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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 9 April 2008


1. State-owned Enterprises—Social Responsibility

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

1. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Is he satisfied that all State enterprises are showing a sense of social responsibility and having regard to their communities as part of being a successful business, as required by the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for State Owned Enterprises) : Generally, yes.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does he consider that Meridian Energy has properly discharged its social responsibilities to the community of Ōhāriu Valley with regard to the proposal to develop a wind farm at Mill Creek, when that community feels strongly that it has been lied to and misled over the development of the project; if so, in which specific ways has Meridian Energy shown a sense of social responsibility to that community?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is fair to say that the Mill Creek approach has been an unusual one, in that there was longer than normal consultation in relationship with the landowners, and a shorter period of discussion with others, before the resource consent application was lodged. It does, however, have to go through the process as determined by the Resource Management Act 1991, and I am sure that during that process the people from the area who were very eloquent will have their say.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports about State-owned enterprises and their responsibility to the communities they operate in?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have. This Government formalised a framework for corporate social responsibility in November last year. I have, however, seen a report that would mean those requirements would not apply, because Bill English indicated last year that the National Party’s asset sales policy is a policy the party has had for some time now.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can local Ōhāriu Valley residents conclude from the Minister’s silence in his capacity as both Minister for State Owned Enterprises and Minister for the Environment on this issue that he has full confidence in the way that Meridian Energy is handling the Mill Creek project, and that he supports its actions to date; if they cannot draw that conclusion, what conclusions can they draw about his and the Government’s attitudes to this project?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think they can conclude that the Minister can understand the difference between an operational matter and one that is not.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: With reference to another of the Minister’s State-owned enterprises, Landcorp, can he tell the House how many tonnes of greenhouse gases will be released by its actions as a contractor in clearing tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the central North Island for conversion to intensive dairying; is that the sort of social responsibility we should expect from a business owned by a Government that wishes to be carbon neutral and the first sustainable nation in the world—or is that just hogwash, “greenwash”, and spin?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: To the first part of the question, I say no, I cannot; I do not carry that figure around in my head. To the second part of the question, I say that members I think all know that in this case the ownership is not by Landcorp. It is acting as a contractor, and if it stops work someone else will do it.

/NR/rdonlyres/32968D51-3B53-4F84-B0B0-A12D9BF83239/81740/48HansQ_20080409_00000029_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

2. Mortgage Rates—Increases

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

2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her comment that mortgage rates are “not going through the roof”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister) : Yes, but people’s mortgage rates are being affected by the general credit squeeze that is filtering through from offshore to New Zealand, and that in conjunction with the rollover of fixed-rate mortgages is putting some real pressure on some households.

John Key: Is it correct that mortgage rates are now at a 10-year high, that someone who purchased a house this time last year would have faced a floating interest rate of about 9.5 percent and today faces a floating interest rate of 10.5 percent, and that the Reserve Bank is predicting that interest rates may well go higher; in which case, given that interest rates have doubled under her Government’s administration, why does she not think they are going through the roof?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Taking the last part first—of course, one can remember when a previous National Government tried to regulate interest rates at 11 percent for a mortgage rate, and nobody could actually get a mortgage. The mortgage rates have been over 20 percent within recent times. But the member is quite correct: mortgage rates have gone up in the last year. But when the House was asked to consider some alternatives to the current operation of monetary policy, Mr English simply said that the Reserve Bank should get on with putting up mortgage rates even faster and further.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that if someone had purchased one of the Government’s so-called affordable homes, let us say 2 years ago, and was today wandering into his or her local friendly bank to renegotiate, that person would be paying approximately $320 a month more in interest rates; in which case can she confirm that her Government’s planned tax cuts will offset that $320 a month?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member will have to wait, but he needs to tell himself very clearly that if the tax cuts are too large and put further upward pressure on mortgage rates, then the tax cut for those people who have mortgages cannot possibly compensate for the mortgage rate increases. The tax cuts are spread over the entire population, not just those who have high mortgages.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen recent media reports that show that the average household now faces an increased cost of $1,000 per month for its increased fuel prices, food prices, and rising interest rates; and although members of her Government sit around feeling sorry for themselves, why have they not got off their backsides before now and cut interest rates a lot earlier—or do they not care about the New Zealanders who are paying $1,000 a month more?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have sat here for the last couple of weeks feeling sorry for that member, not feeling sorry for myself. If that member really believes that international oil prices are set by the New Zealand Government, and international food prices are set by the New Zealand Government, then I wonder what he was doing at Merrill Lynch for all those years on foreign exchange speculation. When it comes to interest rates, of course, we have enjoyed the longest, strongest economic expansion for some 60 years. It is not surprising that the Reserve Bank has adopted a tighter monetary policy. But that member keeps arguing, saying we should completely ignore the impact of fiscal policy on monetary policy.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement this morning from the Minister of Finance in which the Minister stated that the debt to GDP target would be at 20 percent in the Budget and that it was likely to rise to that level, given that it is coming off a base of about 18 percent at the moment, and can the Prime Minister confirm what will cause the increase in the debt to GDP target rising from 18 percent to 20 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the Prime Minister landed only about 2½ hours ago, I have no idea what newspaper reports she has read by this point. What I can tell the member is that the debt to GDP ratio target of 20 percent has been in the Budget for the last few years and it continues to be the Government’s debt anchor. That member, Mr Key, has said that the target should be raised to 25 percent of GDP. He can never remember what he has said from one day to the next.

John Key: Can I then spell it out for the Acting Prime Minister that it is as simple as this: the reason the debt to GDP target is rising is that the Prime Minister’s Government is to have a tax cut programme, and on Budget day her Government will claim it is for spending on infrastructure; and when National argued that it was for infrastructure it was all wrong, but under her Government in election year it will be all right?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member clearly has cloth ears, if not a cloth cap. The debt to GDP ratio is not rising. The only person in this House who has called for a higher debt to GDP ratio is Mr Key—25 percent; $700 million a year in debt-servicing costs.

