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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday 19 March 2008

1. Economic Initiatives—Reaction

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

1. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What new economic initiatives come into force on 1 April this year, and what has been the reaction to them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : On 1 April we have a number of significant initiatives coming into force. The company tax rate is being cut for the first time since the fourth Labour Government. Combined with the research and development tax credits that come into force on 1 April, this will allow businesses to invest more in their workers and in their long-term success. Business New Zealand has called the company tax cut very welcome, and according to Ernst and Young New Zealand’s research and development tax credit regime is far more favourable than Australia’s. The only significant opposition to these moves has come from John Key and the National Party, which voted against them.

Charles Chauvel: What further economic initiatives come into force on 1 April this year, and what has been the reaction to them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On 1 April we are increasing the minimum wage for the eighth time in 8 years. Under Labour, the minimum wage has increased by $5 an hour. Those increases have been opposed by the National Party, and the only time the minimum wage increased in the 1990s was when New Zealand First forced the then National Government to do so. During its 9 years in Government, National increased the minimum wage by 87c an hour.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that 1 April is the date on which his “chewing gum tax cuts” were originally going to come into place, but that he canned them last year in order to pay for his overspending?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that one policy was changed; that policy was also opposed by the National Party at the time it was announced.

Charles Chauvel: What further new economic initiatives come into force on 1 April this year, and what has been the reaction to them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On 1 April employer contributions to KiwiSaver commence, and also the tax credits for employers that go with them. This is great news to the almost 500,000 Kiwis already in KiwiSaver. Despite that, the National Party still has not told us its position, and as recently as yesterday Bill English refused to rule out scrapping the employer contribution.

Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister planning any major changes to Government initiatives such as superannuation in light of the global economic conditions?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I am able to confirm that from 1 April the newly adjusted rate of New Zealand superannuation for a married couple who both qualify for it is 66.23 percent of the net average weekly wage. Under the policy we inherited from the previous National Government it would have been only 61 percent, a difference of $34.35 a week or $1,786 a year for a married couple. I noted calls in the House yesterday for cuts in Government spending. That is exactly what National did when it was last in Government; there was a slow-down in the economy, and tax cuts were paid for by cuts to New Zealand superannuation.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why, on 19 May 2005, he announced that income tax would become inflation indexed from 1 April 2008, then last year he decided to cancel the only tax cut that many New Zealanders would have had in 8 years under Labour, despite record surpluses?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because we decided to introduce the enhancements to the KiwiSaver scheme, which that member notably still fails to endorse, despite the fact we will pass the 500,000 member mark in KiwiSaver either tomorrow or at the beginning of the next week. Nobody believes National on those kinds of policies.

2. Economy—Statement

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

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

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

John Key: Does she stand by the statement she made on radio 2 weeks ago that people’s mortgage rates are not, in fact, going through the roof?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: People’s mortgage rates are affected by the general credit squeeze that is filtering through from offshore to New Zealand.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Prime Minister not think that the economy would hold up even better if the House were permitted to re-examine the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act, as an eminent American economist has recommended in today’s New Zealand Herald,because “The Reserve Bank’s exclusive focus on curbing inflation is a mistake,” and counter-productive?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There have been reviews done in the past on whether there should be a broadening of the Reserve Bank objective, but the consensus to date has been that there should not be.

John Key: If the Prime Minister stands by her statement, can she explain to hard-working Kiwis who are paying the second-highest floating mortgage rates in the developed world, and whose 2-year fixed-rate mortgages are tipped by Tony Alexander of the Bank of New Zealand to go through 10 percent in the next few weeks, just where the roof for mortgage rates is under a Labour Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is well aware, and has repeated on radio this morning, that mortgage rates are being affected by global market conditions. If he has an answer to those, would he please tell us.

John Key: Is it helpful to the Government when the Minister of Finance goes around telling the New Zealand public that the economy is going into a recession?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course the Minister of Finance did not say that, but I would note that the Leader of the Opposition manages to say everything within the course of a week. This morning he refused to characterise the situation as going into a technical recession; last week he was telling radio “I think, look, the economy’s really slowing down, um.”

John Key: Is the Prime Minister getting the same research staff as the people working at the Inland Revenue Department who cannot get anything right?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am perfectly happy to table the member’s transcript from bFM where he says “I think, look, the economy’s really slowing down last week, um.”

John Key: If the Prime Minister is right and the economy is holding up pretty well, does that mean the Minister of Finance, who thinks the country is heading into a recession, is wrong; and what on earth was going through the Minister of Finance’s mind yesterday when he declared publicly that New Zealand was heading for a technical recession?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Minister of Finance did not say that.

Hon Members: He did so.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: He did not say that. But I am happy to table the Radio New Zealand transcript of the Leader of the Opposition’s statement this morning. When asked: “Your views on the R word, recession itself—are we going to go into a technical recession? Is that your assessment?”, he said: “I’m not going to characterise it in that way.” What does he think? Is it a recession or is it not, or does it depend on whom he is talking to at the time?

John Key: Is the Prime Minister then saying she agrees with Michael Cullen that the situation should be characterised as a recession, and if she does agree with him, why, a couple of days ago, did she say the economy is holding up pretty well?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Unlike the Leader of the Opposition I can read. I am not going to agree with something that Dr Cullen never said.

