 of the Fisheries Act 1996, which they say would not address the issue of the balance between utilisation and sustainability of fish stocks?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: In regard to section 10, which is about the precautionary principle and the utilisation principle, I am staggered that a Māori party could continually contest the importance of the precautionary principle to the sustainability of fisheries. It seems to even those with the meanest of minds that if we do not have any fish left in the sea, it is impossible for the deed of settlement or fisheries in general to have any value. So the precautionary principle is one of the most important principles that this Parliament could uphold.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, I asked about the Minister’s view on the fact that in excess of 18 organisations have been critical of his proposals. Although I appreciate the information he gave, I do not really believe that he answered the question. Could you, Madam Speaker, ask him to have a look at it again?

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister did address the question, but if he wishes to repeat it or add anything further, I invite him to do so.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I pointed out that a very significant consultation process had gone on with Māori iwi and hapū around the country, as part of the shared fisheries proposals development, and that Te Ohu Kai Moana was currently involved in further development of the shared fisheries proposals.

Dave Hereora: What steps has the Government taken to fulfil its obligations to Māori, under the 1992 deed of settlement, in respect of participation in fisheries management?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Government takes very seriously indeed its responsibility to Māori to ensure their effective involvement in fisheries management. This year the Minister of Fisheries has budgeted $5.9 million for the deed of settlement implementation programme—up from $5.5 million last year and $2.9 million in the previous year. When this Government came into office in 1999, very little time, money, or effort was being invested in implementing the deed of settlement. I think it is fair to say that the previous National-led Government woefully neglected its responsibilities to Māori. Today the Government’s deed of settlement implementation programme involves 24 Ministry of Fisheries staff, who are focused on liaison with tangata whenua through a range of hui and iwi forums. This year there has been a total of 62 hui, including 40 meetings with 14 different iwi forums. On any given day that the member would like to name, the Government is working alongside tangata whenua on better managing our inshore fisheries.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that although involving whānau, hapū, and iwi in policy discussions in a respectful and meaningful way is important, the primary goal of his ministry is ensuring the sustainability of fish stocks; if so, why has he cut quotas while allowing foreign vessels to fish New Zealand waters, to the detriment of both Māori and non-Māori in New Zealand?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I point out that the major charterers of overseas fishing vessels are Māori owners of fish quota, who charter those vessels to catch the quota that Māori themselves own. If they were not doing that, there would be no viable way of catching that fish for Māori. I invite the member to discuss that issue with Māori fishers, if he has any doubt about it.

Te Ururoa Flavell: How can iwi have faith in the Minister’s plans to deal with their involvement in the fishing industry, when there appears to be nationwide rejection by iwi of his proposed section 10 amendments?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No one who understands the fishing industry, the customary fisheries, and the recreational fisheries—in this country or in any other—can be in any doubt of this fact: the wild fisheries are under threat. They are desperately in need of protection. New Zealand has one of the best sustainable fishing management frameworks of any country anywhere in the world. We sustain those fisheries better than just about any other country I know of, and that is acknowledged worldwide. Therefore, those who want to see that continue should actually be supporting the precautionary principle, which is internationally acceptable and required by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is of some concern to me that there are members in this House who, in order to advance some narrow sector interests, prefer to ignore the precautionary principle and ignore its importance in respect of the sustainability of New Zealand fisheries.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Once again, I thought I had asked a fairly clear question, which was about the relationship between the plans enunciated by the Minister and the rejection by iwi Māori organisations of those plans. I am not talking about sustainability, although I understand that is part of it. Could you, Madam Speaker, ask the Minister to please address the question. I am happy to read it out again so that he gets the gist of it.

Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, no member can require a particular answer to a question. I think the Minister, at some length, has been addressing the questions.

Te Ururoa Flavell: How does the Minister intend, then, to find a better balance between the implementation of customary fishing mechanisms and the commercial imperatives of iwi fishing organisations?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The shared fisheries proposals, which we have been consulting on widely and on which there is further engagement through Te Ohu Kai Moana, the Seafood Industry Council, and the Recreational Fishing Council, are the mechanism by which the Government is doing this. In case anyone has not noticed, it is very difficult to get anyone involved in fisheries to agree with just about anyone else involved in fisheries, and that is one of the reasons why there are so many former Ministers of Fisheries around the Cabinet table.

