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Questions And Answers – Wednesday 23 July 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday 23 July 2008


1. Foreign Affairs, Racing, Minister—Confidence

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

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Racing; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister now received advice from the Cabinet Office as to how Mr Glenn’s $100,000 gift to Mr Peters should be treated by the Prime Minister; if so, what was that advice?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Whether or not that is a gift is not a matter to be determined by me or the Cabinet Office; it is a matter to be determined by the registrar of pecuniary interests.

Hon Jim Anderton: In view of the calls from the Opposition for party leaders to resign or be referred to authorities for receiving donations and claiming not to know about them, has the Prime Minister seen any reports of any party leader who knew about donations by the Exclusive Brethren to buy an election, and did that party leader claim to have forgotten about them; if so, could that member’s record of forgetfulness explain why he is so willing to contemplate having those people in a Ministry of his own?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think the matter is actually worse than that. I think that Mr Key remembered not reading an email he said he had never received.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware, and can she confirm, that Section 2.79 of the Cabinet Manual requires Ministers to obtain her express permission to keep gifts valued at more than $500; and will she not accept that Mr Peters, by his own admission, has now admitted that he received a gift of $100,000 from Mr Glenn, and, whether or not she likes it, has to determine whether he will be allowed to keep that gift?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I say again that whether the sum is a gift is a matter for the registrar of pecuniary interests. But can I further make the point that immediately Mr Peters was told of the source of that particular donation to a legal fund, he declared it to me. The Cabinet Office advised me that the court case, of course, was one of particular public interest—considerable public interest—and in such circumstances, if, and I underline that word, such a sum of money were deemed to be a gift, there would be no reason to require a Minister to relinquish it.

Peter Brown: Can the Prime Minister confirm these facts: that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is doing a competent job; that these allegations are unproven—none have been confirmed to be against any rules or guidelines—that the Minister has kept the Prime Minister informed at every stage; and that he is continuing to perform his role as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the best interests of this country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my understanding that the answer to all those questions is yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Does she agree that the political funding scandal now enveloping the Minister for Racing and Minister of Foreign Affairs shows that if we are to continue with a system of private donations to political parties, then it needs to be transparent; if so, why did the Labour Party and New Zealand First fail to support the Greens’ call for such transparency in the Electoral Finance Act?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I told the House yesterday, I would be absolutely delighted to see corporate and large private donations banned, on the basis that there would need to be State funding. That has been our consistent position. In answer to the chirping opposite, of course there was no parliamentary majority for a system of State funding.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the question as to whether Mr Peters should be allowed to keep his gift of $100,000 from Mr Glenn is, in fact, quite a simple matter, and the Prime Minister should be clearing up that issue within a matter of days, not a matter of weeks?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not sure that the member listened carefully to the answer I gave. What I said was that the Cabinet Office advises me that if the sum were deemed to be a gift, there would be no reason to require the Minister to relinquish it, given the considerable public interest in the court case for which that money was paying.

Ron Mark: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the US Secretary of State is visiting New Zealand this weekend, after accepting a personal invitation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and is that not yet another example of the strength of the current Minister’s ability to carry out the Government’s policy of continuing to improve relationships with the United States of America?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my understanding that from the very first meeting of the Minister of Foreign Affairs with Condoleezza Rice he has made it very clear that he would like her to accept his invitation to come to New Zealand. She is coming this weekend. I think it is in the interests of New Zealand that she does so, and I commend the Minister for the work he has done to build the relationship with the Secretary of State.

Sue Bradford: Does the Prime Minister have confidence that the Minister for Racing acts at all times with the interests of the whole racing sector at heart, or does she have any sense, as some in the racing industry do, that his actions tend to favour those at the high end of the industry, which, incidentally, is the same end from which New Zealand First has received substantial donations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I do not have any independent information about where donations come from, but I can say to the member that I have had absolutely no advice or, indeed, even any suggestion of the issue of preference that she has raised.

John Key: Will the Prime Minister, in light of everything we now know about the matter, categorically rule out the appointment of Owen Glenn as honorary consul in Monaco; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have made it very clear that I consider such an appointment to be highly unlikely.

R Doug Woolerton: What does the Prime Minister see as the strengths of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in dealing with our neighbours in the Pacific?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It has been, I think, the good fortune of New Zealand that our Minister of Foreign Affairs has, from his time as a university student, had connections with many people who have risen to the top of their Pacific country’s legal systems, political systems, and business systems. He has drawn on all those personal contacts, and has brought to the portfolio, in my view, a very high level of interest in the welfare of the Pacific, and, of course, he has been responsible for very significant increases in the development assistance budget for the Pacific.

John Key: Should we take it from the Prime Minister’s answer that Mr Peters, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who received a $100,000 gift from Mr Owen Glenn, could be in a position to appoint Mr Glenn as an honorary consul in Monaco; is the Prime Minister seriously telling New Zealanders that she thinks there is no conflict of interest there, that she is not worried about that, and that that is now the new standard for her executive—that even if a Minister receives $100,000 from someone, that Minister can appoint that person to a position?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is clear that the member does not listen to the answers given. I can say that it is no more likely that Mr Glenn would be appointed honorary consul than it is likely that the gentleman whom Mr Worth lobbied for would be appointed to the position.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister of Foreign Affairs also acting with her confidence in his role as Associate Minister for Senior Citizens, given that senior citizens have benefited through improved funding for pensions and elder care, and the SuperGold card?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Associate Minister for Senior Citizens most certainly is operating with my confidence, and I acknowledge his work in the development of the SuperGold card, and of the entitlements available pursuant to it, not least of which is the fact that on 1 October people from all over New Zealand who are over the age of 65 and who have that card will be enjoying—provided that negotiations with the regional councils are completed—free off-peak travel on public transport. I think that is a tremendous thing.