John Key: Would the Prime Minister like Television One to replay the clip it showed last night, when Michael Cullen said: “Um, ah, we might be going into a technical recession.”; and will that not do quite a lot of damage to New Zealanders who are struggling at the moment under her Government’s policies?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: We are seeing again what we saw last week. The Leader of the Opposition cannot admit that he is wrong, and he keeps quoting things that are not true.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: To help the member’s medium-term memory, can the Prime Minister remember that the last time a senior New Zealand politician predicted a recession was in late 2005, that it was Mr John Key, and that he was wrong?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That would be absolutely right. But, then, knowing the member and his flip-flops, he probably said the opposite the next week and the week before.

Rodney Hide: What responsibility does she take for 400,000 Kiwis leaving New Zealand permanently since she took over the job of Prime Minister, for labour productivity growth halving back to levels we have not seen since Muldoon days, for our not climbing up the OECD ladder but down it, and for the outlook for growth being at best 2 percent, and not the 4 percent that her Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen, promised; and will she just keep doing the same old thing to get the same old lacklustre result?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: New Zealand has been through many years when 2 percent growth was as good as it got, and a lot of those years were under National Governments. Secondly, labour productivity rates do not rise as fast when unemployment is crashing. We have very, very low unemployment. The answer in the medium to longer term in terms of having higher wages is more skills and more innovation. Last week the National Party opposed the biggest investment in innovation that the country has seen in a long time.

3. Human Rights—China

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

3. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What human rights abuses, if any, would lead him to advise the Prime Minister to reconsider the April signing of a preferential trade agreement with China?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: New Zealand’s policy on human rights, which was repeated and endorsed in this House yesterday in the motion on the situation on Tibet, is very clear. We raise human rights issues in the appropriate forum and using the appropriate channels.

Keith Locke: Would an incident on the scale of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre be sufficient for the Government to reconsider its April signing of the preferential trade agreement with China?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister of Foreign Affairs is not responsible for the Government’s free-trade policy. That is a matter for the Minister of Trade.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that New Zealand has a far greater influence over China while staying engaged in our present preferential trade opportunities; if so, does he also acknowledge that this privileged position carries with it a high degree of ethical responsibility that obliges this Government to strongly condemn China for its actions?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister laid out clearly the New Zealand Government’s response yesterday. That was amongst the strongest responses of any Government in the world.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would just like clarification given the Minister’s previous statement that questions of trade were out of scope to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, because I wish to ask a supplementary question, in a moment, that pursues that. The original question did ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs on what basis he would give advice to the Prime Minister that the foreign affairs situation had become so serious that we should reconsider the trade agreement. Therefore, can you rule whether trade agreements are totally out of scope of this question?

Madam SPEAKER: It depends on the nature of the question. So if the member would like to ask the question, then we will be able to assess that. As the member said, if one reads the question as it is, it is relating to advice from one Minister to another, but it is not on the substance of the trade agreement.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given previous statements from his Government that there are very few tariffs left on Chinese imports into New Zealand, what exactly is China getting, other than Western legitimation of a repressive regime; and, if it is simply that the democratic stamp of approval is being given away, then does the Minister of Foreign Affairs agree that the situation in Tibet at the moment demands that this be urgently reconsidered?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: China continues to seek to open up its economy to the rest of the world. New Zealand is fortunate to actually be in the forefront of that process, and from the perspective of developed countries. The situation in Tibet remains unclear, and I note that the Dalai Lama himself has said that there was violence on the streets in Tibet that did not come from the Chinese authorities.

Hon Peter Dunne: In light of an earlier answer the Minister gave about the New Zealand Government’s reaction, what was the reaction to the meetings of the New Zealand Ambassador to China with Chinese officials in the last few days; who did he see; and what did they indicate to him in response to New Zealand’s protests about the situation in Tibet?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The ambassador in China has made representations, and the Chinese Government has noted those representations.

Keith Locke: How many cases like that of Ye Guozhu, sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment for his opposition to forced evictions in Beijing associated with construction for the Olympic Games, and subsequently tortured while in detention, would it take for him to reconsider the April signing of a preferential trade agreement with China?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government regularly raises human rights issues with the Government in Beijing. It has done so for many years. However, it is fair to say that the Chinese Government’s record in these matters is somewhat better than in the depths of the days of the Cultural Revolution, when that member supported the Chinese Government’s approach.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of misrepresentation. I did not support the Chinese Government’s approach in the Cultural Revolution.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a point of information.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence at the sort of abuse directed at me by the Minister. Surely that is out of order in this House. I ask that he withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: It does not come within the rules on personal reflection. It is a matter of debate, but if the member would like to ask another supplementary question he should please do so.

Keith Locke: I wish to make a personal explanation. I assure the House that I have never supported the Chinese regime—the one-party State—in its activities during the Cultural Revolution or at any other time. I ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly my memory as a fellow student of the member at Canterbury University is now somewhat faulty on these matters. I must remember him referring to the Pol Pot regime.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have assured the House on several occasions in the past that I have never supported the Pol Pot regime or its genocidal policies, and many members have been forced to withdraw and apologise for saying that. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to do so, and I think it is a disgrace for a Labour Deputy Prime Minister to sink to that level.

Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on the first statement about personal reflection; the second statement, however, has actually been ruled on before, so I would ask the Hon Dr Michael Cullen to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I withdraw and apologise.

