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Questions And Answers – Thursday, 19 June 2008

Questions And Answers – 19 June 2008


1. Corrections, Department—Kuchenbecker Inquest


1. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by the statement from his department yesterday that it accepts the findings from the coroner’s inquest into the murder of Karl Kuchenbecker at the hands of Graeme Burton?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : Yes, the Department of Corrections does accept the findings of the coroner. Also, the department, along with the Parole Board and the police, acknowledges the mistakes that were made that contributed to Graeme Burton remaining at large, which in turn resulted in his murder of Karl Kuchenbecker. All three agencies have expressed their deep regrets and apologies and, just as important, have moved to remedy the deficiencies in the system.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Department of Corrections accepts the findings of the coroner, why did it put out in a press release yesterday statements that downplayed the coroner’s view, by saying “there was only one occasion in … October and then in late November that Burton did not fully comply with the rules”, and say that it “worked extremely hard … to get him back on track.”, when the coroner makes it clear that he was supposed to be on a zero-tolerance regime and that the Department of Corrections should have locked him up; if the department accepts it was wrong, why it is making excuses?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The department is not making excuses, and I am certainly not making excuses on its behalf. Mistakes were made that should not have been made. They were made across three agencies. It is, rather, a tragedy that human error resulted in what occurred because of the mistakes that were made. I would, however, point out to the member that the coroner in his report identified those mistakes as things that should have been done but were not done, but did not accuse the department of carelessness or negligence.

Martin Gallagher: What recommendations did the coroner make regarding remedial actions that needed to be taken by the Department of Corrections?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The coroner made no recommendations, because he said that the Government had moved quickly to enact a raft of amendments to the Parole Act, and that both the Department of Corrections and the New Zealand Police had taken what he described as firm steps to deal with the systemic deficiencies made apparent by the circumstances of Karl Kuchenbecker’s death.

Gerry Brownlee: Has he seen the statement in the coroner’s report that had the Department of Corrections taken enforcement action against Burton’s parole breaches earlier, “the prospect of an early arrest would have been considerably advanced.”; if so, does he now think the statement of his chief executive in March of 2007 that “I don’t think there’s a nexus between the tragedy and the management of his parole.” indicates an attitude in the department that contributed to Karl Kuchenbecker’s death and, in fact, leads to the responsibility for his death lying with the department?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The direct responsibility for Karl Kuchenbecker’s death, of course, lies with Graeme Burton, and no excuses should be made that anybody other than he is directly and squarely responsible for a senseless murder. Having said that, had actions been taken in a different way, as they should have been, by corrections, the Parole Board, and the police, it is likely that the circumstances would not have arisen where Karl Kuchenbecker was murdered.

Gerry Brownlee: Why should the public of New Zealand believe his department’s acknowledgment of failure now, when during the coroner’s inquest corrections continued to argue that it had no basis for charging Burton with breaches of parole by the end of November 2006, and does that not indicate that routine lenience on parole conditions still operates in corrections?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, but a series of mistakes were made, each of which contributed to the tragic result that we saw. The Department of Corrections accepts its share of responsibility for that, and, more important, has moved to remedy the deficiencies that were pointed out, as was stated explicitly by the coroner in his report.

Gerry Brownlee: If his department accepts that it was wrong, does it also resile from the key message of the communications plan for the release of its own internal report in March 2007, which stated it “cleared corrections of allegations of wrongdoing or incompetency.”, and the plan also advised the department to “Find a sympathetic reporter and give them a scoop.”, and further stated: “Provide the Minister with all the information necessary to refute Mr Simon Power’s claims.”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am not familiar with that document. If there is such a document—and I am somewhat reluctant to take the member’s word for it, because he often gets things wrong—it would have been created before my time as Minister. I make no excuses for those who made mistakes. I can convey to the member, and to the House, the deep regret of the Department of Corrections that those mistakes were made and a determination to remedy those deficiencies, which the coroner reports the department has, indeed, done.

Gerry Brownlee: Does he admit that his department’s response to the Kuchenbecker tragedy merely reflects a culture within the organisation that not only tolerates frequent mistakes but then seeks to deny responsibility, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary like that today, where a corrections file has been found in a street and corrections staff are able to say only that a file is missing but cannot say whether it is actually the department’s file?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The department, of course, has to front up for any error on the part of an employee that might be made, and it is important that that should happen. What I want to say about the Department of Corrections is that at least the department did not do what it did under Nick Smith, which was to allow Graeme Burton and four others to escape from Pāremoremo. The department has brought down by 84 percent the level of escapes from our prisons, and reduced by two-thirds the abuse of drugs. The department still has improvements that can be made, and it and I are determined that it will make those improvements.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table documents showing that the Department of Corrections produced material saying that its internal report cleared it of allegations of wrongdoing and incompetence, and that it further sought to provide the Minister with all information necessary—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/55763A81-90DC-41B2-B97F-9964542C40B9/85454/48HansQ_20080619_00000035_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

2. Oil Prices—Transport Planning

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

2. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Transport: What advice, if any, has she received about the likely price path of oil over the next 5 years; and how will this impact on transport planning?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : Clearly, oil prices affect the movement of people and freight, and the amount of revenue from fuel excise duties that goes into the National Land Transport Fund. Officials are keeping a watchful eye on price movements.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister satisfied that when Land Transport New Zealand determines the economics of new motorways it uses the 2002 oil price of $26 a barrel, adjusted only by the consumer price index, when today the cost of oil is over $130 a barrel; and when will the Minister demand that her ministry and Crown agencies use realistic oil prices in their cost-benefit calculations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: When calculations were made for decisions around roads, particularly in Auckland, those decisions were made based on the best evidence available at the time. It does not mean the roads are not necessary—those roads will be built.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How long will the Minister accept the advice of officials who consistently undervalue oil prices, undervalue carbon prices, undervalue the time of public transport users compared with the time of drivers, count the positive external effects of roads but not the positive external effects of public transport, and use a ridiculously high discount rate when evaluating public transport options?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will continue to take advice from my officials, because they also give me advice on our passenger transport needs, and on our needs in terms of more cycling and walking. They also give advice on the need for roads. As the member herself said yesterday, we will always have cars, so we will always need roads. To believe that we will now stop building roads is just not realistic.

