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Questions And Answers – Thursday 24 July 2008

Questions And Answers – Thursday 24 July 2008

1. Accident Compensation—Funding Mechanisms

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

1. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of Health: Has he received any reports from medical professionals on possible changes to funding mechanisms for accidents and injury?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : Yes. [Interruption] Thank you, Gerry. I have seen a report from New Zealand Doctor magazine, which calls National’s accident compensation policy “ideologically blinkered” and goes on to state: “It leaves a reader wondering why National would want to trash ACC, save for putting money in the pockets of lawyers and international insurance companies.” Doctors do not want National’s accident compensation policy, I say to Mr Brownlee.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister seen any other reports from the medical sector regarding changes to funding mechanisms for accidents and injury?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes; I have seen a report from the Society of Physiotherapists that states that under privatisation last time “patients were caught in the middle of a ‘bureaucratic nightmare’, as physiotherapists and other providers struggled to see which company covered them.” The only choice that National is offering patients is the choice to suffer. If National was committed to increasing choice, then it would have been up front with its policy, instead of whispering it to private business audiences, and it would not have come forward if it was not leaked by one of Mr Key’s former colleagues at Merrill Lynch.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister seen any reports on who may benefit from changes to funding mechanisms for accidents and injury?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Absolutely. The major beneficiaries of National’s plans to privatise accident compensation would be lawyers and insurance companies. The real question that Mr Key needs to answer now is: would there be a competitive tender process, or has he already stitched up a deal and set a price?

Madam SPEAKER: That last comment was inappropriate.

Peter Brown: Noting that the Minister referred to the report by the Society of Physiotherapists that says how disgruntled it was at the last privatisation of accident compensation, has he seen the report of the physiotherapists that expresses their total disappointment that the Government has not gone with the financial aspects of the review into physiotherapists employed under the endorsed provider network scheme; if so, can he advise the House whether he would recommend to his colleague the Minister for ACC that something be done about that immediately?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member is quite right; that is a matter within the portfolio of my colleague the Minister for ACC. I have briefly seen the report, and I am advised that there has been good dialogue between physiotherapists and the Government and that more progress can be expected.

/NR/rdonlyres/8D1A3EC2-A612-4A12-AE75-A97760A7628D/90134/48HansQ_20080724_00000053_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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2. Political Funding—Sources

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

2. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement that “greater transparency about the sources of political funding will lead to increasing public confidence in our democracy.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes.

Gerry Brownlee: Is it Government policy that a party should be able to solicit and collect a $25,000 donation, yet not declare any such donation in its returns to the Electoral Commission?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is Government policy, with the changes in the Electoral Finance Act, that there be greater transparency. But I think this Parliament ought to know the real rort that has been going on here. The real rort is the National Party, which cashed up every penny it had before 31 December, cleaned out its trust accounts, cleaned out its anonymous donations, and cleaned out every piece of money it could get its hands on—and we have the evidence for it: “Nats call in their secret donations”—

Gerry Brownlee: By Nicky Hager.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, in fact it came from the press gallery, which that member bases all his arguments in this House on. They transferred it to the National Party, and now there is no accountability as to where that money came from, what trust it came from, whether it was from the Exclusive Brethren, or whether it was from the fishing industry, the insurance industry, or the tobacco industry. The money went into the account to rort the Electoral Finance Act. That is the real scandal of this House.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister appears to have forgotten what my question was, and she has gone on to her prepared answer, which is, of course, only able to be given because the National Party does say which trusts it gets money from—unlike New Zealand First. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Gerry Brownlee: It is not us that have those hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations, like the Labour Party has. Is the Minister concerned that Sir Robert Jones has confirmed this morning that he paid $25,000 as a donation to New Zealand First as a party in 2005, but that New Zealand First returns to the Electoral Commission in 2005 and 2006 list no such donation; and if she is not concerned about that, how would her lack of concern line up with her stated desire to bring transparency and increased public confidence to political party funding?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That would certainly be a matter for other authorities, not me. However, the Electoral Finance Act does ensure that there is greater transparency. But, of course, if one rorts the system before the Act comes in, as the National Party did, then one can be assured that lots of things are hidden. The Waitemata Trust, for example, handed over $424,000 just before the end of the calendar year, and the Ruahine Trust handed over $69,000, as National scooped up every piece of money it could. [Interruption] The member said that at least National knows what the trusts are. Well, nobody knows who the trustees of the Waitemata Trust are. Only one Mr Robert Brown, a longstanding business associate of National campaign strategist Murray McCully—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, there is a speech there.

Gerry Brownlee: Yes, there is a speech. What is more, it is all available in the newspaper, because nobody is hiding anything. I take this opportunity outside of the normal range of questions to seek leave to table documents to show that Labour took $230,000 in donations from trusts in 2007 prior to the Electoral Finance Act.

 Leave granted.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I seek leave to table an article by Ruth Laugesen, which shows that the National Party called in secret donations by Judy Kirk, who asked anonymous donors to put the money in before—

 Leave granted.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that there is a huge difference between trust accounts that were set up many years ago, and have channelled millions of dollars to the National Party, and the present situation of smears, innuendo, and false allegations levelled against New Zealand First?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In my view, what the National Party is trying to do is hide its own activities by highlighting stories out of the media, which is what I have just been accused of doing. National has no other evidence than what it reads in the media, and on the basis of that it is attacking the New Zealand First Party to cover up its own shabby, dirty behaviour before the end of the financial year.

Gerry Brownlee: I interrupt the flow of the Minister’s answer for a further seeking of leave, because I think it will help the Minister’s answers. I seek leave to table a transcript of Bob Jones saying this morning that he gave the money to New Zealand First and now wants to know where it went.