Keith Locke: Is he telling the House that there is no level of violence or human rights abuse that would trigger a reconsideration by his Government of its plans to sign a preferential trade deal with China, when he does not give a preferential trade deal to the Governments of countries such as in Myanmar or Zimbabwe and, in fact, put sanctions here on the movements of their leaders?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I remind the member that this Government legislated to remove tariffs on the least developed countries in the world, and that member and his party opposed the removal of those tariffs.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think that addresses the question of whether there is any level of violence or human rights abuse that would force a reconsideration of the free-trade agreement, or the question relating to the sanctions on travel by members of the Zimbabwean and Myanmar regimes.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member dragged in some of the least developed countries in the world in relation to trade policy—and Myanmar is certainly amongst the least developed countries in the world—and I was reminding the member that his party voted against the removal of tariffs on those countries. One cannot give a more preferential trade policy than zero tariff across the board.

Madam SPEAKER: That did address the question.

4. Electoral Finance Act—Officials

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is she satisfied with the quality of advice provided by officials during the process of reviewing electoral law and the development of the Electoral Finance Act 2007; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : The Minister of Justice, in Cabinet, received advice from officials on various options relating to the reform of electoral finance laws over a long period that started in July 2006. The Justice and Electoral Committee also received a large amount of advice, as well as a number of submissions during its deliberations on the bill. At the end of the day the Electoral Finance Act 2007 reflects the decisions made by Parliament following consideration of the advice and submissions on the bill.

Hon Bill English: Has she read that part of the officials’ advice produced in July 2006 and released last week, which provided three options in respect of the length of the election period—to leave it at 3 months, to shorten it to writ day, or to shorten it to the day the Prime Minister announced the election date; if so, why did she think these options were wrong, and why did her Cabinet decide to make the regulated period the whole of election year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Madam Speaker—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Because they are cheats.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You can hear what the member is saying.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, actually, I cannot. That is the problem. Does the Minister take offence?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I take offence.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I said “Because they are cheats.”

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has asked for you to please withdraw and apologise for making that comment. So would you please do so.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The rules are that if the member does take offence at such a reference, then the member is asked to withdraw and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A few minutes ago Mr Keith Locke took exception to something that the Minister of Finance said, and it was like pulling teeth to get to a position where the Minister was eventually put in a position of having to make a withdrawal. This was just a comment across the House; it pales into insignificance compared with some of the things that are said across this House.

Madam SPEAKER: The difference was that the term that was used by the Hon Dr Nick Smith could be interpreted as being one of abuse; the other was an observation on a political position. That was the difference. However, in respect of the second comment, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen was asked to withdraw and apologise. So could we move on, please. Would the member withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I can tell the Minister is a bit sensitive. I withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am not at all sensitive. Unfortunately, that member has a habit of interjecting on everybody, and often in a very personal way. In relation to the question asked, this Parliament decided that the regulated period would be from 1 January 2007. This Parliament voted for that, by a majority.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that all the official advice to Cabinet was to keep the regulated period at 3 months or less, that Cabinet decided, without any detailed consideration of the implications, to lengthen the regulated period to 12 months, and that that particular decision has been the cause of most of the problems that politicians of all parties are having in trying to apply the law that she passed?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Cabinet decided that it would line up New Zealand’s regulated period with some international standards, but, at the end of the day, it was this Parliament that decided. The National Party does not like the fact that it lost a democratic vote.

Hon Bill English: Did Cabinet give any consideration to the implications of extending the regulated period, or whether to get officials to advise Cabinet on the implications, such as those that have now arisen, which, for instance, create legal uncertainty about what is the legitimate activity of a member of Parliament in election year, and what would count as an electoral advertisement, which has gone to the ridiculous extent where the law has driven politicians to the ridiculous position that activities that are regarded as legitimate parliamentary activities will also count as an election advertisement, and will therefore have to carry an authorisation by someone who has nothing to do with Parliament?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think most members of Parliament who voted for the longer period took account of the fact that the National Party, during the 2005 election campaign, spent millions of dollars before the 3-month period started, and that National, when that member was the leader of that party, put up hoardings around New Zealand before the regulated period—all aimed at ensuring that National would not be caught by the 3-month rule. National carried out a rort then, and it does not like the fact that one has to be clearer now about what one is doing.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that Cabinet gave so little consideration to the practical effects of this legislation covering the whole of election year that Labour has already been caught out for breaching the legislation on three separate occasions, that Parliamentary Service is having to hire extra people to try to administer the legislation, that the small parties have found their spending plans virtually paralysed by the legislation, and that every election advertisement now has to meet the ridiculous requirement of including the personal residential address of the person who authorised it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not confirm that, because making allegations is not the same as saying one has been found guilty of something. Otherwise, we have the allegation that John Key’s DVD—which has no name, no authorisation, and was still being handed out at a fair this year by a member of this Parliament—should not have been authorised.

5. Victim Support—Initiatives

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

5. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Justice: What further initiatives has the Government decided on to support victims?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : In addition to the significant work that this Government has already undertaken for victims, including the enactment of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002, our response to the Justice and Electoral Committee’s inquiry into victims’ rights announces the development of a victims’ charter, the establishment of a central contact point for victims—including a national 0800 victims’ helpline and a website—increasing funding for Victim Support, and the establishment of victim advocate support persons in Family Courts. Also, the Law Commission has been asked to look at the issue of compensation and State-funded reparation, and the Task Force for Action on Sexual Violence will look at alternative models to the adversarial system in relation to sexual violence cases.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has the Minister seen on improving services for victims?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen many positive and supportive comments, particularly from organisations like Victim Support. But I am disappointed to say that improving services and support for victims does not appear to be anywhere near to the top of the National Party’s priorities. I remind the House that three National members on the select committee refused to fully participate in that inquiry and preferred to grandstand about the committee’s trip to Australia. Politics was obviously more important to them than victims were.