Keith Locke: Given the Minister’s comments just now that the oil price estimates relate to decisions on road building in Auckland, what price will oil have to rise to before the Government redirects its nearly $2 billion budgeted expenditure on Auckland’s Waterview motorway into better public transport for Aucklanders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Government has, in fact, done both. We have directed considerable funding into public transport in Auckland, and we are looking to do even more. We are also mindful that the western ring route, State Highway 20, which takes traffic around Auckland rather than through it, needs to be completed, otherwise we have a part of a network of roads that do not link up. That would be seen by Aucklanders to be silly, because on that road will also be trucks and buses; one needs roads for both, as well as for cars.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister share New Zealand First’s view that had roads been more appropriately funded in the 1990s by the then National Government we would not have the problem that we have now?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a very good question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Nine years!

Hon ANNETTE KING: The 9 long years of this Labour Government have seen more investment in transport than this country has ever seen. We have seen investment in transport go from less than a billion dollars under a National Government to $2.7 billion this year. If National had invested in transport, we would not have the congestion in Auckland that we do today. For the first time ever, yesterday at a transport forum Maurice Williamson admitted that National had not invested into transport. The reason he gave the forum for that was that Ruth Richardson would not let him.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: If the Government cannot get a majority in the House for the regional fuel tax, ironically because petrol prices are becoming unaffordable, will the Minister provide a funding guarantee for Auckland’s electric trains so they can be ordered now, rather than leaving a part-network of rail system that cannot be used—just as she has provided a funding guarantee to 2011 for motorway expansion projects, and as the Government has provided a funding guarantee for the Huntly gas-fired power station—or is Government underwriting available only for projects that increase our fossil fuel use?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Obviously not, because the Government has invested considerably in rail. We will get to that question when we need to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the National Party had not stopped both the 1995 bill that sought to ensure that all road taxes went on roading, and the 1998 budgetary measure that by compounding over 10 years sought to take 2.1 percent extra into the roading account, would it have taken 9 long years for those measures to have happened?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Obviously the answer is no. And there has been little—little—commitment from the National Party in terms of transport. But as we get to an election, I know that National members are going around New Zealand promising absolutely everything. They will fix the entire transport network, and—you know what—they will do it in a year, they are so good!

Rodney Hide: Could the Minister of Transport give a clear goal for this Government in respect of petrol prices: is it to put up the price of petrol and other fossil fuels to combat climate change through the emissions trading scheme, or is it to try to get the price of petrol and other fossil fuels down, which is why it is having an inquiry into pricing—which one is it, I ask the Minister; does the Government want prices up or down?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have no responsibility for climate change or for the inquiry that is being undertaken.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did not suggest for a minute that the Minister had responsibility for emissions trading schemes. But the question is down about petrol pricing and the price path of oil, and my question asks whether the Government has a goal to put up the price. If the primary question is in order, then asking whether the Government has a goal about that certainly must be in order.

Madam SPEAKER: The primary question also relates, however, to transport planning. I listened to the member’s question and heard that it had several thoughts contained within it, some of which were certainly not within the Minister’s ministerial responsibility.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker; kia ora tātoutēneirangi. Has the Minister seen the editorial in Tuesday’s New Zealand Herald that described the inquiry to examine the pricing behaviour of domestic suppliers as “a well-trodden path of inquiry unlikely to tell us anything new, let alone offer a practical response to the oil shock.”, and does she not agree that the Māori Party’s proposal for a cross-party commission on peak oil is a good idea that could offer practical solutions; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen the editorial in the New Zealand Herald. I imagine that it would not matter what this Government did; it would get a negative editorial from the New Zealand Herald.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave of the House to table two documents. The first is an answer to a written question that shows that the 2002 oil price is still being used in land transport—

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

Jeanette Fitzsimons: The second is the Government’s advice to Ministers on how to answer transport questions from the Green Party, which shows where many of the Ministers’ answers come from.

 Leave granted.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two documents: the 1998 Budget that sought to take extra taxation for roading, and the 1999 Budget in which National repealed that measure, having of course signed up to it in the coalition talks.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/09D49838-3606-4A96-8E3F-2788B44E11A6/85456/48HansQ_20080619_00000112_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

3. Election Advertising—Departmental Material

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

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is it Government policy that political parties may electioneer with advertising material produced by Government departments; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : No.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister been advised that following the public endorsement by Mike Williams, president of the Labour Party, of a strategy of having Labour activists use Government department - produced advertising material, the Inland Revenue Department has instituted formal systems to monitor the use of its publicity and to identify any MPs’ offices ordering high numbers of pamphlets; if so, what does she think this says about the Inland Revenue Department’s faith in the New Zealand Labour Party?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It could say two things: firstly, that the Inland Revenue Department is being cautious or, secondly, that it is very interested to see just how many people are interested in what was happening in terms of tax cuts.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister also been advised that, following Mike Williams’ statements, the Inland Revenue Department’s internal emails show that its communications staff expressed the belief that a KiwiSaver flyer intended for delivery to every household in New Zealand was “too far towards the promotional” and that the flyer was subsequently cancelled?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I am not aware of that. But I imagine that all Government departments would be being very cautious.

Hon Bill English: Has she been advised that, following the statement made by the president of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, that Labour activists could use Government department - produced advertising material, the head of corporate services at the Inland Revenue Department suggested that all information programmes such as household flyers should cease until after the election?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister disturbed by the fact that, after all this, the State Services Commission and the Inland Revenue Department told the New Zealand Herald that the reason they had pulled the pamphlet was “strong uptake of the programme”, when the emails show that, in fact, they pulled the ads because they believed they promoted the Labour Party too much?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would believe the word of the Inland Revenue Department and what they said publicly. But I am concerned that this member raises questions in this House about everybody in every other party and about the way they are acting in relation to the Electoral Finance Act while always, of course, pretending that his party’s hands are clean. I would ask the member what he has done about the pamphlets I have here, which were handed out at the Fieldays. They are unauthorised and were paid for by taxpayers’ money, and they will be sent off to the Electoral Commission because this is nothing more than two-faced hypocrisy from the National Party.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Day after day you have accepted answers to questions on this topic from this Minister that have been woefully inadequate, on the basis that she has said that the Minister does not offer an opinion on the Electoral Finance Act. She has just done exactly that.