John Key: Did Winston Peters ask for the racing portfolio when the Prime Minister allocated the portfolios in 2005?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Prime Minister expect that the registrar of pecuniary interests will rule that a gift is a gift or otherwise, regardless of whether it was given by Mr Glenn or anonymously but, rather, on the basis that it was received and retained by a member of Parliament?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Clearly, Mr Peters’ word has been accepted across the House—that he did not personally know of or personally receive that sum of money. That has been made quite clear. As to how the registrar of pecuniary interests will rule on whether it is a gift, I cannot help the member. But I find it very strange that Opposition members are so certain about these things in the House this afternoon. I listened very carefully to Mr Key on radio this morning, and he was clear that he accepted Mr Peters’ word that he had not known what the source of funding to his lawyer was.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask for your guidance and assistance. On a couple of occasions now during the asking of supplementary questions—once in comments made by Mr Key, and once in comments made by Ms Bradford—inferences of corrupt practice have been made. My understanding is that inferences of corrupt practice by an honourable member of Parliament are out of order. I ask for you guidance on how such comments should be treated.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. Yes, they are out of order. I did not hear those comments, but if they were made, then I say to the members who made them please be on notice that they are unacceptable in this House.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister accept that the allegations made against Mr Peters are indeed very serious allegations, and that it is bad for her Government—and, actually, bad for Parliament—to have those allegations swirling around without their being satisfactorily resolved; and will the Prime Minister tell the country why she is not acting to resolve those issues and get to the bottom of them, when she could do so?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The answer is simple: because I am not the registrar of pecuniary interests, nor the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, nor the Commissioner of Police. I have made it very clear that there are proper processes to be followed. I might add the obvious fact that I am not the Speaker. The Speaker receives complaints of privilege; they are matters for the Speaker to consider. I am advised by the Cabinet secretary on what is proper, and I listen very carefully to the Cabinet secretary.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister think that the Government’s failure to get the numbers to progress sustainability measures like the Marine Reserves Bill and the Fisheries Amendment Bill may have anything to do with the large financial contribution to the party of her Minister of Foreign Affairs from Vela Fishing, which is involved in serious—

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is the very implication that I raised in my point of order—that the Minister is involved in corrupt practice. I ask that that question be ruled out of order.

Metiria Turei: My question asked the Prime Minister for her view on potential influences that may impact on one of her Ministers. It is quite reasonable for her, as the Prime Minister responsible for her Ministers, to consider that issue. There was not an implication of corrupt practice; it was simply a question about the responsibility of Ministers and potential influences on their ability to do their job—which is quite within her responsibilities.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There are many Speakers’ rulings on this matter, and any suggestion that people are subject to outside interference or direction in relation to how they cast their vote in this House has been ruled out on many, many occasions, in many, many different contexts.

Rodney Hide: It was only in the last sitting period that Mr Peters raised a question about the National Party being venal and corrupt. You allowed that question, Madam Speaker. Mr Mallard actually assisted, on the basis that it was raised as a hypothetical question. In fact, it was a much more strongly worded question than the one that the Greens are raising. I point out that the difference between the two is that one question had documentary evidence and the other one was just an allegation.

Ron Mark: The wording in the question that raised my concern was the inclusion of the words “had anything to do with the large donations he had received”. I would have thought that those words were immediately an implication of corrupt practice and therefore should be ruled out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: As members know, and as was rightly raised in the point of order, members cannot make implications or imputations in questions that go to matters that could be interpreted as misconduct or corruption. I listened carefully to the member’s question, and I would suggest to her that she rephrase the question, because I would rule that in that context it could be seen that there is an implication of corrupt practice.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister think that the Government’s failure to get the numbers to progress sustainability measures like the Marine Reserves Bill and the Fisheries Amendment Bill through the House may have anything to do with the relationship between her Minister of Foreign Affairs and other fishing interests, particularly, for example, those of Valour Fisheries, which is involved in seriously unsustainable fishing practices, including the fishing of orange roughy, tuna, and Antarctic tooth fish?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If I were for a moment to accept that, in respect of New Zealand First, I would have to accept it in respect of every party that was unsympathetic to those particular law changes—not least, of course, the New Zealand National Party.

John Key: Why, given the seriousness of the allegations against Mr Peters, is the Prime Minister not following her normal course of practice, which is to refer this matter to an independent inquiry, in the same way she followed that procedure when the Taito Phillip Field matter was being considered, even if the inquiry was a bit of a sham?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Issues have been raised in respect of pecuniary interests, in respect of tax, and in respect of privilege in this House. There are three independent sources of inquiry that can be used for each of those.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Racing and her Minister of Finance are regarded as having saved the racing industry through changes to racing’s tax system that gave it equal footing with casinos?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am pleased that the member quoted that particular matter, because I have in my hand a 2005 document entitled National’s Plan for the Racing Industry, which says that it would align racing betting duty with that paid by casinos, at a cost of $25 million. So it would be nice if Mr Key could clarify for the media later whether any donations were received from the racing industry in return for that promise.

Dr Russel Norman: Do any of the Prime Minister’s Ministers receive donations from industries they are meant to be regulating and taxing; and does she expect any Minister, including her Minister of Racing, who finds himself or herself negotiating tax breaks for party donors to bring that to her attention?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do think there was in that question exactly the implication that Mr Mark objected to before. I can say, in respect of Ministers, that they are not expected to receive donations from industry, at all. But I will also make the obvious point that when a Minister is appointed in charge of a portfolio, there is a legitimate expectation from sectors relating to that portfolio that they will be able to put a case to that Minister—whether it is fisheries, forests, agriculture, health, racing, or whatever—so that they can have their requests considered. That is the normal business of Government.

Dail Jones: Is the Prime Minister confident that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will continue her Government’s programme of improving our relations with the United States and Pacific and Asian nations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly am. In respect of each of those three areas, it is noteworthy that in the past week or so Mr Peters has been doing our country’s and the Pacific Islands Forum’s business in the South Pacific. He is hosting the United States Secretary of State here this coming weekend, and accompanying her to the Pacific. Of course, at this time, he is in Singapore, in respect of a meeting, I believe, for ASEAN Ministers.