Simon Power: Why has it taken 9 years to propose a victims’ charter and a victims’ compensation scheme, when the Prime Minister told the Mount Albert Lions club on 4 July 1994: “We believe a victims’ charter needs to be developed to ensure the voices of victims are heard and their needs are not forgotten. Labour also intends to consult widely on an appropriate victims’ compensation scheme.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Because the Labour Party was not in Government in 1994. Anybody who looks at who was then in Government will see that National did very little for victims, at all. By 2002 we had passed an Act that helped victims, in terms of what was enshrined in it. We are building on that Act of 2002, with a range of measures that have been widely supported—not criticised, as we have heard from National.

Dail Jones: Has the Minister seen the recent statement by Victim Support dated 18 March 2008, regarding the need to improve information services and financial support to victims, and the Government support that will be made available there; and how soon will the Government be acting on these measures?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member may not have heard my answer to the original question. In fact, I set out the range of things that we are doing in terms of improving information services to victims, because the thing that came through very strongly in the select committee inquiry was concern about access to information. Victims feel it has been very difficult to get that access, so for the measures that we have announced, the money has already been announced and the work has been put in place to get those measures in place.

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

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Did Peter Hausmann make any changes to the draft community services request for proposal, sent to him by management at the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board 2 months before it was issued, and were these changes accepted?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : That is a question for the chief executive of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, who at the relevant time was employed by the former board of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board. However, I refer the member to appendix E of the independent panel review report, which I will soon seek leave to table.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the review panel make no judgment on the role of Hawke’s Bay District Health Board management in providing confidential tender documents to Mr Hausmann before any other potential bidder, when the Office of the Controller and Auditor-General has said that managing conflicts of interest is also a responsibility of management?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Quite clearly, because the primary focus of this report was on governance and the relationship between governance and management—in this case, the chief executive. One of the salient features of that relationship was that the chairman, Kevin Atkinson, was present at a presentation and, following that, a dinner at Craggy Range Winery, at which he was fully briefed on the intention of Mr Hausmann and the chief executive to discuss the request for proposal, and I understand that Mr Atkinson told the chief executive to “get on with it”.

Lesley Soper: What was the clearest example of board interference in operational matters detailed in the report of the Director-General of Health’s independent review panel?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In section 6.63 of this very comprehensive report, the independent review panel reports that Mr Peter Dunkerley sent an email to three levels of management in support of retaining the policy of “no more licences” for pharmacies, even though he had a clear conflict of interest because of the effect on existing pharmacies owned by the Radius Pharmacy chain, of which he was chairman and in which both he and his immediate family had direct pecuniary, and insufficiently disclosed personal, interests.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Minister agree that this debate is now generating more heat than light, and that patients in the Hawke’s Bay district could be forgiven for thinking that more effort has gone into public relations in the media than into solving their health care problems?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am deeply concerned at the investment by the board, as it then was, in legal and public relations matters, and would have preferred its members to focus on the health care of the people of Hawke’s Bay. That is absolutely the case.

Hon Rick Barker: What reports has the Minister seen that outline the savings that the people of Hawke’s Bay could have benefited from if the proposed changes to the delivery of pharmacy services had been made?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have seen two reports, which I will shortly seek leave to table: one proposing $2.9 million of savings for the people of Hawke’s Bay, and one consulting on proposals for more efficient pharmaceutical dispensing. I note that the former board chair, Kevin Atkinson, confirmed on Radio New Zealand National yesterday that there was, therefore, potential commercial conflict between Mr Hausmann and Mr Dunkerley, precisely because Mr Hausmann’s community services proposals might have hurt Mr Dunkerley’s pharmacy business.

Hon Tony Ryall: As the report notes that Annette King was aware of Mr Hausmann’s ideas around the joint venture with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board when she appointed him, did Annette King take any further interest in the development of the project after Mr Hausmann’s appointment?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: What is important here is not what Mrs King knew but what Mr Atkinson knew. Once the appointment had been made, in full accordance with normal Cabinet process, the responsibility for managing the conflict of interest was, as with any other board, squarely on the shoulders of the chair and the member concerned. The independent report concludes that both could have done better.

Hon Tony Ryall: Did the then Minister of Health, Mrs King, ever ask for, or receive from, any official—either ministry or Hawke’s Bay District Health Board—progress updates on the negotiations over the multimillion-dollar joint venture?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I repeat that the primary responsibility for managing conflicts of interest rested with the chair of the board, as it does with the chairs of other boards. Admittedly, in the case of Mr Atkinson, his job was made more complicated by the fact that inadequately declared commercial interests were at play across the board table that meant that Mr Hausmann was quite possibly persona non grata from day one.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think the Minister addressed the question, actually. Would the Minister please address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am advised that the then Minister, Mrs King, would have received the normal kind of reporting on that board that she would have received on any other board.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the inquiry not consider the role of management in this affair and the extent to which Mrs King remained involved in the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board saga?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As long as the member is keen to ask questions I am very keen to answer them. As I have said, the primary responsibility for managing conflicts of interest rested with the chairman. It was for the chairman to disclose what he had found out at Craggy Range Winery, and what he had told the chief executive to do—to “get on with it” and work up a community services request for proposal—and, once he had declared that to the board, to get on and manage it. Kevin Atkinson failed to do that, and no matter how much the member would like to rewrite history—just as that chairman had a habit of rewriting minutes—it does not change the facts.

