Questions and Answers - 6 December 2007
( Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing. )
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Electoral Finance Bill—Interpretation of Clause 80(d)
1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of JusticeJustice: Does she stand by her statement yesterday, in relation to the Electoral Finance Bill, that “I am prepared to listen to the debate on clause 80(d) so that Parliament’s interpretation on the clause will be made clear to the electoral agencies, and that is all they ask.”; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): Yes; because that is what I said.
Hon Bill English: Now that she has listened to the debate on clause 80(d), which occurred last night, how would she summarise Parliament’s interpretation of the phrase “in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I will wait until the Committee stage is completely finished, because I notice that the National Party is prepared to debate anything at any time at any length.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that yesterday she said she was prepared to listen to the debate because that would clarify Parliament’s interpretation of the clause, that now that the debate has happened she has no idea what Parliament’s contribution was to the interpretation of the clause, and, therefore, that the electoral agencies are no further ahead than they were after her other bumbled attempts to explain that clause?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, but I can say to the listening public that when I give my word I keep my word, unlike the member, who said on Radio New Zealand on 4 December there would be no filibuster from the National Party, then tabled 30 amendments during the tea break in order to make sure the debate continued. We cannot believe that Bill English is a man of his word.
Gerry BrownleeGerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to raise several points with you. The first is that that response from the Minister appeared to reflect a degree of personal upset she has about the process that is being engaged in, in the debates on this bill. Secondly, though, the suggestion that an honourable member of this House cannot have his word taken is inappropriate for this House.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister withdraw that part of the statement. Before she does so, I ask everyone in the House, when asking questions and giving answers, to stick to just the question or the answer and not to add any superfluous comments.
Hon ANNETTE KINGHon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw.
Hon Bill English: Why can the Minister not do today what she said she would do yesterday, and that is, having listened to the debate, tell the House what she thinks the law means when it refers to actions “in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament”; she said she would do that yesterday, she has listened to the debate, so why can she not tell us now; and why is she trying to say she will wait while we debate a whole lot of other things that are totally unrelated to this matter?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I will make my comments in my own time. I do not march to Bill English’s tune.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that she took no part whatsoever in the debate yesterday, that the only statements made by the Government were some nonsensical statements by Charles Chauvel, that, in fact, this is her third attempt to bring some clarity to this matter, and that she has failed to bring any clarity to it, despite giving an undertaking to the House to do so?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a total distortion of anything that I said. I will make my comments when I am ready.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell me what is distortionary about the facts that when she said she would listen to the debate as if there would be some kind of debate, she did not take part in it, when that is a matter of fact; that Charles Chauvel made one short, nonsensical speech, when that is a matter of fact; and that she has not met her undertaking to Parliament yesterday, which was to listen to the debate and then clarify the interpretation, when that is also a matter of fact?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Here is a matter of fact. We debated Part 2 yesterday. We started it the night before. I led the debate the night before with a 10-minute speech in which I asked members to contribute to the debate. The member might not have been here for that, but that is the truth; those are the facts.
Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that MPs will want to comply with the law because this is the part of the law that applies to members of Parliament, and that in seeking some understanding of what the law means they have had statements from the chief executive of the Electoral Commission, who says she does not know; one bungled shambles of an explanation from her, which was impractical and, as she admitted herself, wrong; and now a failure to take any clarity from yesterday’s debate about how MPs can comply with the law that Parliament is about to pass?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There were about four questions there. In answer to the first, yes.
Hon Bill English: Whom do MPs ask to find out how to avoid committing the crime of a corrupt practice?
Hon Phil GoffHon Phil Goff: Not the Exclusive Brethren.
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think my colleague is right—not the Exclusive Brethren.
Hon Bill English: When will the Minister give us an interpretation of clause 80(d), so that MPs know how to comply with the law and know how to avoid the very severe penalties that go with committing a corrupt act?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Before this bill is passed.
Business—Government-sponsored Research and Development
2. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Research, Science and TechnologyResearch, Science and Technology: Has he received any reports on the returns from Government-sponsored research and development for businesses?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): I have; this Labour-led Government’s support for business research and development is paying handsome dividends. An evaluation of the Technology for Business Growth scheme just completed shows that over an 18-month period, turnover of firms participating had gone up by 30 percent, and exports for those firms had gone up by 35 percent.
Hon Marian Hobbs: If turnover and exports have risen, has research and development itself gone up, and have new products resulted from this investment?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes; research and development has been measured and it too has risen by 37 percent over 18 months, and a total of 127 new products, processes, or services have eventuated in that time. I look forward to still further increases in investment by the private sector in research and development, especially when the new taxation change for research and development comes into action in April next year. I express again my bewilderment that National continues to oppose those tax changes.
Capital and Coast District Health Board—Ministry Involvement
3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty)Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of HealthHealth: Why are his officials part of a “secret razor gang” advising the Capital and Coast District Health Board to slash the jobs of up to 50 doctors?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health): Far from it. I am advised that four officials from the Ministry of Health have participated, at the request of the district health board, in a joint project to provide future funding sustainability. I am also advised that the report, which I am yet to consider, does not recommend cutting doctor numbers.
