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Questions And Answers - 14 February 2008

Questions And Answers 14 February 2008

1. Electricity—Supply

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

1. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Has he received a report on yesterday’s National Winter Group meeting led by Transpower; if so, what did the report conclude on electricity supply security in New Zealand for this coming winter?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : I have not received a formal report, but I have received draft minutes. Those minutes confirmed what I said in the House yesterday. An important element of security of supply is whether we can restore part of Pole 1 of the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) link across Cook Strait, and work on that is progressing.

Gerry Brownlee: Does he agree with the chief executive officer of Meridian Energy, who told the Commerce Committee this morning that security of supply is as finely balanced as he has ever seen it in his 39 years in the electricity industry in New Zealand, or does he still wish to insist that there is really not too much of a problem and that we will get through it?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I do agree with Dr Turner’s comments, but I also reinforce the point that notwithstanding the very unusual coincidence of adverse effects happening at once, the system is coping.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You’ve run the system down.

Hon DAVID PARKER: We have not run the system down. There are unprecedented levels of investment in both transmission and generation.

Dave Hereora: When does Transpower expect to make a decision on the partial restoration of Pole 1?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Transpower’s chief executive officer, Patrick Strange, said this morning that he expects a decision on that will be taken in the next few weeks.

Gordon Copeland: Why, when the risks around the ageing Cook Strait cable have been highlighted by Keith Turner of Meridian Energy and others for some time, have we reached the point where one pole of the cable is apparently uninsurable, and will he hold the entity responsible for that—be it Transpower or the Electricity Commission—accountable for placing our electricity supply system at unnecessary risk?

Hon DAVID PARKER: It will come as no surprise to the member that when the Government was surprised by the somewhat sudden retirement of one pole of the Cook Strait cable last year, it was very fulsome in its expression of opinion about how surprised it was to be surprised.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You were told 5 years ago!

Hon DAVID PARKER: That is not correct. Until I received a phone call late last year, 24 hours before it was retired, we were told that it had many years of life left in it.

Gerry Brownlee: Can we take it from the Minister’s answers that the incoming briefings provided to him, presumably from his forebears also in Cabinet, did not tell him of the problem that they had known about for at least 5 years; and why cannot he take some responsibility for a HVDC link that now looks like a frayed rubber band about to go at any point?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not think it is acceptable that within 24 hours we had a change from an important part of the electricity infrastructure being available for many years to its being retired at the end of that week, albeit on a temporary basis.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that despite the urgency around the survival of the HVDC link, the Electricity Commission, which is supposed to guarantee security of supply, is not even considering a proposal either to replace or to repair it?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot confirm that, because it is not so.

Gerry Brownlee: It is so!

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it is not. The Electricity Commission can only consider an application that is made to it. It is awaiting the application from Transpower. The technical specifications are also being prepared by Transpower separate from that process to put out to tender, so that the Electricity Commission procedures do not affect the practical implementation of the upgrade that we need.

Peter Brown: Noting the concern in this House and in the public at large about the possibility of security of supply being threatened, and noting that the Minister answered yesterday by saying he could not guarantee security of supply, can he at least guarantee that all the participants in the electricity industry will work together on a coordinated approach in orderto address the current problems and any potential problems?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can indeed confirm that relationships between different parts of the electricity sector are better than they were a year ago.

Peter Brown: If relationships within the industry are improving—and are certainly improving upon a year ago—is it feasible to suggest to the Government that it considers amalgamating the Government-owned entities and recognising that the Bradford reforms of 1998 were indeed a failure and that we should put the sector all back under one authority; is it feasible to ask the Government to consider that suggestion?

Hon DAVID PARKER: It is one of the options that the Government considered last year, and full papers as to the merits and demerits of that are publicly available and are, I think, sitting on the Ministry of Economic Development website.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister concur with the recommendations that came out of the chief executive officer’s meeting yesterday, suggesting that New Zealand will get through this winter successfully only if the suppliers can rely on interrupted supply, which means cold showers, no heaters, and industrial shut-downs?

Hon DAVID PARKER: That member put that same incorrect assertion to Dr Turner at the select committee today, and Dr Turner rejected it and said it is not correct. The system is designed to be able to withstand multiple contingencies happening at the same time, as is evidenced by the fact that notwithstanding multiple contingencies already happening at the same time, the power system is, at this stage, coping.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a document that shows that Dr Turner said it would require Comalco to shut down, would require hot water to be turned off, and would require other disruptions to supply in order to survive, if at all possible.

- Leave granted.

2. Youth—Education Initiatives

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What action is the Government taking to ensure all young people achieve their potential through education?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : As the Prime Minister announced in the House on Tuesday, the Labour-led Government plans to revolutionise secondary schooling with our realising youth potential Schools Plus programme, which will ensure all young people are in education or training until the age of 18. Schools Plus will significantly improve the skill levels of all young New Zealanders, contribute to stronger communities, and ensure our economy has the skilled workers it needs to keep us prosperous.

Moana Mackey: What steps has the Labour-led Government already taken to improve learning opportunities for young New Zealanders?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Since 1999 the Labour-led Government has changed the direction of secondary schooling from a pass or fail model under National to a modern education system focused on building success for all students. The National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) gives students a comprehensive record of what they have actually achieved at school; we have rebuilt the route into trade and technical careers destroyed by the National Government, with Modern Apprenticeships, Gateway, and now Youth Apprenticeships; and we have launched the New Zealand curriculum to enable schools to personalise the education they offer to meet student and community needs. Schools Plus will build on these initiatives and give students and teachers a much wider range of education options to keep them engaged in learning up to and beyond the age of 18.

