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Questions And Answers – Tuesday 18 March 2008

Questions And Answers – Tuesday 18 March 2008


1. Economy—Statement


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

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement yesterday, in relation to the economic downturn: “Basically the New Zealand economy has held up pretty well”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes; because I believe that to be true.

John Key: Well, does the Prime Minister, then, agree with Michael Cullen’s assessment today that a recession cannot be ruled out as the New Zealand economy struggles against weak housing markets, a drought, the international credit crunch, and various other factors; and how does she reconcile that frank and stark statement by the Minister of Finance that New Zealand might be heading for a recession with her own comments that everything is holding up just hunky-dory, thanks very much?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think it is important to quote people accurately, so I will quote the Minister of Finance, who said: “it would be foolish to rule out the possibility that there could be two successive quarters of very small negative growth at some point in the next year or so.” That would not detract from the Treasury advice we are getting that the economy will continue to grow over whole year cycles.

John Key: Why, if a recession cannot be ruled out, did the Prime Minister say yesterday that her Government “is not planning to change its policy settings” in the face of a worsening economy; and does she not think that New Zealanders who are reeling from very high petrol prices, very high mortgage rates, and very high food prices, and who are generally struggling to make ends meet, deserve a break from the massively increasing spending budgets that her Government keeps rolling out?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Again, I think it is important to quote people accurately. What I said at my press conference yesterday was that the Government was not planning to change its economic policy on the back of one front-page article quoting one economist of the Bank of New Zealand that happened to appear in the Dominion Post a couple of days ago. If the Leader of the Opposition knows how to reduce oil prices, if he wants to reduce international dairy prices, and if he has an answer to the US credit crunch, we are all ears. But I note that today National could not even tell people what its policy was on KiwiSaver, let alone any of those things.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the fact that we remain an export-dependent economy, with our primary products holding up, and with the recent initiative that the Government has announced with respect to research and development to invest further in these industries, when will the Government address the highly inflated dollar held up by the settings behind the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Reserve Bank, of course, has not actually lifted the official cash rate for some time. But banks themselves are lifting their rates, because they are experiencing the flow-on effects of the credit crunch from offshore.

John Key: Is it not just the case that Michael Cullen is quite prepared to admit that there might be a recession—[Interruption]—well, it might be funny for Michael Cullen but it is not funny for New Zealanders; I can assure him that they are really struggling out there—but is not prepared to do anything about it in terms of reining in waste or reining in Government spending, and that there is one reason for that, which is that her Government is locked and loaded in a programme of large spending in a desperate attempt to buy a fourth term, and it will not work?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do recall when a previous Government ran into some economic heavy weather—1998. That Government’s response was to cut New Zealand superannuation and sell one of the jewels in the crown of the State-owned enterprises, which was Contact Energy. I can assure members that the Labour-led Government’s response to international market volatility will not be to sell State-owned enterprises, and it will not be to cut the pension. On the contrary—on 1 April New Zealand superannuation goes up, and it goes up by $34 more than it would have if National’s policy had stayed in place.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: When the Prime Minister said at her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday that New Zealanders would not want to lose the perceived benefits to the economy of the China trade deal over human rights issues, was she aware of the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) poll showing only 39 percent of New Zealanders were of that view, and will she apologise to the other 61 percent whom she has accused of believing that growing New Zealand’s GDP is more important than torture and human rights abuses in other countries?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For every poll the member quotes, I can quote another. I can quote the poll that the Minister of Trade has referred to today, which was taken around the same time period as the Television One poll and asked: “Do you generally approve or not approve of a free-trade agreement with China?”. The result was that 44 percent said yes, they did generally approve of it, and 35 percent said no.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister not understand that New Zealanders are not expecting miracles from the Labour Government—they have long since given up waiting for those—and all they want is a fair go; they are sick of seeing their money wasted on a massive build-up in the bureaucracy and they are sick of seeing a Government that puts pressure on interest rates; all they want is enough money to be able to pay the mortgage, pay for a block of cheese, and fill up the car but, sadly, they will have to wait a long time under a Labour Government to be able to afford to do that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What New Zealanders want is prudent economic management. If this Government had followed Mr Key’s advice 16 months ago and cut taxes by $11.5 billion, we would be heading for Crown debt of 50 percent right now. That is why we would never follow his advice.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that there is about a 24 percent spread between those two polls—which would be the kind of result in any self-respecting democracy that would bring the polling industry to meet and examine its methodology in order to ensure there is some sort of science about this, rather than the viewing of entrails, which seems to be the case with the TVNZ poll—when will she join New Zealand First’s demand that there be no polls 28 days out from the election so the people of this country can make up their mind, without it being—[Interruption] Before the election. It won’t matter in that member’s case, before or after.

Madam SPEAKER: The question is very, very wide of the original question. Although polls were raised in a supplementary question, they were specific to a free-trade agreement, which was within the context of the economy, not generally.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, what New Zealanders think about the free-trade agreement with China is a rather important political matter. I do not think there is any politician in this House who would dispute it. All I am saying is that if we are going to have polls on what the people think, let us employ some science behind this, not a bunch of people who arrogantly say: “That pollster is wrong; I am right.”, and never bother to meet and sort out their methodology, which I advocate TVNZ does.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a matter for another question.