Hon Tony Ryall: When the Minister yesterday paid tribute to the hard-working and competent staff at the Capital and Coast District Health Board who are continuing to do their best for the people of Wellington, was he including the 50 doctors whom his officials believe should be sacked from the district health board because they are surplus to requirements?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The presumption of the member’s question is incorrect. Rather than reading from yesterday’s newspaper, may I please refer to another report in a similar vein, which says “there is little pressure on public hospitals to focus on value for money. The funder arms of DHBs consider their hospital providers as monopolies and make few demands for improved performance.” It goes on to recommend that they reduce duplication and waste, “foster regional workforce approaches, ensure strategic decision-making on investment, and allow more impartiality in selecting alternative providers. Those sentiments come from the National Party discussion document on health.
Jill PettisJill Pettis: Could the Minister please further advise the House of what action will be taken on the report?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Although the report was considered yesterday by the current board, I am advised that no decisions will be taken until it is considered by the incoming governance arrangements. There are, of course, a wide range of inputs to be so considered.
Barbara Stewart: Does he think it is acceptable that the people served by the Capital and Coast District Health Board will be further penalised by the consequences of bad financial planning—that is, the blowout in the deficit caused by the construction of the new regional hospital, which was Government approved—if so, why?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I share the determination that is implicit in that question that the people of Wellington shall have first-class, sustainably funded health services, and I understand that that was the purpose of the study to which the primary question refers.
Heather Roy: Why is this Minister contemplating a razor gang at the Capital and Coast District Health Board when in the past year one person from Wairarapa Hospital, five people from Palmerston North, two people from Whanganui, three people from Hawke’s Bay, and three people from Hutt Hospital have died after their tertiary surgery at Wellington Hospital was cancelled and they were sent back to their district health boards because they were too sick to go home; and has he been advised of any of these unnecessary deaths?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member makes a serious allegation, and I remind her that the appropriate process would be to transmit any details surrounding individual case matters to me, either separately or in a primary question.
Heather RoyHeather Roy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked a very specific question, and I realise the seriousness of what I am asking. My question to the Minister was, firstly, why he was contemplating a razor gang, then whether he had been advised of any of these unnecessary deaths.
Madam SPEAKER: There were two questions. Normally, only one question in a supplementary question is required to be addressed. But if the Minister wishes to address the question he may. The first part was not addressed.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place, there is no razor gang, and, in the second place, it is impossible for me to answer the second question if I do not know the cases to which the member refers.
Barbara Stewart: Can he assure all New Zealanders that health planning will not be formulated on an ad hoc basis resulting from knee-jerk responses to local financial and staff shortage crisis situations, as appears to be the case with the Capital and Coast District Health Board; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: That is indeed an important question, and I note that one of the objectives of the sustainable health study that the member refers to was to identify variations between the Capital and Coast District Health Board and other, better-performing district health boards around the country.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does he agree with Judith Aitken, the Chairwoman of the Capital and Coast District Health Board, who said in September this year, in full knowledge of the damning reports about that district health board’s performance, that the Capital and Coast District Health Board is poised to become the country’s “very best and most successful” district health board?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is pretty hard for me to tell the context of comments from a time before I took office. But what I would say is that the Government is investing hugely in building a state-of-the-art, new regional hospital on the Wellington site, and, alongside that, clinicians, managers, and the new governance arrangements will be doing their best to ensure that Wellingtonians receive a first-class service.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that since the year 2000 the Capital and Coast District Health Board has established 64 new management positions but has hired only 59 new doctors, and now it wants to get rid of 50 of them?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I suspect that that data is debatable, but a previous question referred to overruns on the construction project. Presumably, it is useful to have project managers.
Dr Jackie Blue: Can the women of Wellington now expect to have their babies delivered by “Dennis from Accounts”? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Members are entitled to hear the answer.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I think in the first instance it is important to rebut, again, the presumption that there will be any cuts to medical staffing, on which no decisions have been made, and, secondly, to note that the question is unworthy of somebody who has dedicated much of her life to improving women’s health.
Hon Tony RyallHon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table, in order to show that the Capital and Coast District Health Board has employed more managers than doctors in the last 8 years and intends to sack 50 of them, answers to questions for written answer, and information—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFEHon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table the National Party’s discussion document on health.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Tony Ryall: When the Minister answered in the House today that the sustainable health services review does not say that doctors’ jobs should be cut, was he saying that the review does not identify a number of doctor positions surplus to that that might be at other hospitals?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I believe that the difference here is between identifying variation between a current staff complement and output level, and national district health board norms, and recommending specific cuts—on which no decisions have been, or can be, made.
Questions for Oral AnswerQuestion No. 1 to Minister
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister of Justice might want to correct an answer—this being the first opportunity to do so. She told the House that she would give an interpretation of clause 80(d) before the Electoral Finance Bill is passed. The statement of business that the Leader of the House gave does not refer at all to the third reading of that bill. We presume that the third reading will not occur, in that case, until next year—unless the Leader of the House changes his statement of business. So now would be a good opportunity for the Minister of Justice to tell us, in the light of the fact that the Government is not planning to have the third reading of the bill in the next 10 days, when she will give us that interpretation.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The member clearly did not listen to the exchange between myself and Mr Brownlee on the House’s business. In response to popular request, the House will be sitting in the third week of this sitting.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order, and it would seem to me to have been addressed in the business statement.
Environment, Ministry—Chief Executive
4. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister for the EnvironmentEnvironment: Does he have confidence in the chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment): As I have previously told the member, confidence in the chief executive is a matter for the State Services Commissioner.
Gerry Brownlee: Has he had any discussions with the State Services Commissioner about the competence of Mr Logan, noting particularly that in less than a week after providing the Minister with incorrect information, for which the Minister had to come down to the House and make a correction, Hugh Logan has done it again; and why, in this case relating to the attack on Erin Leigh, does the Minister find it so hard to make a correction and an apology?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have regular discussions with Dr Prebble.
