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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 25 June 2008

1. Referendum—Organisation

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement, in relation to the possibility of holding a referendum alongside the general election, that “Just in terms of sheer organisation I don't think that is possible.”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

John Key: If election officials can handle the very complex arrangements of a snap election, why has the Prime Minister decided that they are incapable of dealing with a considerably less complicated referendum within a similar time frame?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: On the contrary, the Government has accepted the advice of the Ministry of Justice that should the petition succeed in triggering referenda, referenda should be held by postal ballot in 2009.

John Key: Why is the Prime Minister so opposed to New Zealanders exercising their democratic rights to be heard that she is using alleged technical difficulties to suppress the will of the New Zealand people?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, if there are sufficient signatures there will be a referendum. But in line with the advice we have received—and it is strong advice—the best course is a postal ballot next year.

Sue Bradford: How does the Prime Minister see the required review of the law that will take place in 2009 fitting in with the possibility of a referendum?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That has not been considered as having any relevance to the timing of the referendum. Rather, the Ministry of Justice, based on its experience of conducting such referenda at the time of the 1999 general election, has given strong advice that that caused voter confusion and congestion in polling places, and delayed the count. It further advised that to hold the referendum, if one is triggered, at the time of the general election would require more staff, more polling places, more training, and greater organisation. Indeed, a decision would need to have been made in April this year to proceed, at a time before it was even clear there were enough signatures for a petition—which is clearly ridiculous.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister noticed the trend that all other New Zealanders have noticed, that her Government does not like the New Zealand public being able to express their view on democracy—they are about to be stopped from being able to exercise their democratic view through a referendum on the anti-smacking legislation at the election, and they are being stopped from exercising their democratic rights through the deeply flawed and cynical Electoral Finance Act—and why does the Prime Minister not just admit that she finds the voters of New Zealand an annoyance?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: On the contrary, over a long period of time I have found them very supportive. I find it very interesting that the Leader of the Opposition is now running around saying he wants a referendum so that he can disguise from conservatives the fact that he voted for the child discipline bill in the first place—something he would like them to forget.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that unlike her I actually have respect for the New Zealand public’s right to express their views, while she is so arrogantly out of touch with New Zealanders she has forgotten what that is like?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I do not flip-flop on every issue that comes before this House.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that to run a referendum outside of election time would cost millions and millions of dollars, or, once again, does she have so little respect for taxpayers’ dollars that she is prepared to have them wasted when she could just run the referendum at election time; or is she running scared of that election?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The assertions in that question are absolute proof that the Leader of the Opposition does not have a clue what he is talking about. The advice from the Ministry of Justice is that the relative costs of holding the referendum at the general election or in a postal ballot are roughly the same.

Gordon Copeland: As Larry Baldock, leader of the Kiwi Party, is the promoter of this petition, I seek the leave of the House to ask a supplementary question. If leave is granted, I would do that on the basis that I am prepared to drop a supplementary question next week.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.

/NR/rdonlyres/A2CBEE91-6521-4785-BAF6-C5D66CD739DD/85854/48HansQ_20080625_00000053_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

2. Vulnerable Workers—Legislative Changes

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

2. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What legislative changes is he promoting to protect vulnerable workers?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Labour) : Employment protections for casual workers are to be strengthened under proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act. Alongside amendments to ensure that shift workers can transfer public holidays and to ensure that workers have meal and rest breaks—in time to feed children where appropriate—guidance will be provided to assist employers to understand and comply with obligations to casual and temporary workers. Casual working relationships tend to be subject to change over time, so the status of these vulnerable workers is not always obvious. I think it is also important to place on the record of the House the contribution of both Peter Brown from New Zealand First, and Darien Fenton, for their work in this area.

Darien Fenton: How do these enhancements compare with other approaches to employment relations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: They compare very well. I have seen reports of a party that would make 4 weeks’ annual leave negotiable again, tests of reasonableness would be repealed for dismissal of employees, provisions protecting employees against oppressive fixed-term contracts would be repealed, and people would be allowed to be sacked in their first 90 days of work if they complain of sexual harassment. And there have been various flip-flops on the question of whether National would keep the KiwiSaver contribution from employers—and I thank Kate Wilkinson for her honesty on that question.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that because of my flexible working hours arrangements legislation a new employment right will come into effect next Tuesday, 1 July, that will mean that all employees with dependants will have the right to request flexible working hours so they can, if they wish, try to better juggle paid work and family responsibilities?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not only can I confirm that, but I can confirm that the anti-worker party opposite voted against it.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm the query in the principal question that the legislation is not to remove the category of casual employee but rather to ensure that so-called casual employees who have worked regularly on pretty much a permanent basis are recognised and get a degree of fairness and official commitment from their employer?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member is exactly right. There are a lot of people who are described as casual workers but who are actually permanent workers, sometimes permanent part-time workers. There are examples of employers who have so-called casuals on long-term rosters. Very predictable employment like that cannot possibly be casual according to the test that has been applied by the courts. The problem at the moment is that someone has to go to court or the employment relations authority to get a ruling. That is expensive and takes time. Having the labour inspectors able to make a determination in this area is a cheap, simple way of ensuring that workers are paid properly.

