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Questions And Answers – Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Questions And Answers – Tuesday, 11 March 2008


1. Finance, Minister—Confidence

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Finance; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister agree that the clause drafted by the Minister of Finance last week in relation to strategic assets may in fact not stop the Canada Pension Plan from acquiring 40 percent of Auckland International Airport’s shares, despite the impression to the contrary that she may have portrayed to the public last week?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would be interested to know whether the member thought that was good or bad, because he has held every position on this issue.

John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister a pretty straightforward question; although she might want to indulge herself, I ask you to ask her to answer the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Prime Minister like to add anything more to the answer?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Order in Council last week, which amended regulation 28 of the Overseas Investment Regulations 2005, added the following words: “whether the overseas investment will or is likely to assist New Zealand to maintain New Zealand control of strategically important infrastructure on sensitive land”. That is the criterion that Ministers will apply to the application, which they will receive advice on. Unlike Mr Key, I do not intend to comment on a specific application.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Prime Minister confident that the Minister of Finance has adequately protected our key strategic assets, given that it would be all to easy for a future Government to quietly remove the regulations the Minister of Finance recently introduced to tighten the Overseas Investment Act; and does she therefore agree that it would be wise to entrench this regulation in law?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would have no confidence about New Zealand holding on to its State-owned assets, or on to strategically important infrastructure, under any National Government. Why are we trying to buy back rail now? Because the National Government sold it lock, stock, and barrel, including the track.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was specific—whether the regulations should be entrenched in law—and I would appreciate an answer to that question.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I call the right honourable Prime Minister.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am happy to address that part of the question, because my understanding is that what Mr Key now proposes—his policy, after eight goes on what he thought about strategic assets—involves a change in the law. I think it is time he consulted Mr Groser on what that might mean for New Zealand’s international obligations.

John Key: If the Prime Minister, as she stated before, is not prepared to comment on the Canadian pension plan bid, can she just answer why in fact she did comment last week, when she said she had no personal enthusiasm for it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I said I had no enthusiasm for New Zealand losing control of that very important piece of strategic infrastructure, and further, I am not so economically illiterate as the member to think that one has to get 51 percent in order to get control.

Sue Kedgley: Is she confident of her Minister of Finance’s commitment to protect New Zealand’s strategic assets, given his reluctance to state what those assets actually are, and does she agree that what we need is a clear list of strategic assets that should be kept in New Zealand control, set out in an appendix to the Overseas Investment Act, as I had outlined in a member’s bill, which the National Party did not allow me to introduce last year?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure any foreign investors would make themselves conversant with the schedule of the Act, and it is schedule 1, which outlines precisely what falls into the sensitive land category.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement from Michael Cullen, made today, when he said: “It’s now for the two Ministers to make a decision, and obviously other Ministers should not be commenting or it might be seen to be influencing that decision.”, and if she does agree with that comment made by Michael Cullen, why did she comment last week and potentially influence the decision?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My comment last week was about my view, not Mr Key’s view, that foreign control by a single company is not desirable. Mr Key cannot work out where he stands; he has had at least eight positions.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that in fact her office has received advice suggesting that the Prime Minister may well have breached, with her comments last week, the securities legislation, and in fear of making the situation even more compounding, given her track record with Air New Zealand, she is now taking the Minister of Finance’s advice to shut up?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: All I can confirm is that no such advice has been received, because no such infringement has occurred. If anyone ought to be worried about what he or she said, it is that member with his eight different positions.

John Key: If the Prime Minister is not concerned that she may have breached the securities legislation, why has she changed her position this week from that of last week; is it not a fact of life that she did not actually know she was in breach of the legislation last week, and now she is worried about it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No comment of any detail has been made by me about this application; nor will it be.

John Key: Why did her Government seek to change the criteria in relation to the bid for Auckland airport by the Canadian pension plan, a minority bid with lower voting rights, when, 8 months earlier, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise came in with a controlling majority bid—is the reason she did not act 8 months ago, but her Government is trying to act now, that 8 months ago it was not so far behind in the polls, and that the attitude now is to hell with the confidence in the New Zealand markets and to hell with the savings of New Zealanders; it is whatever it takes to try to prop up what we now know is a dying Labour Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that no application to the Government was received from the Dubai company. What I do know is that the Leader of the Opposition does not give a damn who has control of Auckland International Airport.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table my member’s bill, which sets up an appendix to the Overseas Investment Act—

- Leave granted.

2. Debt, Government—Impact

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

2. Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the impact of increasing Government debt?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : I have seen various reports calling for an increase in gross Crown debt to 25 percent of GDP. These come from Mr John Key. Lifting Crown debt to 25 percent of GDP would cost an extra $700 million a year in finance costs alone. We would rather spend that money on health, education, and infrastructure than on debt servicing to largely overseas lenders.