Peter Brown: Noting the content of some of the supplementary questions asked this afternoon, particularly those from the Leader of the Opposition, does the Prime Minister see the refusals by anyone to rule out the Minister of Foreign Affairs continuing in his role after the election as a reflection of his strong performance in the role, a reflection of the total lack of competence on the Opposition benches, or a combination of both?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my opinion that Winston Peters has acquitted himself well as Minister of Foreign Affairs and I am sure that should he be in a position to be negotiating a portfolio again, he will be putting forward a very strong case.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister saying that the new standard for the way she will measure her Ministers is solely on their performance in their portfolio and not in relation to whether they take a $100,000 gift—which is clearly in breach of the Cabinet Manual, regardless of whether or not she wants to accept that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am mystified by that question, because Mr Key has agreed elsewhere that he accepts Mr Peters’ word that he did not know the source of donations into that fund.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Prime Minister received any reports of somebody arguing that all political donations should be anonymous so that one cannot be influenced by them; secondly, that even where a political donation is anonymous the person who received it, not knowing who it was, should nevertheless declare who it was and what it was; and, thirdly, arguing that any behaviour by a person before he or she entered Government—such as, for example, being convicted of contempt of court—should have nothing to do with being appointed as a Minister, unless, of course, he or she is appointed as a Minister in a Labour-led Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It seems to me that all those conflicting positions are held by the same person: Mr Key.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister prepared to accept that there is probably quite a lot of difference between a donation that may be accepted by a political party and a donation that is accepted by an individual for his or her own personal use?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yesterday I cautioned the member from going down that particular route, because if he is going to hold Mr Peters accountable for declaring donations into a legal fund as either relevant debt declarations or gift declarations in the interests of the pecuniary interest register, then we would want to know why Mr Smith did not declare the debts and did not declare the gifts, and whether he knows who puts money into his account. I am well aware that Mr Smith declared a beneficial interest in a trust, but he has not declared the debt that he owes—nor has he declared who helped him pay for it; nor has he declared gifts under that section of the declaration.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I contacted the registrar of pecuniary interests and sought advice as to what disclosure requirements I was to make. The registrar was clear that what I needed to declare was a pecuniary interest in a trust. I have done just that. I seek leave to table the pecuniary interest declaration that I made on that advice, which clearly states there was a trust that provided support for that legal action.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It therefore follows from Mr Smith’s point of order that if that were the appropriate course for him to follow and that he does not have to declare either debts or gifts, then nor does Mr Peters.

Madam SPEAKER: At the end of Dr Smith’s statement he then sought leave. So leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to make the comment as a point of order that Mr Smith’s point of order was not a point of order. It was a personal statement and should have been dealt with as a request to seek leave to make a personal statement.

Madam SPEAKER: The member is quite right. I gave the member the benefit of the doubt, because it was unclear as to whether he was seeking leave or making a personal statement. At the end of his thought I assumed he would in fact get to the point. I gave him the courtesy of waiting. At the end of it, he did seek leave. That leave was sought and has been denied.

/NR/rdonlyres/C30488E2-5E92-44A9-B39A-69B9FC72E735/89949/48HansQ_20080723_00000010_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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2. Accident Compensation—Agriculture and Forestry

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

2. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture: What reports has he received on the importance of ACC to farmers and other agriculture and forestry workers?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) : The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides not just weekly compensation but also ambulance and emergency services, ongoing medical care and home help, physical rehabilitation, lump-sum payments, and modification to homes and cars. In the case of a major industry, ACC provides those benefits to rural families, sometimes for life. This is important to rural people who work in the most dangerous areas of our country, and to their families. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry reports to me that up to 25 agricultural work fatalities and up to 16 forestry deaths occur each year. The loss of ACC would mean much higher insurance costs for rural families and much reduced cover and security.

Sue Moroney: What reports has the Minister seen about possible alternative schemes; and what would the specific effects be for rural families and other agricultural workers?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have seen a report that the National Party has a policy of ripping ACC protection from rural families and replacing it with a privatised scheme. When a similar scheme was introduced in Australia a report by the previous Australian Liberal-National Government found levies in Australia’s competitive market were twice as expensive as those for New Zealand’s primary sector. This research was backed up by an independent PricewaterhouseCoopers report last year. One can see what is in National’s policy for Australian-owned insurance companies that donate to National, but one cannot see what is in it for farmers or anyone in our primary rural communities.

Sue Moroney: What flexibility does ACC give to primary sector employers?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: ACC offers an initiative for self-employed people and employers of fewer than 20 staff with good safety performances, so that safe workplaces can be recognised with levy discounts. It offers programmes to improve safety in the rural sector, such as farm bike safety equipment and the FarmSafe programme. The alternative scheme promoted by the National Party offers premiums up to 250 percent higher, reduced coverage, and less security for rural New Zealanders.

Sue Moroney: Would ACC offer more protections to farming families if it were a State-owned enterprise?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: This is an interesting question. If it were a State-owned enterprise it would be on the list of assets National says it will not privatise in its first term, but because it is not a State-owned enterprise, National is not ruling out selling it. ACC would be privatised by National. For the same reason, we can expect that anything else owned by the people of New Zealand and not a State-owned enterprise would be sold, including Air New Zealand, Television New Zealand, the Superannuation Fund, the roads, the hospitals, and even the schools.

/NR/rdonlyres/99C34931-619F-4BA2-8026-AC4E09285F3A/89951/48HansQ_20080723_00000238_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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3. Migration—Statement

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

3. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “When I am looking at year after year after year of positive net migration to New Zealand, I know this country is very capable of attracting and retaining its best and brightest.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister saying that she is unconcerned about record levels of emigration from New Zealand as long as the number of people arriving here from overseas is greater than the number of New Zealanders leaving; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have said in the past that there is a “brain exchange” going on. I note that 62 percent of the permanent and long-term departures from New Zealand are of skilled or highly skilled people, while a larger proportion of those coming into New Zealand—namely 67 percent—are skilled or highly skilled. So New Zealand is the net winner in those terms.

