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Questions And Answers - Thursday 21 February 2008

Questions And Answers - Thursday 21 February 2008

1. Immigration Service—Definition of “Good Character”

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

1. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What is the New Zealand Immigration Service’s definition of “good character”?

Hon SHANE JONES (Associate Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: I am advised that all migrants to New Zealand must be of good character. The grounds for a person to be considered as not being of good character are set out in the Immigration Act 1987 and the Immigration New Zealand policy manual.

Peter Brown: Were the 190 non-citizens currently in jail for sexual offences, including the 109 who have committed sex offences against children and young people, adjudged by the Immigration Service to be of good character when initially allowed into this country; if so, does he still believe that they are of good character?

Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously we are deeply concerned about anyone in prison who has committed a sexual offence. For people where the Department of Labour and the Immigration Service are considering granting residence or long-term work permits, there is a rigorous character screening process.

Peter Brown: Would Abdulhussein Shahid Abdulhussein, an Iraqi who abducted and raped a 16-year-old schoolgirl just 2 years after his arrival, and who then tried to downplay it by claiming that his cultural background made him believe a woman on the street without anyone to protect her was available for sex, be regarded as of good character, or is it because he is a refugee that that criterion does not count?

Hon SHANE JONES: In relation to the individual named by Mr Brown, I obviously stand with everyone in the House in expressing a sense of revulsion that anyone should believe that his or her culture permits that person to indulge in such activity. As to his short-term prospects, it would be a little early for us to speculate on that matter. But the House should rest assured we do not share the view that he should be permitted to use culture to disguise his wrongdoing.

Peter Brown: Can the Minister confirm that the 378 non - New Zealanders who are currently in jail for violent offences were judged by the Immigration Service to be of good character when initially granted the right to stay in New Zealand; if so, what is the Minister going to do to improve migrant screening in order to ensure the safety of New Zealanders from immigrants who are clearly not of good character?

Hon SHANE JONES: In reply to the references that the member makes to the wrongdoing of those people, yes, they did go through a screening process. I would point out, however, that their criminal acts have been committed after they arrived here in New Zealand. Police checks are required. Obviously if the system needs to improved, I would encourage the member to send any ideas forward. But we have a great deal of confidence in the very rigorous police checks that are used on all residency applications.

2. Honorary Consul, Monaco—Possible Appointment

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

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her response to oral question No. 1 on 20 February that Mike Williams, President of the New Zealand Labour Party, had talked to her about the possible appointment of Owen Glenn as New Zealand’s honorary consul to Monaco; if so, what were the details of the conversation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, in general conversation he indicated to the Prime Minister that he was aware that Mr Glenn had expressed an interest in such a position.

Hon Bill English: Why would the appointment of a diplomatic representative of New Zealand be a matter discussed with Labour’s chief fundraiser, Mike Williams, unless it is connected to a donation of half a million dollars from Owen Glenn and a concealed interest-free loan of $100,000; or is Mr Williams consulted on all diplomatic appointments?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Williams was not consulted. Mr Glenn had said something to Mr Williams, and Mr Williams mentioned something about that to the Prime Minister. One cannot be responsible for what other people say. I am sure the member does not want to be responsible for what Mr Key says. He did not mean to say that New Zealand wages should be cut; he meant to say that Australian wages should be cut.

Hon Bill English: In the Prime Minister’s discussions with Mr Glenn, has Mr Glenn explained to her what he was talking about when he said in March 2005 that the wrong thing had been done to his friend Bill Lloyd of Sovereign Yachts, that he—Mr Glenn—had taken a huge interest, and he thinks he had it resolved through the good services of Mike Williams, the President of the Labour Party, who has done a “mammoth job”; can she give an assurance that her Labour Government did not do any favours for their largest donor through the “mammoth job” done by Mike Williams, the President of the Labour Party?

Hon Member: Ooh!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sorry I excite the member so much. I did not realise I had that effect up him. I am not aware of any lengthy conversations the Prime Minister has had with Mr Glenn. She has had a couple of passing conversations with Mr Glenn. Mr Glenn also seems to recall conversations that never seem to have occurred.

Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that Mike Williams is a director of Transit, which plans and funds the highway network; a director of ONTRACK, which owns the rail network; a director of Genesis Energy, one of the largest electricity generators; and a member of the board of the Auckland transport authority, which plans and controls Auckland’s transport network; as well as the Crown research institute GNS Science; can she assure the House that he has not used these influential positions to do favours for other donors in the way that he did favours for Owen Glenn?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I hate to tell the member as he drowns that that is not a straw he is clutching at.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm to the House that the Minister of Finance has told the media Mike Williams tendered his resignation as president of the Labour Party yesterday?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No she cannot, because I have not told her I said that yet.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether her coalition partner New Zealand First has advised her whether Owen Glenn is the mystery anonymous donor who placed nearly $100,000 in the New Zealand First bank account last year, and if not, does she intend to ask New Zealand First in order to find out whether a donation may have affected Winston Peters’ consideration of who to appoint as consul to Monaco?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot advise that, nor can I advise the House of any of the anonymous donors to the National Party, because they were all funded through something called the Waitemata Trust—some $2.3 million—which was handled by a man whom that Government appointed to chair Government quangos and boards. What is more, the National Party still will not tell us who their anonymous donors were. Let me finally add that anybody who thinks the appointment as an honorary consul is some kind of plum job does not know that most honorary consuls spend more than the amount of money—which is $5,000, plus $7,500 in expenses—that we give to them. Mr Glenn, who is a billionaire, has supposedly thought this was some plum financial reward, but he has really got on hard times very fast.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in the ability of her coalition partner New Zealand First to clear up the issue of the large anonymous donation that suddenly appeared in its bank account late last year—when Dail Jones has said it happened, Winston Peters has said that Dail Jones is completely wrong and that Owen Glenn was not the anonymous donor, but Owen Glenn’s PR company will not say whether he was the donor?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister is not responsible for any donations that may have been given to any other political party. She would, however, welcome the opportunity to become responsible for that and look into the National Party’s anonymous donations.

Hon Bill English: How does the Prime Minister think it looks to the public that she wants to take responsibility for large anonymous donations to political parties, and that while she was pushing through legislation to stop that practice, she was party to arrangements behind closed doors with an expatriate billionaire to give an interest-free loan that was concealed from the public?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, the main donation given by Mr Glenn was made public at the time. Secondly, the donation of an amount of forgone interest, which, of course, is the actual donation, not the $100,000 loan, was going to be declared as part of the Labour Party’s annual report. Mr Williams made an honest mistake. Out of that, Mr English is trying to build a great pile of something large, smelly, and brown, and it will not wash.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree that billionaire Mr Owen Glenn’s generosity is greatly assisted by his living in a tax haven, and is it not a tad ironic that Labour and New Zealand First’s one fat-cat mate has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into political parties that punish hard-working Kiwis with punitive tax—

R Doug Woolerton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have no knowledge of this man, and Rodney Hide cannot say that.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, he said it, but it is a matter of debate. [Interruption] Points of order are heard in silence, and that is the last time I will remind members of that rule. That was not a point of order. It is a matter of debate.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is generally the case that in speaking to the House, one is not meant to mislead the House deliberately. I think it also applies in points of order. Although the member said New Zealand First had no knowledge of Owen Glenn, in fact, the leader of New Zealand First had breakfast with him, and that is well documented.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is a matter of debate. I ask Rodney Hide to ask his question succinctly.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree that billionaire Mr Owen Glenn’s generosity is greatly assisted because he lives in a tax haven, and is it not a tad ironic that Labour and New Zealand First’s one fat-cat mate has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into political parties that punish hard-working Kiwis with punitive tax rates, which Mr Glenn does not have to pay, and on top of that he gets a gong for his trouble, while hard-working Kiwis get nothing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Monaco is a very small principality, which exists largely as a casino on the borders of France. If the gentleman opposite thinks a country of 4.2 million in the South-west Pacific can exist as a casino on the borders of France, he is totally away with the fairies.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I struggle to see how that answer began to address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, having considered the question, I would judge that, yes, it did actually address it.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister promise the House that tonight at the opening of the Auckland business school she will sit with Owen Glenn and allow herself to be photographed with him?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, but I can assure him she will not be hongi-ing Tame Iti at the same time.

3. Meat Industry—Restructuring

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

3. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture: Has he received any further reports regarding the restructuring of the meat industry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) : I have seen a report that the National Party leader, Mr Key, the finance spokesperson, Mr English, and the agricultural spokesperson, Mr Carter, met over dinner last Wednesday with the Chairman of the meatworks company Alliance Group, Owen Poole. At this dinner Mr Poole requested, or suggested, that the taxpayer could provide half of the $200 million to $400 million that he says will be needed to form a megamerger meat company. The next day Mr Key announced: “National would look at a suspensory loan to provide capital for the establishment of a new company.” Before the day was out, Mr Key told his finance spokesperson: “I’ve just committed you to a suspensory loan.” This was not a light-hearted, throwaway comment, as has been suggested; this was a real response to a real proposition. We now have a political party in this House that holds dinner meetings with private companies and dishes out $200 million subsidies that would devastate our international trade reputation.

Lesley Soper: How big would a $200 million subsidy in relation to the meat industry be?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The sum of $200 million amounts to an investment of $50 for every man, woman, and child in New Zealand. It would be an export subsidy, in 1 year, of $15 per lamb—nearly half the average subsidy for a British lamb—in one single policy. It would be worth nearly $1 a kilo of export sheepmeat. The last time the National offered this kind of subsidy to sheep farmers, it bankrupted New Zealand.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister believe that meat company amalgamations are a positive thing for meat producers; if so, does he believe that they can be accomplished by the industry itself, without outside help?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes and yes.