John Key: Well, if New Zealanders want prudent economic management, as the Prime Minister has just pointed out in her answer, why does her Government not start delivering it, instead of increasing expenditure by 30 percent more in its last Budget, despite the fact that Michael Cullen knew, because Treasury had told him, it would increase interest rates, it would keep them up higher for longer, and it would keep the exchange rate higher for longer—although her colleagues might laugh in the face of New Zealanders, they are not laughing out there in “mortgage belt New Zealand” right now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Prudent economic management has delivered for New Zealand the longest run of economic growth since the Second World War. Prudent economic management has delivered the lowest unemployment rate in around 25 years. I hate to think what Kiwis would be paying for their mortgage rates now if that member—that gambler—had ever got his hands on the economic tiller.

John Key: Well, what confidence can the New Zealand public have in her Government when her Government cannot even get the numbers right—like today, when it had to admit there was $600 million more revenue than it announced last week?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The only person disappointed that there is $600 million more in the coffers is the Leader of the Opposition, because it does not suit his doom and gloom scenario.

John Key: Well, are the facts of life not that her Government will miraculously find another $600 million—or maybe it will be $1 billion—a few weeks before the election just like it did last time, because that is the way the books are run under a Labour Government?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to make a point here to do with the format of questions, because you have given an indication that questions should begin with a questioning word for a start. Mr Key gets about $100,000 more than most backbenchers, and a car and everything else that goes with it, and at this point in time he cannot, surely, get away with saying “well” at the front of every question. I am asking you to uphold some rules here, because at a certain point those backbenchers will think that if he can get away with it, then why cannot they have his job and do the same thing, because they can do it just as well.

Madam SPEAKER: It is a timely reminder. I hate to remind the member that he started a question today with “given”. I did not intervene at that point, because this sometimes happens. However, it is a timely reminder that questions should be questions.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Prime Minister draw the conclusion from slash-and-burn calls arising out of the international credit crunch that Roger Douglas is not merely out of the box but now running National Party policy?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, the—[Interruption] If that member interrupts me one more time when I am reflecting on a ruling, then I will be asking him to leave the Chamber. The member will please be seated. Often it is very difficult for me to hear exactly what is happening because members are interjecting. Therefore, I must reflect upon what I think has been said. I say to Dr Nick Smith that that is what I was doing. Would the member please repeat the question so that we can hear it, and then I can make a ruling.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Prime Minister draw the conclusion from calls for slash-and-burn policies based on an international credit crunch that Roger Douglas is not merely out of his box but now running National Party policy?

Madam SPEAKER: No, that has no ministerial responsibility.

2. KiwiSaver—Reports

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

2. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the success of the Government’s KiwiSaver scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : A KiwiSaver evaluation report released last Thursday shows that KiwiSaver is attracting members from across age groups, ethnicities, and income brackets, and KiwiSavers are expected to become even more diverse as more of them join the scheme through automatic enrolment when they start a new job. The numbers are now rapidly approaching 500,000 and the latest surveys show a significant increase in the membership of work-based superannuation schemes.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen any reports on policies to alter the Government’s KiwiSaver scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I have seen a report that Mr Bill English was today to outline his party’s stance on the future of the Government’s KiwiSaver scheme in a speech to the superannuation conference. In the end the speech turned out to be all flop and no flip, at least as yet, but members should continue to watch this space.

Charles Chauvel: What reports has the Minister received on support for KiwiSaver?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latest report I have is that as of Monday, 495,000 New Zealanders have signed up to KiwiSaver. The 500,000 mark will be reached either just before Easter or just after Easter. I have also seen a report that over 100,000 young people have joined KiwiSaver, despite the Leader of the Opposition’s confident predictions that they would not join it. But then, of course, he has invested in Merrill Lynch shares. We have not seen a clear policy from National. What we know is that it voted against the KiwiSaver scheme 40 times.

3. Health, Minister—Confidence

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

3. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Health?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

John Key: What confidence can the public have in a report that fails to address many of the critical questions, including that of the actual appointment of Mr Hausmann by Annette King despite his clear and substantial conflicts of interest, as well as all those of the actions of the district health board executives in silencing the whistleblower, and their actions in allowing Hausmann to help write not just the tender documents but also the relevant board papers?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The report found that the board had inadequate systems for the management of conflicts of interest. The report also found that there was a seriously eroded and dysfunctional relationship between board and management. I believe that the Minister acted appropriately.

John Key: What does the Prime Minister say to Deborah Houston, the Hawke’s Bay whistleblower, who became aware of serious conflicts of interest, who followed due process only to find that her professionalism was rewarded by the loss of her job, and who now finds out that these matters have been completely ignored by the report?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not believe there is any evidence to suggest that she lost her job because of whistle-blowing.

John Key: Why did the report ignore issues around the whistleblower when the Prime Minister herself last year said, in relation to the treatment of the whistleblower, that “any issue around that could be looked at as well.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat: I do not believe there is any evidence that the whistleblower lost her job because of whistle-blowing.

John Key: Should the House have as much confidence in this report as it did in the Ingram report into Taito Phillip Field; and is it not a hallmark of the Prime Minister’s Government that she commissions reports to find out things she wants to hear and conveniently leaves a whole lot of other stuff unanswered unless people keep digging?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, but it is a hallmark of the Opposition that it attacks every independent report commissioned by the Government.

4. National Certificate of Educational Achievement System—Confidence

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

4. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does he have confidence in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement system; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Yes; because the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is a world-class qualification system that challenges students, recognises their achievement, and is proven to prepare students well for life once they leave school. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority is continuing to improve NCEA to make it as effective a measurement tool of student success as possible. According to Business New Zealand’s chief executive, Phil O’Reilly, NCEA is a very good system that gives employers news they can use, by showing the areas a student does well in.

