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Questions And Answers – Tuesday April 1, 2008

Questions And Answers – Tuesday April 1, 2008

1. Freedom of the Press—China

1. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Will she ensure journalists travelling with her, as part of the delegation she is leading to China next week, will enjoy normal press freedoms as outlined in international human rights treaties; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister) : The New Zealand media travelling to China will have the same rights as other foreign media in China. The New Zealand media have travelled with the Prime Minister to China in the past.

Keith Locke: How can the Prime Minister effectively raise human rights issues with the Chinese Government when it has been so weak in defending the rights of even a New Zealand journalist, that is Nick Wang, to cover the important signing of a preferential trade agreement with China?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No New Zealand journalists or, indeed, any New Zealand citizens, have a right to enter China. China, like every other country, asserts the right to control entry across its own borders.

Hon Peter Dunne: Did the New Zealand Government, as part of its delegation to Beijing, invite Mr Wang to participate, and if it did, what assurances, if any, did it offer him at that point about his ability to be able to travel to Beijing as part of the New Zealand team going there for the signing of the free-trade agreement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding is that the Government asked for expressions of interest from journalists who wished to go to China with the Prime Minister, and the names of those journalists who wished to go were forwarded to the Chinese Government for processing under its normal procedures. I emphasise that, of course, New Zealand operates exactly the same procedures for people coming into our country and, indeed, on one occasion a person who posed previously as a journalist or a historian, depending on one’s point of view, has been denied entry to New Zealand.

Keith Locke: What guarantees can the Prime Minister offer that we will get a free and honest coverage of events taking place in Beijing during the signing of the preferential trade deal, when journalists will be tempted to tone down their criticism of the Chinese Government in order not to be excluded from that country in the future?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is true to say there are a large number of New Zealand journalists going to Beijing with the Prime Minister. It is not a matter for the New Zealand Government to guarantee free and honest coverage by New Zealand journalists in any circumstance.

Keith Locke: Which of the following human rights issues will the Prime Minister be bringing up with the Chinese Premier when she meets him in Beijing—that China lift its lockdown of all Tibetan areas, including allowing full media access; accounting for the missing and dead from this month’s protests; publishing the names of all individuals detained in their places of detention; and, finally, giving immediate access to independent monitors who can investigate whether detainees are tortured or mistreated?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister clearly will be meeting with the Chinese Premier. I am sure that she will raise issues of human rights within China, as part of that meeting. Of course, the Chinese Government is well aware of the resolution passed by this Parliament, which is one of the strongest resolutions or reproaches from any Western country.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister received any historical reports about an issue of press freedoms and human rights, which would arise with the accession of communist power in China, and does she recall that that accession was supported by the Trotskyites, soon to be joined later on in life by one Keith Locke?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister receives many reports, both historical and present, about human rights abuses and human rights concerns. I think, as a member previously pointed out himself, almost unanimously in this House—certainly most living politicians, although I can recall a “dead” exception—there was strong support for democratic elections in Zimbabwe and the outcome of those elections, in the first instance. The sad thing is that the promise of that first election has since been so sadly let down.

Keith Locke: Does the treatment of the New Zealand journalist Nick Wang by the Chinese Government illustrate how China will have veto over who will have access to the Chinese market, and that businessmen and businesswomen might find themselves equally blacklisted because of their politics or religion?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, one cannot draw that conclusion. One can certainly continue to draw the conclusion that China will assert control over its own borders in terms of entry to China. New Zealand does exactly the same thing. Indeed, the member may recall that this Government declined to issue a visa for the entry into New Zealand of David Irving, in the past. We, of course, operate a far freer society in terms of both internal freedoms and access to people from outside, than China is accustomed to doing. However, the Government firmly believes that continued contact with China is more likely to lead to progress in terms of freedoms than in fact trying to isolate China.

2. Treasury—Inflation Indexing of Personal Tax Thresholds

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

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: What was Treasury’s best estimate of the cost of the announced, but later cancelled, inflation indexing of personal tax thresholds which were due to come into effect on 1 April 2008?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : In the first year, it was approximately $360 million. I do note that those changes were opposed by the National Party.

Hon Bill English: Can he confirm that in the 3 years since he promised the “chewing gum tax cuts” the cumulative surplus has been $25 billion, and that he argued in 2007 he could not afford a 67c a week tax cut and then went on to commit $11 billion towards new spending in the same Budget in 2007?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is perilously close back to arguing that the operating surplus is the measure of what is available for tax cuts, a point, of course, he has got into some trouble over when, by a matter of a failure in the Inland Revenue Department, the Government announced an operating deficit and the member was the first to rush from the corner and say this had nothing to do with the level of tax cuts that were affordable.