Hon Jim Anderton: In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that New Zealand is capable of retaining the best and brightest of us, I wonder whether she would consider reviewing that in light of the fact that when she looks across the House she sees the whole of the front bench of the National Party?

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that is appropriate; it is not appropriate. Supplementary question, John Key. [Interruption] I have called John Key.

John Key: How can we be retaining skilled New Zealanders, when according to the latest figures more than 45,000 people left New Zealand to live permanently in Australia last year, making this the highest loss for a June year since records began 30 years ago?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is somewhat fixated with numbers to and from Australia. I think it is much more honest to look at overall net migration figures. Net migration figures in the ninth year of the Labour-led Government, in the year to June 2008, were positive by 4,732. In the ninth year of the National Government, the year to June 1999, the net migration figures were negative—by minus 11,369. I rest my case.

Hon Peter Dunne: What does the Prime Minister say in response to comments by various migrant community representatives that one of the reasons why people move on is there is not the same level of opportunities in New Zealand as in Australia, and that the Government has not done enough in its three terms of office to amend our immigration and resettlement policy to encourage people to make long-term commitments to New Zealand, rather than to come here, gain citizenship benefits, and then move on to other countries?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I would not agree with that. I think our Government has done a great deal to improve the settlement of migrants. When I became Prime Minister quite a high level of new ethnic communities’ members were experiencing unemployment. That has fallen quite sharply, and we are seeing new migrants represented right across the mainstream of employment, which I think is a good thing. I think the reality for a number of migrants is that they go to be with bigger communities of their own people in Australia—I think that is quite a powerful pull. But no, I could not agree with the assertions that the member quoted from some other source.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister recall that back in 2000 she told the New Zealand Press Association that the main driver for the number of skilled New Zealanders choosing to move to Australia, rather than to live in New Zealand, was the relative state of the economy; if that is the case, is Mr Dunne not absolutely correct—that the reason they are deserting New Zealand in droves is the poor economic management of her Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It might be relevant to compare the average per annum economic growth rates of New Zealand and Australia. From December 1999 to December 2007, New Zealand grew on average by 3.4 percent and Australia grew on average by 3.3 percent, as compared with the period from 1991 to 1999 inclusive, when the Australian economy grew at 3.5 percent a year on average, and in New Zealand, under a National Government, we grew at 2.8 percent on average.

/NR/rdonlyres/0D5A1ECD-9AA4-4F11-A157-7750ED2467A3/89953/48HansQ_20080723_00000281_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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4. Police Association—Policies

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

4. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Which of the policies released by the Police Association in its document Towards a Safer New Zealand, particularly those regarding youth crime, and police equipment and training, does she agree with, if any?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : I support a number of the policies released by the Police Association. Some of its suggestions are pieces of work that are already being progressed or investigated. Examples include the provision for police to issue temporary, on-the-spot domestic violence protection orders, increasing police resources through the confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First, the introduction of a new digital radio network, and, in particular, the development of a police professional registration model.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister aware that the Police Association has now joined New Zealand First in its call for Tasers to be issued to every front-line police officer; and that the association supports the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility, and is calling for police-to-population ratios to be comparable to those in Australia; and can she confirm that the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First has a view to achieving those ratios comparable to those in Australia, by 2010?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm the confidence and supply agreement as set out by the member. I can confirm also that the Police Association has a lot in common with New Zealand First’s law and order policy. It also has many features that have been implemented by this Government and supported by the Police Association.

Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Ewhakaaeana te minita ki te Kaiwhakawā Matua o te KōtiTaiohi, ki a Andrew Becroft e meanei, e warutekau ō-raungātaiohihara e māuiuianai te mate waipiro, i te mate kai pōauaurānei, a wai hoki rā, whitutekau ō-raukāorei te kura, ā, nō reira, ka whakaaro pea te minita, he pai ake te āraiiēnei raruraru i te mahi whakatuma, e ai ki te kōrero a te UnianamōngāPirihimana, he whakaarowhakatoihara ā ētahi, kia hāmenetia te tamaititekaumā rua, tekaumātorutaurānei te pakeke?

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

[Does the Minister agree with the Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, that up to 80 percent of teenage offenders have drug and alcohol problems, and 70 percent are not enrolled in any form of education; and would she not consider it more constructive to create front-end solutions, rather than engage in what the Police Association describes as the “ideological prejudices of many of those involved in the debate” to lower the age of criminal responsibility?]

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Government believes that one needs to take a multi-pronged approach to the problem of youth offending. We agree there needs to be work at the front end, which is why Schools Plus is a very important policy for this Government, as are our Modern Apprenticeships and other policies that we have implemented to help young people into jobs training and education. We know that early intervention is needed when young people start to go off the rails, and also that one needs policies to deal with those who become serious offenders. We have taken the approach of addressing the issue on all those fronts.

Chester Borrows: Why did she tell the media yesterday, in response to the Police Association’s policy launch, that she was open to the trialling of antisocial behaviour orders, whereas when the Rotorua District Council proposed a local bill back in 2006 that would have done just that, Steve Chadwick said she was “not convinced it’s a bill I would want to put my name to”; and also 2 weeks ago she told the Daily Post that the legislation was unlikely to come before the House?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Unfortunately, the member is poorly informed. The trialling of antisocial behaviour orders—a project out of the United Kingdom—has certainly been looked at by this Government in terms of our effective intervention policy, and we said we were prepared to look at the project. However, a bill is being developed in conjunction with the Rotorua District Council and the local police, and it is still being developed. Not only has it been worked through with Steve Chadwick, but I have had several meetings about it. The Government awaits that bill when it is ready for introduction. So I say to the member that whoever is giving him the information is not informing him correctly.

