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Questions And Answers - Thursday, 10 April 2008

Questions And Answers - Thursday, 10 April 2008

1. We're Making a Difference for Everyone—Distribution

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

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement to the House on Tuesday, regarding the Labour pamphlet We’re Making a Difference for Everyone, “Any of those pamphlets that have been distributed this year have to count against the Labour Party”; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes; because the general secretary of the Labour Party has already said in the election advertisement that it is attributable to the party expenses, or will be attributed.

Hon Bill English: Does she therefore agree with this statement yesterday from the Deputy Prime Minister: “the law is quite clear that where an MP is acting in accordance with their normal duties as a member of Parliament that, in fact, that [material] is not attributable.”; if so, how does she reconcile this with her statement in her third reading speech on the bill that there was “clearly not a strict definition” of parliamentary activity and that a strict definition “would be undesirable”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The secretary of the Labour Party has decided that this particular booklet—which Mr English brings out on a regular basis every day; a book that was published and distributed last year, as many of National’s own pamphlets were—will be apportioned against Labour Party expenses.

Hon Bill English: Does that mean that it is now the Government’s position that the secretary of the Labour Party will decide what matters are within the normal practice of a member of Parliament?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The secretary of the Labour Party—and, I presume, the financial agent of any party—will decide that matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen an advertisement in a February edition of the Hindi newspaper, under the slogan “Working for you”, a photograph of the National Party leader, John Key, and Pansy Wong; and why would it be that one party thinks that it can do any old thing it likes, yet it questions what another party is doing legitimately?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have seen that, and it is a case of “seen yours and up yours”, because I have found a second advertisement. We have here not only the one that was in the Indian paper but also one that is another publication called Migrant News. One of them contains the parliamentary crest; one does not—so I would ask whether Parliament paid for that one. The other one has the National Party logo on it, and we do not know whether it counts. Maybe National members would like to check it out, because they are certainly very quick to criticise every other party in this House. They have become the tell-tale tits of Parliament.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that, in fact, the confusion around what “capacity as an MP” means was caused by her because she came to the House during the debate on the legislation with two completely different definitions, with the first stating that “capacity as an MP” “excludes statements of policy made outside the House that are intended to be enacted by a future Parliament.”—whatever that means—and then she came back to the House later and stated that actually she got it wrong, and a definition “would be undesirable”?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Oh, would members listen to Dr Nick Smith! He is away already, and we are only on question No. 1. I have to say to Mr Power to hold him in his seat. I listened to that member yesterday and he has a habit of mis-speaking, because yesterday—

Hon Members: You weren’t in the House.

Hon ANNETTE KING: —as I drove from Waiuku, in the electorate of Dr Hutchison, I heard Mr English say that I came into this House and said what the definition was and that I rushed down the very next day and changed it. That is incorrect; in fact, it is mis-speaking and it was made up. During my second reading speech I said what I believed it could be. Then we had a debate of this Parliament—of the Committee of the whole House—and during that, one of the members who said that I was not right was Bill English. So when we came to the Committee stage and put in amendments, we put in amendments to take account of the views of the members of this House. Those members do not like democracy, they have never liked democracy, and now Bill English comes in here with his daily dose of conspiracy theories.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister received any reports indicating that all parties understand what is meant by—and I quote the member opposite—“statements of policy made outside the House that are expected to be carried out under a future Parliament.”, except for National, which, when it makes such statements, never intends for them to be carried out under a future Parliament?

Madam SPEAKER: Well, the first part of the question may be addressed.

Hon ANNETTE KING: That has proven to be the case. But also, it is very difficult for them to say it, because they have not got any policies to tell the people of New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister advise the House, and the country, whether she has any reports on the fact that, despite National’s allegations yesterday, fondly supported by the New Zealand media, National was challenged to a debate on Morning Report betweenme and Bill English. He failed to turn up and would not send anybody else from the National Party either, and what do members think of that?

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In fact, Morning Report told me that Winston Peters would not turn up so they shoved me back to 6.30.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My office received a call at 10 o’clock last night to say that Bill English was backing out, and the National Party could not decide who else it would send and it probably would not send anyone, so the debate was scrapped. That is the truth, not what Mr English just told the House.

Madam SPEAKER: This is a very good example of points of order that are not points of order but points of debate. But we will come back now to question time.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I heard the interview with the Hon Bill English at about 6.35 this morning.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister cannot possibly be responsible for the wrongful statements that Winston Peters has made about a media interview. There is no ministerial responsibility.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that was not the question, as I recall it. Would the member please repeat the question for the benefit of all members.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My question went like this: would the Minister tell the House, and, indeed, the whole country, whether she has received any reports that yesterday, whilst the National Party was laying allegations of impropriety of our advertisements, when challenged to go on a debate on Morning Report this morning it refused to send Bill English or anybody else to have a go in public, and what do members think of that?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for whether members turn up for a debate. So that part of the question is definitely out of order. The first part was about reports, generally, but not about the specifics of whether someone turns up.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have not had any reports, but I did hear an interview from the member opposite. I suppose he was mis-speaking again, but he did say—and Winston needs to be very assured by this—that they will be doing a lot of cosying up to him if they should ever get into Government. Because if one listens to that interview he has done absolutely nothing wrong and it is everybody else’s fault.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that it is actually all her fault and the Labour Government’s fault with its Draconian Electoral Finance Act, because having broken the rules about parliamentary spending in the last election, made undertakings that they did not keep, got away with not being prosecuted, they then spent 2 years rewriting the rules, and as the Minister in charge of that she said today in the House that she did not know what they meant. So how could Winston Peters know?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Can I just say, Madam Speaker that you have just heard an example of that member mis-speaking. Because I never said any such thing. No, I do not agree with the first part of the member’s question—

Hon Bill English: What’s the definition?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I wish the member opposite, along with his close mate, Nick Smith, did have a bit of common sense and maybe we would not have wasted thousands of dollars in this House with that member there trying to play his political cards rather than the issues that New Zealand is interested in—the issues of importance in this country. They have no policy and they have nothing to say, so we get this claptrap every day.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister, having just said that she did not know what the definition of parliamentary activity is, now believes she does, can she tell the House whether she believes that the New Zealand First advertisement run in the newspapers yesterday is for a parliamentary purpose?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I did not say what the member said, and it is not my job—

Hon Bill English: Answer the question!