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

Sue Bradford: Will the Speaker, in the light of concerns over donations to both New Zealand First and National, now support a Green Party amendment to the Electoral Finance Act proposing that only those who give very small donations should have their names left undisclosed to the public?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Prime Minister has made it clear that the Labour Party would support getting rid of all anonymous donations, with State funding of political parties. That is a much cleaner approach.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister concerned by the fact that the New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, received $100,000 from overseas billionaire Owen Glenn, and that Mr Peters and New Zealand First failed to declare that funding on official returns while Mr Peters has been considering a diplomatic appointment for Mr Glenn?

Hon ANNETTE KING: My understanding—and there have been many questions in the House this week on it—is that Mr Peters did not receive that money.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister agree that the use of the Waitemata Trust by the National Party to hide the identity of donors was reprehensible, but does she also agree that New Zealand First’s failing even to declare the existence of the Spencer Trust is just as bad?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I know little or nothing of the Spencer Trust, but I certainly know a lot about the Waitemata Trust, because a lot of work has been done to show just what a sneaky little vehicle it is—controlled and managed by Mr Browne, along with Mr McCully, to hide its donations from people like the Exclusive Brethren. I think any questions about the Spencer Trust would have to be directed to New Zealand First.

Gerry Brownlee: When the Minister said she did not know that Mr Peters had received a $100,000 donation, had she not heard the Prime Minister yesterday acknowledging that he had, and saying that he does not have to give it back?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. I do not agree with what the member has said the Prime Minister said.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think the recent revelations about the undisclosed funding given to New Zealand First undermines the integrity of Labour’s Electoral Finance Act, given that New Zealand First was one of its most vehement supporters; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: What has made the whole system a lot more transparent, going forward, is the Electoral Finance Act. I am really interested that this member asking the question is now very interested in transparency, but during the debate on the very bill, he opposed the bill.

Rodney Hide: How can there be any confidence in New Zealand’s democracy, when an overseas billionaire pays off Winston Peters’ legal bill to the tune of $100,000 while seeking an honorary consulship, and Bob Jones gives Winston Peters $25,000 that disappears into his brother’s trust account; and is not the real corruption the fact that Helen Clark refuses to investigate this money because she needs the vote of New Zealand First?

Madam SPEAKER: No. If the member used the word “corruption”, would he please withdraw that and rephrase his question. He knows that that is a word that is unacceptable in the House.

Rodney Hide: How can there be any confidence in New Zealand’s democracy, when an overseas billionaire pays off Winston Peters’ legal bill to the tune of $100,000 while seeking an honorary consulship, and Bob Jones gives Winston Peters $25,000 that disappears into his brother’s trust account; and is not the real problem in all of this the fact that Helen Clark refuses to investigate because she needs the vote of New Zealand First?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Prime Minister has made it clear that there are many avenues to look at all the accusations the member has made, which are not backed up with proof. But I would say to the member that people in glass houses should not throw stones, because in 2007 ACT was late putting in its party donations return. So although ACT is very smart about everybody else, it could not keep up with what it was supposed to do.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am concerned that the Minister of Justice would suggest that what I said in my question was not factual, when in fact it is absolutely factual. We have had the statement from Bob Jones, we have had the statement from Brian Henry, and I think it is a bit rich—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Rodney Hide: It is a good point, though.

Madam SPEAKER: No. Another comment like that and the member will be asked to leave the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: What are the penalties for deliberately submitting an incorrect or incomplete donation return to the Electoral Commission in any particular year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not have the legislation in front of me, but there are penalties; I refer the member to the Act.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.That is a very simple question. This Minister presided over the passing of the Act. Without losing a supplementary question, I wonder whether I might reword it in a way that the Minister might be able to answer it.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I listened; the Minister addressed the question. The member may not like the answer, but she did address the question. You may ask another supplementary question, if you wish.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think the public interest in the revelations about undisclosed donations to New Zealand First, and the considerable donation made to New Zealand First by Owen Glenn, warrant further investigations by the Electoral Commission to ensure that New Zealand First now understands—

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.It has been well established that Owen Glenn did not make any donation to New Zealand First. He made a donation to the legal fund of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and that is quite a different thing—quite a different thing.

Madam SPEAKER: This is a matter of debate; it is not for the Speaker to rule on the accuracy of questions or answers.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think the public interest in the revelations about donations to New Zealand First from both Bob Jones and Owen Glenn that have not been declared by New Zealand First warrant further investigation by the Electoral Commission; and will she, as Minister, ask the commission to consider making those investigations, or is it just—as the Prime Minister said—that there is a smorgasbord of things that could happen and they hope none of them do?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Of course, the Prime Minister never said any such thing; and the member just did what he constantly does—he makes it up. He pretends he knows a lot about the Electoral Act, but he may not know that the Electoral Commission is actually independent of the Minister of Justice and it will decide whether it will investigate any action of any party in this House.

/NR/rdonlyres/55633EC4-7E1A-46B2-BB30-564C7FF5C605/90136/48HansQ_20080724_00000099_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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3. National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management—Safety of Water

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

3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does the Government still promise New Zealanders it will clean up the nation’s rivers to a level where they are safe to swim in within a generation; if so, can he say which objectives, if any, in the proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, released yesterday, give a deadline by which our rivers and streams will be safe for New Zealanders to swim in?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : I refer the member to pages 4, 6, 7, and 9 of the proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, but suggest that he works from the one that was issued, not the one his friend gave him earlier, which was an earlier draft.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that those page references refer to a date of 2035, but that this date—2035—is held and mentioned only in the preamble to the national policy statement, which has no authority, is not binding, and has no legal effect, and therefore will have no effect whatsoever in actually cleaning up our rivers and lakes by 2035?


Su’a William Sio: How does the proposed national policy statement improve the guidance to councils on local consultation on water issues?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The local government consultation process allows changes around policy statements and plans. It allows communities to express their social, economic, and environmental aspirations, so that there can be the best use of fresh water in the region. The methods of achieving “swimmability” will obviously differ between Otago and the lower Waikato.

