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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 6 August 2008

1. Debt To GDP Ratios—Decrease

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the statement she made yesterday, in relation to debt to GDP ratios, that “over the forecast period of the Budget that the Labour Government has delivered these debt to GDP ratios are consistently falling”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : I stand by the fact that over the forecast period the ratio falls from 17.6 percent of GDP to 16.8 percent of GDP.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that net core Crown debt, which is the key measure of the Government’s debt position, will actually rise from 1 percent of GDP to 6.2 percent of GDP over the forecast period, which means it is going up?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I find it interesting that the member is not interested in the net core Crown debt position, including the New Zealand Superannuation Fund financial assets, because, of course, the net position on that score moved into positive territory in 2007, and, further, stays in a very good net positive position of around a 6.2 percent ratio, right through the forecast period.

John Key: That is correct; it is going up from 1 percent to 6.2 percent. Can the Prime Minister further confirm that the Fiscal Strategy Report shows net debt rising as a percentage of GDP every year from now until 2016-17, at which point it will have reached 12 percent?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member well knows that it makes no sense to use a figure without including the New Zealand Superannuation Fund assets, which shows a net position. This Government has moved the Crown into a very positive net position.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister recall that the Labour Government of which she and Michael Cullen were Ministers increased net debt from 31 percent of GDP in 1984 to 49 percent of GDP in 1990, and that it was the subsequent National Government that did all the hard work and brought the net debt down to 20 percent?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think time would permit me today to give the lecture that would be necessary on the follies of the Muldoon Government and the big-borrowing programmes.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the fiscal position was so bad in 1984 that the then National Government could not write a Budget; that when the first Budget was presented, the Government at the time was, in fact, running an operating deficit of 8 percent of GDP; that debt servicing was rising to $1 in $4 of tax revenue; that, in fact, that was the position that had to be brought under control; and that that was under the Prime Minister that Mr Key admired in his adolescence as the great Prime Minister of New Zealand?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I remember the events very, very well. I remember the calling of the “gin and schnapps election” by a Prime Minister clearly under the influence of certain substances at that time. It is correct, therefore, given the National Party’s new position of borrow and hope, to truly call Mr Key “Muldoon’s mokopuna”.

John Key: If the Prime Minister is taking a step down memory lane, does she remember that in 1989-90 she was Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, and not only did she undertake asset sales of $4.9 billion but also, for the record, when she left office Labour told the country that the surplus was $89 million—from memory—and it actually turned out to be multiple billions; but I guess that is the way Labour undertakes economic management?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I well recall the spin that Jim Bolger and the previous National Government put on the Crown accounts. I am aware that that spin led them to do things they never told the truth about to the electorate. I remember “No ifs no buts, no maybes; the surcharge will go.”, and they put it up. I remember the cuts to benefits, the charging for going to the public hospital, and the market rents for State houses. I remember all those things, and what I say to Kiwis is to be afraid—be very afraid—when the National Party says one thing in private and another thing in public.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In the light of that last answer, can the Prime Minister confirm that she has seen a report stating that the reason Mr Key is so sensitive today is that Mr English and Dr Lockwood Smith have been caught out telling the truth?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suspect that that is right, and that, of course, is what is leading to the billboards going around, stating: “We won’t sell Kiwibank. Yeah, right!”.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm whether she thinks that a debt to GDP ratio of 22 percent is prudent; if she does not think it is prudent, can she just explain why her Minister of Finance thought for a very long time that ratios much higher than that were prudent?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I do not think is prudent is borrowing for tax cuts, which is clearly the member’s intention. He cannot be borrowing for infrastructure, because he has not been able to list a single piece of infrastructure that is in his programme.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that even during the Asian currency crisis in 1997-98, when we were losing 60 percent of our markets, we still got debt down, and where else in the world would we find a conservative party, with any idea of its ideology, talking about increasing debt?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think the answer is that it would be very hard to find anyone else in New Zealand apart from the National Party wanting, at a time of global economic uncertainty, to quite deliberately stake out a debt to GDP ratio that is significantly higher than our Government’s, because they know they would have to borrow for tax cuts, which is plain crazy.