Dail Jones: What confidence can the Minister have in the NCEA system when the deputy chief executive of the qualifications authority, Bali Haque, in a statement dated March 2008, refers to problems such as “Teachers did not mark to the national standards for the internals.” and, further, that there will be a need to “Contact schools through our School Relationship Managers and discuss the assessment practices in the subjects for which they were outliers, and provide advice, guidance, and monitoring, if appropriate.”, which indicates that there are problems within the NCEA system that this Minister does not appear to recognise?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: What I recognise is that NCEA is getting better all the time as we refine it. I would like to quote Roger Moses, principal of Wellington College and a former NCEA critic, who said just yesterday that monitoring shows that NZQA is becoming far more rigorous in addressing issues of credibility with external assessment. Principals involved in this process—and I have a large list of them here—are being very positive about the process of looking at the system and making sure it is working properly. The data the member quoted is actually about improving the system.

Hon Marian Hobbs: What reports has the Minister seen about the reaction of secondary school principals to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s initial analysis of 2006 NCEA results?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have already quoted Roger Moses and his positive comments, including a comment that it is a heck of a lot better than it was some years ago. Arthur Graves, chair of the Secondary Principals Council, whom I met this morning, said that people need not be alarmed by the information that the member has just quoted, and that this is just an honest, in-house analysis of raw data, and Peter Gall, the Secondary Principals Association president, said that students do better in work marked at school because they are more relaxed and have more time: “It’s a no-brainer.”

Dail Jones: What steps does the Minister intends to take with regard to the list of 63 schools that independent research has indicated have been “relatively generous” with their internal assessments of the NCEA system in one or more subjects, and, perhaps more important, with regard to the fact that 61 schools had teachers who gave lower grades than examiners, which might have had an effect on some students being unable to enter university; and is the Minister still confident that the NCEA system is working satisfactorily?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am confident that it is working well and so are professionals like school principals who are involved in the process. The Government has taken lots of steps to improve NCEA. We have introduced Excellence and Merit standards to NCEA certificates from 2007, we are introducing Excellence and Merit standards at subject level from this year, and we have taken a whole lot of other steps, including an extensive resourcing for moderating and checking that exams being marked internally are being done properly. The member has quoted raw data from an initial study that is in its very early stages. I say again that school principals who are involved at the coalface of this process are very positive about NCEA, including some who were critical in the beginning.

Anne Tolley: Is it not all a bit “Mickey Mouse” when most of the 124 schools named in the NZQA study knew nothing until the media contacted them; and should not schools expect that in the light of such an explosive report they would at least get a heads-up from the Ministry?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I cannot comment on that, because I am not sure whether it is even correct. I can say that school principals who have been interviewed in the media in the last 24 hours—a wide range of them, including some who were critics of the system at its beginning—have been very positive about what is happening. I would like to assure the House that the so-called study the member has just quoted is in fact looking at raw data from right at the beginning of a process to look at the 2006 results. We do not know what will come out of that but I am certain, though, that we will see NCEA, an exam system that is world-class, improving all the time.

5. Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—Appointments

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

5. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Why did the Government appoint Peter Hausmann to the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Mr Hausmann was appointed to fill a vacancy at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board in 2005. The Ministry of Health had identified that the board was quite clearly lacking experience in financial and business areas. It was noted that Mr Hausmann had significant health sector knowledge together with commercial, communications, and technology experience. Potential conflicts of interest were identified in a Cabinet paper, which has been made publicly available. Once appointed, those conflicts were a matter for the appointee and the board chair to manage.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why on earth would a Minister appoint someone to a district health board when knowing full well that that person was going to bid for multimillion-dollar contracts with that same district health board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There is nothing new about the management of conflicts of interest in the health sector, or any other sector, provided that good governance processes are used. The only political interference in this process has been from the National Party leaking, under privilege, drafts of a confidential report.

Jill Pettis: What does the report on the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board identify as the key failings in managing conflicts of interest in terms of Mr Hausmann?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The report clearly states that Mr Hausmann could have done more to manage his own conflicts of interest adequately. However, the report also states: “Consistent with good practice, the Chair, knowing of Peter Hausmann’s closer involvement in the initiative”—community services—“from his December 2004 meetings with HCNZ, should have ensured that Peter Hausmann made more complete disclosure …”.

Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister give us any indication of when the people of Hawke’s Bay can expect to have a properly appointed, functional district health board that is getting on with the job of looking after their health; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The first task of the new commissioner and his deputy is to stabilise the situation to ensure the sustainable delivery of first-class health services to the bay. It is for the interests of the people of Hawke’s Bay that the actions have been taken. The member will also be reassured to know that the Government has no intention of delaying fresh elections any longer than is necessary.