Peter Brown: Noting that answer, does the Minister agree with New Zealand First that any fair-minded employer will have little or nothing to fear from this proposed legislation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I absolutely agree with the member. I think it is sad that, for example, Business New Zealand, which normally has a rational approach to these matters and can understand and take the position of the fair and reasonable employer, in this case has got it very badly wrong and has decided to line up with the anti-family, anti-worker party opposite.

Paula Bennett: In light of the Minister’s concern about temporary and casual workers, I seek to table the answers to written questions showing that his own department employs 143 casual workers.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/8DCC6E99-43A5-4A80-BBAB-A5E3E9DF9713/85856/48HansQ_20080625_00000120_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

3. Electoral Finance Act—Operation

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

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is the Electoral Finance Act 2007 working as the Government intended; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes, and as with all new legislation there is a bedding down period during which the legislation is implemented.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the Department of Internal Affairs has had to issue guidelines to ministerial staff and the Minister’s office to tell them what they should take into account in drafting a press release so they can ensure that the press release is not an election advertisement, and has she seen those guidelines?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, but I believe the department will be being very cautious, as we would expect it to be.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the guidelines issued to ministerial staff mean they must take into account the following when they are drafting a press release: references in the communication to the election; references to MPs or their party’s policies for that election and what they will do if elected or re-elected; formatting or branding of the communication in any way similar to the party’s own election material; and the extent to which the communication criticises other parties or candidates; and can she assure the House that none of the press releases issued by ministerial offices breach any of those criteria?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In relation to the first part of the question, no; but it does back up my original answer that the departments are being very cautious, as we would expect them to be.

Hon Bill English: Am I correct in hearing that the Minister cannot give the House an assurance that Ministers’ offices are acting according to these guidelines, and, if that is the case, what does she intend to do about it as the large number of press releases that appear on the Beehive website do include references to the election, references to party policies, criticism of other parties’ policies, and so on?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would give everybody the same advice that the Department of Internal Affairs was giving: to be very cautious and careful in terms of what they are doing.

Hon Bill English: What are MPs and party campaigners to make of advice from the Chief Electoral Officer that any telephone canvassing that mentions the name of a candidate or a party constitutes an election advertisement, and that at the end of that telephone call the person making the call has to say: “This call has been authorised by the financial agent.”, when Parliament has passed a law that specifically exempts polling and telephone canvassing from the Electoral Finance Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: My answer is that the law that was passed by Parliament is the law that should be upheld.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the law that was passed by Parliament is a law whereby no one knows yet whether it is legal to display a party logo and we might not find out until after the election, where specific exemptions for telephone canvassing appear not to apply in reality, and where the law requires all billboards now to be expensed as if the timber was all brand new, even if it has been used for several elections in a row; and what are MPs to make of that kind of nonsense?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would say to MPs that they should take very, very little notice of that member, because yesterday in this House he claimed that the logo on the ballot paper would have to be authorised. He claims he knows an awful lot about the Electoral Act. He would know, then, that it would not have to be authorised, because the Electoral Act 1993 requires the logo to be on the ballot paper.

/NR/rdonlyres/E8A20DCC-A4DA-4C32-BE45-F1E57517145D/85858/48HansQ_20080625_00000171_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

4. Gangs—Police Estimates

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

4. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Further to her answer provided last week stating the estimated total number of patched gang members and associates is between 3,000 and 3,500, what is the latest estimate of the number of gang affiliates which the New Zealand Police estimated in 2002 to be 21,882?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : The figures I advised the House of came from the New Zealand Police. The estimated affiliate figures of 21,882 in 2002 are likely to be the result of a broader definition, including hang-arounds, hangers-on, and wannabes. As I said in my answer yesterday, and last week, the New Zealand Police advised me that determining accurate gang membership figures is challenging, but it is more important that the police respond to gang-related activity rather than just count it.

Ron Mark: Does she accept that, given the 2002 figure quoted by the previous Minister of Police included “major gangs only’, the total number of gang affiliates, including youth gangs, is likely to be much higher; and does she agree with Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Gutry’s statement Inside New Zealand last Thursday that for every patched member there are probably five or 10 associates of the gang?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think that the most important word in the comment from Mark Gutry was “probably”, and that is because the New Zealand Police has difficulty in counting patched members, affiliates, associates, and so on for the very reasons I set out in this House last week, and that answer stands.

Chester Borrows: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that over 26,000 separate charges were placed before the courts in 2007 against persons identified as having gang connections; if so, how many gang members who have been before the courts in the past year, such as those who allegedly cut a swathe through a Hawke’s Bay party with machetes and baseball bats last weekend, have effectively been given a “get out of jail free” card because of the delay in bringing the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill into the House?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I stand by the 26,000 figure that I gave yesterday. That is the figure provided to me by my officials and I have no reason to doubt it. They have been taken before the courts and those who received punishment received the appropriate punishment. I think it is supposition from the member to say that they would have got different penalties. I think we would need to know what each of the cases was.