Lesley Soper: What reports has he seen about the potential effect of agricultural subsidies?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a matter of fact I have seen a report on the effect of subsidies on exports, and it states: “What is obscene is that … agricultural subsidies in the developed world are two-thirds of Africa’s total GDP. … The protectionist policies of so many in the developed world are a stain on the morality of the world.” The report goes on to state: “I blame politicians, my own profession. Too often [politicians] abandon their historic mission. They abandon what they know to be right in favour of political expediency. The political power of protected interests too often wins the day.” The author of that report is the National Party MP Lockwood Smith. I wonder what he thinks of John Key’s proposed $200 million agricultural subsidy.

Lesley Soper: Has any meat company asked the Government for a $200 million suspendiary loan?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. It is becoming impossible to hear. And any member who may make such a slip in this House should take some notice, for the same treatment could happen to them. The Honory Jim Anderton.

Hon Member: The Honory Jim Anderton?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It proves that the Speaker is a human being, too! The answer to that question of whether the Government has been asked for a $200 million suspensory loan is no. This was a deal done entirely behind closed doors by the leader of the National Party one night, and announced the next day. As far as I know, it has not been through any policy review, or even been approved or costed by the National Party itself. If anyone did ask Ministers for a cash handout for meat exporters, the most dangerous thing a Minister could do would be to hold that meeting behind closed doors and agree to the policy without any public scrutiny.

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please keep the level of noise down.

Tim Groser: Given that in 1999 this Minister of Agriculture described National’s tariff and subsidy removal plan as “sheer idiocy”, but yesterday, in claiming erroneously that National wished to go back to tariffs and subsidies, he told the House that tariffs and subsidies were “the economic ruination of this country”, would the Minister like to share with the House the sequence of events that led to this happy, if remarkable, change of world view?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Right! Members will hear this answer in silence.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: That seems, in the first instance, to be an acknowledgment that the National Party is going back to a policy of export subsidies, and if that is true, the member will have some questions to answer outside this House pretty quickly from the media, I suspect. Let me remind him that I was on record, and have been on record, as saying that the National Party’s then policy of family benefits for sheep, which is what this policy represents, was a disaster for New Zealand. It was a disaster for New Zealand, and so will any policy of this kind followed by any future National Government.

4. Health Services—Sentinel Events

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

4. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he agree with Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson, who said that the report on sentinel events “probably underestimated” the true number of events, and why?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : The Quality Improvement Committee figures released showed a rate of 2.2 serious and sentinel events per 10,000 discharges, whereas the earlier Davis study showed cases meeting the wider adverse effects definition to be 12.9 percent of all hospital admissions. Mr Paterson may have been alluding to that broader definition.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why should the public rely on the Minister’s list of sentinel events, which reports failures at 0.02 percent, and not rely on the case note - based research of Dr Peter Davis, who says that the true level of sentinel events is in fact ten times higher than that, which would mean 1,800 sentinel events, not the Minister’s 180?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The release made this week has been based on an extensive set of research amongst all district health boards, and on a consistent set of definitions. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of those figures.

Jill Pettis: Does the Minister stand by his decision to release the figures?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. Although our hearts go out to the patients and families represented in the data, I am confident that every member of this House would agree that every effort should be made to avoid a repetition of such tragic incidents. Release of the data goes some way towards that by assisting clinicians to learn the lessons that need to be learnt.

Sue Kedgley: Is he aware that on top of the 14 sentinel or serious events that Capital and Coast District Health Board reported yesterday, there were a further 1,009 adverse events in that district health board alone last year that caused harm to patients; will he therefore require all district health boards to publish specific data such as their medication error rates, surgical death rates, and hospital-acquired infection rates, rather than just sentinel events, as the Health and Disability Commissioner has been calling on him to do for some years; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the Health and Disability Commissioner had been calling on me to do that for some years he would have been extremely assiduous, as I have not been in this job for very long. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am glad the member has raised that question. It is my expectation that following the work of the Quality Improvement Committee a nationwide set of reporting standards will apply mandatorily to all district health boards.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has he seen the comments of Dr Mary Seddon of Counties Manukau District Health Board, who said that a number of sentinel and serious events are discussed at peer review meetings at that hospital, that that is done under privilege in her hospital, and that those events have not been included in the sentinel events information at this stage; how many other sentinel events were not included by other district health boards in yesterday’s litany of disasters?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have no briefing to hand on that matter, and I am happy to follow it up for the member at a later occasion.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that he said yesterday that the time has come to ensure there are nationally consistent definitions, nationally consistent data reporting, and nationally consistent monitoring of systems, why did the Government not implement those matters when it was recommended in the 2001 report of the Ministry of Health working-group on these very sentinel events?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: That is a repetition of yesterday’s question, when I explained to the member that following the 2001 report a series of supports was put in place for district health boards to develop the capability to provide that reporting. Further work was done in 2003 and 2004. The Quality Improvement Committee was set up in 2006 and funded in that year’s Budget. That committee’s work is resulting in the development of guidelines that will apply to all district health boards.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that today an external review has severely criticised mental health services at the Auckland District Health Board following a series of deaths, including suicides; when there has been review after review and millions of dollars of extra funding, why are mental health services in Auckland still in such trouble?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is my view that in general the Auckland District Health Board is performing very well at the moment. I am aware of that report, and I am also aware that the Auckland District Health Board has taken clear steps to improve the systems and has made some personnel moves in that department.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Does the Minister realise that for each of the last 3 years the number of people who died preventable deaths at Waitemata District Health Board was greater than the number of people killed on the roads in North Shore City, and what assurance will he give that fewer people will die needlessly at the board’s hospital in this coming year?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The whole burden of our work on this issue in the last few months and years has been to minimise the number of preventable deaths, and that continues to be my overriding objective.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table severe criticism of the Auckland District Health Board mental health services, released today in Auckland.