Hon Mark Gosche: What is the value per annum of the tax relief for families announced before the 2005 election?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Due to the post-Budget announcements in 2005, those eligible for Working for Families will this year receive over $2 billion in tax cuts. I make the following comparison. For a single-income family on the average wage, and with two children under 12, in December 1999 the net tax payable by that family was $4,655 or 13.4 percent of the gross income. In the last quarter of last year, that had dropped to $1,941 or 4.2 percent of its gross income—less than a third of what obtained under the last period of the National Government.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the hundreds of thousands of households that missed out on the tax cuts that he promised just before the last election but cancelled afterwards now face record high household debt, record high interest rates, and record petrol prices and food prices, and that he is planning to use the money from those cancelled tax cuts to try to buy their votes this year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that the National Party promised to cut the last $10 a week in the increase to the Working for Families tax credit that came into force on 1 April 2007, which has delivered substantial gains to many low-income families. I do note the member’s view that tax cuts delivered by the Labour Government are buying people’s votes, whereas tax cuts promised by the National Party have nothing to do with that, at all.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the number of New Zealanders who left permanently for Australia in the year ended February is 38 percent higher than in the year before, and does he think it has anything to do with the fact that Labour’s record on personal tax is to promise cuts, then not deliver them, while the Australians have consistently cut taxes for the last 5 years and will continue to do so for the next 3 years?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Labour has delivered some $4.5 billion a year of tax cuts so far. I confidently predict that on Budget night, if and when there is—and there will be—legislation to implement tax cuts, National will vote against it, thereby completing its long record on that. The member nods his head in agreement.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that the Minister has gone ahead with company tax cuts because he believes they will stimulate investment and make New Zealand more competitive, and gone ahead with a research and development tax credit because he believes it will stimulate investment and make New Zealand more competitive, but he has always argued that personal income tax cuts make no difference whatsoever, which is why he cancelled them from 1 April today?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, indeed, that was cancelled so that the Government could afford the enhancements to KiwiSaver, which has over 500,000 New Zealanders joined up to it and is proving to be a stunning success. Mr English cannot wait, again, to run into a corner to hide from questions about National’s policy on KiwiSaver. Everybody is waiting with baited breath.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports as to the series of retrograde steps taken by Roger Douglas after 1984, and then onwards by Ruth Richardson in 1990, which began to create the huge disparity between New Zealand’s and Australia’s economic performance, and which will take considerable time to turn around; is it a fact that Mr English and his ilk supported those measures back then in the heyday of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, and is it not a bit rich now for him to start arguing that somehow that huge differentiation owes nothing to his responsibility, at all?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is certainly true that the gap in GDP and the gap in wages and salaries grew most strongly between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. That is when the gap opened up the most. I think it would be quite flattering to say that some of the measures undertaken between 1984 and 1990 were supported by the National Opposition. I think that it is true to say that it supported them in secret but continued to vote against them in public.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe it is an achievement of the Labour Government that people on the average wage who do not have the benefit of Working for Families tax relief now pay a greater proportion of their income in tax than they did when Labour took power, and that many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders not only have had no relief from high taxes but in fact have had their taxes increased?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The reason why that statement about the proportion of income is true, of course, is that real incomes have risen by 15 percent at an individual level and by 25 percent at a household level. I emphasise that real incomes have risen by 15 percent at the individual level and by 25 percent at the household level. We have had the longest period of economic growth since World War II. We have the lowest unemployment rate we have had since the modern measures were introduced.

Hon Bill English: Why no tax cuts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member cannot recognise that kind of achievement when he sees it, but I will say again: there will be significant tax changes in this year’s Budget, and I guarantee that that member will vote against them and will find every possible casuistical excuse for doing so.

3. Economic Initiatives—1 April

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

3. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What significant economic initiatives come into force on 1 April 2008?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : A range of significant initiatives come into force today—news, obviously, for Dr Smith. The company tax rate has been cut for the first time since Labour was last in office and, indeed, as I said before, I cannot find a historical precedent for National ever cutting the company tax rate. Combined with the research and development tax credits, which come into force today, this cut will allow businesses to invest more in their workers and in their long-term success. We are also today, of course, lifting completely the cap on charitable giving, both for individuals and for companies. We are increasing the minimum wage—

David Bennett: Good National policies—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The difference is that Labour Governments do it; National only ever promises in Opposition and does not do it in Government. We are also increasing the minimum wage for the ninth time in 8 years. Today marks the commencement of employer contributions to KiwiSaver, and the tax credits for employers that go with them—good news for over 500,000 New Zealanders.

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

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen widespread support for these initiatives. I have also seen reports that the Opposition voted against the company tax cuts, and never made any cuts when it was in Government. I have seen reports that it voted against the research and development tax credits. I have seen reports that it opposed all nine increases to the minimum wage, and, finally, that it voted over 40 times against KiwiSaver and still has no policy on that matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister of Finance confirm that the increase in superannuation rates effective from today, as well as the previous increases this parliamentary term, are a direct result of the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Government, in which the Government agreed to ensure that the base rate of New Zealand superannuation would not fall below 66 percent of the net average wage?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is correct. Of course, when this Government came into office the floor had been lowered to 60 percent of the average wage, and we raised that immediately to 65 percent of the average wage, and now to 66 percent as a result of the confidence and supply agreement. The result of that is that a married couple on New Zealand superannuation are now receiving approximately $35 a week more than they would have done, had the National Government stayed in power.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister of Finance confirm that the cut in the business tax rate effective from today is the result of the review of the business taxation regime secured by New Zealand First in its confidence and supply agreement with the Government—a review carried out in part to improve New Zealand’s competitiveness with Australia and to boost productivity—and what impact does he think that this rate cut will have in these areas?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can confirm that a commitment to a business taxation review was included in the confidence and supply agreements of both United Future and New Zealand First, and it resulted in the lowering of the corporate tax rate to 30 percent. It also needs to be mentioned, of course, that although KiwiSaver contributions are coming into force today for employers, offset in very large part by tax credits, in Australia employers pay into superannuation schemes a compulsory 9 percent on all employees.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that it is written into the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and New Zealand First that the minimum wage should rise to $12 per hour by 2008; if so, will he state whether he is aware that New Zealand First wants this to be an ongoing process and will not settle for the miserly increases that occurred in the 1990s, when the National Party was in Government?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, and it needs to be noted that during the 1990s there was only one increase in the minimum wage, and that occurred only when New Zealand First was in coalition with the National Party. Left to their own devices, National members fail completely to increase the minimum wage, and, no doubt in conjunction with Sir Roger Douglas as a Cabinet Minister or, indeed, a prominent backbencher, they might be looking—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: He’s your old mate.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is certainly not one of us any longer. He is one of them, and they are welcome to him. They are going to have to put up with him in the future.

