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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Questions to Ministers


1. Violent Offending—South Auckland


1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What action, if any, has she asked for from her Ministers and officials in response to violent offending in South Auckland?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : I have asked senior officials to work on measures to support the Manurewa community to stand up against crime and violence in the area, as was done in response to the number of homicides in Ōtara some 18 months ago; and also to work on proposals for changes to liquor licensing laws.

John Key: Why should New Zealanders take her talk on liquor licences seriously, when in November 2006 her then justice Minister, Mark Burton, promised a review of liquor laws, which he said could include the consideration of the number of off-licences, when it took a year for that review to see the light of day; and when, despite the review, there have been no recommendations from her Government to have changes made?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, officials have done quite a lot of work on what changes could be made; and the member, and other members, will have an opportunity, of course, to permit Mr Hawkins to introduce, and have a first reading of, his bill.

Dail Jones: What steps will the Prime Minister take to ensure that the South Auckland community, and the Sikh community in South Auckland in particular, are involved in the police inquiry into the cold-blooded murder of shopkeeper Navtej Singh, and that the inquiry will also look into the effect of excess liquor outlets in the area?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that the police will be reviewing the manner in which they responded at the time of the tragic killing, but the police are advising my senior officials that they consider that the density and proliferation of liquor outlets in the area are certainly contributing to crime among the young, and that is why, in response to that, I have ordered that we speed up the review of what we are doing in the liquor licensing law in this area.

Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe; tēnātātou katoa. Is she aware that the Sikh community plans to lay a formal complaint against police over their actions in authorising the delay of more than 20 minutes in allowing ambulance staff on to the premises to help the late Navtej Singh, and will she be calling for an urgent inquiry into the actions of police in emergency situations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand from a statement issued by the secretary of the Sikh Council of New Zealand yesterday that the Sikh community is not planning to lodge a complaint. I understand that they are, of course, very interested in the review the police do on their response at that time.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister recall a statement made by her then Associate Minister of Health Damien O’Connor when he said, back on 8 November 2006, that “The review would take into account changes that have taken place since the age was dropped to 18 in 1999, such as the increase in the number of outlets supplying alcohol,”; and I put it to the Prime Minister that she has had 9 years of full review, which is a long time to make changes, and that she has failed, and is it not time for a new Government that will actually take action?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: A great deal of work has been done on reform of the law. That member might have more credibility if he had not consistently voted in favour of liberalising the law.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the view that the Sikh community would be bringing a complaint against the police is an erroneous one, promulgated by the National Party Manukau East candidate, one KanwaljitBakshi, which has been disowned by the Sikh community?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have indeed seen the statement from the secretary of the Sikh Council to that effect, who said that they were utterly disappointed at the singular lack of understanding and compassion shown by those associated with the main Opposition party, and further said that right from the first day, that party seemed more interested in having its views aired by the media, rather than in consoling the grieving family.

Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister still hold to the view that New Zealand should have a predominantly unarmed police force, particularly given overseas evidence from countries like America that putting extra arms into the police force is usually accompanied by a higher level of criminal violence?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I still do hold to that view, as do the New Zealand police, who say that general arming of the police is not an option for them.

John Key: If the Prime Minister is right, and a great deal of work has been done by officials—work that started in November of 2006—why, under her Government, has nothing happened, and is not that just the statement from her Government the whole time, that there is always another review coming, but absolutely no action?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Unlike that member, we do not just go off slogans; we do the hard work.

Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Sikh Council secretary Verpal Singh, who said yesterday: “society needs to look inwards and identify the causes of this kind of behaviour and come up with projects/initiatives that address these causes.”; if so, what does she think the real causes of such violence are, and what is her Government doing to address them?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think there is a lot of wisdom in the statement from the secretary of the Sikh Council. The causes are complex, as we found in response to the Ōtara youth gang killings some 18 months ago. This was not a matter of young people who were unemployed or not in education. Indeed, they tended to be in work or in education, be at church on Sunday, and be involved in community activities. But something else was going desperately wrong in their lives. It is more complex than saying that this is just about deprivation.

Gordon Copeland: Would the Prime Minister agree with the comment of a former High Court judge that family breakdown is the major driver of violent crime in South Auckland and elsewhere; if so, would she support a royal commission to understand and address that issue, as called for in the petition of Larry Baldock and 296,000 others recently delivered to the Office of the Clerk?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have any evidence to suggest that family breakdown would be the predominant cause, but I do think that those who grow up in homes without love and who experience violence are certainly more likely to have a predisposition to it. We need to break that cycle of violence, which is what a great deal of our Government’s activity has been devoted to.

Dr Pita Sharples: What action will she take to investigate claims that she made on Radio New Zealand that “I suspect a lot of police cars carry firearms more routinely than you or I know.”, in the light of her later statement that she believed people do not want routinely armed patrol cars as “they won’t want to up the ante where you end up with LA style shoot outs with gangs.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The latter reference was, of course, to routinely armed police patrolling the streets on the beat. I have said that probably there are firearms in the back of a car more often than people realise, but that is part of what the police would call a moderated or differential response according to the circumstances as they assess them.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister seriously believe that New Zealanders think that crime is improving under her watch, when they know, as she knows, that violent crime has increased 43 percent since her Government came into office, that there are now 20 more robberies per week since her Government came into office; and maybe even more pertinently when looking at the results of today, that back in 1999, when we look at what has been happening in Counties Manukau, not only has violence gone up by 64 percent over the last 8 years, but, in fact, robberies have now doubled and gone up by a staggering 149 percent; and if she calls that success, what would she call failure?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am advised that a very significant reason for the increase in recorded violent crime is actually recorded domestic violent crime that people are now taking to the police, and that is a good thing.

