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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 29 July 2008



Questions to Ministers

1. Foreign Affairs, Racing, Minister—Confidence

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: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she met with Mr Peters this afternoon; and in light of the explanations and assurances that Mr Peters gave the Prime Minister at their meeting in her office, can she now confirm that she has full confidence in Mr Peters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that I have full confidence in Mr Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs, as Minister for Racing, and as Associate Minister for Senior Citizens.

John Key: What new facts did she learn from Mr Peters at the meeting?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Peters has continued to assure me as Prime Minister that his behaviour has been lawful. I know that the member agrees with me, because he has publicly said that we must accept an honourable member’s word.

John Key: Did the Prime Minister ask Mr Peters to clarify for her, so that she could have full confidence and retain full confidence in Mr Peters, what had happened to the $25,000 that had been received, how long the Spencer Trust had been operating, and what the trust was used to fund?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not expect Mr Peters to answer questions about the Spencer Trust, any more than I would expect Mr Key to answer questions about the Waitemata Trust.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Prime Minister take a different view if she, knowing that a declaration in respect of pecuniary interests had been required of a member of Parliament, checked that declaration and found that a company shareholdership of 2,524,750 shares in the name of Craig Foss was undeclared?

Hon Member: Oh-oh!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh-oh!

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If members have information that suggests that there has been a significant oversight in another member’s declaration to the registrar of members’ pecuniary interests, then I suggest that that information should be forwarded to the registrar.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she has decided to adjudicate on this issue in relation to Mr Peters in relation to issues of legality, not issues of integrity; if that is the case, how can the Prime Minister be sure that Mr Peters has not broken the law, if she has not asked him the difficult question of what happened to the funds from the Spencer Trust?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have accepted Mr Peters’ word. I have to say that I have had dealings with Mr Peters for a number of years, and I consider that I have not ever been led astray by him.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Prime Minister tell her Minister of Foreign affairs and Minister for Racing that, regardless of the legal situation, the public of New Zealand deserve straightforward answers to the questions that have been raised about donations from Owen Glenn, Bob Jones, and the Vela family, if the public are to maintain confidence in her Government; if she has not told him that yet, will she be telling him that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: On Friday, 17 July, when Mr Peters was advised by his lawyer that the lawyer had received funding from Mr Glenn, Mr Peters very promptly declared that to me. I have no more questions to ask on that matter. In respect of cheques written out to New Zealand First the party or to the Spencer Trust, I would assume that the convention is that those matters go to the party via a trust, as they would with other political parties, whether we are talking the National Party and the Waitemata Trust, the Ruahine Trust, or whatever.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What is happening here is that when anyone gets up to ask a question of the Prime Minister, Ron Mark MP yells out across the House, threatening to reveal information. He has done it to me, and he has done it to Jeanette Fitzsimons my colleague. I consider that behaviour to be threatening and bullying of Parliament. [Interruption] I do. I consider that an MP standing up to ask a question having to face the sideline banter of someone saying “If you ask that question, we will reveal stuff about you.” is unparliamentary, and I ask you, Madam Speaker, to ask Mr Mark to stop.

Ron Mark: Coming from out of the mouth of the man in a yellow jacket, talk of threatening, bullying, intimidatory tactics, and sideline comments being thrown across the Chamber, is absolute—well, we are not allowed to use the word. But I have not threatened everyone; I have simply asked Mr Hide whether he himself has declared everything he should declare.

Madam SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I did not hear the comments. I would ask members, however, that when they make interjections they do so consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware—and this arises out of a question last week from the Green Party—that the only improper behaviour in respect of any official inquiry in this House was when a member of a select committee, a Green member, was having an inappropriate affair with one of the lawyers for one of the interested submitting parties, and that he had to disqualify himself, and is now married to her?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a suitable question. That is out of order.[Interruption]

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yes, but I say to Rodney that he will not be, will he, and we all know why—do we not. Why does he not tell the world what he is really like?

Madam SPEAKER: If members interject, they do get a response, and that is what creates disorder. I will be asking members to leave the Chamber if they continue along those lines.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If it was good enough for Mr Norman to make that allegation last week, when I was not here, it is good enough for him to hear the truth this week, when I am. That is why I want an answer from the Prime Minister, because this matter is part of the select committee record.

Dr Russel Norman: To what extent was that a point of order from Mr Peters? It is not clear to me that it was a point of order; I think actually it was a debating point. One of the problems in this Chamber is that people constantly use the point of order process to make debating points—

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, just like the member is doing. Be seated. What Mr Peters was doing was questioning my ruling. We will have no more of that. We will continue with question time.

John Key: When the Prime Minister said of her Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday at her press conference: “stands have been taken over a period of time that could be read as being in contradiction to what is emerging in the public arena.”, what did she mean?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I meant that all of us in public life live in a goldfish bowl where everything we once said about something is then compared with what we later say about something. So, for example, when a member in this House calls Working for Families “communism by stealth”, then says he is all for it, the court of public opinion will judge that for what it is.