Hon Bill English: In the interests of accuracy under the Standing Orders, it may be helpful for the House to know that Dr Cullen was Roger Douglas’ Associate Minister of Finance.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I need to say that it is worth noting that I was removed from that post at the request of Sir Roger Douglas.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave, because Dr Cullen’s answers on the last few questions have been so potent, telling, and important as a tribute to what does happen in politics as opposed to people who just make promises, that he table all those answers for our ready digestion.

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

4. Prisoners—Transport

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

4. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by the statement by Department of Corrections chief executive Barry Matthews that “The question of how we can humanely transport prisoners while keeping the public, our staff and prisoners safe is a complex one, and the Ombudsman’s report into the transportation of prisoners was timely.”?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : Yes. A wide range of measures have already been implemented in response to the reports of the Ombudsman and the prison inspectorate on inmate transport, including the separation of young inmates and the separation of at-risk inmates. This month we will be rolling out the full implementation of waist restraints, and still other measures are being worked through with a view to implementation later this year.

Simon Power: Why did the Department of Corrections transport Graeme Burton five times by road between Auckland prison and Wellington during March and April last year for court appearances, when he could have been held at Rimutaka Prison; and is this putting the safety of the public first?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Absolutely so. He was transported to Auckland prison because—as the member, as Opposition spokesperson on corrections, ought to know—Auckland prison is the only maximum security prison in New Zealand. It was deemed necessary to keep him in that prison.

Martin Gallagher: How many times each year are inmates transported, and how often do serious incidents occur in the course of that process?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are roughly 200,000 occasions each year when inmates are transported. It varies from around 175,000 to 225,000. For example, I can recall from the Ombudsman’s report into Liam Ashley’s death that the number of incidents that occurred in that year was six, with no other incident involving any serious injury that required hospital treatment.

Simon Power: Does he stand by answers to written questions from the former Minister of Corrections, Damien O’Connor, who stated that a 30-bed management unit at Rimutaka is specifically designated to hold maximum security prisoners on a temporary basis until they are transferred to Auckland prison; if so, why was Burton not held there for another month instead of going on five road trips, at a cost to the taxpayer of $19,500?

Hon PHIL GOFF: For the very simple reason that the Department of Corrections, understanding the dangers posed by Burton, determined that he should be in the most secure correctional institution in the country. That is why he was in the maximum security unit at Pāremoremo. Of course, he had to be transported to Wellington, where the court case was being held.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that when Burton was transferred from hospital, following the amputation of his leg, he had already managed to obtain a knife and assault a guard as they were loading him into the van, and how does exposing the public to the risk of someone Mr Matthews describes as being “an extremely dangerous individual” on five 9-hour road trips fulfil the Department of Corrections’ stated intention that he should be held “in the most secure facility available”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Firstly, he was held in the most secure facility available. Secondly, unlike under a National Government—when the rate of escapes was six times higher than it currently is—when this Government keeps people in custody and transports those people, there is a far better chance that they will stay in custody than when there was the ludicrous situation whereby the National Government allowed people simply to walk away from prisons that sometimes did not even have fences around them.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that Burton was first transferred to Auckland prison in March last year, following his involvement in a 9-hour riot at Rimutaka, and how does he respond to concerns from guards at the time that the department had cowed to Burton’s demands to “Take me back to Auckland or I’ll play up, because all the managers are scared of any attention.”, after the department had already botched his release and probation?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I respond by saying it is rubbish.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that late last year the Department of Corrections delayed the fitting of a new artificial leg for Burton because of fears that visits to a clinic outside of Auckland prison would allow his criminal contacts on the outside to organise an escape, and why was the department not so concerned about this type of behaviour when it was trucking him up and down the country five times earlier in the year?

Hon PHIL GOFF: What I can confirm is that keeping him in Pāremoremo maximum security prison enabled him to be kept absolutely secure. He did not escape from that prison, unlike the escapes that took place under a National Government when Pāremoremo was run down in its security.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table information obtained under the Official Information Act, showing those five journeys between Wellington and Auckland and their cost to the New Zealand taxpayer.

 Leave granted.

Madam SPEAKER: If members are going to object they should please do so loudly. I heard no objection at the time when I asked. In future, please indicate loudly.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was Burton not trussed up, manacled, put in a straitjacket, and flown by helicopter all the way up and landed inside Pāremoremo prison, so we could avoid having these inane questions from Simon Power on this matter?

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that is within the Minister’s area of responsibility.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is an option. I want to know why I am hearing such inane questions as to why somebody was transported by road when he could have gone by helicopter. Maybe there is an answer, because the inane questions are what concern me.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I agree with the member that the questions are inane. Let me say that sometimes people are transported by air. Again, the track record on that, with one exception in recent times that I can think of, has been pretty good. The fact remains that on each occasion that Burton was moved from Auckland to Wellington he did not escape and did not come near to escaping. Therefore, there is no issue.

5. Carbon Emissions—Transport Sector

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

5. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What action is the Government taking to address carbon emissions from the transport sector?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : To combat growing emissions from the transport sector, the Government is taking a multi-pronged approach. For example, we are supporting alternatives to car travel by providing more resources and legislative support for better public transport, and developing a fuel economy standard for light vehicles. With fuel prices increasing, we are seizing the opportunities around electric vehicles and biofuels. We are also strengthening our coastal shipping industry so optimal use can be made of this fuel-efficient means. Of course, of great importance is retaining and rebuilding the use of rail.