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure whether that is a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Seeing that the Minister has put into contention the issue of various political parties being at Mystery Creek, is she aware that at that occasion of a few days a lot of political parties had their own booths there, including New Zealand First, the National Party, and the Labour Party, but that, of course, the National Party members went around photographing everyone else’s booth and not their own?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That tells this House one thing: National members are more interested in being the tell-tale tit of Parliament than they are in getting on and having an election campaign, fair and square. They probably even used parliamentary money to buy the camera to take the photographs.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take exception to the comments made by the Minister. The reality is that we just did not want those parties to feel lonely.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has made his point.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Time and time again you rule questions out of order—and I would have asked you about this question, but I was quite interested in the answer, so I let it pass—but I am sure that the Minister of Justice is not prepared to accept responsibility for National Party members or for whom they might or might not take a picture of, yet that question was allowed. I fail to see how the Minister of Justice has any ministerial responsibility for that matter. You upheld that question, yet when we ask her questions about the law and she says that she does not have any responsibility for that—

Madam SPEAKER: I think I get the member’s point; he is making a speech now. I listened very carefully because the questions from Mr English also could have been ruled as being within the ministerial responsibility of the Minister of Revenue, but he phrased his questions in a way that asked whether she received any reports about them without doing that, and so did Mr Peters. It was on that basis that I allowed both lots of questions. They did not directly go to ministerial responsibility and the Minister answered in that way.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us what it says about the faith of the Public Service in the integrity of the Labour Government when, even after the Prime Minister backed away from her party president’s strategy of using publicly produced pamphlets for electioneering purposes, and despite the Prime Minister saying that she had done that, the Inland Revenue Department went ahead and implemented a system to monitor the behaviour of Labour MPs to ensure that they did not use publicly produced pamphlets for electioneering?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is all in the mind of the member who has just asked that question.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the internal emails from the Inland Revenue Department that show it implemented a monitoring system to ensure—

 Leave granted.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table National Party pamphlets handed out at the Fieldays, which were not authorised—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/870FC321-F2A5-420B-A207-35ED9DD34389/85458/48HansQ_20080619_00000219_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

4. Sentencing—Serious Offences

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

4. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has he received on the length of sentences for serious offences since the passing of the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : I have received various reports from the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Justice that show that the Sentencing Act 2002 and the Parole Act 2002 have played a significant role in keeping serious and high-risk offenders in prison for much longer. Under the Sentencing Act, aggravated murder attracts a sentence of life with a minimum non-parole period now of 17 years, up from 10 years under National. The average non-parole period imposed for life sentences is today 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago. The reports also show that the proportion of sentences served is much longer. Those convicted of sexual violation, for example, are serving sentences that are 40 percent longer than sentences served before the new Acts; the average sentence served for burglaries has increased from 44 percent of the sentence to 70 percent; and for serious assaults it has increased from 54 percent of the sentence to 70 percent. That gives the lie to National claims that the law is anything other than much tougher on serious offenders than it was before.

Martin Gallagher: Is there evidence for allegations that parole and bail are much easier to get today?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No; in fact, the evidence is absolutely to the contrary. Following the Parole Act 2002, the percentage of applications declined by the Parole Board has gone up from just over 50 percent to over 70 percent. The bail law was toughened in 2000 to reverse the onus of proof regarding hard-core offenders, so that they had to persuade the court that they were safe to be bailed, rather than the other way round. That was opposed by Tony Ryall when he was the Minister of Justice in 1999. We put it into the legislation. The growth in prison remand numbers at significantly higher levels than the growth in the number of sentenced prisoners is proof of the fact that today it is much harder to get bail.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister quoted today from the same Ministry of Justice report that was released in April that shows that the average length of prison sentences imposed for all violent offences, including murder, has dropped by 11.9 percent since 2002; and is he also quoting from a report of the Department of Corrections that was released this month that states there has been “significant growth in the number of offenders starting short-term prison sentences”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The second part of the question answers the first part of the question. There are far more shorter term sentences for violence because violence does result in offenders going to jail. The average length of sentences goes down because lesser incidents of violence are included. But the member has got something to explain: if the law is not much tougher, how come prison numbers are 70 percent higher than they were when that member was in Government?

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēna nō tātou. What international research evidence is there that harsher sentences are effective in reducing reoffending and preventing crime?

Hon PHIL GOFF: They are not necessarily effective on their own. But we do know that the category of people who are recidivist offenders are not liable to be changed by rehabilitation, and often the only way that we can deal with them is to keep them locked up, provided that they constitute a risk to the community. And under the new legislation, risk to the community has to be the paramount consideration in decisions of the justice system. But I agree with the member in so far as he is saying that to bring crime rates down in society, being tougher is not enough; we have to do more to deal with the causes of crime, which include dysfunctional families and drug and alcohol abuse. We have to ensure that children are brought up without abuse, without violence, and with good parenting.

Martin Gallagher: Further to the Minister’s previous answers, have the tougher penalties for serious offenders been reflected in growth in the prison population in New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: They most certainly have. That is why four prisons have been opened, that is why 2,300 additional prison beds have been created, and that is why the prison population has gone up by 71 percent since the mid-1990s. I emphasise that those steps were taken to deal with the rising level of crime under National. If we look at the police statistics, we see that the total number of recorded police offences was lower last year than it was a decade ago.