I seek leave to table the transcript from Radio New Zealand National yesterday where Mr Atkinson confirms the possibility of commercial conflict across the board table.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a Hawke’s Bay District Health Board report on pharmacy strategy consultation—

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a Hawke’s Bay District Health Board report on funding pharmacy services in Hawke’s Bay that—

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a nearly 200-page report from the independent review panel that documents conflicts of interest in the—

 Leave granted.

7. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority—Loan Subsidy Scheme

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

7. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Energy: How many grants were made last year by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s loan subsidy scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : EnergyWise grants to insulate homes were made to 9,375 low-income families in the year to 30 June 2007. As far as the loan scheme—which was announced only in February this year—is concerned, 11 partner organisations around New Zealand have signed up to join the scheme so far. That scheme will help middle-income families to reduce their energy costs by installing an efficient, clean heating device and helping with insulation. These two programmes show the Labour-led Government is helping New Zealanders to adjust to the changes the world is going through by helping them to reduce their energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister stand by the statement of the Government spokesperson on energy efficiency and conservation that the loan subsidy scheme initiative would increase the use of solar water heating in New Zealand; if so, will he tell the House whether this has been achieved and to what degree?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Various variants of the loan-based scheme have been proposed by the partner organisations that the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority is dealing with, and it may well be that some of the products that those service organisations are promoting to their clients include solar hot water heating.

Peter Brown: Would the Minister agree with one installer of solar water heating systems who has approached New Zealand First and has stated: “The current $500 subsidy is less than 10 percent of the average solar system and is too small to encourage the average Kiwi to invest in solar.”, and: “The current level of funding is treated as a bit of a joke when discussing solar with potential customers, as they are stunned to find out that they cannot access this meagre grant unless they install a cheap system sourced from China”?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Of course, no one is forced to take the $500 subsidy, and neither should they be. It is but one part of the programme. I think it is fair to say that we do need to look again at the criteria around the solar water heating grants programme. But I also think that although some of the other things that are being done to reduce building consent fees, improve the training of those who are to install them, and check that these systems work properly have been unpopular amongst some of those in the solar water heating industry, they were none the less prudent steps to take.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that far from encouraging only cheap systems, the rules around the grant actually require a system to meet stringent quality standards, which is one of the reasons that some suppliers are objecting, and can he further confirm that there has been a big success with the builders of new homes, around 15 of which have now signed up to programmes to install solar water heating in new homes in return for the grants, and that this is incentivising the development of solar water heating in new homes?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I can. In fact, one of the things the Government contribution has gone into has been the testing of the viability of different systems and the proving of their cost effectiveness—and in some cases, unfortunately, the disproving of their cost effectiveness. In respect of new homes, it is true that it is cheaper to put solar water heating into a new home as it is being built than it is to retrofit it in an existing home. That is one of the reasons why we have been encouraging more of the solar water heating systems to be installed in new homes.

Peter Brown: Noting that answer and an earlier answer, is the Minister open to a practical suggestion: will he consider scrapping the current threshold that was introduced in an attempt to force down the price of systems but is actually discouraging investment in good-quality solar systems; and additionally, will he consider raising the subsidy to a more realistic level of $1,500 or more, to encourage a bigger swing to solar water heating, including its installation in more existing homes; will he consider those two suggestions, or is he wedded to the Greens’ approach, which is the do nothing, achieve nothing approach?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said, I think we need to look at the criteria again, but I am not personally in favour of increasing the rate of subsidy. I think that money would be better spent on retrofitting more homes than it would be on increasing the subsidy.

8. Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Reduction

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

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What progress has the Government made over the past 8 years in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and towards the goal of carbon neutrality?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity in 2007 were 20 percent lower than they were in 2006. We are on track to achieving our target of 90 percent electricity from renewables by 2025—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s going up.

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it is not. Dr Smith can say that it is going up, as often as he wants to, but it is not. We need to build 175 megawatts of renewables a year. This year alone we are building 300 megawatts. I am confident that carbon neutrality in the electricity sector will be achieved by 2025, if not before, with only modest offsets of residual emissions. In addition, deforestation emissions have decreased substantially this year and will remain lower if the emissions trading scheme proceeds in its current form.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Again, I say to Dr Smith that it is true. The emissions trading scheme will of course discourage increases, and reward decreases, in emissions across the economy.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm yesterday’s just released forestry figures showing a 19,000 hectare loss of forest in 2007, which are the worst figures since records began in 1951, and that this loss will add 15 million tonnes of carbon emissions, causing the greatest annual increase in any year and the highest emissions since records began in 1990; is this not a disgraceful record for a Government that is proclaiming itself to be a world leader on climate change?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I confirm that deforestation peaked last year at 19,000 hectares. This proves the point the Government has been saying for years, which is that we need to have controls around deforestation. Those controls are affected by way of the emissions trading scheme, and already this year we have seen deforestation plummet.

Gordon Copeland: When it was obvious by 2002 that a massive, nationwide tree-planting drive would have gained New Zealand Kyoto Protocol credits by enlarging our carbon sink, why instead does the Government find itself presiding over a 46,000-hectare deforestation from 2004 to 2007, and an estimated $900 million liability under Kyoto, and is this incompetence, negligence, or a combination of both?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The main driver of the change in forestry and deforestation was the changing economics of forestry compared with dairying.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s a stupid policy!

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am sorry, it is not. It is an obvious truth that what has been driving that change has been the relative profitability of those land uses. That is why the Government has chosen to devolve forest credits to new forests, why we have an afforestation grants scheme, and why it is also necessary to make sure that, like any other sector in the economy, increasing emissions are paid for by those who increase emissions.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Both the principal question and my question talked about what has happened over the last 8 years. We are calling the Government to account for those 8 years. I do not think that talking about what is planned for the future addresses the question as put forward.