Anne Tolley: Why is the Government forcing students aged 16 and over to stay at school when the truancy rate for years 11 to 13 has already risen by 25 percent since 2004 and when many of these students just want the flexibility and choice that the National Party policy provides, where they can go out into the workforce and start earning a living?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Schools Plus is all about flexibility and choice.

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear in this Chamber when the barracking begins. So everyone gets an opportunity to hear, members will be asked to leave.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is not about the compulsion to go into a boot camp; it is about finding a pathway—whether that is a Youth Apprenticeship, working in an industry training organisation, working with a tertiary institution, or just staying at school—and students will get those choices under Schools Plus. It is an incredibly revolutionary idea, it builds on initiatives that we are already doing, and I think it is a fantastic programme.

Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister give an explanation for the findings of the Social Report 2007 that while 65 percent of European school leavers left school with NCEA level 2 or higher, only 36 percent of Māori school leavers achieved the same status, and what impact does that have on the ability to be employed?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It has a very serious impact on employment, and it is for exactly the reasons the member has outlined—and I share those concerns with the member—that we need to do something to change the way secondary schools operate, and Schools Plus is about that. It is about widening the range of options so that we can keep all young New Zealanders in education, which is not only good for them but also good for our country.

Dr Pita Sharples: Given this lag in Māori education, will the Minister be resurrecting the manaaki tauira scholarship grant to allow more Māori to attend university?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I cannot comment on that particular programme, but what I can assure the member is that we will be utterly focusing on students in our school system at the moment who are not succeeding, the 40 percent of students who are leaving school without the equivalent of NCEA level 2. We have to provide new pathways to upskill those students.

3. Hospitals—Safety

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Why are New Zealand public hospitals “unacceptably unsafe”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : New Zealand’s public hospitals serve the vast majority of New Zealanders very well, by international standards, and this country has a better safety record than many overseas countries, including Australia and the United States. I welcomed the recent comments by the Health and Disability Commissioner who, while highlighting substantial improvement over recent years, challenged the system to continue improving quality. The Government has committed to doing this as a top priority.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think New Zealand public hospitals are unsafe, and why should New Zealand patients have any confidence that this Labour Government will deal with unsafe hospitals when it is clear that after the commissioner’s damning comments of 2 years ago, all that he and Mr Hodgson have done is set up yet another committee and write a letter?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I have said, I think New Zealand’s public hospital system serves the vast majority of New Zealanders very well. Since becoming Minister of Health, I have not only outlined the Government’s priorities to all district health boards through the annual letter of expectations but tied district health board budgets in order to progress on the quality and safety agenda.

Jill Pettis: What has the Minister done since taking office to look at safety issues in the health sector?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Since becoming Minister of Health in November last year, I have, as I said, sent all district health boards a formal letter of expectations outlining my expectations to put quality issues at the top of their agenda. For the first time, we made a proportion of district health board budgets conditional on their meeting performance targets for quality improvement, and we are working cooperatively with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare staff to push forward the quality agenda. I add that the Prime Minister in her opening speech to Parliament this year emphasised how seriously the Government is pushing this issue.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister consider that increased monitoring of the public health system will be sufficient on its own to improve the quality of medical care, or will he also investigate measures such as separating elective and emergency surgery?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Transparency is important, but it is not enough to stop there. We need to build learning organisations that prevent errors from occurring wherever possible. That must involve an active partnership with clinicians at all levels.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that it is a shocking state of affairs when we do not even have enough basic information to know whether the rates of infection and medication errors or the numbers of people who die during or shortly after surgery are actually improving in our hospitals or getting worse, and why does he think his predecessors in the health portfolio refused to require the publishing of this information, despite repeated requests by the Green Party and the Health Committee over many years?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that under the previous Government such data was not collected at all. This Government set up the Quality Improvement Committee, which has a project under way to collect standardised data for incident reporting and open disclosure across all district health boards. The Quality Improvement Committee is also working on medication safety, infection control, improved patient flows, and a mortality database, which identifies conclusively causes of death.

Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister concede that in spite of significant increases in funding in the public health sector since the year 2000, understaffing and overwork of those existing staff remains a problem and that waiting lists are still far too high, and would he therefore acknowledge that one of the solutions that ought to be considered in order to make New Zealand hospitals safer and more effective is greater use of capacity in the private surgical sector to perform elective surgery procedures?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In answer to the two parts of that question, I say that, no, I do not accept that the sector is understaffed. This Government has brought in another 2,000 doctors and 4,500 nurses since taking office in 1999. However, I agree with the member that it is important that all theatre capacity, whether public or private, is optimally used, to the benefit of New Zealand patients.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think our hospitals are safe, when a 60-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis was admitted to Auckland City Hospital and for the 4 days she was there did not have her teeth cleaned or her hearing aids put in, had only the food her family took in because she could not eat the food provided, was turned only when the family requested it, and could not read any books because no one would put them in her hands; and after 8 years of a Labour Government and $5 billion extra put into the health budget, is that the standard of care we want to give our grandparents?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I share the member’s concern that every New Zealand patient is well treated. If the member would be kind enough to follow the normal convention of providing such information privately to the Minister, or in the primary question, rather than playing politics with the issue, then I would be happy to investigate.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think our public hospitals are safe for patients, when a 74-year-old man, during his first 4 days in a public hospital, had no personal care, did not have his bandages changed, was not checked for a rapidly growing infection where an intravenous luer was inserted, and had a different nurse every shift for 4 days; and after 8 years of Labour and $5 billion extra, is that the first-class health system Helen Clark boasted about on Tuesday?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Government shares the concern that every New Zealander should receive first-class health care. If the member would like to share information about the case, rather than playing politics with an individual family’s concerns, then I will see that it is followed up.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister realise he has actually missed the point of what Ron Paterson was talking about yesterday, because he was not talking just about the major sentinel events where people die but also about the many everyday cases where systemic failure, mistakes, and poor standard of care lead to a lot of inconvenience, suffering, and distress for more and more patients, which is increasingly the reality for many of our older New Zealanders?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member may not have heard, but the Government is attaching priority, and requiring district health boards to attach priority, to a broad-based quality and safety agenda. At no time has the Government implied that that is limited only to the most serious events.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister realise that the people of New Zealand are rapidly losing confidence in their public health system, with more and more people buying private health insurance to protect themselves; and is this what New Zealanders get after 8 years of Labour and $5 billion extra—unsafe hospitals?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Repeated surveys show that New Zealanders care greatly about health care, which, amongst other reasons, is why they have returned a Labour Government for three successive terms. That is because we stand for strong public health care, not for lifting doctors’ fees and privatising State assets.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table last year’s Vote Health estimates, where the Health Committee points out that it has repeatedly recommended the publication of hospital-related adverse events, and calls on the Minister to direct district health boards to—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table my 2008-09 letter of expectations to district health boards