Electoral Finance Bill—Election Advertisements

6. CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Minister of Justice: What types of material does the Electoral Finance Bill exclude from the meaning of the term “election advertisement” in clause 5(2)(c)?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): The bill makes it clear that editorials, news and current affairs programmes, and news media publications on the Internet are exempt from the definition of “election advertisement”. I agree with the Justice and Electoral Committee that the news media play an important role in any democracy, and we consider that unnecessary restriction on news publications is undesirable.

Christopher Finlayson: Why is it that the exception for editorial material covers only material that is published solely for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining; and does that not mean that this Government’s Electoral Finance Bill has made editorials that take a political position on a party or policy, and thus do not solely inform, enlighten, or entertain, subject to regulation as election advertisements?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not believe that is the case. I think the law of common sense applies in this case, as it always has.

Christopher Finlayson: When the New Zealand Herald took a political stance on the Electoral Finance Bill last week and rightly said it was an attack on democracy, was it publishing material that was solely for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining readers; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that the New Zealand Herald thought that is exactly what it was doing. However, the public must be mystified that it chose to do what it did last week—just before the select committee reported back changes made at the committee—as, as if the bill had not been changed at all, and would not be changed. It went through scenarios on the bill as it was introduced and did not take account of the fact that the public had had a say on it—that 575 submissions had been received and that there were over 100 oral submissions—and that the select committee had gone about its work and had made changes. The New Zealand Herald chose to present it as if no changes would made and that there had not been any changes at all.

Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was a very long and effuse response, but I ask whether it addressed a very precise question. I was not talking about the process of the select committee leading up to its deliberation. I was asking a very precise question on the wording of the bill.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did actually address the question. I listened carefully to that.

Christopher Finlayson: If the New Zealand Herald decided to undertake more campaign journalism, in which it took a strong view on a policy associated with a type of political party, then would that be publishing material that was solely for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining readers; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think that any newspaper is there to enlighten, to entertain, and to inform the public in whatever way it wants. However, if the newspaper decided that it wanted to register as a third party and say “Vote National”, then it would be caught by the provisions of the bill.

Christopher Finlayson: When Brian Rudman wrote in the New Zealand Herald that Judith Tizard made a twit of herself, did the New Zealand Herald publish it solely—I ask the Minister to note the word “solely”—for the purpose of informing, enlightening, or entertaining readers, or was this a statement that encouraged or persuaded voters not to vote for a candidate by reference to one of her positions”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am a great admirer of Brian Rudman’s columns. He has written many stating what a pack of twits the Nats are—in fact, he does so most weeks. Brian Rudman has the right of free speech. He never said “Vote National” or “Vote Labour”. He was talking about a particular issue.

Fisheries—Sustainability

7. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Fisheries: Does he stand by his claim that “Most New Zealand fisheries are sustainable”; if so, why?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Fisheries): Yes, I am satisfied that most of our fisheries are managed sustainably. Of the fish stocks for which we have comprehensive information available—this includes most major commercial fish stocks—85 percent of those are at, or near, the maximum sustainable yield levels. Where fish stocks are below target levels, measures are in place to ensure stocks are rebuilt to sustainable levels. Where serious concerns exist I have—and I will in the future—closed fisheries, as I did with Orange Roughy (ORH 7B) from 1 October this year.

Metiria Turei: How has cutting the funding for fisheries research into the orange roughy stocks during his term as Minister contributed to our understanding of the state of fish stocks and the supposed sustainability of that fishery?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The amount of funding spent on fisheries research in the term of this Government is close to over $200 million. There are further funds for such research, both funded by the industry itself and by the Government, but no amount of money, no matter how fast one printed it, would give us all of the information we need on fish in our oceans. This is literally almost a bottomless pit. We have to be careful that we do not overstate our position or over-commit ourselves. I think we are doing a respectable amount of research, and it will continue, but it is clear that no amount of funding that I could possibly envisage in the future would give us the perfect situation of all the information we need to know about our fisheries.