Dr Russel Norman: What does the Minister think that Kiwi parents will make of his national policy statement, when its ultimate goal is that 17 kids per 1,000 will be made sick when they swim in their local river, and that this goal may never even be achieved, because there is no time line or deadline for achieving it?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Unlike that member, I do not aim to make kids sick.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise it in terms of whether the Minister addressed the question. It was about the national policy statement; it was not about whether I aim to make kids sick. I ask that the Minister address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister did address the question. I listened carefully to the question, and the elements were there, and the Minister did address it. He was asked the question as the Minister, not as an individual.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The issue of water quality is a serious one. The Green Party quite properly asked the Minister questions about it, but the Minister simply insulted the Green members by saying that they are somehow out to make children sick. I do not think that is appropriate conduct, and I ask you to reflect on whether those sorts of personal, derogatory statements to members are fair.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Firstly, Madam Speaker, the question itself tried to imply that the Minister intended to make people sick; and, secondly, it misrepresented what the standard actually means, by turning it round and making an imputation on the basis of that. If members ask questions in that form, they can expect to get a fairly short, sharp response.

Madam SPEAKER: As I have said before in this House, I know that this is difficult for members to accept but often the answers reflect the questions. I do listen to them carefully, and that answer did address the question, but obviously not to the satisfaction of members in this House.

/NR/rdonlyres/428A4DD2-D8D8-40F9-B343-A925A484572B/90138/48HansQ_20080724_00000228_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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4. Organised and Financial Crime Agency—Operation

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

4. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Police: Does she agree with the former Director of the Serious Fraud Office’s statement yesterday that the powers of the new Organised and Financial Crime Agency were not the same as those of the Serious Fraud Office, and that court proceedings would delay cases by years, or lead to cases being dropped; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : No, I do not agree, nor, I am advised, does the Law Commission or the Commissioner of Police. In fact, I understand that Mr Power’s two National colleagues Kate Wilkinson and Chester Borrows do not agree, either. The only person, as far as I can work out, who does agree with Mr Bradshaw is Mr Power himself.

Simon Power: Was David Bradshaw correct, then, when he told the select committee that the Serious Fraud Office currently has the power to make people front up to interviews and answer questions, even if they are self-incriminating, but under the new law “the examination powers are totally different” because a court order is required for an interview, and the interviewee is now able to refuse to answer questions; if so, can she explain how this change in powers will not cause significant delays?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are no changes to the powers; there are changes to the procedures in order to authorise the use of those powers. That is what was said by those who made submissions to the select committee—except for Mr Bradshaw.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that section 9 of the Serious Fraud Office Act states that the Director of the Serious Fraud Office may require any person to attend an interview, answer questions, and supply information, yet clause 30 of the bill before the select committee allows the interviewee to assert privilege against self-incrimination, and even if the Serious Fraud Office seeks a further court order, the court could uphold the person’s refusal to answer?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The issue of self-incrimination was raised in the decision making around the change. The issue was not sought by the police, because things have moved on considerably. It is not a power; the powers of examination and the powers of production have not changed. The issue around self-incrimination has not been carried over, because it was not asked for by the police, and also because we know that self-incrimination powers are not needed to be able to get information from people. The police have shown that over many years. People can be required to give information, but they forget to give information, they can lie, and they can refuse to answer. It was always said that self-incrimination would not be carried over. The changes that the member has been speaking about are around production and examination powers. Those powers are peculiar to the Serious Fraud Office. They are carried over to the new agency.

Martin Gallagher: Does the Minister expect that there is a risk of delay associated with the requirements of the Serious Fraud Office (Abolition and Transitional Provisions) Bill?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am aware that Mr Bradshaw has raised the issue of court delays through judicial review. The common law already protects the police from judicial review of their decision to investigate or prosecute. In addition, clause 33 of the bill intends to carry over the current section 21 of the Serious Fraud Office Act, which prevents people from using judicial review as a way of holding up investigations or delaying compliance with orders.

Simon Power: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday that the new Organised and Financial Crime Agency has the same powers as the Serious Fraud Office but with judicial oversight; if so, how does she reconcile that with the papers she submitted to Cabinet in March, which, in addition to judicial authorisation, “propose more precise thresholds or restrictions for the examination power.” that will be “limited by … clear legislative criteria or restrictions around their use.”?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Sounds like change to me.

Hon ANNETTE KING: The production and examination powers in the bill—the changes—require the approval of the Commissioner of Police or his delegate, and, in a small number of cases, examination orders, in a non-business context, require the additional approval of the Secretary for Justice. That is what the change is—not the powers themselves.

Simon Power: Sounds like a change to me.

Hon ANNETTE KING: It might sound like it to that member. He should ask Chester Borrows and Kate Wilkinson, who have heard how it works, whether they now agree with it.

Simon Power: How can the current powers of the Serious Fraud Office and the new powers of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency be the same, as she claimed yesterday, when under the new regime people will be able to refuse to answers questions but under the current law they cannot?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Under the current law they cannot refuse, but they could lie, they could forget, and they could, in fact, not provide evidence. The police have far more experience, as Mr Borrows knows, in getting evidence from people than any such provision in the Serious Fraud Office Act could provide.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that on 10 December last year Cabinet asked her to resubmit a paper that specifically sought to clarify “the nature of the powers proposed for the Serious Fraud Office in the new Organised Crime Agency, particularly regarding document production and compulsory examination, and how those powers could be ring fenced …”; if so, does that mean that, at an earlier stage, there was an intention to retain the identity of the Serious Fraud Office within the Organised and Financial Crime Agency, with its current powers intact?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. A decision was made to shift the Serious Fraud Office to a new agency under the control of the New Zealand Police. I announced that, Cabinet asked for further work to be done on what the agency’s powers would be, and I made that announcement at the time that we announced we were transferring the office.