John Key: Well, is the Prime Minister aware that her own member and former Minister of Police, George Hawkins, in his own words has described violence in Manurewa as the worst in 25 years, and that that escalation has occurred under her watch; and if that is not failure, what is?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Again, if more people are reporting domestic violence, that is a positive thing to do. But overall, crime is down in New Zealand, in Manukau City, and in Manurewa, which the Leader of the Opposition cannot even pronounce properly.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister asked the Minister of Police why, when compared with other police districts, the number of sworn officers per head of population in Counties Manukau is the second-lowest in the country, and if she has not asked, why has she not bothered answering?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is not my practice to accept any figure that that member offers prima facie.

John Key: Will the Prime Minister be continuing to reject the very sensible policies that the National Party has outlined, which actually have a real chance of resolving some of the crimes—

Hon Darren Hughes: Name one.

John Key: Well, I will. What about the youth justice initiatives that we have announced—$35 million on dealing with young violence and on army-style camps—what about putting more police on the streets, what about changing bail laws, what about getting tough on gangs, and what about dealing with the issues of P? On this side of the House we have some answers, and on your side of the House there are no answers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If members go the website of 2005, they will find that that is New Zealand First policy, not National’s policy. That is a fact.

Madam SPEAKER: I know it is the first day back, but I remind members that this is question time and not the general debate.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would like to address that ill-informed question, because adding 1,000 more front-line police in this 3-year term is, of course, a major contribution, and when I became Prime Minister we had to reverse the National Party’s cuts to the police. That was National’s policy because it preferred looking after its friends at the top of the income tree, to basic policing in our communities.

John Key: I seek leave to table a statement by Mark Burton where he advocates that there will be a review looking to examine the number of liquor outlets—

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

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a document that more than one question has referred to—that is, the statement issued yesterday by Verpal Singh, the Sikh Society’s secretary.

 Leave granted.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a relevant document, and that is a report to the Minister of Broadcasting in April 2004 by the TV Violence—

 Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the 2005 law and order policy of New Zealand First, which will demonstrate who thought of this idea.

 Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second document is a report on the Integrated National Crime Information System, which cost hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, and was an utter, total loss to the taxpayer.

 Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table a report from the New Zealand Herald today, reporting that Labour MP George Hawkins is assisting members of the Sikh community to lodge—

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

Ron Mark: I seek leave of the House to table the coalition agreement between National and New Zealand First in 1996, which advocated the introduction—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/090EC47B-C582-4B36-A7F9-EF496F2AD0A1/85326/48HansQ_20080617_00000064_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

2. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Improvements

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

2. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What improvements is the Government making to the operation of NCEA?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : As part of the roll-out of the New Zealand curriculum launched late last year, I have today announced that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Ministry of Education have begun reviewing the achievement in unit standards that students will be assessed against from 2010 when the new curriculum is fully in place. This is part of a package of continuous improvements that the Government is making to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Those improvements have been described as “cynical” and “calculated” by the National Party, but are warmly welcomed by prominent educators who actually use the system. Principals like Brent Lewis of Avondale College, Roger Moses of Wellington College, and Julia Davidson of Wellington Girls’ College have all spoken in support of the ongoing NCEA programme.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What other improvements is the Government making to the operation of NCEA?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The standards review is part of a package of improvements designed to increase student motivation, provide more detailed achievement information, and further improve consistency in NCEA. Other recent improvements include introducing achievement endorsements last year to NCEA certificates, which has improved student motivation; appointing 33 permanent moderators—I guess Mr Key would call them bureaucrats—whose task is to ensure that assessment in schools is of the highest quality; and making national assessment reports available online so parents can check that their child’s school is meeting standards. These improvements allow us to demonstrate the rigor of NCEA, while also supporting the development of new educational pathways for students, as envisaged as part of our Schools Plus programme. NCEA is working well, but, like everything, we can improve it with refinements.

Anne Tolley: Why is it that fewer than 3 weeks ago the Minister was brushing off criticisms of NCEA and claiming that it was “a modern, well-researched assessment system that is preparing young New Zealanders well for the 21st century.”, yet this morning, on the back of an impending election, worried parents, schools, and teachers, and successive poor poll results, it has been announced that NCEA will have its largest review since it was introduced?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I stand by my earlier comments. How can this House have any confidence in anything that member said? Some 3 weeks ago when I made those comments, that member was in the House claiming that New Zealand Qualifications Authority officials had given documents to her select committee that showed that 30 percent of marking in NCEA was not accurate. I left this House to try to find that report. No such report was given to the select committee. I then wrote to the member outlining the mistakes she had made, and I told her that I understood that she did not understand NCEA very well and that we would give her a briefing. Has she replied? No, she has not, because she does not want to know the facts. I seek leave to table the letter I wrote to that member pointing out the inaccuracies she gave in this House—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/1AEF7176-74D2-434E-AE20-2C7404FD417E/85328/48HansQ_20080617_00000213_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

3. Election Advertising—Third Party Registration

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

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is it the Government’s policy that groups intending to spend more than $12,000 on election advertisements must register with the Electoral Commission as a third party; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : It is a requirement under the Electoral Finance Act 2007.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister consider that the parliamentary Labour leader’s office must register as a third party, given that the brochure I am holding was produced entirely on the initiative of that office, and that the cost of producing and distributing the brochure nationwide is likely to exceed $12,000?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not the role of the Minister of Justice to provide this advice; that is a matter for the relevant authorities.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that both Mike Smith, the general secretary of the Labour Party, and a spokesman for Helen Clark, Prime Minister, have said that the New Zealand Labour Party had nothing to do with producing this brochure; if that is the case, does not that mean that the parliamentary Labour leader’s office is in fact the promoter, and should have authorised it, , and not the Labour Party, which has said on public record that it has nothing to do with this pamphlet?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is not a matter for the Minister of Justice.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that under that Electoral Finance Act—if she has actually read it—any organisation separate from the New Zealand Labour Party that wants to spend more than $12,000 promoting the Labour Party must register as a third party; and why would it be different for the parliamentary Labour leader’s office than for any other group of people?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have read the Electoral Finance Act, as have other members in this House, and I presume that when the National Party has put out policies so far on its website, it has an authorised website, and has the parliamentary crest on it. That party is not intending to register as a third party, so what is the difference?