 Leave granted.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: I seek leave to table figures that show that for each of the last 3 years there were more preventable deaths at Waitemata District Health Board—

 Leave granted.


5. Cluster Munitions—Ban

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

5. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: Does he stand by his statement that this week’s conference on cluster bombs will make an “important contribution to achieving an ambitious vision of a ban on cluster munitions”; if so, is he confident that all Government policy supports this goal?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control) : Yes. The Oslo process, of which New Zealand was one of the seven initiating countries, has made substantial progress towards a treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. This is really important, because the Geneva process over the last 5 years has got exactly nowhere on that same issue. The member will be aware—as indeed will other members—from last night’s parliamentary function of the wide acknowledgment and praise that New Zealand has been accorded for the leading and positive role that it has played, a view that I understand the Green Party shares.

Keith Locke: At the Wellington conference—which I fully congratulate the Government on hosting—is the Government calling for a complete ban on cluster munitions without exceptions; if so, what steps is it taking to counter those countries like Australia, Britain, and Canada that are pushing for exceptions to be listed in the Wellington declaration coming out of the conference?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand is supporting the Oslo declaration, which talks about banning all cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. In that respect we are working through a process with 121 other countries to try to find common ground around the strongest possible ban that can be put in place. I welcome the fact that more than half of those countries that have or manufacture cluster munitions and a very large percentage of those countries in which cluster munitions have been used are attending the conference. The purpose of this conference is to make sufficient progress so that in Dublin in May we will get a treaty where a ban will be imposed along the line set out initially in the Oslo declaration.

Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister further clarify the precise position that our Government has taken on cluster munitions with specific regard to its Defence Force and foreign policy, consistent with its very strong stance, I understand, within the Oslo process?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The New Zealand Government has stated unequivocally that New Zealand will not acquire, does not posses, and does not and will not use cluster munitions. That is an absolute declaration, and that statement received wide support last night from other parliamentarians from around the world. In addition to that I think most New Zealanders are aware of the proud tradition of the New Zealand Defence Force in clearing munitions and landmines in countries in diverse as Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. In addition I acknowledge the role played by NZAID in giving very good support to those survivors of cluster munitions—particularly in Cambodia, where I have seen the work it has done with children in providing prosthetic support. That is really important.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister sometimes feel his very good work on this issue is being undermined by some parts of the Government continuing to invest taxpayers’ money in corporations that manufacture cluster bombs—such as the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which invests $22 million in the cluster bomb manufacturer Lockheed Martin?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is very aware that this House passed—and I think most parties supported—legislation for the fact that the Government is not able to specifically direct the investments by the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. However, the board does work under a statutory mandate, and that mandate is to avoid prejudicing New Zealand’s reputation. I think a really positive spin-off from the Oslo process and this Wellington conference is the announcement made by the guardians of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund that they are following this process very closely. They are reviewing investments in companies, some of which may be involved with cluster munitions. I believe that with the passage of this treaty, a decision will be made in line with responsible investment, and I note that the Superannuation Fund is one of the founding signatories to the UN in that area.

Keith Locke: What practical steps is the Government taking to address the interoperability issue, which is one of the most challenging issues being addressed at the current conference, so that New Zealand troops in Afghanistan are not being defended by cluster bombs possessed by their coalition partners?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Interoperability is certainly an issue that is being discussed at the conference. It is particularly important, given the very high percentage of NATO countries attending that conference. I welcome the fact that every one of the countries attending the conference is there—notwithstanding the fact that they may have a slightly different view from the countries that started off this process. In terms of interoperability, it is true that the United States has cluster munitions and that it is in Afghanistan. I would certainly not in any way suggest that New Zealand’s peacekeeping forces, which are doing such a fantastic job in Bamian, should be withdrawn because of that fact. I will give a little bit of advertising. Governor Sarabi from the Bamian Province will be in New Zealand next week. I am sure she will speak out about the really good work the New Zealand Defence Force is doing in her province.

6. Bail—Pre-trial System

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

6. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement that “The pre-trial bail system must balance two competing considerations: the defendant’s right to be considered innocent until proved guilty, and the safety of the community.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes. The statement reiterates two fundamental and longstanding principles of criminal justice that are recorded in sections 25(c) and 24(b) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Simon Power: What changed between the time that gang leader Daniel Crichton was refused bail last year and now that would make him any less dangerous and would justify his release last month, or did the decision have nothing to do with public safety?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have no knowledge as to what conditions changed in that particular case, nor would I expect to have information about that. It was a decision made by the judge.