/NR/rdonlyres/A66D6FFB-50D2-49B3-906A-739ABDB0699B/85460/48HansQ_20080619_00000296_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

5. Immigration, Minister—Oughton Inquiry

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

5. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: On what date did the Minister of Immigration first advise the Minister of State Services, formally or informally, that an inquiry was being conducted by David Oughton into unlawful decision-making involving the head of the Immigration Service?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Information was conveyed at officials’ level. I am advised that the then chief executive of the Department of Labour gave the State Services Commission an informal heads-up when the audit process first found issues around the application matter and it became clear that an investigation was necessary. Later the then acting chief executive gave a further heads-up that David Oughton would be conducting the investigation.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that the State Services Commission has some responsibility for maintaining public confidence in the wider State service; if so, why did the Minister of Immigration not alert the Minister of State Services about such a major issue as an investigation into unlawful decision-making involving the head of the Immigration Service, when the Minister had been briefed on the inquiry in April and August last year?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the first matter, clearly the Minister of Immigration is not responsible for that matter.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why, after at least three briefings last year on an inquiry into unlawful decision-making involving the head of the Immigration Service, did the Minister of Immigration not ask any further questions, when yesterday the State Services Commissioner told the Finance and Expenditure Committee that if he had been familiar with the content of the Oughton report last year, he absolutely would have asked further questions?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member tries to draw an illogical connection between ministerial knowledge and the fact that the State Services Commissioner chose not to take certain action.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is the Minister telling the House that the three chief executives of the Department of Labour—James Buwalda, Graham Fortune, and Christopher Blake, in that order—all overlooked two of the three recommendations in the Oughton report that required ministerial action, and that all three told the Minister that the report covered only individual employee matters, when the State Services Commissioner yesterday told the Finance and Expenditure Committee that when he became familiar with the content of the report, he could see that it clearly did not relate only to employment matters but covered wider issues as well?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Much of this ground has been covered before. But to take just one item on these matters, the member will be aware that the new chief executive of the department, Mr Blake, sought to reopen matters, and was told that he could not do so because they involved individual employment matters that had been settled. However, of course, subsequently the State Services Commission was involved in a review of those matters.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can we get a clear answer on this; who actioned the first recommendation of the Oughton report when it was received in July last year that “these people need to have their applications”—that is for residence—“considered for special treatment as they have been disadvantaged”, because that special treatment would have involved exceptions to residence policy? Who actioned that recommendation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have information in front of me on that particular matter. I am advised that there are processes that need to be gone through, as I understand it, for special applications. The department itself does not have the power to refer that to the Minister.

/NR/rdonlyres/C59B45CB-00B8-4581-9B79-2CA9666B5B5B/85462/48HansQ_20080619_00000349_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

6. Social Development, Ministry—Moderation and Thrift

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

6. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is she confident that the Ministry of Social Development is meeting the Prime Minister’s expectation of moderation and thrift?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Yes, because I know that the ministry is constantly reviewing and prioritising its funding to ensure that it achieves the best possible outcomes for children, young people, and their families. As the member did not raise any questions about the ministry in relation to moderation and thrift at the Social Services Committee yesterday, I assume she shares my confidence.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that “Labour wants to be able to look the ordinary hard-working taxpayer in the eye and say that their tax dollars are being spent on the things which matter.”; if so, does she think that increasing the communications, media, and public relations staff to a whopping 61.5 this year—up from 54 last year, and up from 22 in 2002—is spending on things that matter?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The answer to the first part of the question is absolutely yes. I would be interested to know whether the National Party would stop efforts to ensure that every New Zealander receives his or her full and correct entitlements, such as the outward calling programme to actively search out people and ensure that they are receiving their entitlement. In respect of public information and awareness campaigns on programmes such as Working for Families, there have been 97 significant events at malls throughout the country, at which an estimated 1.3 million New Zealanders had contact with the staff to ensure that they were aware of their full entitlement and were receiving it. Which part of that communication would that member’s party cut?

Russell Fairbrother: What has been the impact of the building of policy capability in the Ministry of Social Development?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In 2001, the Hunn review pronounced the former Department of Work and Income to be a department without a brain. The Ministry of Social Development has since built policy capability in order to develop policies such as Working for Families, Working New Zealand, and Pathways to Partnership. It has also built regional policy capability. For example, a number of regions have completed a seasonal labour strategy and valuable work on housing sustainability. That is ridiculed by Tony Ryall and Judith Collins, but is critical to achieving better outcomes for New Zealand families.

Judith Collins: Can the Minister guarantee that the tax dollars of hard-working taxpayers are being spent on the things that matter, when 450 front-line caseworkers have been cut in the last year, but policy staff have increased from 200 people in 2002 to a staggering 350 people today?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes.

Judith Collins: How can it be that having fewer beneficiaries was cited yesterday as the reason for the reduction of 450 in front-line staff, yet there has been no corresponding requirement to reduce, or even contain, the bureaucracy now that there are fewer beneficiaries than there were previously?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That assertion is incorrect, as the member had explained to her at the select committee.

Judith Collins: Does she agree with the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, who said yesterday that—

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes.

Judith Collins: —do not be too eager, honey—“The economic situation is challenging.”; and if that situation results in more people losing their jobs, does she think it is wise to get rid of 450 front-line staff at a time when a lot of New Zealanders are losing their jobs?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I wish the member could make up her mind. Does she support having fewer or more staff in the Ministry of Social Development? I can confirm categorically that I agree with the deputy leader of my party far more often than she would ever agree with her deputy leader.

/NR/rdonlyres/1068202C-4924-4102-925C-57C1D49CB064/85464/48HansQ_20080619_00000403_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

7. Organised Crime—Government Actions

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

7. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Justice: What action has the Government taken to address organised crime in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : The Government has introduced a wide-ranging package of measures to address organised crime that have been developed over the past year. Earlier this year I released the national Organised Crime Strategy. We have established the form, the powers, and the functions of the new Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand, to be located within the New Zealand Police. The Serious Fraud Office (Abolition and Transitional Provisions) Bill has been introduced. We have introduced the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill, which will further enable property and profits from crime to be confiscated. Today I have tabled the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill. Finally, a range of amendments is currently being drafted to increase search and surveillance powers in order to help further tackle organised criminal gangs.

Lynne Pillay: What does the bill tabled today do?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill increases the maximum penalty for participation in an organised criminal group under section 98A of the Crimes Act from 5 to 10 years. The increase in the maximum penalty to 10 years will make interception warrants available for investigations. The bill also amends the Sentencing Act to provide that it is an aggravating factor where an offence is committed partly or wholly because of the offender’s participation in an organised criminal group.

Dail Jones: Can the Minister confirm that although this recently announced change to section 98A of the Crimes Act is a positive move, her Government was responsible for the much-heralded 2002 amendment of the same section that, despite a massive rise in prosecutions for membership of an organised crime group, resulted in a dismal conviction rate of just 13.9 percent of those prosecuted between 2003 and 2006, and can she assure the House that this proposed change will be any more successful?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that it will be considerably more successful, and I welcome the support from New Zealand First for the bill I have tabled today.