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister give us advice about the only two options that are available under the legislation: either the brochure is produced by the parliamentary Labour leader’s office, in which case that office must register as a third party, or the brochure is produced by the New Zealand Labour Party, in which case the brochure needs to be counted as an election expense because it cannot possibly have a parliamentary purpose?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is not my role to give advice; it is the role of the appropriate authorities.

Hon Bill English: Who will decide, then, on the provisions of the Electoral Finance Act requiring third parties who spend over $12,000 on election advertising to register—will the Minister decide, will the Electoral Commission decide, or will the Minister leave it to the courts to decide after the election?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If the member had read the Act, he would know that it is not me who decides.

/NR/rdonlyres/7E4F81AF-E392-4197-BAF7-04B5727A9CF1/85330/48HansQ_20080617_00000250_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

4. George Parkyn Centre One-Day School—Support

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

4. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Education: What support does the Government provide the George Parkyn Centre One-Day School for gifted and talented children at Owairaka District School, and does he consider the level of support provided equitable?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : For the period September 2006 to June 2009, the Government will provide the George Parkyn Centre, now known as the Gifted Education Centre, with $117,596 through the contestable talent development initiative fund. The Owairaka District School is the location of one of the centre’s 17 One-Day Schools. The school does not receive direct funding from the centre, but the school’s deputy principal and teachers have received professional development support, as part of the contract with the Ministry of Education.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister think it fair and equitable that the poor parents of these children not only have to pay the teachers’ salaries but also have to pay the Ministry of Education for the rent of the classroom? They have to pay twice: once through their taxes and again through their fees.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The teaching of gifted and talented children is part of our core education business. Mostly, it is carried out in mainstream classrooms, which, of course, in the last 8 years have benefited from the extra $5 billion invested in education. There are separate programmes that parents can choose to have their gifted and talented children go on, and the Government recognises the value of them. Indeed, I have just outlined the subsidy that this particular centre receives. I know that the member visited the One-Day Centre at the Owairaka District School yesterday. His support for the school—no doubt—and for the activities happening at that particular centre are much appreciated. I too have been visiting some of these One-Day Schools. Great things are happening there. But most of the education for gifted and talented children is taking place in mainstream education, which, as I said, has had an injection of an extra $5 billion in the last 8 years.

Su’a William Sio: What is the Government doing to support the education of gifted and talented children?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have already outlined the extent of our commitment to education overall, which, I would like to remind the House, is the third-largest in the world. Only Iceland and Denmark spend more on schools, as a percentage of GDP, than New Zealand does. That we are the third-best in the world is a pretty wonderful statement about our commitment to education. Education of gifted and talented children is taking place inside mainstream classrooms, but in recognition that we need to know more about the special needs of these particular types of students, we will spend about $1.5 million in the next year on this area. We are doing a research project, we will have a national coordination position, and we are doing professional development of teachers, which is very important. Earlier this year, I launched a new resource for parents that enables them to develop programmes at home for their children who are gifted and talented.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister’s answer, is he telling the House that the value that his Government places upon the centre is just $117,000 a year, and does he not think it would be more equitable and fair for the Government to actually fund students to go to a centre of the parents’ choice, particularly when he is so convinced that the State school sector is providing what these students need?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: No. What I told the House is that this Labour-led Government is absolutely committed to resourcing education—an extra $5 billion in 8 years. The amount of our GDP that goes into education is 4.7 percent, which is the third-best percentage in the world. The member is asking me whether we value education. Yes, we do. Have we resourced it? We have resourced it extraordinarily well.

/NR/rdonlyres/51390BEF-432A-42A9-BA79-E731EBEE3A59/85332/48HansQ_20080617_00000308_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

5. Schools Plus—Finalisation and Implementation

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

5. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: When will the Schools Plus policy be finalised and when will the finalised policy begin to be implemented?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Schools Plus is a major reform of secondary education that is designed to upskill students who are not currently succeeding in our schools—surely something that every member of this House would support. The first phase of the formal consultation process on Schools Plus ended last month. We received over 509 formal submissions in addition to the feedback received from meetings held around the country over the last 8 weeks. This information will be analysed as we finalise policy details. The Government has always said that any extra costs for schools associated with the development of Schools Plus will be funded by the Government.

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I specifically asked the Minister when the policy would be finalised, and when the finalised policy would be implemented. Neither of those two questions was addressed in any shape by the Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. I listened very carefully, and although the answer was long, the member did actually address the question.

Anne Tolley: Why, after National’s Youth Guarantee announcement, did the Prime Minister play catch-up and hurriedly announce she would lock all Kiwi students into school until they are 18, yet 4 months later in the Budget in May there was no extra funding for schools to implement this policy?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Schools Plus in no way represents any policy that the National Party has come up with. We are not planning to lock students in schools. The National Party may be planning to lock them in boot camps; we want to lock them into education.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What response has there been to Schools Plus?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: There has been overwhelming support. Parents—like every member of this House, I hope—want their children to succeed in education. Currently 25 percent of young New Zealanders leave school without the equivalent of National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1. Schools Plus will give those students a new learning environment that hopefully will capture their interest in education. Only National seems to be against this excellent policy. John Key said last week on bFM radio that he was not prepared to provide any extra resources to schools and would not support Schools Plus. I wonder whether he told that to Alasdair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), who has come out so strongly in favour of the policy; to the Post Primary Teachers Association, which has come out so strongly in favour of Schools Plus; or to school principals and the wider community, who are all welcoming this chance to make students who are not currently succeeding in our school system into successful learners.