/NR/rdonlyres/E98EC467-C1FB-4BB6-A8D5-B3DFAF1B83B0/81742/48HansQ_20080409_00000083_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

3. Modern Apprenticeships—Reports

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

3. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What reports has he received about the success of the Modern Apprenticeships programme?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Tertiary Education) : The number of Modern Apprentices who are either in training or have completed their apprenticeship has reached over 15,000. Our promise to the country during the last election campaign was to reach 14,000 by December 2008. These latest data show that we reached 15,000 by December 2007.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Why did the Government decide to set up the Modern Apprenticeships programme?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Because the previous Government abandoned apprenticeships in their entirety.

Hon Members: Rubbish!

Hon PETE HODGSON: “Rubbish!”, they say. That was one of the—[Interruption] Oh, really?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It might be wise to intervene early in the process with Dr Nick Smith, who has uttered a completely unparliamentary statement and we are only on to question No. 3.

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please respect each other by allowing both questions and answers to be heard and by keeping comments to within the Standing Orders.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Oh, sorry—would Dr Smith please withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. It would help if the Minister told the truth.

Madam SPEAKER: I say to Dr Smith that I am sorry, but he knows what the Standing Orders are. The member is to withdraw and apologise, and say nothing else. Otherwise it creates disorder, which it just did.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member.

Hon PETE HODGSON: That abandonment was one of the most serious public policy mistakes of that inept National Government.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I certainly did not hear that answer; I hope others did.

/NR/rdonlyres/C91C53A2-5C18-4EEC-B495-C0D1EA981759/81744/48HansQ_20080409_00000144_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

4. We’re Making a Difference for Everyone—Distribution

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement to the House yesterday that only one copy of the pamphlet We’re Making a Difference for Everyone had been distributed this year; if so, why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Yes; because that was what the Minister was advised at the time. Since then, however, other allegations or assertions have arisen. Some of these may, or may not, be true.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister of Justice explain to the House why the only copy of this pamphlet to be distributed this year just happened to be handed to a National Party supporter at the Waikato University club day; if so, does she think that it might be an outrageous coincidence?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I suspect that the reason is that the National Party supporter was becoming anxious about the poor quality of his or her own party.

Hon Bill English: Given the highly unlikely statement made by the Minister of Justice to the House yesterday that only one copy of this pamphlet had been distributed all year, can she explain to the House what investigations she has made since yesterday to establish whether that statement is correct, and did those investigations include an instruction to all Labour electorate offices to clear out any pamphlets that might require authorisation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Since yesterday, as far as I am aware, no action has been taken to ensure that there is no further distribution of the pamphlet. However, I think an email was sent some days ago, not just to Labour organisations but to National Party ones as well, because it is a really good pamphlet and we do not think anyone should be giving it out.

Hon Bill English: We promise not to! Can the Minister of Justice explain the basis on which she decided yesterday that this pamphlet would be counted as an election expense of the Labour Party?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It has been discovered by judgment from the Electoral Commission that it is an electoral advertisement. If it is attributable, it will be attributed. We in this party do seek to obey the law.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister of Justice tell the House whether it is likely that the reassurance she has just given is worth as much as the one that Labour gave just before the 2005 election, when the secretary of the Labour Party gave an undertaking in writing to the Electoral Commission that the $800,000 pledge card would be counted as an election expense for Labour, then, 2 days after the election, withdrew that undertaking and did not include it as an election expense; why should we believe any undertaking that the Labour Party makes about this issue?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The situation that occurred in the 2005 election was that the pledge card was of an exactly similar nature to the 2002 pledge card and, in fact, the 1999 pledge card. Those pledge cards were regarded by the Auditor-General of the land as being within the rules. However, by 2005 the same Auditor-General of the land had decided that they were not within the rules.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister of Justice seen the advertisement from New Zealand First in this morning’s newspapers that has no authorisation and is clearly an election advertisement, and would it also meet her test of what should be counted against a party’s election cap?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports about those who hold themselves out to be experts on electoral expenditure where the law is concerned not understanding that if the issue concerns existing politics to be resolved in the term of this Parliament, before an election, it cannot be caught by the provision that Mr English keeps on misinforming the media it is caught by?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can say that the wires this week, last week, and the week before have been full of commentators saying that Bill English has not yet got it right on this.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister think the sort of expenditure that would be caught would include the key ring I have here with an MP’s name on it and the slogan—mind you, the paint is coming off—“Showing the way” or “Shing the way”? It may have been made in Taiwan. It was being distributed last weekend in Tauranga by one “Blue Chip” Bob Clarkson.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am reluctant to give a legal opinion to the House and am under no obligation to do so. But I would say in passing that it is not the only part of that nexus that is fading.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may like to reflect on your own past rulings in relation to the way in which members in this House should be addressed. I think Mr Peters fell well short of the test that you yourself have required the House to apply, and the standard that the House uses when making an address to another honourable member in this House. That member should withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I never for a moment thought that the member would object, but if he does I apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Again, one just withdraws and apologises, please. That is all that is required; otherwise, disorder is created.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I seek leave to table this key ring, but I advise members not to touch it—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the implement. [Interruption] All those in favour—order! It is very, very difficult up here to hear what is happening. Is there any objection to the tabling of the key ring? No objection.

 Leave granted.

Rodney Hide: Is the Government considering any amendments to the Electoral Finance Act, in light of the confusion that MPs now have about how they can and cannot communicate with constituents—an amendment to provide some clarity, which certainly is not there now?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry but I am unable to give the member a comprehensive answer to that question on behalf of the Minister of Justice. I will say that I am aware that the Hon Bill English has leave of some sort to introduce legislation in respect of a personal address versus a postbox for the financial agent. Whether that comes before the House is in the hands of the member.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us whether it was the intention of Government policy that when the Electoral Commission found that this pamphlet from the Labour Party breached the electoral law it should not refer it to the police for investigation, but if New Zealand First is found to have breached the law with its newspaper advertisements, it should be referred to the police for investigation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member has some leaps of logic that, frankly, are gymnastic. He could perhaps be accused of having kangaroos in the top paddock. The long and short of it is that the Electoral Commission is its own body and will make its own judgments. It is entitled to do that, under the law of the land.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports that set out the requirements in terms of the law if one seeks to have an advertisement dealing with current political issues, as opposed to an electoral advertisement for electoral purposes; that there is a distinction, and that someone who spends so much time proselytising amongst the media about what he does not know should understand that—at least, by now?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can confirm that the legislation the member refers to contains a long, elaborate definition not only of what an election advertisement is but of what an election advertisement might not be, and of what an election expense is and might not be.