Madam SPEAKER: I thought it did address the question. As the member should know by now, the member cannot require a specific answer to the question. If he wishes to do that, he should have the Standing Orders changed.

Hon Jim Anderton: What recent and relevant reports has the Minister seen on policy to reduce emissions from deforestation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen a report from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry this week that shows that the Labour-Progressive climate change policies have been very successful in reducing deforestation.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yeah, right!

Hon DAVID PARKER: They have. It has gone down from 19,000 to probably less than 5,000 hectares this year, which seems to me a significant change, even if it does not to the member.

Hon Maurice Williamson: There’s nothing left to cut down!

Hon DAVID PARKER: Mr Williamson obviously does not know the millions of hectares of forestry we have in New Zealand. The report also shows that the emissions trading scheme in its current form will reduce deforestation by 38,000 hectares of forestry, resulting in a 30 million - tonne reduction in emissions, worth around $700 million to the New Zealand economy and taxpayer.

Hon Mark Burton: In the Minister’s view, what is the key to reducing emissions in the critical agricultural sector?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The answer to that is evident from the breakthrough success of nitrification inhibitors to reduce nitrous oxide emissions. This shows the importance of research. Obviously, finding a technological answer to methane emissions is crucial, since that is New Zealand’s biggest slice of emissions. The Government’s boost of $700 million through the Fast Forward fund is critical to this. Like everyone else in New Zealand, I am surprised at the poor judgment shown by John Key and the National Party in choosing this issue to differentiate on. Mr Key is differentiating not just from Labour, but he is differentiating from his own spokesman on environment, Nick Smith, who has been calling for more funding for research to reduce agriculture emissions.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain the contradiction between his admitting that deforestation peaked in the calendar year 2007, and the press statement issued by the Government saying that deforestation was reducing?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes; it is the difference between 2007 and 2008. That is the difference. Every year the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry surveys deforestation intentions, and we also monitor actual rates of deforestation through aerial photography or satellite photography. As a consequence, we are sure that deforestation has substantially reduced this year.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm the internationally reported figures showing that New Zealand’s net emissions are 23 percent greater than in 1990, whereas Australia’s are just 5 percent above 1990 levels, and that the key difference between Australia being on target to meet the Kyoto target and New Zealand not having a bolter’s hope is that in recent years Australia has planted an additional 500,000 hectares of trees, whereas over the same period in New Zealand, trees have been felled like there is no tomorrow?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot confirm some of the details there. I can confirm the tonne amount that the member quotes in respect of the increased emissions from New Zealand. But the main reason Australia is closer to its target than we are to ours is that it had higher rates of deforestation historically that it has already knocked on the head. We had yet to knock ours on the head until this year, and that is one of the reasons why our emissions have been growing until now.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain why the Government’s press release yesterday announcing the record 19,000 hectares’ loss of forest is claiming that deforestation is reducing, and is this not, as one forestry industry spokesperson has said, “a bare-faced lie. These people will do whatever they can to stay in power.”; and could he specifically explain what part of this graph with figures up to the end of 2007 might look like deforestation is reducing?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member actually answered the question himself. He has figures until the end of 2007. The point has been made by the Minister of Agriculture and of Forestry and by me that deforestation has decreased since then and the reason it has decreased is that—

Hon Maurice Williamson: You’ve put a tax on it.

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, we have not put a tax on it. We are actually grandparenting more generously to deforestation than to any other sector. Deforestation is going down because it is being included in the emissions trading system.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the forestry database of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the statement by the forest industry that this is a bare-faced lie.

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

9. Unemployment Benefit—Spending

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

9. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received regarding reductions in spending on the unemployment benefit?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : I have seen a report that states that this Government saved New Zealand taxpayers $164 million over the 15 months to December 2007. That was the result of over 18,000 people moving off the unemployment benefit during that period—that is 40 people a day. Under a Labour-Progressive Government fewer people are reliant on a benefit, because more people are moving into paid work.

Russell Fairbrother: What has the Government done to support New Zealanders who have moved into low-income jobs?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Not only is our Government moving record numbers of New Zealanders into paid work but we have also made sure that that work really pays. I will give two examples. The Working for Families tax credits have made a real difference to working families, such as a couple on a benefit with two children under 5. If one parent got a full-time job earning around $850 gross a week, the Working for Families tax credits would make that family better off by $300 a week. We have also increased the minimum wage every year since 1999, and on 1 April this year the adult minimum wage will be increased to $12 an hour—that is $5 an hour more than in 1999.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a report on the massive increase in the spending on the sickness and invalids benefits under this Government.

 Leave granted.

10. Child Support—Debt Levels

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

10. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Revenue: Can he confirm that total child support debt is now over $1.2 billion, including $471.9 million in assessment debt, and how does the level of assessment debt compare with 1999?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) : Yes, I can confirm that the member is correct. The level of liable-parent assessment debt in 1999 was $179.2 million. The growth in assessment debt has, however, slowed over the last few years. It was 3.1 percent in the year ended June 2007, which compares with 15.7 percent and 8.1 percent in the years ended 30 June 2005 and 30 June 2006 respectively.