/NR/rdonlyres/BF6DDDC6-A5A5-4E40-B737-93564F781679/90140/48HansQ_20080724_00000271_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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5. Community Organisations—Funding

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

5. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What progress has been made towards the full funding of community organisations delivering essential services to children, young people, and families?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The first Pathways to Partnership payments are now going out to over 850 community groups. Yesterday I met with the Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge Charitable Trust, which supports families that have experienced family violence. This year the trust will receive a funding increase of more than $110,000, and its funding will continue to increase every year until it reaches full funding in 2012. Organisations like the Mother of Divine Mercy Refuge Charitable Trust are being recognised by our Government for the vital services and support that they provide.

Russell Fairbrother: What reports has the Minister seen of alternative funding models for the community sector?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen a model built on the philosophy that “the Government is really just a purchaser of services and the need to sustain a longer-term relationship is not an explicit part of its actions.” That is the model advocated by the National Party—an approach based on competitive bidding wars. The model would favour large providers, such as the huge Australian organisation currently courting the National Party. Local community groups would be left struggling and unable to support the vulnerable families that need their help.

Judith Collins: Why has it taken 9 years for this Government to finally adopt full funding, when it has known for years that community groups are struggling to meet their costs due to the uncertainty over funding, the 1-year contracts, and the taking away of contracts just as they get going; and why is the full-funding model that the Minister has announced being adopted by the Government only after National announced it would do it—why does she have to copy National Party policy again?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There are three quick points that I would like to make. Firstly, it is a bizarre situation for that member to be saying “too little, too late” to a move in the Budget that she and her party opposed and voted against on the public record. Secondly, within each Budget there is only a certain amount of National Party wreckage that we can restore—like restoring superannuation, and like returning to income-related rents for State housing. Thirdly, I want to clarify the misunderstanding that the member has about her own party policy, which is not to have full funding for essential social services, but is, to quote John Key, to “encourage community groups to put in bids”—in a competitive tendering process—“which reflect the full cost of delivery,”. That is a big difference.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Social Development document on Pathways to Partnership that shows that it is 60 percent funding, not full funding.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/06B6FF2D-DCF9-4CE8-B84F-A36F8E46AFB3/90142/48HansQ_20080724_00000347_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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6. Child Support—Total Debt

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

6. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Revenue: What is the total current child support debt broken down by assessment and penalties?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister of Revenue: As at 30 June 2008 the total child support debt owed by liable parents, payees, and child support employers was: in assessment debt, $501,889,098; in penalty debt, $833,937,558—totalling $1,335,826,657.

Judith Collins: Is it not true that the assessment debt has grown from $192 million in 2000 to more than $471 million today, and what is the explanation for this, given the $280 million increase in assessment debt?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In both the cash collections, which are now approximately $1 million per day—an increase of 4 percent—and the collections on Australia, which is now $20.6 million for the last financial year compared with $13.3 the previous year, we have seen an increase. More can be done, but in both instances we have seen an increase.

Judith Collins: Is it not true that the number of Inland Revenue Department staff employed specifically to deal with unpaid child support has increased from 98 in June 2004, to 214 in June this year; and does the Minister have any idea what these staff are actually doing, because clearly they are not collecting the unpaid child support debt?

Hon RUTH DYSON: From the figures I gave to the member in the previous supplementary question: clearly they are. But they are now on notice that should that member ever be part of a Treasury front bench, their jobs will be on the line.

Judith Collins: How can he be satisfied with a child support system that enables 35 of the top 100 child support debtors to take off overseas, free to leave and enter New Zealand as they please, even though they owe between $300,000 and $600,000 each, and if these same people owed $5,000 for parking or speeding tickets they would be stopped at the airport; what is the difference?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Data match legislation was passed by this House enabling the Inland Revenue Department and the Customs Service to ensure that people leaving and entering New Zealand did have their child support liabilities checked. That member and her party voted against that legislation.

Judith Collins: How can he be satisfied with the child support system when just 35 people owe a staggering $14 million between them, yet they are free to enter and leave New Zealand as they please because this Government cares more about parking fines than it does about children?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No indication of total satisfaction has been given. That member should recall that her party voted against strengthening provisions that enabled the Inland Revenue Department and the Customs Service to data match in order to enable more child support debtors to repay that debt.

Judith Collins: What does it say about the values of this Government when it thinks that stopping child support debtors at the airport is Draconian, but when it comes to people with speeding or parking tickets, it has adopted the following approach: “If you are planning on going overseas this summer you might want to pay your fines, or you could end up staying in New Zealand.”, and “fine dodgers must pay the fine or pay the price.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As I have said in the answers to previous supplementary questions, the most recent of several provisions, either in legislation or in inter-Government agreements to strengthen the arm of the Inland Revenue Department to reduce child support debt, were opposed by that member and her party.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the leaflet Pay or Stay, Rick Barker’s getting tough on—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/38FBD01B-1F53-4B9F-A8DC-E075695CDFC7/90144/48HansQ_20080724_00000384_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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7. Rural Health—Ministry of Health Actions

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

7. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Health: Will his ministry be taking any action to address the concerns outlined in the discussion document recently released by the New Zealand Institute of Rural Health; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) : Yes, I can tell the member that the Ministry of Health has been taking action on the issues outlined in that discussion document since Labour came into Government. Every year we spend an additional $100 million through the rural adjuster to district health board funding. We have committed $150 million for safer drinking water and $173 million for sewerage schemes for small rural communities. Each year we commit $8 million for health workforce retention in rural communities. We spend $5 million for mobile surgical services. We spend $4 million for the rural bonus to rural general practitioners and nurses, and $2 million for reasonable rosters for rural general practitioners and nurses. We have paid rural midwives a rural bonus and developed a Rural Innovations Fund. I could go on and on. We have an excellent track record in rural health compared with the National Party, which has less than 1 page on rural health policy.