Hon Paul Swain: Has he received any alternative reports on appropriate levels of Government debt?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I saw a report in the Christchurch Press on Saturday from Mr English, which stated that lifting gross Crown debt to 25 percent of GDP “has never been one of our policies”. If raising debt has never been National policy, then Mr English must ask Mr Key to stop promoting it, or perhaps Mr English has simply learnt earlier than the rest of us to take little notice of Mr Key’s pronouncements.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister of Finance is so sure of his record about Government debt, then what does he make of the figures on page 57 of his half-year update that show gross sovereign issued debt excluding settlement cash increasing from $30.89 billion in 2007 to over $33 billion forecast for 2008; if he is increasing Government debt by $2.4 billion, then what is he spending it on?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is still below 20 percent of GDP, and, as the member well knows, that is gross and includes, for example, the cash held by the Reserve Bank.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister not aware that the half-year update changed the definition to exclude Reserve Bank settlement cash; and can he answer the original question, which was if the Government debt is forecast to rise by $2.4 billion, then is he spending that to fund the company tax cut, the technology fund announced today, or some spending increases that he has not told us about yet?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I would like the member to tell us is whether he opposes the Government tax cut or opposes the money going into the fund for primary sector research. What that member has to tell the House is whether $33 billion is less than 20 percent of GDP. Can he do the sums?And the answer is: “Yes, it is.”

3. Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—Conflicts of Interest

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

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he have confidence in the director-general’s inquiry into the handling of conflicts of interest at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board; and why?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Yes, I have confidence in the Director-General of Health and in the independence of the process, which is being supported by the Crown Law Office. I await the delivery of that review.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why was the former Hawke’s Bay District Health Board given only 3 working days to provide comment on version two of the panel’s report—a version that was radically different from the first version—and how can the public interpret that as anything other than part of a whitewash to suppress highly critical comments of Annette King’s appointee, Mr Hausmann?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place, that is a question I cannot answer, because it is a matter for the director-general. In the second place, the member might do well to read the report when it is published, rather than trying to undermine it before it is issued.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that version one of the report largely exonerates the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, and severely condemns Annette King’s appointee, Mr Hausmann, for lack of disclosure of his heavily conflicted involvement in multimillion-dollar contracts, and is that not the real reason why this report is being suppressed?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As far as I am aware, there is absolutely no report that is being suppressed, and I cannot answer the question about versions I have not seen. If the member thinks he has any information here, the question is how he got that information. All work, I understand, has been the subject of lawyers’ confidentiality deeds.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the director-general seek to extend the media gagging order on version one, when there were and are no court proceedings that could be affected by its publication?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Again, that is a question for the director-general, but I imagine it was in order to preserve the integrity of the process—a process that that member seems to be determined to undermine. Just what is it in that report that the member is aware of that he is so afraid of?

Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Minister undertake to the House that version one of the report will be released so that the public can draw their own conclusions; if not, how will the public ever know the full extent of the conflicts of interest of, and broken undertakings by, Annette King’s appointee?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is important that all members of this House respect the proper legal process that the director-general has employed upon Crown Law advice. It does the member no good to pretend that he has information that he either cannot have or does not legally have, and thereby seek to discredit a review that he has not seen.

Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Government instruct the director-general not to seek permanent suppression of version one, because if that report is permanently suppressed, the public of New Zealand will never have the opportunity to draw their conclusions about why version one is so different from version two?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It seems strange that the member would ask the Minister to compromise the independence of a civil servant acting upon Crown Law advice. I thought the National Party did not like that kind of thing.

4. Pastoral and Food Industries—Innovation

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

4. SUE MORONEY (Junior Whip—Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture: What initiatives has the Government announced to encourage innovation in our most important pastoral and food industries?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) : Today the Prime Minister, the Minister for Economic Development, and I launched New Zealand Fast Forward. This historic initiative is a partnership between the Labour-Progressive Government and the powerhouse industries in the engine room of the New Zealand economy. This new partnership is designed to take our country’s economic and environmental performance forward in a quantum leap. Today the Government committed $700 million in a capital sum for investment over the next 10 to 15 years. The food and pastoral industries have pledged to match this funding annually. Over the next decade or so, $2 billion is expected to be invested in research and development, as well as in skills training, education, and innovation. This will ensure that New Zealand is capable of meeting the challenges confronting our economy and of seizing the opportunities that lie within our comparative advantages.

Sue Moroney: Why is the Government making this investment in innovation?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Innovation is especially crucial in our primary sector because our primary sector is so crucial to New Zealand.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: For 9 years you’ve been cutting the size!

Hon JIM ANDERTON: If Mr Smith wants to object to this, I ask him to tell us clearly why, and we will spread that around the rural areas. If we can achieve a step change in the performance of our pastoral and food industries then we have an opportunity, which does not come along very often, to change the economic destiny of New Zealand. This Government does not talk vaguely and in imprecise, slippery terms about how ambitious we are for New Zealand. Today’s announcement shows that only the Labour-Progressive Government has a genuine vision and a plan to take New Zealand forward.