Hon ANNETTE KING: There were two questions—and the member does not even know when he asks two. Firstly, no I do not agree with the first part. Secondly, it is not for me to decide whether the advertisement is an election advertisement. I do not give legal opinions, and the Standing Orders will tell the members that.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that having spent 2 years drafting law to apply to MPs using taxpayers’ money for political purposes she gave the House one definition, then she came down to the House and said that no, that was the wrong definition, then she said that there was not clearly a strict definition, and then she said that no one should even ask what the definition is? In the meantime, Labour has been caught breaching the policy, even though it did get away with not being prosecuted, and what kind of confidence can that give taxpayers in preventing the Labour Party using hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money again, as with the pledge card?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The public of New Zealand can be assured that the Labour Party, as with most other parties in this House, will abide by the Electoral Finance Act and the Electoral Act. What I cannot give New Zealanders an assurance about is that National Party members will not pull the old rorts they have pulled in the past, and I suspect they are already on the job and getting their money salted away to be used in some way that is not accountable. I cannot give New Zealanders an assurance that that is not what they will do. They have done it for generations. They have done it in election after election, and they do not like this Act, because it caught them out.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member is not permitted to make allegations of illegal behaviour going back “generations”. I take offence at that and I ask her to withdraw.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Speaking to the point of order, I say that members on this side of the House, New Zealand First, and the Green Party have had to put up with a series of allegations from that member, month after month. Those members cannot take it when we throw it back at them. That member takes a point of order whenever there is any challenging of him, and we take it on the chin because we know that what we are doing is right. That member is a bit worried about what they have done.

Hon Bill English: The Minister seems to overlook the fact that the Electoral Commission has found that Labour broke the law. It is not an allegation; it is a fact. We are quite free to recite that fact in this House, and if it causes Labour offence, that says more about its sense of moral superiority than anything else.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It hardly behoves one who belongs to a party that failed to pay GST, which is a crime—not under the Electoral Act but under our other laws—to get up in this House and feel discomforted when somebody alleges that that party broke the law.

Madam SPEAKER: These points of order are merging into matters of debate again. However, the member took offence and the practice is that the Minister withdraw and apologise.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise.

/NR/rdonlyres/230F97A2-3BA2-4313-849C-EA15E55A0E35/81958/48HansQ_20080410_00000035_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

2. Western Ring Route, Auckland—Progress

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

2. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made in terms of Auckland’s western ring route since 1999?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : Yesterday I turned the first sod for the Manukau Harbour crossing, one of a number of key projects that make up the core of the $3.1 billion western ring route. Good progress is now being made on all the key projects. The Mount Roskill extension is near completion, and the Manukau extension is expected to be finished by 2010. Of the upper harbour projects, the Greenhithe deviation and the upper harbour bridge duplication are completed, work on the Hobsonville deviation is set to begin in September, and additional lanes on the north-western motorway are in the early planning stages. Transit has also finished investigations around the Waterview Connection, and is currently consulting on design options.

Hon Mark Gosche: What reports has the Minister received on progress on Auckland’s western ring route?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Last month I listened to the Opposition spokesperson on transport, Maurice Williamson, speaking at the Automobile Association conference. He said it was “a bloody disgrace” how little progress had been made in joining up Auckland’s roading network on State Highway 20. [Interruption] Those members should just listen to this: in 1999 construction had not started on any of the key projects on the western ring route. What is more, funding had not been approved for those projects. That is what I call a disgrace. Maurice Williamson is trying to reinvent history and has joined the group of mis-speakers on the other side of the House.

Keith Locke: Is it still a good idea to spend around $2 billion on a 4.5-kilometre bit of motorway—the bit to Waterview that she mentioned, which has an appalling benefit-cost ratio according to the Auckland Regional Council—when oil prices are rising, when car traffic on the motorways in Auckland is levelling off, and when people are looking more and more towards public transport rather than towards more motorways?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Maybe one could mount that argument if the Government was not also investing a large amount of money in public transport in Auckland, as seen by the opening of the Northern Busway only a few weeks ago. The member will be interested to know that throughout the 1990s public transport expenditure across all New Zealand was frozen at $40 million. This Government has increased it manifold.

Peter Brown: Noting the Minister’s earlier answer, will she confirm that the process of constructing the western ring route, which commenced in the 1970s and early 1980s, is still incomplete largely because a major portion of the excise tax taken on petrol was put into the Crown bank account, and that as a result of this tortoise-like approach—which occurred mainly under National, I might add—the cost to the Auckland economy has been billions of dollars?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The cost to the economy is huge, in that we have congestion and slow movement of freight around Auckland. As Auckland is our major city and our major economic mover in this country, we have to have investment in transport infrastructure, and the completion of the western ring route is crucial to that. It would be unfair, though, to say that nothing has happened since the 1960s. In fact, only one part of the western ring route had any work done on it. That work was done around 1995-96 and was a $10 million project. That was all that was done. There was no commitment in terms of funding to have any more done under the previous Government. This has been done under this Labour Government.

Hon Maurice Williamson: 9 years and there’s not one—

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member says it has been 9 years. Well, in that 9 years every part of that western ring route has been started or completed, or is planned and under way. That did not happen under a National Government. I do not mind how often National members yell out “9 years”. They had the opportunity to do it, but they never did it.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has the Minister received on progress on Auckland’s western ring route?

Hon ANNETTE KING: At the Automobile Association conference the same Opposition spokesperson, before being slippery about his climate change beliefs, said that the National Party—

Hon Bill English: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: I agree. Would the Minister just address the question without terms of abuse being part of the answer.

Hon ANNETTE KING: At the Automobile Association conference, before Maurice Williamson—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could give some more consideration to the issue you have raised. Government members have developed a habit of inserting terms of personal abuse into most of their answers. I draw your attention to Standing Order 116, “Personal reflections”, which states “A member may not make an imputation of improper motives against a member, an offensive reference to a member’s private affairs or a personal reflection against a member.” The House has the choice of descending into mutual personal abuse. I do not think that is what the public wants, and I think that Parliament would regret it if it went down that path. Given that it has become a developed pattern, I ask you to consider whether it is something that should continue in the House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It is always good to hear a reformed sinner—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Does the member want to stay in this House or not? You know that you do not talk when there are points of order. That is the last warning.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Madam Speaker, it is always good to hear a reformed sinner coming out in public immediately, but if you are going to enforce that Standing Order literally, then that will carry out a great deal of the questioners in this House, as well. I would be a little bit surprised, Madam Speaker, if the word “slippery” used in any context was now to be ruled out. My dictionary is getting shorter and shorter by the day.