Gerry Brownlee: Why did it take 2 weeks for Hugh Logan to apologise publicly for the incorrect information that was used by the Minister in the House to savage Ms Leigh’s credibility, and what prompted that course of action by Mr Logan?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that is something that is better taken up—probably by a select committee—with Mr Logan.
Gerry Brownlee: If all the blame for the vicious attack on Erin Leigh lies with Hugh Logan and the ministry, as they have publicly said, then why is it so hard for the Minister to say sorry for his part in this shameful fiasco?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am waiting to see Dr Prebble’s report.
Gerry Brownlee: Can we take it from the Minister’s answer that Dr Prebble’s report will say something different from Mr Logan’s public statement yesterday and, in fact, will verify that the Minister was given the specific information that he shared with the House when he savaged Ms Leigh?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not a mind reader.
Gerry Brownlee: Is it the case that when the Minister saw the question on the question sheet about a week back relating to Erin Leigh blowing the whistle on David Parker’s interference in the ministry’s employment matters, he got on the phone, called the ministry, and said: “Give me the dirt on this woman so that I can answer in the House and take her out, because anybody who disagrees with the Labour Government is an enemy of the State.”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, that is not correct.
Gerry Brownlee: How many more chances does the Minister think Mr Logan should be given, now that he has damaged the careers of two women who have worked in his ministry and has made two Ministers look shifty and incompetent?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Matters of competence are matters for the State Services Commissioner, but, of course, I do not accept the points made in the latter part of the question.
Corrections, Department—Integrated Offender Management System
5. RON MARK (NZ First)RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of CorrectionsCorrections: Is he satisfied with the performance of Corrections’ Integrated Offender Management system; if so, why?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections): Yes; Integrated Offender Management and the computer system that supports it have been in operation in New Zealand now for 8 years, and meet international best-practice standards and, indeed, all audits that have been done of it. As a system of managing inmates and offering programmes relevant to the nature of their offending, it makes sense. However, the success rate of rehabilitation in prison, which is one aspect of the system, is low internationally.New Zealand does reasonably well by international standards.
Ron Mark: What does the Minister say to the report in this morning’s New Zealand Herald showing that despite the Department of Corrections describing the Integrated Offender Management system in 2000 as “the biggest single initiative the department has undertaken to reduce offending”, it has failed to budge the 2-year reconviction rate of released prisoners from 55 percent and has seen the reimprisonment rate rise from 34 percent to 38.8 percent?
Hon PHIL GOFF: With regard to the latter part of that question—the higher reimprisonment rate—if the member reads all of the report, then he will see that that is attributed to the fact that this Government has introduced much tougher sentencing laws. In relation to the question of rehabilitation, I think that the member understands this area pretty well, and he knows that it is very hard to achieve changes in a short period of time in characteristics that have built up in an inmate’s personality and behaviour that have been established over many years. However, some really good things are happening there right now. If I take drug and alcohol as just one example, we have managed to achieve a 13 percent reduction in reoffending in that area, as the member will know. That is quite significant. If I take the Driving Offender Treatment programme, the reconviction rate was a massive 64 percent. That has been reduced to 46 percent. That is a huge reduction. Obviously, we still have a long way to go, and we will keep adopting international best practice to do better and better.
David Benson-Pope: What further evidence is he able to provide the House with about the effectiveness of programmes aimed to address the causes of offending?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Probably I would like to give the member just one example, which is where New Zealand has achieved the best performance of any country in the world. That is in the area of child sex offenders. The Kia Mārama and the Te Piriti treatment units for child sex offenders have been hugely successful. Reoffending by Kia Mārama programme participants has been reduced to under 5 percent, compared with a level of 25 percent for those who do not attend the programme. That is a fantastic result.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the Integrated Offender Management system records of parolees on the offender warning register are required to be checked every week, yet in the 6 months that Graeme Burton was on probation they were checked only twice, 5 months after he was released and only after he had already breached parole and absconded?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I cannot confirm the detail of what the member has said, but I can say about the Graeme Burton case that the system failed the victims—in this case, Karl Kuchenbecker. That was a result of failures on the part of the Department of Corrections, the Parole Board, and the police. There is no excuse that I want to make for those failures, because they had tragic consequences. I know that the Parole Board, for example, deals with 10,000 cases each year. I know that the Department of Corrections deals with 72,000 cases a year. In this case they made a mistake and it had appalling consequences. I can say to the member, however, that the actions that have been taken of both legislative and operational change are designed to overcome those shortcomings, and we all in this House hope that they will be effective in preventing any reoccurrence.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that data management is a lesser priority than the current desperate need for additional prison staff so that prisons can return to more humane lockdown periods, to reduce risks for both staff and inmates and to increase inmates’ access to rehab programmes; if he does agree, what is he doing about it?
Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member will be aware, there has been an enormous increase in Department of Corrections staff, both in prisons and in terms of probation officers. In particular, in respect of probation officers there has been, I think, something like a 70 percent increase in staffing so that they can do their job effectively in very difficult circumstances. In regard to the question of lockdown that the member mentions, one of the problems—and it is a problem in terms of employment of staff—is that New Zealand has the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years, at 3.5 percent. That has made it more difficult for us to employ Department of Corrections staff. However, we are addressing that problem as a temporary measure so that staff can have their normal Christmas vacations. We are extending lockdown times for that purpose and that purpose alone. It is not designed, as some have suggested, as a cost-saving measure. That simply is inaccurate.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister read Dr Greg Newbold’s criticism stating that the Integrated Offender Management system was “a large and expensive failure” and “another wreck on the scrapheap of abandoned fads of criminal rehabilitation,” or New Zealand First’s comments of August 2004: “The project is a product of a bunch of new-age, criminogenic cyber-speakers in Corrections who have mastered the art of creating work for themselves that is fanciful and fundamentally flawed.”, and can he tell the House whether he will continue pouring money into this project that is not working?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The first thing I need to point out to the member is that the costs quoted in the New Zealand Herald are grossly overstated. The costs of $40 million a year bear no resemblance to reality. The actual cost is $8.5 million—one-fifth the level that the New Zealand Herald quotes. That $8.5 million is made up of $5 million a year in capital investments for upgrades and about $3 million to cover staff and equipment. I can tell the member that every audit, including international audits that have been done of the Integrated Offender Management system, shows that it is effective as a system. It was brought in on time, under budget, and has worked effectively as a management tool. In regard to rehabilitation, I have already quoted some very good figures to the member in that regard.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm the total development and capital costs for the project to date, plus the ongoing operational costs, and, in the interests of openness and transparency, will he now release the reports on the Integrated Offender Management system that his ministry refused to release on 13 August 2004, citing the need to “maintain the effective conduct of public affairs through the free and frank expression of opinions between or to Ministers, offices, and employees of a Government department” as his reason for withholding that information?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I will answer maybe one of those questions. Firstly, I can confirm the figure that I have given the member of $8.5 million a year in costs. If the member approaches me, then I can give him the names of the actual companies that were responsible for the various audits of the Integrated Offender Management system. I do not know why the department may have refused the report’s release before. I will have to talk to the department about that, but I am happy to take up that matter with the member.
Ron Mark: Is the Minister absolutely confident that the Integrated Offender Management system will not be Labour’s INCIS; if so, how much more money will be poured into developing and maintaining this system to a stage that it produces effective results, before he finally pulls the pin?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I can absolutely assure the member of that fact. INCIS was a National Government disaster and ended up being scrapped before it was even put into effect. The member remembers that, and so do most of the members on the National benches who were there at the time. Contrary to the INCIS debacle of the National Government, this system has now been in operation for 8 years. It was brought in on time and on budget. That should absolutely assure the member that there is no comparison between National’s bungle over INCIS and the Integrated Offender Management system, which has worked reasonably well.
David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister detail to the House the steps taken to address the concern expressed in the New Zealand Herald article this morning on reoffending, that only 26 percent of prisoners in 2005 were in employment?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I can certainly answer that question. In the last 2 years, there has been a huge focus on producing work for inmates. That number of 26 percent of inmates in employment within 2 years is now 46 percent. Our target by 2010 will be 60 percent. I think it will make sense to the public that inmates are doing work, are paying back something to society in that respect, and, most important, are getting work skills and work experience that assist with their reintegration back into the community at the point they are released.
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of State ServicesState Services: Does he have confidence in the Public Service?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services): Yes.
Gerry Brownlee: If a briefing has been provided to a Minister in order to assist him or her to answer a question in the House and the briefing, for example, states that there have been complaints—about any particular issue—from a number of Government departments and officials, would the Minister expect those complaining departments or officials to be identified?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am not sure whether I follow the import of that question. But I restate that I have confidence in the public sector.
Gerry BrownleeGerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister says he does not understand the question. Can I clarify the question?
Madam SPEAKER: If the member wishes to put another question, then he should please do so.
Gerry BrownleeGerry Brownlee: No, I do not. I am still on a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. His answer was that he did not understand the question. The member has the opportunity to ask another question.
Gerry Brownlee: When the briefing note was provided for the Hon Trevor Mallard, speaking on his behalf in the House about a week ago, during which Mr Mallard managed to besmirch the reputation of Erin Leigh by saying that six pieces of her work were rejected and there were numerous complaints from other Government departments, agencies, and officials, including himself, were all the other agencies identified?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That does not seem to be a matter within my responsibility, in the context of this question.
Food Labelling—Country of Origin
7. SUE KEDGLEY (Green)SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food SafetyFood Safety: Why is it not mandatory to label fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, pork and pork products to show the country in which it was made or produced, as it is in Australia, with which we share joint labelling standards?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister for Food Safety): New Zealand opted out of the joint labelling standard, which goes much further than the foods identified by the member. We opted out for several reasons, including the fact that country-of-origin labelling does not serve a food safety purpose, and that such labelling requirements would have added significant costs that would be passed on to consumers for no food safety benefit.
Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister respond positively to the 39,000-signature petition being presented to Parliament today calling for mandatory country-of-origin labelling of fresh and single component foods—which of course have no cost in terms of labelling—that is supported by a wide range of organisations, ranging from Horticulture New Zealand, the Pork Industry Board, Consumers Institute, Grey Power, Rural Women, the Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Council of Trade Unions, Safe Food Campaign, Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, the Soil and Health Association, and many, many others?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The issue of country-of-origin labelling does not fall within the food safety purview of my portfolio in respect of the point that is being made regarding this petition. But I do note very favourably that in respect of all of the support that has been gathered for the petition, both Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises have voluntarily introduced labelling on these products.
