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Questions And Answers – Thursday, 31 July 2008

Questions And Answers – Thursday, 31 July 2008

1. Foreign Affairs, Racing, Minister—Confidence

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Racing; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister ask her Minister of Foreign Affairs for yet another assurance that he and his party have behaved lawfully at all times, in light of yet another newspaper story suggesting that more questions need to be asked about Mr Peters and his party’s handling of political donations; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister takes the view that it is better for political leaders not to know too many details about donations made to their parties, because they will then be less likely to be influenced by those donations. In any case, in the case of this morning’s story in theDominion Post, it said itself that there could have been one or more cheques. If there were two, then we could easily divide $19,998 by two and arrive at a legal sum for non-declaration purposes in 1999.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister concerned that a newspaper would run a story like that and not put up any evidence or documentation other than the allegation, yet have the meerkats running around taking notice of it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Democracy has many facets; that is one of them.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister think that Mr Peters has satisfactorily answered all the questions asked of him by the media over the last 2 weeks, and does that include yesterday’s verbally offensive refusal to answer questions put to him by the Dominion Post?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not for the Prime Minister to judge the actions of a member acting in the role as the leader of a political party. I note, however, that Mr Peters at least fronts up directly to the media, unlike one party leader who uses his staff to bully reporters, editors, and, if need be, publishers. His name is Mr John Key, and every member of the press gallery knows that that bullying occurs.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement in relation to the David Benson-Pope affair that “it’s not enough just to be capable, you’ve got to be credible.”; if so, what part of Mr Peters’ responses to date does she regard as “credible”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has been assured by the Rt Hon Winston Peters that he has committed no illegality, and the member has yet to demonstrate anything to the reverse.

Sue Bradford: Does the Prime Minister see any similarity between the advertising campaign paid for by leading bloodstock breeder Patrick Hogan, overtly supporting New Zealand First during the 2005 election campaign, and the covert campaign run by the Exclusive Brethren Church in that year, and does she have any concerns about the connection between that campaign and the fact that Mr Winston Peters subsequently became the Minister for Racing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it would be absolutely apparent to everybody that there was no covert campaign on behalf of the racing industry in 2005. There was a very overt campaign; it was overtly against the Labour Party at that time, including signs on horses at racetracks. The Exclusive Brethren, however, decided to follow a biblical injunction, and hide their lights well under any large number of bushels.

Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister met with Mr Peters on Tuesday, did she ask him for an explanation for each of the allegations swirling around him; if so, did he answer in the same way that he answered the Dominion Post; and, if she did not ask him, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As far as I am aware, the Prime Minister asked for assurances that no illegalities have occurred, and received those assurances. I am not privy to that meeting and therefore cannot answer further.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell us why yesterday she would not answer the question as to what exactly Mr Peters told her on Tuesday that makes her believe that he has in no way acted inappropriately in relation to the $100,000 donation from Owen Glenn, the $25,000 donation from Bob Jones, or the $20,000 donation mentioned this morning?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister has responded to those questions, and continues to issue the challenge to the National Party to outline who the anonymous donors were who funnelled $2 million through the—

Gerry Brownlee: That’s not the issue here.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not the issue here because it is a mere $2 million of anonymous donations funnelled through the National Party, buying influence in a whole range of policy areas.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it the Prime Minister’s view that if one makes allegations in this business, one backs it up with documentation, a modicum of understanding of the law, and one puts it together in a way where the conclusion is irrefutable, and that this kind of conspiracy run by these people will not succeed?

Madam SPEAKER: The last bit is not relevant.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I accept the member’s view and I think that in this case one could well say that people who collect cheques in glass towers should not throw stones.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in her Minister of Foreign Affairs, in light of his 2005 comments that moderate and militant Muslim groups “fit hand in glove everywhere they exist.”, and that “Underneath it all the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam.”; and what reassurance can she provide to this House that New Zealand’s foreign policy has nothing whatsoever to do with these embarrassing comments?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister of Foreign Affairs acts within the doctrines of Cabinet collective responsibility, in respect of the foreign affairs portfolio, and has significantly expanded the work of that portfolio. I would have thought that it is apparent to anybody that there are Islamist terrorists in the world today; it is important to draw a distinction between that and people who are Muslims.

/NR/rdonlyres/EE7439BF-85F9-49F7-808A-57A1A99DCAAD/91208/48HansQ_20080731_00000073_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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2. Foreign Affairs, Minister—Visit to Samoa

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

2. PITA PARAONE (NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What was the purpose of his recent trip to Samoa with the United States Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice?

Hon Dover Samuels: Speaking humbly.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking humbly, I went to Samoa last weekend both to accompany Dr Rice there at the conclusion of her visit to New Zealand, and to participate in a meeting between Dr Rice and the Foreign Ministers of Pacific Forum States. Some time ago, during one of my visits to Washington, I suggested to Dr Rice that she would find it well worth her while to make a visit to the South Pacific to meet with her Pacific counterparts on their home turf, face to face. New Zealand and the United States share a strong commitment to promoting good governance and sustainable economic development in the wider Pacific region and beyond, and she seriously appreciated the suggestion and the total visit.

Pita Paraone: What were the key outcomes of the meeting?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, the fact that the meeting took place at all was a key outcome. A new chapter in US relations with the Pacific Forum nations is set to begin. The conversation ranged over a number of pressing issues that preoccupy the whole region, such as fuel and food prices, and climate change, and views were freely exchanged on possible ways of dealing with those challenges. In response, Dr Rice expressed strong support for the efforts of the forum to address key challenges through a regional approach—including, I might say, the situation in Fiji. She also thanked this country for, and asked me to pass on her compliments in respect of, the role we are playing as a responsible neighbour in the Pacific.