Madam SPEAKER: I am happy to look at the matter. In terms of the general point that the member raised, if all members of the House took note of that, not just some, then there would not be so much disorder in the House.

Hon ANNETTE KING: At the Automobile Association conference, before Mr Williamson refused to disclose his views about climate change, he said that the National Party would build a whole lot more roads. Well, I find that fascinating, because when he had the opportunity to do that he did not do so. He did not increase funding for public transport, either. It has been this Labour Government that has progressively increased funding for our transport infrastructure. If we take Auckland as an example, National was spending around $230 million in 1999 and we are spending almost $1 billion in 2007-08.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Congestion has got worse.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Of course, congestion cannot be fixed overnight. If National spends 9 years doing nothing and putting no money into public transport—freezing it over that time—of course the number of cars on the roads builds up. Thank goodness this Labour-led Government is taking it seriously.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why does a $2 billion new motorway tunnel, which cannot meet any reasonable benefit-cost ratio at all, have priority for Government spending over the much cheaper Britomart rail loop tunnel, which would raise the capacity of the whole rail system by more than 30 million passenger trips a year, and without which few of the economic benefits of the Auckland rail electrification that the Government has already funded will be reached?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is this Government that has put funding into electrification of rail—double tracking, and so on. It has been done under this Government. But we also have to take some account of regional priorities that regional people put in place for a region, and the completion of the western ring route is one of the priorities that local people see as important. There is one thing that I do agree with Maurice Williamson about: we cannot have half a western ring route that goes nowhere, then leave it and go on to building arterial roads, before having the ring route join up somewhere else. It does need to be completed, but that does not mean we do not continue to invest in public transport, and we have shown the commitment to do just that. I seek leave to table Transit’s document showing the western ring route—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. [Interruption] This is a point of order. Obviously, some members want to go home early.

 Leave granted.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table a graph showing the investment in Auckland land transport since Labour became the Government in 1999.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/849E51D0-D179-49A5-A9FC-D70FBD5FF096/81992/48HansQ_20080410_00000159_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

3. Debt, Government—Target

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

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement regarding the Government’s debt target that “debt has for a time fallen under that target”; if so, is that an indication that he intends to increase Government debt from its current level?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : I can confirm that the Budget will reiterate the Government’s medium-term debt target, which is to maintain gross debt, excluding Reserve Bank settlement cash, as a proportion of GDP, broadly stable at around 20 percent. Unlike Mr Key, I have no intention of moving this target upwards to 25 percent of GDP.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister recall saying, in respect of tax cuts, “When you cut your income, you either borrow more or spend less.”, and also that any increase in borrowing is “fiscal lunacy.”; and what is his opinion, now that he is planning to increase debt at the same time as cut taxes?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member makes a habit of making assertions on the basis of an answer which did not give him the answer he wanted to hear in the first place. I tell the member that the growth in spending in the future, and the rate of increase in social services, will have to be slower given tax cuts.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister recall telling workers just over a year ago that they could not have tax cuts because “if we were to clear the headroom for tax cuts it would mean huge cuts in spending.”, and what faith can they have in a Minister of Finance who has just told the House that because of his tax cuts he will have to reduce his spending?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Again the member did not listen, but interpolated on what I said. What I said is the rate of growth in spending on social services—

Hon Bill English: Oh!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member has got it, you know. The member has got there. It took him a wee while, a couple of minutes, but it sank in finally. The rate of growth in spending on social services will have to be slower than it has been. We have, of course, achieved a remarkable increase in the level of social services, and can afford to do that.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister now confirm that when National says it will slow the growth in social spending, it is called a spending cut, but when the Minister has just said he will slow the growth in social spending, it is what one does to do to pay for a tax cut that one never wanted?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I know is that I can judge things by the record. When that member was in Government he froze the pension for 3 years. He chaired the select committee that approved the cutting of benefits. He was part of a Government that imposed hospital charges on New Zealanders. We know what cuts in social spending look like. They look like what a National Government does when it gets its hands on power.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he will be raising spending, and does he agree with Helen Clark’s statement that “cutting taxes and raising spending is a recipe for disaster.”; and when will he tell his Prime Minister that he plans to implement her recipe for disaster?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member is proposing that there be no increase in spending at all, I wish he would say so. That would mean no wage or salary increases for anybody in the public sector, no increases in any benefits, no increases in New Zealand superannuation, and, clearly, a cutting of services in the health system throughout the country. The question is what the forward path will be, and the member will find that out in just over 8 sitting days.

Metiria Turei: What is the Government’s ultimate target for student debt, because it has just reached a whopping $10 billion today, and will he correct his Minister for Tertiary Education and admit that fewer students received a student allowance in 2006 than did when Labour took over in 1999?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have the latter data. The student loan scheme began in the early 1990s and, therefore, is yet to reach full maturity. It has also been coping with an expanding number of students over that period of time. Therefore, inevitably, the total debt is going to be higher. The question is how burdensome that debt is on the individual. The time taken to repay a student loan has gone down by more than a third under this Government.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like some clarification as to which is the bigger number. I am surprised that the Minister of Finance cannot quite do the maths right. Is it 64,000, which is the number of students who got a student allowance in 2006; or 59,000, which is the number of students who got the student allowance—it is the opposite way. I will do that one again.

Madam SPEAKER: I think we have the gist of the—

Metiria Turei: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, actually.

Metiria Turei: I would just like to confirm whether 64,000, which is the number of students who got a student allowance in 1999, is higher than the number of—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but the member has had more than her share of what is not a point of order. However, if the Minister wants to make any other comment I invite him to do so.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have the information in front of me. Of course, many people do not realise that eligibility for student allowances is not based solely on parental income tests. There is a whole set of other tests that apply around full-time courses, such as previous academic performance and so on and so forth. Most students who do not get a student allowance are not disqualified on the basis of the parental income test; they are disqualified on the basis of other criteria.

Hon Bill English: What credibility can the Minister of Finance have when he ends up doing exactly the opposite of what he has argued for—namely, he has said that people should not cut taxes because that will mean more borrowing—and it just turns out by coincidence that in the year when he is planning to cut taxes he is going to increase his borrowing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is rushing to certain conclusions. What I have said very clearly is that we will stick to the medium-term debt target of around 20 percent of GDP. I quote Mr Key: “We’re sort of comfortable with a notional debt-to-GDP of around about 25 percent, so that’s gross debt.” That is $700 million a year of extra servicing costs compared with 20 percent of GDP. The member may not like it, but that is what his leader said.