John Key: If the Prime Minister is so confident about her economic management, why does she not just name the election date, and we will have this debate in front of the country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said yesterday, the revelations about the National Party’s secret agenda mean that the Leader of the Opposition is interested in a later date rather than a sooner date. But can I say that my confidence in the management of the Kiwi economy is entirely shared by Standard and Poor’s, which has confirmed today the very strong credit rating it gives New Zealand.

/NR/rdonlyres/AAE87833-9A0D-4F65-886B-AEBD1A78A5A4/91731/48HansQ_20080806_00000024_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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2. New Zealand Superannuation—Government Actions

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

2. Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Finance: What action has the Government taken to restore and increase the level of New Zealand superannuation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : One of the first things the incoming Labour-led Government did after the 1999 election was to restore the level of New Zealand superannuation to 65 percent of the average wage for a married couple. It had been cut, of course, by the previous National Government, in which Mr English was a Minister of Finance. Since then, and subject to the agreement with New Zealand First, that floor has been lifted to 66 percent of the average wage. We have also set up the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to ensure the affordability of New Zealand superannuation into the long-term future.

Hon Paul Swain: Has he seen any reports indicating support for the current superannuation system?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen a report stating that Mr Key has pledged to resign if there are changes to superannuation policy in the unlikely event of a National Government. That, of course, is reminiscent of Dr Lockwood Smith’s famous 1990 promise to resign if we did not remove tertiary fees, which then of course were massively increased. And of course there was the famous “no ifs, no buts, no maybes” promise to remove the superannuation surcharge, which was then increased in the subsequent Budget by the National Government. But perhaps, as Dr Smith said, this is one of those “bloody dead fish you have to swallow” in order to do “some useful things that way that may not be policy right now.”

Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister confirm that if we do not continue to save money through the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, taxes on the current generation of young New Zealanders will have to increase in order to keep superannuation payments at the same level that they are at today, or conversely, if we cut savings in the Superannuation Fund and we do not increases taxes, superannuation payments will have to be cut in the future?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. One of the great ironies would occur if a potential National Government reduced contributions to the Superannuation Fund in order to pay for tax cuts, because the long-term effect of that would be to increase the tax rates that have to be paid in order to support New Zealand superannuation.

Hon Paul Swain: Has he seen any reports on the desirability of the current levels of New Zealand superannuation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen reports from the Hon Bill English that describe the current provision of retirement income as “too generous” and speculate about the need for Australian-style income or asset testing. That is not surprising. Mr English is the man who cut the level of New Zealand superannuation—

Hon Bill English: That’s not true.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not true that Mr English cut the level of New Zealand superannuation in 1998-99? He has forgotten the legislation that cut the floor for superannuation payments to 60 percent of the average wage for a married couple, down from 65 percent. He has forgotten he was part of a Government that froze New Zealand superannuation for 3 years out of 9, and that in only 6 of the 9 years gave an increase in superannuation payments.

/NR/rdonlyres/F57DE08A-4502-4F85-9CF7-80E24D76064B/91733/48HansQ_20080806_00000115_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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3. Political Parties—State Funding

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

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: What is the Government’s policy on State funding for political parties?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : This Government is in favour of State funding for political parties. This is something that is opposed by National because it wants to be able to spend the millions it has salted away in its numerous trust accounts, without any public accountability, just like its use of parliamentary funding, which is hidden.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Labour-led Cabinet signed off on a system in March that would have allocated $2 for every vote, up to 20 percent of the vote, and $1 for every vote from there up to 30 percent, and can she confirm that this would have meant that for the 2008 election campaign Labour was about to allocate itself around $1.1 million of taxpayers’ money for the administration of the Labour Party and the campaign?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This is not some secret tape-recording or some leak that the member is trying to say he has. This is in official documents released to him on the work that was done by the Labour Party when looking at State funding—something that was not introduced in the bill—and funding that the Labour Party would have received through State funding. Interestingly enough, Bill English does not mention what the National Party would have received, because it was State funding for all political parties.