Ron Mark: Does she agree with former police detective Mike Sabin that police should dedicate as many resources to drug offences as to road policing, and why does the Asian crime unit have only five staff when it is widely known that most of the imported methamphetamine and precursors are being sourced from family and business connections in south China?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Because the Asian crime unit is but one of five units within the New Zealand Police that work on such issues. As I said to the member last week, police do not work just from a unit perspective; they work across all parts of the New Zealand Police. They work internationally. They have offices overseas in terms of work with overseas countries, particularly in south China. The way to tackle the drug issue—which is a serious issue; I agree with the member in that respect—is not by having five staff in an Asian crime unit but by having those members working with other members of the New Zealand Police and working internationally.

Ron Mark: What confidence should the people of New Zealand have in her Government’s ability to protect them from gang violence and intimidation when it has such a naïve view of the scale and depth of the gang problem in their communities and when the police still do not accept the need for a nationally-led and nationally-organised assault on gangs, run by the commissioner himself?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I disagree with the member. First of all, this Government takes gangs seriously. Secondly, I have a lot of confidence in the police and in the work they are undertaking every day of the week—much of it unseen by the public of New Zealand, but certainly led from the top in New Zealand. I also have confidence in the new Organised and Financial Crime Agency that this Government is establishing, which transfers over powers that were held only by the Serious Fraud Office into an agency that will have broader powers to be able to fight organised crime, much of which is committed by gang members.

/NR/rdonlyres/A9116162-0084-4DC5-9B47-2CD8FCEF8295/85860/48HansQ_20080625_00000230_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

5. Biofuels—Compulsory Requirement

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

5. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Why is the Government proceeding with its compulsory biofuels requirement from 1 October when today’s Oxfam report Another Inconvenient Truth calls for a “freeze on the implementation of further biofuel mandates ...”?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : As I have said many times, we do need to take care that we do not create one problem while solving another. However, this risk is very responsibly addressed in the bill. I quote from the executive director of Oxfam—or the author of the report for Oxfam—Barry Coates, who on Radio New Zealand National this morning said: “ ‘There is a place for biofuels and for biomass production to produce energy but it needs to be well controlled, well regulated …’. Presenter: ‘So you’re not suggesting there’s anything wrong in someone in New Zealand going to try and make biofuels?’ Mr Coates: ‘Produced locally and under the right kinds of conditions, biofuels can help out. … It’s good that the New Zealand proposed legislation does have sustainability safeguards proposed to be added to it. … It needs the proper regulatory structure to make sure that the source of the biofuels are not from unsustainable sources.’ ” That is why we are putting it in place, and, as the Green Party has said, the sustainability clause we are putting forward is the strictest in the world.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm that on 1 October there will be no principles and there will be no sustainability standard—at best it might exist a year or two later—and that both the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and Oxfam have made it abundantly plain that they oppose his bill and that they see it as contributing to the problems of world poverty and hunger that are being highlighted all over the globe?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot confirm that, because it is not correct. Sustainability guidelines are set out in the legislation that are already quite detailed—they actually run to about a page in the proposed legislation. The regulations pursuant to them do not immediately come into effect; what does come into effect is an immediate obligation for reporting on the oil companies’ part as to the source of their biofuels. The other reality, which the member ignores, is that biofuels are already produced in New Zealand and can already be sold in New Zealand without any sustainability safeguards. This legislation introduces those sustainability safeguards so as to make things better, not worse.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister commit to putting up an Order in Council before 1 October to require oil companies to report on the origins of any biofuels they import and blend with their fuel, and to post that information at the pump, so that New Zealand’s sustainable biofuel policy is totally transparent during the 9 months before the mandatory standard can come into effect?

Hon DAVID PARKER: In respect of the first part of that question, the answer is certainly, we commit to those regulations. As to whether it would be practical to require notices at every pump, I have not given thought to that yet, so I reserve my position on that.

Moana Mackey: What are the implications for the New Zealand consumer of our not proceeding with cost-effective substitutes for expensive fossil fuels?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Motorists are already watching with horror as petrol prices continue to rise. We are proposing solutions that start to wean us off that expensive imported oil, and National is opposing them. Just like with the emissions trading scheme, with energy-efficient light bulbs, and again with biofuels, the National Party opposes any initiative that will reduce living costs for New Zealanders, because it is on the side of big business, not on the side of average New Zealanders, whom the Labour-led Government is trying to help.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister answer a very simple question: why is he proceeding with a compulsory biofuels requirement on 1 October when there will be no legal obligation to meet a sustainability standard for at least a year?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because I am satisfied that it is the responsible thing to do. I am somewhat heartened that the Green Party—and I do not think there would be many people in this Parliament who would doubt the credentials of the Greens to have reasoned opinions on these issues—is supportive of this approach. I am confident that what we are doing is the right thing to do. I would also note, with respect to the interjections from the National Party, that the figures those members are quoting in respect of their estimates of cost are way out of date. They are the estimates that came to the select committee at the start of the select committee process, before we had these major increases in the price of oil. The latest advice, as I said yesterday, is that biofuels are expected to reduce costs to motorists.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister commit to a thorough consultation process with Oxfam and other non-governmental organisations in the development of the sustainability standard, so that their on-the-ground knowledge of food issues in developing countries can contribute to our having the best possible sustainability standard?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am very happy to do that. That is absolutely consistent with the principles we have already laid out in the legislation. In summary, those relate to there having to be at least a 35 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, that there not be competition with food production, and that we do not adversely affect indigenous biodiversity. All of those principles are now clearly articulated in the legislation, and in terms of the detailed regulations surrounding those and under those, I am very happy to commit to consult with, amongst others, Oxfam.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does it not show the mess that the Government’s biofuels policy is in when Oxfam says that it will contribute to the 30 million people in poverty, and that “it’s important that we fix the Government’s biofuels bill”, when the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment says that the bill should not proceed, and that it will damage New Zealand’s clean, green reputation, and when we have even the biofuels industry itself saying that this bill is flawed because it provides an artificial 42 cents a litre advantage for ethanol over biodiesel when ethanol is more likely to be imported unsustainably, and contribute to the very difficulties that concern Oxfam?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have already quoted extensively from Mr Coates from Oxfam on the radio today. I did not misrepresent his comments, and I think they answer the question the member put.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the report from Oxfam, Another Inconvenient Truth, on how biofuel policy—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/8038BEE5-1766-4FDE-8B9C-D0EBAEBEB335/85862/48HansQ_20080625_00000285_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