Hon Bill English: If the Minister thinks I am speculating about borrowing, what is the item in the February accounts to the Government that shows borrowing has gone up by $867 million; is that something Treasury just made up, like the $600 million gap in the previous month’s accounts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member could work it out, he would see that if debt were to remain at exactly 20 percent of GDP every year, irrespective of managing through economic cycles, nominal debt would still go up. Otherwise the Government, every year, would be paying for every item out of its income, which is not the long-term fiscal target.

/NR/rdonlyres/B2CF3B49-57FE-4C62-B168-0766BC62F18E/81960/48HansQ_20080410_00000160_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

4. Foreign Affairs, Minister—Confidence

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

4. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with the view of the Hon Peter Dunne as reported in media today that the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ position as Minister of Foreign Affairs is untenable; if so, will she call for his resignation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: No.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree with her Minister of Trade, the Hon Phil Goff, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ opposing a free-trade deal with China is a “bullshit” situation—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have here, confirmed also by a phone call to my office, a document that says Phil Goff made no such statement. The document—from Mr Trow, who is press secretary for Mr Goff—goes on to state: “Mr Goff had not criticised Peters at all, and had made no comment on the foreign Minister’s remarks, either formally or informally.” In short, Madam Speaker, this is the New Zealand Herald setting about lying abroad again, and I want an apology.

Madam SPEAKER: It is a point of best information, but really it is a point for discussion.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree with her Minister of Trade, the Hon Phil Goff, as reported in the New Zealand Herald—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Whether or not one seeks to hide behind a media fabrication, one should not get up and swear something in this House in the way that Mr Hide seeks to now. In the interests of the standards of this House, you should stop him from doing that.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not quite sure what the member said. As I heard the question, it asked about the report of the comments. It did not assert the comments were true, and the member is perfectly within his rights to ask that question. If he said anything else that I did not hear and the member took offence at it, then of course the member can ask for him to withdraw and apologise. But I did not hear anything except a perfectly legitimate question—or part of it.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree with her Minister of Trade, the Hon Phil Goff, as reported in the New Zealand Herald, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ opposing a free-trade deal with China is a “bullshit” situation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am assured by Mr Goff that he made no such comment in relation to Mr Peters—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yeah, right!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Well, the High Court judge said to that member that he had committed a contempt of court. That ruling was on the basis that what he told the court was completely incredible. He is the only person in this House who has had a court decision about his credibility, which is nil. I am assured by Mr Goff that he made no such comment about Mr Peters’ position.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister received any reports directly from Mr Goff, or from his press secretary, totally denying that that word was ever said, and does he also recall the correspondent in question here making the same mistake at APEC and being found out 2 years ago, in Seoul, again demonstrably lying about the circumstances; and does he not think that in the interests of ministerial integrity the Minister deserves a fulsome apology?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have been assured by Mr Goff that he did not say that about Mr Peters’ position—his stance—in terms of being Minister of Foreign Affairs. But we are well aware that some of the media do not seem to understand yet the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Labour Party on these matters, even though it has now been in existence for nearly 2½ years.

Rodney Hide: Does she agree then with John Key that it is OK to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs who is a racist xenophobe; if not, why is she not demanding his immediate resignation?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You can see why he went on Dancing with the Stars; he suffers from recognition hunger. He gets up and makes outrageous, unparliamentary statements, and you allow him to get away with it. I ask you to stop him and ask him to desist from that and behave himself, or to go and get a new job.

Madam SPEAKER: I am afraid that is not within my power, but I can ask the member, consistent with a comment that was made before about derogatory terms that are mentioned in this House about others, to rephrase his question, removing those terms.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree with John Key that it is OK to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs who pushes policies that display racist xenophoba?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member means xenophobia, but never mind. The confidence and supply agreement between the two parties defines clearly the areas of responsibility for which Mr Peters speaks on behalf of the Government. He is not bound in other areas of policy. I do note that when that agreement was signed, it was attacked by the National Party as totally unworkable. National said it would fall apart within months, was an entire breach of the Westminster tradition, and was somehow the biggest denial of our democratic tradition that one could find—until Mr Moore unburdened himself with some similar comments today. But now the National members have decided it is actually quite a good idea, and a great deal of buttering-up was occurring as early as 6.30-odd this morning on the radio, in that respect.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister advise whether he has heard any reports that over 100 members of this House will endorse the Rt Hon Winston Peters as foreign Minister of this country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think probably in both cases there is a small piece of fine print down the bottom: depending on the election results.

Rodney Hide: Does she agree with a statement made by her Minister for Ethnic Affairs, the Hon Chris Carter, that Peter Brown’s comments, endorsed by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, are “absolutely racist”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Brown’s comments were fearing a complete change in the nature of our society. I suspect that if the member turned to his left and spoke to Mrs Turia, she would tell him that already occurred rather long ago, and was done by people who come from very much the same part of the world as Mr Brown and I do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that as late as the evening of last Tuesday the leader of the National Party was saying: “The broad foreign policy framework will stay the same.”, and how does that sound as an endorsement of the Government’s foreign policy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That sounds to me like a fairly fulsome endorsement of the Government’s policy, but then we seem to have fulsome endorsements of almost every aspect of the Government’s policy. It is hard to find what a National Government would choose to change, other than perhaps going back to freezing the level of New Zealand superannuation, cutting benefits, putting hospital charges in place, cutting back the roading programme, and so on and so forth.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table a transcript of a BBC interview with the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, on 11 July 2003, when she compared Mr Winston Peters with French fascist leader—

 Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister in any way concerned that these questions arise because a New Zealand Herald correspondent decided to lie again, in the same way as in the story in this morning’s New Zealand Herald about recruiting police in Singapore, when the police utterly refute that, one, there is a memorandum of understanding, and, two, that the police in Singapore will be recruiting Singaporeans; and how can we possibly conduct the business and politics of this nation when one of its so-called leading newspapers engages in such deceit on a constant basis?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think one can say about those—and indeed many other—articles that the New Zealand Herald, which isunder the profound belief that free speech came to an end last December, continually proves day by day that it continues to exist no matter whether there is any regard to the truth.