Hon Bill English: Why then did the Cabinet, on 14 May, rescind its previous decision to introduce State funding, given the fact that the Budget bid for the money to be included in the Budget just 2 weeks later had been approved and the $3.1 million of funding for all political parties had been signed off?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Because there was insufficient support for State funding at that stage. The National Party did not want it; it wanted to be able to spend the millions it had salted away in the Waitemata Trust, the Ruahine Trust, the trust called the Holland Memorial Trust, and other trusts. National members were ready to spend those funds and did not want State funding. That would have stopped them using their money.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that, having abandoned State funding of political parties after the Cabinet had confirmed it and it had been put in last year’s Budget, Labour set about covertly using State funding—as confirmed by the Electoral Commission, which last week made a decision that the Budget pamphlet put out by the Prime Minister’s Office is an election advertisement and will have to count as an election expense—and that therefore Labour has achieved its objective, which is to make the pledge card legal?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not think the member knows the meaning of covert, because what he is talking about is a document about the Budget that everybody, we hope, has read, so it can hardly be covert. The document has an authorisation on it, and a parliamentary crest—as has the Green Times, which is allowed, and as has the ACT document. It is not covert; it is open. What is covert—and Bill English knows this because he is part of it—is the spending of parliamentary money for Crosby/Textor, for National’s consultants, and for the 36 people who work in Mr Key’s office and outside Parliament. None of that is accountable to the taxpayers, but every penny of it is parliamentary money.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the National Party gets more than $7 million from Parliamentary Service; second, that Mr Key has more people in his office—38—than the entire staff for New Zealand First in this Parliament and outside of it; third, that National will take the lion’s share of the broadcasting moneys this year for the election campaign; and what does she call that?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Unfortunately I cannot tell the member what I would call that, but I can confirm that the National Party does not get $7 million; it gets more than that. It spends about 82 percent of what parliamentary money it gets. National spends more money than everybody else but not a penny of it has to be accounted for, because its members are not transparent.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister agree that when the Green Party initiates citizens’ forum meetings to consider issues of election funding, they, as a group of impartial citizens, will be free to consider election funding issues without being beholden to political parties, fishing and racing interests, expatriate billionaires, and mysterious trusts?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm all those points.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that all four parties that supported the Electoral Finance Act have been found in breach of it, that three parties are going to be investigated by the police, that at least two parties that supported the Act to bring transparency to donations took large donations from a foreign billionaire—

Hon Member: Aw!

Hon Bill English: Well, that’s a fact—and can she now confirm that the Prime Minister’s office is using her parliamentary money—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the umpteenth time, that member is making an allegation that is totally false; I know that, the people involved know that, yet the member repeats it—like some members of the media who cannot get their heads around simple facts. New Zealand First did not get 1c from the so-called billionaire whom the member speaks about.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a point of debate, not a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If Mr Peters has never made it quite so clear in the House before, does he now wish to inform the House that he personally received it by way of a bill. It should have—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, either. Please be seated.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister now confirm that the four parties that supported the Electoral Finance Act have been found to have breached the law—that is, they could not reach the standard they set for everybody else—and that two of the parties that campaigned so hard against large business donations—[Interruption] In the case of Labour, it took a large donation from a foreign billionaire and, in the case of New Zealand First, it is still a mystery what happened to the money; and can she now confirm the Prime Minister is using her parliamentary budget of taxpayers’ money for Labour’s election advertisements?