Ann Hartley: Has the Minister seen any reports on food exports from China; if so, what do they say?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am glad that the member raises the question of food exports from China, because often when people ask for country-of-origin labelling there is an assumption that where the food comes from is in itself indicative of the safety of the food. A recent report that I had from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare was that Chinese exports to Japan, which is China’s biggest food export market, reached a conformity rate of 99.42 percent—a rate that was higher than that of exports from the United States and the European Union.
Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware that despite various supermarkets claiming they are voluntarily labelling foods as to their country of origin, a survey of 10 food outlets, including supermarkets surveyed last week, found that 75 percent of the fresh foods that we sampled were not labelled as to their country of origin, and no meat products and virtually no fish products were labelled; and is this not clear evidence that voluntary efforts are not working, and that we need the same country-of-origin labelling regulations for fresh foods as already exist for footwear and clothing in this country?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The point that the member raises is exactly my point. When we look at the question of labelling of footwear and clothing, we see that it is not a question of safety; it is a question of consumer affairs. That is where the issue lies, in terms of portfolio responsibility. There are no food safety issues in relation to country-of-origin labelling.
Criminal Justice Sector—Ombudsman's Comments
8. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei)SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of JusticeJustice: Does she agree with the report of the Ombudsman, released yesterday, which states that the criminal justice sector is suffering from a loss of public and political confidence, and that this is putting the system at “serious risk”?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice): The Ombudsman’s report is wide ranging. It deserves careful consideration, and that is what this Government will give it.
Simon Power: Does she agree with the Ombudsman, regarding the criminal justice sector, that there is “an absence of rational decision-making based on any critical examination of the issues.”, which exists “at the policy development, political and legislative stages and also importantly at the various operational levels”; if not, why not?
Hon ANNETTE KING: This report was tabled yesterday. The Government intends to give it serious consideration, and not make ad hoc and off-the-hoof comments until it has been properly considered. There are many parts to it.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with the Ombudsman’s view that there is a lack of coherence in the policy direction of criminal justice legislation since 1999; and is this not summed up by the fact that in the last year the Government has been more concerned with prison numbers than with public safety yet in 2004 Phil Goff crowed about rising prison numbers as evidence that he was getting tough on crime?
Hon ANNETTE KING: It would be very easy for one to go through such a comprehensive report and take out any negative one could find. I could have easily gone through and taken out positives, but I want to give the report serious consideration and not a once-over-lightly.
Simon Power: Does the Minister think that a commission of inquiry into the criminal justice sector, as suggested by the Ombudsman, is justified; and how can this be seen as anything but a condemnation of the Government’s management of the sector when the Ombudsman says it is suffering from a loss of public confidence that is putting the justice system at serious risk?
Hon ANNETTE KING: What we are having from the member is a once-over-lightly. We will consider that when we consider the whole report.
Simon Power: Has the Minister read the Ombudsman’s analysis of the Government’s effective interventions initiatives, where he states: “I want to express my disappointment at a lack of emphasis on youth justice and the low priority given to addressing the precursors of crime.”; and is this really any surprise when the Youth Justice Ministers Group did not meet for 3 years?
Hon ANNETTE KING: We will consider all the issues in the report in due course.
Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe; tēnā tātou. Has the
Minister seen the comment made last week by Ngāti Kahungunu
lawyer Moana Jackson describing “the fragility of the
relationship between Māori people and the institutions
charged with justice in this country”, and does she
believe that this accounts for what the Ombudsman describes
in his report as “differences of view between the Ministry
of Justice and Te Puni Kōkiri, which have been allowed to
impede the formulation of plans to deal with one of the more
unsatisfactory aspects of our criminal justice system”;
and what will she do about it?
koe; tēnā tātou. Has the Minister seen the comment made last week by Ngāti Kahungunu lawyer Moana Jackson describing “the fragility of the relationship between Māori people and the institutions charged with justice in this country”, and does she believe that this accounts for what the Ombudsman describes in his report as “differences of view between the Ministry of Justice and Te Puni Kōkiri, which have been allowed to impede the formulation of plans to deal with one of the more unsatisfactory aspects of our criminal justice system”; and what will she do about it?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that a major cause of lack of confidence in the criminal justice system is the way that victims of crime are treated, and does she further agree that the recommendations from the victims’ rights inquiry initiated by the Green Party will help to restore that confidence when its recommendations are presented to the House?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no doubt that victims of crime in New Zealand have not had the attention they deserve. They have had considerable attention in the last few years in comparison with the past, and we are focusing on victims’ rights. I commend the Green Party for its inquiry, but I also note that it was not an inquiry the National Party was particularly interested in being involved in.
Dr Pita Sharples: What progress has the Minister made in responding to the recommendation from the Hon Justice Eddie Taihākūrei Durie to the New Zealand Parole Board conference—to address what he describes as “the paucity of research information in relation to Māori and the management of crime”—that a school for the study of Māori offending should be established, which would include within its scope the role of restorative justice, Māori custom, and the tradition of community control of local conduct?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I am sorry to inform the member that I have not seen those comments and I am unable to give him an answer to that question.
Child, Youth and Family—Unallocated Cases
9. MOANA MACKEY (Labour)MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and EmploymentSocial Development and Employment: What reports has she received regarding the number of unallocated cases within Child, Youth and Family?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I am delighted to report to the House that I have received a report that the number of unallocated cases has plummeted by 83 percent over the last 3 years. This is an absolutely fantastic achievement. It is the result of a continued focus within all Child, Youth and Family sites on providing the right services to children, young people, and their families, and ensuring that they get these services as quickly as possible.