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5. Education, Ministry—Confidence

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

5. 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: How can the Minister have confidence in his ministry, when I raised the case yesterday with the Minister for Social Development and Employment about the family camping out in the backblocks of Wairoa with 10 school-aged children who have not been at school since August last year, and his ministry has taken no action to get these children into school?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The ministry, along with other services like Child, Youth and Family and the community as a whole, needs to put a lot more effort into it. I have told the ministry to get there and do something about it.

Hon Marian Hobbs: How has the Labour-led Government, through the Ministry of Education, delivered for all New Zealanders?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Labour-led Government has increased 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, to build 34 new schools and 1,500 new school rooms, and to do heaps more.

Anne Tolley: What advice did the Ministry of Education receive following the absence of these 10 children from school in August, September, October, November, and December last year, and what action was taken to find them and get them back into school?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The ministry needs to continue to look into this situation. The ministry is responsible for truants whom it knows about. It needs to spend more time, as I have directed, to get there, have a look at the situation, and sort it out.

Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Has the Minister seen reports that almost 20,000 schoolchildren a week nationwide need feeding during their school day because of empty cupboards at home; and what actions can the Ministry of Education take to respond to the educational disadvantage that more and more New Zealanders are experiencing as a result of escalating child poverty?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is quite clear that child poverty in this Government’s period of time has reduced by nearly 34 percent. Over and above that, those issues relevant to children not being fed or being in the poverty trap is something that everybody, including the Ministry of Education, has to front—

Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was very specific. We have 20,000 children a week needing feeding, and I asked what the Ministry of Education can do to respond to the educational disadvantage that more and more New Zealanders are experiencing as a result of escalating child poverty.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, if the Minister is allowed to finish his answer, we may well hear that question being addressed.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There are a host of reasons why students and pupils do not have breakfast. They are trying to stay trim, or else there may be poverty in the house. Over and above all those issues, it is the community reply that is important.

Anne Tolley: What sort of system is the Minister running when 10 children from one family could be missing from school for 5 months last year, and did not enrol for the first 2 months of school this year, yet the only way the ministry knows this is because my office told it?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: As I said earlier on, I have asked the ministry to get there and sort it out. The Ministry of Education has changed its contract with the Non-enrolment Truancy Service this year, and has now taken back the responsibility for dealing with the most complex cases—for example, those who have been in contact with Child, Youth and Family or the police, and those approaching the school leaving age.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think for the sake of the Minister that he may want to correct an answer he gave, where he said that children were missing out on breakfast to stay thin. I am sure that that was a slip, and he did not mean that.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; it is a point of profile, maybe, but not a point of order.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister think it acceptable that the Ministry of Education has done nothing since I notified it in early March, except to explain to the parents their legal obligations, because these parents have said they are applying to home-school their 10 children; and does he think that the appalling living conditions of this family could ever possibly meet the required home-schooling standards?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I would need further details from that member. But I want her to be sure of her facts, as she was mixing things up when she asked questions last week about union pay. She was on about notification coming only several hours before, when the ministry had informed the organisation 3 weeks before, 2 weeks before, and on the morning prior to the deal being settled.

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister a specific question about the actions of the Ministry of Education in regard to a particular family. That question had nothing to do with the questions I might have asked last week. I ask you to direct the Minister to address my question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the first part of the answer did actually address the question in asking for further information. The second part did not; the member is right.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister seriously believe the answer he gave before, when he said that children living in poverty do not eat breakfast because they want to stay slim, or does this Minister believe in the importance of children having breakfast to help them to achieve educationally?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I said there were several reasons why pupils do not have breakfast, and there are a host of reasons that most teenagers practise this. There are issues relevant to poverty, there are reasons relevant to pupils going to school too early, and there are issues relevant to them not wanting even to have breakfast. So at the end of the day, I am saying that the poverty slip in relation to education in this country has declined dramatically, but some people like to hype it up and make out that everybody needs breakfast at school. This Government, along with the Ministry of Education, has certainly been supportive, and is quite clear on backing parents and the community to look after poor children.

Anne Tolley: While the Minister is explaining his answers, does he agree that in order for this family to be considered seriously to home-school 10 or more children, it actually needs to have a home?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I certainly do agree with that, and I need more detail. But I would ask the member to give the detail and to be truthful about what she is saying to the ministry.

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take offence at the implication that I am being dishonest.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please withdraw and apologise for the reference to the member’s not being truthful.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

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6. Children and Families—Improvement in Outcomes

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

6. Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received on investment in research to improve outcomes for New Zealand’s children and families?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Last Friday I launched a new longitudinal study that will follow more than 7,500 children and their families through birth, childhood, adolescence, and on to adulthood. I am proud to say that our Government has committed a total of $14 million to support this new research, which will give us information on children growing up in 21st century New Zealand. Our Government is committed to supporting research that will help us to continue to deliver evidence-based policies that will benefit New Zealand families.

Hon Steve Maharey: How has social research contributed to the policies rolled out by the Labour-led Government?

Hon RUTH DYSON: New Zealand has a proud history of high-quality longitudinal studies. The Christchurch and Dunedin studies have informed policies such as early intervention with vulnerable children and families, support for women to encourage breastfeeding, free health-care for children under the age of 6, and the Working for Families package of targeted assistance, which is on track to lift 130,000 children out of poverty. All of these are solid, evidence-based policies from the Labour-led Government, and they are quite a contrast to the confused and contradictory ideas that the National Party has been struggling to develop.

/NR/rdonlyres/5B92EBDF-FB3C-4EB4-94CD-234C221A6414/81966/48HansQ_20080410_00000433_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

7. Public Health Bill—Powers of Director-General of Health

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

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Has he taken note of reports that the Commonwealth Press Union’s media freedom committee is alarmed about the powers that the Director-General of Health would have under the Public Health Bill?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Yes, and I note that the bill is currently before the Health Committee and I am respectful of that process. The member is a member of that committee, so I expect that the member is helping to run that show.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that clause 83 of the Public Health Bill provides that codes and regulation can be imposed on “the ways in which specified goods, substances, or services are advertised, sponsored, or marketed (whether directly or indirectly):”, and can he see why the media freedom committee is concerned that such far-reaching powers could lead to restrictions on journalists reporting on food, alcohol, and other societal issues?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: To take the answers in order: yes; no; and it is very important to realise that although the Government has no plans to introduce regulation around non-communicable diseases, at the same time we have an obesity epidemic, with 180,000 New Zealanders affected.