Judith Collins: Does he agree that the $300 million increase in assessment debt since Labour took office confirms that this Government does not take seriously the collection of child support?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No, I do not agree with that. In fact, a number of steps have been taken to improve the collection of child support debt. I refer to the legislation that was passed in the House in 2006 that enabled long-term penalties to be written off if parents entered into arrangements to repay their debt more quickly—legislation that the member’s party opposed.

Judith Collins: Does he stand by his statement made last week and, again, today that the legislation to allow write-offs of penalty debt has been extremely successful; if so, can he explain why child support debt has continued to increase dramatically since that legislation was passed?

Hon PETER DUNNE: What I can confirm is that since that legislation was passed and came into effect the rate of growth of assessment debt has actually slowed.

Judith Collins: Does he agree that the increase in the number of child support debtors since Labour took office and the disgraceful level of debt are because this Government, which he supports, makes it far too easy for 120,000 delinquent parents to walk away from the responsibilities they owe to their children?

Hon PETER DUNNE: It may come as a surprise to the member to know that in 1999 the number of paying parents was 130,068, and in the year ended January 2008 the figure had reduced to 124,541.

Judith Collins: Does he agree with the principle that applies in Australia that parents need to know that they cannot leave their child support debt behind when they leave the country; if he does not agree with that principle, why does he not agree with it?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I do agree with that principle. That is why we passed legislation to allow for data matching with the Customs Service for those who are coming and going from the country. It is also why, since the reciprocal agreement between Australia and New Zealand has been in effect, some 8,000 cases are being collected in Australia, and the Inland Revenue Department is collecting 3,500 cases in New Zealand. Those are very good figures.

11. Māori Trustee—Beneficiaries

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

11. HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: How many beneficiaries are there to the unclaimed moneys and other moneys currently being held by the Māori Trustee?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : There are 126,222 accounts held for beneficial owners.

Hone Harawira: Is the Minister expecting a legal challenge from those beneficiaries whose money the Government is stealing to establish a development bank; if so, will he also be recommending that legislation be passed to deny those beneficiaries the right to legal aid to challenge that debt—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please be seated, Mr Harawira. You have been here long enough to know the rules.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker, I refer you to, I think, the second clause of what the member said. It was clearly out of order. Parliament is contemplating legislation, and to characterise it in the way that the member did is clearly unparliamentary.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member like to rephrase his question so that it is consistent with the Standing Orders. Thank you.

Hone Harawira: No, Madam Speaker, I would rather not, unless you insist that I do.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I do insist that you do.

Hone Harawira: Very well. Is the Minister expecting a legal challenge from those beneficiaries—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In what way was Mr Harawira’s question inconsistent with the Standing Orders? Given the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister this afternoon about another member’s past involvements, what he was up to, and all the rest of it, which for many of us seemed to be an imputation against that member’s motives, what was so wrong with what Mr Harawira just said?

Madam SPEAKER: As I have said to the member, I am considering the general question, and in the meantime I will be consistent with the rulings as of today. Would Mr Harawira please rephrase his question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In light of the previous point of order, I seek leave to table an article from a Socialist Action of 1975, written by Keith Locke and headed: “Cambodia liberated, victory for humanity”, which describes the Khmer Rouge victory.

 Leave granted.

Madam SPEAKER: Hone Harawira, your question please. [Interruption] Well, that is another issue.

Hone Harawira: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it appropriate that members speak when sitting down, while I am standing up to ask a question?

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please just ask your question.

Hone Harawira: Certainly. Is the Minister expecting a legal challenge from those beneficiaries whose money the Government is appropriating to establish a development bank; if so, will he also be recommending that legislation be passed to deny those beneficiaries the right to legal aid to challenge that appropriation, in the same way that his Labour Government appropriated the foreshore and seabed and then passed legislation to deny Māori the right to legal aid to challenge that appropriation?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No and no. It is totally the opposite. It is about thinking into the future and making sure that fragmentation, in the sense of ownership, is about getting a platform for Māori when nobody else will do it.

Dave Hereora: Has the Minister heard of any recent examples where owners of unclaimed moneys have been found?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are several. The Māori Trust Office received contact from a descendant of a deceased person whose name had been listed in KōkiriPaetae magazine. A lot of these unclaimed dividends are sitting there, and that person was able to claim the $4,000 that was owed.

Hon Tau Henare: Why, if the interest earned on a person’s money belongs to him or her—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why doesn’t Paula use her own lines?

Hon Tau Henare: Why does the member not be quiet?

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please just ask the question.

Hon Tau Henare: Why, if the interest earned on a person’s money belongs to him or her, is the Minister happy to claim that the $35 million in interest and dividends earned from beneficiaries—unclaimed moneys—does not belong to those beneficiaries; and why does he think he can take it without asking for their permission?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The unclaimed moneys as at 29 February 2008 was $8,579,775. The general purposes fund is made up of money from the business activities of the Māori Trustee. The sources of funding for the general purposes fund are fees and commissions, returns on investments, and the interest differential between what is earned on common fund investments and what can legally be paid to beneficial owners of those investments. This is a way of using it—whereas it cannot be used at the moment—to help all Māori.

Hone Harawira: Can the Minister please explain to all of those beneficiaries who are listening to this broadcast why, given the demand by the Government that iwi contact all of their tribal members to have them endorse Treaty settlement packages, he does not have to contact any of the beneficiaries before appropriating $35 million of their money?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Every owner registered was sent a notice of this activity. There were several consultation hui around the country. Māori at those hui were generally very supportive of this move.