Dr Russel Norman: Did the Minister, in his meeting with Dr Rice, repeat the 2005 comment of the leader of New Zealand First that moderate and militant Muslim groups are “like the mythical Hydra, a serpent underbelly with multiple heads, capable of striking at any time and in any direction.”; and can he reassure the House, in line with the Prime Minister’s answer earlier, that he does not conduct the foreign affairs of this country in line with those embarrassing comments?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What I was mindful of and thought about, in talking to Dr Rice, was a young novice MP who had just turned up in this Parliament, and who had shown no understanding of the big issues. However, I am bound to say that, now that I know he reads my speeches, he is about to get himself a serious education.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was not about me, whatsoever; it was all about what Mr Peters said to Dr Rice, and whether he talked about his view that moderate and militant Islamic groups are exactly the same. That was what the question was about.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to add to his answer, please.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I am happy to add to it, in the sense that I did discuss with Dr Rice the characteristics of some politicians. I said that one of the characteristics that is most unwelcome in politics is the “dingo-istic” attitude that somebody is showing in this House!

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. What role is New Zealand playing in assisting the development of our neighbours in the Pacific?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a very, very sensible question. New Zealand takes extremely seriously its obligations as a good Pacific neighbour. Since becoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have overseen an increase in New Zealand’s Official Development Assistance programme of almost 70 percent between 2007-08 and 2010-11. That is by far the largest commitment to increase Official Development Assistance spending for decades, and will see New Zealand’s assistance reach 0.35 percent of gross national income by 2010-11. I am bound to say that I appreciate the support of the Minister of Finance in this achievement.

Keith Locke: Did the Minister express to the US Secretary of State New Zealanders’ opposition not only to the US’ illegal war in Iraq but also to the use of torture by the American military, and the long-term detention of people without access to fair trial, at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Dr Rice is an extraordinarily talented, highly educated woman. I kinda thinks she knows New Zealand’s views on Iraq. So, no, I did not raise them. I do know, though, that she respects the parliamentary independence that was expressed by this Parliament, which supported the Government at that time. I also did not raise the fact that when the communists invaded Afghanistan in 1980, someone now in this Parliament decided to support them; he also supported Pol Pot.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have ruled on this matter many times, and a member’s word should be taken. The member Keith Locke has said very clearly many times that he did not make those comments or support the invasion of Cambodia by Pol Pot.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: He can deny it as long as he likes, but I have tabled documentation in respect of the allegations about Pol Pot and about the member’s support for the Russian Communist Government’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. He cannot now resile from those words, even though he may be sensitive about his past stupidity.

Madam SPEAKER: The matter has been raised in this Parliament before, and there is, obviously, agreement not to agree on it. Members have the right to express themselves freely in this House, and they do so constantly. If another member takes offence, however, then he or she should raise the matter at the time.

Rodney Hide: I think the issue is—just to help the House, and, I think, to help the Minister of Foreign Affairs—the difference between the fall of Cambodia and the actual rise to power of Pol Pot, because the two events are not concurrent.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but this is not a matter for debate.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister still has not addressed the question about the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and the use of torture by the American military.

Madam SPEAKER: I think he did. As I heard his answer, he said that, no, the issues were not raised.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a speech called “The End of Tolerance” given by the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/9BA57686-80CC-4FBF-B34E-0EFCFB6F017E/91224/48HansQ_20080731_00000171_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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3. Neonatal Intensive-Care Units—Cots

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

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: How does the number of resourced level 3 neonatal intensive-care unit cots in New Zealand compare with international benchmarks, and how many of those cots are available today?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: There are around 80 level 3 neonatal cots in New Zealand. This number differs from figures published this morning, because the neonatal website was incorrect. It has now been updated to include new capacity at Middlemore Hospital. There is an annual short-term pressure that that member plays politics over at this time of the year, every year. However, I assure the member the issue is being well handled. Strategies are already in place for dealing with this, which include increasing intensive-care capacity within units, utilising additional nurses within hospitals, moving babies and mothers to other units, and—where necessary—utilising care in Australia. These are normal processes for dealing with these annual short-term pressures, and have been around since I was a midwife 30 years ago.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was quite clear in asking the Minister what was the number of those beds currently available, and she did not provide an answer.

Madam SPEAKER: I thought the Minister did address the question. As members know, they cannot ask for specific answers to questions. If members wish that, please change the Standing Orders.

Hon Tony Ryall: What is the Government’s excuse this time for the crisis in neonatal intensive-care cots when it was warned 5 years ago that this crisis would happen, and since then it has added so few beds for the most at-risk new babies in this country?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: There is no crisis, actually, in neonatal capacity in this country. As I mentioned in my answer, this question is an annual event. This year we are experiencing yet another blip in increases in birth—

Hon Members: Oh!

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Well, birth rate blips happen—you know, we cannot “manage” people who conceive. I am very confident in our ability to manage the current situation. I congratulate the extra nurses who have come in to help, and I also acknowledge the tolerance of parents, whose confidence needs to be supported. Rather than turning this into a crisis, we are saying that if parents need to be moved because of their child’s care, then we will move the child and we will move the parent, as well. That is common practice.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker; tēnā koutou katoa. What steps has the Government taken to improve neonatal provision in New Zealand’s hospitals?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Following a review of neonatal care in 2004—just in 2004—this Government has already expanded the provision of neonatal care. In 2006 Middlemore Hospital had its capacity doubled, from six to 12 intensive-care cots. Normal capacity in level 3 numbers will also increase to 86 when both Wellington and Hamilton neonatal units open in 2009, thanks to this Government.

Barbara Stewart: Has the Minister’s ministry investigated any possible link between the shortage of neonatal intensive-care cots and the increase in the number of non-resident women giving birth in New Zealand—74 every week, if the ministry’s figures are accurate—if so, what is being done to ensure that non-residents do not take advantage of our health system?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am aware that work is going on around intensive-care units in the country to look at the number of non-residents who utilise cots, and when we know those figures, we will have a strategy around them.

Hon Tony Ryall: How many of those intensive-care cots are available today?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have already answered that question. It changes hourly. On the website this morning it said “0”, but that number did not have factored into it the extra four cots in Middlemore Hospital. So that website has been updated today.

Hon Tony Ryall: How many now?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I cannot give the member the figure as at 2.30 from this morning’s figure, because it will have changed.

Hon Tony Ryall: The answer is one.