Darien Fenton: What other comments has the Minister seen in regards to climate change and transport issues?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Last Friday I listened to National’s transport spokesperson, Maurice Williamson, talking to the Automobile Association’s annual meeting. When he was asked about climate change he refused to answer, saying he wanted to stay a member of the National Party. This is just the tip of the iceberg. As I understand, other National Party members have also avoided committing themselves to recognising climate change for the same reason. John Key says his party recognises the effects of climate change, but when his members are outside the caucus room they ridicule it thereby ridiculing him. It is a similar story with National members’ mate, the ACT party. It is their coalition partner, and it does not believe in climate change; at least it is honest about it.

6. District Health Boards—Leave for Junior Doctors

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What led the Canterbury District Health Board to decide to curtail all leave for junior doctors until August, and how widespread are these problems elsewhere around the country?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I am advised that the media report on this issue is inaccurate, and that the Canterbury District Health Board has called for an immediate correction of the article. The Ministry of Health advised that it is not aware of any other district health boards having to cancel annual leave as described. Perhaps John Key can advise the Canterbury District Health Board how someone gets a newspaper to run a correction.

Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Minister tell the House why, when the Christchurch Hospital general manager has told the media that there will be constraints on staff leave because of these shortages, he plays on words to conceal the real crisis facing that hospital?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am very pleased to talk about the Canterbury District Health Board today. This memo is from Mark Leggett, the general manager of the medical and surgical division of the Canterbury District Health Board: “The facts of the matter are that we are constrained by the availability of relief, locum, and agency staff cover.”, but, as set out in his memo of 12 March 2008: “The DHB will continue to prioritise leave for things like family events, weddings, and medical education.” That does not amount to a cancellation of all leave as stated by the Christchurch Press, Mr Key’s favourite paper.

Sue Moroney: Has the number of New Zealand medical graduates increased?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The number of funded places in New Zealand medical schools has increased twice in the last 27 years—both times under a Labour-led Government. In 2004 the Government announced an increase of 40 medical students, and a further 40 places were announced this year, bringing the total from 285 per annum in 1999 to 365 this year.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister realise that this situation, like that at Wanganui, is a symptom of Labour’s neglect of the hospital staffing crisis over the last few years, and means that New Zealand is losing more and more doctors and nurses overseas when they are desperately needed to provide quality health services here at home?


Heather Roy: Does the Minister believe that denying junior doctors their annual leave, as happened at the Hutt Valley District Health Board at the end of last year, is an acceptable way of managing widespread staff vacancies; and what exactly is he doing to stop the now entrenched practice of our training junior doctors and health professionals for export?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is a time-honoured tradition that young New Zealanders, especially recent graduates, travel overseas. It is also true that, for years on end, most of them have come back again. The aggregate vacancy rates in 2007 were little different from those in 1999.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that because of the staffing crisis at Wellington Hospital, one in every 10 beds there is closed; and why does he remain in denial about the health workforce crisis?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: One is well aware of the various issues at the Capital and Coast District Health Board. I am sure the junior doctors would not thank the member opposite for laying them all at their door.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has he read any of the 43 reports on workforce shortages that have been produced by endless bureaucrats and committees since Labour came to office; and does he not realise that New Zealanders will not take any comfort from the promise of yet another committee, coming as it does from Labour’s third Minister of Health in less than 3 years?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. It is always good to hear from the member, as long as he remains National’s health spokesman.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why does the Minister not understand that in a few years’ time, when more and more people are not able to get surgery because of staffing shortages, the public are going to realise that Labour allowed the rot to set in with 9 years of endless reports, committees, and total inaction?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: A much better question from that member!

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister just address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, Madam Speaker. There are occasionally more vacancies because under this Government there are more positions for physicians. In fact, no fewer than 2,240 medical personnel have been employed since 1999.

7. Benefits and Superannuation—Rates

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

7. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received on changes to rates for benefits and superannuation that took effect from 1 April?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : From today rates for New Zealand superannuation, veterans pension, and for benefits will be increased by just over 3 percent. This reflects our Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting vulnerable families and communities—a sharp contrast to the policies of the National Party, which have been to slash benefits, leaving superannuitants, students, and families struggling to cope.

Russell Fairbrother: What other reports has she seen regarding regular adjustments to benefits?

Hon RUTH DYSON: On television on Sunday, the leader of the National Party was asked whether he supported annual adjustments to benefits. He said: “We’re looking at those policies. I mean, at the moment, ah, some of them already have built-in clauses, others don’t. We’ll be reviewing those in due course.” To be honest it is hard to understand what that really means. Not adjusting benefits and superannuation means cutting support for older New Zealanders and vulnerable families. Mr Key either has a—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. New Zealand First is very interested in this answer. That is why we would like to have the noise behind us on our right reduced severely so that we can hear it. There is a chorus up there led by “Blue Chip Bob”, and we cannot hear a thing over here, at all.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please complete her answer, and would members please keep their contributions lower.

Hon RUTH DYSON: On television on Sunday, the leader of the National Party was asked whether he supported annual adjustments to benefits, and he said: “We are looking at those policies. I mean, at the moment, ah, some of them already have built-in clauses, others don’t. We’ll be reviewing those in due course.” Not adjusting benefits and superannuation means cutting support for older New Zealanders and vulnerable families. Mr Key either has a very worrying policy under development or he has been caught again making up something to say when he does not know the answer to the question.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was concerned that you allowed to stand the way in which the member Winston Peters addressed another member of the House. You will be as aware as anybody that members must be addressed correctly in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. I have noticed that from time to time members do not address other members correctly, so I ask them to do so in the future and to observe the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am prepared to understand and take on board Mr English’s point, but when one runs a whole stadium around that name and is prepared to go to a court of law on the matter and defend one’s right to take mates’ rates for it, along with Blue Chip Australia, one has to be aware of what the consequences are.