Moana Mackey: What reports has the Minister received regarding unallocated cases in Whakatāne?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I can advise the House that I visited the Child, Youth and Family office in Whakatāne with the member who is asking the question. Social workers and managers at that office were delighted to inform me that every single case has been allocated within the required time frames. Local managers and staff are intent on providing excellent services to their community, and they deserve to be congratulated on this outstanding achievement.
Sue Bradford: Is the Government going to implement the Children’s Commissioner’s call for systematic assessment and intervention, where needed, for all babies, children, and young people in order to change the reality faced by those New Zealand children for whom, as the commissioner said today, the battle for survival remains a major challenge?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am working alongside other colleagues and the Children’s Commissioner on her proposal.
Hato Pāora College—Sexual Abuse Allegations
10. KATHERINE RICH (National)KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of EducationEducation: Will he order an inquiry into the handling of sex abuse allegations against the principal of Hato Pāora College by his ministry and the board of Hato Pāora College; if not, why not?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: My colleague the Minister of Education told the House on 22 November 2007 that he had already requested a report from his officials on this issue. Any information that the Ministry of Education has is now in the hands of the police, and as the matter is before the courts it is not appropriate to comment further.
Katherine Rich: Is the Minister aware that since his last statements to the House, where he strongly endorsed the process used by the school and his ministry, an Auckland lawyer has come forward to say he warned the school and the ministry during the appointment process, Child, Youth and Family has gone on the record to say that the school passed on only one of the two complaints, and further allegations have been made regarding the second complainant, who, at best, was encouraged, or at worst, was bullied, to stay silent; rather than just calling for a report, why does he not call for a full inquiry and get to the bottom of this matter?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: While these matters are before the courts it is not appropriate for me to comment further on this case. I note again for the benefit of the member that all the relevant information held by the Ministry of Education has been provided to the police.
Dianne Yates: Is the Ministry of Education cooperating with the authorities in investigating these allegations?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. All information held by the Ministry of Education has been handed over to the police. I am also aware from media reports at the weekend that others also claim to hold information relevant to the allegations. I urge them to make that information available to the police if they have not already done so.
Katherine Rich: Why does the Minister stand in the House and say that this matter is now before the courts and he cannot make any comments, when for nearly 3 weeks he has stood in this House and answered six primary questions and nearly 30 supplementary questions on this issue, but now that his story is starting to unravel and information continually comes out that proves that what he said in the House is wrong, he clams up and says the matter is before the courts?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The reason for the number of responses is that the same person has continually asked the same question. This matter is being fully investigated by the police—the place where it should be investigated.
Katherine Rich: Why will the Minister not order a real investigation into the handling of serious allegations of sexual abuse in a school, when he has been told that the board undertook its own interrogation of students, allegedly bullied one complainant into staying silent, and passed on selective evidence to Child, Youth and Family; when, unusually, Child, Youth and Family has gone on the record to say it received only one of the two complaints; and when we now hear that an Auckland lawyer told the school and the ministry during the application process that the appointment should not be made, yet the Minister shrugs his shoulders, and says it is not his problem and he is not doing anything about it?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: All relevant material has been handed to the police. In relation to the further points that have been brought up by the lawyer or by anybody else, if anyone has relevant information, that needs to be forwarded to the police, because this matter is sub judice. If the member does not understand that, she should.
Katherine Rich: Is not the real reason the Minister will not order an inquiry into what the ministry did and did not do, and the process that was used, that he stood in the House week after week, saying that the school had followed the appropriate process and everything had gone along swimmingly, and that an inquiry will prove that almost everything he said in this House is wrong?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly not. There is a police inquiry. What is wrong with the police?
Local and Central Government—Partnerships
11. LESLEY SOPER (Labour)LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of HousingHousing: What recent announcements has she made regarding partnerships between the Labour-led Government and territorial authorities?
Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing): Yesterday I opened Whakahoa Village in Christchurch, which will provide 20 modern, affordable homes. This fantastic $5 million project was jointly funded by the Labour-led Government and the Christchurch City Council. This is a great example of how this Government and territorial authorities are working together to make housing more affordable.
Lesley Soper: What other initiatives have been developed in partnership with territorial authorities to encourage the establishment of more affordable housing?
Hon MARYAN STREET: On Tuesday the Affordable Housing: Enabling Territorial Authorities Bill was introduced, which gives territorial authorities the tools they need to help keep home ownership as part of the Kiwi dream. This is one of a number of initiatives that this Government is considering. Unlike National, we understand that the solution to housing affordability is more complex than slashing environmental controls and selling off State houses.
Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Is the
Minister concerned that the bill as it stands could possibly
have the effect of making the majority of housing less
affordable, while making a small number of houses more
koe, Madam Speaker. Is the Minister concerned that the bill as it stands could possibly have the effect of making the majority of housing less affordable, while making a small number of houses more affordable?
249Hon MARYAN STREET: No, I am not. It will take more devices than only this bill to pop the housing affordability bubble. But there is no sustainable evidence for us to infer that this will make housing more unaffordable; quite the reverse is true.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister planning any further announcements aimed at removing zoning interventions by territorial authorities, such as Auckland’s metropolitan urban limit, with a view to increasing the supply of land for new housing, thus reducing section prices and wrong-footing greedy land bankers?