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members who shift their seats to the front bench that they will please remove themselves to their normal seats if they wish to interject.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Government has no plans to regulate, then why is it giving itself the powers to do so?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: This legislation has not been revised in a number of decades, and it is not likely to be revised again for decades more. It would be irresponsible not to provide an appropriate future-proofing provision in the bill, to take account of the No. 1 health pandemic facing this country.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister seen any reports from other submitters who presented submissions to the Health Committee yesterday on the Public Health Bill?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. I am advised that there are more submissions supporting the non-communicable disease provisions than there are ones opposing them. For example, even McDonald’s told the committee yesterday that it already self-regulates, and advertises only healthy food during children’s television viewing hours. The New Zealand Medical Association is delighted with the non-communicable disease provisions. The resident medical officers of health—my best friends—would prefer tougher regulation on advertising to children than what is proposed, and the Cancer Society says it is essential that a proactive approach is taken.

Sue Kedgley: Why does he think that there is a deliberate campaign of exaggerated attacks and scaremongering on two small clauses of the 384-page Public Health Bill, and is it not time that all of us, including those who presently profit from the promotion and advertising of unhealthy food to children, set aside our vested interests and put the health of our nation’s children first?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I would prefer to put it that there are some unfounded fears, such as those expressed by a representative of the Newspaper Publishers Association at a meeting in my office, who suggested that the bill was a device to allow the Labour Government to regulate editorials. That proposition was received with general mirth when I asked why, if that was the intent, Labour had not moved somewhat earlier in that regard.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why, in the event that the Director-General of Health could not get agreement from all sectors of the media, does not clause 374(x) allow the Government to enact a code by regulation, whether or not affected parties agree?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Two points: firstly, it may come as a surprise to both that member and the media that, in fact, the media do not make policy in New Zealand, but, more important, the bill’s current provisions provide that even in the case of a proposed binding set of guidelines, there are no penalties for the first 3 years, and a full consultation process would be required to make them binding. One commentator has said that the bill could hardly be less draconian in that regard.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it the Government’s intention to regulate how the media report on food, alcohol, and other lifestyle issues; if it is not, is the Government willing to remove those clauses and provide protections for freedom of speech?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No. As the member is currently a member of the Health Committee that is running that show, he would no doubt prefer that I was fully respectful of the select committee process of which he is a part—reportedly.

Katrina Shanks: Why is the Minister more focused on telling New Zealanders which restaurant reviews they can read in the newspapers than on the maternity workforce crisis, when over 4,000 expectant mothers are unable to find a community midwife, and when 15 out of 21 district health boards are reporting they have a midwife shortage?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: What this Government is concerned about is the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is about to break like a wave over this country. Nearly 200,000 New Zealanders are already affected, and 60 percent—I repeat: 60 percent—of Pasifika New Zealanders are either seriously overweight or obese. Something will have to be done.

/NR/rdonlyres/D2EF8DD8-6F92-4214-85AD-F99F0C2959B3/81968/48HansQ_20080410_00000459_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

8. Immmigration Service—Baharei Moradi

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

8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Has he ordered the New Zealand Immigration Service to secure a passport for failed Iranian refugee seeker Baharei Moradi from the Iranian Embassy or a visa from the Fijian Embassy; if so, have any of these documents been obtained?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister of Immigration) : No. For the member’s information I am advised that in this case, as it is a refused entry, neither a passport nor a visa is required to remove the individual.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What evidence does the Minister have that the Minister that the Moradi family have claimed conversion to Christianity as part of what the authorities now say is “an elaborate and meticulously crafted web of lies”, and what reaction has the Minister got to those findings?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As the member would know, it is not appropriate to go into individual cases in any great detail. I have, indeed, seen speculation in respect of the conversion to Christianity. I would note that it is on the public record that in the Moradi case the refugee status branch declined the claim, the Refugee Status Appeals Authority declined the claim, the High Court refused to intervene in the removal, and the Associate Minister of Immigration, on application, declined to intervene. We are currently in the process of ascertaining the whereabouts of Ms Moradi so that the removal can take place.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that this woman’s brother, who is also claiming a conversion to Christianity and being at risk of being penalised back in Iran, nevertheless took a direct flight back to Iran on five occasions between September 2003 and September 2005; and does he think, as the Minister, that an MP who has pushed this case should use his best offices to assist the department when a failed refugee applicant runs amok or goes to ground?

Madam SPEAKER: I think the first part of the question is in order, but the second part is not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect, I think the Minister would like to know that there are 120 members of Parliament here who would seek to help his officers as part of their responsibilities and duties. That is my question here, and I do not see how that could possibly be out of order. I want to know whether it is Government policy to invite advice from members of Parliament that might constructively help them in any given case.

Madam SPEAKER: Framed in that way, it is appropriate.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: In the case of the Moradi family, I cannot go into the detail about speculative claims that are made. I can inform the member that the two members of her family who were accepted as legitimate refuges went through the robust clearance process. In respect of his second question, I am not responsible for the actions of members. However, I would hope that if any member in this House had information pertaining to an absconding immigrant, they would provide it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Like Dr Coleman?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The only thing I could say in respect of Dr Coleman is that he may well be able to assist, as I am advised that he has some expertise in smoking people out.

Madam SPEAKER: That was inappropriate.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Would it be tenable for the Minister of Immigration to remain in his post if he did not agree with Government policy on these immigration matters being discussed, and has the Minister heard any reports of Ministers who disagree with major Government policies relating to their portfolios?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest respect, I know that Dr Coleman is a new member but he cannot just get up and shoot an arrow into the air, not knowing where it might land, and call that a related parliamentary question.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Many arrows that are shot go nowhere here. There is no ministerial responsibility. If the member wishes to ask another supplementary—

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I have ruled on the point of order; it is too late. If the member wants to ask a supplementary question that relates to the question, that is fine, but there must be ministerial responsibility.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table items from the draft Iranian penal law, showing that execution is the penalty for Christian converts.

 Leave granted.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like to inform the House that Winston Peters has raised his 14th point of order during question time this week. He had 18 points of order during question time last week.

Madam SPEAKER: This is starting to trifle with the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave—which will be part of the numbers that that young amateur MP just read out—to table evidence to suggest that what Mr Locke has just said is demonstrably wrong and has been so for the last 10 years.

 Leave granted.