R Doug Woolerton: New Zealand First agrees absolutely with the proposed Agricultural Innovation Fund, but as strong advocates of agriculture science we ask the Minister why has he not done this much earlier?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Government has increased its own investment in research, science, and technology, but the problem has been that the private sector is relatively low by OECD standards. In stumping up the up to $1 billion in an upfront fund, which we dedicated especially to research, science, and technology development, we have challenged the private sector to match that sum so we can lever off up to $2 billion. The private sector has done exactly that. I notice that the National Party’s rural affairs policy stated that National would put up a sustainable fund. But it would put it up by selling Landcorp. That tells us something about National’s agenda.

Sue Moroney: What reports has the Minister seen regarding this exciting announcement?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have seen reports from a range of organisations expressing considerable support for New Zealand Fast Forward. The Chair of DairyNZ, the Hon John Luxton, has welcomed the initiative and described it as being significant for the dairy industry. The Professor of Agriculture at Massey University, Jacqueline Rowarth, said that today’s New Zealand Fast Forward announcement is a huge statement about the value that the Government places upon the primary sector. She said that the step taken today is the foundation for a paradigm shift that we need, with skills, science, and innovation enhanced in the primary sector. New Zealand will be a model for the rest of the world. And well may a Government that can lead that model stay in power to do it.

Hon David Carter: Why did it take the Labour Government 20 years to realise that agriculture is not “a sunset industry”, as it was described by David Lange in 1988, and to finally realise that agriculture is the backbone of the New Zealand economy?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It is a bit rich when the member blames someone who is dead for a policy that his party does not have itself. For 9 years National was in Government and it did nothing about this issue. For nearly 9 years National has been in Opposition and has done nothing about it except put up the sale of Landcorp. I would call that pretty bankrupt in policy terms if I was anybody.

R Doug Woolerton: Did the Minister see the quote in the December issue of Farmers Weekly that described the agriculture spokesman for National as being “the invisible man”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a matter of fact I did, and I could not remember who he was.

5. Debt, Household Levels—Changes since 2000

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

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: What is Treasury’s most recent estimate of the change in household debt levels since 2000?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : Treasury estimates that household debt has increased from $71 billon to $157 billion. At the same time, total assets have increased from $353 billion to $774 billion, so that the net position is some 2½ times higher.

Hon Bill English: Has the proportion of disposable household income spent on servicing this record debt risen; if so, by how much?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, it has risen substantially since about 2004 as we have seen both higher borrowing and, of course, increases in interest rates. That has increased, I think, from about 9.5 percent to about 14 percent of household income as I read the graph quickly.

Hon Mark Gosche: What reports has he received on support for Government initiatives to improve household savings rates?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I released a report today that states that, as at 29 February, 470,000 New Zealanders have signed up for KiwiSaver. We now expect to reach the 500,000 mark in approximately 2 weeks’ time. I have also seen reports that KiwiSaver was “a terribly designed system”, other reports that stated that KiwiSaver “was gonna be successful”, and an additional report that the take-up of KiwiSaver would be low. All three of those reports came from Mr Key, who has voted against KiwiSaver 40 times.

Hon Bill English: What does the Minister say to households who are carrying this record debt, who cannot afford to save in KiwiSaver, who face continued high inflation in their food prices, and now interest rates rising to around 10 percent, driven partly by his excessive spending?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government spending certainly has nothing at all to do with food prices—that is determined by international market prices. I was not aware that National had reverted to trying to set controls on food prices in the New Zealand economy. In terms of KiwiSaver, the member may be quite surprised when the evaluation report comes out that those now entering KiwiSaver through the compulsory enrolment process are very broadly spread across the income range.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister stand by his statements last year that New Zealand needs a mortgage interest levy on top of the fixed-rate mortgages to stop people paying too much for houses?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the member ought to have known, since his leader was actually quite interested in the idea at the meeting in my room, the mortgage interest levy would have replaced part of the movements in the official cash rate, not be an addition to those movements.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that part of the scheme with the mortgage interest levy was that when interest rates eventually go down, the mortgage interest levy would be imposed, and can he tell Parliament today that if he is re-elected he will not impose a mortgage interest levy when interest rates eventually go down?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I think the Prime Minister has already said, the mortgage interest levy is a dead idea, and I assume that in trying to kick a dead horse the member is simply practising to attack his leader after the election.

Hon Bill English: Given that circumstances have now turned heavily against householders who face record debt, very high interest rates, and high inflation, can he confirm that his proposition for the mortgage interest levy last year was a cynical political exercise that suited him at the time, just as his last-minute intervention in the Auckland International Airport has been, and why has he completely given up on sound economic management, for pure political management?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have two responses to that. The member seems to have forgotten that when the mortgage interest levy was floated, the member criticised the Reserve Bank of New Zealand for not having put up interest rates sooner and harder. That was his answer to that particular issue. In relation to Auckland International Airport he seems to have forgotten that by the end of the week, National having started off in confusion had supported a regulation to ban any ownership in excess of 50 percent of strategic assets under any circumstance, an idea that was so bizarre it was adopted within a matter of days by Robert Mugabe.