John Key: For the benefit of the House, can the Prime Minister clear up whether, when she met with Mr Peters this afternoon, she actually got an explanation from Mr Peters in relation to the $25,000 that Bob Jones paid to the Spencer Trust, or did she simply accept Mr Peters at his word that there was no matter that needed looking into?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that it is no more a matter for Mr Peters to explain the Spencer Trust than it is for Mr Key to explain the Waitemata Trust, the Ruahine Trust, or the money the National Party received from the racing industry, the insurance industry, or any of a long list of vested interests cultivated by Mr Key. I see he is still at it: he has been invited by Mr Hogan of the racing industry to go down to Cambridge, meet with people from the industry, and tell them what he would do for them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that I made the same offer to Mr Key that I made to the Prime Minister in respect of this matter, and I am still waiting for a phone call; second, if Mr Foss MP has a shareholdership of 2,524,750 shares in a company formed in the year 2000, how could he have failed to declare that, and what does Mr Key have to say about that?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.I think the Prime Minister is in a difficult position. Firstly—

Hon Member: I know you are.

Gerry Brownlee: No, the Prime Minister is in a difficult position.

Madam SPEAKER: There is a point of order; they are heard in silence.

Gerry Brownlee: The Prime Minister is in a difficult position because, firstly, she will not be aware that Mr Peters has made no representations to the office of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to any briefing or otherwise. All we know of it, all the Leader of the Opposition knows of it, is by way of the Television New Zealand commentary last evening. The second point is that the Prime Minister is now being asked to answer a question that can only be posed to Mr Key. It is a nonsense question, and Mr Peters knows that. Once again, one of his supplementary questions should be ruled out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the first part of the question can be addressed by the Prime Minister to the best of her knowledge, but, obviously, she cannot answer a question on behalf of someone else. So that is correct.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.How on earth can the Prime Minister answer a question about whether Mr Key has accepted a briefing, when she cannot possibly know whether he has even been offered one?

Madam SPEAKER: Well, if you read the Standing Orders, you will see that if opinions and views are sought, then a response—and I said “to the best of her knowledge”—can be given.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I did hear on television last night that a briefing had been offered to Mr Key. I have heard Mr Key comment on that matter today, so I think he is well aware that there is a briefing on offer, if he is prepared to take it—he has commented on it.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Peters’ statement that he put out earlier this afternoon in which he said that, one, he is “confident that these matters have been put to rest.”, and, two, “This whole affair is a shameful episode of dirty politics.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: From my point of view, I have been given no reason to believe that there is any illegality. I continue to watch closely developments on all matters around Ministers, but at this time I have no reason to doubt Mr Peters’ word.

John Key: Will the Prime Minister just clarify, then, for the sake of New Zealanders today, that this is the situation: that Mr Peters has faced some serious allegations, which he has failed to provide answers for; that Mr Peters went through a 1-hour press conference in Auckland last Friday where, despite a barrage of questions from the media, he failed to provide answers; that Mr Peters this afternoon met with the Prime Minister, and failed to give her answers, but she has just accepted his word? Is that—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This ramble, you will appreciate, is not the way to ask parliamentary questions. But, more particularly, I answered every journalist there who was halfway competent to ask a question on the law and the facts; the fact that they came up doughnuts is their problem.

Madam SPEAKER: No. Would Mr Key please continue with his question.

John Key: Can I just summarise the situation: is it that Mr Peters faces some serious allegations, which, at this point, he has failed to provide answers for; that he sat through a press conference for 1 hour on Friday in Auckland, where he failed to provide answers; and that the Prime Minister is now telling New Zealanders that she has not actually had an explanation from Mr Peters but has simply accepted his word? If that is the case, then is this the same Prime Minister who said she would campaign on higher standards in office, or are those standards rapidly disappearing, like her poll ratings?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The convention is that an honourable member’s word be accepted. The member himself has accepted that in his public comments on this whole issue. But what I think it would be helpful to have some clarification of is Mr Key’s refusal to confirm whether he himself would work with Mr Peters, because I saw at least five questions asked of him on that matter on Agenda on Sunday morning, and he was slippery on every one of them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she has seen the press statement of last Friday’s press conference where I set out the eight allegations being made by the media and debunked the whole lot, only to find when I was overseas that there was a ninth one, which came from one Rex Widerstrom, who obviously is clairvoyant, because he referred to a fund that I was told the other day was not even in existence at the time he worked for New Zealand First? That is the kind of shambolic, hopeless, useless journalism that I am required to live with in this country.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I did indeed see that particular press statement, and I have observed the member’s comments on the news media. My views on the news media may or may not be something I bother to write about at some future point of my life.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm, then, that the difference between her leadership and my leadership is that I would actually ask some questions and get some answers, which she is failing to do?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The difference between his leadership and mine is that I do not call something “communism by stealth”, then endorse it; I do not call an interest-free student loan policy the “greatest waste of public money ever”, then endorse it; and I do not have my dogs saying that the policy of 20 hours’ free early education is a terrible thing and should be stopped, then turn round and try to imply that I support it. The difference between my leadership and his is that from the time I entered this House I have had a set of principles; he has never had one. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Order! Members have had an opportunity to express themselves, and we have all heard you. I call the Rt Hon Winston Peters for a supplementary question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You are aware that all parties know exactly what their allocations of both primary and supplementary questions are. New Zealand First has used the allocations put in front of it today. Do we assume that a nice cosy little deal has been done with the Labour Party to let Mr Peters get back on his feet?

Madam SPEAKER: The member knows that deals are done by all parties in this House from time to time—not just one party. It is not a deal; it is an arrangement. I think you will recall, Mr Brownlee, that your party gifted an extra question to ACT. That is perfectly in order, provided that the Speaker knows. The Speaker knows that questions have been given to New Zealand First; the matter ends there.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just been able to tell the House and anyone who is really interested—and I am sure people are not—that ACT took a question from National, and that National gave it to ACT. Our question simply is who has given these questions to New Zealand First.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It defies any rational explanation that someone rises to his feet and makes that point of order when I have had only four questions. The guy cannot count. That is the worst thing of all. A woodwork teacher must know measurement with exactitude; otherwise, one would get a terribly faulty product.