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: No, the website was wrong, I say to Mr Ryall. The four extra cots were not mentioned on that website, but they are now. I do not know the figure now; babies are born quite rapidly. We have pressure on neonatal services and neonatal cots in this country.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister, as a midwife, not most concerned that, despite all the Government’s talk, it will still be well short of the internationally acceptable standard of care for these fragile little babies?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I think that the member has taken on someone here who knows a bit more about neonatal services in this country than he does, but I would just say, as I have already said, I am confident that the strategies the Ministry of Health has in place are very robust. But I have asked the Ministry of Health to explore the use of a national coordinator for neonatal intensive-care provision across the country.

Hon Tony Ryall: Oh!

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: It is a good thing, actually, if the member could only just listen. This will ensure that short-term pressures experienced can be identified early and staff as managers—

Hon Tony Ryall: You said that last year.

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I said that the member mentions this every year. This will allow managers in current units to get on with managing the workplace on a day-to-day basis and the district health boards will step up to national coordination. What a good thing!

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether there is a technical problem with the speakers, but I can barely hear the Minister or even just the endless carping from the member opposite. But either way, I ask whether we could do something about the sound—or maybe Mr Ryall could just be quiet.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I will ask that the sound be checked. But it was very difficult to hear the Minister. There was a level of chat in the House, but it was not exceptional.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is this not another inadequate Government response to a crisis in the health system when, in fact, there is only one cot available for a high-risk premature child born in the country today, and despite being warned 5 years ago, all the Government and the Ministry of Health are now doing is planning to hold “a meeting soon” for more talk, and apparently this afternoon we find there is going to be a new district health board - Ministry of Health manager to try to deal with the problem?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Not a manager, actually, a neonatal coordinator—quite different, actually. [Interruption] No, and I just want to say that the member’s figure of one, which he keeps saying, is quite incorrect. What the member does not seem to have realised is that this figure ignores the flexibility that neonatal units have; one can move a level 2 bed up to a level 3 bed. That goes on all the time and those figures change hourly.

Katrina Shanks: Is the Minister aware that the Whanganui District Health Board is being subsidised by the local district council to try to bring obstetricians to Wanganui, and is this what the people of New Zealand can expect from a Labour-led Government—that local councils are forced to subsidise basic health services?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am very aware that there is very good regional provision of services for obstetrics and gynaecology under way as a joint venture between Wanganui and Palmerston North.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table documents showing that in Wanganui there is now no specialist obstetric service in that provincial city.

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

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I seek leave to table the “New Born Unit: Hospital Cot Status”, which is available on a website.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/1ED130A9-575C-448B-8BC0-7595FA547FB8/91210/48HansQ_20080731_00000231_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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4. Employment Relations—Transparency

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

4. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What reports has he received on the importance of transparency in employment relations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Labour) : I have received recent reports that show the National Party, in a partly secret agenda, would review the Holidays Act, especially the issue of relevant daily pay, even though Kate Wilkinson has already said that that would result in a reduction of pay for sick people. I have also seen, as part of the National Party’s partly secret agenda, that it will attack workers’ rights and introduce a fire-at-will provision. With those two items in the half-page of policy that has been released, we wonder what National members are hiding in the 33½ pages that they are keeping secret.

Darien Fenton: Has he seen any other reports on the importance of transparency in employment relations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen many reports that go to the issue of transparency, or for that matter to the lack of it, to do with National’s attack on workers’ rights. Colin James, quoting John Key, said there was a 34-page agenda, but then John Key’s advertising team has been at pains to correct the media. The secret agenda is only 14 pages, but National still will not release it. Now what we want to know is: was there really a 34-page agenda that has been edited down to 14 pages, or was it just a case of John Key getting it wrong? The other point that has to be made, of course, is: why was he too chicken to have the media—

Madam SPEAKER: The member knows he is not to use that word. Yesterday it was ruled out of order. Would the member please just give his answer consistent with the Standing Orders.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I hope that over the next 3 years as the Leader of the Opposition, John Key will develop the courage to let the media go to his Ōrewa speech.

Peter Brown: Keep your chin up, fellas.

Hon Member: Which ones?

Peter Brown: Maybe I should say “Keep your chins up.”

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You are very quick to jump on me and others if we decide to have some sideline comments about other MPs when asked to ask a question. Nothing was said about the deputy leader of New Zealand First, Peter Brown, doing that.

Madam SPEAKER: I assure the member I would never wish to jump on him. I do, however, note that I have also said in this House that when there are interjections they do create other interjections. Would members please settle.

Peter Brown: Is he aware many casualised employers out there have seen a report indicating there could be some legislative protection; if he is aware of that, can he advise when such a bill might well emerge into this House?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Over the next few weeks it certainly will be tabled, and hopefully it will receive its first reading and be sent to a select committee before the election. I do want to thank the member Peter Brown for being very open about the policy of New Zealand First in the employment relations area. It is a marked contrast to the 33½-page secret agenda that the National Party is hiding.

/NR/rdonlyres/2C4148AD-5252-4BE5-91F2-4ECD169C15DA/91212/48HansQ_20080731_00000332_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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5. Māpua Site—Resource Consent

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

5. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he accept the conclusion of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report that the Ministry for the Environment breached its resource consent for the remediation work at Māpua?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : I will be considering the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s report, along with four further reports that have not yet been completed—an occupational safety and health report, a health report, a final auditors’ report, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s final report. I will receive advice on these.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s statement: “contaminants including DDT, lindane, nitrate and ammoniacal nitrogen have exceeded consent thresholds since April 2005.”; if so, why did his Government allow the consent to be breached in that way, putting the health of workers and residents at risk in Māpua?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I have indicated before, I will be receiving the final auditors’ report and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s final report on these matters. At that time I will be in the position either to accept the report or not to accept it. I just want to say that for someone who wanted to halve the budget for this clean-up, it is a bit rich that that member now criticises it.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did his ministry ignore the requests from the Tasman District Council, and the advice from the site auditor and the peer review panel, to take action to reduce contaminant discharges in groundwater, despite this being a consent obligation as was concluded by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will be receiving advice that will go to the accuracy of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s conclusions and any response to them. When I have received that advice, after I have the final report, I will respond.