Lynne Pillay: What reaction has there been to the bill tabled today?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am pleased to hear that John Key has indicated support for our bill. That goes against National’s lack of support for the toughening of the laws against violence and organised crime. For example, National voted against the Parole Act 2002, which significantly increased the amount of time that offenders spend in prison; and National voted against the Sentencing Act, which introduced tougher sentences for the worst murders, and lifted the standard non-parole period within a life sentence from 10 years to at least 17 years. So I can only say that National has had a conversion on the way to the ballot box.

/NR/rdonlyres/58DDCEE8-D462-4A91-9CDB-C96A20116FEF/85466/48HansQ_20080619_00000473_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

8. Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill—Changes

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

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What changes, if any, will he be making to the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill in light of the statement by the Kyoto Forestry Association last week that “Helen Clark and Jim Anderton’s record on forestry is the worst of any Prime Minister or any Forestry Minister in New Zealand's history. ... It is the shameful legacy of a failure to listen to the forestry industry and instead target us with punitive policies despite us being the environmental good guys and the only sector capable of sequestering carbon.”?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : I am glad the member asked that question, because there is little doubt that that statement was prepared by Matthew Hooton.

Hon Annette King: Who is he?

Hon DAVID PARKER: He is a former National Party employee. He is the lobbyist for the Kyoto Forestry Association. He is one of the “hollow men”. He seldom discloses his private interests and associations, in his newspaper column; yet he regularly accuses others, using strong language such as “corruption”. The reality is that deforestation is way down because of the emissions trading scheme. Without the scheme, emissions would increase sharply at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Government not accept responsibility for the 40,000 hectares of deforestation that has occurred since 2004, noting that it is the first deforestation at all since records began in 1951; and does he accept that these figures will get worse, as they are only up to 31 March 2007 and that the chainsaw massacre revved up considerably—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon Dr Nick Smith: —those members can laugh, but those were millions of trees—the chainsaw massacre revved up considerably between March and the end of last year, meaning that the deforestation figures are set to get worse?

Hon DAVID PARKER: We all know that because of some of the underlying drivers of conversion to dairying, etc., without some regulatory intervention or price responsibility for deforestation emissions, deforestation would have continued this year as high as it was last year, and it would come at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayer and at considerable cost to the environment, yet National will not vote for the emissions trading scheme.

Moana Mackey: What was the estimated deforestation last year, and what is expected this year?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am advised that last year’s deforestation totalled some 19,000 hectares—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The worst ever.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member is quite right. It would have been repeated this year and every year into the future, and would have got even worse. As a consequence of Government policy, because the emissions trading scheme is coming in, deforestation is already substantially down, to a projected 2,400 hectares this year. Of course, without the emissions trading scheme, deforestation emissions would increase enormously.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports of a certain member of Parliament and spokesman for his party who went to a Bali conference of 42 countries, and came back and protested that New Zealand was the 38th worst, which he then interpreted as being fourth from the bottom, when in fact if one is not confused or of an addled mind, one knows that that is fourth from the top?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have heard that a number of Opposition members are often confused on these issues. They are somewhat complex. One of the latest things I heard from the National Party was that its members somehow expect that New Zealand should be the one developed country that wants to be a pariah by ignoring our Kyoto Protocol obligations, when the reality is that the rest of the developing world is doing more, not less, and that the United States is now engaged in these issues, yet the National Party would have us ignore these underlying issues, presumably on the basis that, as Dr Lockwood Smith said yesterday, we should now pull out of the international efforts. [Interruption]

Hon Harry Duynhoven: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated, Dr Smith, if you want to stay in the Chamber. Would members please settle. They are starting to get silly. I presume Mr Duynhoven’s point of order is because he could not hear. Is that correct? Would members please keep the noise down. I know it is Thursday, but we still have to get through question time.

Hon Harry Duynhoven: My point of order is that I certainly take objection. I am not sure whether the Minister heard the comment, but I take objection to Dr Lockwood Smith yelling out “pack of lies”, or words to that effect. He should be asked to withdraw and apologise. That is not acceptable in Parliament.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear the comment, but if the member made it, then I would ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Members place their colleagues in this House in some difficulty when they intentionally make false statements. The Minister David Parker knows he did.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: These points of order will be heard in silence, otherwise members will be leaving the Chamber so that we can get through this question time.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The member cannot get away with making that statement. To accuse somebody of intentionally making a false statement is to repeat the previous allegation, which the member has just been ordered to withdraw and apologise for. I suggest he is approaching the point of having to withdraw from the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Hon David Parker have anything further to add before I rule?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I think I probably did overstate what Dr Smith said yesterday. Dr Smith rose yesterday and said that it was the Government that ratified the Kyoto Protocol, as if that was a bad thing, implying that we should not, and implying that National would withdraw.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree that there is a serious flaw in the Kyoto Protocol in respect of forestry, in that land use can be changed with minimal carbon cost for deforesting by replanting with seedlings and then clearing those small seedlings?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I do agree that the Kyoto Protocol is an imperfect instrument. None the less I also think that some of the arguments that are put by the forestry lobby are exaggerated and do not withstand scrutiny, either. We are trying to improve the rules under future versions of the Kyoto Protocol and, indeed, are able to exert influence there because of our responsible conduct as a country, which is most recently evidenced by the fact that the chair of the working-group that is considering these rules is a New Zealander from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Why has the agricultural sector been exempted from the emissions trading scheme during the first 5 years, yet been subsidised for 90 percent of its 2005 emission levels, and what would that exemption and subsidy cost the taxpayer?