Madam SPEAKER: Be seated. This is ridiculous. Members should also know that allocations for one day can be changed to another. I am quite happy, at the Business Committee, to go through the rules with Mr Brownlee this afternoon. I would like us now to proceed.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm, then, that one of her principles that she has lived by is integrity, upholding the integrity of Parliament, upholding the integrity of her executive; is that the case, or is one of her new principles that anything that is not deemed to be illegal in her book is OK?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I follow very closely all developments concerning Ministers, and I always act on advice. But I do not put myself in the position of that member, who was a rugby-playing, Muldoon-admiring student who could not remember where he stood on the Springbok Tour; who could not remember that he had stood in this House and denounced the Labour-led Government for opposing the war in Iraq, then turned round and said he had never said that; nor am I like that member in that he said he had always believed in the problem of climate change, when in this House he had said it was a hoax. I stand by my word of consistency, unlike that member, who will say anything, just like a short-term money trader.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Companies Office record of Cynotech Holdings Ltd, the address of one Craig Foss MP, and also his pecuniary interest declaration.

 Leave granted.


Rodney Hide: Can the Prime Minister assure the people of New Zealand that her Government is above even the suspicion of corruption; that her Minister Winston Peters did not receive a gift of $100,000 from an overseas billionaire seeking to be made an honorary consul; and that Winston Peters did not solicit $25,000 from Sir Robert Jones that disappeared into a slush fund administered by Winston Peters’ brother, to be spent on who knows what?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Following news media reports on this matter, it is quite clear that Sir Bob Jones agrees that he wrote a cheque that went to the Spencer Trust. If he has issues, he should take them up there. Secondly, we have it on the word of Mr Peters’ lawyer that he advised Mr Peters only at 5 o’clock on 17 July of the payment from Mr Glenn in respect of legal fees.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table an article from today’s—of all papers—New Zealand Herald, which totally refutes what it wrote on day one. Audrey Young finally got it right, 5 days later.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/AC90C44D-A790-4F41-B5BB-04BF3D2AFD4B/90714/48HansQ_20080729_00000087_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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2. Budget 2008—Cash Deficit Forecasts

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

2. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Finance: What are the Budget forecasts for cash deficits over the next 4 years, and what changes are likely to these forecasts in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : The fiscal forecasts presented with the 2008 Budget Economic and Fiscal Update show cash deficits over the next 4 years of around $3.5 billion a year. It is likely that the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update will show an increase in these deficits since the end of June tax update, which will show tax receipts for the 2007-08 year were some $700 million below the Budget forecast.

H V Ross Robertson: Can he tell the House what reports he has seen on the importance of these forecasts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a report indicating that neither changing economic conditions nor fiscal imperatives should make any difference to plans for major reductions in Government revenue. At a time of considerable international instability, when two Australian-owned banks operating in New Zealand have just made major write-downs and when the US Government has just announced the biggest fiscal deficit in America’s history, it is extraordinary that somebody should take a short-term money market manipulator’s view of the management of the New Zealand economy. It is no wonder that on TV3 last night, when Mr English was trying to deny that borrowing would be required for further tax cuts, he lifted his eyes to the heavens and said: “I had better not comment any further.”

Hon Bill English: Why should the New Zealand public believe any statements on economic management from that Minister when he has spent 7 years railing against borrowing at the same time as cutting taxes and then, in the 2008 Budget, he cut taxes, borrowed $6.4 billion, and sold $6.4 billion of State assets to finance his cash deficits?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member may make it up as often as he likes, and he always does. Every Budget that I have presented—[Interruption] the one thing about this sound system is that the person in control gets heard, and the squeaking does not get heard—has shown surpluses turning into deficits over time, the economy continuing to outperform, and, therefore, cash surpluses continuing to eventuate. Anybody who believes in the current international and domestic situation that the Budget forecasts will be better at election time than they were at Budget time is living in a dream world. That member knows that the promises being made by his leader up and down the country cannot be met without either further borrowing or without making cuts to State spending—and we know one of the ways that those members will do it.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister, therefore, tell the House what further reports he has received on fiscal management?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen an even further extraordinary report that commits to keeping the entire Working for Families package and goes on to suggest that this should have no impact on the affordability of tax cuts of $50 a week over and above the $10.6 billion of tax cuts announced in Budget 2008. This report from Mr Key, who previously described Working for Families as “communism by stealth”—[Interruption] Oh, it was actually communism by stealth, he says. He says that it was communism by stealth, but if a National Government did it, then presumably it would be capitalism by stealth. If it was communism by stealth, and if it was a costly welfare monster, it shows, in fact, that the National Party faces three choices: to have a promise of much larger tax cuts it either has to cut services, borrow more, or flip-flop yet again. If one can change one’s mind on every promise one has made in the last 2 or 3 years, then why would one not change one’s mind on the promises one makes before an election, once one gets the change? Remember what the member’s motto is, as revealed in the New Zealand Herald: “whatever it takes”—whatever it takes.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the 2008 Budget, which contradicts Dr Cullen and shows he did borrow—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/079AD965-3FEB-4D68-9894-63BF93DCEA2B/90716/48HansQ_20080729_00000249_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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3. Crown-connected Organisations—Board Appointments