Moana Mackey: What reports has the Minister seen about alternative approaches to managing clean-ups of contaminated sites?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen a series of reports that are available to every member of this House and the lobbies, which show that Nick Smith voted against $9.88 million plus GST to clean up the Tui mine, and $2.929 million excluding GST to clean up the Waiwhetū Stream. He voted against the Māpua costs, and just before they were approved he approached the former Minister in an attempt to halve the Government contribution. It is rich for that member to now criticise any lack of progress in this area.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Why has there been little or no consultation with the Motueka iwi resource management committee regarding the remediation process, when the Resource Management Act states: “During the preparation of a proposed policy statement or plan, the local authority concerned shall consult the tangata whenua of the area, who may be so affected, through iwi authorities.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is probably because this was not a matter of a policy statement or plan; it was a matter of a resource consent application. But even given that, I would have thought it would have been appropriate for the local authority, when it originally made the application—noting that it was they who did it, not the ministry—to consult with iwi.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What does the Minister say to Ruby Bay woman Sherry Prauner, who during the remediation became seriously unwell—as did a number of the workers—when he was told by his ministry that there was nothing to be concerned about and that all consent requirements were being met, and when Ms Prauner now finds out from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that she was lied to, and workers involved in the clean up were subjected to unacceptable levels of contaminants?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour will be reporting on that matter. I am certain that if there is evidence of possible contamination of people, then proper tests and proper medical support will be given.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by the statement on the Ministry for the Environment’s website that the Māpua project was “leading the way”, and that “locals are very supportive of the project”; if so, how does he reconcile that statement with the residents’ association’s anger, its concern that residents have been treated “as guinea pigs”, and the fact that its trust in the ministry has been betrayed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I will remind that member that this clean-up—the resource consent for it and the starting of it—was done by a local authority at his behest. If anyone should take responsibility for it, it is Nick Smith.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with the Soil and Health Association, that an independent environmental monitoring and enforcement agency be established to address what the association has described as “cavalier attitudes to chemicals, community health, and environmental protection”, as we have seen at Māpua; in the people who have been exposed to dioxin from the Ivor Watkins Dow factory in Paritūtū, New Plymouth; in the workers from the 30 contaminated sites in the eastern Bay of Plenty, which saw Sawmill Workers Against Poisons identifying those sites; and at sites in Port Nelson and other areas—and if he does not agree, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are two points here. The member has shown a number of areas where the Government has been active in clean-up, in identification, or in resolving long-term health problems as a result of poisons. As to agreeing with Stefan Browning, I think that that will never happen. The man is a person who promotes eco-terrorism.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that the ministry should never have been the holder of the resource consent—a decision that was approved by Marian Hobbs when she was the Minister—and does the Government now accept that that decision was a mistake?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am sure that will be a matter of review. But if we look back at the circumstances of her approving it, we see that it was approved because the local authority approach had collapsed and the project had fallen apart. Members should remember that the person who promoted the original approach was Nick Smith.

/NR/rdonlyres/F05B8DA8-4086-42BC-8D58-146EAFA9B444/91214/48HansQ_20080731_00000371_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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6. Pacific Region—Governments

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

6. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What actions, if any, has he taken to promote honest, transparent, and accountable Governments in the Pacific region?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) : There are many areas where New Zealand’s approaches to its bilateral relationships, including its development programmes, promote good governance. Fiji is the most obvious example of where I have been closely involved, following the military coup in 2006, in promoting a return to democracy. More recently, I participated in the ministerial contact group that visited Fiji and sent strong signals to Commodore Bainimarama about the need for him to meet his commitment to hold a free, fair, and open election by March 2009.

Rodney Hide: How can New Zealand have any credibility in advocating for openness and transparency in other countries if he will not explain what happened to the money in the Spencer Trust; and why will he not take the opportunity he now has in the House to explain what happened to Sir Robert Jones’ $25,000 that he, Winston Peters, solicited?

Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, questions must relate specifically to ministerial responsibility. As far as the question relates to that, the Minister may address it, but the Minister is not required to address anything that deals with party matters or with offices held outside the ministerial portfolio.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I respect that ruling, but there is a point here. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Peters, on behalf of New Zealand, is advocating for openness and transparency, and indeed a free media. There is a question mark about how he can do that job as a Minister when he does not practise what he preaches here in New Zealand.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the first part of the question, as I ruled, is in order as it relates to the Government’s policy, for which the member has ministerial responsibility.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have been at pains to point out to Pacific countries that they must abide by the rule of law. That is important. I have also given them some examples of how that is not done. Why, for example, has Mr Hide never explained why it was so necessary to divert the New Zealand Herald from an incident on Waiheke Island where ACT was holding a caucus retreat to one of Richard Prebble’s Wellington residences being used as an electorate office—which Mr Hide told Audrey Young about. Why did he do that?

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure what relevance that has.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It has every relevance, because it goes to the issue of transparency and honesty, and we are going to have that from Mr Hide today.

Madam SPEAKER: This is why the questions and the answers must relate to ministerial responsibility. The first part did; the second part did not.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am quite happy to give the answer if I can ask the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated; that is silly.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe that it is honest, transparent, and accountable government for a Minister of the Crown not to answer questions about a $100,000 donation he or his party received from a donor who was also the major donor to his party’s coalition partner, and can the Minister account for donations of—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Every lawful explanation has been given, and the member has no right to come here, as he does, with such unclean hands on this issue and think he will get away with some little inquisition. I am sorry, but he has demonstrated over the last few years that he knows nothing of electoral law, or of any other law—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. I go back to the ruling I gave before, which is that there must be ministerial responsibility. If the member wishes to frame his question so there is a clear accountability for ministerial responsibility, then that is fine, but the question cannot relate to any other role the member may have.

Ron Mark: Supplementary question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Hon Bill English has not yet finished his question.