Hon DAVID PARKER: It is actually not correct that the agricultural sector is being exempted from the emissions trading scheme. It is responsible for its transport emissions in full, and it is responsible for its electricity and process emissions on farm. It is true that it is exempted from its agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions until the start of 2013, but that is on the basis that there are considerable technical issues in respect of measurement that still need to be worked through, and it is also true that although in some sectors there are substitutionary technologies where one can completely remove some sources of emissions in agriculture, one cannot entirely remove emissions although one can reduce them.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is it Government policy to encourage foresters wanting to change land use to temporarily replant those trees and then bulldoze them over at 8 years old, as is provided for in his emissions trading scheme legislation, and where is there any benefit for the environment or the economy from that sort of policy lunacy?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The advice from officials, which was given to the select committee, and accepted by the select committee, and accepted by me, is that it is going to be a very strange practice to try to avoid emission reduction obligations or emission costs by going to the cost of replanting a forest, leaving it in the ground for 8 years at all that lost cost of production, and then pulling it out so as to avoid a cost. Look, the underlying point here is that some of those who want to escape any obligation in respect of deforestation emissions want different rules for themselves than for industry. Industry is being told that if it increases emissions above historic levels, it has to take responsibility for those increases. Those wanting to increase deforestation above historic levels—still an emission, still a cost to the country—want to put all that cost to taxpayers rather than take responsibility for it themselves.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was not the Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, correct when he said that this emissions trading legislation is sounding more and more like the Electoral Finance Act where bland assurances were given by Ministers day after day in the House that it was all OK, yet it has subsequently turned completely to pickle, and should he not heed the advice of Mr Dunne that he slow down and take the extra time to get this important emissions trading scheme legislation right?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Those who were fortunate or unfortunate enough—I am not sure which it is—to sit on the select committee, or on the ministerial committees that have been considering these issues in detail for well over a year, can say, hand on heart, that this would be one of the most picked-over issues, and one of the most extensively researched. There have been longer hearings, more consultation, and greater periods of consideration, and I think this process is actually a credit on all those who participated in it.

/NR/rdonlyres/FAFB54CE-6B92-41F0-BC85-6904F42248A2/85468/48HansQ_20080619_00000517_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

9. Gangs—Police Estimates

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

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What are the latest police estimates of the number of criminal gangs, patched gang members, and gang associates in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : The police advise me from the latest figures they have that the estimated total number of patched gang members and associates is between 3,000 and 3,500 across New Zealand. They advise me that they are actively working on reviewing those figures. They stress that obtaining accurate figures is very difficult, due to factors such as people being dishonest with the police about their gang membership or associations, and because not all gangs wear patches, and, if they do, those patches are not worn all the time.

Ron Mark: How many dedicated squads within the police deal with crime involving gangs, and how many officers are involved in each of those squads?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am unable to give the member that information just now, but I will get it to him as soon as question time finishes. As the member is aware, there are a number of units. I do not have the figures with me.

Chester Borrows: Can the Minister confirm her answer to a written question that stated that despite the fact that the police had their own organised crime strategy from 2000 to 2004, when it expired it was never replaced or revised, and that the ministerial crime reduction group did not meet for 4 long years until 2007, so that for several lost years prior to the drive-by shooting of Jhia Te Tua in May last year the Government did nothing to target gangs?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, that is totally wrong. As the member knows, although the strategy date expired, the work did not stop. As that member found out when there was a drive-by shooting in Wanganui, out of which a lot of political capital was attempted to be made, the police did their job. They brought in the resources, they had their gang unit working, and they made the arrests that it was necessary to make.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister consider that having fewer than 200 officers dedicated to policing a group of criminals that is the size of the population of Napier, and who are responsible for almost all of the $1.5 billion annual methamphetamine trade, to be an acceptable response to the situation?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That would be true only if those police did not have the support of many other police with expert and specialised skills. There is no doubt that the police work as a team; they do not work in isolation.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister explain why the Asian crime unit has only five staff, only one of whom is Asian, when it is widely known that most of the methamphetamine and precursors that have been imported into the country are sourced from family and business connections in south China?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member will be aware that in terms of recruitment a lot of effort is going into recruiting more police officers with Asian backgrounds. But the police do not just rely on that; they have formed very good international links with colleagues in those countries where precursors come from. The intelligence work and the international work they do are not spoken about very loudly, but that work is very important in terms of combating the importation of precursors for methamphetamines.

Ron Mark: When can the public expect to see our police given the powers and extra resourcing to make a real impact on criminal gangs, so we arrive at a situation where the number of gang affiliates is falling, rather than the current situation where it is increasing daily?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As I already answered in replying to a question earlier today, considerable work has gone into increasing the powers of the police and also into establishing an organised crime agency to tackle organised crime in which gang members operate as organised criminals. The increased powers in the bill that I tabled today will be important, as will be the search and surveillance powers that come from the very good work that has been done by the Law Commission. I will be tabling a bill on that very soon, as well.

/NR/rdonlyres/829A3511-140C-4562-9B62-3603914FCAFE/85470/48HansQ_20080619_00000635_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

10. Education, Ministry—Confidence

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

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

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Yes, I do have confidence in the Ministry of Education, but it, like all of us, I am sure, can do better.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister think that spending nearly a quarter of a million dollars on packs with “Let’s get it on!” and “Out there!” written on them, and on DVDs, bookmarks, and badges that have “Wassup!” and “Nice!” written on them, is in any way a good use of taxpayers’ money when schools are already crying out for more funding just to teach reading, writing, and maths?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can say that any investment that lifts the potential and the learning outcomes of 21.9 percent of our students in New Zealand schools who are of Māori heritage is money well spent. My badge says “I love Māorisuccess”. Every member of this House should be wearing this badge.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In no way can it be acceptable to have 10 members from one political party shouting from the time that question was sought to be answered—and all 10 members are doing it again, right now. It demonstrates two things: that they elect to do this activity, and that they are a leaderless rabble for them to be allowed to get away with that—all 10 members. We cannot remotely hear what the answer is down here, because of that noise.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree. It was very, very difficult to hear, and it was obviously an orchestrated attempt so that people could not hear what was happening. Would members please take note: everyone has a right to hear.