Simon Power: Has the Minister seen reports that when gang members inside Mount Eden Prison found out about the stolen medals and who had taken them, there was “something of a clamour to take advantage of the information”, and does the fact that so many criminals had such an epiphany of civic duty mean that that the practice of trading information for leniency from the justice system will become more commonplace?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen that report, and I also heard defence lawyers on the radio today saying that it is not uncommon for criminals to provide information, and for their lawyers to deal with the system in that respect. I do not think we are seeing anything new in this respect.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Anything goes in this Government.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I take exception to the comments made by Nick Smith that somehow or other the Government had something to do with the judge making a decision on bail. That may be what happens under a National Government, but I can assure the people of New Zealand that we will not interfere, and have not interfered, in decisions that judges in this country make. We respect that separation of power.

Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by her statement with regard to bail laws that “… judges are entitled to all information, in order to make those decisions.”; if so, did the judge know about the deal done between the police, the Crown prosecutor, and Daniel Crichton over the return of the war medals?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have no knowledge of that. I was neither in the judge’s chamber nor where the judge was making those decisions. Mr Power, as a lawyer, knows that the Minister of Police and the Minister of Justice, or any member of this Parliament, would not have been there, either. This is really a very dangerous path to go down—to try to assume that the Minister of Justice somehow or other was able to be privy to that sort of information. Judges of this country are making decisions based on information they have received.

Simon Power: Has she seen reports that since Crichton’s release on bail he has been seen in downtown Auckland with members of the Headhunters gang, and can she confirm that if this is in breach of his bail conditions, the changes her Government made to the Bail Act last year make it far less likely that he will be recalled to prison?

Hon Phil Goff: Nonsense!

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I have not seen that report, and I agree with my colleague Phil Goff: the assumptions made by that member are nothing other than nonsense.

Simon Power: Can she give this House and the country as a whole an assurance that any other gang kingpin remanded in custody will not use the precedent set by this recent “bail for medals” scandal to get his associates to acquire on order other items that may be used to ransom his release?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If some day I become a judge, maybe I could give that guarantee. But as a member of Parliament and the Minister of Justice I can give no such guarantee, because I have no say on the decisions an individual judge makes on any bail hearing.

Ron Mark: Would the Minister agree that the far more serious question that we should be asking about bail relates to the case of Fanuaea Leatigaga, a young man who was charged on 29 December 2005 with sexual violation and threatening to kill, was denied bail by the District Court, given bail by the High Court, then went on, whilst on bail, to sexually assault a 16-year-old, then went on to violate sexually a 15-year-old girl in the Aranui High School grounds whilst at the same time fighting off her 14-year-old girlfriend, then went on to rape a 21-year-old pregnant woman at knifepoint in her home, and subsequently admitted three counts of sexual violation and two of rape, the bulk of which were committed after the High Court had granted him bail against all police advice?

Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Annette King. [Interruption]

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think the language that Mr Ron Mark used across the House then is at all acceptable.

Ron Mark: I have just outlined a severely tragic case involving a number of women who were raped and a number of young schoolgirls who were sexually molested. For Mr Brownlee to cheapen the argument about the bail laws that were in place in 2005—well before the amendment that he took a cheap shot at—is absolutely ludicrous and pathetic, and actually undermines the seriousness of the situation and the position of those women. I think he is the one who should stand up and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. I did not hear, because there was too much noise, but exception has been taken. Would the member withdraw and apologise.

Ron Mark: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask Mr Brownlee to have the gentlemanly decency to apologise in the same manner.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear what Mr Brownlee said, either—I am sorry.

Gerry Brownlee: I simply asked who voted for the laws.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I do not think that requires to be—

Gerry Brownlee:If that is offensive—

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is not.

Gerry Brownlee: —to Mr Mark, I am terribly sorry. I withdraw and apologise to anyone who was offended by that question.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot comment on the case that the member has just outlined. I have huge sympathy for the women who received that treatment at the hands of somebody who obviously should be locked away for a long time. What I can say to the member is that in 2007 almost 400,000 bail cases were heard in New Zealand, and in the overwhelming majority of those cases our judges made incredibly good decisions. Our judges do a very good job, and I think to have it cheapened by somehow trying to pretend that politicians can tell judges who should and who should not get bail sets a very bad precedent

Simon Power: I seek leave to introduce a member’s bill in my name, which repeals the changes to the Bail Act made by the Government last year; and for that bill to be set down, together with an inclusion in it that no bail decision should be influenced by any help a defendant has provided to a criminal investigation, for a first reading, ahead of private and local orders of the day, on 12 March 2008.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table documents to show that these offences occurred in 2005.

 Leave granted.

Ron Mark: I seek leave to present documentation to show that the adjustments to the Bail Act of which Mr Brownlee was so cheaply speaking occurred in 2007.