Sue Kedgley: Is he prepared to act decisively and, as part of tightening the rules around conflicts of interest in district health boards, to make it a rule that no district health board member should be permitted to enter into business relations with a district health board that the member sits on, when he or she stands to gain a personal financial benefit; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The independent review report received yesterday makes a number of far-reaching recommendations not only for the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board but for district health boards nationwide. I have already committed publicly to ensuring, through the commissioner, that the Hawke’s Bay recommendations are fully implemented, and I now reaffirm my commitment and reassurance to the House that all of the nationwide recommendations will be actively pursued.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would this Minister consider appointing a chief executive of a large-scale health provider to the board of a district health board with which that person intends to negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts, and why?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I say again there is nothing particularly unique about conflicts of interest existing; what is critical is how they are managed. It is conceivable that someone with considerable expertise may provide a useful role on a board, provided that the rigour of that conflict management is adequate. What stands out in Hawke’s Bay is that, from the chair on down, that board could not manage conflicts of interest out of a paper bag.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm the veracity of the story that a $50 million contract was in question; who was it who put that issue—in terms of the amount—into the debate; and has that amount been substantiated, or has Parliament received an apology from the perpetrator of that rumour?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: To the best of my recollection, the figure of $50 million was used by the Opposition. It is clearly incorrect. I have had no apology for that misinformation, nor for the string of misinformation that the Opposition has repeatedly put about on this issue over the last month. What is refreshing is finally to have the work of an independent expert review panel that is shedding some light on these matters, because, as we know, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked a serious question about an allegation that a $50 million contract was involved in respect of this health board. That allegation was put up by a member of this Parliament, and sustained day in, day out. I think I am entitled to hear whether there is any truth to that story presented by way of inferential questioning in Parliament, and not to hear that shouting from a bunch of backbenchers who have found that their man at the front is a straw man after all.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There is no truth to the allegation that there was a $50 million contract. No apology has been received from the Opposition as to that misinformation, nor the other misinformation.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You would have heard Nick Smith shouting out, the moment the Minister sought to answer that question, “Well, how much was it?”. What he is actually saying, of course, is that his colleague did not give a damn what it was, and made an allegation to see if it stuck. But the fact is he should be stopped from that objective, so I want to hear the answer.

Madam SPEAKER: I think there was an interjection, but the answer could be heard. We will have it one last time, for the member.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am happy to repeat the answer. To the best of my information the figure of $50 million is completely incorrect. It is an example of the perpetual misinformation the Opposition has been spinning for its mates, and no apology has been received for it or for the Opposition’s other litany of half-truths.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister not realise that New Zealanders will see this report for the cynical diversion it is, because it does not deal with Annette King’s appointment, it does not deal with the appalling treatment of the whistleblower, and it does not deal with the deceitful collusion of the district health board’s senior management?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It seems that the Opposition calls something a whitewash when its members do not like what they hear. The member impugns the reputation of some of the most senior and well-respected peer chairs and chief executives in the health sector. I am sure they will not forget that, if he should ever chance to work on this side of the House.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is this report silent on the role of the district health board’s senior management in colluding with Mr Hausmann by allowing him to make significant changes to the request for proposal tender documents, something which even the Minister’s own hand-picked panel said was unusual?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place, I did not pick the members of that panel—the Director-General of Health did. Secondly, the board has only one employee technically, and its job is to manage that employee—that is, the chief executive. The report concludes on page 86 “a number of failings alleged against management are ultimately the responsibility of the Board.”

Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister explain why material from version one states: “The panel concluded that (a) Peter Hausmann failed to disclose his interest properly; (b) Peter Hausmann’s disclosures to the board and to the chair about this involvement with the Wellcare initiative were inadequate and at times factually incorrect.”, yet in the final version that was all watered down to being everybody else’s fault?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: When the member repeats these allegations in the House and fails to do so outside the House, it is no wonder that the journalists around the building are calling him a mouse. I wonder whether Mr Ryall understands the difference between a final and a draft.

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

Madam SPEAKER: This will be heard in silence or members will be leaving.

Gerry Brownlee: We know that earlier today you ruled about what was appropriate and what was not appropriate with regard to what members say or do not say in this House. The Minister surely should not keep on trying to do that over the course of this particular answer, when there is such a clear question before him. Madam Speaker, I implore you to please listen to the Minister and to make the judgment as to whether he is actually addressing the question asked of him.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister was not addressing the question. He was prefacing his answer with a lot of comments. Would the Minister please just address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, Madam Speaker. I quote from the report at page 8: “[The panel] wishes to record that there has been no pressure placed on it, outside submissions by parties, to amend its report to support any particular view. In particular, it has not received any request or suggestion to do so from the Ministry of Health or the Minister (past and present). The Panel has been particularly careful to make its findings independently of the Ministry of Health and the Minister.”

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister not realise that what the public want to know is not what is in the report but what is not in the report and why, because, just like the Ingram report, this report is yet another Labour diversion from the murky dealings of its own cronies; and is that not the reason why the Auditor-General should provide a full and independent inquiry into this matter?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member should be very careful what he wishes for, because I imagine that some of my colleagues will be interested to talk about other things that are not in that report, and that member will look like he is clutching at rather crooked straws.

Hon Darren Hughes: I seek leave to table a document to show that the lead panel member, Ian Wilson, was appointed to chair the MidCentral Health crown health enterprise by the National Government, was appointed to chair the MidCentral District Health Board by the Labour Government—

 Leave granted.


6. Air New Zealand—Pay Disparities

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

6. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Labour: Has he received any reports explaining the gross pay disparities between Air New Zealand staff based in China and in New Zealand, disparities which have led former member TuarikiDelamere to describe the situation as a “flying sweat shop”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Labour) : I have not yet received a report from the Department of Labour.

Dr Pita Sharples: Is he aware that the Shanghai-based Chinese cabin crew members were paid approximately $NZ3.75 an hour; and would he agree with the Maritime Union general secretary, Trevor Hanson, that this is a blatant attack on workers; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen media reports to that effect.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House whether he has seen any other reports on wage gaps?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have. I have seen a report saying: “We would love to see wages drop.” I have seen subsequent reports explaining that away as firstly, light-handed, then that person saying he wanted Australian wages to drop, later saying it did not count because it was said at a café, and then saying he had not finished his thought. When none of those things worked, efforts were made to bully the reporter and bully the editor: bully the editor into sacking the reporter. Pressure was put on APNfor a clarification, and when the report was all read in the end, it confirmed that John Key had said that.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister think that this example of free trade between Chinese and New Zealand labour within Air New Zealand is an indicator of the savings that may be made by other employers in construction, manufacturing, or the service industry who currently reserve their employment for hard-working Kiwi residents?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: According to what’s done in Shanghai, yes.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there is not a plan to take on the process that the Deputy Prime Minister has suggested, but as the member is aware, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website does have the Government framework for incorporating labour-related issues into our free-trade agreements, and I think the member would be a lot better informed if he read it.