Anne Tolley: Why did the Prime Minister announce a policy that was so poorly thought through that it took another 2 months after the announcement to release a discussion document; and why, 5 months after the announcement, is the policy so poorly understood by schools that, according to the Minister, every complaint schools have made is disingenuous, a misunderstanding, or completely unfounded?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have not heard of a single person or organisation that does not support Schools Plus except the National Party. Every parent—every New Zealander—wants children to succeed in education. This 25 percent of students who are currently leaving school without NCEA level 1 are the future of our country. We want them to have skills. We want them to be citizens that will contribute to New Zealand. The member should support Schools Plus, not try to drag down our education system.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister think it is good policy-making to announce the skeleton of an education policy in January; put out a discussion document that was all questions and no answers in March; provide no extra funding to schools for the policy in the Budget in May; and then in June, when schools start to criticise the lack of funding for Schools Plus, sneer at them publicly through the media and say that it does not really matter what they think, because they have to implement the policy anyway?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Why does the member never listen? In my primary answer I said that any costs associated with Schools Plus would be funded by the Government. The Prime Minister said that when we launched the programme earlier this year. This programme is a fundamental revolution in secondary education. It has to be implemented carefully, collaboratively, and with consultation; it cannot be rushed. Sure, we can lock kids up in a boot camp, but it will not change their attitude to education. We are talking about resourcing a programme that will change people’s lives.

Anne Tolley: What support will the Government be giving to businesses who have been aghast to hear that, according to the Schools Plus discussion document, for every one of their workers under the age of 18 they will have to provide “ongoing education, skills development, or structured learning through on-the-job learning or through flexible work hours that allow the employee to attend offsite learning opportunities.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Where does the member come up with these lines? We are in a consultation process—actually, an initial consultation process—where businesses, trade unions, schools, industry training organisations, and tertiary institutions will contribute to a discussion. I said that the member never listens. I quoted Alasdair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), who was full of praise for Schools Plus. He is just one person among many in the business community who see this as a chance to lift the skills of young New Zealanders. The member should be applauding this programme, not tearing it down.

Anne Tolley: What does it say about the Minister, who dubbed himself “the great communicator”, when, in response to criticism of his Government’s flagship policy of locking kids into school until they are 18, all he does is fire pot shots at school principals through the media, skip post-Budget meetings with them, and instead offer such sage and inspiring advice as “It’s time to stop moaning and start teaching.”?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise with you the content of that question. How can a question be a parliamentary question if it begins “What does it say about Somebody?”, and then is followed by a ramble? Where in any Westminster democracy would one hear someone asking a question that way?

Madam SPEAKER: The member is entitled to ask such a question, which, in effect, asked for an opinion. Presumably the answer will reflect that.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would hope that every teacher and principal in New Zealand is absolutely focused on teaching, because that is the core business of schools. Our Schools Plus programme is about lifting the opportunities for the 25 percent of young New Zealanders who are currently not succeeding in education. It is a fantastic concept. It has to be worked through carefully. It is about real change. It is not about slogans about locking kids up in boot camps; it is about providing a realistic solution to a very real problem.

Anne Tolley: The Minister asked me where I had got my quote about businesses, which I read out. I seek leave to table the Schools Plus discussion document that that was—

 Leave granted.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a document showing that New Zealand spends 4.7 percent of its GDP, the third highest amount in the world, on schools.

 Leave granted.

Taito Phillip Field: Given the policy and the wonderful sentiments expressed about how the extra years will make a difference to children’s achievement in schools, can the Minister identify how those few extra years in school will make a difference to children who have failed in the previous 6 years of their school lives; and how will this programme identify the educational failure of Māori and Pacific Island children and assist in addressing it?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: These children may well not be in school. The school will be responsible for their individualised learning plan, and it will be responsible for their attendance and for monitoring their progress. But these children might well be out of school 90 to 95 percent of the time in a Youth Apprenticeship programme or an expanded Gateway programme. Some of them might even be in tertiary education because they are ready for it a bit earlier. It is about providing alternative pathways, new pathways, for students who are not currently succeeding in the existing pathways available in schools.

/NR/rdonlyres/FD7D4582-293F-4EC4-9B74-93D9896E0B1D/85334/48HansQ_20080617_00000354_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

6. Cluster Munitions—Dublin Convention

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

6. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control: Did New Zealand achieve its objectives at the Dublin Convention on Cluster Munitions?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control) : Yes. We achieved a superb outcome in Dublin, and I am proud to say that New Zealand played a key role in that. Our first objective was to get a ban on cluster munitions, because undetonated sub-munitions spread over a wide area, such as in the Lebanon, effectively act as landmines, killing civilians long after war has ended. The outcome of this convention, in line with our objectives, was to virtually prohibit all cluster munitions and to require that stockpiles of such munitions be destroyed within 8 years. Our second objective was to get widespread support for the ban. We did that. The convention was supported by the United Nations, by non-governmental organisations across the board, and, I think, by all of the countries participating in Dublin. The key Cluster Munition Coalition described the event as an extraordinary convention that would save thousands of lives.