/NR/rdonlyres/DAC7FB36-0A13-455A-BB2F-59AB63C17D0A/81746/48HansQ_20080409_00000188_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

5. Free-trade Agreement, New Zealand - China—Customs Procedures

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

5. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Customs: What benefits will New Zealand exporters receive from the agreement on customs procedures that is part of the free-trade agreement with China?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Customs) : There will be good news for New Zealand exporters. For a start there will be greater certainty around the time it takes to clear goods through customs—no longer than 48 hours—which is a huge improvement and real time advantage to the current situation. In addition to this, tariff benefits can be gained through more consistent, transparent processes for exporters when dealing with Chinese customs administration. Overall, this historic free-trade agreement leverages a huge first-mover advantage to New Zealand exporters, which in time will deliver significant returns to New Zealand.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister therefore tell the House what special arrangements there are to help exporters satisfy Chinese authorities that their goods will meet rules of origin requirements?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: New Zealand is setting up a system that will provide exporters with certificates of origin issued by approved organisations here in New Zealand. These certificates will allow exporters to claim duty-free treatment for their goods in China. These arrangements add to the certainty and transparency of customs procedures that our exporters will enjoy under the agreement.

/NR/rdonlyres/EB235AC5-BBD9-4A97-9B6E-C8D716963A4A/81748/48HansQ_20080409_00000291_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

6. Election Spending—Parliamentary Funding

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

6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she agree with the statement made to the House on her behalf last week “Matters that are properly authorised as being for parliamentary purposes do not count as election advertising for the returns of expenses.”; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: I refer the member to section 94(2)(g) of the Electoral Finance Act.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister of Justice tell us last week that material with the Parliamentary Service crest on it cannot count as an expense under the Electoral Finance Act, then yesterday—just a week later—tell the House that the booklet paid for by the Parliamentary Service will count against the Labour Party’s election expenses; what are other parties to make of that contradictory policy?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Given that I attempted to refer the member to section 94(2)(g) in my answer to his primary question, apparently without success, let me now refer to section 94(2)(g) myself. Section 94(2) is an exclusion section relating to what an election expense is. Section 94(2)(g) states that “any publications that relate to a member of Parliament in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament.” are so excluded.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister not aware that she could have raised the possibility that this pamphlet, We’re Making a Difference for Everyone, would count against Labour’s election expenses only if she believed that it was not for parliamentary purposes?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The “parliamentary purposes” part of this situation is not what is relevant. What is relevant is whether an election expense exclusion subsection does allow for any publication that relates to a member of Parliament to be excluded. That is still under exploration by the Electoral Commission.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh! Exploration!

Hon PETE HODGSON: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am surprised that the member is not aware that the Electoral Commission went to every party last week—

Gerry Brownlee: Come on! What’s the point of order?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Fair comment; it is a point of information. I will use it later. The member can get on with his questioning, and I will use it later.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that was not a point of order, but the explanation could have been incorporated in an answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received reports in respect of the Electoral Finance Act and an advertisement in today’s paper that includes three issues—namely, the dairy company, Auckland airport, and the free-trade agreement with China—all of which it was decided would be resolved before the next election and therefore cannot be an electoral expense, unlike the kind of rumour with malice being spread by Mr English amongst the media of this country when he knows full well, or should know, that what he is saying is simply not true?

Madam SPEAKER: The first part of the question is all right, but not the second.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have received no reports on either Mr English’s comments or any rebuttal thereof. But if Mr English were wrong, that would be a consistent thing.

Hon Bill English: What sort of confidence can any political party, any third party, or any member of the public have in Labour’s Electoral Finance Act, when within 5 days two senior Cabinet Ministers who spent 2 years constructing this legislation have been contradicting each other about the very basic issue of whether this $100,000 pamphlet counts towards election expenses? Which one is wrong?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me gently invite the member to restudy the law, and in particular to learn about the difference that might exist between—[Interruption]

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure it would not have passed you by unnoticed that the House has voluntarily remained silent every time Mr English has chosen to ask a question, and he was able to deliver that last question in absolute silence. People gave him the privilege of asking his question and being heard while asking his question. As soon as we had an answer, there was a barrage from the National ranks, and we could not hear the answer. We ask the same courtesies we extend to Mr English be extended by his entire party to the rest of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. It is not a privilege; it is the right of all members to be heard in this House—a right that I am afraid is not always respected. Would the Hon Pete Hodgson please continue with his answer.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I invite the member to look afresh at the law of the land, and in particular to look at definitions as they relate to an election advertisement and a party election expense, including the exclusion provisions for those two things. Then the member may understand that the difference he wishes to trump up may not exist at all.

Hon Bill English: Why should the House listen to Labour on electoral finance law, when two senior Ministers have contradicted themselves over whether this pamphlet is covered, when Labour has had one warning from the Electoral Commission about breaching the law, when it has had one decision from the Electoral Commission that it has breached the law, when it has had a “get of jail free” card when that breach was not referred to the police, and when it is now finding out that its law is paralysing all political parties and third parties now that we are 4 months into an election year?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Not only was that question far, far too long but it is in serious danger of putting Mogadon out of business. We are going to sleep back here listening to that rant from Mr English, which makes no sense to us and I am certain will not make sense to the Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Unfortunately questions are too long and on occasions one may wonder about their vitality.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I will try to address that collection of questions as succinctly as I am able. I refer the member afresh to section 94(2)(g), and I let him know that an interpretation of the words “in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament” is currently being worked on by the commission, that the commission wrote to all political parties last Thursday, that the commission said specifically “I am happy for you to forward this message to the parliamentary chief of staff of your party” last Thursday, and that almost a week later the deputy leader of the National Party appears not to know about it.