Hone Harawira: Tēnā koe Madam Speaker, tēnātātou te Whare; ki te Minita, e whakaaeana ia ki te Uniana o ngāPirīhimanamā te pūhiko, arā, te “Taser”, ka wharatūturu te tangata hara, ā, e mōhioanō hoki ia, kei Amerika, mai i te putanga mai o te pūhiko, nui atu i te toruraungātāngatakuawharatūturu kia mate i te mauhere me te pūhiko, nō reira, ka tautoko tonutia e ia kia uru mai te pūhikonei ki Aotearoa, ā, he aha te take?

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

[Does she agree with the Police Association that Tasers are required to “reliably incapacitate an offender”,and is she aware that since June 2001 more than 300 people in the USA have died following exposure to Tasers during arrest situations; and if so, will she still support the introduction of the Taser into Aotearoa, and why?]

Hon ANNETTE KING: There is no doubt that the New Zealand police need another intervention weapon between pepper spray and shooting someone with a gun. Unfortunately, our New Zealand police do not have anything between those tactical options. The trial of the Taser was carried out in New Zealand to see whether it was applicable to the New Zealand situation, how it would be deployed, and whether it would be deployed, and I await the advice of the Commissioner of Police on that evaluation. I am prepared to look at the introduction of another tactical option if it is going to save the lives of the public, including those who would otherwise have been shot, which has fatal consequences, and also the lives of those persons causing problems, because often those people are in a disturbed state, and the only option has been to shoot those people, which obviously has a fatal outcome.

/NR/rdonlyres/1874D0C0-9BBA-456D-A906-E534C4AB863F/89955/48HansQ_20080723_00000355_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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5. Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand—Establishment

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

5. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Was the Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand (OFCANZ) established on 1 July 2008 as scheduled; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : Although I have not formally launched the agency, I am pleased to advise that it is already working on its first file.

Simon Power: Can she confirm that Cabinet considered papers on the proposed Organised and Financial Crime Agency of New Zealand without seeing the dissenting advice of the Serious Fraud Office, despite the fact that those papers proposed subsuming the Serious Fraud Office into the new organised crime agency; and why did Ministers refuse to meet with the Director of the Serious Fraud Office before making their decision?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Considerable discussions had taken place around the establishment of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency, and when Cabinet came to make a decision discussions had already been held, including discussions between the Commissioner of Police and the Serious Fraud Office.

Hon David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister tell the House what steps have been taken to establish the Organised and Financial Crime Agency?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The police have worked hard to establish the Organised and Financial Crime Agency, and that work includes appointing the establishment director, John Beaglehole, in December 2007; putting in place an establishment team, which includes a detective superintendent, a superintendent, and a detective inspector, who are working closely with the Serious Fraud Office to ensure a smooth transition; and working with other agencies to identify the most significant areas of organised crime, so that taskforces can be most effective.

Simon Power: Why was Cabinet denied the opportunity to take into account advice from the Serious Fraud Office that the proposal to roll it into the new Organised and Financial Crime Agency was based on “facts that are either misleading or, even worse, untrue”, and that “some Ministers will be misled by this paper, with potentially very serious consequences.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member that Cabinet had many, many discussions and meetings on the establishment of this agency, including discussion on the role of the Serious Fraud Office.

Simon Power: Does she agree with the former Director of the Serious Fraud Office, David Bradshaw, who said today that dropping the powers to order suspects to produce documents and answer questions will delay investigations for years and see cases dropped without the facts coming out?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If Mr Bradshaw said that today, then he does not know what powers have been transferred over from the Serious Fraud Office to the new agency.

Simon Power: How does the Minister respond to the submission by Mr Bradshaw to the Law and Order Committee in which he said that during his 10 years with the Serious Fraud Office the police had never asked it to help investigate serious fraud relating to organised crime, and that “If organised crime is now moving into the financial world, you’d surely want, at the very least, the same capability and the same powers.”, not less?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am staggered that Mr Bradshaw said that to the committee. Let me remind the member what powers have been transferred over. Production orders and examination orders will be carried over to the Organised and Financial Crime Agency under the Serious Fraud Office (Abolition and Transitional Provisions) Bill. The powers are essentially the same as those in the Serious Fraud Office Act, but judicial approval is needed to exercise those powers. In other words, one gets approval from a judge to exercise those powers. They are the same powers. If one tried to introduce those powers now, one would not get them through this Parliament, because there was no provision for oversight. Oversight of those powers requires a judge giving approval. They are the same powers with the same—

Simon Power: They are not the same. They are a different regime.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is screaming out they are not the same; they are the same powers with judicial oversight. What is wrong with that—to have someone else have oversight? It happens every day in the issuing of search warrants and other orders that are given. It is a protection for the people of New Zealand; it ensures that the powers are being appropriately applied. Once approval is given, the powers can be applied. What does the National Party find objectionable about that—other than its wanting unbridled power?

/NR/rdonlyres/B89A8FDC-B04E-4123-A2BA-3A7123F4C98E/89957/48HansQ_20080723_00000413_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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6. Employment Relations—Reports

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

6. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What reports has he received on employment relations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Labour) : I have seen a report that shows that under a Labour-led Government, and with some very good predecessors, income for New Zealand’s lowest paid has gone up by 71 percent—four times more than National achieved in 9 years—notwithstanding National Party opposition to increasing the minimum wage. Since 2002, 130,000 parents have taken advantage of paid parental leave, notwithstanding National’s opposition to the introduction of this scheme, to its extension, and to the increases in rates. Working families now have at least 4 weeks a year to spend as families as a result of the Holidays Act changes—something that was opposed by National. National is recommending that that provision becomes negotiable, and in fact, goes back to what it was and is taken away from workers. Real incomes in New Zealand have improved by 25 percent since 2000. Many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have done well with these changes, and they know that their rights are safe only with Labour.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has he seen about employment relations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen recent reports that show that under a National Government—a receding possibility—employer contributions to KiwiSaver would be gone, according to Kate Wilkinson, would be back, according to John Key, and then they would be gone again, according to Shane Ardern. The ability to fire people at will would be introduced. Workers would face the risk of being fired for nothing or for complaining about being sexually harassed, and they would have no right of appeal. I am proud that millions of New Zealanders have a Labour-led Government to ensure their rights are protected.