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9. Electoral Finance Act—Third Party Registration

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

9. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: [Interruption] Oh yes, and a lot more to come.

Madam SPEAKER: Please settle. Please allow the member to read his question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Is it Government policy that groups involved in the administration of political parties should be ineligible to register as third parties under the Electoral Finance Act 2007; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : The intention of Parliament is reflected in the Electoral Finance Act. The registration of third parties is the responsibility of the Electoral Commission.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that information removed from the Labour Party’s website 2 days ago told us that members of any affiliated union are automatically members of the Labour Party if they wish to be, which means that they have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as ordinary Labour Party members, and was it the Government’s intention that unions such as the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union—whose members are automatically members of the Labour Party—should be able to register as a third party?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is very much a matter for the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union.

Hon Bill English: Was it the Government’s intention that a group whose membership overlaps completely with membership of the Labour Party would be able to register to campaign as if it is independent of the Labour Party?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Any decision on who is registered as a third party is a matter for the Electoral Commission.

Hon Bill English: What did the Government intend when it drafted section 13 of the Electoral Finance Act, which explicitly rules out actual persons who are involved in the administration of a political party from being allowed to register as third parties?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Parliament decided what would be in the Electoral Finance Act, and any interpretation of what a third party is will be decided by the Electoral Commission.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the secretary of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union that it keeps close liaison with the Labour Party through the transport and industrial relations caucus committee, that members of the union serve on Labour Party bodies, and that the Labour Party itself has said that members of affiliated unions such as the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union and the Service and Food Workers Union are automatically members of the Labour Party; and was it the intention of the Government that a group so closely entwined with the Labour Party could be used to help Labour to escape from the election expense cap?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The decision on whether the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, or any other union, or Federated Farmers, or David Farrar—the front for the National party—is registered as a third party is very much the decision of the Electoral Commission.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister now telling us that the Government had no intention of ensuring that groups that are very close to a political party should be banned from registering as a third party, and therefore Labour intends to spend about another $500,000 by getting the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, the Service and Food Workers Union, and the Dairy Workers Union, plus Young Labour, Labour’s rainbow branch, and any other Labour group to register as third parties?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member talks a lot of nonsense. We will leave it in the hands of the independent Electoral Commission to decide who will be a third party. I am wondering when that member is going to stop accusing everybody of breaking the law, and when he is going to apologise to the Public Service Association (PSA) for saying it broke the law. When I asked him in this House whether he would apologise, he refused to apologise. I notice that the PSA—

Hon Bill English: That’s not true.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Oh yes, it is true. The PSA has put out a statement that has asked that member to apologise.

Hon Bill English: Wrong union.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No way; it is not the wrong union. The PSA has asked that member to apologise, in the statement “PSA national secretary expects an apology from Bill English”. Why? Because he accused the PSA of breaking the law. The PSA did not break the law. It knew it had not broken the law, but he said it had. When will he apologise? I think that a lot of organisations around New Zealand have had a gutsful of that member accusing them of breaking the law, when they have not done so.

Hon Bill English: The PSA agreed with me when I spoke to it about that. I met it yesterday, and it did not ask for an apology.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I will table the statement from the PSA, which totally denies what that member just said. The PSA said that Mr English was wrong when he claimed in Parliament that it had told him it had not lodged a correct third-party application. It is in the statement.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated or you will both be leaving the House. We cannot have this situation going on. If the member wishes to table the document she will do so consistent with the Standing Orders, whereby she will describe it succinctly and not give us a dissertation on its substance.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think I need some help here. The member has made a claim that he did not say something. The PSA has put out a statement for everybody to see, saying that he was wrong. The PSA has said he was wrong. In this House, where the PSA has no protection, the member continues to make the claim. I find that to be reprehensible. I believe that that member should front up and apologise to the people whom he is insulting publicly.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has made her point. Does the member want to respond?

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just surprised that you are allowing this matter to go on. We raised a point of order yesterday about the way you treated people who were seeking leave to table documents. You made your ruling clear: that you would treat both sides of the House in the same way. The member then stood up and went into a tirade in the process of seeking leave, and you tolerated that until we drew your attention to it.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; I will not have this. It was not clear whether the Minister was using a point of order to make a speech or was foreshadowing an intention to do so. That is why I stopped it and asked her to be explicit about whether she was seeking leave to table that document—so we could move on.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table the PSA national secretary’s statement in which she states that she expects an apology from Bill English.

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

Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the course of the point of order that preceded the one you have just dealt with, there was a considerable amount of barracking from the Opposition front bench. You yourself were trying to hear what the Minister was saying. It was an extensive point of order. The Minister was trying to get across her point of view. There was a considerable amount of rude disruption. I think we have all had a gutsful of it, to be very blunt, and I think people should be tossed out of the Chamber for it.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has a point. The accusation that the Speaker is not acting fairly to all members of the House is coming close to an offence for which there needs to be an apology. I tell members that there is a reason why points of order are heard in silence; it is so that we can in fact hear what is happening. Members should come back to the purpose of these particular proceedings, which is for supplementary questions to be asked.

Hon Bill English: Is it not a measure of the incompetence of this Government that it put section 13 into the Electoral Finance Act with the intention of preventing parties from setting up proxy organisations in order to escape the electoral expense cap, and the first third party that has been registered is the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union—of which, by the Labour Party’s own definition, every member is a member of the Labour Party, and the leadership of which serves on the Labour Party’s governing councils—when that has exactly the opposite effect of what the Government aimed for?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, and I cannot be assured that the first party that registered as a third party was the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union. According to the Electoral Commission, the first person who registered was Anthony John Gavigan.

Hon Bill English: Can we now take it from the Minister’s answer that it was the Government’s intention in passing the Electoral Finance Act that an entity can register as a third party when all its members are members of a political party and when the leadership of that entity serves on the governing councils of the political party, and that that is regarded as being independent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The assumptions underlying that question are wrong.

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10. Customs Service—Passenger Processing and Border Agency Efficiency

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

10. JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Customs: What recent initiatives has the New Zealand Customs Service taken to improve passenger processing and border agency efficiency at Auckland International Airport?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Customs) : Last week, on behalf of the Government, I attended the opening of the new arrivals hall at Auckland International Airport. The redevelopment project is a major initiative of Auckland International Airport that has involved the New Zealand Customs Service and other border agencies in the design of facilities better suited to efficient processing standards. There is now more space, more processing booths, and a distinct Aotearoa New Zealand feel to the arrivals area. The Customs Service shares the enlarged space with the Immigration Service, allowing the agencies to work together to achieve maximum efficiency for passenger processing.