Hon Jim Anderton: As the representative of the only party that was deemed by the Auditor-General not to have contravened the Electoral Act at the last election, I ask the Minister whether he has had any advice as to whether a group of individuals or any organisation can, under the Electoral Finance Act, conduct a $1.2 million campaign against any individual member or party members of this House without any authorisation whatever, and furthermore, by giving false addresses and false contact points in the electorate?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The sad fact of the matter is that a year ago they could do that. The good thing to be said is that right now they cannot, and we have a better and freer democracy as a result of that.

Hon Bill English: If we have a better and freer democracy, then can the Minister tell us whether it is Government policy that the advertisement placed this morning by New Zealand First, which could be interpreted as encouraging people to vote for it by reference to policy positions—which is the term used in the legislation—could be an election advertisement, even though it is paid for by the taxpayer, and that the advertisement—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr English has made the allegation outside this House that we have somehow breached the law of this country, and we take that seriously in New Zealand First. We do know what the Electoral Commissioner’s view is of this matter: that if an issue is resolved before the election and it was intended to be resolved—and we know that those three issues will be resolved—then it cannot possibly be an election advertisement. People will already have had not a promise but the reality. Now—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, excuse me; he is saying that we have broken the law.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will be asked to leave the House if he does not sit down. That is not a point of order, as the member well knows. It is a point of debate and discussion.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, the allegation that someone has broken the law is not a matter of debate; it is a serious allegation and it is unparliamentary. Previous Speakers have found in that way, and so do the Standing Orders. So please tell me why you have made the decision to rule out my contention that the member is raising an issue in this House that he is not allowed to raise unless he has some evidence, a case, or some facts—none of which he has given so far.

Gerry Brownlee: Mr English did not say that New Zealand First had broken the law. He asked the Minister whether in his opinion the advertisement in this morning’s paper, which clearly takes policy positions and clearly sets out to persuade people towards New Zealand First’s point of view, is in fact an electoral expense in the electoral period, which we are now in. That is what was asked and that is not unreasonable. It would be very interesting to see whether this Minister has a different view on that from the Minister who gave all the opinions yesterday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The videotape and the Hansard record will disclose that what the member is saying is precisely wrong. The allegation that has been made very clearly in this House is that a breach of the law has happened. That is the fact. Unfortunately the members have not read the law, which is as clear as daylight. If all of these issues are resolved before the election, which it is intended they will be, how can the advertisement be advertised as an election issue if they have already been fixed up? The China free-trade agreement was signed 3 days ago.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. We have a contribution from Rodney Hide.

Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: No, we are still dealing with this point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Can you define, Madam Speaker, what the point of order is.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. Does Rodney Hide wish to have his say?

Rodney Hide: It is very simple. The Minister of Foreign Affairs could just say he is prepared to resign if he is wrong.

Madam SPEAKER: That was an equally unhelpful contribution. May I say from my hearing of the question that it asked the Minister for an opinion; it did not make an assertion. I am happy to look at the record later, but in the meantime would the Minister please—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I had not finished asking my question.

Madam SPEAKER: OK.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask Mr Hide whether he will resign if I am right.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a completely different issue. What I have noted from that exchange of points of order, particularly from the point of order taken by Gerry Brownlee, gives me cause for concern. We all know that when our Hansard comes around to us, we have the opportunity to check it for accuracy and veracity. We have a new element added to Parliament whereby we have video cameras and everything is recorded. It would concern New Zealand First greatly if in the actual recorded written Hansard Mr English’s comments were different from what the video showed him saying. I ask you as the Speaker which record stands supreme in recording evidence, because Mr Brownlee’s comments would lead some of us to fear that National will doctor the Hansard to ensure it reflects what Mr Brownlee said, not what Mr English said. We would want—sit down, Gerry.

Madam SPEAKER: Be seated. That is a very disrespectful comment, Mr Mark. If you would please just make your point of order very succinctly, then we can hear a response to it from Mr Brownlee.

Ron Mark: The point is that that there is the possibility that we will end up with the situation where the video and the DVD show Mr English saying precisely what my leader, Winston Peters, said he said and the written copy reflects what Gerry Brownlee claims he said, which is not accurate.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I do not think that point of order is well raised, at all, because I do not think you can be asked to speculate on a hypothetical situation that by itself, if it occurred, would clearly lead to the possibility of a breach of privilege charge being brought. A breach of privilege charge has to be raised in writing with you, Madam Speaker. So to ask you to rule hypothetically about something you could not be asked about by way of a point of order, if it did occur, seems to be a slightly pointless exercise.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I quite agree.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You might rightly have asked my colleague Mr Ron Mark to sit down, because of his comments. Notwithstanding that, he reacted to the fact that whilst he was making out a point of order and you were listening to it, Gerry Brownlee decided to jump to his feet. Now, which is the most rude of those two actions: the one that got the reaction from Ron Mark or the primary action from Mr Brownlee?

Madam SPEAKER: No, I did note that the point of order went on at some length, then there was a pause. It was quite apparent that Mr Brownlee—if I can assume to presume what he was thinking—thought it had finished, as had I.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us, is it Government policy that an ad published by New Zealand First this morning in the newspaper, which might encourage people to vote for New Zealand First by reference to policy positions—which is the terminology used in the legislation—could be an election advertisement if the ad has been paid for by the taxpayer through Parliamentary Services; and could the cost of this advertisement count against New Zealand First’s election expenses cap?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Government policy—and, indeed, the will of this House—is to be found in the black-letter law of the land.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports on getting for certain members of Parliament, mainly for Mr English, a legal interpretation—which is apparently not available to them now—that says very clearly that if an advertisement is to do with present, modern politics and matters and those matters are to be resolved within the term of the Parliament before the election, that advertisement cannot possibly be caught by the claim that it is an election advertisement, simply because the various policies presented in the advertisement are, in fact, issues already dealt with? That is the legal distinction, so could he get a report to Mr English that explains that to him?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I have not been requested to provide such a report, but I do agree that more light than heat would be useful.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister of Justice confirm to the House that one of the problems all parties have with this particular issue is that when the Electoral Finance Bill was being debated in this House, she came down and gave an explanation of what a parliamentary purpose amounted to—which corresponds with what the Hon Winston Peters claims to be the case—then came down the next day to say she was completely wrong and did not know what that purpose now meant?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I regret that my memory does not go back quite as far as that, but I would make this point: the law has received its third reading; it has been passed into statute. There are agencies that are there to interpret it; they are interpreting it. As understanding grows, I am sure the member’s blood pressure may drop. One hopes it will, anyway.