/NR/rdonlyres/D4EB1DEC-076E-4649-8BB3-CDAB7BA9984F/89959/48HansQ_20080723_00000478_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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7. Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preferences) Bill—Timetable

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

7. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Leader of the House: What is the Government’s timetable for passing the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill; and will the second reading be held during this parliamentary session?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): The Government’s timetable for this bill is for it to be passed in 2008. As this parliamentary session must end by 6 October by law, we are aiming to hold the second reading and remaining stages before then.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What changes is the Government prepared to make to the bill to address the major flaws that have been identified by the Green Party in order to secure its support?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As Leader of the House I am responsible for the timetabling of the legislation; I am not responsible for its content. That is the responsibility of the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: My question was set down for the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues. It is the Government that transferred the question to the Leader of the House. I thus seek leave to ask the same supplementary question, which Dr Cullen says he is not able to answer it, of the Minister, David Parker, who I am sure would be delighted to answer it.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why was the Finance and Expenditure Committee given only 3 days to consider over 1,000 amendments to this important legislation, on the basis that the Government urgently wanted it to be returned to the House, when the bill has subsequently sat on the Order Paper for 7 weeks without any progress?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The first part of that question, of course, is not the responsibility of the Leader of the House. It was a matter for the select committee. As to the second part of the question, I am sure the member is aware that at this point the Government does not have sufficient support to pass the bill.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Government agree to refer the bill back to the select committee, given that it is obvious it is going nowhere before the House—because I think we all agree it is crucial for New Zealand that we get the best-designed emissions trading scheme possible—and furthermore, given that over 1,000 amendments were given and the select committee had only 3 days to consider them, the select committee could well use this time to do the job properly?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is clear from the statements made by the National Party that it wants to pass a bill that does nothing, does not affect anybody, and makes no impact upon the economy, but that can be said to do something about climate change. That is not the Government’s intention.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question to the Leader of the House was not about National’s view, which is quite rational about climate change and emissions trading—[Interruption] So those members can yabber during points of order, Madam Speaker?

Madam SPEAKER: Please, would the member make his point of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: My point of order concerned a specific question that asked whether the Government will refer the bill back to the select committee, given that we had so little time to consider such major changes. All I got was a recital on a misrepresentation of National’s policy.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Leader of the House wish to add to his answer?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I wish to expand upon my fuller version of no. No.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What assurance can the Minister give that, given the importance of this legislation, we will have the opportunity to have the second reading during the course of this 3-week sitting period?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government has a considerable amount of work to do during this 3-week sitting, not the least of which, of course, is that we have to finish the Appropriation Bill. The Leader of the House is particularly and acutely conscious of the need to finish the Appropriation Bill during this session.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the reason that the Prime Minister has been pussyfooting around the misconduct of Winston Peters that the Government is so desperate to get support for this bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have a very long political memory in the case of Prime Ministers and Parliament, going back to November 1981. I do not recall her pussyfooting at any time during that period.

/NR/rdonlyres/8ED10359-F59C-4C7E-B1B1-3CCE67374D90/89961/48HansQ_20080723_00000504_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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8. Accident Compensation—Conflicting Reports

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

8. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any conflicting reports regarding accident compensation?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister for ACC) : Yes, I have seen a report from John Key stating that National’s stocktake of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) would include all accounts, and that as well as the work account, the earners account and the motor vehicle account could also be privatised. I have also seen a completely contradictory report from Murray McCully stating that “there would be big challenges privatising the earners and motor vehicle accounts, which is why the National Party policy does not go there.”

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister seen any other contradictory reports about ACC?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes, John Key said that “levy rates are rising rapidly and going through the roof.”, but Murray McCully said that “levies peaked in 2002, and they are now nudging downwards.” John Key said that under privatisation “premiums will go down.”, but Murray McCully said that the ability of private insurers to offer lower premiums is now “severely constrained”. Who can the public believe on privatisation when two National MPs are telling two different stories?

/NR/rdonlyres/A7ECD46B-8765-4D1A-93A6-66591CC4152E/89963/48HansQ_20080723_00000566_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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9. Immigration Service—Mary Anne Thompson

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

9. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: What was irregular about the circumstances in which family members of Mary Anne Thompson obtained residence?

Hon SHANE JONES (Acting Minister of Immigration) : These matters are being addressed in the various investigations that are currently under way.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was the Minister of Immigration, around the time these irregularities occurred—a Minister who assured the House that he “runs the show” to use his own words, and is on top of things—aware of any of these irregularities?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That particular quote is well known to members of the House, and was made by the Minister of Health in his capacity as Minister of Health.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I recall it that way. I ask the member to rephrase the question. I do not think that comment probably added anything to the question.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was the Minister of Immigration, around the time these irregularities occurred—the Minister who is currently the Minister of Health—aware of any of these irregularities?

Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously all of these perplexing events will be swept up in the State Services Commission’s inquiry. As has already been noted in the House, the former Minister was briefed on such matters in the context of a staff performance matter.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why did the Minister of Immigration around the time these irregularities occurred consider the fact that legitimate applications from Kiribati citizens were being declined because of apparently unlawful decisions in his department to be an employment performance matter?

Hon SHANE JONES: These machinations that Dr Smith refers to no doubt will be addressed in great detail in the multiple number of reviews, and if he just goes on, taihoa he too will have it revealed to him. The Minister of the time was briefed—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.