Hon ANNETTE KING: What I can confirm is that there is only one party in this Parliament that has not honoured the undertakings to pay back its money after the 2005 election, and that is the National Party. It ripped off the taxpayers for over $100,000 of GST that it did not pay back to the taxpayers of New Zealand. It still has not paid it back, and National members opposite sit there, holier than thou, pointing the finger at every other party. Well, there is a name for that, and one day I think somebody is probably going to say it.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the proposals for State funding of political parties were being developed, did she consult with all parties in this House about what the content of a State-funding regime might be; if she did not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As the member is aware, I was not the Minister of Justice at the time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Aw!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, it is the truth, and the member is never going to be the Minister of Justice. He is never going to be, so his big “Aw!”—

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is quite right. She was not the Minister of Justice at the time, but there was a Minister of Justice, and the responsibility the question implies rests with the position, not with the person. So I think that a more fulsome answer could have been forthcoming.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Just to continue, because I was interrupted by the noisy member opposite me—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Because you were ducking for cover.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would never duck for cover from that member, because if he threw anything he would miss. I was not the Minister of Justice at the time. I would not like to recall what happened at that stage. I believe that most parties were consulted, but I am not sure if all were.

/NR/rdonlyres/DE396C80-9AAD-4C8F-A824-8640B299393A/91735/48HansQ_20080806_00000163_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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4. Work and Income—Treatment of Beneficiaries

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

4. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government’s current policy on how Work and Income staff should treat beneficiaries?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The Work and Income service charter tells clients what they can expect from Work and Income. It includes prompt and efficient service; all relevant information to be presented in a user-friendly way; to be given a fair, non-judgmental service; and to be treated with courtesy and respect.

Sue Bradford: What steps, then, is the Ministry of Social Development taking to prevent a repeat of the recent incident in Rotorua where Tara Marks was told to fuck off by a smirking case manager as she, with a baby in her arms, applied for a food grant?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That allegation and all allegations and complaints are taken extremely seriously. I have confidence in the integrity of the chief executive to make sure that those allegations are investigated appropriately.

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not want to interrupt the flow of the question, but the quotation that the member referred to in the first supplementary question introduces a new standard, I would have thought, for what is acceptable in parliamentary debate. I ask you to reflect upon whether the use of the words the member described is acceptable in a parliamentary sense, even if a quotation is being referred to. Otherwise, essentially, now anything goes.

Madam SPEAKER: I will look at the matter.

Judith Collins: Will the Minister be calling for an independent inquiry—I note she has just said she will have something investigated—because we have an allegation of appalling bullying in Rotorua; if so, when will it be reported back?


Russell Fairbrother: Does the Minister have any indication as to the overall quality of the performance of Work and Income staff?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Of the 1.5 million face-to-face interviews conducted by Work and Income staff over the last year, there were 147 complaints relating to individual staff behaviour and service. That is less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of the total number of interviews. In addition, I have received numerous letters praising the service of Work and Income staff, including a very appreciative, and appreciated, letter from Dr the Hon Nick Smith.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister believe that it is appropriate for the staff of the Work and Income office in Kawakawa to treat two kaumātua who are on a sickness benefit in such a way as to cause them great stress, including regularly making them wait for from half an hour to 1 hour for appointments, letting security guards manage reception and photocopy their confidential records, and having them witness verbal abuse; if not, what will she do to respond to those concerns?

Hon RUTH DYSON: If those are the facts, then I certainly do not support them; they would not comply with the service charter. There are appropriate procedures within Work and Income for dealing with complaints and allegations.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware of a recent incident in Gisborne where a woman on the unemployment benefit felt so bullied by three case officers picking on her at once that she now feels too frightened to enter the local Work and Income office, even though she knows she has to report there if her benefit is to continue?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I am aware of that allegation.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister realise that the cases that have been raised in the House today by my colleague from the Māori Party and me are not isolated; and will she consider the option of using skilled beneficiary advocates to help in the training of Work and Income staff, as one way of ensuring that there are positive changes in the way that beneficiaries are treated by departments throughout the country?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I have outlined to the House that there were only 147 complaints involving staff behaviour. I think that is a very small percentage out of 1.5 million face-to-face interviews. But I take up the point the member makes, and I will ensure that the relationship between the Ministry of Social Development and the beneficiary advocacy group means that the group’s skills are used to continue to improve the service.