4. Environment, Report—Conclusions

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

4. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Which conclusions in draft chapter 13 of the state of the environment report was he referring to when he reportedly said on Monday that the chapter had been scrapped because it made a series of conclusions that were not strictly supported by the facts?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : Peer review of the draft chapter made it clear that the qualitative nature of some of the statements in draft chapter 13 was not in line with the factual nature of the report. One such example is: “the sheer scale of existing pastoral land-use in New Zealand combined with recent record dairy returns mean that intensification of land use is likely to continue to pose a significant challenge to our environment for some time, even if stringent pricing and regulatory regimes are agreed and put in place.” The report did not contain quantitative analysis to support the statement. No such economic analysis of dairy returns had been undertaken in the report. The report contains no analysis of the effect of pricing and regulatory regimes on land use. Such interpretation extends beyond the scope of a retrospective, facts-based report.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is not that very example the one I put to him in my question yesterday, and he agreed vehemently that he agreed with that conclusion?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, we can agree with an argument. It is a different thing for a department to present an argument as a fact.

Hon Marian Hobbs: What is the Government doing to address the environmental effects from farming?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In the foreword of the state of the environment report I state that this issue, especially around water quality, is a real problem. The Labour-led Government is taking leadership in the area under the Sustainable Water Programme of Action, and a national policy statement for the management of freshwater management is in development. In addition, there is a raft of national environmental standards. There are other initiatives, including $22 million a year invested in freshwater research through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Since its inception, the Sustainable Farming Fund has provided over $22 million to project teams working on tools and techniques to improve environmental performance in the primary sectors. The Government has committed $36.7 million as its share of the Lake Taupō water quality protection programme. And much of the $175 million over 5 years allocated to the sustainable land management and climate change plan of action will enable work that provides further impetus to reduce sediment and nitrogen discharges into water. Again, I could go on.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does the Minister excuse the deletion of chapter 13 of the state of the environment report, saying that it was only a retrospective factual stocktake of the state of the environment, when the report is loaded all the way through with mushy references to future Government initiatives, which is the key change in the format of this report compared with that of 1997, and why does he not just come clean and admit that the report was doctored because a clean report on the state of the environment would show how awful this Government’s record actually is after 8 years?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member has a copy of the report. I suggest that he reads it and, if he does not understand it, that he gets someone else to read it and explain it to him.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have actually read the report and I note that a key change from the 1997 report is that it did not include all the way through it these statements of future Government actions. The Minister, in his original answer to Jeanette Fitzsimons, said that the reason chapter 13 was taken out was that this was only a retrospective report, looking back. My question is—

Madam SPEAKER: This is a point of order. It is a debating point.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The Minister has not addressed the question of why the format was changed from the 1997 report—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer, please. I understand your point Dr Smith.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member had read and understood the report, he would have agreed with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who said that this was an outstanding addition to the information available on the environment in New Zealand. I suggest that the member should take the commissioner’s word, rather than making things up about mush.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did Treasury’s input of data, peer review comments, and suggestions on the presentation of the information, as acknowledged in the report, include advice that chapter 13 should be dumped?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is my understanding that that is not the case.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Was not this chapter dumped because it was politically embarrassing for the Government and showed that the economic strategy of deliberate promotion of land intensification, more cars and motorways, and more consumption is destroying our clean, green image, which is crucial to our economy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The clean, green image is something that is very important to our economy. It is something that I value and the vast majority of farmers value, but I think we should not catastrophise, and we should also not pretend that farming is the only cause of pollution in New Zealand. To that end, I invite the member to come out to the Waiwhetū Stream in my electorate and have a swim there.