Hon Marian Hobbs: How important was the role that New Zealand played in achieving this wonderful outcome?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I think we can say justifiably that New Zealand played a key role. We were one of six countries in the Geneva process last year that, when it failed yet again to address the problem of cluster munitions, took that process outside Geneva in something called the Oslo process. It was the Oslo process that achieved in 18 months what the United Nations in Geneva had failed to do in 10 years. In February New Zealand hosted a conference in Wellington, and that laid the framework for Dublin. In Dublin we led the core process in defining what cluster munitions were and defining those that would be prohibited. As a result New Zealand, I think very deservedly, has won widespread acknowledgment for playing such a leading role.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Have the process and the convention received sufficient buy-in from countries to make a real impact on the ground in removing these weapons?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I think that we were seeking two things: to have a strong convention but also to have a breadth of support that would make that convention meaningful. We did that; we got overwhelming backing from the 111 countries that were participating in Dublin. I am very pleased to say that this convention has had a major effect even before it comes into force, with countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, and Japan announcing the withdrawal of cluster munitions. Even for those countries that are not participants, the wide-ranging consensus that was achieved will stigmatise and make more difficult the use of cluster munitions, just as was the case with the Ottawa Convention, which stigmatised and stopped the use of landmines.

/NR/rdonlyres/6A4577FF-4BDE-4E78-A8D7-DCCA1EB4C144/85336/48HansQ_20080617_00000437_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

7. Emissions Trading Scheme—Households Compensation

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

7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What compensation mechanism, if any, is the Government proposing for households affected by the Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : This issue has been raised by support parties and it is one that we are discussing with them.

Hon Bill English: Does the Government intend to follow the Greens’ compensation policy for funding to make homes more energy efficient, more subsidies for public transport, and a citizens’ dividend as a flat payment to all households, or will itfollow New Zealand First’s policy of having a rebate payable to superannuitants for rising power prices?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member will have to wait and see. Suffice it to say that efficiency and price support are both being considered.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that there is actually no conflict between what the Green Party is asking for, which is a mix of energy efficiency improvements and payments, and what New Zealand First is asking for, which is—so far as we know—some cash on the SuperGold card for superannuitants, and that both could easily be combined into a good compensation package?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Whether or not that is true, I will not comment upon it in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest of respect to the questioner, to get up in the House to state a party’s political position that has not been announced at this point of time is simply not parliamentary, and it is likely to lead to disorder. New Zealand First has not had a discussion with the Government yet, or concluded it. I do not think that we should have our policy depicted in a way that is totally false.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You do that all the time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The member should take a tablet.

Gerry Brownlee: I simply make the note on this point of order that that is exactly what Winston Peters does on most days.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I was commenting on what the media had reported, but I am interested to hear from Mr Peters that he is not asking for a payment on the SuperGold card for superannuitants, after all.

Madam SPEAKER: These are not really points of order.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can I ask the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues whether the compensation package that is being considered will be one that is applied to all New Zealand households, or is to be a much more targeted regime designed to appease the interests of those parties with whom he is currently negotiating, and will ensure that most New Zealand households will not benefit from such a package?

Hon DAVID PARKER: These issues are being discussed with support parties.

Hon Bill English: How does the Minister believe the Government can find a compromise between the Green Party’s policy that opposes direct subsidies on electricity because that undermines the very purpose of the emissions trading scheme, and New Zealand First, which will support the bill only if there are direct subsidies on electricity prices?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The man is talking gobbledegook, and he is putting it in a parliamentary question and trying to give it the colour of right. It is simply false.

Madam SPEAKER: It is not a point of order. Members are entitled to ask whatever sort of questions they like under the Standing Orders, which are very broad as I have noted in the past. The answers normally reflect the question.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I find the support parties more honourable in their dealings than I do some other parties in this Parliament, and I expect that we will find a way through.

Hon Bill English: What is the basis of the reported commitment by the Government to offer a rebate on electricity bills to every superannuitant, if it is not in discussion with New Zealand First; and can the Minister tell the House what is the cost of the commitments that the Government has made so far?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I could, but I will not.

Charles Chauvel: What excuses has the Minister seen for opposing action on climate change?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen a long list of pathetic excuses from the National Party to justify its inaction on climate change. One example is that National says in its minority report, and in press releases, that it opposes the emissions trading scheme, asserting the Government would reap $20 billion in revenue. In reality the Government is unlikely to break even until around 2020—more than a decade away. It is plain that National’s excuses will not wash with the electorate. New Zealanders know that National says one thing and does another, not just on climate change but also on superannuation, police numbers, and any number of issues.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm, first, that it was the National Party that signed the Kyoto Protocol; secondly, that it has argued for an emissions trading scheme, that it took that decision in 1999, that it repeated that statement in 2006—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s right.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —I know that it is right as, unlike the member, I deal with the facts—can the Minister confirm that that is the National Party’s position, so why on earth is it holding out now?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister may answer the first part but not the second.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have to ask the reason for the second part of your ruling, because although that confirms previous rulings, you have previously ruled today that a Minister could be asked a question about how he reconciled the political positions of two other parties, even if the description of those two positions was not accurate. It seems to me that if one can be asked to reconcile two different positions on the basis of no particular facts about those positions, one could be asked to reconcile two different positions by one party, which is the standard question about the National Party.