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

3. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of State Services: What guidance documents, if any, are Government departments and Ministers expected to use when making appointments to the boards of Crown-connected organisations?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services) : There are a number of documents, including the State Services Commission Board Appointment and Induction Guidelines, last revised in May 2007, and a number of Cabinet Office circulars.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the Government is observing the constitutional convention that no appointments are made to Crown boards in the 3 months prior to a general election, and therefore the date for the election this year must be 8 November unless a confidence vote is lost prior to that time?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that the Government has adhered, and always will adhere, to that convention. But I would say that the cries from the National Party are more double standards on the part of National, and I would instance that the appointment by the party of its front-man for anonymous donations, Robert Brown, from the Waitemata Trust that last election pumped $1.4 million into National Party coffers, is the same Robert Brown who was appointed by the National Party as chair of Transit New Zealand.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker; tēnā koutou katoa. What evidence does the Minister have, on looking at recent appointments, that under a Labour Government the best person is appointed to the job?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would say that the Labour Government is far more balanced when it comes to appointments than the National Party ever was, and if any evidence is needed of that I would point to the recent appointments of former National Prime Minister, Jim Bolger, to be head of KiwiRail, and today’s appointment of former National Minister, Paul East, as a governor to the board of Radio New Zealand.

Gerry Brownlee: If the Labour Government is so very balanced about the way it makes its appointments, can the Minister confirm that Mike Williams, the president of the Labour Party, was recently appointed to the board of the New Zealand Transport Agency—which brings the number of Government-appointed boards that he sits on to five, with an annual salary somewhere north of $140,000 a year—and is it true that Mr Williams gets so many appointments because the Prime Minister is sick of digging him out of trouble every time he opens his mouth so the Government has to give him lots of jobs to keep him busy and to keep him quiet?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that Mr Williams was appointed to the new transport agency, but not as chair—unlike the appointment of Mr McCully’s mate Mr Brown, who was appointed as chair to Transit under the National Party, and who is the same man who fronts the Waitemata Trust.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister, in fact, confirmed for the House today that the Government is following all of the constitutional requirements when it comes to making appointments, and that therefore the only possible election date now available to the Prime Minister is 8 November?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, it is not, and what I confirmed was that the Government is abiding by the convention.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister therefore suggesting that the Government is wilfully breaching the constitutional convention that no appointments are made to Crown boards in the 3 months prior to a general election, just as the Government has breached so many other constitutional conventions in its term of office, such as the bipartisanship over electoral law reform and the ensuring of neutrality of the public service?

Hon DAVID PARKER: For a start, the member misstates, or misrepresents, the convention. In terms of the politicisation of things, I would note that the person who has most politicised things in the State services this year was Mr Brownlee in his attempt to politicise the appointment of Mr Rennie as State Services Commissioner.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister confirm rumours that scores of Labour Party members around New Zealand are currently updating their CVs and sending them to Ministers in a desperate attempt to get positions on boards before the dying, desperate, out-of-touch Government finally kicks the bucket; and can he tell us whether the Government will beat the record it set last month with 43 appointments in just 4 days?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am sure that the appointees to Government positions—not the least of whom would be Mr East and Mr Bolger—would be insulted by those accusations.

/NR/rdonlyres/77079322-2307-4D4B-8D28-5EE7BA5447EE/90718/48HansQ_20080729_00000293_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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4. Acute Psychiatric Units—Concerns

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

4. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does he have any concerns about recent events involving Wellington’s and Auckland’s acute psychiatric units; if so, what is he doing about them?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I am always concerned to hear of any incidents involving a death that might have been preventable. No physical or mental health service anywhere in the world, of course, is perfect. Some failings within the Auckland system have already been acknowledged, but I am satisfied that by and large New Zealand’s services—both physical and mental health services—are improving. In relation to the most recent Wellington case, Capital and Coast District Health Board has assured the Government and the public that cost never plays a part in its treatment decisions around discharge from a mental health service. All of the events that the member refers to have been, or are being, investigated by the district health boards concerned and by other independent agencies, such as the coroner, and, in the case of the Auckland and Christchurch district health boards, by independent external reviewers. Any recommendations that are made will be closely adhered to. What I can say, without going into any detail, is that the details of the particular case in Wellington are more complex than any media report can, or could, do justice to.

Sue Bradford: Why does the Minister think it is acceptable that 4 years after Capital and Coast District Health Board promised to build a new unit to replace the archaic and inadequate ward 27, the district health board has now announced it will not go ahead with that unit, despite situations like the recent tragic death of Nicole Maconaghie?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think that part of the reason that ward 27 has not been expanded at this point, or replaced, is that a 10-bed house for people with acute mental illness is due to open in Wellington this year. Some patients will be admitted to the house, reducing pressure on the hospital ward. Capital and Coast District Health Board says that people who need high levels of support will get them in the hospital and will be treated there, and, of course, because of the extra facilities outside in a rehabilitative sense, the pressure is off that ward in comparison with what it once was.

Barbara Stewart: Is he aware of the statement by Karin Keith from the Wellington Mental Health Consumers Union that Wellington simply does not have enough beds for the acutely mentally ill; if so, would he concede that one solution to that problem would be the further development of such facilities at Kenepuru Hospital?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am not able to make that concession, as it is an operational issue for the district health board.