Jill Pettis: What further initiatives are under way to improve processing times and efficiencies at Auckland International Airport?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The opening of the new arrivals hall is only the first stage of the redevelopment. The next stage will be to revamp the baggage hall, allowing more space for Customs Service and Biosecurity New Zealand staff to clear arriving passengers and their luggage. I am advised that this is due to open in July. The new design and layout will again greatly improve the arrival experience of visitors to Aotearoa New Zealand and improve passenger processing.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, can the Minister give this House an absolute assurance that Auckland International Airport will not, in any way, shape, or form, turn into a farce like the one that has occurred at Heathrow?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: What I can assure the member is that the 3A redevelopment will ensure a better experience for those visitors coming to New Zealand, and it will also enable border agencies to carry out their role most efficiently.

/NR/rdonlyres/8B254739-D565-4E9D-8D4C-27D07A8F3DD3/81974/48HansQ_20080410_00000699_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

11. Violence, Reported—Increase

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

11. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Does she agree with the statement by the Minister of Police that “there have been increases in violence in New Zealand. I can also confirm that most of it is driven by reported domestic violence.”; if so, what responsibility should the justice system bear for this?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes, I do agree, because those are the facts as presented by the statistics. The responsibility for domestic violence in New Zealand lies fairly and squarely with the perpetrators, and to blame a system is an attempt to deny that we have a problem.

Simon Power: How does she reconcile that statement with the fact that there has been a 25 percent decline in temporary protection orders granted since 2000 and a 30 percent decline in final protection orders, and does not this suggest that if reporting is occurring in greater numbers, victims of domestic violence have less confidence in the justice system, and that it will protect them, since her Government came to office?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree with that and it is certainly not what we hear from those working with victims of domestic violence, nor from the police, nor from almost anyone else I know of. In fact, urgent action and taking family violence seriously in its early stages is likely to lead to a better outcome than waiting until the situation has become so bad that people are applying for protection orders.

Simon Power: How could she agree with the Minister of Police that increases in violence are being driven by reported domestic violence, when the number of applications for protection orders was 4,511 in 2007, compared with 6,520 such applications in 1999?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can agree with the Minister of Police because the facts are as I have set them out. Reported violence has gone up considerably; it has almost doubled—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Making it up.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I resent the comment made by Dr Smith, that I am making this up. The statistics come from the New Zealand Police. I do not make them up. National members might not like them, but they are the statistics.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why fewer protection orders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am sorry, but these are the statistics. Reported domestic violence in New Zealand has increased hugely over the last decade. Fortunately, reporting has as well, but also so has prosecution of those people who commit family violence. I think we have to get our heads around the fact that when people report domestic and family violence, it is a good thing because we are starting to get an idea of the level of family violence in our society. I cannot understand why members opposite want to minimise reported domestic violence.

Kate Wilkinson: Why should the public believe she is serious about domestic violence, when nearly 2 years ago the Government was alerted by Women’s Refuge to the severe shortage of family lawyers in Blenheim, which led some women to give up on taking out protection orders, and now that Nick Smith, the Nelson Women’s Centre, the Nelson Bays Community Law Service, and the Nelson District Law Society all wrote to her last month to alert her to the same problems occurring in Nelson, when will she do something about it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am assured by the Legal Services Agency that it is certainly addressing those issues. The people of New Zealand can take comfort from this Government taking it seriously, for a number of reasons. First of all, we did set up a multiparty family violence team. I am pleased to say that we have members on that team from the Progressive party, United Future, New Zealand First, the Māori Party, the Green Party, and the ACT party. People will note that there is one party missing. It is the National Party. It was asked to join the group but withdrew in September 2006. National was again invited to join in August 2007 and again it declined. If anybody is not taking family violence seriously, it is the members of Parliament opposite.

Simon Power: What practical difference will be made to the lives of victims of domestic violence by the recent appointment of members to a Criminal Justice Advisory Board, including the person who cleared the Electoral Finance Bill of any New Zealand Bill of Rights concerns, when the purpose of the board is to “advise justice sector Ministers on further improvements to the criminal justice system”, merely confirming that Labour has well and truly run out of ideas on how to deal with this issue?

Hon ANNETTE KING: To the contrary, this Government established the task force on family violence. It was established in 2005. Let me just read out a list of the achievements that have come from that task force from its first programme of action: the launching of the successful It’s Not OK campaign—something the member said in the press statement he did not think had been going for long enough to make any difference, but that was contrary to what people like Ms Henare from the Women’s Refuge said. We have also had a new police area and district family violence coordinator set up, a new police prosecution service for family violence policy, increased legal aid eligibility thresholds for orders under the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and four more Family Court violence courts—three in Wellington and one in Auckland. Madam Speaker, I know that you want me to stop because this answer is long, but the list is also very long.

/NR/rdonlyres/DF3CE8EC-FAB3-4D41-9FC6-CF4091AEEC01/81976/48HansQ_20080410_00000734_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 10 April 2008 [PDF 229k]

12. Statistics New Zealand—Business Assistance

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

12. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Statistics: What is Statistics New Zealand doing to assist business?

Hon DARREN HUGHES (Minister of Statistics) : Heaps. The successfulGo Stats! seminars are shortly starting up again. These are a very popular way of distributing information to business. Statistics New Zealand is sponsoring an information zone at the Small Business Expos, and the Statistics New Zealand stand will show businesses how to use statistics products relevant to them. And last month free, detailed business demography data was released under the initiative to make information freely available. Previously, this information would have cost businesses around $500 for every request, but under this Labour-led Government it is now free.

Darien Fenton: I thank the Minister for his answer. Has the Budget initiative to make information freely available met the Government’s expectations in regard to business?

Hon DARREN HUGHES: Absolutely it has. The initiative to make information freely available aims to make over a quarter of a billion pieces of statistical information available for free. The value of this initiative in the period to the end of March was in excess of $19 million—money which ordinarily would have been charged to the business community. It represents huge value for New Zealand businesses, community organisations, and individuals.

Nathan Guy: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I cannot see how nearly 30,000 New Zealanders leaving to go to Australia every year actually helps New Zealand businesses.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Would the member please be seated.

Nathan Guy: I seek leave to table the external migration figures for the year ended February 2008, showing that—

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


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