Hon Bill English: Of course, the question we are asking is directly about ministerial responsibility, given the Prime Minister has said she has the numbers for the emissions trading scheme, and we are simply asking the Minister how he reconciles the directly conflicting policy goals of the two parties he is meant to be negotiating with.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has to respond in terms of ministerial responsibility. The Minister is not responsible for the policies of other parties.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm the public statement made by the Government that the proposed compensation package will be $140 million, and how much is left of the $140 million to fund the Greens’ citizens’ dividend, and subsidies for public transport and energy-efficient homes, given that, again, on the public record he has already made a commitment to New Zealand First to provide a subsidy for electricity prices to over half a million superannuitants?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Government is cobbling together deals consisting of bits and pieces of contradictory policies, in a desperate attempt to rescue something from 5 years of policy wreckage on climate change and that he is doing it with no regard for the practicalities of implementing the policy, because he does not believe he will be around to implement it?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot. I can confirm that the emissions trading legislation has come back from the Finance and Expenditure Committee—despite the best efforts of the National Party to undermine it—in very sound condition with its fundamentals preserved. Further, I confirm that deforestation emissions are down; that electricity-related emissions are down, albeit there will a blip this winter; that transport emissions, for our first time in history, are projected to level off; and that the research into agricultural emissions is bearing fruit. We are making very substantial progress, which is why the UN—on World Environment Day—chose to showcase New Zealand’s efforts in this regard, because we are amongst the best in the world.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister seen any reports of people supporting an emissions trading scheme, but saying that an emissions trading scheme should have no cost to anybody and nobody should have to change any behaviour; if so, is he able to name those people?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Indeed, that seems to be the position of National Party members. They say we should use a price-based instrument to influence behaviour, without changing prices. It is impossible to do that.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the advice to the select committee from Meridian Energy that it is expecting a windfall gain of $750 million to the Government.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table the estimates as to Crown revenue that show that the Crown is unlikely to break even on the emissions trading scheme until around 2020.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/132CAA18-A46B-451C-8D82-B8846D0B8A60/85338/48HansQ_20080617_00000473_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

8. Petrol Pricing—Government Initiatives

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

8. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce: What initiatives has the Government announced to investigate competition in petrol pricing?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : The Ministry of Economic Development has engaged independent consultants to review and analyse petrol pricing in New Zealand in line with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report. As I have said, the commission found that prices are largely driven off crude oil prices, the US exchange rate, and the international market for the refining of petrol. There will be no difference from that here in New Zealand. However, the commission did consider that consumers were entitled to know more about how petrol prices are set, and believed there were some marginal gains to be made by improving the competitive dynamic of the market. That is what the New Zealand review will assess in the New Zealand context.

Dave Hereora: What does the Government hope to achieve from its inquiry into petrol prices?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Of course, we are not conducting an inquiry, as the National Party spokesperson has suggested. However, I believe it is important that there is total transparency around petrol prices and that any myths around petrol price-setting are identified and dispelled, as occurred with the AustralianCompetition and Consumer Commission report. It is also in the interests of New Zealand consumers that we consider whether there is potential here, as there is in Australia, to improve the competitive dynamic of the market, because even though the difference may be marginal it is worth it to consumers, who are feeling the pain at the pump.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister explain how establishing a FuelWatch bureaucracy will lower motor fuel prices for consumers; if she can, can she tell us whether any price decrease she might anticipate will compensate for the additions to the petrol price that are coming from regional fuel tax, the biofuels obligation, and emissions trading scheme costs?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member is heading into the pathway of making a determination as to the outcome of the review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report. That report found that the FuelWatch system that has been operating in Western Australia should be rolled out across the rest of Australia in areas with large populations—not in rural areas but in the cities. The Australians have discovered that that would transfer the power of information to the consumer and away from the petrol companies. The petrol companies are able to monitor their competitors’ prices on an instantaneous basis through informed sources. FuelWatch gets the information to the consumers rather than to the petrol companies, so consumers can make an informed choice as to whether they buy before 6 a.m. or after 6 a.m.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was a very interesting elucidation of the Minister’s thinking, but the question asked whether she thinks a FuelWatch bureaucracy will lead to lower prices for consumers.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Minister wish to add anything to her answer?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I will say that the commission’s report, which has recommended rolling out FuelWatch to all of Australia, not just Western Australia where it operates, has determined that indeed there is benefit to consumers in having the information that is currently now available only to the petrol companies. The differences between New Zealand and Australia are that Australia has seven oil refineries and we have one, and that Australia has a significantly larger population than we do. I think it is sensible to see whether the model would work in New Zealand, and that is what the review will do.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That was virtually the same answer, with a little more added to it. The question asked whether a FuelWatch bureaucracy will lower prices.

Madam SPEAKER: I think if the member had listened carefully he would have found the Minister did actually address the question,.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister answer specifically, could this inquiry lead to the establishment of a FuelWatch ombudsman or some such person, as in Australia; if so, who will pay for it—will it be similar to the Electricity Commission and fall as a charge against users?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It was a recommendation of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to appoint a fuel commissioner to the commission, and that has been in place for a relatively short period of time. I would expect the independent contractors to look at how that has panned out in Australia and to make appropriate recommendations. I think it is too early to say how it would be funded if the decision was made to go down that track, but I think the jury is still out on that recommendation.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: When will the Government address the underlying reality that petrol prices are rising because demand for oil is exceeding the available supply, and when will it pull New Zealanders together to develop a long-overdue plan to reduce New Zealand’s dependence on oil?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: This Government has taken many initiatives to ensure that we are addressing the reality of peak oil when we get to that, and also to ensure that New Zealanders take appropriate steps to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

/NR/rdonlyres/7D7F2547-D216-41E7-9428-DB1585474F80/85340/48HansQ_20080617_00000576_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

9. Immigration Service—Confidence

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

9. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the New Zealand Immigration Service; if so, why?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister of Immigration) : Yes, but there is always room for improvement.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm reports by the Public Service Association (PSA) that at least two different immigration officers have made claims that staff, under pressure from management in the Immigration Service, are granting permits to unsuitable applicants—a similar allegation to the one raised by staff of the Pacific division in the Oughton report?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: No, I cannot confirm that. The member will know that the PSA has made that claim—