6. Women—Well-being and Status

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

6. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Women’s Affairs: What steps has the Government taken to improve the well-being and status of women in New Zealand?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Minister of Women’s Affairs) : The Government has taken lots of steps. Since 1999 we have improved the well-being and position of women by introducing 14 weeks’ paid parental leave, 20 hours’ free early childhood education, Working for Families, and 4 weeks’ annual leave. This Saturday this Labour-led Government celebrated the successes with hundreds of women as we marked 100 years of International Working Women’s Day.

Darien Fenton: What support has the Minister received for such initiatives?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: These initiatives have improved the lives of New Zealand families. One group, though, has steadfastly refused to support these initiatives. It has consistently opposed the well-being of women by voting against the introduction of paid parental leave, now reaching over 100,000 families; Working for Families, which will benefit 360,000 families; 4 weeks’ annual leave; and 70,000 three and 4-year-olds getting 20 hours’ free early childhood education. However, these initiatives have been so popular that National has again been forced to flip-flop over them, but women and families in New Zealand want to know what National’s position is.

Darien Fenton: Has she received any recent reports on the future of the agency established to advocate for women, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have. I have received two reports and I am really not sure which one to take seriously. One states that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs needs to go altogether; it calls it “a sexist relic”. Another advocates for the complete opposite, stating that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs could be doing so much more than at present. Those two statements come from the two Opposition spokespeople. Is National in favour of a voice for women or not?

7. 111 System—Failures

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

7. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement in December that “I am always saddened to hear stories where there has been a failure in the 111 system”?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts) on behalf of the Minister of Police: Yes, the Minister stands by her statement.

Simon Power: Is it acceptable that it took more than an hour for the police to respond to a 111 call from a Christchurch mother whose 6-year-old daughter found an intruder in her bedroom and then they failed to do any sort of scene examination once they did turn up?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Minister is advised that the call about an intruder was received at 2055 hours. This call should have been coded as a priority 1 for immediate attention; regrettably the wrong code was entered by the officer at the time, and the car was despatched as if it were going to a lower-coded case. The caller who took the call has not been debriefed at this point and is on roster, so the decision making around the priority code is still being researched. The Minister stands by her statement. All of these incidents are to be regretted.

Hon David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister tell the House what information has been received about the number of 111 calls received by police communications centres and how quickly those calls are answered?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Minister has received information that shows that from the period 1 July 2006 to 30 June 2007 the police communications centres received 660,000 111 calls. Of those calls, 95 percent were answered within 10 seconds and 99.5 percent were answered within 120 seconds. The Minister has also received information that shows that for the week beginning 2 March there were 14,521 111 calls, of which 95 percent were answered within 10 seconds—by any measure a creditable performance standard.

Simon Power: How is it then, following that answer, that the latest information made available to me through answers to written questions on police response times to priority call-outs is for the year ended 30 June 2005, because a new reporting system that was to be completed before the end of September 2007 got pushed back to the end of 2007, and is now due on 30 June 2008; how is it that the Minister has this information to hand today, but it is unavailable through the written questions system?

Hon RICK BARKER: I cannot answer that question immediately, but I will have the matter investigated. What it does show to the member of the House is that the Government’s investment of substantial sums of money and extra staff is improving the 111 system. We have invested $45 million over 4 years. There were 362 staff members; there are now 507. The system works much better than it did previously.

Simon Power: How is it, if the system works much better, that a second problem occurred with the 111 system in the past fortnight, after an operator hung up on a customer who was reporting a knifepoint attack in a Bay of Plenty dairy without assuring her that the police were on their way, and when the police did turn up it was 43 hours later?

Hon RICK BARKER: The Minister of Police has the highest expectations of the police. The police have high expectations of their own standards, as well. From time to time mistakes do occur. The police are not infallible, just as politicians are not infallible—like the politician who said without reservation that we would support our close allies Australia, the United States, and Britain whenever and wherever our commitment is called upon. I ask Simon Power whether committing New Zealand to go to war was a mistake.

Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by the advice of the former Commissioner of Police Rob Robinson that it helps to scream down the phone in order to get the police to respond to 111 calls?

Hon RICK BARKER: That is the advice of the commissioner. I am advised that after the review and a substantial amount of investment, there is an ongoing programme of learning from mistakes—when they rarely happen—in order to make sure the system improves. We aim for our police to be infallible, but unfortunately like all the rest of us, the police are human and they do make mistakes from time to time.

8. Immigration Service—Confidence

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

8. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the appeals and removal processes of the New Zealand Immigration Service; if so, why?