Hon Bill English: When the Minister advocates for honest, transparent, and accountable government in the Pacific, what would he say about a Minister in a Government in the Pacific who could not account for a $100,000 donation to that Minister, or for a series of donations from sectors for which he was responsible; and can he confirm whether the Mad Hatter’s tea party he referred to yesterday was a meeting of the trustees of the Spencer Trust?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I will deal with the National Party next week, but today I am going to deal with Mr Hide. As an example, I have told people around the Pacific that when one takes office space from a businessman, such as is disclosed in this correspondence, one is bound to declare it. The ACT party has taken $20,000 per year in Wellington from a senior businessman, and nowhere is there any declaration of that in anything to do with the Parliamentary Service—as by law the ACT party is required to do.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. As interesting as that answer might sound to Ministers in the Pacific, it really does not, in any way, answer the question that was asked of Mr Peters. The answer did not address the question, so he would have been better to just sit there and say nothing. The question was about what advice Mr Peters would give to Ministers who are unable to explain large donations.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the point of order, I say the fact is that one can, by way of analogy, demonstrate to Pacific politicians what cannot be done inside the law from the way that Mr Hide and the ACT party acted. I am saying ACT received $20,000 from a businessman, here is the evidence of that, and ACT never declared that in respect of its Wellington office.

Madam SPEAKER: That is the difficulty with those sorts of questions; very long bows start to be drawn.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Earlier on you ruled out questions that related to any activity that may not be directly related to the Minister’s responsibilities, and now you are allowing answers about matters that have absolutely nothing to do with the Minister’s responsibilities.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member asked a question, he rephrased the question, and I allowed it because he had rephrased it in a way that related to ministerial responsibility. The Minister replied by way of analogy, and he has just explained that. The answer may not satisfy everyone, but it was consistent with what is required.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister give the House two more examples of honest, open, and transparent governance?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Without any difficulty. By way of analogy, I have made it very well known that an MP who has had, for example, a Remuera office for 9 years and never declared that on any documentation will be in trouble. Also, I point out that an MP—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please be seated. The question must relate to the Pacific region. If the question and the answer could be related to that, then that would be within the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Madam Speaker—[Interruption] Oh, they will when they see the documentation, of course. That is the difference between that member and me. We are in the Pacific; New Zealand is a Pacific nation. I am giving a pathetic Pacific example: Mr Hide. The second part of my answer is that it is not honest or transparent to pay huge legal fees—like Jack Hodder’s big legal fees—to get a change of member, from Donna Awatere Huata to an Asian member, and for the Asian chapter to pay for those fees. That, again, is what Mr Hide condones and has kept secret all this time.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister tell us, in the interests of transparency, whether he can think of any other instances of weird behaviour—in the Pacific or elsewhere—that he can reveal to the House for us?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: When it comes to the issues of honesty and transparency, surely that would extend to telling the people of New Zealand who paid for ACT’s thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of free telephoning at election time. I ask Mr Hide whether the name Rod Deane rings a bell.

Rodney Hide: Can I answer the question?

Madam SPEAKER: I have called for a supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: He actually said that I should not ask these questions—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a question?

Rodney Hide: —because he would come after me—

Madam SPEAKER: Is this a question?

Rodney Hide: —that is it; that is actually it. That is why I should not ask questions—because he will ask whether I know Rod Deane. How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs advocate for openness and transparency when, hypothetically—

Simon Power: By analogy.

Rodney Hide: —by analogy, there is a Minister here who has said New Zealand First “has had no big-business backing since its inception”, yet the Dominion Post has a New Zealand First deposit slip for $19,998 that shows New Zealand First has received big-business backing? I tell Mr Peters to answer that one.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: With the greatest of ease. As I told the journalists on the way to the House today, any moron who knew anything about a political party and its expenses would be able to explain the Dominion Post’s big disclosure on Thursday morning. I actually read it last night, of course; I work long hours, as members know. I was very pleased to see that my description of that journalist is proving to be more correct each day. But here is the real point. It is important to note, in the interests of honesty and transparency, that prominent businessmen from the Business Round Table—whom I am happy to name—who donated to the ACT party were known around the ACT party office as “the girls—they had to be given whatever they wanted”. I ask Mr Hide whether that is true or false.

Rodney Hide: In the interests of fostering transparency and openness in the Pacific, will the Minister of Foreign Affairs declare that the $19,998 revealed in the Dominion Post today was not a donation from big business; or can the Minister not do that because it is the truth and he is a liar?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. The member should withdraw and apologise for the last comment. He knows that is unparliamentary.

Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The fact is, of course, that anyone who wanted to make an inquiry there would inquire of the party’s treasurer about that fact. But, of course, no such inquiry was made. That is Mr Kitchin’s style, of course, but I will tell members more about him as time goes by. In the meantime, on the subject of honesty and transparency in the Pacific, I say Mr Hide never did tell Richard Prebble that it was he who told the New Zealand Herald about Mr Prebble allegedly cheating the Parliamentary Service by claiming that his Wellington residence was an electorate office. Mr Hide did that because the New Zealand Herald was on to another story, and that was the last thing he wanted to be published when he was out at Waiheke Island at the retreat.

Ron Mark: Are there any other examples of a failure to apply the normal standards of honesty, transparency, and accountability that he might like to highlight in his discussions with Pacific Foreign Ministers?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have been at particular pains to point out to Pacific States the importance of their knowing who they have got coming through their country. One example of this matter would be a totally undesirable immigrant called Peron, who was brought into the Pacific on Mr Hide’s recommendation, and who was introduced to the ACT convention after Mr Hide had become the leader, with the request that those present all stand and clap him. This person has since been kicked out as a result of his promotion of utterly and totally objectionable publications—a friend of Mr Hide.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister tell us where else the twin tests of honesty and transparency have not been met in the Pacific region?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a very good question. I think it is important to stick to honesty and transparency in the Pacific, so we should point out that thousands and thousands of dollars—millions, in fact—are owed to creditors who are not being paid for a golf course development near Queenstown that Mr Hide promoted. Mr Hide turned the first sod. How appropriate was that?

Rodney Hide: Why does the Minister of Foreign Affairs not actually practise what he preaches to the rest of us; and will he declare to the House that the $19,998 was not a donation from big business, and that he was not misleading New Zealanders, but was being honest and transparent, when he said that New Zealand First “has had no big-business backing since its inception”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Hide and a number of people in the media in this country have been going on about this matter for 2 weeks, and they have ended up with doughnuts, because they have not got any of the facts, they have not made the proper inquiries, and their understanding of the law is pathetic in the extreme. But the good news is we are not going to be deterred by that. We know what they are trying to do: get rid of us before the election, and, in fact, have a snap election now. That is what their real purpose is. I have news for them and for the journalists in the press gallery, and it is all bad.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald column from1 March in which Mr Peters is quoted as saying that New Zealand First “has had no big-business backing”.