Sue Bradford: Will the Minister be taking any action on the situation in Auckland, where ongoing pressure on the overstretched and under-resourced Te Whetu Tawera unit continues to be linked with patient deaths on an ongoing basis and with violence and sexual abuse within the unit itself?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I know that there has been an external review and that that report is now available but is under court injunction. Until such time as the court injunction is removed no public comment is possible, but I am sure that when the report is made public the Government will act on any recommendations in it.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: Does the Minister stand by the assurance he gave to the Health Committee on 25 June that the full results of the independent reviews into the Auckland and Christchurch acute psychiatric units will be released and acted on before the election; if so, why does he not just get on and release them?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: In relation to the Auckland report—as I said in answering the immediately preceding question—as I understand it, that report is under court injunction and cannot be released until the injunction is lifted. In the case of the Christchurch report, I happened to have a meeting with clinicians in the mental health unit in Christchurch last week, and they informed me that they believe the report will be available within a week or so. As far as I know, the Government intends to release the full report and the recommendations will be adhered to.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister have any comprehension that regardless of the report he says is under court injunction, there actually is a serious ongoing crisis at Te Whetu Tawera and with the step-down accessibility to care for patients from that unit, and that that report is going to go nowhere near to addressing it; and will the Minister do anything to impress on the Auckland District Health Board the seriousness of the situation and the fact that major changes need to be made up there, for the benefit of both staff and patients affected by the ongoing crisis?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I said, there has been an acknowledgment by the Auckland District Health Board that there are deficiencies in the system. I cannot comment on the report because, as I said, it is under court injunction and I have not seen it. But when the report is available, I am sure that the Government will act as fast as it can on its recommendations and ensure that the improvements that may well be necessary are made.

/NR/rdonlyres/682545A2-4084-48DA-958C-8EA53F8CAFC3/90720/48HansQ_20080729_00000364_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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5. Vote Health—Funding and First Specialist Assessments

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

5. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What has been the percentage change in Vote Health funding from calendar year 2001 to 2007, and what has been the percentage change in surgical first specialist assessments over that same period?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: As the member should be aware, Government spending is reported by financial year, not by calendar year. I am advised that total operational expenditure on Vote Health increased by 70 percent between the 2001 and 2007 financial years. A lot of that investment has been in the primary health care area, where the cost of visiting a general practitioner has fallen dramatically and most prescriptions now cost no more than $3. I am advised that in the same time frame the number of surgical first specialist assessments remained relatively static.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the health budget has increased by 70 percent since 2001, why has the number of surgical first specialist assessments, the gateway to surgery, in fact fallen by 3 percent?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: If that member would do his homework and read a press release put out in October of last year, he would find there is a clear explanation of why first specialist assessments are not the same as elective procedures. Can I read out an explanation for that member: “Better assessment in primary care before people are referred for a FSA”—a first specialist assessment—“the introduction of GPs as liaison staff within hospitals and greater awareness of the threshold for surgery mean the number of FSAs is also naturally falling.” For example, in the Canterbury District Health Board area alone, although there has been a 100 percent increase in hip and knee replacements, from 550 to 1,100, since 2004, that has been achieved with a reduced number of first specialist assessments being required. Can the member not understand what happens in the health system?

Lesley Soper: Can the Minister confirm that notwithstanding Mr Ryall’s constant attempts to undermine the health system, the number of elective surgeries has in fact increased under this Labour-led Government; if so, by how many?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The facts speak for themselves. Last year alone there were over 7,000 more elective surgery discharges than in the previous year. That is a significant change under this Labour-led Government. The question that we really should be putting in this House is: what is the National Party’s health policy, and which parts of it, when its members finally announce it, will they change, either before the election or indeed after the election; what do they stand for, in terms of health care?

Hon Tony Ryall: How can it possibly be that despite spending an extra $5.5 billion, fewer people are getting to see a surgical specialist than saw one 8 years ago?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: Can the member not understand English? The simple fact is that through better systems the numbers who are getting to see those specialists are going on to have more surgery because there is a better vetting system in the primary system, before they get there. We are indeed making the system more efficient. With that money we have put in place seven new hospitals, and eight other hospital campuses have been redeveloped. We have 4,000 more nurses and over 1,000 more doctors than we had when Labour took over in 1999. Home-based support has gone up by 250 percent—I can go on and on. The question is: which parts of the system will National change, and what indeed is its policy in regard to the public health system?

Hon Tony Ryall: How does the Minister of Health explain why, if there are 1,000 extra doctors under the Labour Government and it has spent an extra $5.5 billion, fewer New Zealanders are geting to see those doctors and get a surgical appointment; is that because there are another 2,200 hospital bureaucrats?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: That is—as we often hear from the National Party—completely inaccurate. More people are getting to see doctors in this country. There are better assessment systems and procedures before those people are referred to specialists. So of the number of people who get to see specialists, more of them go on to have successful procedures and elective surgery discharges.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a document that shows thousands fewer New Zealanders are getting to see a hospital specialist—a schedule.

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

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I seek leave to table a press release of 5 October 2007, which clearly explains for that member’s benefit, why in fact—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/8EE9498F-81AE-4078-9118-45D5130C2A5D/90722/48HansQ_20080729_00000423_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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6. Early Childhood Education—Licensing Criteria

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

6. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Did he sign off on the licensing criteria for early childhood education and care centres and the licensing criteria for kōhanga reo on 14 July 2008; if so, does he believe that all of the criteria are necessary and should be rigorously enforced?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Yes.