Hon Bill English: Is the House now to believe that the Labour Cabinet spent 2 years going through this legislation in detail in order to design it to silence Labour’s critics; that the legislation came into force on 1 January; that despite Labour not knowing what it meant, it went ahead and used taxpayers’ money to print a whole range of material that is now withdrawn; that it was then caught breaching the law; and that it is now telling us that no one quite knows what the law means—is that an indication of the competence and record of this Government?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That long list of assertions and allegations is substantially imaginary.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the exchange that took place before around points of order, Mr Peters was allowed to make a case that the issues raised in his ad are matters of political moment that will be resolved prior to the next election. I wonder whether he might be good enough to give the information to the House that leads him to the view that the Auckland airport issue will be resolved before the election.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that is a point of order.

/NR/rdonlyres/F1D7A4CE-8EC5-45C4-8A1D-760BEBA44E85/81750/48HansQ_20080409_00000317_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

7. Viet Nam Veterans—Tribute ’08

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

7. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: He aha ai kua tono kia utu ngā mōrehu hōia o Whitināmu me ō rātau whānau i te iwa tekau mā rima taara kia taea e rātau te haere ki te hui whakanui, arā, te Hokinga Mai Mō Ngā Mōrehu Hōia o Niu Tīreni i Whitināmu?

[Why are Viet Nam veterans and whānau being asked to pay $95 to attend Tribute 08, the welcome home ceremony for New Zealand Viet Nam veterans?]

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Veterans’ Affairs) : Tribute 08 arises out of the commitments this Government made to Viet Nam veterans through the memorandum of understanding, signed in 2006. The Government agreed to contribute $1 million towards the cost of this event, and will also be subsiding veterans’ travel to the event. All other decisions about this event are made by an organising committee of the Ex-Vietnam Services Association and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association. The organising committee has advised me that it would be happy to brief the member on all the aspects of Tribute 08.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Kei tewhakaaeiakiautungāmōrehuhōia o Whitināmuiteiwa tekau mārimataaramōtehuihokingamaikitekāinga, arā, kotewhakanoatērā, ā, he aha tepūtakeiwhakariteakiatautētahiutu ā-monineikirungaingātikangaMāori, pērāingātikangawhakanoa?

 [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

 [Does he agree that Vietnam veterans should be asked to pay $95 for a welcome home ceremony that includes whakanoa—the ritual freeing from restriction—and what is the rationale behind putting a monetary price on tikangaMāori as encompassed in the whakanoa ritual?]

Hon RICK BARKER: The organising and the structure of the event are entirely within the hands of Viet Nam veterans themselves. The Government made a commitment to fund Tribute 08 to the tune of $1 million. All other decisions are theirs and theirs alone. I suggest the member directs his questions to the organising committee.

Martin Gallagher: What else is the Government doing to address the concerns of Viet Nam veterans and their families?

Hon RICK BARKER: A register of Viet Nam veterans has been established and to date 4,907 registrations have been received, 65 ex gratia payments have been made to Viet Nam veterans and their families to date, a $7 million Viet Nam Veterans and Their Families Trust has been established, a one-off medical check for Viet Nam veterans is about to commence, an oral history programme is being commenced, and many other aspects of the memorandum of understanding are completed or almost complete.

Judith Collins: Will the Minister be taking a cross-party approach to the opening of the ANZAC Bridge in Australia due to occur on 26 April this year; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER: That is a matter for the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Kua kite iaitepānui a Ian Barnes, he mōrehuhōia o NiuTīreniiWhitināmu e kīnei “keitetinotakaririrātau kua tonoarātoukiautuitētahiutukiataea ai e ngāKāwanatanga o tēneiwhenuatewhakahōnorei a rātau,” ā, ka aha iaheingakiitēnei hara?

 [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

 [ Has he seen a letter from Ian Barnes, a New Zealand Vietnam veteran from 161 Battery, which states that veterans are, and I quote, “incensed that they are required to pay a fee to be honoured by Governments of this country”; and what actions will he be taking to address the offence incurred?]

Hon RICK BARKER: I have not seen the letter, and I suggest the member refer that matter to the organising committee of Tribute 08.

Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha nga tohutohu a teMāori kua riromaii a iamēnā he tika, kiatāpiriatuitētahiutukirungaitetikangawhakanoa?

 [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

 [What advice has he received from Māori about the appropriateness of charging a fee for the ritual of whakanoa?]

Hon RICK BARKER: To repeat my answer, all aspects of this event, Tribute 08, have been organised and structured by the Ex-Vietnam Services Association and the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association; they have been in control of every aspect of it. All that the Government has done is simply forward to them $1 million to run the event. All decisions are theirs; none are mine.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Ka hurikitereoPākehānei.

[ I turn to English. ]

I just ask for some advice on that response. I asked about the advice the Minister had received, not for him to go over the information that he had already shared about the appropriateness of this sort of tikanga. I ask if he could review his answer.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister has actually addressed the question in all his responses.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I seek leave to table a letter from Ian Barnes dated 9 March 2008, regarding Tribute 08.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/FDAEFB75-6937-47C2-A51F-F3EFD70EA9F8/81752/48HansQ_20080409_00000434_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

8. Energy Strategy—Gas-fired Power Station

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

8. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does he think Genesis Power’s proposed new 480 megawatt gas-fired power station at Rodney is consistent with the Government’s Energy Strategy; if so, why?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : A large baseload gas-fired power station would close out renewables, it would increase greenhouse gas emissions, and it would undermine efforts to achieve New Zealand’s 90 percent renewable energy target. But that is not what Genesis Energy now proposes. As the company itself has stated, it will comply with legislation. It has also been reported as confirming that no funding proposal would even go to shareholding Ministers for approval unless it complied.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister seriously asking the House to believe that Genesis Energy, a State-owned enterprise, would spend the thick end of $500 million building a new thermal power station, which is bigger than the last Huntly power station committed, simply for it to be used occasionally as back-up—non-baseload—or is he just embarrassed that one of the Government’s own energy companies is very publicly defying the Government’s ban on new thermal energy?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am not at all embarrassed, and I do not think anything is hidden here. Not only is Genesis Energy looking at peaking plants but also Contact Energy has announced proposals for peaking plants. These are good advances. New Zealand does need some peaking plants into the future, and I am pleased that these companies are carrying this forward.