5. Kyoto Protocol—Costs

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Can he confirm that when the climate change Minister said in 2002 that “New Zealand will be a net seller of credits, with a positive balance of about 11 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. At a world price of say $20 a tonne, that would be $220 million a year, net, into the economy.”, the Government was expecting a $1.1 billion surplus over the 5 years to 2012 from the Kyoto Protocol?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : Yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it not a telling sign of how badly this Government’s sustainability programme has failed that Treasury is now forecasting a $967 million deficit—a figure snuck out after the House rose last year—or a $2 billion deterioration from that which the Government promised just 5 years ago?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Treasury estimates are updated monthly. The November update was as the member said, but I would note that the quantity in tonnes that is used in that estimate of 45 million tonnes does not take into account the emissions trading scheme.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How is it that since last year when the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament mentioned “sustainability” 39 times, and when she has said the biggest issue of sustainability is climate change, in that same year New Zealand’s Kyoto liability has deteriorated from $560 million to $967 million; and does that not prove that the sustainability talk was all hot air?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The liability for the first commitment period of course will not be known with certainty until the end of that commitment period. I am confident that the policies the Government put in place during last year has our emissions’ profile tracking downwards rather than upwards.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does it not seem ironic that in the year in which sustainability and climate change was the No. 1 issue for the Government, in fact over 15 million trees, net, were lost in New Zealand—a higher figure than for any year since records began in 1951, and does that not simply again confirm the failure of this Government’s climate change policies?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it does not. Of course, the emissions trading scheme cannot affect rates of deforestation until it starts. Obviously, it did not start to take effect until 1 January this year, and I am confident it will be effective in curbing rates of deforestation.

Moana Mackey: What does the Minister estimate the effect of the emissions trading scheme will be on the current Ministry for the Environment estimate of a Kyoto deficit of 45 million tonnes for the period to 2012?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Treasury figures, as I said, do not take into account the effect of the emissions trading scheme, and the estimate without that being in the calculations is a deficit of 45 million tonnes to 2012. My estimate of where it will get to during that period as a consequence of the emissions trading scheme and other initiatives, is a deficit of around 25 million tonnes, which is a substantial improvement on the 45 million tonne figure.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm private sector estimates that New Zealand’s net emissions in 2007 will be the worst ever because of the chainsaw massacre triggered by this Government’s forestry policies; and that because of the low lake levels and drought, this year there will be, with the high use of thermal power, even higher emissions—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is John Key up at Tama Iti’s today?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, he is desperate. [Interruptio] The Minister for the Environment is concerned about Tama Iti.

Madam SPEAKER: Please, would the member just address his question.[Interruption]

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I can see, Trevor, why you want to change the topic from the environment.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. This is creating disorder. If the member interjects again in that way he will be asked to leave the Chamber. Would the member please complete his question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm private sector estimates that the emissions in 2007 will be the highest ever because of the chainsaw massacre that occurred in respect of forestry, and that with the drought and the increased use of thermal generation projected for this year, 2008 will see a further record increase; and why should anybody take this Government seriously on climate change when it will have 9 consecutive years of record increases in emissions?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The deforestation emissions of 2007 were driven as much by the change in the relative economics of dairying compared with forestry as anything else, so they are not a consequence of Government policy but just a change in the relative value of different products. As I said, those deforestation emissions are expected to go down quite markedly this year. In respect of electricity-related emissions, I can tell the member that they did go down a lot last year. What happens with them this year depends in large part on how much water we have in our hydro catchments, because if we do not have much water in our hydro catchments we have to burn more fossil fuels in our thermal stations. That said, the 300-and-so megawatts of additional generation capacity that is currently under construction is all renewable, and none of it will produce additional greenhouse gas emissions.

6. Maori Wardens—Capacity Increases

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

6. PITA PARAONE (NZ First) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: What progress can he report on increasing the capacity and capability of Māori wardens since Budget 2007?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : The increase in funding to Māori wardens has allowed for greater focus on the tasks at hand, and has complemented the training that has been delivered to date. There has been an increase in the overall number of Māori wardens, which now stands at 530. In addition, the provision of police vehicles to enable wardens to travel to carry out their duties has been seen as good support, and has provided real benefits to many communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Pita Paraone: Is he satisfied that previous impediments to the granting of funding have been resolved, and can he reassure the House that the additional funding is, in fact, improving the services provided by the Māori wardens?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I can most certainly guarantee that, and the role that they are playing is spread around the country. Just recently, 65 of them were at Waitangi, and they were at all the great celebrations of Waitangi Day around the country. They are everywhere.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister make a further comment about the contribution made by the Māori wardens at Waitangi last week, where in excess of 46,000 people were in attendance to commemorate the 168th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: They certainly managed a good flow of traffic and helped people who needed to find their way, and they certainly looked after everybody who was there. They also serviced all the other celebrations around the country.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister confirm that the additional $2.5 million secured in Budget 2007, and the further funding for 2008 and beyond, to increase the capacity and capability of the Māori wardens are among the many achievements secured through New Zealand First’s confidence and supply agreement with the Government?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is certainly a partnership to be celebrated, and I thank that member and his party most wholeheartedly on behalf of all our communities and the Māori wardens.

Dr Pita Sharples: I seek leave to ask an additional question.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Dr Pita Sharples: What is the actual operational relationship between the New Zealand Police and the Māori wardens, and have any concerns been raised with the Minister about that relationship?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are certain perceptions in the sense of those issues and strains in the urban areas—and that member knows that—but the police are certainly working in partnership with the Māori wardens, and I welcome that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With reference to the $2.5 million of funding mentioned by my colleague Pita Paraone, that is just the beginning, is it not, of a much more substantial investment in the Māori wardens in the future to bring them up to date in terms of their equipment and training in the 21st century?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are several ways that we support the wardens, and in part that is right. As for training, 94 people have been trained by the police and Māori communities, and we will head towards 200 in the next 5 months. Kia ora.

7. Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—Conflict of Interest

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: When does he expect to receive the Ministry of Health report into potential conflicts of interest by members of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, which was commissioned in July 2007?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : The report will be given initially to the Director-General of Health, who has commissioned it. I am advised that a firm date for its completion is not yet available.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that while he awaits the completion of this investigation, the Dominion Post reports today that the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s chief executive is on indefinite sick leave because of exhaustion, that a board member has refused to come to meetings, that the board is facing an $8 million deficit, and that it still does not know who its chairman will be; and is this what he meant with his comment to the House that he is running the show now?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, I am aware of all of those factors, and I am keeping the situation of Hawke’s Bay District Health Board under very close scrutiny.