/NR/rdonlyres/D9D76D0F-677B-4604-9608-78561E1A2E77/91737/48HansQ_20080806_00000254_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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5. Pacific Region—Governments

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

5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What further action, if any, has he taken since I first asked last week, to ensure Governments in the Pacific region are honest, transparent, and accountable?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs) :As I travel around New Zealand many people say to me: “Winston, you’ve been in politics a long time; you must know some good political jokes.”, and I say: “Rodney Hide.” The fact of the matter is that National members gave this question over to Rodney Hide today—I say to those thousands of people who are watching this broadcast from Parliament—because they were not prepared to ask it themselves. He might be impersonating a canary in this House but National members should be wearing the yellow jackets today, of course. I have asked my officials to keep promoting democracy and accountable government in the Pacific.

Rodney Hide: Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs take the opportunity he has now, in advancing honesty and transparency in Government in the Pacific, to put on record in this House what he told the public of New Zealand—that New Zealand First has received no donations from Simunovich Fisheries, contrary to what the Dominion Post claims today?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Anyone who read the Dominion Post today saw in paragraph 3 a barefaced allegation. There was not one fact, and there was no evidence and no proof, but the media in this country were happy to follow him regardless of his not giving them the courtesy of one detail to back the allegation up. It is drivel—typical of the last allegation as well, when they talked about $120,000 being in one or more cheques. They did not provide the evidence. There were no facts and no substance—just allegation. Anyone can see that this is the allegation of a campaign financed by certain people in this country who have been about this for a long time. I am bound to give members the good news—those people are not going to succeed.

Rodney Hide: Will the Minister now take the opportunity to deny in this House what he told the public of New Zealand—that New Zealand First has never received a donation from Simunovich Fisheries; if he will not deny it, what is the reason?

Madam SPEAKER: Members well know that questions must be addressed and related to ministerial responsibility. The way in which that supplementary question was framed meant that it was to the Minister in his capacity as a party leader.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can say this, though, on the question of honesty, transparency, and accountability—particularly in view of the need for sartorial standards—I have spoken to some people in Epsom and told them not to elect a member who represents a party that has for many years secretly channelled millions of dollars from big business through trusts such as the Cargill Trust, which paid $2.9 million to ACT in one year. When the leader of the ACT party was questioned about the trust, he said that he did not know about it until he read about it in a newspaper article.

Rodney Hide: What can the public of New Zealand conclude about the credibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who says: “No, New Zealand First received no money from Simunovich Fisheries.”, but is not prepared to advance—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that this is a stalking horse for another campaign; it is so obvious. But he is not going to go outside the law—inside this House or outside it. Therefore I am asking you to bring him to order.

Madam SPEAKER: No. All I am asking members to do is to comply with the Standing Orders when asking their questions. Those questions should relate to ministerial responsibility and not to the roles other members have outside this House. Ministerial responsibility is the key.

Rodney Hide: Why will the Minister not enhance honesty, transparency, and accountability in the Pacific by repeating in this House what he told the public of New Zealand—that New Zealand First has received no donations from Simunovich—

Madam SPEAKER: No—the first part of the question is fine, but the second is not.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: No. I have ruled on this matter. Would both of you please be seated. You may think this is a circus but I do not, and neither do the people of New Zealand. There are rules here. If you want to debate other matters you can do so outside question time. It is your right to do so. Here we have questions, and those questions relate to ministerial responsibility. The first part of the question is fine; the reference to other roles is not. So I ask the Minister to address the first part.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is like taking candy off a baby. The reality of it is that I have been at pains to point out how transparency and democracy work around the Pacific. But, more particularly, I have some good examples. The following quote is from the previous leader of the ACT party, who said, when he was asked a question—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You cannot shut down Mr Hide from asking a specific question about a matter that has been before this House—the matter has, in fact, been before the Privileges Committee—and then allow the Minister to rehearse a whole lot of answers that have nothing to do with his ministerial responsibility, no matter how thinly he might couch his associations—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: If Mr Brownlee could be slightly patient he would see in the words of these quotes why this is relevant. The quote begins: “In a free society ...”, and that is what we are talking about—free and open democracy. I want to give members the quote.