Hon SHANE JONES (Associate Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes; the processes are robust and have been tested over time.

Peter Brown: Why does the Minister have confidence in the Deportation Review Tribunal, when it has allowed a Tongan man who had previously been deported, and who then returned and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl, to remain in New Zealand because his wife was “scared of the dark” and was easily sunburned; and can he tell the House how any system is feasible that allows that sort of carry on?

Hon SHANE JONES: I point out to the member that the decisions of such bodies are the decisions of independent statutory organisations. I encourage him to study the entirety of the decision, which outlines some very sensible reasoning.

Peter Brown: Noting that answer, why does the Minister have confidence in the Refugee Status Appeal Authority, which recently allowed an Iraqi, whose Internet romance with a Kiwi woman was over so quickly that she would not even meet him at the airport on his arrival in this country, to stay because he had claimed that his family would kill him for not marrying a first or second cousin; why does the Minister have confidence in such a system?

Hon SHANE JONES: Avoiding talking about amorous matters, I repeat that the decisions of such bodies are the decisions of independent statutory organisations. From time to time such organisations, which are a valuable part of the overall immigration system, will deliver decisions that may not please all members of this House. However, they do reflect an important role that independent organisations need to serve.

Peter Brown: I do not think these decisions please many members of this House. Why does the Minister have confidence in the Deportation Review Tribunal, which recently allowed a Samoan man to remain in New Zealand after he had chased his neighbour around his neighbourhood with a machete? He had also overstayed, and had a list of prior convictions, which included drink-driving, and assaulting a man with a chair while drunk. How can the Minister have confidence in that system?

Hon SHANE JONES: Once again, such decisions may not meet with the approval of the member—notions of waving machetes, drunkenness, etc. However, the reality is that as long as we have independent organisations that are charged to receive submissions and hear pleadings, they perform a valuable function. Admittedly, some of their decisions do not please all members of the House.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that there was a massive drop in the number of people deported last year compared with the 3 years prior—the number dropped from an average of 1,000 per year to 620 last year—and, taking note of the examples that I have just outlined to him, does he concur that they reflect a soft attitude in Government policy and in some of these independent organisations?

Hon SHANE JONES: The member has accurately reflected the figures; I would encourage him to see them as a reflection of the Government’s proactive stance in moving the borders out by identifying those types of people who do represent a danger, and not allowing them into the country first time round.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table an article from today’s New Zealand Herald on the decision to allow the Tongan man to stay—

 Leave granted.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table an article from today’s New Zealand Herald on the decision to allow a Samoan man to stay despite multiple serious convictions.

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

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table an article from the Sunday News on the decision to allow an Iraqi to stay despite his Internet romance falling apart.

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

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table answer to written question No. 1567 (2008), showing the decrease in deportations.

 Leave granted.


9. Election Advertising—Financial Agent Authorisation

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

9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is it Government policy that a financial agent’s authorisation on electoral advertisements should contain their residential address; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: The responsibilities of parties, candidates, third parties, and their financial agents are set out in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. The relevant provisions reflect the decisions of Parliament in passing the legislation.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the Chief Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission that the law requires that electoral advertisements promoted by financial agents, or parties, candidates, or third parties must contain a statement setting out the name of the financial agent and the full address of the place where that person usually lives.?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have seen a press statement to that effect dated last week—I am not sure which day—from the Chief Electoral Office and the Electoral Commission.

Lynne Pillay: Why did the Minister introduce the Electoral Finance Bill, which Parliament subsequently passed?

Hon PETE HODGSON: For several reasons: to stop money filtering; to stop a well-to-do party from buying an electoral outcome; to stop well-to-do third parties from buying an electoral outcome, even if they themselves do not vote; and to ensure that free speech is not drowned out by paid speech.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that under the law she passed, the agency responsible for investigating breaches of the Act is the police, and should the police investigate a CD produced by the Labour Party with the wrong authorisation on it, and is the Electoral Commission the correct body to refer that CD to the police for investigation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not entirely sure of the process, but I do know that when we discover what it precisely is, we would be better to send this CD/DVD off to whomever it is who needs to investigate it, because it has no address on it—none whatever. That is because it is called Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key and we all know that that man slips from one Auckland suburb to another and has no fixed abode.