Barbara Stewart: Does the Ministry of Health’s implementation plan for the rural sector date back to 2002; if so, is it not time to formulate a new strategy taking into account factors such as workforce shortages and clinical safety in rural hospitals; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: A rural expert advisory group wrote a report for the Minister in 2002 on implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy in New Zealand. The vast majority of its recommendations, as stated in the recent report, have been addressed and implemented. For example, the discussion document states that the Government has been focusing on workforce issues through that period.

Lesley Soper: What is the Minister’s view of the value of the discussion document?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: Although I acknowledge the good intent behind the document, I have to question the accuracy of some of the data that are included. For example, it refers to a downturn in the rural economy, when in fact the rural sector has been thriving under high commodity prices in recent years. The discussion document also claims there has been a 32 percent reduction in the rural primary health care workforce, when my figures show there has been an increase in rural general practitioners receiving the rural bonus from 415 in 2005-06 to 453 in 2007-08. I also note that the organisation that wrote the discussion document is soliciting a contract to write a rural health strategy.

Jo Goodhew: Why, after failing to complete the review of the rural emergency response scheme PRIME, after failing to complete the review of the rural ranking scale, and after failing to complete the review of after-hours services—all detailed in the discussion document—is this Labour Government so intent on hui and “no do-ey”?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I have to inform that member that I do not think there has been one hui on this particular issue. The vast majority of the health workforce in this country, with a few exceptions of course, is non-Māori—which is a little unfortunate, I have to say. We have been working through a review of the rural ranking scale and the after-hours issues. Unfortunately such anomalies as the general practitioners in Queenstown receiving a significant rural bonus are things that I want to work through. I have every intention of paying, including the $5 million allocated in this year’s Budget for after-hours services, money to those rural practitioners who are under pressure. I am not prepared to commit money to rural practitioners who are not providing after-hours care or who are not working in rural areas but have somehow qualified, through an inappropriate ranking scheme, for a rural bonus. I am working through those issues as quickly as I can, and I would welcome the opportunity to engage with the Rural GP Network on that.

Barbara Stewart: Is he aware that the rural general practice workforce declined by 32 percent between 2000 and 2005, and will that hasten consideration of voluntary bonding initiatives by the Ministry of Health; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I have to say that I do not accept those figures. There is some debate around the information on how many rural practitioners there are, and I would welcome more cooperation with the Rural GP Network in that area to clarify those issues. In regard to rural bonding, which the National Party has committed itself to, can I just quote back from the Rural GP Network, which says: “Don’t, because it won’t work.” It supports incentivising, because bonding does not work. It is an old-fashioned idea. That is classic National Party policy.

/NR/rdonlyres/30E338E9-3B20-4C90-96B1-185AC1A57F70/90146/48HansQ_20080724_00000445_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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8. Biofuels—Compulsory Requirement

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

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Is the Government reconsidering its mandatory requirement for biofuels from 1 October 2008, given the widespread international concern about sustainability and impacts on food prices and the sustainability standard not coming into effect at the earliest until July 2009?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : No. Biofuels are already being sold in New Zealand. Currently they can be imported and used from unsustainable sources. Whatever way we look at it, the bill improves the status quo. National’s opposition is just another excuse for delay, exposing once again its hollow pretence on climate change issues.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can he confirm that, like with the emissions trading legislation, he does not have the numbers on the Biofuel Bill, and that is why it sits at No. 22 on the Order Paper and more than 4 weeks has passed since it was reported back from the select committee, with no signs of getting to a second reading?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would have thought that Dr Smith learnt yesterday that questions on the progress of legislation in the House are to be addressed to the Leader of the House.

Hon Marian Hobbs: To the Minister—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry I did not hear the member. I cannot hear with the level of chatter, particularly from members who sit close to the Speaker. It is almost impossible to hear.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question asked whether the Minister had the numbers. On previous occasions you have ruled that is within a Minister’s responsibility.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not all, however, that the member asked in the question; I listened to it. If the Minister wants to add anything more that is within his portfolio, then he may. [Interruption] He does not want to.

Hon Marian Hobbs: What reports does the Minister have of New Zealand companies that want the Biofuel Bill to pass?

Hon DAVID PARKER: New Zealand companies are queuing up to produce sustainable biofuels once the bill is passed, but they want the certainty the legislation provides. I find it extraordinary that National, which claims to support enterprise in business, is doing everything it can to stop sustainable New Zealand businesses getting off the ground.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has he read the latest report from the OECD published last week that concludes that biofuels have limited benefit in reducing emissions and are responsible for 30 percent of the international increase in food prices—this coming on the heels of negative reports from Oxfam, the G8, the World Food Programme, the Royal Society, and the United Nations Secretary-General all calling for such biofuels policies to be reconsidered—and why is the Government ignoring those reports?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Dr Smith remains confused by the proposition that just because some biofuels are bad, not all are. I am not surprised he is confused, because there is confusion on climate change issues across National. We have Mr Key, on the one hand, saying: “I firmly believe in climate change and always have.”, despite being on the Hansard record—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a habit of the Government when it is in trouble to want to talk about National policy and what we say, rather than being accountable. My question was about the OECD report on biofuels and what Oxfam, the G8, and the United Nations have said about biofuels, and it made no reference to National’s climate change policy.

Madam SPEAKER: If we could just listen to the Minister’s answer, then we can judge whether it addresses the question.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I was pointing out that confusion can arise in National on these issues because it has Mr Key saying: “Even if one believes in global warming, and I am somewhat suspicious of it …”, yet later saying: “I firmly believe in climate change, and always have.” Mr Key will say whatever he thinks New Zealanders want to hear, but he and National have a very different agenda.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can that response in any way be considered an answer to the question? If you would like me to, I will read it again. It was about the OECD report that concludes that biofuels have limited benefit in reducing emissions, about the responsibility of biofuels for the 30 percent increase in international food prices, and about reports from other organisations. If you are to allow that response as an answer to a question, then a Minister can effectively talk about any old thing and you will say that it addressed the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister has pointed out that the member who asked the question is confused about the difference between sustainable biofuels and non-sustainable biofuels, and that that confusion was interpretative of the National Party’s approach to the entire climate change area. Unfortunately, politics goes both ways in this House, not just from there to here.