Gerry Brownlee: If this were a free and open democracy, the Minister would not be worried about hiding behind the Standing Orders so as to not answer the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister address the question. As I heard, the Minister got as far as giving examples before there was a point of order.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The audience was stunned, I might add, when I gave this quote, which reads like this: “In a free society people should be able to donate to whatever cause they like. If it is their own money it is nobody’s business—no business of the public.” That statement was made by Richard Prebble in respect of the $2.9 million in the Cargill Trust. [Interruption] We are talking about the laws that applied then, Gerry—pay attention! When he was asked why that money had to be secret, Mr Prebble added: “How am I supposed to answer that question?”. A lot of New Zealanders do not particularly want to be on the front page of the newspaper—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It would be an interesting, I think, piece of information you might give the House about how any of this answer relates to the Minister’s responsibilities, either as the Minister for Racing or as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to whom the question is set down. He should not be allowed to get away with this, Madam Speaker, when you have been so very hard on Mr Hide. You did not allow Mr Hide to raise issues with the Minister of Foreign Affairs that are relevant about the way in which financial transactions—

Madam SPEAKER: I have heard enough from the member. I am not being hard on any particular member; I am being hard in the sense of trying to ensure that the Standing Orders are complied with. The member asked a very broad question and the Minister was addressing that question—the exchanges were both broad; I accept that. We could rule them out of order, but I have not done so, because I think there is an element of ministerial responsibility in terms of the approach that has been taken. The Minister was responding with quotes on that, so that is the situation we have.

Taito Phillip Field: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps you could clarify for me, Madam Speaker, in relation to the premise of the question: since when was the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs responsible for the honesty and transparency of Governments in the Pacific?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has a responsibility about matters that relate to Pacific countries, and those matters in previous questions have also related to Government policy there. Of course, the member is right, in terms of the strict sense of that, that the Minister is not responsible. But in terms of the way in which the questions have been framed, I think they have so far come within ministerial responsibility in a broad interpretation.

Rodney Hide: Would the Minister not conclude that in the past week there has been a backward step in accountability, transparency, and honesty in the Pacific, because, to take an analogy, we have a Minister who tells the people that no donation was received from Simunovich Fisheries—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry—the member knows. He will please bring the question within ministerial responsibility.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If Mr Peters can use an example—an unintelligible example, actually; Lewis Carroll would have been better—to try to answer his question, why cannot Mr Hide use the same process for getting an answer to his question?

Madam SPEAKER: Because the first question drew matters to a role that is outside the Standing Orders in terms of responsibility in question time. Analogies are used, and I know—

Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—

Madam SPEAKER: —I am on my feet! Would members please just stick to the Standing Orders, both those asking the questions and those answering them—I have stopped both of you at times.

Rodney Hide: Would the Minister consider, with his vast experience of foreign affairs and the finance of political parties, that it would be a backwards step in a Pacific nation if a political leader and Minister were to deny ever receiving a donation when the newspaper in the capital city said that that member’s party did, and when, given the opportunity in the nation’s Parliament, the member refused to repeat the denial, because we have learnt from this experience in this far-flung nation of the Pacific that “No” means “Yes”, “Yes” means “No”, and he is an “Alice in Wonderland”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That reminds me of nothing so much as the old English saying: “I shot an arrow into the air; whither it landed I knew not where”. You see, the kind of thing that we saw in the Dominion Post today is typical of a sleaze campaign. Let me tell members this. I take the story of Bob Jones. The only independent witness, Professor Malcolm Wright, said “One, I was not in the room; two, I was angry when I came into the room and found out that the subject had been raised; and, three, I was not present when there was any cheque paid out.” That is the story, gone and dusted. Mind you, it was in “Granny Herald”, of course, after 5 days of rumour and innuendo.