Russell Fairbrother: Does the Minister know the origin of recent reports of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board’s intending to utilise the proceeds from the sale of capital assets to offset operating deficits?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No. A lot of misinformation on these issues is being distributed in that region, either through ignorance or mischief. But the board was told by previous Ministers, and will be told again by the ministry, that the use of capital sales to fund deficits is unacceptable and at odds with the legislation. I will table the relevant letters at the end of this question.

Russell Fairbrother: Does the Minister stand by his earlier statement that no Hawke’s Bay District Health Board appointments will be made until the report has been received?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am very concerned at the rapidly deteriorating situation of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. As the member opposite has noted, the chief executive is now out on stress leave, there is a rapidly rising deficit projection, and there are continuing apparent tensions within the present board and with clinicians. Against that, I note further that the final date for the director-general’s report is not yet available.

Craig Foss: Will the report examine information discovered from a forensic audit of a May 2005 computer back-up tape of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board that had somehow been damaged, but when repaired by forensic experts has revealed that senior Hawke’s Bay District Health Board management personnel were illegally recording meetings and conversations with staff and board members; if not, does the member endorse the covert recording of discussions with staff and board members?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As the member knows, all matters concerning the director-general’s governance review remain confidential to the process. I have had no access to a draft report, nor have I had access to the incoming evidence. If the member feels he has had such access, that would seem to imply that someone is at odds with his or her obligations under the confidentiality deeds.

Chris Tremain: Will the report examine the conflict of interest between Hawke’s Bay people and the Ministry of Health with regard to how $12 million from the sale of Napier Hospital was allowed to be accrued to the 2007 annual accounts of the district health board to fund multi-year operating deficits, when health Minister Pete Hodgson wrote in a letter to the board and in regard to the hillside site sale: “I draw your attention to the requirements of the NZPHD Act, which requires HBDHB to use all the proceeds for ‘the purchase, improvement, or extension of publicly owned facilities for health purposes unless the Minister, by written notice to the DHB approves a different use.’ ”; why were those sale proceeds allowed to be used to fund the deficit, and when was approval given?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am extremely glad the member asked that question, because it would appear that somebody has not abided by the law of the appropriate governance process. I repeat, without the Minister’s permission capital assets cannot be used to fund operating deficits. If the member is concerned about the deficit of that district health board, he may want to look at the fact that it has not achieved the efficiency gains that it projected.

Craig Foss: How on earth can the people of Hawke’s Bay have confidence in that Minister, when our cardiac patients die from preventable deaths, when the Government overrides advice and appoints a board member from outside the Hawke’s Bay region whose company planned to tender for a multimillion-dollar contract with that same district health board, when the Minister refuses to communicate with the board about impending deficits, leading to yet another absolute shambles in the public health sector, and when this is from the Minister who says he is running the show?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is intriguing that the member’s questions have violated proper process on not one but two inquiries. Perhaps the member would like to clarify whether he is asking me to make an early decision about board appointments.

Chris Tremain: I seek leave to table the 2007 annual accounts of the district health board, which show—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the interests of certain standards in this House, I would ask you to ask the National Party member at the back who used the phrase “Tell the Minister to get off his”—and I will not say what else he said—to apologise to the House for that very intemperate language.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear the comment. [Interruption] I think the difficulty, Mr Peters, is that it was not heard at this end of the Chamber. That is continuing problem; it is very difficult to hear in the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What matters is that I heard it, and so did my colleagues down here. I understand the member did not say it loudly, but it was loud enough to be heard, and I am sure it could be heard in the gallery. That member knows what he said. He should be getting up on his feet and apologising.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member who made the comment please withdraw it and apologise.

Chester Borrows: If the use of a colloquial phrase—

Madam SPEAKER: Just withdraw and apologise, and then we will be able to move on, please.

Chester Borrows: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a letter dated 20 October 2003 from the then Minister of Health to Mr Kevin Atkinson, chairman of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, noting that he may not use the proceeds of the sale—

 Leave granted.

Madam SPEAKER: It is very difficult to hear, so members will be leaving. I simply cannot maintain order in this Chamber if this level of chatter continues.

Craig Foss: I seek leave to table an article from today’s Hawke’s Bay Today entitled: “Bugged emails reveal tapes”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

8. Community Groups—Sustainable Funding Model

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

8. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: How will the new sustainable funding model for community groups help to support New Zealand families?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The Government is investing an additional $446 million in community services over the next 4 years. The additional funding and the new model will support early intervention, working together, and a focus on outcomes for families. As Paul Baigent of Plunket said: “This investment will make it easier for agencies to join forces to deliver better support and services to families and children.” Our Government is working in partnership with community organisations to deliver real results for children, young people, families, and our communities.

Lesley Soper: What reports has the Minister seen regarding working in partnership with the community sector?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen a report from the Leader of the Opposition, John Key, in which he dismisses working in partnership with the community sector because it “creates expectations that, quite frankly, government is often unwilling and usually unable to fulfil”, and says that “the Government is really just a purchaser of services, and the need to sustain a longer-term relationship is not an explicit part of its actions.” I can tell the House that, in contradiction to the National Party, our Labour-led Government is willing to sustain a long-term relationship with the community sector.