6. School Funding—Reports

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

6. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What reports, if any, has he recently received on school funding?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : I have seen a report where National’s Wayne Mapp repeated the claims of his leader, John Key, that his party would fund extra funding for schools by slashing staff at the Ministry of Education. Actually, the total wages bill for all Ministry of Education staff not directly involved in front-line support services, such as working with special-needs pupils, is $54.6 million. Even if a future National Government sacked every one of those staff, that would equate to $21,900 per New Zealand school—not even enough for those schools to hire an extra teacher. Indeed, there would not even be enough to build the recently completed Botany Downs Secondary College and Albany Junior High School, which came to $86.7 million. This shows once again that National’s 2008 education policy is just empty slogans that are designed to mask no commitment to quality public education.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Can the Minister tell the House what other reports he has seen about school funding promises?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen two reports. The first is a report from the North Shore Times dated 13 May where requests to increase the schools’ operations grant by 20 percent, resource scheme funding by 30 percent, and information and communications technology grants to $100 per student—commitments totalling $349 million—are described in the article by Anne Tolley MP as being along the same lines as likely National Party policy. The second report is also from Mrs Tolley. Last Thursday she told 200 primary school principals in Auckland: “the one thing I can tell you is there will be no extra funding for education on top of the cost of living.” At last National comes clean. Its only education policy so far is one of providing more money for private schools, privatising school buildings, and gutting the Ministry of Education.

Judy Turner: What advice can the Minister give classroom teachers as to whether they should remain in the classroom to care for their students or chase after a special-needs child who has absconded due to not being supported by sufficient teacher-aide hours to moderate that child’s behaviour and keep the child on task, and does he support the boards of trustees that are dipping into their operational grants to offset the shortfalls in ongoing resourcing scheme funding?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can tell that teacher, along with every other one of the 43,000 teachers we have in our country, that the Labour-led Government absolutely values education. That is why we have put $5 billion extra into education. That is why we have employed 6,024 extra teachers, above roll growth. That is why, in the last 3 years, we have spent $1.2 billion on new schools, gyms, administration blocks, and so on. That is why we have introduced 20 free hours’ early childhood education for every 3 and 4-year-old in New Zealand. That is why we have increased teachers’ salaries, on average, by 36 percent and principals’ salaries, on average, by 43 percent.

Judy Turner: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I had two questions in there, and neither of them was addressed by the Minister’s answer, at all.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed them very generally, but he may wish to add something to his answer.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would like to add that we see the needs of special education as being very important. That is why 70 percent of the staff at the Ministry of Education are involved in front-line services that support exactly the situation the member has raised. Those are the people whom Mr Key wants to slash.

Anne Tolley: What does the Minister have to say to the chairman of the board of trustees of a South Auckland secondary school, who said: “I am sick and tired of hearing the Minister keep repeating that Labour has committed an extra $5 billion since 1999 for education. That may be true, but the vast majority of the funds have not gone to the students or schools but to bureaucrats.”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would be delighted to have a conversation with that chairperson of a board of trustees. I would tell him that the member who has just asked the question, who happens to be National’s education spokesperson, has said there would be no more extra funds for schools, above the cost of living. I am sure he would be very surprised to hear that, but he need only to ask the principal of his school about it, because that member said those words in front of 200 primary school principals last week.

/NR/rdonlyres/78861CA8-ECD4-4B11-B7CA-60B3E17F6A83/85864/48HansQ_20080625_00000355_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

7. Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill —Introduction

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

7. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Why did it take nearly a year to introduce the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill, when it was approved by Cabinet on 9 July 2007?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Although Cabinet approved the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill in July 2007, it also directed that further work be undertaken to combat organised crime. Tackling organised crime requires a strategic, investigative enforcement and legislative response. The only way that that can be achieved is through a coordinated package of initiatives, rather than a piecemeal approach, and that is exactly what the Government is doing.