Anne Tolley: Why is the Minister insisting that centres go to the expense of building a separate sleeping room that they cannot afford and that many of the parents do not want, when the Minister himself is saying to centres that it is alright if parents want their children not to sleep in the room, but they need to have the rooms so that parents can have the choice not to use them—in other words, centres have to build the rooms, but they do not actually have to use them?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Because I believe in parent choice. I believe that parents should have the choice whether they want a secure, safe, quiet area for their children. I thought that that member and her party believed in parental choice.

Hon Mark Burton: Can the Minister tell the House what reports he has seen about changes to early childhood education licensing criteria?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen many ill-informed comments from National’s spokesperson on early childhood education, Paula Bennett, including outrageous and silly comments that the new criteria would force Sunday schools to close. That was said by the same member who has railed against our very successful 20 hours free scheme. But in a now familiar National Party U-turn, she says that National will adopt the policy but, of course, it will not include the word “free”; it just will not be free any more.

Dail Jones: When can playcentres and kōhanga reo expect that the criteria for the very successful 20 free hours’ early childhood education programme will change so that playcentres and kōhanga reo can also expect to receive the 20 free hours’ early childhood education programmes?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Kōhanga reo already qualify. About 280 already qualify because of the percentage of qualified teachers in them, and about half have taken up the 20 hours free scheme. As far as playcentres are concerned 20 free hours is about lowering the cost. There is very little cost involved in playcentres, so why on earth would we extend it to them? We already provide substantial support to playcentres for the great work they do, but they are parent-led not teacher-led centres.

Paula Bennett: With regard to separate sleep areas, does the Minister understand that different cultures have different practices for how and where their babies sleep, and did he consult his Associate Minister of Education or his Māori or Pacific Island colleagues to gain an understanding that isolating babies is seen as unsafe practice for many non-European cultures?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I emphasised in my initial answer, this is about parental choice. Where an unsafe situation occurs, such as that which happened in Albany recently, where that centre had a separate sleeping area—indeed, as 90 percent of existing centres have already—and children were sleeping in a corridor, parents complained and we sorted it out. It is about parental choice, and it is about having a secure, safe area for children to sleep in. I would have thought that the National Party would support such a move.

Judy Turner: How can the Minister claim to support parental choice, when, as his answers to previous questions have showed, he has still failed to extend the 20 hours free policy to parent-led centres rather than exclusively to teacher-led centres?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Because 20 free hours is about lowering the cost for parents. Indeed, Statistics New Zealand say that in the year that the 20 hours free scheme has been in place—Labour’s scheme, where free means free—costs have dropped for parents by about 30 percent. Where there is very little cost, such as in playcentres, why on earth would we introduce the scheme?

Paula Bennett: How can the Minister say that he supports parental choice, when we are getting reports that some centres will have to close down because they cannot and do not have the room to build sleep areas that they will not have to use, and when they cannot afford $50,000 to get separate rooms built, but the Minister is insisting that they be built but do not have to be used; and how does that support parental choice?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am surprised that that member has the cheek to rise in this House and raise the question of credibility. That is the member who went around New Zealand telling people that the Labour Government would close down Sunday schools, which, of course, we had no intention of doing—it was absurd. This is about parental choice. That member was on television recently talking about her new grandchild. If she wants her new grandchild to sleep in a room that is secure, safe, and quiet—because all research shows that it is really important for children from the age of zero to 2 to have quiet, uninterrupted sleep for proper brain development—she should have a choice of the centre that that grandchild is sent to. I would have thought she would have supported this.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table a letter to one of the early childhood groups from the Minister, where he outlines for them that they do actually have to build the sleeping room but there is no proposal to regulate the services practice in relation—

 Leave granted.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave to table a document with extensive research about why it is really important for children from the age of zero to 2 to have uninterrupted, quiet sleep.

 Leave granted.

Paula Bennett: I seek leave to table a document from kōhanga reo, amongst others, which clearly states that separate sleep rooms are culturally inappropriate—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/7CFD3A62-5CDB-42CA-8479-CDD0B3F57EB6/90724/48HansQ_20080729_00000492_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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7. Working for Families—Reports

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

7. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What recent reports, if any, has she received on the Working for Families package?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : I have seen a transcript from last Sunday’s Agenda programme, where the Leader of the Opposition said he would not change Working for Families. That statement completely contradicts previous statements from Mr Key that said National opposed the Labour-led Government’s Working for Families expansion “with every bone in our bodies”. He described the expansion as communism by stealth.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen any other recent reports on the Working for Families package?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have. Again in that same Agenda programme, Mr Key, when answering a question on how National could afford big tax cuts and Working for Families, suggested “a slightly different abatement rate” for Working for Families, such as National proposed in 2005. That proposal was to reduce the threshold for abatement by $5,000. Yet again, that proposal contradicts the supposed no-change position.

Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker; tēnātātou katoa. What actions have been taken to respond to the report produced in April 2007 by the Ministry of Social Development, which revealed that many beneficiary families were falling below the very lowest poverty line despite Working for Families, and were being hard hit by price increases in fuel and food, with nothing in reserve?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have three points in response to the supplementary question from the Hon Tariana Turia. The first is that the report noted, right at the very beginning, that its data had not included the latest Working for Families extension, so it was out of date. It was published prior to the extension of Working for Families. We have ensured that every year there has been an annual adjustment to benefits to reflect the consumer price index, and most recently I have announced a doubling in both the special needs grant and the food grant entitlement.

Lynne Pillay: What would be the effects of reducing the Working for Families threshold for abatement by $5,000?