Hon Bill English: Is it Government policy that the person who put the wrong authorisation on the CD should be investigated and that that person is Mike Smith, party secretary of the Labour Party; and does she believe that the police should investigate Mike Smith, party secretary of the Labour Party, or does she believe that the law of common sense applies to Labour and that it does not matter what it does but everyone else has to keep to the law?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member asks after Government policy, and Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. Let us just recall, however, where the requirement for a residential address came from. Back in 2005 the Exclusive Brethren spent over $1 million on pamphlets that opposed the Labour Party and the Green Party. These are the pamphlets that John Key and Gerry Brownlee claimed to have no knowledge of until evidence to the contrary arrived. Meanwhile, Jeanette Fitzsimons worked out what was going on and tried to track down the Exclusive Brethren, only to find that the addresses they used were empty house lots. When she finally did find a proper address, she was met at the front gate by security guards. It was not pretty.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm whether the police should investigate whether the Mike Smith, secretary of the Labour Party, who knew the law, broke it, and then misled the media about it is the same Mike Smith who, before the 2005 election, wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer promising to include the pledge card as part of Labour’s electoral expenses, and then 3 days after the election wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer saying he withdrew that undertaking; and why should anyone believe anything that the head of the Labour Party says about electoral law?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat, for the House, that Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007. If, however, we want to talk about CDs or DVDs, let us have a look at this one called by John Key called Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key, which has no address on it, whatsoever. In it he is not clear whether he is ambitious about ditching the Māori seats, or selling the railways again, or whether he is ambitious about hocking off Auckland airport to a bunch of Canadians—or is his ambition limited to just trying to get through this week without making another mess of it?

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that I raised concerns about the requirements for authorisation by financial agents at the beginning of February, that Labour Party president Mike Williams responded to media concerns by saying they were a bit paranoid, and that the Labour Party knew what the requirement in law was but Mike Smith went ahead and authorised the CD in direct contravention of the requirement of the law, knowing what it should have been; and how can we believe anything the Labour Party says when it so deliberately broke the law it had passed just a few months before?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that we have been taking a liberal approach in the House, but that member asked the Minister to take responsibility for something that he—Bill English—said, and for something that the general secretary did, neither of which is the Minister’s responsibility.

Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I can handle this, I think, Mr Brownlee. The Minister will answer the question in terms of the ministerial responsibility.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat for the House that Government policy is to be found enshrined in the Electoral Finance Act 2007.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is Labour breaking the law?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Nick Smith asks whether the New Zealand Labour Party has broken the law. If he is intent on going tit for tat, then that is what we will do. I can advise Mr Smith that last month, at Otago University, National Party member of Parliament Dr Paul Hutchison was giving out National Party parliamentary material whilst at the same time collecting membership fees. That is clearly in breach. It is true that he got only seven memberships in the entire day, whereas students picked up 75 for the Labour Party. But one is one too many. I do not think he even knew he was breaking the law, to be honest, but he was and I watched him doing it.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Government spokesperson on tertiary education has impugned my integrity. I would like him to make a clear statement and prove that exactly what he said was true. Can he also explain how it was that he was holding Labour Party balloons that pretty well said “Vote Labour” and had on them a parliamentary crest, which had been paid for by taxpayers.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Speaking to the point of order—

Gerry Brownlee: Were they in—

Madam SPEAKER: You will leave the Chamber, Mr Brownlee, if you interrupt. Everyone must be quiet, please.

Hon PETE HODGSON: At Otago University a few Wednesdays ago, the National Party had a stall from which people passed out parliamentary National Party material, as they are entitled to do, and at the same stall they collected memberships of students, which they are not entitled to do. I was next door to that stall, passing out Labour Party parliamentary material, including balloons. Some distance away—actually, upstairs—a whole lot of people were collecting a great deal of Labour Party memberships. That is the difference. He broke the law; I did not.

Madam SPEAKER: Two members interrupted after what I explicitly said. Dr Mapp and Pansy Wong are the two I heard; there were others. Would those members please leave the Chamber. The matters the members have raised are very interesting, but they are matters of debate, not of order.

Pansy Wong: Madam Speaker, I did not—

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please leave the Chamber. I warned members explicitly on that point of order. I allowed some to intervene, against the Standing Orders, then I in fact explicitly drew it to the attention of members. Members then chose to ignore it.

 Dr Wayne Mapp withdrew from the Chamber.

 Pansy Wong withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Labour Party spent all last year trying to push through this Draconian, complex, and impractical legislation, and that already this year it has been caught out hosting an illegal website, trying to hide an interest-free loan from a very large donor, misrepresenting the opinions of the Chief Electoral Officer to the public, and breaking the law by putting an incorrect authorisation on an item in a political advertisement; and if Labour members are the ones chiefly breaking the law, why did they bother passing it in the first place and being so moralistic about everyone else’s behaviour?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let us do a bit of moralism, shall we? I was out of the country last week, but as I understand it, what happened was that the Labour Party put a box number instead of a residential address on a publication—not that anyone is in any doubt about where the Labour Party is. It is in Upper Willis Street, and has been there for years. However, we have this DVD from the National Party, from John Key, called Ambitious for New Zealand—Meet John Key. Do members know what? It does not have any address on it at all. It does not even say “somewhere in Auckland”; it does not even say that.