Simon Power: Can she confirm the claim made on the blog of Colin Espiner, the political editor of theChristchurch Press, that a member of her staff told Mr Espiner that the introduction of the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill was delayed for a year, after it was approved by Cabinet, because the previous Minister of Justice, Mark Burton, was “busy that year” as the “Electoral Finance Act took up a lot of his time”; if so, why was the Electoral Finance Act put ahead of strengthening the law against gangs?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm that, and I have not read Mr Espiner’s blog. I can tell the member that the work that was undertaken by Ministry of Justice officials and by Cabinet included development of a strategy, which was released; the setting up of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency; legislation; and work that the Law Commission had undertaken in respect of search and surveillance, as part of our legislative approach. That work was all brought together, and, as that member knows, at the beginning of the year I made announcements that outlined all the approaches we were taking.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the copy of the bill that her office sent to the Leader of the Opposition last week to seek support for the legislation not only had on it the name of the previous Minister but also was printed on 10 September 2007 and included a commencement date of 18 December 2007; if so, what derailed the Government from getting the law against gangs strengthened by the end of last year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The bill that was sent over to the Leader of the Opposition had the previous Minister’s name on it because to send him another copy of the bill with my name on it would have meant that it had to be reprinted. Why waste money on that when we wanted to know whether the National Party—

Gerry Brownlee: That’s not the point.

Hon ANNETTE KING: It was the point, I say to Mr Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee: You haven’t read the bill.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I certainly have read it. In fact, even Gerry Brownlee could have read it, because it is only about two pages long. We did not know whether we had the support of the National Party for this bill, because it had opposed major legislation that we had brought before the House, including the Parole Act and the Sentencing Act—legislation that National members now say they believe in, but which they voted against.

Simon Power: Did the Minister write to the Leader of the Opposition for support on the Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Bill because she could not get the support of the Government’s support parties; if that is the case, which party did not support the legislation?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I sought support for this bill in April this year from other parties. They had to take it to their various caucuses; they had to have their own discussions. We work closely with our confidence and supply partners, and we will continue to work with them in good faith. One thing we know how to do is work with other parties in this House, rather than spending day after day, as the National Party does, bagging third parties in the House and treating them with disdain.

Simon Power: Which of the 10 law and order bills that either are currently before the House or were promised to be introduced will be passed in the 19 scheduled sitting days for Government orders of the day that remain before the House rises for the general election?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As many as possible.

/NR/rdonlyres/9D81A73F-98EC-4C31-AFF6-8388E7C3D046/85866/48HansQ_20080625_00000406_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

8. Social Development, Ministry—Lump-sum Payment

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

8. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is the Ministry of Social Development planning to reward union member employees with a lump-sum payment in the 2008/09 financial year; if so, how much will each employee receive?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : This is an employment matter for the chief executive. I am really surprised that the member did not take the opportunity to ask the chief executive for details of this when he appeared at the select committee last week, for nearly 2 hours, given that the specific answer to the member’s question was included in answers to the estimates.

Judith Collins: Is it not true that Ministry of Social Development union members received bonuses in the election years of 2002 and 2005, and that now in 2008 they have been told they will get $750 each; and does this not imply that the bonus is the payback for the Public Service Association yet again campaigning for Labour in an election year?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, that is not correct. The union negotiation covering the collective agreement by the respective workers does not always fall in an election year. Some years it does—in fact, once every 3 years it falls in an election year. In the other years it is not in an election year.

Hon Mark Gosche: What contribution does the Ministry of Social Development make to improving outcomes for New Zealanders?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The staff of the Ministry of Social Development works hard to support New Zealanders, including over the last 12 months delivering financial assistance to over 1 million New Zealanders, including 500,000 superannuitants; responding to 71,000 notifications of potential child abuse and neglect; supporting 5,000 people to move from benefit into paid work; providing intensive wraparound services to 500 of New Zealand’s most vulnerable families, including over 1,300 children; and leading the task force for action on the prevention of family violence.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister think that employees should receive taxpayer-funded bonuses in election years just because they are union members; if so, does she think that is fair for non-union members?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In my view the agreement in a collective agreement should be delivered, whether or not it is an election year.

Judith Collins: How can she justify awarding staff election-year bonuses just for being a member of the Public Service Association (PSA), and should not bonuses be related to employment performance rather than union membership?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is a matter for the chief executive.

Judith Collins: When is this Minister going to take some responsibility; what is the connection between election-year bonuses to union members and the PSA’s campaign against larger tax cuts on behalf of the Labour Party—is she now going to say there is no connection?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There is no connection between the election year and the year in which the negotiations come into effect. If there are any parts of the agreement to be delivered they are delivered every year, not just in an election year. The implication that the member makes is disgraceful.

/NR/rdonlyres/B079BB66-9F0C-432D-80C9-25D354E4FD73/85868/48HansQ_20080625_00000465_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

9. Building and Construction Sector—Flexibility and Costs

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

9. Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Has he received any reports on the progress being made to increase flexibility and reduce costs in the building and construction sector?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) : Yes, the department has provided me with a number of reports on the progress being made to increase flexibility and reduce costs in the sector. As a consequence of that, changes to the Building Act will be introduced that I am confident will increase flexibility and reduce costs. I shall outline them briefly, for the edification of other members in the House: project information memoranda will be voluntary in the future; the functions of the Department of Building and Housing will be extended so that national multiple-use approvals can be issued for houses that are to be replicated on a substantive scale across regions; there will be an improvement to the process for managing variations to consented work; and a host of other things, which I shall make available to the public very soon, are also on the way.