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

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table—and I have been reading Mr Peters’ speeches—a speech made by Mr Peters on 24 June 2008, in which he railed against corruption in other States.

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

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table a speech made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters on human rights, democracy, and prosperity.

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

Rodney Hide: Finally, I seek leave to table a speech made by the New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, on 25 May 2005, in which he said that New Zealand First does not serve the interests of big business—

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

Ron Mark: Are there any other words of advice that the Minister might impart to Foreign Ministers of other Pacific Island nations in respect of how honesty, transparency, and accountability do work and how they do not work?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a marvellous question. They do not work when an MP does not disclose that for 9 years his Remuera office has been the subject of declarable donations, or that the rent for his Wellington office space—according to a businessman and landlord—was $20,000 per year, which was never declared; or, worse still, that Mr Prebble, when his party leader, received a letter, which the New Zealand Herald knew about, about an incident at Waiheke Island, and, to divert the New Zealand Herald, Mr Prebble was potted by Rodney Hide on the question of his parliamentary residence in Wellington being an ACT office. That is dishonest in the extreme.

Rodney Hide: Would not the best way to advance openness and honesty in the Pacific be for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to take the opportunity in this House to seek leave to explain whether he sought $25,000 from Sir Robert Jones, and to explain what the Spencer Trust is and where the money went? That would actually promote honesty and transparency in the Pacific far more than the old windbag going on these drunken trips does.

Madam SPEAKER: No. The member knows that using such abusive language is not acceptable in this House. He will withdraw that reference, please.

Rodney Hide: I withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because the member decided to descend to that level, I will tell the House what is not being honest and transparent—anywhere in the world, in fact. At a recent parliamentary function, an MP pretended that a woman friend was his new girlfriend, introduced her to the press gallery as such, and also introduced that same person in a Koru lounge as such, when he knew, demonstrably and palpably, that that information was not correct.

Hon Members: Who’s your girlfriend, Rodney!

Rodney Hide: Madam Speaker—[Interruption] Point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Point of order, Rodney Hide.

Rodney Hide: It was not you, Madam Speaker!

Madam SPEAKER: That comment was uncalled for; everyone knows I have taste and style.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that, Madam Speaker, and I know that my style is not yours.

Madam SPEAKER: What is your point of order, please? Then Gerry Brownlee, point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Entertaining as that commentary from Mr Peters might have been—it almost rivalled the Alice in Wonderland story—he has no ministerial responsibility for that sort of thing. So could we get an answer from him, and could he address the question that was asked?

Madam SPEAKER: No. Please be seated. I have valiantly tried to define ministerial responsibility, but the questions were technically within the context of the Pacific region, so they were, in fact, answered.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: So that’s the answer—to say that?

Madam SPEAKER: No, do not be ridiculous.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am, after all, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I have just explained a very foreign affair that is going on right under the nose of the press gallery—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not sensible. Look, we are coming close to bringing this House into disrepute, so would members please calm down.

Rodney Hide: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: If it is not a point of order, the member will have a very short stay in this House.

Rodney Hide: I think I might sit down at this juncture, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Right!

/NR/rdonlyres/FCFD0CC4-D660-449E-BC09-F315DCE188AE/91216/48HansQ_20080731_00000468_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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7. Immigration Service—Mary Anne Thompson

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

7. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his statement on 3 July 2008 that the circumstances in which family members of Mary Anne Thompson obtained residence appeared irregular; if so, what were those irregularities?

Hon SHANE JONES (Associate Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes. The detail of these matters is being addressed in the various investigations that are currently under way.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Was one of the irregularities discovered by the Oughton inquiry the fact that residents’ permits were granted to the applicants even though they did not qualify in terms of Government immigration policy; and is such a breach of Government policy an issue of relevance to the Minister of Immigration?

Hon SHANE JONES: The member refers to the Oughton report, which is now publicly available. The content of that report is now the subject of wide, sweeping inquiries. The member well knows that the issuance of residency undertaken by an official was beyond that official’s delegated authority.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that another irregularity that the Oughton report established was that legitimate applications from Kiribati citizens were declined because of apparently unlawful decisions made within the Pacific division of the Immigration Service; and is such a breach of Government policy also an issue of relevance to the Minister of Immigration?

Hon SHANE JONES: Of relevance to ministerial oversight is the fact that a review is currently under way in relation to the Pacific division. Allegations of the nature referred to by the member are being swept up in that, the State Services Commission’s review, and the Auditor-General’s exercise.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that another irregularity discovered by the Oughton inquiry was that staff members were recording “as instructed by”, on decisions they regarded as breaches of Government policy, when they were told to make those decisions by management; if so, are such serious breaches of Government policy issues of relevance to the Minister of Immigration?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat: the State Services Commission is undertaking a review, the Pacific division is currently under review, and the Auditor-General is exploring these matters. Any further concerns, allegations, and reflections of the fevered imagination of the member should be taken to the necessary reviews.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Which of the three recommendations in the Oughton report—first, that applicants who had missed out because of unlawful decision-making needed special consideration, something only the Minister could do; second, that an explicit protocol was needed to cover applications from persons who had relatives or extended family members in the department; and third, there was a wider problem of staff being instructed to make unlawful decisions by management, without authority to give those instructions—is just an employment matter, as claimed by the Minister of Immigration at the time?

Hon SHANE JONES: One part of the member’s contributions is accurate: the Minister did receive a briefing in the context of an employment matter. The other issues referred to by the member—evident in the publicly available copy of the Oughton report—are now being swept up in the State Services Commission’s review.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct the Minister of Immigration who was briefed on those serious irregularities in August last year, following the completion of the Oughton inquiry in July last year, was the Hon David Cunliffe?