Madam SPEAKER: In this House there are rules, and those rules state that the way in which members are referred to is with respect. Those rules will be observed in this House.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You quite rightly just pointed out that in this House there are rules. Regardless of what the point of order was about or the content of it, the rules are that the House should remain silent throughout that point of order. There was a chorus and an eruption from the front bench of the National Party, and I ask that you remind those people that they should be silent during a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, but I also note that in the making of that point of order, peripheral matters were raised that were somewhat provocative. So I would suggest to members that when they raise their points of order, they do so succinctly and keep to the point of principle.

Russell Fairbrother: How do changes to New Zealand superannuation compare with the average wage?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The newly adjusted rate of New Zealand superannuation for a married couple is 66.23 percent of the average weekly wage. About 510,000 older New Zealanders will benefit from these increases. This contrasts with the National Party’s previous policy, which was to freeze superannuation in real terms. Under National’s policy superannuation would have fallen to 61 percent of the average wage this year—$34 a week less for a married couple. Now it seems that the National Party’s intention might be to stop annual inflation adjustments entirely. That would have a dramatic negative impact on older New Zealanders, many of whom are reliant on superannuation.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What effect will there be on those people who are now beneficiaries as a consequence of their losing all their money because of the nefarious and scurrilous and illegal activities of an operation called Blue Chip New Zealand?

Madam SPEAKER: I am searching for ministerial responsibility here.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: All the Minister has to do is talk about what beneficiaries are on, and what they will be on by way of an increase today. That is the connection.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. The member has explained his question. He is relating it to beneficiaries who invested in Blue Chip. The Minister should confine her answer to that.

Hon RUTH DYSON: Fortunately our Government has maintained our commitment to people on benefits, veterans pensions, and superannuation, and it has ensured that every year their income support is adjusted to reflect price increases.

8. Electoral Finance Act—Statement

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

8. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement: “The Parliament decided what would be in the Electoral Finance Act, and every party in this House needs to abide by it.”; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes, the record of Parliament shows that the bill was passed by the majority of parliamentarians.

Hon Bill English: Is she concerned, as Minister in charge of the legislation, that despite the fact that I drew attention to Green Party billboards put up around Wellington 2 weeks ago those billboards contain an illegal authorisation statement that is written sideways and in such tiny type that it cannot be read from the road; if so, what action does she expect the Green Party to take to remedy this situation and comply with the law, and what actions does she expect to be taken by the electoral authorities, given this obvious breach of the law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not my place to tell the Green Party what action to take. It must decide that and take the consequences. I expect that the Electoral Commission will look at any breach—or alleged breach—as we expect it to do.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen these large billboards put up by New Zealand First in Tauranga, which contain no authorisation statement at all, and is she concerned that along with the Greens and Labour, New Zealand First is another parliamentary party that voted for this law but seems to think that voting for it means that it does not have to follow it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I direct members to a certain National leader’s DVD, which was distributed this year, that breaches every part of the Act. How come the member does not bring that up?

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the New Zealand Public Service Association’s recent application to become a third party does not contain the home address of its financial agent, which will therefore lead to breaking the law; that the recent application by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions to become a third party also does not contain the home address of the financial agent, which is breaking the law; and does she think that the reason so many organisations that supported this law are breaking it is that they either consider it absurd or they think that her claim of the law of common sense means that Labour and its mates can break this law while everyone else has to keep it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If that scenario was the case, why did John Key not have his DVD authorised?

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that under the Electoral Finance Act, hanging a sign in front of an audience of Chinese New Zealanders in Parliament saying “Labour supports the Chinese community” constitutes an election advertisement, which would have to be authorised correctly by the Labour Party’s financial agent; is she aware that it was not authorised and that when Labour does authorise anything it is doing so illegally; and what will she do about stopping her own colleagues from breaking a law for which she is responsible?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not intend to make any rulings in terms of any party activity. It is not my role.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us whether it is part of the law that she was responsible for that these breaches of the law ought to be referred to the police and that the police are the agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting breaches of the law, and will she see to it that these breaches are referred to the police?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not my role, and I do not have to refer things to the police. Why does the member not do that if he is so concerned about it? It is not my role to go around as the snoop looking to see whether something breaks the law. I suggest that if the member does not like New Zealand First’s banner, does not like the Greens’ hoarding, and does not like anything that other parties have done, he should refer it to the police.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why her party, and the parties that she persuaded to support this Draconian, anti-democratic electoral finance legislation, have all set about systematically breaking the law and expect to do so with impunity?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not give any description or examples from other parties. But I say to the member that he speaks out of both sides of his mouth, because while he wants to berate other parties in here, it is quite all right for the National Party to do what it has always done, and that is a sneaky approach to electoral financing, that is a sneaky approach to anonymous donations, and, of course, we all know what National Party members were doing just before Christmas—they were asking everybody to give their anonymous donations as soon as possible so they did not have to account for them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the intent behind this law to avoid the kind of activity that happened before the 2005 election, where massive amounts of money were taken into private trusts and secreted away from the electoral law of this country, paid across in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations, all designed—[Interruption]—well, if the member wants to join the queue to be sued he should go out there and say that—[Interruption] Your colleague did not, he went to court and told everybody that he did not mean to make any insinuation against me whatsoever, both he and Ken Shirley—big in the House, not big outside, though, dead scared. If the member wants to join them he should sign up to it.