Paula Bennett: Does the Minister agree that community groups should be funded the full cost of delivery, and that compliance costs and bureaucracy should be reduced, as John Key announced in May last year; or does she side with Michael Cullen, who stated in reply: “in the end, only the active and redemptive power of the state can address at all adequately issues …”; or does she agree with Steve Maharey, who labelled these very initiatives “Tory charity”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There are a number of points I want to make to the member. First of all, the comments of both Dr Michael Cullen and Steve Maharey were made in relation to an entirely different speech—that delivered at Burnside at the beginning of the year—so they related to an entirely different model, which was indeed Tory charity, and I completely agree with both of them. On the second point, the member’s quote of what her leader promised may have been what he said to the caucus but it is not what he actually said to Plunket in the May speech to which I referred. John Key actually said, and I quote from his website: “when a National Government wants to run a particular programme, and there is a competitive tendering process, we will encourage community groups to put in bids which reflect the full cost of delivery,”. That is very different from making a commitment to fully funding essential services.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. After you asked that member over there during question 7 to apologise he is now writing to me using the same phrase, and I do not think he should. He should apologise again to the House.

Madam SPEAKER: That conduct does not create order in the House. I ask members to refrain from sending each other notes that may be considered to be offensive. If they wish to do that, I ask them to do it outside this Chamber. I know that will take away the fun for some of you, but it will create more order in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the document then.

 Leave granted.

Judy Turner: To what extent will the new funding model allow community groups to pursue outcomes other than those specified in their contracts?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member’s question has demonstrated that she absolutely understands the importance of the new model, which will have contracted services based on outcomes for children and families rather than outputs. That is a key lever for innovation.

Lesley Soper: What kind of service providers will benefit from the new sustainable funding model?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The announcement will benefit hundreds of community groups across New Zealand, providing essential services to children, families, and young people such as parenting support and advice, mentoring for young people, programmes to address youth offending, family violence prevention and crisis support, budgeting advice, victim support, refugee and migrant support, early intervention support, youth suicide prevention, and family and crisis counselling. These are examples rather than a complete list. This is why the community sector has called this policy an “inspired and visionary investment in the health and well-being of our community.”

Paula Bennett: I seek leave of the House to table the document on turbo-charging community groups that the National Party under John Key brought out last year.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I seek leave to table the actual speech from John Key.

 Leave granted.

9. Schools, Secondary—Enrolments

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

9. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: How many secondary school-age children under 16 are not enrolled in a school?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : We will know soon; schools started last week. Primary and intermediate school student records are currently transiting across to secondary schools. These new enrolments are being processed by individual schools, and the Ministry of Education expects they will all be processed by March, when a clearer picture will emerge.

Anne Tolley: Why in the same week that the Government announced it wants to keep students in school up to the age of 18 is the Ministry of Education telling its regional offices that the hardest cases to keep enrolled in school under the current law can no longer be dealt with by the contractor that is meant to get those un-enrolled students back to school?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is for exactly the reasons the member has outlined that the Schools Plus programme has been developed. We are losing too many students, not just at the 16 and 17-year-old age range but younger. We need to revolutionise the secondary school system to deal with exactly the problem the member has outlined.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What action has the Labour-led Government taken to identify and place back into education the students who are not enrolled at school?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: One student not enrolled in school is one too many. The Labour-led Government has been very active in addressing truancy. Measures have included a complete review of truancy services, which led to enhanced funding in Budget 2006/07, school-to-work programmes like Gateway and Youth Apprenticeships, and the $6.4 million enrolment system, which once all schools have been operating for a year will give us accurate and consistently updated enrolment information.

Anne Tolley: Why did the ministry sign a contract with a private provider, which means that students who are not enrolled and who are in contact with Child, Youth and Family or with the police will no longer be targeted to get back into school?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: All students who are legally obliged to be in school are being targeted. Schools all around New Zealand are engaging in a variety of different initiatives to try to address this problem. One example is Rotorua Girls’ High School, which has reduced the number of Māori students leaving school with no formal qualifications from one in three 6 years ago to zero last year.

Anne Tolley: Why, in that same contract, does the ministry say that students who are excluded—so are not enrolled in school—will also not be targeted to get back into school?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member clearly was not listening to my earlier answer. One student not in school is one student too many. This Government is absolutely committed to upskilling students and keeping them in school in New Zealand. That is why we have launched Schools Plus. It is all about the concerns the member has raised.

Anne Tolley: Why should we believe any of this Minister’s or this Government’s rhetoric about keeping students in school until they are 18 when there is a lost tribe of 6,000 kids not enrolled in any school, when there are 31,000 truants every day, when the Government cannot even keep them in school until they are 16, and when they disappear off the radar because they get into trouble the Government washes its hands of them?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member once again is being very free and easy with the figures. The reality is that we have done a complete review of truancy services, increased the funding for it, introduced and supported programmes like Gateway and Youth Apprenticeships, and set up the electronic enrolment system, which in a year’s time will, for the first time ever, let us know exactly how many students are falling out of the system.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table a document outlining recent changes to the Non-enrolment Truancy Service, which shows excluded students who have contact with Child, Youth and Family or the police—

 Leave granted.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a document I launched in January called “Staying at School”, which outlines eight incredible initiatives by schools around New Zealand to keep students in school.

 Leave granted.

10. Housing—Affordability

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

10. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Is her definition of “affordable housing” the same as that which appears in the general policy statement of the Affordable Housing: Enabling Territorial Authorities Bill that refers to “housing affordable to low and moderate income earners”?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : My definition is that, and much more besides. Affordability is a function of house prices, incomes, and interest rates and varies from region to region.