Dr Pita Sharples: Has the Minister read the information from the Service and Food Workers Union that Air New Zealand has offered less money to union workers than it paid to other workers who are doing the same work; and what role can he play in advising Air New Zealand of its obligations to be a good employer?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I have not seen that report, but there are clear processes to follow if the union believes that the airline has breached the Employment Relations Act.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister think it would be ethical and legal for fishing boats operating within New Zealand waters to pay their crew Chinese wages that are well below our minimum wage; if not, why is it acceptable for a company in which the Government has a majority shareholding to pay its Chinese air crew substantially less than their New Zealand colleagues are paid and well below our minimum wage?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is a fundamental gap in the member’s logic. Air New Zealand does not employ these people.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers and the remarks attributed to the Minister in the media, can I take it he could well be recommending to his Government colleagues that ambassadors, high commissioners, and other people on Government service working overseas will have their wages and salaries tagged to those paid in the local communities, or local countries, that they are in; or will he insist that they work on the pay scale as determined by New Zealand?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am tempted to recommend to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that Keith Locke be appointed to India as a third secretary paid at local rates.

Dr Pita Sharples: Does the Minister agree with the sentiments expressed in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, which describes Air New Zealand’s attitude as disgusting in paying more than 30 Chinese workers less than their New Zealand counterparts are paid, particularly as it is 76 percent owned by the Government; and what impact does he think this scandal may have on the Government’s negotiations for a free-trade agreement with China?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In response to the second part of the question, nil, and to the first part of the question, it just shows that the Sydney Morning Herald is ill-informed, as was Ms Bradford with her earlier supplementary question.

7. Sustainable Pastoral and Food Innovation Initiative—Investment

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

7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by his statement to the Cabinet business committee, in relation to the sustainable pastoral and food innovation initiative, that “The proposal is for the Government to make $85 million to $100 million per annum available to invest over 10 to 15 years.”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) :Yes, officials advised the Government that in order to make a substantial step change in the economic performance of our food and pastoral sectors, and for New Zealand Fast Forward to be truly transformative, an investment of between $85 million and $100 million each year would be required. This is the target expenditure of the fund. However, as I said on the day of the launch: “You are probably going to start off with somewhere between $20 million and $30 million each year, and you are going to work your way up over time to about $100 million each year.” That level of Government funding will, of course, be matched by the private sector, meaning that the total amounts invested will be between $40 million and $60 million in the early years, rising to $200 million each year. No one in his or her right mind would think that one could pump $100 million to $200 million overnight into the science system with it all being well used. Capacity and capability will have to be built over time, and that is exactly what will be done.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister produce, as back-up for his admission that there would be only $20 million or $30 million in the early years, a table—published, oddly enough, on the Progressive party website—that overlooks the fact that the investment funds will be taxed, and there will be about a 4 percent to 5 percent administration cost, and therefore his table is obviously wrong?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As leader of the Progressive party I am proud to put on our website the policy of this Government for innovation in the science sector, unlike the National Party, which could not put up its policy, because it has not got one. The leader of the National Party, having made a complete botch of his response to this fund, then refused to be interviewed about it on Radio New Zealand National, and we have now the spokesperson on finance putting a spin on the story and digging the hole even deeper. I welcome him to keep on digging.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reports has the Minister seen regarding the sustainable pastoral and food innovation initiative, New Zealand Fast Forward?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have seen a report from the leader of the National Party saying: “I think it’s a gimmick really. I mean, they’re putting up a large capital amount, $700 million, but realistically that’s not what’s going to be spent on science R and D. It will only be the income they can earn off it.”—wrong! The Fast Forward discussion document, the associated Cabinet paper, the Government press releases, and indeed the announcements of the Prime Minister, Mr Hodgson, and I all made very clear that the capital sum, plus interest, would all be expended. Everyone with the meanest of intelligence understood that, except the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition spokesperson on finance.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that both the private sector participants and officials have not been able to confirm his position and that maybe they are confused because he has made ridiculous claims, such as his claim on Radio New Zealand National that the private industry will contribute “$1,000 million”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: This fund, over its lifetime, will attract roughly $1 billion of New Zealand Government funding. The primary sector industries are pledged to match that. I have to say that already they are almost well up to speed for the annual amount required for that. The only person who seems to doubt this is Mr Key, who says we do not need the fund. The chief executive of the largest Crown research institute in agriculture, Mr West, said on the same day that this fund stands in stark contrast to what has been going on in New Zealand formerly, that it is long overdue, and very welcome. Whom would this House prefer to believe, Mr Key’s stupidity on this, or the leader of AgResearch, Andy West? I know where I stand on that.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What further reports has the Minister seen regarding science investment in New Zealand?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have volumes of them but I will pick just one. I have seen a report that quotes the Leader of the Opposition, John Key, as saying: “Our big question is why the Government allowed the Kyoto liability to grow to a billion dollars and do no research on it, um, on climate change, science R and D, I mean they have done very little in this area.” On the contrary, this Government has invested $6.5 million in the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium over the last 5 years, and committed a further $12.5 million over the next 5 years. In addition, as part of the plan of action on sustainable land management and climate change, it has committed a further $65 million over 5 years to the agricultural sector’s climate change provisions. The leader of the National Party knows nothing of all this. He puts his foot in his mouth every time he is asked about it, and that is why he is now forbidden to make any comments on this, and he is not here today to do it, either.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister realise that shouting about it will not change the facts, which are that the Government has no idea where and how it will invest this money, that the figures it has published leave out tax and administration costs, that officials are engaged in a serious argument over who will actually control it, and that he does not have commitments from the private sector for anything like the $1 billion that he is ridiculously claiming here?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I can advise the House that the Government has specific commitments from industry in this country for the amount of money that is needed over the lifetime of this fund. If the National Party wanted to make even the most modest of inquiries into that, they would find out the truth. Members will want to compare that with the National Party’s entire contribution to this whole issue of climate change and research, when the only thing it has actually done is drive a tractor up the steps of Parliament in protest, and in denial of climate change itself.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that those people who have read the Cabinet paper have never seen so much waffle about next to nothing, and that this is just another initiative, like the proposal to buy back Toll Rail, that involves the Labour Government pledging $1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money in a fortnight to unwise decisions in order to try to get itself re-elected?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Is it not interesting that the party that proposes itself as representing the rural sector is in opposition to Fonterra, the largest company—a rural company—in New Zealand, which praises this policy and is committed to it. Zespri, the largest horticultural company in New Zealand, praises this policy and is committed to it. Dairy New Zealand, which represents the largest industry in New Zealand, is totally committed to it. PGG Wrightson, which is a private-sector company that invests all over the world in agriculture, is totally supportive of the policy. John Luxton said he welcomes the initiative. He described it as being “significant for the dairy industry”. I never thought I would see the day! But we still have some Luddites left over on that side of the House. Not even John Luxton is on their side, and when one does not have John Luxton on one’s side on this issue, one is in real trouble.