Hon MARYAN STREET: The issues to which the member alludes are really quite problematic. In fact, we have to consider as a country whether we want to perpetuate urban sprawl, or whether some greater density of housing is a more appropriate and environmentally sensible way to proceed with affordable housing.
12. COLIN KING (National—Kaikoura)COLIN KING (National—Kaikoura) to the Minister for Tertiary EducationTertiary Education: Will the Government meet the target of having 14,000 Modern Apprentices by December 2008; if so, how?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Tertiary Education): The answer is yes; we will meet the target of 14,000 Modern Apprentices by December 2008. The answer to the second question of how we will do so is easily—probably about a year ahead of schedule.
Colin King: Can the Minister confirm that the target of 14,000 Modern Apprentices by December 2008 relates to the number of apprentices in training at that time, and does not count those who have already completed their training; if so, why, in answer to an oral question of 13 November, did he do just that—count both current and completed apprentices towards that target?
Hon PETE HODGSON: When we say 14,000 apprentices, we of course mean those who are in training and those who have completed their training. It would not be a good idea to take apprentices who have completed their training and keep them in training in order to get to 14,000. A good idea would be to get them into the workforce, because the bosses of the land want apprentices as fast as they can get them.
Madam SPEAKER: It is becoming impossible to hear.
Colin King: Is a reason that the Minister is now fiddling with the Modern Apprenticeship numbers that, after 6 years of funding totalling over $100 million and years of poor completion rates, he has realised that Labour is on track to another broken promise, to sit alongside the broken promises about 20 free hours’ early childhood education and new entrant ratios?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I can hardly believe my ears. The member of Parliament who asked this question seems to want this Government to keep people in apprenticeships so that we can get to 14,000 in training. That is not the name of the game. The name of the game is to get them through apprenticeships as fast as we can, because there is a significant skills shortage in this country. I urge the member to strongly support the Modern Apprenticeship programme, because 15 years ago his predecessors took an axe to apprenticeships altogether—one of the most stupid decisions ever taken in this country.
Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear either the question or the answer on that, so if this level of barracking continues, members will be asked to leave the Chamber.
Colin KingColin King: Why is it that, after 6 years and over $100 million in funding, the Minister still cannot calculate a completion rate for the scheme; or is it more a case that he would prefer not to know, given recent examples such as trainers receiving up to $165,000 for only one completion, and another trainer receiving $1.2 million for only 22 completions?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Who knows what the last part of that question was about. Let me tell members how we count Modern Apprenticeships in this land. We start there and go one, two, three. We do it like that, and we will get up to 14,000 well ahead of December 2008. This is a promise that has been over-delivered on.
Colin KingColin King: I seek leave to table completions to date and their costs.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Questions to Members
Regulatory Responsibility Bill—Progress
1. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Chairperson of the Commerce CommitteeCommerce Committee: What progress has the committee made on considering the Regulatory Responsibility Bill?
GERRY BROWNLEE (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): The select committee received this bill some time ago and went through an extensive process of listening to the points that were made by various submitters. In the course of hearing those submissions the overwhelming feeling was that this was a good bill with an intention that was much required inside the New Zealand regulatory environment. A number of submitters suggested ways in which the bill might be made to even further enhance the opportunity of ensuring regulatory responsibility in New Zealand, and so the select committee has embarked on a process of informing itself of how a bill, which will come back to the House, might best achieve that.
Rodney Hide: Is there any other matter of this most extraordinary committee that this most able chairman would like to bring to the attention of the House at this time?
Madam SPEAKER: That question is fine, as long as members know that the member who responds is to talk about questions of process, not the substance of matters that are before the committee.
GERRY BROWNLEE: It would certainly be a rare thing in this House for anybody to answer a question with substance in it. My answer to the member is yes. The work of the select committee involved a housing inquiry, as the member will know. The preliminary results of that inquiry were so alarming that Helen Clark was moved to take one of our committee members and put her in Cabinet—
Madam SPEAKER: We are now moving into conclusions.
Questions for Oral AnswerQuestion No. 2 to Members
KATHERINE RICH (National): My question is to the chairperson of the Education and Science Committee and asks: what progress has been made on the committee’s inquiry into making the schooling system work for every child?
Central): On behalf of the chairperson of the
Education and Science Committee—
On behalf of the chairperson of the Education and Science Committee—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but unless the chair is out of the country, the deputy chair cannot reply. Is the chair out of the country? No. Then I am sorry—[Interruption] A member may seek leave for that, if he or wishes to. Leave is not sought. Then I call question No. 3 to members.
3. Hon TAU HENARE (National)Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Chairperson of the Māori Affairs CommitteeMāori Affairs Committee: When does the committee expect to be able to report to the House on the petition of Hariata Baker requesting that the House ensure the will of Pukepuke Tangiora be revived in its original form, as it was before the implementation of the recommendations contained in the Native Affairs Committee report on Petition 52/1942?
DAVE HEREORA (Chairperson of the Māori Affairs Committee): As the member is fully aware, the committee is yet to decide on this matter.
Hon Tau Henare: Has this petition raised broader issues relating to the administration of Māori property trusts, and has the committee considered a wider inquiry into Māori property trusts and the role of the Crown in appointing trustees instead of the beneficiaries of the trust appointing trustees; if not, why not?
DAVE HEREORA: The issue raised by the member is currently before the committee, and I refuse to comment at this time.
4. CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National)CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral CommitteeJustice and Electoral Committee: When does the committee expect to deliberate on the victims’ rights inquiry?