Madam SPEAKER: Interjections do provoke responses, as we have seen, and they do create disorder. Would the member please ask his question again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the thinking and reasoning behind this legislation was to avoid the 2005 circumstance where one party went out and got millions of dollars from its financial mates, namely the capital markets, many of whom had been guilty in the past of serious corrupt practice against New Zealand, kept it all secret, and intended to use it without any ascription whatsoever via the funding of a church; was that the reason we changed the law, and is that the reason why the law is being enforced now?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is correct, and the National Party was caught out. It was caught out and it does not like it. It does not like the fact that we now want it’s members to be a lot more honest than they were in the past.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that when she said that the law of common sense would apply, not the Electoral Finance Act, what she meant by that was that the Government’s critics would have to shut up and comply with the law, while Labour and its mates felt free to breach it in any respect that suited them and get away with it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Oh for goodness’ sake! I would like to borrow Tau Henare’s sign, if I could. It states “No”.

Madam SPEAKER: Would that sign please be removed, or the member will leave the Chamber.

9. Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation—Advice

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

9. Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Did he receive advice in 2005 that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 “is currently interpreted as applying to all new organisms entering New Zealand, whether entering deliberately or unintentionally. Accordingly, once an organism has been identified as new, MAF (under both the Biosecurity Act and as the enforcement agency under the HSNO Act) is legally prevented from giving it biosecurity clearance until it has been approved under the HSNO Act. This approval can only be given by the Environmental Risk Management Authority”; and how does this fit with the provisions of the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation Amendment Bill?

Madam SPEAKER: I understand that there is a slightly longer answer.

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Biosecurity) : The quoted passage comes from the 2005 Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry briefing for the incoming Minister for Biosecurity. It is an accurate reflection of officials’ then understanding of the problems at the interface of the Biosecurity Act and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act. In 2005 the ministry’s understanding was that its Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act obligations were triggered only when it became aware at the border that a new organism was present in imported goods. The Court of Appeal’s judgment in the National Beekeepers’ Association honey case greatly extended that obligation so that the requirements of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act now have effect as far back as the standard-setting stage, on the basis that a new organism might be present on imported goods. If one considers that all goods entering New Zealand can potentially harbour many new organisms, then one can begin to see the extent of the problem we face. The impact of this judgment is that all of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s import health standards are now vulnerable to legal challenge. On Crown Law advice the ministry has been forced to stop issuing new import health standards and amending existing import health standards. This is an unsustainable situation, particularly for a nation such as ours that relies so heavily on trade in our primary production. It is therefore critical that the Biosecurity and Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Legislation Amendment Bill is progressed in the quickest possible time frame.

Hon Tariana Turia: Is the Minister aware of the devastation that has been inflicted on the New Zealand environment by organisms such as the varroa mite, didymo, and wasps, which arrived in this country as passenger organisms; if so, how can he justify having far lower standards of scrutiny for passenger organisms than for organisms that are deliberately introduced?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a matter of fact, we do not know any of that. If the member has any evidence as to who brought in varroa mite, could she please supply it to me. I think we would be very happy to prosecute, immediately. If she knows exactly how didymo arrived here, I would like to know that as well. It could have come on the water; it could have come through birds. The varroa—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It came through passengers.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Oh, I see; the expert on biosecurity knows the answer too, does he? He knows the answer to everything.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: He’s an expert on “rock snot”.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yeah, right! If the member is suggesting that under the Biosecurity Act we should interview every single passenger who arrives in New Zealand, then search the person and X-ray the clothing and everything else, because those will all have organisms on them, we can see how the whole country would come to a grinding halt in about 5 seconds flat.

Hon Tariana Turia: Can the Minister confirm that under the bill as currently framed it will be lawful for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to give clearances to shipments of Australian honey within 90 days of the bill’s getting the Royal assent, even if the independent review panel set up under the bill has not yet been set up, and even if the import health standard allowing honey imports has not been reviewed?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It was clearly the intention of the Government, as it has indicated, that there will be a 90-day period for a review to take place, and that review will be held before any importation of Australian honey is possible. We will be moving a Supplementary Order Paper to make sure that the issue is clarified and the House understands clearly that position.

Hon Tariana Turia: When will the independent review panel be established, who will comprise its membership, and what are its terms of reference?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The review panel will be established as soon as possible. The members of it, of course, are meant to be independent of the Government, and biosecurity officials. That will take place. There will be consultation with industry stakeholders on that matter. We have been in discussion with the National Beekeepers’ Association on this issue. I can assure the House that the Government will see that these matters are actioned as a matter of urgency, that they will be done properly, and that everyone who has a stake in this will be satisfied that the process has been adhered to properly.

10. Education, Ministry—Confidence

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

10. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Does he have confidence in the Ministry of Education; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Acting Minister of Education) : Yes; but I am sure the ministry, like all of us, can always do better.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister think it is fair to sign an agreement with the union that gives its primary school teacher members 4 months of back-pay, whereas the ministry signed individual employment agreements with the remaining primary school teachers that give them only 2 months of back-pay?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There were five themes in those awards. Certainly, there were complex issues that were different, and the Government will continue to look into the matter.

Hon Mark Burton: To return to the actual question, can the Minister tell the House how, through the Ministry of Education, this Labour-led Government has delivered for New Zealanders?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: On 27 March the Prime Minister launched the Schools Plus discussion document. Schools Plus will give students greater flexibility and a wider range of options. It is what the Government is doing in order to make sure that all our young people have the ability to reach their full potential. A wide-ranging engagement process is under way.