Rodney Hide: What would the Minister conclude about a far-flung island nation in the Pacific where a Minister was quite happy to deny political donations, but when asked in Parliament—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was hoping that a gracious providence would intervene, but I have to resort to asking you to do so. This is ridiculous, shameful, and disgraceful. No one should be allowed to make such an idiot of himself in this House.

Madam SPEAKER: People are free to present themselves however they like, as long as it is within the Standing Orders. Have you finished your oration, Mr Hide?

Rodney Hide: Hardly started, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: That is the problem. Be seated! You are turning this place into a farce, and it is not in the public interest to do so. Questions are to be short and succinct—not speeches—and answers are to directly relate to the question. We will have that now—a short and succinct question and a short answer, please.

Rodney Hide: What would the Minister conclude, if in the Pacific a Government Minister would go out in public and deny ever receiving a political donation, but would not make that denial in Parliament where it mattered?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Frankly, the ACT party should change its leader if that is the best it can do. The member has come to this House, he has not provided one shred of ammunition or evidence, yet he demands I give answers to allegations made by a fish-and-chip, throwaway newspaper, and a rather follicly-challenged, lying editor. I will tell members what that editor did about democracy. We had a candidate once, a doctor—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect on where the answer is going here. It was a very succinct question from Rodney Hide, I thought, after your direction to him. The Minister is making no attempt to address the question asked.

Madam SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to address the question succinctly.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I will. This doctor, a New Zealand First candidate, was accused on the front page of the Christchurch Press of rorting the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)—on the front page. I demanded an ACC inquiry, and 4 days later it exonerated him and said that rather than ripping off ACC, he had delivered four times the services.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This question was not about the editor of the Dominion Post—

Madam SPEAKER: I know. You are quite right. Would the Minister just address the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I will—precisely: I am not going to respond to a dirty, underhand media campaign.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Peters was simply asked to respond to a legitimate question from Mr Hide that related to how he as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Pacific would view the activities of another Foreign Minister in the Pacific, who was prepared to say outside the House that he did not receive a donation but was not prepared to say so inside the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I get the point. But the Minister did address the question; we should be grateful for that.

R Doug Woolerton: Has the Minister seen any other reports of a lack of honesty and transparency in the South Pacific?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh yes, most certainly. Yesterday, I tabled a document, but I did not mention the man who signed it. His name was Sir Bob Jones. He was alleging that $20,000 was paid by him to the ACT party and never declared. Why would not one media person be interested in that? Well, the media has a spurious campaign going on against one party and its leader, which it is bound to lose.

R Doug Woolerton: Is there any other action the Minister needs to take to ensure accountability in the South Pacific?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes. I saw a coterie of New Zealand’s richest men secretly bankroll a political party in 1996, in a scheme set up to avoid disclosure of their identity and the amount of their donations. Over $2.8 million was paid into an undeclared trust now known as the Cargill Trust. This dwarfs—massively—any donations made to New Zealand First. But of course it went to the dwarf.

Madam SPEAKER: That last comment was uncalled for.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister give us another example of transparency and accountability in the South Pacific?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Most certainly. When it is alleged in an electoral court that push-polling took place by a whole lot of Exclusive Brethren and it is denied by legal counsel, but it is later admitted to by the very candidate who was a beneficiary of that, and who would not be here had that cost been put on to his account, then we are looking at perjury—a most serious crime for which one is capable of getting 5 years in prison.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Thank you for that. I think that actually we did have an answer to my question. It took a while, but I think the answer was very clear.

Madam SPEAKER: It is not for you to judge.

/NR/rdonlyres/51F6C38F-7022-4258-957E-991A92B4FC85/91739/48HansQ_20080806_00000321_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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6. Sentencing—Sentencing Council and Guidelines

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

6. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Health: What reports has she received on the establishment of the Sentencing Council and the creation of sentencing guidelines?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : I have seen the Law Commission’s report that noted there were substantial inconsistencies throughout the country in the level of sentencing imposed on offenders for the same offence, and that the work of the sentencing establishment unit in drafting guidelines has confirmed that conclusion. I have also seen a report that notes that National will abolish the Sentencing Council, which indicates that rather than looking to improve the fairness of the system for both victims and offenders National is happy to leave in place a system that treats similar offenders in quite different ways, depending upon the particular court and judge dealing with the case. That is not fair to victims of crime.