Hon SHANE JONES: I say to Mr Smith this issue, unlike himself, is not inert, and I ask him to give us a fair go. The Minister was briefed in the context of it being a staff performance issue.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: How could the Minister at the time, the Hon David Cunliffe—who claims to always be in control of things—consider the fact that staff regularly felt obliged to record “as instructed by” when processing applications because of the frequency with which Government immigration policy was being breached, and why did the Hon David Cunliffe consider that to be a staff performance or employment matter?

Hon SHANE JONES: Of course, two reviews are of particular importance. The terms of reference dealing with the Auditor-General’s department will be investigating what, if anything, Ministers said at various points in this process; and secondly, the State Services Commission will uncover all the various decisions that were made either irregularly or in other wrongful forms.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm that for over a year the Minister of Immigration at the time knew of these irregularities involving the former head of the Immigration Service but turned a blind eye to them by not asking any further questions about apparently unlawful activity within his own department?

Hon SHANE JONES: This is the third attempt to address the questions put forward by Lockwood—although one thinks of deadwood. The man—

Madam SPEAKER: That is unnecessary—absolutely unnecessary. Would the Minister please just address the question.

Hon SHANE JONES: The former Minister received a briefing in the context of a staff performance issue. He chose not to intrude beyond that statutory line defining the difference between the bureaucracy and the responsible Minister.

/NR/rdonlyres/E9C345DD-12AF-48D4-A8BC-A8974D6F3BC3/89965/48HansQ_20080723_00000592_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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10. Gifts—Cabinet Manual Guidelines

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

10. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Is she aware of rule 2.81 of the Cabinet Manual that states, “To avoid creating or appearing to create an obligation, gifts in cash or kind are not to be solicited or accepted from a commercial enterprise or any other organisation, either in New Zealand or overseas.”; and does she advise her Ministers that having their lawyer solicit and seek funds for their personal legal bills avoids “creating or appearing to create an obligation”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : I am aware of paragraph 2.81 of the Cabinet Manual. I would, of course, note that the manual is not a rule book; it provides guidance. I advise all Ministers to act in ways consistent with that guidance.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister then believe that Mr Peters has found a way through paragraph 2.81 by having his lawyer, Mr Brian Henry, solicit and obtain funds for Mr Peters’ legal bills on his behalf, and that as long as Mr Peters does not know who was putting in the $100,000, he is still acting consistently with the Cabinet Manual?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that the Cabinet Manual does not set out rules; it sets out guidance. Secondly, the member has no basis for the allegations that he has just made about money for legal fees. Thirdly, I point out that Mr Brian Henry has stated publicly now on at least two occasions that everything he knows about funding electoral petitions like this one he learnt when he was involved in the National Party electoral petition for Wyatt Creech, after the 1987 election.

Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister asked Winston Peters whether he knew that Mr Brian Henry was soliciting and receiving funds on Mr Peters’ behalf, as Brian Henry has said he was doing, and has she asked also on what date Mr Peters learnt that his legal bill had been reduced by $100,000; if not, why has she not asked Mr Peters those questions—is she concerned about the answers?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I have not asked those questions. The matter is clear to me. Mr Peters has advised me that he was advised late on Friday of the source of the money going to his lawyer. He had not known the source of that money before then. I believe that Mr Peters, like other sensible party leaders, keeps a great distance from the issue of soliciting funds.

Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Rodney Hide.

Rodney Hide: I think I am out of supplementary questions, Madam Speaker. I am happy to take another one.

Madam SPEAKER: The member can have tomorrow’s question today, if he wishes.

Rodney Hide: Let us have something to look forward to here in the House. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister is consistently and wilfully dodging the questions that Mr Copeland and I have been asking, by saying that Mr Peters did not know about the source of the donations. My question specifically asked whether Mr Peters knew that money was being solicited—not the source of the donations, but the fact that the money was being solicited.

Madam SPEAKER: I have listened very carefully. The Prime Minister, like all Ministers, is required to address the question. However, Ministers are not required to give the answer that members want to hear. The Prime Minister addressed the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In light of the questions asked by Mr Rodney Hide, did the Prime Minister hear an interview this morning with the former leader of the ACT party, the Hon Richard Prebble, and can she contrast the nature of the statements made by Mr Prebble with those made by Mr Peters on those matters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have certainly seen the transcript of the interview, and I heard it myself. As I take it from the interview, Mr Prebble was very careful as a party leader not to know of, or be involved with, the soliciting of donations for his legal defence costs. That seems to me to be pretty similar to what my understanding of Mr Peters’ position is.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister believe—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. As members well know, and as I have explained in the past, there is a market in supplementary questions. I have to be notified beforehand, and I have been notified, so Rodney Hide has an extra supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and we can still look forward to another one tomorrow. Does the Prime Minister believe that Mr Peters knew that Brian Henry, his lawyer, was seeking funds to pay for his electoral petition against Mr Bob Clarkson, and does she believe that Mr Peters knew that the bill had been reduced by $100,000?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot be expected to have any insight into those matters. What I do know is that Mr Henry has made it very clear that the way in which he has operated in respect of this electoral petition is exactly the way the National Party taught him to operate in respect of the 1987 one over the Wairarapa electorate.

/NR/rdonlyres/0DEBFD95-1026-46A4-867A-544CE7E47A8D/89967/48HansQ_20080723_00000655_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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11. State Housing—Subletting

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

11. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Does she stand by the statement with regard to State housing that “cases of subletting are very rare”, that pursuing them would be a “wild goose chase”, and that the Minister is “still waiting for Mr Heatley to front up with a single example”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Housing: Madam Speaker—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It might facilitate things if the House were to take question No. 12 now. Clearly, the Minister of Housing, who was in the House just a few minutes ago, has been detained outside somewhere and will, presumably, be back soon so that she is able to answer the questions. Of course, that would be a lot more satisfactory than—

Madam SPEAKER: Is leave being sought to do that?