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why don’t you ask?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: If the member would just settle down! The PSA made that claim—[Interruption] Just keep calm; I know that it is difficult for the member. The PSA, as the member will know, made that claim on the radio this morning. The member will also know that the radio report alluded to an anonymous claim—a number of allegations—and I say to the member that that matter is now in the purview of the Auditor-General’s inquiry. I will not pre-empt that inquiry, and I say that if the PSA, other members, or other stakeholders in the community have information, they should bring it forward so that the Auditor-General’s inquiry can duly examine it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What reports has the Minister received on the following comments made on Morning Report by one Dr Lockwood Smith:

“You know, I’ve been getting this kind of allegation seeping out of the woodwork over recent months and it’s really troubling. I mean, there’s really a serious culture problem with the management of Immigration New Zealand.”, when in fact, back on 30 June 1995, 50,888 people were progressed through the Immigration Service, despite the fact that the then target was 25,000; what is new and why has it not been fixed up?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am aware of the comments made by the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith that the member alludes to. I am also aware that Dr Lockwood Smith also noted on the radio this morning that the allegations that had been sent to the Auditor-General were anonymous, and the veracity—and I use my words, not his—of them has yet to be tested. He ought to be careful. I will say that half a million transactions per year occur within the department, which is staffed by 1,200 men and women. No inappropriate behaviour is acceptable. I will also say that under this Government an internal—

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: It’s a mess.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Settle down! An internal investigation—

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: It’s a mess.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I tell Dr Smith to keep calm. An internal investigations unit has been set up, and that stands in stark contrast to the situation when the National Party was in Government. We do not have any figures on complaints made then, because that Government never had any internal investigations unit.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How can Parliament have confidence that the Immigration Service is protecting our national security, when an immigration officer states—[Interruption] Madam Speaker, I am very happy to repeat my question, if the members—

Madam SPEAKER: Just continue.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How can Parliament have confidence that the Immigration Service is protecting our national security, when an immigration officer states: “applicants from various high risk countries or dishonest applicants with high risk backgrounds are having their false jobs, false qualifications, false marriages all glossed over by immigration staff and getting their temporary permits all approved.”, and: “managers pressure the staff and say “risk manage it’ just give all applicants a temporary … permit.”?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The member quotes from a series of allegations made to the Auditor-General and the media today. As he himself said on the radio this morning, we have to be guarded in terms of the veracity of them, and it will be for the Auditor-General and the other reviews and inquiries to judge that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To use the phrase of a previous questioner today, what is the Government to make of this comment in respect of the population policy: “Officials noted that there was no point adhering to it when we have no population policy.”—the Independent of 8 December 1995? The same circumstance applies now, but, back then, when a party and its leader raised the question of what was going on in the Immigration Service, Lockwood Smith called that leader xenophobic and racist. That is hypocrisy at the worst level.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: All I can say is that the member’s question stands, and the record will show that he is indeed correct. But I would also point out that, as I have said before, half a million transactions are done by this department, and there are 1,200 folks in it. No improper behaviour is acceptable. Many of the high-profile complaints that have been raised have been raised by staff, and the processes in place to investigate them stand in stark contrast to the situation under that member’s Government. We have an internal investigations unit, which is now separate from the Immigration Service; it is in the corporate division of the Department of Labour. Under the National Government, no complaints were compiled, and no figures were compiled or retained, because there were no investigations unit investigations, because there was no investigations unit in place, at all.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How can the public have confidence in the Immigration Service, given claims by an immigration officer that “There is an endemic culture within this Immigration office where staff just approve virtually all temporary work permits with little thought or concern of checking the authenticity of documents, job offers, viability of businesses or relationships.” and that “These work practises are endorsed by all tiers of our branch management.”?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The member quotes from allegations that have been made. Those allegations have yet to be tested, and I will not prejudge an Auditor-General’s inquiry. The member has already made his judgment on an anonymous letter; he has made his judgment, and he has the right to do that. I welcome other stakeholders and other members in the community who have information; they should bring it forward, and the Auditor-General’s inquiry will test its veracity or lack of it.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why, 1 year after the Auditor-General released his damning June 2007 report into the Immigration Service’s management of immigration identity fraud, are we still hearing revelations about an “endemic culture” of approving applications with little concern for “checking the authenticity of documents, job offers, viability of businesses or relationships.”; why has nothing been done?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: In answer to the latter part of the question, as I have said, unlike his Government we investigate allegations, and we have an investigations unit. [Interruption] I think stretcher bearers are required again for those members! As to the first part of the member’s question, he uses the correct word: they are “revelations”, not facts, and not issues whose veracity has been tested. They will be tested, by the Auditor-General.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I seek leave to table a letter addressed to me by an official of Immigration New Zealand in which he makes very serious allegations.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/CFD4E6F9-FB38-479C-9E14-82DE827C9E71/85342/48HansQ_20080617_00000636_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

10. Child, Youth and Family—Government Actions

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

10. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to ensure that Child, Youth and Family is a responsive organisation that is focused on providing excellent service to children, young people, and families?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Today I have announced an improved process for Child, Youth and Family when responding to complaints. The new process will ensure that Child, Youth and Family listens to all concerns firstly at a local level, and tries to resolve the issues there and then. But if an issue remains unresolved, clients can then apply to have an independent advisory panel review their complaint. The new process will be more transparent and more accessible. It is designed so that families know their rights and understand the commitment of all social workers to work positively with them.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has she received regarding the responsiveness of the Child, Youth and Family national call centre?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Child, Youth and Family call centre was recently awarded the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand contact centre of the year award, making it the only contact centre to have won that award twice. The judges stated that the passion and enthusiasm of the staff was a key aspect of the win. The call centre receives over 4,000 calls a day, 88 percent of which are answered within 20 seconds, which is 8 percent better than industry standards. A high-performing call centre is a vital tool for Child, Youth and Family to help keep our children and young people safe.