 Leave granted.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table the first decision made by Justice Heath after the changes to the Bail Act were made, in which he said: “It does not seem to me to put the test”—

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

7. Youth—Initiatives

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

7. DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received about ways to ensure a good start for all young people?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : This morning the OECD released a review of how New Zealand supports young people in transiting from school to work. Jobs for Youth New Zealand notes the huge progress we have made since the 1990s in getting young people into employment and rebuilding the vocational pathways from school to work. Further improvements are recommended, including raising the school leaving age and improving participation in early childhood education. Those are exactly the policies that the Labour-led Government has introduced into our schools with the Schools Plus programme, and our 20 free hours of early childhood entitlement for all 3 and 4-year-olds. Interestingly enough, those policies are opposed by the National Party.

Dianne Yates: How does the OECD report on youth employment relate to major new education initiatives announced by the Labour-led Government?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: They relate exactly. Our very strong economy has lead to record levels of employment. We have higher-than-average achievement levels in science, mathematics, and literacy, and initiatives like our Gateway programme, now available in all secondary schools in New Zealand, the Youth Apprenticeships scheme, which will be trialled in 10 schools this year, and, of course, our Schools Plus programme will significantly improve our educational outcomes.

Anne Tolley: Why has this Government clearly failed to address the ongoing problem of student underachievement, so that after 8 years of a Labour Government we are left with a “hard-core of youth who are at high risk of poor labour market outcomes and social exclusion.”, as the OECD has described today; would New Zealanders not be better off with a totally focused, fully funded initiative like National’s Youth Guarantee and trades training policy?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Cheap headline initiatives like boot camps will not work. An investment in education will work, like the extra $4 billion this Government has put in, the 5,000 teachers above roll growth, the 20 free hours for early childhood education, the over 1,400 new classrooms, the over 36 new schools, and so it goes on. This Government has invested in education; it is offering real solutions to real problems.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave of the House to table Jobs for Youth New Zealand.

 Leave granted.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a document outlining 45 different initiatives this Government has taken to lift educational achievement in this country.

 Leave granted.


8. Hawke's Bay District Health Board—Ministerial Intervention

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

8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What are the reasons why he is threatening to dismiss the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and replace it with a commissioner?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I have written to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board outlining my reasons for being seriously dissatisfied with its performance. That letter is in the public domain, and I am happy to table it. However, until due process is completed I will not be making a decision, nor making further substantive comment, on that issue.

Hon Tony Ryall: It is not a fact that this Minister has manufactured a list of grievances against the Hawke’s Bay District Board in an attempt to divert public attention from the hospital failures report and the Owen Glenn affair, and to take out the critics of his whitewash inquiry into Annette King’s involvement with this board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister consider that the level of confrontation that has arisen in his dealings with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board is the best way to deal with the board’s difficulties; if not, can he assure us that the seeming impasse will be resolved as quickly as possible and with a minimum of trial by media?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Clearly, this level of confrontation is not assisting the health care delivery to the people of Hawke’s Bay, and it is for exactly the reasons that the member suggests that I have asked all parties to refrain from public comment.

Craig Foss: How can the Minister cite last month’s letter from the Auditor-General to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board as a reason, when in that letter the Auditor-General does not give a poor grading to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board for any measure and does not recommend any major improvements that need urgent attention for any aspects, and when that same letter reminds the Minister that the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board received an unqualified audit opinion for its 2006-07 accounts?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Given that in every category that was reviewed in the audit in question the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board received the rating “needs improvement”, I ask what part of the member’s early education he can now not remember?

Darien Fenton: Can the Minister elaborate on his concerns about tensions between clinicians in the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I do not need to do so when a number of clinicians have been on Radio New Zealand National this morning outlining their concerns for themselves.

Chris Tremain: Why is the Minister ignoring an unprecedented letter in support of the board from the five Hawke’s Bay mayors who represent over 150,000 citizens, ignoring the many senior doctors who have come forward to support the board, and ignoring the Hawke’s Bay voters who elected the board just 4 short months ago; and why is it a case of the Minister versus Hawke’s Bay?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: First, because I care more about the health care standards of the people of Hawke’s Bay than I do about local politics. Second, because I have heard the many voices of senior clinicians and others who are saying all is not well in the state of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

Chris Tremain: How can the Minister cite the deteriorating deficit at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board as a reason to dismiss the entire board, when its members were elected by the people of Hawke’s Bay only 4 short months ago, when most other district health boards are facing deficits, and when he did not sack the Capital and Coast District Health Board, which is facing a far more serious deficit?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Firstly, I repeat to the House that no decision has been made and that I have given the board a week to justify its position. Secondly, the position with the Capital and Coast District Health Board is not analogous. The issues there were at the clinical and management level. The issues here are quite squarely, it would appear, at the governance level, and that is what will be sorted out.

Hon Tony Ryall: Could the Minister explain why, when Capital and Coast District Health Board was facing a huge deficit, severe clinical criticism, and an audit report that said it needed improvement in every category—and without any public support—he decided to keep it, but when it comes to a district health board enjoying the wide support of its own community and clinicians, he wants to give that one the chop?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place, if I recall correctly, that member accused me of being rather Draconian in the case of the Capital and Coast District Health Board. It is interesting that he has now changed his tune. In the second place, much as I have not made a decision, it may be possible that I have a little more information to hand than some of the residents of that beautiful province.