Hon Paul Swain: Can this visionary Minister outline the projected savings from these truly outstanding initiatives?

Hon SHANE JONES: I shall give a modest reply! It has been identified that the amount of building work that will no longer require a building consent represents a reduction of about 10 percent. I have been advised by very senior building inspectors around the country that the estimated savings in consent fees could very well be up to $10 million per annum, resulting in substantial savings for homeowners, and freeing up resources and time within local government so that it can focus on areas where risk is particularly large.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister see a rich irony in his Government spending 8½ years increasing bureaucracy and costs for the building industry and for local councils, but then, in its last 6 months, having a road to Damascus conversion in response to polling concerns; and when will we actually see either a bill to amend the disastrous Building Act 2004, or reductions in the building levy, which was trebled by this Government to over $40 million a year?

Hon SHANE JONES: The Building Act was a reaction to the failure to act during the period of time that National was in power. Secondly, this is a dynamic situation. The construction and housing sector goes through changes, and these amendments and alterations are being implemented to reflect the changing, dynamic nature of the environment.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table documents from the Wellington City Council that show that this week it has announced a threefold increase in its fees for minor earthworks.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/E3E4E278-9B22-4E83-8477-972A9849A0DB/85870/48HansQ_20080625_00000524_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

10. Visa and Permit Applicants—Declaration

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

10. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Is it correct that all applicants for visas and permits must be of good character, and that applicants are required to declare when applying for residence whether or not they are under investigation in any country?

Hon SHANE JONES (Associate Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would it be evidence of good character if an applicant who was a solicitor had altered a rape complainant’s statement without the complainant’s agreement, and added sodomy to the allegation of rape, while being fully aware that the further allegation was untrue—behaviour that led to that solicitor being struck off in the United Kingdom for her proven dishonesty—would that be evidence of good character?

Hon SHANE JONES: When applicants wanting to come to our country seek a permit they are required to make a declaration. I presume the member is referring to a couple who have been in the media recently. If it comes to pass that their declarations have been either untruthful or grossly inaccurate, then be it on their heads.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How can the Immigration Service claim that a man met good character requirements, when he was under investigation for committing the criminal offence of fraudulently claiming to be a solicitor in the United Kingdom, and when he made a victim of rape re-enact her rape while dressed in a nightie; how would such a person meet good character requirements in New Zealand?

Hon SHANE JONES: In the event that such a person who is not currently a resident was to become a resident, such matters would be investigated in respect of the process of when he or she actually applied to become a resident.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What background checks were made on Jane Loveday and Richard Vosper, given that a 30-second Google search at the time of their applications would have revealed that she was under investigation for grossly reckless behaviour, including knowingly falsifying legal documents, and that he was under investigation for impersonating a solicitor; and is this just further evidence to support the claim by an unnamed whistleblower in the Immigration Service last week that applications for work permits for residents are being approved without any supporting evidence whatsoever?

Hon SHANE JONES: No, the declaration that they would have made on work permits in order to come here would have reflected what they put down. Members can rest assured that I am quite confident, now that this information has been brought to the attention of officials, that those officials will be testing the veracity of what the applicants said. However, they are not residents. When residency applications are made, an inordinately thorough assessment is undertaken.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Will the Minister now confirm that the Immigration Service is reviewing the cases of Jane Loveday and Richard Vosper; if not, will he ask it to do so in order to make sure that their work permits are revoked and they are deported?

Hon SHANE JONES: An application has been made for residency. Their application will be thoroughly investigated, although fairness and transparency will be observed. In relation to the existing work permits they have, if the member has further information, he can by all means make it available, but he can rest assured that the original information provided by this hapless couple is being raked over as we speak.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister consider that a man who was accepted into New Zealand because of an arranged marriage, and whose wife and sponsor withdrew her sponsorship after he was arrested and convicted of attempting to strangle her with a bathrobe, to be of good enough character to remain in this country?

Hon SHANE JONES: The details sound quite lurid. However, I can assure the member that where applicants are knowingly making declarations that are inversely related to the truth, be it on their heads. The full force of the administration will be brought down, under the Immigration Act, for such wrongdoing.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is the Minister telling this House that until the applications for residency of this couple, Jane Loveday and Richard Vosper, are considered by his department, he is happy for Vosper to continue working under a work permit in New Zealand with mentally ill children in the Blenheim district—children who are very vulnerable—when he has proven to have exploited vulnerable women who have suffered from rape attacks; is he saying he is happy for that work permit to continue when someone is working under that circumstance?

Hon SHANE JONES: A number of allegations have been made in relation to the man the member is talking about, and an investigation was undertaken of his spouse, a lawyer. I point out that those are rumours and allegations but, as I have said, officials are raking over the declarations the pair have made. So I will leave it with the officials to make the appropriate decision, which I am sure may very well be “Haere Ra!”.