Madam SPEAKER: I know that members may at times feel frustrated with the answers, but members cannot require a specific answer to a question. Often the questions are long and prefaced by many statements, and, therefore, the answers they get are sometimes not satisfactory. In this instance, the answer did relate to the question. It may not have satisfied the member, but it did address it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister justify the cost identified in the OECD report on biofuels of between US$960 and US$1,700 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions saved; and why would any Government want to impose this cost at a time when inflation is at the worst it has been for 20 years and families are under record budget pressure?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because not all biofuels are to that effect. Dr Smith has already been outed for misrepresenting the advice given to the select committee. It is now clear that with the current prices of oil, sustainable biofuels can be brought forward at or below the current cost of oil-based alternatives.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm to the House whether he has a majority in Parliament to support the Biofuel Bill, given that the compulsory requirement is due to take effect in just 8 weeks’ time?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I could if I desired to, but I will not.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware of the submission made to the select committee by the Automobile Association, and, noting that the association represents one million - odd motorists in this country, can he advise whether cognisance will be taken of its recommendations?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The Automobile Association raised proper concerns about biofuels at some levels being incompatible with vehicles. It is clear that biofuels at the levels that are proposed currently, which are similar to the biofuels that are already being delivered around the country at a number of locations, will not cause a problem.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can he explain why under the Government’s biofuels policy there is a 42c a litre advantage of ethanol over bio-diesel when both officials and the select committee concluded that there is no justification for that bias?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The select committee reported the bill back in that form.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that during the mere 10 months before detailed sustainability regulations come into force, those selling biofuels in New Zealand will have to report publicly on their origin and on how they are consistent with the sustainability principles of the Act; and does he think that any firm would be stupid enough to try to foist on to the New Zealand public biofuels that contribute to world hunger, given the Act that is about to come into force and given the wide publicity about the kinds of biofuels that are used overseas?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The question makes the point quite well, but I would also re-emphasise what I said in response to an earlier question—that is, without this legislation, of course, those protections do not exist.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table the Green Party’s contribution to the Biofuel Bill, new section 34GA, which shows that biofuels will not be able to contribute to—

 Leave granted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the report of the OECD on biofuels, urging Governments not to proceed with such—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/7D01A509-3E58-424D-A758-13211131B18C/90148/48HansQ_20080724_00000498_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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9. Māori Education—Secondary Qualifications

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

9. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Associate Minister of Education: Ka pēhea te whakatika a te Minita i nga hapa o te pūnahakāwanatanga e pā ana ki te haurua, neke atu o ngāākongaMāoriimutu te kura itērātau me te kore otii a rātoutētahitohumātauranga o te rēangatuaono?

[What will he do to address the systemic failure which has resulted in more than half of Māori students leaving school last year without completing a sixth-form qualification?]

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Customs) on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education: Tino nui rawa atu ngāāhuatanga pai kuaputa ki roto ingā tikanga akorangaMāori. I te tau 2007, ko te wāhanga ō rātouiwehe mai ingā kura i eke ki te tautamatuarua o National Certificate of Educational Achievement, rungaakerānei, e 44 ō-rau. Kia whakaritea ki te tau 1999, anā, 19.7 ōraunoa iho o rātouiwehe mai ingā kura, i eke ki tēnā taumata. Ko ēneipikingaiwhakaatai te piriponotanga a te Kāwanatanga ki te whakapaiakeingāhuangaakorangaMāori. He nui rawa atu ngā mahinga kuaoti, he nui anō me mahia, ā, kei te mahi tonumātou. There has been massive improvement in Māori educational achievement. In 2007 the proportion of Māori school-leavers achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 or above was 44 percent; only 18.7 percent of Māori school-leavers in 1999 achieved an equivalent level. This improvement reflects the Government’s commitment to improving Māori educational outcomes. A lot is being done, there is still more to do, and we are doing it.

Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha ngā tauira Māori e puta mai aii te kura he iti akengātohumātauranga ki ngātohu o wētahiakemomo iwi?

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

[Why are Māori students leaving school with lower levels of education than students from other ethnic groups?]

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Ahakoa he iti ka haere whakamua. Ko temea nui mōtēneikāwanatanga, ka haere tahi mātou ki te hāpaiingāhua o te mātauranga ki te iwi Māori. Although these are small steps, they are a concerted effort to go forward. The most important thing for this Government is that we take a combined approach to ensure that the benefit and support of educational opportunities extend to Māori. In fact, the statistics show that since 1999 there have been great improvements in terms of Māori staying at school and gaining qualifications while at school.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora koe, Madam Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. Ka taea e te Minita te kōreromōētahi kaupapa kōkiri e whakatinanaanatēneiKāwanatanga hei whakapaiakeingāputangamā te rangaMāori?

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

[Can the Minister outline some specific initiatives that this Government is implementing to improve Māori educational outcomes?]