LYNNE PILLAY (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): I am delighted to say that the committee deliberated on the victims’ rights inquiry this morning, and authorised the chair to issue a press release announcing the report would be presented in the near future. That member, who is the deputy chair, would have known that, if he had read his agenda and not skived off early from the committee meeting.
Christopher Finlayson: Can the chairperson give an assurance that any submitters who appeared before the committee to assist it with its inquiry received ample time to actually make their submissions, unlike the shambolic process engaged in with the Electoral Finance Bill?
LYNNE PILLAY: Yes, I can. I can assure the member that submitters were treated very well by the committee. I can also assure the member that when the committee undertook its trip to Australia to investigate and get advice on human rights over there—a trip on which the member refused to accompany the committee—we received really good advice there, too.
Marine Reserves Bill—Progress
5. ERIC ROY (National—Invercargill)ERIC ROY (National—Invercargill) to the Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment CommitteeLocal Government and Environment Committee: What progress has been made on the committee’s consideration of the Marine Reserves Bill?
MOANA MACKEY (Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee): Submissions on the bill have been heard, and the report date for the bill is 13 June 2008.
Eric Roy: Does the chairperson expect to complete consideration in 2008, or will the committee be seeking extensions, as it has have done on a regular basis?
MOANA MACKEY: Decisions around timetabling are a matter for the committee. As that member well knows, there is nothing stopping him from attending the committee in order to be part of those decisions.
Timberlands West Coast—Financial Review
AUCHINVOLE (National)CHRIS AUCHINVOLE
(National) to the
Chairperson of the Primary Production
to the Chairperson of the Primary Production CommitteePrimary Production Committee: When will the committee finalise the 2006-07 financial review of Timberlands West Coast?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee): The committee is in its final stages of consideration, and expects to report very, very shortly.
Chris Auchinvole: Is he aware of statements made by Ministers Cullen and Hodgson throughout 2002 that Timberlands West Coast had a viable financial future and is still—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. This matter is not appropriate.
Regulatory Responsibility Bill—Hearing of Evidence
RICHARD WORTH (National)Dr
RICHARD WORTH (National) to the Chairperson of the Commerce
to the Chairperson of the Commerce CommitteeCommerce Committee: Has the committee finished hearing evidence on the Regulatory Responsibility Bill?
GERRY BROWNLEE (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): There are two submitters who wish to be heard by the committee at this point. The dilemma the committee is facing is over the availability of suitable rooms in the complex in which to hear those submitters, because they live in far-flung parts of New Zealand and we wish to offer them the opportunity to be heard by videoconference. Of course, that presents a problem also, because in far-flung parts of New Zealand there are no videoconferencing facilities. So the committee may yet have to travel further in order that those New Zealanders may give their views on this most important bill.
Dr Richard Worth: When is the bill due to be reported back, and does he expect that the bill will be reported back prior to the due date?
GERRY BROWNLEE: The bill is due to be reported back, I am advised, by 19 May 2008—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: You were in the chair.
GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, that is right. I should know; Dr Cullen is right. I wish to apologise to the House for not being as specific as I could be. None the less, I am advised that the bill is due back in the House by 19 May 2008, and at this stage it would appear that the committee’s workload will mean that the bill will be reported back by about that date.
8. JO GOODHEW (National—Aoraki)JO GOODHEW (National—Aoraki) to the Chairperson of the Health CommitteeHealth Committee: How many submissioners have been heard on the inquiry into the provision of ambulance services?
SUE KEDGLEY (Chairperson of the Health Committee): Eleven.
Jo Goodhew: Has the Health Committee received a briefing from the Ministry of Health that addresses reports from submitters that ambulance services in some parts of New Zealand are fragmented, with some rural areas receiving substandard access to ambulance services, and that, in the case of some rural fire services, 80 percent of their call-outs are ambulance calls and only 20 percent are for fires?
SUE KEDGLEY: Yes.
Waitemata District Health Board—Financial Review
9. Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote)Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Chairperson of the Health CommitteeHealth Committee: When will the 2006/07 financial review of the Waitemata District Health Board be completed?
SUE KEDGLEY (Chairperson of the Health Committee): As we have not begun the review yet, I have no idea.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Once we have begun the review, will there be an opportunity for members of the public to come before the committee and share their experiences of lying on hospital trolleys in North Shore Hospital’s emergency department for periods of up to 24 hours, in the course of which the Prime Minister breezed through to unveil a statue?
SUE KEDGLEY: If the member requests such an opportunity, I am sure the committee will consider that request very seriously.
Health, Ministry—Financial Review
10. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National)Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Chairperson of the Health CommitteeHealth Committee: When will the 2006-07 financial review of the Ministry of Health be completed?
SUE KEDGLEY (Chairperson of the Health Committee): In the very near future.
Dr Jackie Blue: Will further time be allocated for the Ministry of Health to appear before the committee to explain why it was involved in the plan, as revealed in the newspaper today, to axe 50 doctors from the Capital and Coast District Health Board, which followed a report about 23 serious and sentinel events that occurred there between 2003 and 2005, resulting in the deaths of 16 patients?
SUE KEDGLEY: I rather suspect that the committee will want a briefing on this rather extraordinary development, which we learnt about today.
Hon Tony RyallHon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The chair of the committee did not address the question one iota at all. The question from Jackie Blue asked whether the Ministry of Health would reappear before the select committee, and the chair did not talk about that.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry, but she did address the question. Given the confines of the ability of chairs to answer these questions, may I observe that they were all done—all of them—very well.