10. South African Brown Mussel—Incursion

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

10. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister for Biosecurity: What actions has he directed Biosecurity New Zealand officials to take to respond to the incursion of a potentially invasive South African brown mussel, which was discovered following the defouling of the oil rig in Tasman Bay last December?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Biosecurity) : I understand that Biosecurity New Zealand has organised for the following actions to be taken: dredging the seabed where the oil rig defouled, and disposing of the material in a landfill; and identifying the species in the dredged material to determine whether brown mussels are present and in what density. Biosecurity New Zealand met with the industry, Māori, and local authorities on 27 February and will be meeting with them again in the week beginning 17 March. Biosecurity New Zealand has issued a number of information advisories to affected stakeholders, including industry, local iwi, and regional authorities.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that the iwi of Tasman Bay, namely Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Rārua, Ngāti Kōata, Ngāti Tama, the NgātiRārua-Ātiawa Iwi Trust, and Wakatu Incorporation, are extremely angry that this attack on the environment took place in their rohe; if so, what steps has he taken to restore the relationship between Biosecurity New Zealand and the iwi of this area, other than the meeting that took place in Nelson on 27 February 2008?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I indicated to the House, the local iwi have been involved in discussions with Biosecurity New Zealand, in terms of immediately following advice that Biosecurity New Zealand received that there may be brown mussels in this defouled material. Subsequently, further meetings are scheduled. As I understand it, Biosecurity New Zealand has a good relationship with local iwi.

Te Ururoa Flavell: In light of the major risks to the local and national $200 million mussel industry, what reason did Biosecurity New Zealand have for allowing the rig to be cleaned in New Zealand waters, and will the Minister be addressing the obvious flaws in the low level of biosecurity standards required for the aquaculture industry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Biosecurity New Zealand agreed to the cleaning location because it believed that the rig was outside our territorial waters. At the time, the seas were rough and there were safety issues for divers. Preliminary analysis of samples from the rig that had been taken previously did not reveal any potential high-risk species, although, subsequently, lab analysis revealed a small quantity of brown mussels. In effect, Biosecurity New Zealand modelling has shown that the biosecurity risks of defouling the oil rig just inside or just outside New Zealand’s territorial limit were the same—that is, the brown mussels would have posed a biosecurity risk even if they had been dislodged from the oil rig just outside our territorial limit. No legal authority vests that Biosecurity New Zealand should do anything about it.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware of the recent statement made by the NgatiKoata Trust that the Crown has let down Māori and New Zealanders with its vaunted but inadequate biosecurity, and what action will he be taking to ensure that the livelihood of many of the iwi of Tasman Bay is protected through a comprehensive clean-up of the affected area?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I indicated to the House, Biosecurity New Zealand is taking every step it can to make sure the area is cleaned. The company involved is paying for the defouling of the surface of the ocean floor. I accede to the fact that there is a need for a more precautionary principle involved in all of this—I accept that. I recommend to the member that he and other Māori organisations in the fishing area take the same view as far as fishing is concerned.

11. Māori Trustee—Funds Transfer

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

11. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does the Maori Trustee and Maori Development Amendment Bill seek to transfer $35 million of beneficiary moneys from funds for which the Māori Trustee is responsible to a new Māori business development fund?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : No. Funds held in trust by the Māori Trustee—unclaimed money, and other funds owned by beneficiaries—will not be transferred to the Māori business development fund set up by the bill.

Hon Tau Henare: Why, then, in the Minister’s speech to the House in the first reading of the bill, did he state that $35 million from the common fund from the Māori Trustee would be used to set up, to establish, this new entity?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: What I did say was to point out where the $35 million was coming from: the general purposes fund. The Crown Law Office has advised that the general purposes fund is owned by the Māori Trustee and that no other person has a claim over it. The general purposes fund has accumulated over many, many years of the business activities of the Māori Trustee. No money held in trust for beneficiaries, including unclaimed moneys, will be transferred to the new entity.

Moana Mackey: What value will come from establishing a new Māori economic and business development entity?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The new entity Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand will accelerate Māori development by bringing together resources and expertise from across a range of existing functions and organisations, including, for example, supporting opportunities for Māori economic growth. Other activities referred to in the bill include providing business advisory and mentoring services, and providing networking and sector development services.

Hon Tau Henare: Madam Speaker—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Ask a question, Georgie.

Hon Tau Henare: Finished, Mallard?

Madam SPEAKER: I have called the Hon Tau Henare.

Hon Tau Henare: [Interruption] Very shortly. Why were Māori who attended the consultation hui not told that Labour intended to pilfer $35 million of beneficiary money and spend it on people who are not beneficiaries?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Māori were told several facts as the hui were held around the country. During the consultation on the changes to the Māori Trustee, participants wanted the Māori Trustee to take a leadership role in Māori development. This feedback has resulted in work that was already under way being progressed through the bill. Let me explain it again: the general purposes fund is the fund accumulated from interest rates. The Māori Trustee has the responsibility for paying out at 3 percent, 4 percent, and 5 percent, and the remainder is accumulating. Following the introduction of the bill, information about the bill—including the new economic development entity—was sent to approximately 49,000 stakeholders.