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Āe, kei te mahi tonutēneikāwanatanga ki te whakapaiakeingāhuangaakorangamōngāiMāoritāpiri atu ki te whanaketanga o Ka Hikitiaitakoha mai rā e ngā tohunga akoMāori, ngāhaporiMāori me te RārangiAkoranga, Te Marautanga, he marautangaārahiakorangai roto takotorangaMāori, te marautanga hou mō Aotearoa, a Schools Plus, e rapuana ki te whakatikaingāhapapūnaha o muri me te whakawhiwhiitētehirautakimōngāakoranga katoa kia noho mai ki roto ingā mahi whakangunguakoranga atu hoki, ā, eke noa ki te tautekaumāwaru. This Government continues to work towards improving educational outcomes for Māori, including the development of Ka Hikitia, which was contributed to by Māori educationalists, Māori communities, and the education sector; Te Marautanga, the curriculum to guide education in Māori medium settings; a revised New Zealand curriculum; and Schools Plus, which seeks to address the systemic failures of the past and to provide a strategy for all learners to remain in education and/or training until the age of 18.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Tēnātātou o te Whare. Kei te ‘hakaae te Minitamēnā e hiahiaanatātou kia kite i te kōkiritanga o te iwi Māori, nā reira e tikaanan`atātou o tēnei Whare kiatautokongiangāhōtaka kia noho tonungā tauira Māori ki te kura kia whaitohumātauranga, mēnā, āe me pēhea, mēnakāhore e aha ai?Does the Minister agree that if we wish to see the advancement of Māori, then it is right that this House support programmes to have Māori students remain at school to gain an educational qualification; if he does, how; if not, why?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Āe, koinā te take ka huri ō mātouhiahia ki ērā o ngāripoatakuakōrerohia e au. [Yes, that is the reason why our ambitions refer to other reports that I alluded to previously.] Ko te hiahia kia noho roangā tauira ki te kura. Our aim is to ensure that students stay at school for longer. Ko te mea pai ake o te Schools Plushe mahangā huarahi hei awhi ā tātounei tauira me ā rātouakoranga ki te kura, ki te whiwhi mahi, aha rānei. The most important aspect of the Schools Plus initiative, for example, is to ensure that there is a range of pathways for young Māori to support their learning and career opportunities, so that they can get a job or pursue higher learning opportunities.

Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha te take e pēneiana te kōrero, e toru ō-raunoa iho ngā tauira Pākehā e puta mai anai te kura, kāorerawa ō rātoutohumātauranga; otirā, tekau ō-raungā tauira Māori e pēneiana te kore tohu?

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

[Why are only 3 percent of Pākehā leaving school with no formal attainment while 10 percent of Māori are in that same position?]

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: E ai ki ngātatauranga o Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga, ko te meanunui mai i te tau 1999, ka pai akengāāhuatanga ki ō tātounei tauira Māori. Koinā te meanunui. I think when people look at the statistics from the Ministry of Education they will certainly see an improvement in educational outcomes for Māori since 1999. They have been attaining higher qualifications. That shows that this Government has done more in our 8 years than the previous National Government did between the years 1990 and 1999.

Hon Dover Samuels: Pēheaōnaneiwhakaaro ki a wai te tino rangatiratanga mōngā tamariki haere ana ki te kura, ko ngāmātua, ko ngāwhānau o ngā tamariki, ko ngāTari o te Mātauranga, ki te kāwanatanga, ki ētahi atu raini?Does the Minister think that parents and whānau have a responsibility to ensure that their children attend school and complete their education, or should it just be left to the Ministry of Education, to the Government, or to someone else?

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Āe, ko koutou e mōhioana ki te whāngaipēpi, ki te tiaki ō koutou nei tamariki, koinā te meanunui kei waenganuii ia whānaungāwhakautu ki ērā o ngā o ngātoimahatanga ki te taha mātaurangaengari, i te mutunga, kei a mātou ki te taha kāwanatanga hei whakatakotoērā o ngā kaupapa ki te hāpaitēneiāhuatanga me pēwhea e taea e tātou te tautoko ngāhiahia o ō tātounei tamariki kia eke airātou ki ō rātounei taumata. Yes, I certainly agree, and many members across the House who are parents and who have raised children know that within the family there are many solutions to support the educational aspirations of our young people. On the Government’s part, we are working hard to ensure that there are responses that continue to work to support the educational aspirations of young Māori.

Te Ururoa Flavell: E mōhioana ia, tokoruairakationongā tauira Māori e whakatahainaanamō ia tauira Pākehā; tokowhā e panaiaanamō ia tauira Pākehā; he maha atu ngā tauira Māori e whakatārewatiaana, ā, e pēneianangā rere kētangaingātau; hoi, āwhea ia tahuriai ki te whakatikaitēneiparekura?

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

[Is he aware that Māori students are stood down at a rate 2.6 times greater than that of their Pākehā peers, are excluded four times more often than Pākehā are, and are still disproportionately represented in suspensionstatistics, and that these differences have remained relatively constant over the years; when will he do anything to address this crisis of endemic proportions?]

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I will respond to that question quite directly, because although the member has raised a number of issues, let us put them into context. Since 1999 this Government has made a number of moves to ensure that the ability to stand down, suspend, and exclude students is limited, and the member will know that. Many initiatives around the country have shown that where we have taken action to limit the ability for schools to suspend, exclude, and stand down students, the outcomes have been tremendous. More to the point, since 1999 we have seen an improvement in the numbers of Māori staying at school for longer and gaining more qualifications. This Government has not stopped its programme of work; Schools Plus will work hard to ensure that many more of the students whom that member talks about can continue to be engaged in further education, training, or upskilling.

/NR/rdonlyres/D94BB507-32F5-4C98-AAA9-5D262803DDAC/90150/48HansQ_20080724_00000593_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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10. Māori Trustee—General Purposes Fund

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

10. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does the Māori Trustee support the expropriation of $35 million out of the Māori Trustee’s general purposes fund?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the Minister of Māori Affairs: The Māori Trustee has been closely involved in the development of this proposal, and supports the Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand concept.

Hon Tau Henare: Is it not correct that last year the Minister’s office was in talks with the Māori Trustee about becoming an investor in a development fund; and that the Minister put papers to Cabinet recommending it expropriated $35 million of trustee money, only after the Māori Trustee refused to become that investor, to the tune of $35 million?

Hon SHANE JONES: The Māori Trustee is a highly valued civil servant and administrator, and, indeed, he released a public statement yesterday amplifying the level of support he gives to the proposal.

Hon Tau Henare: In the press release that the Minister refers to, did the Māori Trustee refer to his support, or otherwise, of the expropriation of $35 million out of the general purposes fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: What is at stake here is a proposal to write off over $60 million worth of historical debt, and to introduce $19 million—to improve the operational capacity of the Māori Trustee—a $4 million capital grant, and a transfer of $35 million. It is akin to transferring from one waka to the other—something the member is a tohunga at.