Metiria Turei: When the Minister made his claim was he aware of the collateral damage whereby 58 of the 75 fisheries cause adverse ecological impacts, over half of New Zealand fisheries kill significant numbers of seabirds, 60 percent kill significant numbers of marine mammals including dolphins and sea lions, and two-thirds cause habitat damage; if so, when he said “Most New Zealand fisheries are sustainable”, what exactly did he mean by “Most”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I meant 85 percent, as I said in my first statement. Again, I have a responsibility as Minister of Fisheries to see that our fish stock is utilised effectively and efficiently in terms of its economic utilisation, but I also have a responsibility to see that that is done without overdue damage to the environment or the fish stock in terms of its sustainability. That is a balancing act, one has to do one’s best, and I think the Ministry of Fisheries performs a very important task and does it well in the interests of New Zealand.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm that of the 75 commercial fisheries in New Zealand, 75 have no management plan, one-third are overfished or have seen a substantial decline in stocks, 85 percent catch too many non-target fish, and fewer than 20 percent have had a full stock assessment in the last 10 years; if so, again, when he said that “Most New Zealand fisheries are sustainable”, what part of “Most” did he not understand?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: For the benefit of the member, again, by most I mean 85 percent. The fishing plans being developed by the Ministry of Fisheries are an important element in the sustainability of our fisheries into the future. I have to say that the member has overstated and exaggerated all of the points she has made, and they can be refuted in great detail. If the member wants a dissertation on those points, then she can put it to me in writing and I will give it to her.

Sexual Abuse Allegations—Ministry of Education Procedures

8. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Education: If the ministry from this point has serious allegations of sexual abuse brought to its attention by a school seeking advice on what to do, will the ministry in future advise that school to take such concerns to the police, or does he agree with the statement made on his behalf that “That is outrageous.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education): The 1996 Breaking the Cycle: Interagency Protocols for Child Abuse Management, which I tabled in this House last week, provides guidance to schools on how to handle allegations of this nature. In the case of Hato Pāora College, which we discussed last week, the school did not seek advice from the Ministry of Education on how it should conduct the investigation it undertook into allegations made against the principal. It did, however, promptly report its investigation to Child, Youth and Family, which in turn reported it to the police as the protocols require. The Ministry of Education was also first made aware of the allegations at that time.

Katherine Rich: Why will the Minister not spell out to his ministry that in the event that a staff member hears of serious allegations of sexual abuse made against a school’s principal, the staff member is to advise the school to take those allegations directly to the police as soon as possible, and in the event that that does not happen then alert the police himself or herself?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Schools are required to alert Child, Youth and Family, which is then required under the protocol to alert the police. I appreciate that the member is concerned that we have to deal with this matter in a very effective and speedy way. In the case that was raised last week, that happened. These are very serious allegations. We want the safety of children to be uppermost—the first thing that happens. We have got protocols. I want to assure the member they are working.

Katherine Rich: When the Government expects other Kiwis to alert the authorities about allegations of sexual abuse immediately, and even to pick up the phone if they see a child being smacked in the supermarket, why is the Minister adamant that it is not the role of his ministry to check that cases that come to its attention are directed to the police immediately?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member seems to be hearing, but not listening. There is a protocol in place that says that Child, Youth and Family must be notified instantly, and it must notify the police. The process is there and it is happening.

Katherine Rich: Why does the Minister stick to the position that the board and the ministry have acted utterly appropriately and followed the appropriate steps, when staff loyal to the principal, who were untrained and ill-equipped to carry out sexual abuse interviews, videotaped interviews of boys, potentially tainting evidence before the police and Child, Youth and Family were alerted and involved in the investigation, when they are the authorities that have the skills and abilities to carry out those kinds of detailed investigations?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is very easy to make allegations in this Chamber about a process followed in a case that is now before the courts. I am advised that the police have looked into the investigation by the Hato Pāora College board, and that they believe that the investigation was transparent and thorough. We have had that assurance from the police, and they believe that the board could not have made any other decision. I repeat that the board could not have made any other decision, based on the allegations that it had before it. New evidence—not available to the board at that time—was brought forward in October, and that enabled the police to reach a different conclusion.