Anne Tolley: Why are primary school teachers feeling pressured by the Ministry of Education to join a union and be part of a collective agreement if they want to get more back-pay, and therefore more money?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: They are not subject to any type of pressure, but I tell the member that in the most recent pay round changes in five collective agreements were implemented, covering 30,000 teachers and principals. The ministry reports that in the past week it has received 200 inquiries about payments and that 99.5 percent of the staff are being paid correctly. The ministry is working with schools and the payroll provider to improve the system.

Anne Tolley: Why did the Ministry of Education issue individual employment agreements that stated that employees had to return their contract by 5 p.m. yesterday if they wanted to receive even the 2 months of back-pay, when some teachers only received their contract at 12.30 p.m. yesterday, which meant they had fewer than 5 hours to read and consider their employment agreement before the offer of back-pay was totally withdrawn?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I need more—[Interruption] It is not fair to comment on that, but certainly it is more notice than other people get. I would wonder about that member’s truthfulness.

Anne Tolley: Does he think it is fair for an individual employee agreement—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Why is a member over here entitled to have her question heard largely in silence, yet when the Minister comes to answer it there is an awful barrage back here, with no control whatsoever or leadership being shown as to who can interject? Nobody minds if interjections are rare and reasonable, but when we have the better part of 20 people doing it all at once, it is just a waste of Parliament’s time.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I have noticed that each time the Minister has been called there has been barracking even before he has attempted to answer the question. So I ask members to please show respect to their colleague.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister think it is fair for an individual employee agreement to state: “The employee acknowledges she has had reasonable opportunity to seek advice.”, when teachers are told that unless they sign and submit the contract in less than 5 hours’ time, they will not get 2 months of back pay?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is an industrial matter between the employee and the employer. Certainly, the Labour Government has increased the funding for education by a whopping 72 percent. This huge additional investment has enabled us since 1999 to introduce 20 hours’ free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds; to increase teachers’ pay by 40 percent; to employ more than 5,000 additional teachers, over and above roll growth; and to build 34 new schools and 1,500 new classrooms. That is how we are getting on with the business.

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was interesting to hear what the Minister had to say, but could he address my question, which asked whether it was fair for that individual employee agreement—

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member; I understand the point. From what I could hear, the Minister did address the question. I can only assume that there are members in this House who were not interested in hearing the question be addressed. So I ask members, for the last time, to show respect to their colleague. Otherwise, there will be sections leaving the Chamber.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table a letter from a teacher, complaining that he is being pressured into joining a union that is—

 Leave granted.

11. Taxation—Budget 2007

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

11. GORDON COPELAND (Independent) to the Minister of Finance: When he said in the House on 13 February “I do not think the phrase ‘chewing gum tax cuts’ came from New Zealand taxpayers at large. I remember where that particular phrase came from.”, was he telling the House that he went back in Budget 2007 on the tax cuts he announced in Budget 2005 just because a member from an opposition party labelled his plan the “chewing gum tax cuts”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : No.

Gordon Copeland: What is the Minister’s position on the regular adjustment of the $38,000 and $60,000 tax thresholds to account for inflation—does he believe such adjustment to be right and just, or does he intend to continue to allow real tax rates to increase for hundreds of thousands of Kiwi taxpayers through bracket creep?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I note that the member did not mention the $9,500 tax threshold—the bottom tax threshold—for most income earners. I can tell the member that on Budget day I will be announcing a programme of tax cuts, over a 3-year period, that will, in each and every one of those years, exceed indexation. [Interruption] Hopefully, the member will have the opportunity to vote against, yet again, on tax cuts.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that the cumulative inflation from 1 April 2000 until today is 23.8 percent, so that just the maintenance of the 1 April 2000 tax rates in real terms would see the 33c threshold moved from $38,000 to $47,000 and the 39c threshold moved from $60,000 to $74,000; that his failure to move the thresholds means he has increased income tax by about $1.37 billion per annum; and that although it may be convenient to do that, it is actually unjust?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That income has been used for, amongst other things, the following purposes. Firstly, it has been used to lift the rate of New Zealand superannuation that was cut by the previous National Government. Secondly—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Election bribes!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Oh, that is an election bribe—to increase the rate of New Zealand superannuation. I thank Dr Nick Smith for getting that on the Hansard record. That is very helpful today—1 April. I can tell the member that April Fool’s Day stops at midday; he can give up the effort from now on. Secondly, that income has been used for Working for Families, to deliver huge real gains in incomes to people with family responsibilities. Thirdly, it has been used to cut the cost of going to the doctor, and to cut the cost of prescriptions, which has helped hundreds of thousands of New Zealand families. Fourthly, it has been used for 20 hours’ free early childhood education entitlements. It has been used to introduce interest-free student loans. It has been used to freeze, for a period of time, student fees, and to limit the growth in those fees subsequently to about, or not much more than, the cost of living increases. All of those things have helped vast numbers of ordinary New Zealand families, and I could go on until 4 o’clock with other examples.

12. Housing New Zealand Corporation—Confidence

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

12. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Does she have confidence in Housing New Zealand Corporation; if so, why?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : Yes; because it works hard to house some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable families.

Phil Heatley: How long has the corporation been actively referring low-income families to the Māngere boarding facility described in the Listener as a place where “rats infest the rubbish that spills across the grounds”, where “toilets are blocked to overflowing”, and where “light fittings are broken and exposed wires hang from the walls”?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The Housing New Zealand Corporation does not refer clients to those lodges.

Russell Fairbrother: What are this Labour-led Government and the Housing New Zealand Corporation doing to help house some of New Zealand’s most needy families?