Gerry Brownlee: I cannot seek leave to do that; it would be by agreement of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I know that you cannot do so. I am just wondering what the point is.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister left because she is due to catch a flight; she had to leave the Chamber. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Now that we have established that members not in the Chamber are catching flights, could we please have the answer to the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, the Minister of Housing stands by the statement made by the very talented and able former housing Minister in November 2006. Cases of subletting are very rare. Indeed, subletting accounted for just 0.06 percent of all tenancies last year.

Phil Heatley: Can the Minister confirm that through select committee processes we have discovered that another 44 new subletting scams have come to light so far this year; if so, were these cases serious, in her opinion?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Any cases of fraud are serious, and are dealt with promptly and with due process of the law. I remind the House that when I was privileged to be housing Minister, in the very first case, I think, of subletting that that member brought to me, it was found that the tenant, Maxine Hardy, was in hospital and her brother was looking after the house.

Lynne Pillay: What steps is the Labour Government doing to help house some of New Zealand’s most needy families?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Labour-led Government—

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My primary question was fixed on subletting scams. The answer to that question was fixed on subletting scams. The member Lynne Pillay is moving well wide of the mark. Madam Speaker, you have never allowed me the scope to move around various Housing New Zealand Corporation management practices, when the question down on the Order Paper and subsequent answers have been specific. The member should not be able to ask a general question about the Housing New Zealand Corporation; it must be fixed on subletting.

Madam SPEAKER: Could Lynne Pillay please repeat her supplementary question.

Lynne Pillay: What steps is the Labour Government doing to help house some of New Zealand’s most needy families?

Madam SPEAKER: Now that I have had an opportunity to hear the full supplementary question, yes, I think that it could relate to the primary question. If I started interpreting supplementary questions very narrowly, we would probably not have many of them. Members should think very carefully about whether that is the ruling they wish me to give.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I say with considerable pride as a member of the Labour-led Government that we have taken many steps to look after New Zealand’s most needy families in the housing area. We have reintroduced income-related rents, which has made a profound difference to the thousands of families that are living in State houses and has lifted many of them out of poverty. In addition, we have added 7,793 homes to the housing portfolio stock, we have given out 3,000 Welcome Home Loans, we have launched a shared-equity pilot scheme, we have transformed urban communities like Aranui in Christchurch and Talbot Park in Glen Innes, we have modernised 5,100 properties, and we have done 17,300 retrofits. And so it goes on—a list of achievements that a Government can be proud of.

Phil Heatley: Is this a “wild goose chase”, given that, among the latest 44 scams, a New Lynn tenant illegally sublet a house for 8 years 6 months, a Māngere tenant for 8 years 3 months, another Māngere tenant for 5 years 8 months, and a Takapuna tenant for 5 years 6 months?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I hope those are more genuine cases than that of poor old Maxine Hardy, whose case this member brought to the House 2 years ago. We found out that she was in hospital and her brother was looking after the house.

Phil Heatley: Does the Minister have the courage to tell all the needy families—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please rephrase the question. He knows that is not appropriate; he is not a new member.

Phil Heatley: Will the Minister tell all the needy families on the waiting list that subletting scams are a small problem, or does she think those families would have liked to move into one of those State houses over the last 8 years, instead of living in garages or caravans, or on the streets?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can, with a lot of pride, say that we have added 7,793 houses to the Housing New Zealand Corporation portfolio, and I can, with shame for that member, say that his previous Government sold 13,000 of them.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In the light of the last question, would the Minister of Housing be prepared to approach Mr Phil Heatley to sign a joint letter from the Minister and Mr Heatley explaining to all those people on the waiting list that the National Party has pledged not to increase the number of State houses?

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that is an appropriate question. The Minister has no responsibility for National Party policy. [Interruption] I know we are getting to the end of question time, and the general debate will begin soon, so would members please just keep quiet until we get there.

Phil Heatley: Has illegal subletting increased year on year under Labour’s watch, or is it that the corporation is now acting on cases of tenants who have been subletting illegally for up to 8 years, just because such cases are now being publicly highlighted?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member is clearly very sensitive. We are talking about 0.06 percent of tenancies. That is 0.06 percent too many, but in the greater context of the whole housing portfolio I think it is a very trivial problem.

Phil Heatley: Can the Minister tell the House whether the corporation has caught up with the high-profile sportsman who sublet his State house while he had a bach in the Bay of Islands; if it has caught up with him, what is the latest information on this case, does he still owe the taxpayer $32,650, and when will that issue be resolved?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can confirm that that particular individual is in court facing charges. As every member in this House knows, it is entirely inappropriate to talk about a case that is currently before the courts.

Phil Heatley: I would like to table the estimates list of the 44 scams and their details—

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

Phil Heatley: I would like to table question time denials by the Minister of Housing that subletting rorts actually exist.

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

Phil Heatley: I would like to table the committee transcript on the tenant who is before the court next week—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/60E7F3DE-AB2E-4BCE-9642-03B74924F2D8/89969/48HansQ_20080723_00000710_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 23 July 2008 [PDF 214k]

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12. Capital Markets Development Taskforce—Announcement

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

12. Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Commerce: Has she received any reports on the response to the announcement of the Capital Markets Development Taskforce; if so, what do they say?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : Yes, I have. From those who genuinely want to see progress on adding depth and breadth to our capital markets, there has been an enormously positive response, especially in respect of the quality of the members of the task force and the level of expertise they will bring to the table.

Hon Paul Swain: Has she seen any reports as to why a former Minister of Commerce did not initiate such a brilliant proposal; and what response has there been to the Minister’s statement that Labour’s opposition to any sale of State-owned enterprises would never change, regardless of what the task force recommended?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was actually very interested in the comment of the person who said Labour had shown its attitude to promoting investment in the capital markets by blocking the sale of Auckland airport this year, but then went on to say that he would not support the sale of State-owned assets, which seems somewhat contradictory. Of course, that is explained by the fact that both comments were made by the National Party’s finance spokesperson, Bill English.

Simon Power: Who has been appointed to the task force to specifically represent the interests of investors?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The members of the task force have not been appointed

ENDS


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