Hon RUTH DYSON: An estimated 11,000 families would no longer receive Working for Families tax credits, and a further estimated 160,000 families would see a reduced entitlement. The savings from such a move would be around $165 million—nowhere near enough to pay for the extra tax cuts Mr Key has promised—or not promised, depending on which audience he is speaking to. In fact, under that proposal, effective marginal tax rates would increase by 20 percent.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister agree with the Child Poverty Action Group that our poorest children have been left behind in a callous disregard for their well-being, and for the future societal and economic costs of our nation; and what will she be doing to support the children who fall into the category of the poorest of the poor?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am very proud of the fact that because of our Government policies 130,000 fewer children are now living in poverty than there were 9 years ago. That is an achievement we should all be proud of, but we know there is more work to be done.

/NR/rdonlyres/86145FFB-6F77-4C0D-BE8F-BDF23A652B20/90726/48HansQ_20080729_00000569_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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

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

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What changes will the Government be prepared to make to the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to ensure it passes?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : The bill, as reported back from select committee, is in very good shape. Talks with other parties are continuing.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How successful are the discussions progressing with New Zealand First and what are the changes being contemplated to secure its support?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Talks with support parties are continuing.

Moana Mackey: What reports has he seen on the emissions trading scheme in the light of recent Australian announcements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen a Sunday Star-Times report that states National’s “ ‘wait-for-Australia’ stance has crumbled beneath it.” given that the Australian Government intends to proceed with a similar scheme to ours. Yet National still finds excuse for delay. Its members tell different stories to different audiences but consistently oppose every meaningful step we take.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: On how many occasions has the Minister met with New Zealand First to resolve issues over this bill, and when was the latest meeting?

Hon DAVID PARKER: A number of meetings have been held. In respect of parties other than New Zealand First, I note that the same article from the Sunday Star-Times I quoted from went on to say: “Now Nick Smith, its spokesman on climate change, says National ‘has no real issue’ with 80% of the emissions bill.” It went on to say: “If it has a scrap of self-respect left, it will resume co-operation on … the emissions trading bill”. But, of course, it does not; there are just more excuses for delay.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What is the Minister’s current estimate of the prospect of this legislation being passed prior to an election, noting that 8 weeks ago Ministers were saying there were 70:30 in favour, 4 weeks ago they were saying the figure was 50:50, but last week Ministers were saying the figure was 70:30 against—and is this not just code for saying the Government does not have the numbers?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member was not quoting me. If he had, he would have said that I had previously said that I was optimistic, and I remain optimistic.

Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Does the Minister stand by his statement to the Local Government and Environment Committee that the fact that the emissions of the Ministry for the Environment have risen by 22 percent in the past year “reflected the importance of sustainability to the Government’s work programme”; and when will we actually see progress made on an emissions reduction programme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I cannot recall offhand whether the statistic read out was the exact figure. I accept that growth in the number of people in the Ministry for the Environment is a consequence of this Government’s focus on sustainability issues, and that emissions from that department have reduced. However, I would also note that we have ambitions and programmes running across Government to reduce governmental emissions. One of those projects, for example, is to reduce transport emissions by 15 percent by 2010 or 2012—I forget the exact date.

/NR/rdonlyres/6544C477-0982-4BC7-A3E9-A87289117648/90728/48HansQ_20080729_00000623_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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9. KiwiSaver—Employer Contributions

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

9. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What changes is he planning to make to the Employment Relations Act 2000 regarding employer contributions to KiwiSaver?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Labour: The Employment Relations Act is to be amended to ensure that employers pay the employers’ contribution to KiwiSaver and not deduct that contribution from the employees’ own total remuneration. The Government is providing a $20 a week tax credit for employer contributions, which will cover the full cost in the first year of up to $104,000 of employee income. It is unethical for employers to then deduct their contribution from an employee’s remuneration and then claim a $20 a week tax credit for something that cost them nothing.

Darien Fenton: Why are these changes necessary?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The changes are necessary because some employers have been pressuring employees to fund the employer contribution. Indeed, some have simply told employees that that would happen. If this were allowed to continue, the scheme would become an 8 percent individual employee contribution, rather than a 4 percent employee contribution plus a 4 percent employer contribution arrangement as at present. In Australia, it is a 9 percent employer contribution—the employee meets none of the cost of his or her superannuation scheme.

Darien Fenton: What has been the reaction to these proposed changes?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), which has admitted to engaging in this practice itself with its own employees, has sent newsletters and taken out newspaper ads calling this a busybody attitude. I understand that the public relations company running this campaign for the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) is the same one that advised former National Party leader Dr Don Brash. The National Party might be interested to know that the company supports mates of theirs in business taking money from their employees and then pocketing a tax credit from the Government.

/NR/rdonlyres/F8C4D784-B91C-45BE-86CD-4117A22A95C6/90730/48HansQ_20080729_00000685_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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10. Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry—Confidence

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

10. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he have confidence in his ministry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) : In the succinct language of that member’s leader, it is almost certainly likely.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, after approving a highly promising sustainable farming project, and despite it meeting all the set conditions, then allowed the project to languish for 5 years before making the promised $250,000 available; if so, why?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have to presume, because the member did not say so, that this money is from the Sustainable Farming Fund.

Hon David Carter: I did say that.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Right. The Sustainable Farming Fund is administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Because the Minister is hopeless.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Well, I think the rest of the House gets an idea about hopelessness when they hear from Mr Smith. The ministry administers the Sustainable Farming Fund, not the Minister. It is an independent process.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: 5 years!