Katherine Rich: Does the Minister accept that the investigation at the Feilding school is not an investigation of smoking behind the bike sheds but is an investigation of very serious allegations of sexual abuse, and one that requires training, understanding, and knowledge of interviewing; and does he accept that in this instance the ministry should have advised the school to take those allegations directly to the police and not relied on the police finding out from the media?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Once again, the member is repeating things in this Chamber that are simply not true. The police did not find out from the media; they found out from Child, Youth and Family. The member knows that, because I telephoned her on Thursday after question time. I wanted to talk to her to make sure that she understood what had happened. I am concerned about the effect that all of this is having on that school, on the parents, and on the pupils. This is a very serious matter. The school followed the appropriate protocols: it notified Child, Youth and Family, which notified the police. That is how the police found out. They did not find out from the local newspaper. They found out from Child, Youth and Family, which is required to notify them.

Hon Mark Burton: As the member seems to have difficulty with this issue, can the Minister once more outline precisely the protocol that the school and the police are required to follow, and confirm that the protocol was indeed followed on this occasion?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Ministry of Education requires all schools to have policies in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all students. When complaints are made about staff, schools are also required to conduct a fair employment investigation, and schools would be advised to seek professional advice—as, indeed, Hato Pāora College did. Schools are required to report their findings to the police or to Child, Youth and Family, which Hato Pāora College did. Notwithstanding that a complaint could have been made directly to the police—of course, those complaining could have gone to the police themselves; they did not—the complainants went to the school. The school did all the things it was supposed to do. I remind the House that the school notified Child, Youth and Family, which notified the police. That is how the police found out.

Viet Nam Veterans—Memorandum of Understanding

9. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Veterans' Affairs: What progress is being made in implementing the memorandum of understanding signed between representatives of veterans of Viet Nam and the Government?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Veterans' Affairs): The process of implementing the memorandum of understanding is going extremely well. I am pleased to report that over 4,500 Viet Nam veterans and their families have registered themselves with Veterans Affairs. This process will assist with the research and delivery of services to them in the future. Usefully, this process has also identified a number of veterans we can assist, because prior to the registration process Veteran Affairs was unaware of their circumstances. The Viet Nam Veterans and Their Families Trust has been established and is now accepting applications from veterans and their families for financial assistance for conditions that are not explicitly dealt with in the memorandum of understanding. The process for a comprehensive medical check is being finalised, work is under way to implement the expert panel, an oral history project has begun, and planning for Tribute 08 is well under way.

Lynne Pillay: How many ex gratia payments have been made?

Hon RICK BARKER: Veterans Affairs has recently paid out its 50th ex gratia payment. Of the 50 payments so far, 27 have been made to veterans themselves and 23 to families of veterans of Viet Nam, totalling $1.75 million. At the time of writing the memorandum of understanding, it was estimated that around eight to 10 of these ex gratia payments would go directly to veterans themselves. So the number is actually higher, and this is concerning, but it is also gratifying that support is going to the Viet Nam veterans. In addition, the House needs to remember that of the estimated 3,500 who served in Viet Nam, 1,400 veterans are receiving a war disablement pension.

Judith Collins: Why are veterans still waiting more than 6 months for their application to be processed—a year after the Government promised, in the memorandum of understanding, to “review all aspects of Veterans Affairs New Zealand”; and what has happened to that review?

Hon RICK BARKER: I am pleased to report that the review of Veterans Affairs is well under way. It is almost nearing completion. I am pleased also to report that the Government has started the rewrite process of the War Pensions Act, and the integral part of that Act.

Bail Laws—Prison Population

10. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Justice: How do recent changes to bail laws fulfil the Government’s aim to “arrest the sharp increase in the prison population in recent years”, and why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): The Bail Amendment Act 2007 was designed to assist the remand population by ensuring that the focus is on community safety when custodial remand decisions are made, and that only defendants who pose a real and significant risk are remanded in custody. The pre-trial bail system must balance two competing considerations: the defendant’s right to be considered innocent until proved guilty, and the safety of the community.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the Government make it easier to get bail, when the new law has already allowed Reno Lunjevich, a prolific burglar and drug user with a record as long as your arm, to get bail despite facing 50 new additional charges, thus allowing him to break into the homes of another 10 innocent families before the police caught him again?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Decisions on bail are made by judges, independent of the Government. However, the law was changed to make sure that references to risk were not vague, as they were in the previous law—that they were clarified. Risk as it was described was too vague. It has now been clarified. I am told that the “real and significant risk” threshold, which is in the new Bail Amendment Act, was chosen by examining judicial decisions on the previous risk threshold, especially the 2002 Court of Appeal decision of R v Hines. The Court of Appeal implicitly agreed with the High Court that to amount to a just cause for continued detention, the risk that a defendant may interfere with a witness should be more than nebulous and insignificant, and should be real and significant. Though this quote relates to interfering with a witness, it applies equally to the other grounds of failure to appear and offending while on bail.