Phil Heatley: Why, according to the Housing New Zealand Corporation chairman, will first home buyers need an income of $70,000-plus to buy any of the 500 “affordable houses” on offer in the Minister’s flagship Hobsonville development?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Affordability can be made possible by a Government that chooses to intervene actively to assist first home buyers, not by an Opposition that’s only solution is the self-appointed housing spokesperson, Bob Clarkson. Affordability is actually created through a whole range of solutions, including greater supply of houses, the application of KiwiSaver contributions, Welcome Home Loans, shared equity proposals, and a whole range of issues.

Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Today you have repeatedly asked for people to be quiet when answers are given. I think it is pretty rude for someone to ask a question and then to have a barrage of interjection on the Minister when she is trying to answer it.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree with the member.

Phil Heatley: Is the Minister confirming the chairman of Housing New Zealand Corporation’s statement that young Aucklanders will need $70,000-plus per annum to buy one of the Minister’s affordable homes; if so, how can she say they are affordable when the average household income is not even $70,000?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The member clearly did not listen to my previous answer. Clearly the solution here is about creating affordability and being able to provide some application—some products that are able to bridge a gap between income and house price.

Phil Heatley: Why does the Minister use Hobsonville, Weymouth, and Tāmaki as flagship housing affordability solutions, when most Aucklanders do not work in those places and will not choose to live there—in fact, 3 million Kiwis do not, and will not—and even if they did the houses on offer are for higher-income earners or one has to enter into some joint ownership scheme with Housing New Zealand Corporation?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Let me just give the member an example of some of the support that a project like Hobsonville is getting from everybody, except the local member until recently. Can I just say that in a statement by the Deputy Mayor of Waitakere City, she states that the city of the future—she is referring to the city of Waitakere—encourages affordable housing as part of its housing mix in order to get to this place. It takes the stability of local and central government to make affordable housing and local high-end jobs happen together. This city council sees Hobsonville as a way of progressing economic development and increasing jobs and opportunity in its area. That is progress.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Three times now Mr Heatley has asked the Minister a relatively simple question. He has tried to help her by asking the question with different emphasis. I do not think it is acceptable for anyone to say that the Minister is addressing the question by reading a press release from a local council. This is a nationwide issue.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the Minister addressed the question, and that is not all she said in her answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister intend to recommend to some of her clientele who get into trouble with constructions the sharper point of the National Party spokesperson Bob Clarkson’s solution, that the moment one gets into trouble with a project and it starts making losses one should get the ratepayers to pay for it?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would ask you to reflect whether that is a reasonable and legitimate question. We know that Mr Peters is in some political trouble looking for a seat, but bringing his local fight into this House in that way is quite despicable.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is precisely what happened in Tauranga, and Mr Clarkson knows it. I am just wondering whether that, as a sound precedent in the past, could now be narrowed down to some Housing New Zealand Corporation clients.

Madam SPEAKER: If the Minister responds only to the policy issue without any other references.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There are two things here. Perhaps you might reflect, firstly, that it has been very difficult for Mr Heatley to get an answer to a question he wants. Now you have ruled that the Minister can give a general answer to a question that Mr Peters asked that frankly should not be allowed to stand.

Madam SPEAKER: The question had a general policy intent behind it. It was not asking about a specific issue. Would the Minister please—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry I have ruled on this point, Mr Brownlee. If the member wants to raise a totally different point of order please feel free to do so.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If I reach for the Standing Orders I would go to Standing Order 372, which deals with questions. Questions are to be of a specific nature. In this case, with all due respect to your ruling, you are saying that a specific example can then be taken as an example of something that would apply to a question of national interest. If that is the case then the Hon Maryan Street should have been required firstly to answer each of the questions that Mr Heatley asked, but if that is not the case then Mr Peters’ question should not stand.

Madam SPEAKER: I ruled that Mr Peters’ question stands. It was a perfectly acceptable question in terms of asking whether a policy matter could be applied. The Minister will now address the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My colleague Phil Heatley has three times asked questions about whether the Minister agrees with the chair of the Housing New Zealand Corporation, an organisation for which she has ministerial responsibility, and she has not answered. She has now been asked a question from Mr Peters about an issue that is outside her portfolio. It was about private builders and it relates to the portfolio of the Minister for Building and Construction, not the Minister of Housing. The issue that Mr Peters has raised is the responsibility of Shane Jones because it is related to who pays for the cost of fixing houses that have been built by private developers and are not up to standard. I simply ask why it is that we cannot get answers for things the Minister is responsible for, but you are happy to allow her to answer questions for which she has no responsibility.

Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows perfectly well, no member can require a yes or no answer to a specific question. If members want that I invite them wholeheartedly to change the Standing Orders, for which I would be truly appreciative. But they do not read like that at the moment.

Hon MARYAN STREET: The member’s question does actually relate to issues under my portfolio, because this Government is keen to ensure that private developers, amongst others, contribute to providing greater supply of affordable houses into the market, but they have to be quality, sustainable, affordable houses. That is what we are looking for.

Phil Heatley: In light of that answer, how does she think forcing developers to provide cheap housing through the affordable housing legislation will work when Housing New Zealand Corporation itself cannot even provide cheap housing at Hobsonville when it has the economies of scale of Hobsonville; and how does she expect private developers to do it when Housing New Zealand Corporation is not doing it unless one is on $70,000 a year?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Private developers are welcome to join us in this effort to provide affordable houses. In fact, a number of developers have indicated an interest in doing so, because there is a market for quality, sustainable, affordable houses. Those are the houses that will be available to low to modest to moderate income level households, so that people can afford to get into their first homes. That is what we want.