Hon JIM ANDERTON: If this project has taken as long as that to authorise, then I can only assume that those who were responsible for the authorisation did not have confidence in the project until such time as all the information was obtained, and that they then approved it.

Hon David Carter: In light of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s internal memo admitting that the incident was “extremely embarrassing for MAF” and that its “communication had been extremely poor”, why did the Minister have the key official responsible for this fiasco appointed to his office as his senior adviser?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The official who is in my office was the official who actually instigated the Sustainable Farming Fund. There is one thing worse than taking 5 years to approve a project under the Sustainable Farming Fund, and that is not having a Sustainable Farming Fund, which was the position under the National Government. We would not have been waiting 5 years for a project; we would have been waiting forever, because it never had a fund in the first place.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry completely ignored 12 months of correspondence asking for an update on the funding status of this project, including complaints to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s director-general, to the Minister of Māori Affairs, and to himself as the Minister of Agriculture; if not, what has he since done about it?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I know—and the member may not, because he is described by many as the invisible spokesperson for the National Party on agriculture—that throughout New Zealand unequivocally farmers and farmers’ organisations are strongly supportive of the Sustainable Farming Fund. They think it is the best investment programme for research and development that any Government has ever instituted, and they are waiting with bated breath to see how someone like David Carter, if he ever gets the chance, might maladminister it.

Hon David Carter: I seek leave to table the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s internal memo, which states amongst other things that all failings—and there have been many of them—appear to have been at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s end.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/9321DCEC-174A-41FF-9E99-A927DE269653/90732/48HansQ_20080729_00000719_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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11. New Zealand - United States—Diplomatic Relationship

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

11. R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Is he satisfied that the diplomatic relationship between New Zealand and the United States of America is improving; if so, why?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs) : Secretary Rice’s visit to New Zealand was a great success, and it reflected a stronger and improved relationship between our two countries. Indeed, her visit confirmed that the relationship is recognised by both sides to be the best it has been for decades. The Secretary’s visit also confirmed that both sides are continuing to take a positive and forward-looking view of the relationship. As I noted in my remarks to the United States - New Zealand Council session at Auckland on Saturday night, “We have agreed at the highest levels that it is in the interests of both countries to work for a relationship that is defined by what we share and have in common, not by our differences. Both sides share a determination to modernise our already strong and enduring relationship and frame it in a contemporary setting.”

R Doug Woolerton: How is our relationship with the United States of America evolving, to enable us to face the challenges of the 21st century today and into the future?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It has been a dramatic evolution, with a lot of work going in over a long time. But now we are starting to see the fruits of this in our cooperation in the Pacific, in the refocusing by the United States of the Pacific, as imaged by the recent meeting of foreign Ministers in Samoa that was significantly attended, and in some real issues to do with the long-term sustainability of energy, in particular, of the islands. We see it also in our work on countries like North Korea—the joint efforts to get rid of nuclear weapon threats in the peninsula—and in the kind of progress we are making there and in many other areas around the world. In short, New Zealand is seen to be a country that is able to make significant contributions as a good neighbour in the region and, indeed, in the world.

/NR/rdonlyres/CD9A550B-949A-49A1-BED9-501AA8E6B693/90734/48HansQ_20080729_00000776_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 29 July 2008 [PDF 193k]

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12. Housing New Zealand Corporation—Confidence

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

12. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Housing: Does she have confidence in Housing New Zealand Corporation; if so, why?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : Yes, much more than I would have had when the corporation was effectively a real estate agency under the last National Government.

Phil Heatley: How did a New Lynn State house tenant manage to illegally sublet that State house for 8 years and 6 months, right under the nose of the corporation?

Hon MARYAN STREET: A review of investigation processes around subletting was carried out last year, and better processes are used now than have been used previously.

Hon Steve Maharey: Has she seen any reports about plans to sell State houses?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes. I have seen a report that National is telling tenants it will sell their houses to them. Unfortunately, this policy is unaffordable for the vast majority of tenants, as the average income of State house tenants is just over $17,000 a year, and they can therefore afford a mortgage of only $52,000. However, the average value of a State house is over $300,000 in Auckland and Wellington, and $230,000 in Christchurch. This is just another example of National telling people what it thinks they want to hear, and I think it should stop leading people up the garden path.

Phil Heatley: How did this State house tenant manage to sublet a State house illegally for 8½ years, under the corporation’s nose?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Can I advise the House that tenants who sublet their properties are in breach of their tenancy agreements, and Housing New Zealand Corporation will seek remedy in the Tenancy Tribunal in such cases. Sometimes the facts are not immediately apparent.

Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have spent two supplementary questions asking the Minister how a State house tenant illegally sublet a house under the corporation’s nose for 8½ years. She has not answered how that person managed to get away with that.

Madam SPEAKER: I have listened carefully, Mr Heatley. You raise this point every time you ask questions, as you are perfectly entitled to do. However, that is why I listened especially carefully to the answers. The Minister addressed the question.

Phil Heatley: How did another State house tenant manage to sublet a State house for 8 years and 3 months, under the corporation’s nose?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Cases of subletting are not immediately obvious to Housing New Zealand Corporation. I also advise the House that as at 30 June 2008 only 1.5 percent of all cases referred to the investigations unit were proven to be subletting. That is 54 proven subletting cases out of 3,500 referrals.

ENDS


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