Darien Fenton: Can the Minister advise the House of some of the renewable electricity projects now under construction, or planned?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Three hundred megawatts of renewable capacity are currently being constructed. Approximately 125 megawatts of this is geothermal, 16 megawatts is hydro, and 164 megawatts is wind. In addition, some 500 megawatts of renewables have resource consent. Of that figure, about 130 megawatts is geothermal and over 300 megawatts is wind. On top of that, many more renewable electricity projects are in the consent process.

Gerry Brownlee: Why does the Minister continue to talk about what might happen, and continue to say, as he did yesterday, that we are well on the way to achieving a 90 percent renewable electricity generation capacity, when his ministry’s own figures show that under his Government electrical energy from renewable sources has fallen by some 6 percent, and 75 percent of all new generation has been thermal—or is that just the rhetoric he gives to keep people happy, before he then goes and does something entirely different?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I have previously said in this House, one of the things that has happened over the last decade is that existing thermal has run to higher load factors. That is one of the reasons why the percentage of renewables has decreased. I have also made the point that this year we are building 300 megawatts of renewables. New Zealand needs to build 175 megawatts of renewables each year to meet the renewables target, and I am confident that as a country, we will do so.

Gerry Brownlee: Does not the decision by Genesis to proceed with the new plant at Rodney confirm the unnatural distinction between so-called baseload generation and reserve generation, because the reality is that all power plants are in use in New Zealand today as we have a scarcity of electrical energy, and the Minister’s approach to renewable energy has no show of getting off the ground given the record of his Government?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that despite his rhetoric, and that of the Prime Minister—the constant talk about carbon neutrality and sustainability—last year only 66 percent of New Zealand’s electrical energy was generated from renewable sources, a 6 percent drop over the case 8 years earlier, and that under the watch of his Government, rather than its producing more renewable capacity we have seen 75 percent of new generation built with thermal capacity?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The 66 percent figure to which the member refers is the third-highest proportion of renewables in the world. New Zealand can do even better than that; we can get to 90 percent by building 175 megawatts of renewable capacity each year, and this year we are building 300.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the electricity spot price has recently climbed to $300 per megawatt hour in the North Island; if so, why is the Minister ignoring the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research—

Hon Trevor Mallard: This member is so last week!

Gerry Brownlee: I will start again. Can the Minister confirm—

Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s so last century.

Gerry Brownlee: I can tell members that this guy is obviously late for the anger management class. There he is, just swaying on the ropes—“Rope-a-dope Trevor”!

Hon Harry Duynhoven: No, that’s not on—

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise—all right, Harry? You should be the Minister, son. To the Minister—

Dail Jones: Point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. We have a point of order.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is all very interesting, but if those parties are not interested in question time, perhaps we should move on to the next question from the Green member, which I am sure will be much more interesting.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I must confess that I would be tempted to call the next question, but we will have one more go.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the electricity spot prices have recently climbed above $300 per megawatt hour in the North Island; if so, why is he ignoring the prediction of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research of a dry winter this year, with all of the worries of electricity shortages that such a prediction might bring, but is prepared to redesign the entire energy system based on a 50-year climate prediction from the same organisation—what is the difference between 2008 and the next 50 years?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not think anyone is denying that inflows into the hydro system have been lower this year than is average.

/NR/rdonlyres/FB2C49E8-BC22-4161-8AD1-8D15B59B6D62/81754/48HansQ_20080409_00000511_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

9. Debt, Student—Increases

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

9. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Has he received any reports that student debt will reach the milestone of $10 billion this week; if so, what, if anything, does he plan to do about it?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Tertiary Education) : Yes, I have. Next month’s Budget will contain some measures to further increase student support, just like each of our first eight Budgets have already done. I acknowledge in passing the Green Party’s consistent support for progress in this area, and I also acknowledge that the National Party has consistently voted against such progress.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister stand by this statement, which he made in January of this year: “Each year under Labour-led governments student support has strengthened,”; if so, how does he reconcile that comment with the fact that the latest figures show that fewer students received a student allowance in 2006 than when Labour came to power in 1999?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The proportion of eligible students who are receiving the allowance now is well over half—it is about 57 percent—about three-quarters of whom are receiving the full allowance and one-quarter of whom are on the cusp, if the member might see what I mean. That is a great many more students than when we first came into office. I cannot express the difference in a percentage, however, because I do not have the figures with me.

Hon Mark Burton: In the light of the Minister’s response to the primary question, does he expect that total student debt will go on to reach $11 billion or even $12 billion; if so, why is the total debt still rising?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a very good question. The total debt continues to rise because, apart from inflation, there are more students, and more students are studying to a higher level. That is a good thing. It is a good thing. The question is what is happening in the life of an individual student, and what is happening there is that conditions continue to improve. They would say “too slowly”, but conditions do improve. The average debt is now rising more slowly than the average wage, with the average wage being the way that one pays the debt off. For that reason the average repayment of the debt has reduced from where it was in 2001, at 9½ years, to where it is now, at less than 6 years. So there is an improvement for students. The Greens have assisted with that improvement. We need to make more improvement.