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

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

8. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What are the main findings of the Director-General of Health’s report into alleged conflicts of interest at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : The independent panel found that the board’s handling of conflicts of interest in general could not pass even the most basic thresholds of good governance. Secondly, it found that conflicts of interest were wide ranging and poorly handled. The panel was particularly critical of the previous chair, Kevin Atkinson, and also a longstanding board member, Peter Dunkerley, in that regard. Thirdly, the panel found that Mr Hausmann could have done a better job of managing his conflicts of interest. Fourthly, the panel found that a seriously eroded and dysfunctional relationship existed between the board and management, and it was readily apparent that it could not be resolved without external input. In short, as the independent panel chair has said, the board was approaching a railway crossing whose lights were flashing, but was carrying on anyway.

9. Prison—Inmates

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

9. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he agree with corrections assistant general manager Bryan McMurray that “people don’t go to prison to be punished”; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : No; imprisonment serves a variety of purposes: to keep society safe from serious offenders, the depravation of freedom as a punishment for crimes committed, and exposure to programmes to help to stop reoffending.

Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by the statement of his predecessor in July last year that the ability of inmates to continue to send threatening mail to victims from behind bars is “untenable”; and can he confirm that since corrections said it would monitor all of inmate Glen Goldberg’s mail from last April, that inmate has reportedly continued to send threatening mail to at least two of his previous victims?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes; the corrections department has monitored Mr Goldberg’s correspondence out of prison since April last year. Goldberg has also been sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment for his offence in sending out that correspondence, and given the high risk that he presents to society, I would expect he would serve every month of that time. The member will also be aware of—and has agreed to support—legislation that is currently before this Parliament that would widen the powers of the Department of Corrections in terms of scrutinising all correspondence that goes out of prisons.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that in January this year Detective Dave Pizzini received a letter from Goldberg that threatened one of his victims, who had already moved to Australia to escape his harassment, stating that when he got out he “will be picking up a piece when I get to Brisbane” and signed the “Grim Reaper”—forcing her to move yet again and to change her name, because corrections has been unable to stop this correspondence?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Let—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just hopeless.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member says “Just hopeless.” That member, as a former Minister of Corrections—“corruptions” was actually closer to the point—had one-third of all inmates in prison actively taking drugs while he had the portfolio. He made excuses that the fences were not there to keep the prisoners in but were there to just slow them down as they escaped. That member would do well to shut up when I am answering a question from his colleague. I will now answer the question. Firstly, I will say again what I have just told the member. Goldberg has been convicted for what he has done—for the sort of language that he used and the threats that he issued in that correspondence. Secondly, he will stay in prison because he constitutes a risk. Unlike what occurred in the old days of the former National Government, a prisoner does not get out automatically whether or not he or she is a risk to society. Thirdly, I have to say that although we can stop Goldberg from directly communicating, we cannot stop him talking to third parties who might then communicate on his behalf. If the member has any suggestions in that regard, I would like to listen to them.

Hon David Benson-Pope: What progress has been made towards strengthening prison security in order to keep the public safe from serious offenders?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I mentioned that as one of the core purposes of imprisonment, and I am very proud to say that escapes to date, in the last financial year, from prisons were one-sixth of the level that pertained at the end of the failed last National Government’s term of office, one decade ago. I tell the member that far from well over 100 prisoners escaping each year, that number has been reduced to 20. And most of those were not active break-outs; they were walk-aways from work parties.

Madam SPEAKER: Members are becoming far too rowdy. It is almost impossible to hear.