Martin Gallagher: Is the Minister aware of any further comments on the Bail Amendment Act 2007 from the judges who have actually used the law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. In the R v Kāhui case—one of the first decisions after the amendment came into force—Justice Heath stated that the change to a “real and significant risk” threshold “does not seem to me to put the test any higher than was under the previous legislation, but rather to emphasise the need for a proper inference to be drawn from proved facts; as opposed to the Court engaging in speculation or guesswork about the possibility of a risk …”.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has the Government made it easier to get bail, with the result that a man accused of murder was granted bail in October by a High Court judge who told the court that he had to grant bail because of recent changes to the Bail Act, amongst other things?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have just quoted from the most obvious and public case that members of this House will be aware of, which is the R v Kāhui case, where Justice Heath said that the Act did not do what the member said. Justice Heath said that the change to a “real and significant risk” threshold did not put the test any higher. One of the reasons why the changes were made was so that there was not a vague interpretation but a much clearer one. I think that something that members of the public might be interested in is that 30 percent of cases where offenders have been remanded in custody have not led to a conviction.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, does the Minister see any discrepancy between the Government’s multimillion-dollar campaign that violence is not OK and the current bail laws and the way they are being implemented, as best epitomised by the case of Jio-Pene Sauaki, a violent offender who not only was given strict bail, despite police opposition, but breached that bail, then went on to fatally stab Mr Kelly Lawrence; does she see any discrepancy between that campaign and what is happening in reality?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think it is fair to say that all members of this House would say that violence is not OK. But, at the end of the day, the separation between members of this House and the judiciary is such that judges will make those decisions as to whether bail should be granted, and they will make it on the information they have before them. After all, judges are entitled to all information, in order to make those decisions. I believe that in most cases they make the right decisions.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the Government make it easier to get bail, when even under the previous law of this Labour Government Michael Curran was able to be bailed while on a charge of murdering Natasha Hayden, despite having 22 previous convictions, only to murder a defenceless 2-year-old while on that bail; surely that case is sufficient proof to the Government why bail laws should be toughened, not softened as her Government has done?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As with the previous law, the new law focuses on the risk that a defendant will fail to appear, interfere with witnesses or evidence, or offend on bail. The new law clarifies that the level of risk is required to be real and significant. The judges have the information before them. They make the decision whether bail will be granted, not this House. I could trawl through newspapers from back when that member was Minister and pull out cases where judges, under the bail laws that existed then, allowed people out on bail and they offended. Unfortunately, at times that happens.

Hon Tony Ryall: Have the Minister’s answers this afternoon not demonstrated two things: firstly, that she is completely unaware that lawyers up and down courtrooms of New Zealand today are saying that it is much easier to get bail for their clients under this new legislation; and, secondly, that her legislation is all about reducing the number of inmates in jail, and is not about the safety of the New Zealand public?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree. The safety of the public is paramount, but the judges must take into account a number of factors when they are granting bail. They will continue to make those decisions—as we would expect. The member laughed and scoffed when I said that 30 percent of the people who are remanded in jail do not receive any conviction. That means that at least 30 percent of the people remanded in jail end up not being convicted. So judges try to balance—

Hon Tony Ryall: Which 30 percent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not for politicians to decide that. We trust the judges to make those decisions. One would think, from listening to National Party members, that they would lean over to the judges and say: “Put that person in jail and not that person.” Of course they would not do that. They would also value the judgments that judges make every day of the week.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a media report on the sentencing of the street thug Sauaki.

Leave granted.