/NR/rdonlyres/DDCE7384-F734-4DE1-90DB-5324DC3D2716/85344/48HansQ_20080617_00000721_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

11. Petrol Pricing—Inquiry

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

11. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Commerce: What does the Government hope to achieve from its inquiry into petrol prices?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : I agree with the person who said: “It would be helpful for people to see how the petrol industry’s pricing structure worked. Everybody notices the price rises very, very quickly, but any price reduction is a great deal slower.” The member, of course, will recognise those words, as they are his own.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister seen a copy of a letter sent by the Australian federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, to the consumer affairs Minister, the Treasurer, the finance Minister, and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, saying that FuelWatch in Australia would be “an anti-competitive waste of money”; and can she explain how the situation might be any different here in New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No.

Gerry Brownlee: Why is the Minister considering a FuelWatch scheme for New Zealand, when the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the departments of finance, resources and energy, and industry have come out against FuelWatch; and does she not think it might be a better idea to consider whether the Government should go ahead with its planned 2c per litre accident compensation levy increase in July, its 5c per litre increase for biofuels in October, and its up to 10c per litre increase for regional petrol tax next February?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Despite the member’s assertion, I have not decided that New Zealand will adopt the FuelWatch scheme. I have said that we will look at the report of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which includes a recommendation for a FuelWatch scheme. It is very interesting to note who has opposed the introduction of a FuelWatch scheme, because it empowers consumers as opposed to petrol companies.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister has now decided that her inquiry is simply a review, and that a FuelWatch scheme may not be such a good thing for New Zealand, has she also decided to back down from her suggestion that New Zealand have a motor fuels commissioner; if not, does she expect that that motor fuels commissioner will be as successful as the electricity commissioner, who has presided over a 50 percent price rise for domestic consumers since his office was created?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not recommended any of the things that the member has asserted. I have not recommended that there be an inquiry; I have stated that there should be a review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry. I have not recommended that we have FuelWatch; I have recommended that we look at all of the recommendations that are contained within the commission’s report. I have made it perfectly plain that I think the jury is out on whether we should have a fuel commissioner.

H V Ross Robertson: Has the Minister seen any reports that identify what is pushing up the international price of crude oil; and how is it impacting on the price at the pump in New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. The advice is that intense trading in oil futures contracts has been driving oil prices higher by the week, with no end in sight. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition recently asked Labour to say why petrol prices were going through the roof, but I am sure that he, as a former money market trader who speculated in currency, would be much better placed to answer that question.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table the various press releases and other statements from the Minister that, according to her answers today, were just a load of spin—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/16CF04FE-401E-4D5C-B0C2-8D8C5A7A2CDA/85346/48HansQ_20080617_00000747_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 17 June 2008 [PDF 197k]

12. Violent Crime—Police Resourcing and Practices

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

12. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe that police resources and practices to date are sufficient to deal with the rising level of violent crime in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : Police advise me that resources and practices to date are sufficient, but, as the member knows, recruitment is currently under way for the additional third tranche of police officers, as agreed to in our agreement between New Zealand First and Labour. In the last 10 years there has been a 45 percent increase in appropriation, most of which has taken place in the time of this Government.

Ron Mark: What is going wrong with police leadership, when, at a time when they have never been better resourced, with $500 million in extra funding, and 1,000 extra front-line police, front-line staff are being hindered in their ability to deal with violent offenders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that we have very good leadership in the New Zealand Police, from the top right down to our district levels. But it is a difficulty for the New Zealand Police, as it is for our community, to deal with violence in the community, because no one group is solely responsible. Sometimes we are inclined, in cases like the tragedies we have had, to point the finger at the police rather than at the scumbags who cause these crimes.

Chester Borrows: Does the Minister agree with the Police Association President, Greg O’Connor, that “only 52 percent of the first two tranches of the Government’s promised 1,000 extra police have gone to the front line.”; if not, how does she explain why general duties staff are declining as a proportion of sworn officers, while the number of sworn staff in non-operational roles, such as those in Police National Headquarters, have increased?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree with the Police Association, and I have said so on a number of occasions. The Police Association does not believe that community constables are front-line officers. It does not believe that detectives who are catching the criminals that commit crimes are front-line officers. It does not believe that the positions like those in Youth Aid are front-line officers. I believe they are. They are seen by the public to be right in the front line of policing in New Zealand. In my view, to count only those who are considered in general duties and in I-cars as front line is not the right way to look at our New Zealand Police.

Ron Mark: How concerned is the Minister that whenever a serious crime is reported in this country, instead of the offenders being on trial the police face a trial by do-gooders and media; and does she think that the police leadership is contributing to this worrying situation?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the member that too often when there is a violent crime in New Zealand the first thing that happens is that the finger is pointed at the police rather than at the perpetrator of the crime. That does concern me. However, I do not believe that it does any good to point the finger at the leadership of the police, either. I think we need to ask media people, for example, what role they play in terms of the reporting of violent crime, when their first response is to ask what the police have done about it rather than to look at some of the other issues that contribute to violent crime.

Ron Mark: Is not one glaring example of the lack of decisiveness in leadership within the police their inability to make a timely decision on the general issue of the Taser; and will the Minister show some leadership and demand that a decision be made public this week?

Hon ANNETTE KING: A decision on the Taser will be made very soon. I will not demand that it be made this week. I can tell the member that the decision will be made very soon. The commissioner has taken the time to look very carefully at the deployment of another tactical option, and when he makes his decision it will be based on the best advice he could have received, bearing in mind that this is a major change in terms of tactical weapons in New Zealand.

ENDS


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