Craig Foss: I seek leave to table the letter from the Auditor-General to the Minister of Health, in which there is not one item rated “4”.

 Leave granted.

Chris Tremain: I seek leave to table the unprecedented letter from the five regional mayors supporting the board.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table my letter of 20 February 2008 to the chairman of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board.

 Leave granted.


9. Community Groups—Sustainable Funding Model

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

9. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Why is the Government introducing a new funding model for community groups delivering essential social services?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Our Government is completing the move away from the old market-based system put in place by the National Government in the 1990s. We have listened to the community and voluntary sector, and have worked in partnership to develop a new sustainable model. As Jeff Sanders of Relationship Services said, this is “the result of the Pathways to Partnership discussions with the Government … about how community organisations can be better resourced to meet the growing and complex needs in the community.” The new model will provide funding to deliver results for children, young people, families, and communities. It will focus on outcomes, not on the number of clients worked with.

Lynne Pillay: How will the Government decide which organisations will be fully funded?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The focus is not on the organisation but on the service provided. One is assuming that it is an essential, contracted service. Essential services are those services that are best provided by community organisations, and that the Government would have to provide directly if the community did not. This will not be restricted to large or nationally based organisations. We know that many effective organisations are based at the community level—in marae, in churches—and are built up from the grassroots.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has she seen of alternative funding models for the community sector?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen a model built on the philosophy 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.” That is the market-based model advocated by the National Party—an approach based on competitive bidding wars. That model would not lead to certainty for the community sector, and would not focus on achieving good outcomes for vulnerable New Zealanders.

10. Leaky Homes—Government Policy

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

10. BOB CLARKSON (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Is the taxpayer getting value for money from the Government’s initiatives to fix the leaky homes problem?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) : Yes; of specific importance is the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act that came into force on 1 April 2007, and it provides a speedy, less costly, and more effective resolution because it has comprehensive assessment of properties that improves ability to estimate repair requirements and costs. I can make its measures available to the member at a later date.

Bob Clarkson: How can the Minister justify spending $650,000 on administration of the loans scheme announced in the Budget 2006 to help leaky home owners, when only seven loans have been issued, amounting to an administrative cost of $93,000 a house?

Hon SHANE JONES: The response of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service goes beyond the single loan facility that the member refers to. The loan facility is extremely highly sought after wherever there lies an opportunity not only to expand that but also to expedite people through the mediation process, and to the disputes resolution process. I say to the member that within 10 to 12 weeks people are having their claims effectively and successfully dealt with.

Bob Clarkson: Order!

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. Another comment like that and the member will be asked to leave the Chamber.

Bob Clarkson: Is it not an appalling waste of public money that the Government would spend $93,000 on administration costs on each leaky home, and an average of $100,000 costs in the Weathertight Homes Tribunal claim area, when the average cost to fix a leaky home is $120,000?

Hon SHANE JONES: On the question of an alleged waste of money causing public angst, I remind the member that it was under his party in Government that this leaky homes fiasco actually originated. The former parliamentarian league radically liberated the sector, and look what we have got—a public legacy of debt and virtual suicide.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe Madam Speaker, tēnā hoki koe e te Minita.

 [Greetings to you, Madam Speaker, and to you also, the Minister.]


Would the Minister agree that the issue of leaky buildings would never have occurred in the first place if shonky property developers and speculators had not tried to rip off investors and homeowners by using shoddy material and building practices?

Hon SHANE JONES: I direct the member to an article in the newspaper that refers to a court case that has involved the producers and suppliers of those products stepping up to the plate to engage in a settlement—and I remind the member that Don Hunn described the failure as a systemic one, including the behaviour of poorly skilled people, poorly skilled counsellors, and very unethical company directors.

Bob Clarkson: Why, in response to the building industry’s concern that the loan scheme was a sham, did Clayton Cosgrove cruelly raise the hopes of desperate leaky home owners by stating that the scheme would open the way for thousands to have their homes repaired, when only seven loans have been granted?

Hon SHANE JONES: There are two main avenues that people are using with greater regularity. No. 1 is the mediation service; No. 2 is the dispute resolution service. For a sum of $500, anyone who has a complaint may approach the department and have a very professional engineering quantitative assessment of his or her problem and the likely costs. In the market, that might cost $9,000. The Government and the department are making that available for $500. However, we do confine the providers of those reports to professional, competent, and trustworthy people.

Bob Clarkson: How many chances should this Government have at fixing the leaky home problem, when Helen Clark initially said that it was just a media beat-up, when there have been four attempts by the Government to fix it, when the current Minister is now the 10th Minister to have responsibility for it, and when last year’s initiative to fix this problem with a loan scheme has failed?

Hon SHANE JONES: The initiative to reduce stress and actually settle people’s concerns is not failing. People have the choice of going to the High Court, and I direct Mr Clarkson’s attention to the newspaper today to show that some are making use of that option. Others—growing in number—are going down the mediation and dispute resolution route. That is taking place over a period of 10 to 12 weeks, and the sums they are being allocated are not insignificant.