Dail Jones: Does the Minister accept that the problem associated with student debt, with or without interest, can be substantially reduced by the introduction of New Zealand First’s policy, which for many elections has stated that New Zealand First will introduce a universal student allowance that does not require repayment?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Having a universal student allowance is the policy of a number of parties in this House. For my part, we are happy in our party to move towards, but not to, a universal student allowance, and this is why: I have other priorities. I need to pay attention to the quality of tertiary education. I need to ensure that the completion rates continue to rise. I need to ensure that the access—especially for Māori and Pacific Islanders, which is well below par—must be increased. These things all cost money and I happen to place them above the move to a universal student allowance. On the other hand, we make progress towards that universality in most years, and I hope we may do so again next month.

Metiria Turei: Does the Minister disagree, however, that his inadequate student support policy, which includes interest-free student loans, has actually led to a 9 percent decline in the enrolment of students from poor backgrounds; and will he then make a real commitment to fulfilling the policy of the Green Party, the New Zealand University Students Association, and, obviously, New Zealand First, for having a universal student allowance, which would ensure that today’s students are able to have the same opportunity to learn, to buy homes, to choose when to have families, and to take control of their financial destiny, as he and most of the Labour Party leadership have also been able to do?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The short answer is no. I have no advice to the effect of a 9 percent reduction in whatever the member suggested might be occurring for New Zealanders who are from more modest backgrounds. On the contrary, there is documented evidence of higher access for Māori and Pacific Islanders, but not high enough, and of higher completion rates at level 7 and above, but not high enough. We have had some dramatic, outstanding improvements in education amongst Māori and Pacific Islanders in the tertiary sector in this country—especially in the years 2002 to 2006, which is the latest data available—but I would be the first to say, along with all of my colleagues, that progress is not yet sufficient.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister aware that student debt can begin to be decreased by increasing the current parental income maximum for a student allowance from $71,000 before tax, if one lives in a parental home to study, and just over $77,000 before tax, if one lives away from a parental home—the current rate—to, say, $100,000 before tax, if one lives in a parental home to study, and $105,000 before tax, if one lives away from a parental home, which would cost an estimated, and I emphasise “estimated”, additional expenditure of about $300 million to the Government, and surely this would be a good investment in education and in the future of New Zealand and it would encourage qualified people to stay in New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I am aware of that, which is why, although the member was not able to be with us, this Government shifted parental thresholds three times in each of the last three Budgets—by 20 percent, 10 percent, and 10 percent—and we do not rule out the possibility in the future of a further shift in the thresholds.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware that the Minister of Finance recently told the TaxAgents’ Institute: “We have real ambition for New Zealand and our economy. And we know that by refusing to burden our children and grandchildren with a legacy of debt, we are removing one of the biggest obstacles to realising that ambition.”; if so, does it worry him that the Minister of Finance is so ignorant of the $10 billion legacy of student debt left by this and previous Governments, which has a proven, disproportionate exclusionary impact on women, Māori, and the least well-off New Zealanders?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Just a couple of comments in response: first, the level of participation of, say, New Zealand Māori in our universities is still below that of, say, New Zealand Europeans, but it is getting better, not worse. The member shakes her head—she needs to go back and look at the statistics. Second, I did not have the pleasure of being in the room when the Minister of Finance made his quoted remarks, which is a shame, of course, but I would not mind betting he was talking about KiwiSaver, and that is a magnificent policy that will change the face of this country.

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a chart showing that the numbers of students receiving an allowance in 2006 are 5,000 fewer than in 1999.

 Leave granted.

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table an article describing how the under-35s are now effectively shut out permanently from financial security.

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

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table “Freedom from debt, freedom to prosper”—the Minister’s speech to the TaxAgents’ Institute of New Zealand given in March this year.

 Leave granted.

Dail Jones: I seek leave to table a document to introduce a universal student allowance, being New Zealand First’s election policy.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/40129E33-4CA1-4180-BB30-726EC3957902/81756/48HansQ_20080409_00000582_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

10. Children’s Commissioner—Confidence

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

10. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she have confidence in the Children’s Commissioner?

Hon DARREN HUGHES (Deputy Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Yes; although as an independent Crown entity, the Government does not necessarily need to agree with everything she has to say.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister agree with the Children’s Commissioner that “For some people graffiti and tagging are seen as a legitimate art form.”; if so, why

Hon DARREN HUGHES: The member refers to the commissioner’s submission to the Law and Order Committee on the anti-tagging legislation that the Government has introduced, and I guess the independence of the commissioner allows her to have views that may not always be identical to those of the Government.

Su’a William Sio: What has been the role of the Children’s Commissioner in the Government’s successful action against family violence?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: The Children’s Commissioner has been an active member of the task force for action on family violence from the outset. The task force has been responsible for the highly regarded It’s Not OK campaign against family violence. This is a long-term campaign to change attitudes and behaviours about family violence in our country, and already I can tell the member it is making a difference. The phrase “It’s not OK” has already struck a chord with New Zealanders, and people are taking action as a result.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister think the Children’s Commissioner was being responsible and sensible when she said that graffiti and tagging provided “a sense of fellowship” and was an “expression-based culture”; if so, why is it not OK in this case?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Obviously, the commissioner is entitled to put whatever her view is in her independent submissions to the select committee. That is not the Government’s view; we are listening to what the community is saying when they want a tough line on tagging, and that is why the Government has a bill before the select committee, which the commissioner, in this instance, happens to oppose.

Judith Collins: How can it be consistent with the view of the vast majority of New Zealanders, and even the Government’s view, for the Children’s Commissioner to say that “Graffiti is a much needed voice for both cultural expression and resistance.”; if so, why?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: In fairness to the Children’s Commissioner, she also acknowledged that people think graffiti is an act of vandalism, a serious and expensive social problem, and an irritating eyesore. That is the view that the Government takes, and that is why it put the bill before the select committee. So far the bill has enjoyed the support of the overwhelming majority of the House. I hope that political parties keep following the Government’s leadership on this matter.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister agree that the Children’s Commissioner’s outrageous claims on tagging show yet again that she is out of step with ordinary Kiwi families?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: I think the important thing is what is in the Government’s legislation and what the Government’s view is, which is to get tough on tagging and listen to the community, which is saying it has had enough of this antisocial behaviour—the vandalism of a lot of people’s assets around the community.

Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table the Children’s Commissioner’s submission on the Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti Vandalism) Amendment Bill that contained these outrageous quotes.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/157B98D6-1D9A-4214-9AC7-7F3A783D3C91/81758/48HansQ_20080409_00000661_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

11. Building—Consent Process

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

11. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Has he received any reports on the Government’s initiatives to streamline the building consent process?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) : Yes, I have received a number of reports from a host of sources including industry and local government. The feedback has been, by and large, very positive.

Dave Hereora: What are some of the details of the work the Government is undertaking?

Hon SHANE JONES: I shall abridge the answer because of the comprehensiveness of the work. We are increasing flexibility and reducing cost in the building sector by streamlining the process for certain buildings, reducing the times that a project information memo will be needed, enabling work of a building nature, obviously, to be done without a consent below a certain threshold, preparing a package to simplify the design and approval of simple starter homes, and providing for group builders to be able to have designs approved once for multi-use consents.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has this Labour Government spent 9 years increasing the bureaucracy of getting a building consent with the passing of the 2004 Building Act and over 18 sets of regulations that have seen the paperwork required to get a building consent quadrupled, and spent 9 years dismissing concerns from builders, engineers, architects, and National, and is it not a bit cynical a few months out from an election to do a backward flip and announce changes without any time line, without any details, or without even a bill as to how the Government will now fix the mess it created?

Hon SHANE JONES: From that very discursive attempt at a question, I point out that the building and construction sector is a very dynamic one. The refinements that I have advanced build on the fundamental reforms that were put in place by my predecessors to deal with the delinquency that was a consequence of the Government during the 1990s—namely, the Opposition.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister aware that the Commerce Committee heard evidence from the Registered Master Builders Federation that although its members need just four or five pages of plans to build a new home, they must prepare 12 or 13 pages of plans to obtain a building consent; if so, what are his plans to bring this madness to an end?

Hon SHANE JONES: For the member’s information I will make available to him a copy of a statement issued by the organisation he refers to. Its members are very keen and enthusiastic to work with me because they agree that the pathway is very, very positive.

Martin Gallagher: Further to the Minister’s answer to the primary question, could he give further detail as to the reports he has seen from local government?

Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. The President of Local Government New Zealand, Mr Basil Morrison, has dispatched people to work with the officials. They are very positive about the steps that we are taking. That is also reinforced by correspondence and media reports in Nelson, where they are finally moving away from an Opposition member’s constant negativity and are congratulating the work programme. They are also echoed in the far north by Stan Semenoff, who has lectured Mr Heatley to be more positive.

/NR/rdonlyres/23CA8E2F-C3A3-48FC-99BC-010B84F9903C/81760/48HansQ_20080409_00000718_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 09 April 2008 [PDF 253k]

12. Child, Youth and Family—Confidence

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

12. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she have confidence in Child, Youth and Family; if not, why not?

Hon DARREN HUGHES (Deputy Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Yes, because it delivers its difficult role of both care and protection and youth justice matters in a hard-working and conscientious manner.

Anne Tolley: How can the Minister have confidence in Child, Youth and Family when in my East Coast electorate, in the backblocks of Wairoa, a family with 13 children is living in the bush with no access to clean water or toilet facilities, and it has taken Child, Youth and Family 2 months to formally respond to my notification?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: On the face of it, from what the member has told the House, that does not sound good enough, at all. Child, Youth and Family works hard to provide the best and safest outcome for children and young people, not only in her constituency but across the country, and that is the expectation that the Government has of it. Obviously, we do not discuss individual cases on the floor of the House, but if the member would like to refer the case to the Minister, I know she would be only too happy to look into it personally.

Jill Pettis: What reports has the Minister seen regarding policies to improve the youth justice and child protection services delivered through Child, Youth and Family?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: In January we saw an announcement made with great fanfare that there was a commitment to support improvements to a Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill. The person called the Government’s bill long-overdue legislation and said that he considered it a “matter of priority” to pass it. However, when the bill was before Parliament, strangely, he voted against it. That is yet another case of John Key telling the public what he thinks they want to hear, and then, when he thinks no one is paying any attention, doing the exact opposite.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister consider this situation of a family with 13 children ranging in age from 1 to 16 living in a temporary camp for months on a site with no toilet, no running water, and little adult supervision, and cooking over an open fire, to be neglect; if it is not neglect, then what is?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: As I said before, on the face of what the member is telling the House, that situation does not sound very acceptable in terms of the care and well-being of those children. If the member has concerns about how the case has been handled, the Minister would be very happy to look into it. Raising it in this manner across the floor of the House is probably the least effective option for her constituents.

Anne Tolley: How long will Child, Youth and Family stand back and say, as it has said to me in writing, that “This is not a core business area for CYF.”, when these children have been known to Child, Youth and Family since mid - last year, their living circumstances have been known to the Child, Youth and Family office in Wairoa since August last year—

Hon Pete Hodgson: Why don’t you raise it with the Minister?

Anne Tolley: —yes, I have written to the Minister—and now it is April and nothing has changed in these children’s lives? They still have no roof, no running water, no toilet, no stability, no school, and inadequate parental supervision. Just how long do these 13 children have to live like this before Child, Youth and Family will consider that their case is its business?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: As the member was asking the question, a number of members who are also constituency MPs were asking whether the member has approached housing authorities, as well. What we need to do is get all the facts and look at all the information. If the member wants us to help her constituents, we should get stuck into the detail of the case. I can only go on what she is telling me right now, because that information was not in the primary question. If she approaches the Minister, we will look into this matter, to make sure that the right help is being given to this family, because that is what Child, Youth and Family and this Government is committed to doing for children and young people in New Zealand.

Anne Tolley: How can the Minister justify Child, Youth and Family’s inaction in this case, when it has known about this family for over 6 months? All those departments have been involved, and have known about the family’s living conditions. If Child, Youth and Family will not act, who else can these children rely on to ensure that their basic needs are met?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Child, Youth and Family’s job is to keep children safe, and I repeat the offer to the member that if she would like to approach the Hon Ruth Dyson, she will be very happy to look into it for her.

ENDS


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