Hon Tau Henare: Can the Minister confirm that yesterday’s press release was not issued by the Māori Trustee but by the communications manager at Te PuniKōkiri after news of the Māori Trustee’s opposition to the expropriation of $35 million of trustee money was leaked, and that none of the comments his department strong armed out of the Māori Trustee in a vain attempt at damage control even mentions the expropriation of the $35 million that I have asked about in the last three questions and not got an answer?

Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, a bill lies before the select committee, which the member occasionally turns up at. Number two—

Madam SPEAKER: That comment was inappropriate. Would the Minister please address the question.

Hon SHANE JONES: The bill lies before the select committee. I repeat that it is not impounded money. It is not confiscated money. It is a transfer from one organisation to another—an entity that will have the Māori Trustee as its chair.

Hon Tau Henare: Can the Minister confirm evidence presented to the Māori Affairs Committee yesterday that none of the 2,000 attendees at the consultation hui on the Māori Trustee Bill were told of any intention to expropriate the $35 million of general purposes fund money, but rather were only asked whether they supported general reform of the trustee and the principle of having a development fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: There was a consultation process, and the overwhelming response was that such reform and the creation of an entity with at least $35 million would be a boon for the iwi.

Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave of the House to table the transcript of yesterday’s select committee, where the Māori Trustee said he did not support the movement of $35 million.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/71AD18F9-DCBD-40B6-8FC4-9734DABB0428/90152/48HansQ_20080724_00000735_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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11. Health Services—Access

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

11. JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Health: How is the Government improving young people’s access to health services?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Associate Minister of Health) : As part of the Budget this year, over the next 3 years more than 40,000 secondary students will gain better access to health services. Over 4 years, $17.2 million will go towards health services for young people based at all decile 1 to decile 3 secondary schools, teen parent units, and alternative education facilities. That adds to the Labour-led Government’s commitment to delivering accessible primary health care to all New Zealanders, wherever they are.

Jill Pettis: What are the benefits of the Government’s delivering health care at school, and what sorts of services can young people and their parents expect?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: We know that it works much better to bring health services to where young people are, rather than just hoping they will go to existing services when they need to. We know that healthy students are much more likely to learn. School-based services will differ depending on each school’s need, but are expected to be nurse-led and may include regular general practitioner clinics. These services will be developed in consultation with the school, the primary health organisation, and the district health board.

/NR/rdonlyres/0A0CCACF-279A-4E77-A00C-AB765B5F8772/90154/48HansQ_20080724_00000806_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 24 July 2008 [PDF 242k]

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12. Rest Homes—Standard of Care

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

12. JO GOODHEW (National—Aoraki) to the Minister of Health: What are the names of the five rest homes that he believes are potentially in the same league as Belhaven Rest Home in Auckland?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I want to make it clear that at no time did I suggest that there are other rest homes “in the same league” as Belhaven Rest Home, potentially or otherwise. The level of care of, and the lack of respect given to, residents at the Belhaven Rest Home were absolutely unacceptable. That is why the Ministry of Health and the district health board moved quickly to shut it down. Failing to meet basic standards of care in any rest home will result in strong and appropriate action.

Jo Goodhew: Why does the Minister not take action now to introduce spot auditing and a comprehensive review of Labour’s failing auditing processes?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first instance, I have already asked for such a review and have proposals under way. In the second instance, I draw the House’s attention to National’s discussion paper on aged residential care, where the only real proposal it makes about auditing is to lower compliance costs.

Jill Pettis: Oh!


Sue Moroney: How long after receiving the complaint about Belhaven Rest Home did the Ministry of Health act?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Ministry of Health acted immediately and its officials were at the rest home within hours of the ministry receiving the complaint. Failure to treat our elderly with the respect and care that they deserve will not be tolerated. I encourage those who have complaints about the care that they or their loved ones have received to contact the Ministry of Health on 0800 113 813. We will not sit idly by when there are serious failures, and those responsible will be held to account.

Barbara Stewart: What action is being taken to ensure that basic standards of cleanliness, hygiene, and food safety are maintained for residents, given that rest home managers are always advised in advance of planned audits?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: District health boards currently contract a range of assessment companies, which undertake thorough audits according to agreed specifications. Those auditors themselves are currently under an assessment regime whereby they are reviewed for effectiveness by the district health boards and the Ministry of Health.

Jo Goodhew: How widespread does the Minister think this problem of the safety of residents of rest homes is, and how has he come to his conclusions about residents’ safety?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I think it is important to state firstly that although the Government has zero tolerance of elder abuse, we believe that in most cases rest home care facilities are appropriate and well managed. I think it is unfortunate if the member or anyone else is attempting to spread by innuendo any material that would undermine legitimate and well-run businesses. It is also very important that we ensure that the auditing processes are appropriate, and I have already said to the member that I have a review under way on that matter.

Jo Goodhew: Has the Minister received any reports from the Ministry of Health of any concerns that it has about the safety of rest home residents; if so, what do those reports say?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes; as I have said publicly, I have asked the ministry for a full report on any concerns that it may have about rest homes. The point I made earlier is that it is not true to say that I have said that five other rest homes are in the same league as Belhaven Rest Home. I am advised that there are no other rest homes about which similar reports have been received.

Jo Goodhew: Why, after 9 long years of this Labour Government, are we are seeing such obvious failures in the Government’s auditing system, despite growth in Labour’s audit bureaucracy?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member’s last comment begins to chime rather well with the complaint in her party’s discussion document about compliance costs. Can the member please come clean and tell the House whether she is asking for tougher auditing standards, or for weaker auditing standards as is called for in National’s elder care paper?

I seek leave to table an extract from National’s elder care discussion document, where the party calls for a reduction—

- Leave granted.


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






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Opening the Election