11. Terrorism Suppression Act—Government Conduct

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

11. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What is the process that the Government undertakes to respond to the inquiry from the United Nations special rapporteur on human Rights while countering terrorism, an inquiry which is related to the Government’s conduct during the 15 October 2007 raids?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs) : The process is already complete. The request was received on 3 December 2007. The Government responded on 30 January.

Dr Pita Sharples: What complaints have been received from the United Nations about the violations of human rights arising from the conduct of the police, politicians, and media?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That question is so broad that I am afraid I could not possibly give an answer—it gives neither a time frame nor the nature of the inquiries. I would note, in terms of requests from the special rapporteurs, that in the last year for which we have information, 2006, more than 1,100 such requests were made of 143 countries.

Dr Pita Sharples: In responding to the United Nations special rapporteur, will the Minister be endorsing the behaviour of police during the raids on Tūhoe families, including reported actions such as holding loaded rifles to the heads of young girls?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What the Government will do, and has done, is explain the nature of police operational independence in New Zealand. This probably will come as a surprise to some of the countries represented on the United Nations Human Rights Council, where no such operational independence occurs. In some of those countries the police probably issue the orders to the Government rather than the other way round.

Dr Pita Sharples: Will the Minister be reconsidering New Zealand’s stand to oppose the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, given that the foreign affairs Minister of the new Australian Labor Government is consulting stakeholders with a view to reversing Australia’s opposition to the declaration; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have no such plans at present, as I have explained to the House before. A large number of the countries that voted for that declaration have no, what one might call, indigenous peoples—a term, of course, that has no meaning in a country, say, like the United Kingdom. Some of those countries voted for the declaration made it quite clear they had no intention of implementing it should any issues arise. The countries that voted against the declaration shared two features: first, they have indigenous populations; and, second, they carry out obligations when they sign up to them.

12. Housing Affordability—Review of Public Land Holdings

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

12. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Land Information: What progress has been made in reviewing public landholdings in Auckland to identify what new land “might be made available for significant housing developments”, and what work still needs to be done?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Land Information) :Last week the Prime Minister announced a comprehensive package of measures to improve housing affordability. Land Information New Zealand has already commenced work on one of the measures announced—the review of public landholdings in Auckland.

Phil Heatley: When asked late last year for “work done to identify public land available for affordable housing”, why did the Government itself supply a list of properties including the Auckland Zoo, the Auckland libraries, and 16,000 hectares of dockland; does it simply indicate how poorly thought out and ill-advanced this latest idea was?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The list to which the member refers is different from the list that is being prepared now. The list last time was not comprehensive. The current list being prepared will identify all public land held in Auckland. It will consider its suitability for housing developments. This will include looking at factors such as current and proposed uses of the land, its size, and its location. Obviously, not all public land is suitable for residential development. We have to reserve land for schools, etc.

Phil Heatley: Why, then, was the Prime Minister’s statement so bold about providing public land for affordable housing, when the background work was so ill-advanced and so much in its infancy that the paperwork the Government supplied still listed the zoo, libraries, and 16,000 hectares of dockland?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member misrepresents the list to which he refers. There is no doubt that the stocktake of public lands will actually identify some lands that will be suitable for public housing.

Darien Fenton: Will the review lead to unsustainable urban sprawl?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it will not. There is no need to abandon proper urban planning and environmental protections, which, I would note, seems to be the simplistic solution proposed by National.

Phil Heatley: When does the Minister expect that this new list of suitable public land, to be identified by Land Information New Zealand, will be available, and when does he expect that this land will be made available for housing, so that first home buyers can have a sense of when this latest promise is to be fulfilled?

Hon DAVID PARKER: This promise will be fulfilled in the same reliable way that we have already assisted the 3,000-plus first home buyers who have secured mortgages through the Government’s Welcome Home Loan scheme, and, of course, more than 400,000 people are in KiwiSaver, many of whom will receive up to $10,000 to assist them to buy their first home. I have no doubt that this stocktake of public lands will be helpful.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I specially asked when the Minister expected the public land schedule, which is being done now, to be finished and the land to be available. I was not interested in Welcome Home Loans—

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the member’s point. I listened very carefully. The Minister did address the question in the first part of his answer.

Phil Heatley: Why was the Prime Minister’s promise to release public land heralded as a bold action plan, when such land may not surface for years; why, after all this time, are all the Prime Minister’s solutions still in the pipeline? No shared-equity homes are available today; the planned homes for first home buyers in Hobsonville are not built yet, and when they are built, a person would have to be on $70,000 a year to afford one; and now we know that the public land list is so much in its infancy that we may not see it for years. How does all this help first home buyers today?

Hon DAVID PARKER: All of the numerous steps that are being taken will assist. The likes of the Hobsonville development will assist, as will identification of other public lands. In terms of this misapprehension that we are somehow proposing to build houses on zoo land, it has always been a nonsense argument.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Government’s land schedule for affordable housing.

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

ENDS


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