Anne Tolley: What sort of kick in the guts is it for schools when, in the same week that the Minister tells them to “stop moaning and start teaching”, they are sent packs worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars containing DVDs that they will never watch, bookmarks that will be thrown in the bin, and badges with statements so patronising to students that teachers are refusing to wear them?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member is attempting to trivialise what is, in fact, a really important issue. In New Zealand at the moment, 21.9 percent of our students are of Māori heritage. Māori students at the moment have 2½ times less of a chance of success in school than European students, so there is Ka Hikitia, which is what this pack is about. The member attempts to trivialise it by citing the badges. The badges are a small part of the pack. The pack is about Ka Hikitia, which is about lifting success in learning for Māori students.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I must insist that there is no way that we can now have 14 members of Parliament all shouting—I have just counted; it is the whole of that front bench and four more members over here—during the answer to that question. With respect, Madam Speaker, why do they get away with it? If we tried it, we would be out of the House, but they do it every darned day.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I understand the member’s point. Those members who sit closest to the Chair are, unfortunately, the loudest. If it continues, I will be asking members to leave the Chamber.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member who asked the question represents an electorate where 61 percent of students are of Māori heritage. These are incredibly talented young people, many of whom are not achieving educational success at the moment. She should be wearing a badge like mine, because she should be sending out the message that she supports the aspirations of her constituents.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reports has the Minister seen about funding for education?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Under the Labour-led Government, school operations grants have increased by more than 40 percent since 1999, or by nearly 20 percent after inflation. New Zealand invests 4.4 percent of our GDP on compulsory schooling, which is way ahead of Australia, the US, and the UK. I am advised that today the National member Anne Tolley told the Auckland Primary Principals Association breakfast this morning that under National there would be no extra funding for education on top of the cost of living. At last we have a policy that has been released.

Judy Turner: Has the Minister received advice from ministry staff about policy inconsistencies that see, for instance, the answer to written question No. 3369—that the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme funding is eligibility-led, not capped—while school principals report having to divert money from their operations grant to fund shortfalls in such funding for children with special needs; if he has been advised about this, what does he plan to do about it?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: No, I have not been advised of that. But I would like to share with the member a piece of advice I just had from Mana College, referring back to our badges, which stated: “The staff of Mana College send support to you in regard to the buttons issue. Today we are wearing a button each to stimulate discussion with our students, as you intended.” Some people need to get a life.

Judy Turner: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I appreciate the Minister’s answer, but it was not an answer to my question; he was still answering the previous question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, he did address the member’s question at the beginning.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister tell the House—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With all due respect, the Minister did not mention the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme funding once during that answer. That is what the question was about.

Madam SPEAKER: No, but I heard that the Minister did actually address it by saying that he could not, and he then went on to move from there. So he was addressing the question. It may—sit down! It may not be a satisfactory answer, but Ministers are entitled to answer addressed questions in that way.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Are they?

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, they are; would that member please leave the Chamber.

 Hon Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.

Madam SPEAKER: Order in the Chamber has been slowly deteriorating as the afternoon has gone on, and it is becoming very difficult, actually, to hear. If members could only listen to themselves—at times, I am sure they will be silly, as my emails will tell me when I get back to the office. Now if we could all please just address the question. As I said, that was not a satisfactory answer according to some, but the question was addressed.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister tell the House—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. Would Tony Ryall please leave the Chamber. This way we might steadily be able to get some order back in the Chamber.

 Hon Tony Ryall withdrew from the Chamber.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister tell the House what the word “Wassup!” means, what the Māori etymology of the word “Wassup!” is, how that word “Wassup!” on badges on kids in schools will help with Māori literacy, and why it was worth wasting $56,000 on badges with this word on them when principals are dismayed that Ministers can tell them there is no blank cheque for them, but there is when it comes to gimmicky and patronising promotional material?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is interesting that the member mentioned principals. She told them this morning, of course, that they were getting no more cash. It will be really interesting to see what their reaction is to that. “Wassup!” is something that a group of students might say. They are the sort of people whom we want to connect with with these badges—not middle-aged, middle-class people, but youngsters who currently are not succeeding in our education. I am really appalled that that member and members of the National Party are today trying to trivialise a strategy and a project that is about lifting educational outcomes for Māori students. Anne Tolley represents a constituency where 61 percent of pupils are of Māori heritage. She should be ashamed of what she is saying in the House today.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will no doubt rule that that addressed the question, but it was not by any stretch of the imagination an answer. The Minister was asked for the meaning of the word on his badge.

Madam SPEAKER: The member well knows—as he said—that the Minister addressed the question. The Speaker is not responsible for the answer to those questions.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reports has the Minister received about support for the implementation of the Māori education strategy Ka Hikitia—Managing for Success?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have received a very positive report, and I am glad to say that it came from a National Party member. I have seen a report from a media interview on Radio New ZealandNational this morning where the MP Colin King, who is one of National’s education spokespersons, said in relation to the pack that Mrs Tolley has just been attempting to denigrate: “Whatever can be done to engage people so that they come out of the other end of their education with a positive experience has to be good for all New Zealanders.” If there is a cost-benefit analysis done and it pays, then we can prove that it will be fantastic. At least one of Mrs Tolley’s caucus members has some concern about Māori students—

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister knows that he went too far.

Anne Tolley: Why does the Minister think that schools should listen to him and “stop moaning” when they see this sort of tasteless waste from the ministry—waste that does nothing for the 150,000 kids who are failing in our schools in the tail of underachievers, and does nothing for the literacy and numeracy skills of the 46 percent of Māori boys and 42 percent of Māori girls who are leaving school without any form of qualification?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have heard no criticism of Ka Hikitia anywhere in the education sector. Mrs Tolley is trying to trivialise the pack with her attack on the buttons. These handouts are summaries of the Ka Hikitia programme. They went out with and were the main thrust of the pack that each teacher in New Zealand received. They are about lifting the achievement of Māori students. Surely, that is something that everybody in this House would support. I seek leave to table the pack that went out to all schools in New Zealand 4 days ago on Ka Hikitia.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/70CEC34A-03D2-4019-9F28-59FEE66E804F/85472/48HansQ_20080619_00000695_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

11. Smoking—Reports

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

11. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Health: What recent reports have there been on smoking in New Zealand?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) : This excellent Labour-led Government recently announced that New Zealand’s smoking rate has fallen to a record low of 19.9 percent—the first time on record that it has ever been below 20 percent. The latest New Zealand Health Survey shows that smoking has fallen by almost 5 percent across the population since 2003. This means there are 150,000 fewer smokers, half of whom would have died as a result of smoking. Fewer youth are smoking now, too. The latest Action on Smoking and Health year 10 survey shows that under this Labour-led Government youth smoking has more than halved, from 28 percent of youth in 1999 to 12 percent in 2007. The record shows that our Government has had significant success in reducing the smoking rate in this country.