Simon Power: Why should victims believe Mr McMurray’s claim that the department would take “appropriate action” if they came forward in cases such as this one, yet in April last year staff saw “no cause for concern” upon the interception of police scene photos that Goldberg sent to one of his victims relating to her partner’s sudden death, when that victim had already received over 200 letters from him since he was jailed in 2004, had a protection order against him, and had asked the prison to stop him sending mail to her?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I repeat, again, that this man has been convicted for behaviour that is absolutely intolerable. The system has come down hard on him and will remain hard on him. That man, while presenting that form of behaviour and threat, will not get released from prison. If he engages in such behaviour through a third party and there is evidence to convict him again, he will be convicted again, and he will stay indefinitely in jail if that behaviour persists. We can stop him. We can stop him by scrutinising every aspect of the correspondence that he sends out. We can do that actually under the existing law. What we cannot do is to stop him communicating to another person, who communicates to another person outside, and who can send correspondence in that way. The assurance I can give to that member is that whenever an inmate behaves in a grossly unacceptable way like this, the system will beat him. But let me tell that member as well that I can table half a dozen different examples of people doing the same thing when his Government was in power.

Simon Power: Does he stand by the statement of Public Prisons Service northern regional manager, Warren Cummings, that prior to last April: “There was nothing in the prisoner’s list of convictions that would have provided us with reasonable grounds to monitor his correspondence as a matter of course.”, when over nearly 20 years this inmate had amassed 191 convictions for harassment and threats?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am sure the regional manager was not setting out publicly to mislead people. The fact is that this inmate has a track record. It has caught up with him; he has been convicted. He will continue to be punished, and he will be punished as long as that behaviour persists—if he is able to persist in it by new and inventive means that the Department of Corrections has not yet found a way to stop.

Simon Power: Why does the Parliament have to wait for a law change to stop cases such as this, when section 107 of the Corrections Act already enables prison staff to open an inmate’s mail where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the mail may be threatening; and in the instance outlined by the Minister relating to passing that correspondence to other inmates, has the Minister given any thought to instructing his department to take away the pen and paper from the inmate?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not know what it is about the previous answers that the member has not understood. Firstly, I have told the member already that under the existing legislation the department has that power where there is reasonable cause to suspect there is such behaviour, and it is using that power. Secondly, when there has been evidence of the inmate doing that, he has been taken to a court and convicted and punished, and he will continue to be punished for it. Thirdly, as I understand it, the letters that have gone out can go by third-party means, and not necessarily in his handwriting by his pen and paper.

Ron Mark: Putting this particular case to one side, is the real problem not that all too often when inmates break the law they are dealt with internally by the Department of Corrections through internal disciplinary processes, and are rarely brought before the courts and sentenced by the judiciary, and that when they are they most often get a concurrent sentence, which is served at the same time as the sentence they are already serving; if that is a fair assessment of the current situation, would the Minister support New Zealand First’s view that we need to pass legislation to make it mandatory that prisoners who break the law whilst inside prison be charged in a District Court and that their sentences not be served concurrently but that they be cumulative?

Hon PHIL GOFF: When an inmate commits a serious offence, that inmate will be charged, will be brought before a court, and, if the evidence stacks up, will be convicted. Unless the inmate is serving a life sentence, if he or she offends in a serious way—as Goldberg did—the sentence will not be concurrent but will be in addition to the existing sentence. Goldberg’s sentence is certainly that.

10. Schoolchildren—Universal Scholarship

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

10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree that a scholarship for every child, as outlined in my speech to the ACT party conference on Saturday, would increase choice, allow greater diversity and flexibility, and improve educational achievement; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) :No, but I do agree with the member’s opening statement in his speech that education is the key to our long-term prosperity. What I do not agree with is his plan to introduce an education voucher scheme under a new name. Such a scheme would just create winner schools and loser schools, and do nothing to improve overall educational outcomes. Although I disagree with ACT’s voucher plan, I congratulate the party on at least coming up with a policy. That is more than we can say about the National Party.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister think it is right and fair that families that take responsibility for their children’s education and send their children to an independent school have to pay twice for that privilege, once through their taxes and again through their school fees; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I thought the ACT party stood for choice. Parents do have the choice to send their children to a quality State school or to a private school. The plan by ACT to have a voucher system would simply perpetuate the inequalities we had under bulk funding, which saw the development of winner schools and loser schools.

Dianne Yates: What reports has the Minister seen about the impact of voucher-style education systems?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am aware of research by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research entitled Can Vouchers Deliver Better Education?, which reviews international studies for their relevance to New Zealand. It concludes: “Competition for students by schools does not improve quality, achievement, or access. Such schemes favour a minority at the expense of the majority. Competition among schools is hardest on those serving lower socio-economic communities, and in fact depresses overall educational levels.” These outcomes would never be acceptable to a Labour-led Government, and I would welcome Roger Douglas’s, and, indeed, National’s education spokesperson, Anne Tolley’s, campaigning on just such a policy.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister feel so strongly against giving parents a choice of school, including independent schools, that he would resign as Minister of Education if that were a condition of support from MMP parties for a future Government?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I think the likelihood of Labour going into coalition with ACT is nil, especially with the addition of Roger Douglas to its party list.

11. Home Building Costs—Increase

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

11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What responsibility does the Government accept for the fact that the cost of building a home has increased from $232,000 to $422,000 over the past 7 years?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) : I am advised that although people are paying more to build houses, they are getting more in terms of size, quality, and confidence in the asset they are investing in. I am further advised that the principal drivers of housing costs are land scarcity, labour rates, and materials.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why will the Minister’s Government not accept responsibility for this $190,000 increase in the cost to build a home, when last week’s joint report by the five Government departments concluded that Resource Management Act and Building Act changes by this Government have significantly contributed to the increase in costs?