Building Apprenticeships—Reports

11. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Has he received any recent reports on apprenticeships in the building industry?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction): Yes, I have seen a report on the launch of the BeConstructive programme, developed by the Built Environment Training Alliance. The programme will encourage young people back into the construction sector. The alliance also reports that apprenticeship numbers in this sector have grown by 300 percent since the Government introduced the new Modern Apprenticeships scheme.

Dave Hereora: How much has the Government invested in the Modern Apprenticeships scheme?

Hon SHANE JONES: I am advised that by 2006 the Government had invested $114 million in its Modern Apprenticeships scheme since its inception in 2000. I am also advised that by 2008-09, funding for Modern Apprenticeships will have increased to $50 million a year, continuing to rebuild our skill base after apprenticeships were demolished by National.

Dave Hereora: How many apprentices are currently in training in this sector?

Hon SHANE JONES: More good news is on the way—13,739 apprentices are in training across the building and construction sector. This is more than half the number who were able to be trained in the 15 years from 1992, as a consequence of Mr Bill Birch’s killing off apprenticeships.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that if it had not been for New Zealand First there would be no such thing as a Modern Apprenticeship Training Act?

Hon SHANE JONES: The ability of the member to join forces with the Government to eradicate the influences of Mr Birch knows no bounds.

Environment, Ministry—Appointment Processes

12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: Was the Ministry for the Environment influenced in its decision to employ Labour Party activist Clare Curran for strategic communications and advice on climate change by the recommendation of Minister Hon David Parker, and on what terms was she employed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment): I apologise for the length of this answer, but members will understand that it is important to get this right. I am advised that there had been a discussion between the Ministry for the Environment and Ms Curran months before she was engaged by the ministry. I am advised that during this discussion Ms Curran outlined her previous experience working for the Australian Government to provide strategic communications advice on climate change. I am advised that after the ministry had indicated that it was actively seeking further communications advice on climate change, Ms Curran was suggested as a possibility by David Parker because of her previous experience in this field. The ministry then met again with Ms Curran and inquired further as to her experience, and as a result she was engaged for 200 hours at $120 an hour for a contract that ran from 22 May 2006 until 28 July 2006. I should point out to people who have made errors in this area that this was approximately a year before the Setchell debacle.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it not a case of blatant cronyism and politicisation of the Public Service when in May last year Clare Curran presented a paper to the Labour Party conference, stating that it needs to change the language of debate if it is to win the next election, when David Parker then commended her employment to the ministry and then, miraculously, the next month she was awarded a contract for strategic communications, and when it was then made worse by him misleading the House last Thursday by stating that the contract was subject to three independent quotes, when this was not true and the contract was let in breach of the ministry’s own operating policy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will take the first question and say, yes, it is not evidence, and I will take the last question and say that it was in breach of the operating policy. That policy does have a fast-track approach whereby a senior—[Interruption] I am actually trying to help the member. There is a fast-track authority method that could have been used quite properly in this case, and it was not.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, when the Local Government and Environment Committee asked: “Has the ministry had contracted any consultants or contractors to provide communications, media, or public relations advice; if so, who, for what purpose, and when?”, did his ministry provide a list of 25 such contracts but, contrary to the advice he has just given the House as to when Clare Curran was in its employ in July 2006, it did not include the contract from Clare Curran?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Madam Speaker—

David Bennett: Go to the backbench now.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, that member will always be an Opposition back-bencher, probably until the point when Sue Moroney beats him in his seat. It is my understanding that the contract was declared in the year that the contract was entered into. If that is not correct, then I will inform the member. Otherwise the member should remember too that she was contracted under a company name, not under her own name.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did his ministry, in response to another question from the Local Government and Environment Committee this year, a request that “for each consultant or contractor engaged and paid more than $10,000, or for which $10,000 is budgeted to be spent in the current financial year, provide the name, type, details, budget, date, etc.”, provide a list of 197 contracts, but just conveniently excluded the most politically sensitive contract, to Clare Curran; and is this just another example of Labour covering up its dodgy dealings with the Public Service?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because neither was she engaged, nor was $10,000 spent in that year.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I just note that the Minister told the House that Clare Curran was employed through to 28 July 2006, which includes the financial year, so I seek leave to table the two questions that were specifically asked by the Local Government and Environment Committee, both on communications contracts and on more general contracts, as well as the answers that were provided by the ministry.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? Yes there is objection.


ENDS

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