Hone Harawira: Can the Minister please explain why, if the intention of the Māori Trustee bill is to make the Māori Trustee more independent from the Government, he is putting forward legislation so that he can appropriate $35 million of the Māori Trustee’s money, and put it into an organisation that he is setting up, with a board of directors that he will choose, and operating according to a purpose that he has already predetermined; and can he please explain to the House why he is doing all of this in election year, without consultation with those beneficiaries whose money he is appropriating?

Madam SPEAKER: There are several questions there.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There has been consultation over this matter over a period of time. I am amazed at that member’s glass ball that he looks into—it seems to be fogged up. Let us be quite clear about this: the audit of the accounts of the Māori Trustee showed nearly $39 million. No money held in trust for beneficiaries, including unclaimed moneys, will be transferred to the new entity. What does the member want? Does he want the money to sit there, not be used, not be transparent, and not benefit Māori so that they can get on with their lives and do something for themselves with their own money?

12. Māori Trustee—General Purposes Fund

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

12. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Is the Māori Trustee’s general purposes fund made up of income generated from beneficiary money?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : The general purposes fund is made up of money from the business activities of the Māori Trustee. The sources of funding for the general purposes fund are fees and commissions, returns on investments, and the interest differential between what is earned on common fund investments and what can be legally paid to beneficial owners of those investments.

Hon Tau Henare: If the Minister is correct, how can Labour purloin $35 million generated by beneficiaries’ assets and, rather than giving that income back to the beneficiaries who generated it, try to use that money to set up an election year slush fund?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As I told the member the other day, the general purposes fund and other funds for Māori development present a significant opportunity if they are pooled and work together. The Māori Trustee will be sitting across the top of this money and other contributions, as chairperson of the new entity. Those selected for the board will be selected in consultation with iwi leaders and other Māori organisations around the country.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. What can the general purposes fund be used for?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It will be used to progress Māori development, both in enterprise and land-based activities. It will certainly give Māori the opportunity that banks in this country do not give them because of the tenure construct of Māori land.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Is the goal of a new fund, to be taken from the Māori Trustee’s general purposes fund, to foster real self-sufficiency and development among Māori-owned businesses and landowners, or is it just more micro-management that will keep Māori dependent on Government support?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Tēnā koe. The fund will be contributed to from a range of sources, including the Crown. The intent of the fund is to support the economic aspirations of Māori. The one thing about Māori and their economic aspirations is that they will never leave this country. They will prop up the great work that Michael and Helen have done. The entity will be independent of the Crown and will also be accountable to Māori for its performance.

Hon Tau Henare: Can the Minister confirm the statement on page 7 of the Māori Trustee’s annual report that says it is necessary that the Māori Trustee is independent from the Crown so that the trustee is not influenced by political factors that may not be in the interests of the clients; if so, how could the Minister state in this House last week that the appointees to the Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand entity would be made up of Māori who support Labour?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As usual, that member is twisting things. I have never said “support Labour”. What I said was “support Māori”. I make it quite clear that in the duties of the Māori Trustee there are other activities that the Crown has to pay for—it purchases off the Māori Trustee, and there is agreement. Those are the people whom the Crown cannot find—those people who have unclaimed dividends—and how does one get that out? That has clearly been a practice for a long time, even when that member was the Minister of Māori Affairs.

Hon Tau Henare: Is it not the case that if the Government has a vested interest in appropriating income generated from unpaid beneficiary money for its proposed new business development fund, Labour will have no interest in tracking down the beneficiaries and paying them their due, because that will reduce the amount of money it can appropriate for its “Fox Fighting Fund”, in a desperate effort to help the Minister to keep his seat?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The one thing about this Minister is that he has his seat, unlike that member, and he will continue to carry on—let me be very clear about that. The one thing about this business is that one cannot differentiate between one’s cousins and one’s whānau, as Tini Fox is one of mine. Let me tell that member again—and he should listen carefully—that the general purposes fund is made up of money from the business activities of the Māori Trustee. The sources of funding for the general purposes fund are fees and commissions, returns on investments, and the interest differential between what is earned from the common fund investments and what can be legally paid to beneficial owners of those investments.

Hon Tau Henare: Is it not true that under the Māori Trustee legislation, rather than protect the interests of Māori beneficiaries, Labour is going to take money from the Māori Trustee, take money from the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, take money from the Poutama Māori Business Trust, and give it to a group of his own personal appointees to spend on people who are not beneficiaries of the Māori Trustee, in a vain attempt to help him keep his seat?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Several decisions are made, and, certainly, that member remembers how we developed the Māori Education Trust Board, and other organisations. I wish that that member would not get so upset about me wanting to retain my seat, because that is what I will do.

Hon Tau Henare: Has the Minister been contacted by the Federation of Māori Authorities, and is it not true that it has said to the Minister that it is opposed to the Minister purloining $35 million out of the Māori Trustee to set up this slush fund?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are always ongoing discussions with the Federation of Māori Authorities, and other Māori organisations, and the majority are in support of this development. Members of his party might be telling him otherwise, but I tell him that Māori have a lot of support for this development.

Hon Tau Henare: Is it not the case that this rort is nothing more than a reserve fund for the Minister of Māori Affairs, and that it should be renamed the “Fox Fighting Fund”, because that Minister and his other mates in the Labour Party are scared of losing their seats to the Māori Party in the next election?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is a real pleasure to still have my seat, unlike that member. I ask him what his policy is. What would he like to do with Māori, because there was not too much transparency when National was sitting on the Government benches? I ask him what his policy is, because he has nothing. Māori will be excited and encouraged by this great development—members can mark my words.

Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave of the House to table the annual report of the Māori Trustee.

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


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