Hon SHANE JONES: We have heard on numerous occasions from Dr Smith that he wishes to go back and reinvent what Parliamentarian Lee introduced. This is the report, and I point out to the Minister that not only am I not responsible for the Resource Management Act but that only a tiny fraction—less than 1½ percent—of this supposed cost increase relates directly to a building consent.

Sue Moroney: What action has the Government taken to address the failings brought about by the 1992 deregulation of the building industry?

Hon SHANE JONES: The Government has announced a comprehensive work programme to look at improving housing affordability prospects. This includes looking at introducing more flexibility into the building consent process, beginning with simplifying designs and building consent processes for starter homes, and looking at improving productivity in the sector.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that the so-called development levies now charged by local councils are in reality a new home infrastructure charge, which can add many thousands of dollars to a new home, and that those levies should go once the Securities (Local Authority Exemption) Amendment Bill—now No. 2 on the Order Paper—is passed, thereby giving councils the ability to go back to the traditional financing of infrastructure through debt securities?

Hon SHANE JONES: The member no doubt knows that the levies he refers to do not fall under the Building Act; they are imposed by local authorities, which have discretion under local government legislation to identify what levy is appropriate to maintain their ability to meet the cost of infrastructure development as housing projects are established.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Should this Parliament not hold Clayton Cosgrove responsible for the bureaucratic nightmare of the new Building Act, when he arrogantly dismissed the concerns of industry, of councils, and of other parties in this Parliament, and when now even the Government’s own advisers conclude that that new Act has resulted in a marked decline in productivity in the building sector and has contributed to the crisis that we now have over home affordability?

Hon SHANE JONES: Of course, what Mr Cosgrove had to deal with was the abject failure of National’s policies in liberating, liberalising, and opening up the building sector, and allowing the cowboys, and far too much activity, to go unmonitored and unchecked. Not only has he introduced a set of additional reforms but those reforms are now being embraced by a wider number of councils, which realise there is scope for them to improve their act.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister still think the building consent process is going “swimmingly well”, when under the new Act councils have had to increase their fees by over 50 percent, when the paper work required for getting a building consent has grown tenfold, when there are huge delays all over New Zealand in getting even the most minor of building consents, and when even his own department acknowledges that there has been a significant drop in building productivity as a consequence of his Government’s Building Act?

Hon SHANE JONES: It really does lower the standards of the House when Dr Smith stands up and wildly tosses around figures, as he did last week, quoting 30, 40, and 50-page documents—a 300-page document comes to mind in relation to some of his wilder gestures—when in actual fact he referred to the Rodney District Council. I have its document, and that document is 11 pages long. The number is inversely related to the man’s ability to get it right.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the 110-page Rodney District Council building consent application package.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Government be introducing amendments before the election to fix the mess that has been made to the Building Act and the Resource Management Act, noting that the following key finding in the report released last week by the five departments was that the most likely way to achieve long-term reductions in housing costs was to focus on streamlining the Resource Management and Building Acts—almost word for word what John Key has been saying for over a year—or will New Zealanders have to wait—

Hon Ruth Dyson: At least they don’t change their minds every 5 minutes like he does.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I will ask the question again.

Madam SPEAKER: Will the member just continue.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Government be introducing amendments before the election to fix the mess it has made to the Building Act and Resource Management Act, noting that the key finding in last week’s report was that the most likely way to achieve long-term reductions in housing costs was to focus on streamlining the Resource Management and Building Acts—ironically what John Key has been calling for, for over a year—or will New Zealanders have to wait for a change in Government to have these important statutes fixed?

Hon SHANE JONES: Flowing from the report that the member refers to, a number of pieces of work are under way, not the least of which is work looking at whether it is relevant in terms of urban boundaries as an impediment to land supply. We are doing work, and I hope soon to be able to speak more publicly about it in relation to adding flexibility and greater simplicity to the building consent process. Those ideas are not John Key’s; his ideas are made up as he tacks in the wind.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister not see a rich irony in that he is now promising to introduce flexibility and streamlining of the Building and Resource Management Acts, when for the last 8 years the Government has been removing flexibility, making building more constrained, and adding huge compliance costs—is there not a great irony that the Government has been swimming in one direction for 8 years and then suddenly has had a road to Damascus conversion 6 months out from the election?

Hon SHANE JONES: There is no irony in the fact that local government performances are improving. They are becoming accredited, despite the best efforts of Dr Smith in Nelson, and builders are becoming licensed. No systems are static; they are dynamic and can always be improved.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I have here the conclusions of the cross-departmental report, which concludes that the most important thing we need to do—

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I have not got to the point of seeking leave, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: When a member seeks leave in relation to documents, could he or she please do it succinctly—not only this member, but other members as well.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table that report, which concludes that reform of the Building Act and the Resource Management Act is the key reform required—

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

12. Disabled Youth—Transition to Adulthood

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

12. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Disability Issues: What has the Government done to improve the transition for young disabled people with high needs into adulthood?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Disability Issues) : Under the Labour-led Government things have changed dramatically and positively for young disabled people. This year there has been significant growth in transition services. There are now 65 organisations across the country supporting young disabled people to move from school to adulthood, and recently I announced a change in the age at which very high-needs students are eligible for transition services funding. Disabled students will now be able to choose to leave school at an age that is appropriate to their own circumstances.

Lynne Pillay: How has the Government enhanced the opportunities for young disabled New Zealanders to move into work?

ENDS


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