Hon SHANE JONES: As has been outlined in the House on several occasions, the previous Minister received a briefing in the context of there being problems of an employment nature. Secondly, they were addressed by the chief executive officer at the time; and if there are outstanding issues of the nature hinted at by the member, I am quite confident they will be exhaustively addressed within the report of the State Services Commission.

48HansQ_20080731_00000627_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008

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8. Working for Families—Reports

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

8. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) 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 yesterday’s Television One Breakfast programme where the Leader of the Opposition said he still regards the Working for Families package as “communism by stealth” but that his party will not change it. It is not surprising that his backbench are a little embarrassed that their leader not only confirms his view that Working for Families is a “communism by stealth” plot but also now supports it.

Russell Fairbrother: Has the Minister received any other reports on the Working for Families package?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have. In the same Breakfast transcript Mr Key said that National’s tax policies would make changes to the Working for Families package. That statement follows similar contradictory statements made by Mr Key in an earlier television interview where he hinted at changing the Working for Families abatement threshold. He is either in denial about the no-change position because he has no new ideas, or maybe he is just being consistently not upfront.

/NR/rdonlyres/8AAA9A42-17B4-4F7F-B6CF-56F5778104E6/91204/48HansQ_20080731_00000694_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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9. Animal Welfare—Resources

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

9. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Agriculture: Is he satisfied with the level of his ministry’s animal welfare resources; if so, why?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) :No; as I said in the estimates debate, I am not satisfied, but the present budget of between $2.5 million and $3 million for animal welfare will be, I am sure, added to incrementally over successive Budgets.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister think it acceptable that there are only five Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry animal welfare investigators across New Zealand dealing with 50 million head of livestock, which is one officer for every 10 million animals; if so, why?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I do not think it is adequate, but I find it strange to have a question from the National Party on this matter, our having heard from National members that they want the bureaucracy of the Government to be cut drastically, and that they want the tax revenue that the Government receives to be cut drastically. Every day in this House I hear from Mr Carter that National wants more animal welfare staff, I hear from Mr Ardern that National wants more biosecurity workers, I hear from Mr Carter that National wants more policy analysts, and I hear from Nathan Guy that National wants more officials who can stop poisonous trees from growing over farmers’ fences, but, actually, National members would not have any money to do any of that—in fact, they would get rid of most of the bureaucrats we already have. I do not know how that works.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister agree with the comment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry investigations manager, Greg Reid, that animal welfare resources in New Zealand are “chaotic” and “running from bushfire to bushfire”; if so, what is the Minister going to do to fix that problem?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No; I do not agree with that official. I think that on my watch—nearly 3 years now—he is the second Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry official who has had a bad day at the office.

Hon David Carter: Why did the Minister tell the Primary Production Committee last year that he was deeply concerned about the lack of resources for animal welfare, and why did he promise at that select committee hearing to significantly up the funding, when in this year’s Budget he managed to get—and he is No. 3 in Cabinet—only an additional $68,000?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: They want more money!

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Here they go again! More money from less! That is good. Yes, I did not get more than an extra $68,000 for animal welfare. What I did get was $700 million for an agricultural research and development project. The member says what about the $68,000, and forgets about the $700 million. It is a bit like the biblical quote about seeing the splinter in somebody else’s eye but ignoring the beam in one’s own! In addition, we gave the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) $300,000. We got $23.3 million in the Budget for a National Animal Identification and Tracing system, which will protect our agricultural sector from being blocked out of important markets all around the world. I am sorry that we got only $700 million, plus $23 million, plus $300,000, and missed out in getting only an extra $68,000 for animal welfare! I think it very unlikely that Mr Carter will ever get anywhere near the Cabinet table again, because even his own colleagues must be underwhelmed by the kind of question he asks in this House.

Hon David Carter: Madam Speaker—[Interruption] Back to welfare! Following the serious drought of last summer and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s saying in this week’s New Zealand Farmers Weekly that some livestock are currently “heading towards starvation”, what responsibility does the Minister take for the massive under-resourcing of a core role of his ministry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am not going to take any responsibility for the drought. Presumably, Mr Carter will take responsibility for droughts, floods, and pestilence of all kinds; he speaks to a higher authority, obviously, than I do, and he has more control over those matters! But what I will say is that for the first time in the history of New Zealand agriculture a national committee including all stakeholders in the industry—veterinarians, farmers, and everyone else—was commissioned, and met, and planned to deal with the drought in ways that the National Government had never done. Every single stakeholder in the agricultural sector in New Zealand has congratulated the Government on the way that it handled the drought. And I might—no, I will not; I will have the charity of silence about the comments those people have made about the performance of the National spokesperson on agriculture.

Hon David Carter: When the Minister stated in a speech in April of this year: “We should search for how best to ensure we meet acceptable levels of animal welfare.”, did he have in mind giving each welfare officer a greater workload than 10 million livestock to look after?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The welfare officials in the ministry, backed by the SPCA across New Zealand, do a magnificent job. But in times of adverse weather events like drought, and a downturn in the income of some people in, say, the beef and sheep industry—which we have had—stress becomes a huge factor in the way in which some farmers cope, or do not cope, as the case may be. If Mr Carter wants to luxuriate in the fact that a few farmers have gone down under stress, and some of their animals have paid the price for it, then he can do that; I am not joining him.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Can the Minister confirm that during the 1990s animal welfare in this country was in a pretty serious state because the legislation was so old and decrepit; that, year after year, the previous National Government refused to introduce updated animal welfare legislation, even though it had been written; and that there was no movement until I introduced a member’s bill, at which time National members finally came to the party and we gave ourselves the legislation we have today?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I can confirm all of those facts, and I can further confirm that New Zealand is recognised as an international leader in the area of animal welfare. New Zealand’s work on codes of practice and its moves towards improved minimum standards are developments well in advance of the situation in most of our international trading partners. If Mr Carter does not know that, then he knows as little as I suspect he knows—as always.