Peter Brown: I am referring back to the case I referred to, Minister—

Hon Members: What’s the question?

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I waited in courtesy for Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith to finish his issue, because I thought that it was important he got a clear run at the thing. He subsequently came up with another question after I had started. Madam Speaker, you saw that I waited for the thing. Now, out of courtesy, I would like National members to shut up and listen to this—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes—well, one can understand all members’ frustrations at being constantly interrupted and not being heard, but we will moderate our language. [Interruption] We will have the member’s question in silence. If there is any interruption, the member responsible will be asked to leave the Chamber.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister consider it appropriate for the same man, after he allegedly attacked his wife again twice, to remain here by being on a 2-year visa sponsored by his employer; if he does think that that is appropriate, can he advise the House what the dickens one has to do to get kicked out of this country?

Hon SHANE JONES: Rest assured; I will not be tempted! Obviously, I do not have in front of me the exact details of the case the member refers to, but I encourage him to make information available to our officials. No one wants to see anyone undermining the system and staying, when there are many deserving people who ought to be here and who want to come here.

/NR/rdonlyres/8BD91830-C446-4288-8A9B-157B09B6614B/85872/48HansQ_20080625_00000559_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

11. Māori Warden Project—Funding

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

11. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: What action is he taking to investigate claims from Diane Black, the chairwoman of Tamaki ki te Tonga Māori District Council, that the funding for the Māori Warden Project was being spent “without consultation and there is no access to funding or the decisions being made.”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : Ms Black has made no such claims to me, although I am aware that she has recently made such comments to the media.

Dr Pita Sharples: Does the Minister understand that after 60 years of volunteer service, the Māori wardens welcomed the Budget announcement that they were finally to receive resources to recognise the vital role they play in the community; and what has happened in the last month for the Te PuniKōkiriMāori Warden Project manager, Te Rau Clarke, now to say “Who would pay them to do what they do, at their age?”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is certainly not the intent of the Minister, and I can assure the member that a lot of work has been going on between the ministry and a whole lot of organisations relevant to the development of Māori wardens.

Dave Hereora: What is an example of the additional support that has been delivered through this project?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There have been several instances of training in the South Auckland Māori warden region, where there has been a lot of kerfuffle about the nonsense that goes on there; $76,000 has been approved to Manurewa, Māngere, Turehou, Ōtara, and ŌtāhuhuMāori warden groups to assist them in their work.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that the Māori wardens are much better off than they were last year, due to the funding increases secured as part of the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Labour Government?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly.

Dr Pita Sharples: Does he agree with the secretary of the New Zealand Māori Council, TataPārata that the current funding arrangement has ignored the requirements of the Maori Community Development Act, which provides the New Zealand Māori Council with responsibility for the overall governance of the wardens; if not, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is the moot point. The better part of the Māori Council is inactive as an organisation. We have put together an advisory group, with Diane Black as one of its representative and Te PuniKōkiri as the convenor, and also on it are representatives of the New Zealand Māori Council, including Mr Pārata, the New Zealand Māori Wardens Association, including the patron of the Māori wardens, the Māori Women’s Welfare League, the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, and the New Zealand Police, in order to try to get some semblance.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister provide examples of where investment in Māori wardens has produced positive outcomes in many communities?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There have been several hui across the country to encourage the Māori wardens in the role they have to play in contemporary times, with regard to new issues relevant to crime and to our young people getting into trouble. A combined total of 342 Māori wardens have accessed some sort of training offered by the project. One hundred and eighty-four Māori wardens have completed training offered by the police. Physical resources, including Māori warden - branded high visibility jackets, safety shoes, torches, and traffic warrants, are also provided at the conclusion of training sessions.

Dr Pita Sharples: Does he agree with Diane Black—and I note he mentioned her in that group—that the New Zealand Māori Council is being starved out because it is the only legislative board that ever takes the Government to court; is that the real reason that Te PuniKōkiriMāori Warden Project manager Te Rau Clarke has questioned whether the New Zealand Māori Council and district councils are relevant; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The reason why we are at where we are at is because it was in a mess. We have tried to sort it out, and I can tell the member that the working project team, which includes the Māori Council, has been working very hard to get to a consensus that better advances the Māori wardens. That is more than well supported by this Government.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that the Government is fully supportive of attempts by members of the New Zealand Māori Council to hold a seminar in honour of Sir Graham Latimer to discuss the future development of the New Zealand Māori Council and how to strengthen it again?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly yes.

Dr Pita Sharples: In the light of the last answer, what is the Government’s view on how the community should control and manage the process of appointing and funding Māori wardens so that the wardens continue to be seen as part of the communities they serve, and not as Government agents or unofficial police?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Māori Wardens Association was struggling as an organisation, and over a long period of time we have tried to ensure that dialogue is maintained with key stakeholder groups around the future governance of Māori wardens. That is the key role of the advisory group that is together now.

/NR/rdonlyres/27827654-EC85-42B2-A64E-A833D2395416/85874/48HansQ_20080625_00000644_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 25 June 2008 [PDF 208k]

12. Te PuniKōkiri—Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou Grant

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

12. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Did Te Puni Kōkiri approve a grant of $1.56 million to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : An investment of $1.56 million from 2007 to 2010, over that period of time, was approved by Te Puni Kōkiri to Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou to support iwi aspirations in governance, education, and economic development.