Hon MARYAN STREET: This Government has reintroduced income-related rents, and through the Housing New Zealand Corporation it provides affordable homes for almost 200,000 people. We have transformed the Housing New Zealand Corporation from being the real estate agency it was under National to being a vital social service working across the country to house needy families and help Kiwi families into their first homes.

Phil Heatley: Is the Minister saying that the Listener is wrong in its report that the corporation does “send beneficiaries to live in squalid crowded lodges”, that social worker Vaima’aMemea is lying about corporation staff actually escorting new tenants there, and that the corporation’s own confession in writing that “We place some people in boarding houses.” is in fact not true; or is she saying she can ignore the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s warning to the corporation about that practice that it does “need to be careful about where they refer people to”?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The KiwianaLodge has never been on the South Auckland region’s list of alternative accommodation providers. The Abiru Lodge, the other of the two named in the Listener article, was removed from the South Auckland region’s list of alternative accommodation providers on 9 October 2007. Can I just tell the House that in light of the Listener article appearing, I paid a visit to those lodges, unannounced, and there is no doubt that they are squalid and we should not have people living in those conditions. The Housing New Zealand Corporation does not refer people to live in those conditions.

Phil Heatley: Is the Minister saying that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has never ever referred families to those lodges; if so, why did she, after the Listener article came out, take the time to change her very busy schedule and make a rush visit there?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I repeat what I said before: the Kiwiana Lodge, formerly the Kotuku Lodge, has never been on the list of places that the Housing New Zealand Corporation refers people to. The Abiru Lodge used to be, but there was a complaint about it and we took it off our list. I made a trip to those lodges because I had a scheduled appointment at the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust. I had a meeting—in fact, two meetings—at Monte Cecilia, and I took the opportunity to put staff from Monte Cecilia in the car I was being driven in, and take them to visit those lodges, so that I could see what they were talking about. I went inside the lodges to see what conditions people were living in. I am pleased to tell that member that one of the families named in the article was housed by the corporation last Friday, before the article even appeared.

Phil Heatley: Why do two separate social workers from Monte Cecilia say in the Listener article that they have witnessed Housing New Zealand Corporation staff escorting potential tenants to this boarding facility; surely, the fact that the Minister actually took Monte Cecilia people to the facility indicates that their claims were true?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The Monte Cecilia staff took me to those lodges to show me the living conditions of some of the most needy and difficult-to-house clients who are likely to appear before the Housing New Zealand Corporation. I have to say that many of those people have never approached the corporation for assistance. It is true that the corporation has referred people to lodges in the past, and may have to do so in the future, but not to those ones.

Hon Paul Swain: Has the Minister seen any reports of the difficulty of housing people because of the policy of the National Government to sell off State houses in the 1990s?

Hon MARYAN STREET: It is an old song to sing, but it is nevertheless true, that if we had not been minus 13,000 houses from the end of the 1990s, we would be able to house the people now on the waiting list. We have 10,000 families on the waiting list, but we are 13,000 houses short—do the arithmetic.

Phil Heatley: Is the Minister telling the House today that the Listener is lying when it reports that the corporation sends beneficiaries to live in squalid, crowded lodges; that social worker Vaima’aMemea from the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust is lying about corporation staff actually escorting potential tenants there; that the corporation’s own confession is in fact a lie, when it says it places some people in boarding houses; and that the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust’s warning to the corporation that it needs to be careful about where it refers people was never given? Are all those four groups lying?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have not for a moment accused anybody of lying. What I have said is the truth of the matter: there are some boarding houses to which the Housing New Zealand Corporation has had to—in extremis—refer people, but not those two, and not Abiru Lodge since October of last year. Where there has been a complaint, the corporation has gone in to inspect those lodges. In fact, it goes in, on a regular basis, to inspect these lodges. If they are not tolerable—and the two described in the article are clearly not—then the corporation desists from referring anybody to them. Those are the facts of the matter, and I absolutely stand by what the Monte Cecilia Housing Trust people said to me when they took me to see those houses; they told me that I needed to see them, because some people are living in extreme circumstances. Now that we know of that situation, we can work to address it.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like you to look at the transcript of the Minister’s answer, or perhaps you can recall it, because I need to work out how I deal with it going forward. On the one hand she said that the Housing New Zealand Corporation had never referred people to these places, and on the other hand she said that the Housing New Zealand Corporation actively visited these places to inspect them, and that when it found they were crap, it discontinued referring people to them. How can both answers be right? Why is the Housing New Zealand Corporation visiting them?

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the member’s point. I have listened extremely carefully. I am happy to look at the transcript, but I understand perfectly what the Minister said in response to the member’s question.

Phil Heatley: Is the Labour Government’s record not bad enough, with plummeting homeownership statistics, forests of red tape, and rising mortgage interest rates, without it adding renters’ woes to its 8-year watch—quickly rising rents, serious overcrowding, and the Government’s own agency recommending rat-infested boarding houses to the most vulnerable?

Hon MARYAN STREET: The member opposite is, I presume, trying to understand the complexity of the housing affordability issue, but it continues to escape him. Can I say just one thing: if, for example, that member’s party had supported a proposed amendment to the Residential Tenancies Act when the Government introduced a bill in 2001, such boarding houses as that member purports to be anxious about now could have been addressed. Let us hope that that party can absolutely see its way clear to supporting the Residential Tenancies Act amendment when we introduce it again in the wake of the review. That member needs to look at his own record and at his own party’s record.

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a threat to change the Residential Tenancies Act that was given 4 years ago, 3 years ago, 2 years ago, and 1 year ago.

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

Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table an article headed “Beneficiaries sent to squalid, crowded lodges”, from the Listener of 5 April.

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


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