/NR/rdonlyres/E8D1F21A-CE2E-4E74-BD94-81D8C926E1E8/91218/48HansQ_20080731_00000720_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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10. Renewable Energy Projects—Construction

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

10. Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Energy: What reports has he received on plans for construction of renewable energy projects?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : The Labour-led Government has set a clear direction for 90 percent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025. Industry is responding with new generation projects due to come on stream over the next 4 years totalling 1,400 megawatts, worth between $3.5 billion and $4 billion. More than half of that is baseload generation and nearly all of it is renewable. Industry in New Zealand is generally right behind this. The only group opposing it is National.

Hon Paul Swain: Has he seen any reports on preferences for fossil fuel rather than renewable energy?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen reports that a number of groups in the Rodney district have asked to meet their local MP to discuss their concerns about a large fossil fuel plant in their area. According to the residents, that MP has repeatedly refused to meet, saying that his electoral diary is “fully booked until after the election”. Mr John Key found time to meet the Waikato lobbyists, but he will not front up to the residents in his own electorate who are opposed to more fossil-fuelled electricity. New Zealanders overwhelmingly support clean, green renewable energy, but National opposes the emissions trading scheme, biofuels, and renewable preference legislation. As always, actions speak louder than words, and this latest refusal by Mr Brownlee to meet people in his own electorate again shows that he, along with Mr Key and National, has no real commitment to renewable electricity.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the official Ministry of Energy data showing that 75 percent of new generation built under Labour has been thermal.

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

Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table the list of current generation projects of over 400 megawatts of renewable—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/AFE17C3C-A802-4B7B-AC02-F78758A7CF7E/91220/48HansQ_20080731_00000789_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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11. Waitakere Hospital—Emergency Department Closures

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

11. PAULA BENNETT (National) to the Minister of Health: How many times in 2008 has the Waitakere public hospital closed its emergency department to new patients during normal operating hours?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I am advised that Waitakere public hospital has not closed its emergency department during normal operating hours. I am also advised that based on patient clinical need, it has diverted some ambulances and walk-in patients to other hospitals, but that it has consistently remained open for emergencies.

Paula Bennett: Why, then, does official information from the Waitemata District Health Board clearly state that Waitakere public hospital closed its emergency department 52 times in the space of just 5 months in this year alone?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: That is quite contrary to the advice I have received in answer to this question. I will seek further answers.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has the Minister seen regarding bed numbers operated by the Waitemata District Health Board?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Bed numbers have increased dramatically since this Labour-led Government built a whole new hospital in 2005. In addition, 20 new beds at Waitakere Hospital have been put in place, and a further 48 beds will be open in November at North Shore. Current plans also include rebuilding the Waitakere maternity unit by 2011, and building a new tower block at North Shore with 212 beds by 2013—great progress under a Labour Government.

Paula Bennett: Has the Minister seen reports that 1,400 patients have been transferred to the North Shore, and does she know how many have not been transferred but have simply been turned away at the door without even seeing a medical expert?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am advised that of the 24,000 patients treated at Waitakere, around 1,400 were transferred safely to North Shore. At all times patient safety has been the primary consideration. Clearly there is work to do, but that emergency department is not doing badly for one that opened in 2005.

Paula Bennett: What is the Minister doing about this crisis, when the Waitemata District Health Board states clearly: “Diversion of patients is a result of insufficient medical staff to maintain a full emergency department service.”, and can she assure the residents of Waitakere that if they turn up at the emergency department they will actually be seen?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: The Waitemata District Health Board reports that at present it has a full complement of nurses and it has also appointed three new doctors, who will begin within 3 months. When they arrive at the centre it will be almost fully staffed, with only 1 doctor vacancy

Paula Bennett: So despite all the extra funding and this Government’s so-called commitment to health, we still have patients who are being turned away at Waitakere Hospital, and how does she expect the hospital to fulfil its goal of providing a 24/7 service when currently it cannot even stay open between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am advised that of the 24,000 patients seen this year, only 254 were given vouchers for White Cross, which is 2 minutes down the road. I think the member is being quite alarmist. This is based on clinical need.

Paula Bennett: How does the Minister then respond to the mother who turned up to the emergency department with her son, who was having an asthma attack, in her arms, but who was turned away and told to go to White Cross although she said she had no transport, and who had to carry him down the road, turning up there extremely distressed, with a child who was in an extreme crisis?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am unaware of the incident in that case. If the member would like to get information on it to us, we will look into it with some urgency.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Can the Minister confirm that under the entire 9-year regime of the previous Government the emergency department at Waitakere Hospital did not close once, but that the reason for that was that there was not one?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Absolutely. There were no services at Waitakere other than maternity and a few medical service beds. This Government built a new hospital at Waitakere.

 Question time interrupted.

/NR/rdonlyres/FE92FA95-D53B-4A68-A0DF-568DCE64BFF7/91226/48HansQ_20080731_00000819_4.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 31 July 2008 [PDF 219k]

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12. Marine Protection—Progress

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

12. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Conservation: What recent progress has the Government made for marine protection around the New Zealand coastline?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Minister of Conservation) : Good news: I am pleased to say that a new 854-hectare marine reserve off the Wellington south coast has been established. Today notice of the reserve was published in the New Zealand Gazette, and the protections of this no-take reserve will come into force in 28 days’ time. I would like to congratulate the applicants, the Wellington branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, and the Wellington South Coast Marine Reserve Coalition, on their dedication to this project.

Hon Marian Hobbs: With thanks to the Minister: how does this reserve add to the Government’s programme of work for marine protection around the country.

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: This Government is committed to protecting examples of our unique marine ecosystems. Since 2000 we have added 17 new marine reserves.

Hon Peter Dunne: How, in the light of the embarrassing defeat that her department suffered through the Minister of Fisheries’ decision to decline to approve the huge marine reserve for Great Barrier Island, does she consider it now prudent to develop a framework by which no-take marine reserves comprise only one part of a graduated plan to ensure the sustainability of the marine environment, and that the process for deciding where to establish such marine reserves should be more transparent and ensure that the views of all stakeholders, including recreational fishers, are taken properly into account?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: We are certainly making progress on targets for marine protection. Within our territorial sea, 7.6 percent of the marine area is protected by marine reserves, and we are currently working to further increase that area through the marine protected areas mechanism, which creates a network of protection in 14 coastal regions throughout New Zealand. I think the member will be pleased with the progress.


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