Hon Tau Henare: Is the real reason for this new fund not an effort to set up an election-year slush fund to be administered by the Minister’s personal appointees, free from Public Service scrutiny and neutrality, who will dole out over $10 million in every Māori electorate seat in the country in a vain attempt to keep Māori tied to Labour’s purse strings, rather than encouraging them to take control of their own future and become independent of this Government’s handouts?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am perplexed to understand why that member over there does not want to join in encouraging positive advancement for Māori. At the end of the day that is what this is about. There have been Ministers of Māori Affairs before this time who did nothing—who did nothing. That fund has $60 million sitting there in it, and it is from interest rates. If that member understands the multiplicity and the fragmentation of our ownership, then he will see that this is a very, very good, positive idea.

Hon Tau Henare: Has the Minister contacted those beneficiaries that he is about to pilfer $35 million from; if not, when—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do I need to draw your attention to what has just been said by the member?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I think the member does. I cannot hear anything that is happening in the House at the moment, and I assume that none of the other members want to hear either the questions or the answers, given the level of noise.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker, I would hate to suggest that I am better attuned to that member than you are, but he very clearly made an unparliamentary suggestion about the Minister.

Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker, the term that was used by the Hon Tau Henare was “pilfer”. He was asking the Minister whether he would engage in this exercise of pilfering money from beneficiaries. I think that “pilfer” is probably the wrong word, but—

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is right. Tell him off, Gerry.

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Gerry Brownlee: —can I can ask, Madam Speaker, whether you would accept that he should be asking whether the Minister is appropriating from beneficiaries money that would otherwise belong to them.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I think I will, first of all, take part of the member’s helpful suggestion. The Hon Tau Henare should withdraw the term he used, apologise, and then rephrase his question.

Hon Tau Henare: I withdraw and apologise. Has the Minister contacted the beneficiaries of the $35 million and asked them for their view on the fact that $35 million of their money is being misappropriated?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am not sure what is wrong with this member. It is a simple organisation. There are two separate funds, the general purposes fund and the common fund, and he should get it through his thick skull—

Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please be seated. Is there a point of order? [Interruption] No, the member has withdrawn his point of order. Have we heard the end of the answer? [Interruption] Yes, we have.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is this is the same fund, owned by 125,000 beneficiaries, that was imperilled by the Māori Trustee in the Quality Inn deal in 1991, which the previous National Government then supported against its then Minister of Māori Affairs and had him sacked, and which concept was refloated in 1999 by the then Minister of Māori Affairs, one Tau Henare?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes. And that is misappropriation, at the end of the day.

12. Easter Sunday Openings—Bunnings

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

12. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Labour: How many times has the Department of Labour prosecuted Bunnings for opening on Easter Sunday, and what has been the total amount of fines sought over the last 5 years across all stores in New Zealand?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Labour) : Twenty-six. I do not have the exact detail of fines sought—[Interruption] There is something unusual happening here, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes—please be seated. Would those members who are standing up and moving around the Chamber either sit down or leave the Chamber immediately. We are still on question No. 12.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The number of times is 26. I do not have advice as to the exact amount sought, but the total possible fines were $26,000. It is not too hard to work it out.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister concerned that the very recent change of heart from Bunnings towards trading on Easter Sunday has followed a letter from Bunnings workers to the Australian Government requesting enforcement of the OECD guidelines on multinational enterprises, rather than as a result of the enforcement work by the Department of Labour?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am concerned that any company or any individual breaks the law. Whether it is a big company, a small company, a local company, a foreign company, a company that has had a letter, or a company that has not, the company should obey the law.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What about assault?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Just go hit someone else, Nick.

Sue Bradford: What will the Minister be doing to ensure that New Zealand - owned companies that have indicated they may well open on this coming Easter Sunday—such as Pak ‘N Save in Gisborne—will similarly follow New Zealand law rather than just opening their doors for business and collecting fines over and over again, as Bunnings used to do?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member has highlighted a problem with Easter trading laws and penalties. It is clear to anyone who has looked at this issue that the law is not working well. If there is a continuation of a ban on trading on Easter Sunday—and that is the preference of some people as heard under recent consultations—then I do not think there is much doubt that there should be proper penalties.

Gordon Copeland: What response has the Minister received from unions and churches to his November 2007 discussion document, Easter Trading and Holidays Legislation, and can he confirm that public opinion increasingly supports the view that Easter Sunday should remain set apart for rest, family, worship, and recreation rather than for work?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A lot of submissions were made from churches and unions on the discussion document and they tended to be opposed either to the current law or, certainly, to any liberalisation. I think it is fair to say that there were a lot of representations the other way. A lot of people think we have got to the point—as shown by the example of Bunnings or Pak ‘N Save—where the law has been made very much a farce of and that we should give up pretending to enforce it. I think if any group of members have a discussion amongst themselves, they would probably find that from any four members there would be four different opinions.

ENDS


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