Lesley Soper: What is the Government doing to further lower the smoking rate?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: That is another excellent question. In this year’s Budget the Government committed an extra $8 million a year for smoking cessation. This is on top of the extra $10 million per year we announced last year, and takes the total annual spend to $55 million. We are funding many cessation programmes: nicotine replacement therapy; this week we launched Txt2Quit; and last month we launched our new, hard-hitting TV advertisements. Our policies to reduce smoking are working. They are about stopping children and young people from starting, and about helping people to quit. They are not about sitting around in corporate boxes blowing smoke in people’s faces.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the latest United Nations health report says that the country with the greatest incidence of longevity, or the lowest incidence of heart failure and strokes, is also the country with the greatest per capita intake of cigarette smoking—namely, Japan—why is the Minister not focusing on that which is important, which is diet, rather than poking his nose into the minds and lives of ordinary working people who have very few pleasures, and are simply trying to survive in this difficult world?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: That is an excellent question. This Government is doing a huge amount in the area of healthy eating and healthy action. We have a number of programmes under way. But I do not buy into that member’s assumption that Japanese people live longer because they smoke more.

/NR/rdonlyres/DE80A779-E2EA-4231-9B9F-BFF333E9CD17/85474/48HansQ_20080619_00000824_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 19 June 2008 [PDF 202k]

12. Police Response—Navtej Singh Shooting

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

12. CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the Minister of Police: Is she satisfied with the timeliness of the police response to the robbery and shooting of Navtej Singh at his liquor store in Manurewa on 7 June; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : I will await the outcome of the police debrief, and I suggest the member does the same.

Chester Borrows: Does she acknowledge the concern of New Zealanders who are still wondering why police waited nearly half an hour to secure the scene before sending in medical help, yet Mr Navtej Singh’s wife, friend, and at least 10 customers were able to enter the store while Mr Singh lay dying, and repeatedly told police that the offenders were long gone?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I feel for the family hugely; I know they want answers, and, of course, the public do, too. But I will not pre-empt the investigation that takes place after such an event. As a former police officer, that member knows that an investigation will take place, and that the police will look at whether they could have done things differently or better. But to pretend that, before that investigation takes place, we know what happened does a disservice to the police.

Chester Borrows: Can she confirm that the latest information available on police response times to priority call-outs is for the year ended 30 June 2005, because a new reporting system that was to be completed before the end of September 2007 got pushed back to the end of 2007, and is now due on 30 June 2008; and how can the public be assured that the police are improving their response times to emergency calls, when they cannot be held accountable for their performance in the last 3 years?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Of course they are held accountable, and they are held accountable in the most public way possible; the spotlight is on the New Zealand Police every day of the week. In fact, no other organisation, in my view, has the same sort of scrutiny that the New Zealand Police has.

Chester Borrows: Does she accept the view of the Sikh Society that there are still some unanswered questions for the police and other authorities about why Navtej Singh did not get treatment when he was shot; and if the Sikh Society were confident that an internal review would be sufficient, why would it decide to make a complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority “to ensure no one else is put in the same situation”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I share the society’s concerns, because it does want answers. But I would say to the member that I have read the comments made by the secretary of the Sikh Society and they include this statement: “We would like to put on record our appreciation of the proactive stance taken by New Zealand Police to address our community concerns regarding the circumstances around the death, as well as the concerns of the general owner-operated retailing business community.” That was said by the Sikh community. We could play politics with this matter all day, but I believe we ought to wait until the debrief has occurred before we jump to conclusions.

Chester Borrows: Does she accept the information given to those of us who met with retailers in South Auckland last week that businesses are robbed with violence or threats on a daily basis, and that those incidents go unreported because the victims do not believe that the police can respond in an effective and timely manner?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I do not accept that, because anyone who does not report to the police a robbery of his or her premises is being very foolhardy. How can the police respond if a robbery is not reported?

Chester Borrows: Does she agree with the local Labour MP, George Hawkins, when he said that he did not have confidence that the police would adequately review their response to the robbery and shooting of Mr Singh, and can she explain how a former Minister of Police for 6 years under her Government could make such a statement without his calling into question the integrity of previous police inquiries?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think the member will find that George Hawkins subsequently said that he is pleased with the action the police have taken in the appointment of—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I really do think that on this question, which is about the murder of someone and the subsequent police inquiry, we could actually avoid, for once, guffawing and laughter from the Opposition.

Hon Bill English: We find the implication of that comment unpleasant. The guffawing and laughter was about the obvious division between the Labour Party machine and the local member, George Hawkins. That was what the guffawing was about—not the tragic death of an inhabitant of Manurewa.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That was a pretty pathetic attempt at a rescue. The fact is Opposition members easily fell back into their usual behaviour, forgetting the seriousness of the question—and Mr Borrows has been asking his questions seriously, as well.

Madam SPEAKER: I think members have noticed that, and they will be judged accordingly by those who are listening and viewing them.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Mr Hawkins is perfectly capable of speaking for himself. But I can tell that member that George Hawkins has said that he is pleased with the police action in appointing the Tasman police district commander, Superintendent Grant O’Fee, to undertake a review, and the community has been told that that review will be made public.

ENDS


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Wellington City Council is partnering with the University of Otago, Wellington, to launch a voluntary Rental Warrant of Fitness for minimum housing standards in Wellington, Mayor Justin Lester has announced. More>>

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Treaty: Agreement In Principle Signed With Moriori

“The Crown acknowledges Moriori was left virtually landless from 1870, hindering its cultural, social and economic development. The Crown also acknowledges its contribution to the myths that the people of Moriori were racially inferior and became extinct." More>>

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Susan Devoy: Call For Inquiry Into State Abuse Reaches UN

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is in Geneva and has asked a United Nations committee to urge the New Zealand government to initiate an inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of children and disabled people held in state institutions. More>>

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(Not National): Cross-Party Agreement On Pike River Re-Entry

The commitment was signed this afternoon by the leaders of Labour, United Future, The Maori Party, and the Green Party and, together with the earlier commitment by New Zealand First, means that there is now a Parliamentary majority behind the families’ fight for truth and justice. More>>

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