Phil Heatley: Why, under Labour, is someone considered to be a high-income earner by the Inland Revenue Department when he or she is on $60,000, but a low-income earner by Housing New Zealand Corporation when that person is on $70,000 and wants to buy one of its houses?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The member refers to the household income, which is the standard level for accessing a Welcome Home Loan. That is two people earning $35,000 each. They are not high-paid workers. Their household income is the threshold at which a Welcome Home Loan kicks in.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister started that answer by saying: “The member refers to …”, then told us what I referred to. I referred to the fact that the Inland Revenue Department considers someone to be on a high income when that person is on $60,000, yet Housing New Zealand Corporation considers someone to be on a low income when that person is on $70,000. She did not answer the question, and she misinterpreted me. Could she please answer the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The situation is absolutely clear. What Housing New Zealand Corporation refers to and what the member is referring to is a household income of $70,000. What the member is referring to with the Inland Revenue Department is individual income of $60,000. Indeed, the National Party cannot have it both ways. It cannot argue one day that $60,000 is indeed a very low income and $70,000 is actually terribly, terribly high.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a document that shows that $68,000 is the average household income according to Statistics New Zealand.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the statement of the chair of Housing New Zealand Corporation that one will need a household income of $70,000 to buy one of these—

 Leave granted.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table “Affordable housing too dear for most”.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table “Affordable homes still too expensive”, from the New Zealand Herald.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Minister consider it contributes to affordable housing if people buy an expensive and very good house next door in order to knock it down to build a tennis court; if not, will she be inviting Mr Heatley to take it up with Mr Key and advise him to start walking the walk, not just talking the talk?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I absolutely concur with that member’s point. Further to that, I would welcome any lifting of ambition on the part of the National Party to address the issues of housing affordability.

11. Hobsonville Development—Housing Initiatives

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Housing: What recent reports has she received regarding the Hobsonville development?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : In December the developer A V Jennings was announced as the preferred partner to carry out the first precinct development at Hobsonville. This is the excellent project that aims to create a mixed community of affordable housing, State rentals, and higher-end homes.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has the Minister received indicating support or otherwise for the Hobsonville project?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have seen the affordable housing project in Hobsonville described as “economic vandalism”, I have seen a report stating that it would be cancelled, and recently I saw a report stating that the Hobsonville project has always been supported but the project should really be privatised. All of those reports come from John Key.

12. Australia - New Zealand Migration—Permanent and Long-term Departures

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

12. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Statistics: How many permanent and long-term departures to Australia were there for the year ended December 2007?

Hon DARREN HUGHES (Minister of Statistics) : The figure is 41,634, but this figure includes all departures, not just those of New Zealand citizens.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that that exodus to Australia last year represented a loss of 800 people every week, and was that the largest exodus since 1988, when Labour was last in Government?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: It was the largest number in the time period the member refers to, but in terms of percentage of New Zealand’s population the number was roughly the same as it was when the National Party was in Government in the 1990s, until 1999.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm that the net loss to Australia last year of 28,000 people represented an increase of over a third since 2006, and almost three times the net loss of 10,000 in 2003?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: I can confirm that there was a net outflow of 28,000 people, a quarter of whom were children. That was the outflow for December 2007.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand experienced a net outflow of 32,700 New Zealand citizens last year, and that a recent survey has shown that New Zealand has the largest brain drain of native-born tertiary-trained people in the whole of the OECD?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: I cannot confirm that we have what the member said in terms of that study. What I can confirm, though, is that demographers expect New Zealand to be a net gainer in terms of skills through migration policy, and that will continue, and that, over the cycle, in different years there is a different outflow in migration. The member should not hang his hat on just 1 year.

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister received any statistics on the patterns of wage growth in New Zealand and Australia?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Yes, I have. The wage gap grew between—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question is extremely wide of the wicket. We are talking about immigration here, and suddenly the Minister is asked for statistics on wages. Everyone knows that the answer will be incredibly embarrassing for the Government. I suggest the question should not stand. It is not fair to poor old Darren.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I know that Mr Key is not here to advise the member on this, but Mr Key has been saying for some weeks that the driver of this so-called exodus is higher wages in Australia. Mr Darren Hughes is about to inform the member that that gap opened up hugely in the 1990s, under a National Government, when the exodus to Australia increased every year—under a National Government.

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Yes, I have received a report about the wage gap between the two countries, and I can confirm that the wage gap—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please be seated. The question is about statistics. The Minister has responsibility for statistics. Would the Minister now please address the question.

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Yes, I have received a report on this matter, and I thank the member for the question, because the report shows that the gap between wages in Australia and wages in New Zealand grew by 50 percent between 1990 and 1999, when the National Party was in Government, and that since the Labour Party has led the Government in New Zealand, wages here and wages in Australia have grown at about the same rate. But, clearly, we have more to do, and the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday showed how we are going to do it.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Given that the Minister is keen to compare performance under National and Labour, is it correct that the net loss of New Zealanders to Australia has more than doubled from the 9,000 per year under the National Government in the 1990s to an average now of 20,000 a year under this Labour Government, and why do so many New Zealanders want to leave under a Labour Government?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: I have good news for the member. There are 400,000 more people in New Zealand since the Labour Party took office in 1999. The population outflow to Australia in 1999, under a National Government, was 0.6 percent of the population, and the outflow to Australia under this Government is 0.7 percent. In comparing 0.6 percent when we took over and 0.7 percent now, we should consider the bigger size of the population now. I would not be running down New Zealand too much on those statistics.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I accept that you ruled that the Hon Darren Hughes should answer the question that had been asked by Darien Fenton, but if the subsequent comments that you made were to become a ruling, then I think that would significantly expand the scope for asking a question in the House. I wonder whether you might consider giving us some guidance on Tuesday as to whether the interpretation we are putting on—

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I think this is a matter where one judges each case as it comes up in terms of the question.


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