Hon Tau Henare: How much of the $1.56 million that he approved in the lead-up to a general election, when he is facing a stiff challenge from the Māori Party, was to design and implement a hapū success strategy to enable Ngāti Porou hapū to determine their own definition of success and achievement, as opposed to the definition of success and achievement in Webster’s dictionary?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is great to be a Māori who has a seat to run in. I tell that member quite clearly that—surprise, surprise—on the back of today’s great celebration by Māori, a lot of Māori iwi have been doing that for the last 8 to 9 years; we have been doing the co-production with other iwi.

Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know the Standing Orders say that Ministers can pretty much say anything in addressing a question. I am not asking you to ask the Minister to answer the question, but I find it really difficult to figure out how the answer that he gave has any relevance to what I asked. It did not address anything in my question whatsoever.

Madam SPEAKER: I understand the member’s point. The member constantly raises this. I understand the Standing Orders, as he quite rightly said, require the Minister only to address the question. The Minister did address the question.

Hon Tau Henare: How much of the—

R Doug Woolerton: It’s a dumb question; that’s the problem.

Hon Tau Henare: I see the old man is starting up again.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. Interjections invite other interjections, and when a member is asking a question they are likely to lead to disorder. The member is quite right and I should have pointed that out because I know at times not only that member but others are frustrated about the answers. But often the answers do reflect the questions, and if members listen to the questions carefully, as I must, then they will see that the answers have an understanding there.

Hon Tau Henare: How much of the $1.56 million that he gave to his own iwi in the lead-up to a general election, when he is facing a strong challenge from Derek Fox, was to “conduct surveys into the development of a participatory co-production planning and evaluation framework”; and can he tell us what the surveys into the development of a participatory co-production planning and evaluation framework actually asked people?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There was a jumble in those questions, but can I say this: a hapū-based curriculum framework has been developed to support Ngāti Porou to identify in education. This has been promoted across early childhood education, schools, and the tertiary sector. A business incubator has been developed, career plans and pathways for rangatahi are being developed, and opportunities to improve information and communications technology skills amongst one of the iwi that I belong to, Ngāti Porou, have been established.

Hon Tau Henare: Is it correct that the Auditor-General could not find evidence that outputs were met, and how does this give the public confidence that he did not just spend over $1.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a vain attempt to help him cling to his seat in Parliament?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I understand that the contract has been extended, and certainly all those deliverables that were missed have been met. I tell that member also that in relation to co-production, from late 2006 to 2007 we have done contracts with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, which I think that member may be a member of, Te Rūnanga o Taranaki Whanui, Development Ngāti Awa, Te Tai Tokerau Iwi Chief Executives Consortium, which that member is a member of, and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, a tribe of which I am also a member.

Hon Tau Henare: Can the Minister confirm that in relation to his giving his own iwi over $1.5 million just before an election to help fight off the Māori Party, his own ministry, Te Puni Kōkiri, identified, in writing, a risk that people might not understand the intent of the grant; and why did Te Puni Kōkiri feel the need to commit such a warning to the Minister in writing?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I would be pleased to get that writing from the member, and I will discuss it with Te Puni Kōkiri. I say to that member “shame on him” for leaning on genealogical ties, because when I was a senior public servant, I used to make grants to my other relations, the Rutherfords and the Buntings, in South Canterbury. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. It is very difficult to hear.

Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was not me who suggested I was from some other iwi. I know where I am from.

Madam SPEAKER: That is all right. That is not a point of order.

Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister confirm that in 1999 when this Government came to office, the GDP growth for the East Coast of the North Island was minus 12 percent, and now, with Māori engaged and economically successful due to the policies of this Government, the East Coast of the North Island is amongst the fastest-growing regions in the country?

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: You just made that up then, Jim, didn’t you?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, it is not made up. That is the truth. The production that has come off Māori assets has gone up by 62 percent. When we came into Government the unemployment rate in the Tai Rāwhiti was tracking on 28 percent—28 percent, I say to Tau! Now it is tracking at just over 5 percent. Wake up!

Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave to table the jumble that the Minister talked about in the monitoring report.

 Leave granted.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether you could hear it, but we have had nothing but a barrage of comment and abuse from Gerry Brownlee right through the Minister trying to answer that question. I found it offensive. Also, he was trying to break up the Minister’s answer. I believe that he, as shadow Leader of the House for the National Party, ought to take a lot more care in his behaviour.

Madam SPEAKER: The barrage to try to prevent the Minister from being heard was apparent again, and that happens from time to time in this House. I ask members, please, to respect other members. Everyone has a right to be heard. Freedom of speech is in fact observed in this House, and denying people the right to be heard is denying them their freedom of speech.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Certainly, members in this House have a right to speak freely, but other members in this House have a right to know what those members are saying. Frankly, very few of us could find anything intelligible in anything that Minister just said.

Madam SPEAKER: If the Minister could have been heard in silence, then maybe what he was saying would be better understood.

ENDS


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