Lynne Pillay: Has she seen any other reports relating to the Sentencing Council?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen comments by Simon Power of the National Party that National would get rid of this level of bureaucracy—the whole five non-judicial members of that council. No doubt that would be enough to pay for a tax cut, of a fraction of a cent, for all taxpayers. In fact, the National Party’s policy would cut out the public from having any input into sentencing levels at all, because one of the requirements of the Sentencing Council is to consult the public before any guidelines are brought to Parliament. I know that the National Party does not want the public to have a say in anything; things have to be done secretly behind closed doors.

Gerry Brownlee: Why does she disagree with former Minister the Hon Phil Goff, who said: “The principles and considerations spelled out in the Sentencing Act 2002 provide the guidelines to encourage consistency and transparency in sentencing’’ and there was no need for a Sentencing Council; and why does she not also agree with the National Party that spending nearly $6 million to second-guess what Parliament decides, and what the people who vote for members of Parliament decide, is a good thing?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am aware the member made at least half of that up. The member is probably not aware—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the member is saying that I am making things up, she should explain which bit of Mr Goff’s 2002 comment is not correct.

Hon Phil Goff: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. If we just let the Minister finish her answer, we might be able to resolve the issue that Mr Brownlee wanted to be addressed. But does the Hon Phil Goff wish to add something?

Hon Phil Goff: What the member supposedly quoted from cannot possibly be right. In 2002 there was no suggestion of a Sentencing Council, so I could not have been commenting on it.

Gerry Brownlee: The Minister clearly misunderstood what I said. I spoke about the Sentencing Act, which is mentioned in Cabinet papers in 2005.

Hon Phil Goff: That’s true.

Gerry Brownlee: Now he agrees; he thinks it is a load of rubbish too. So why does the Minister not listen to Phil Goff and Simon Power, and do something—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. My original instincts were right. If we just hear the answer to the question, then that would be useful.

Hon ANNETTE KING: That member has just displayed that he does not know what the Sentencing Council is or what it is meant to do. He talked about the Sentencing Act; he talked about something that was not in place. I suggest that maybe he should go off and read the Law Journal UK, because he does not believe anything that happens in New Zealand.

Hon Phil Goff: Too hard.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Of course, it is too hard for him. But if he did read it, he would find it says that what New Zealand is doing in terms of the sentencing guidelines and the Sentencing Council is the way ahead and is worth taking account of.

/NR/rdonlyres/FA56ECAC-2997-4313-A7AA-E71B4936EBB6/91741/48HansQ_20080806_00000463_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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7. District Health Boards—Management and Administration Staff

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

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that management and administration staff at district health boards increased from 8,250 at 30 June 2001 to 10,236 as at 31 December 2007, as per answers to written questions; and is this in line with Government policy?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I can confirm that under this Labour-led Government there has been a greater increase in front-line health workforce numbers. We are increasing our investment so that Kiwis can get the kind of health care they deserve. The percentage of district health board staff employed in management and administration has actually decreased from about 20 percent in 2001-02 to less than 19.5 percent today. The real question is how many of those extra front-line staff is National going to cut, or does the public have to wait for Tony Ryall to slip up again, just like he did on general practitioners’ fees before we find out what National’s real agenda is.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why will the Minister not confirm that the number of managers and administrators in the district health boards has increased by well over 2,000 during Labour’s term in office, and what action has he or any of his predecessors taken to halt this relentless growth in bureaucracy?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If the member wants figures, then let me give him figures. The increase in management and administration personnel was 1,362—that is less than 2,000, for the member’s information—medical personnel grew by a whopping 47 percent, or 2,188, and support staff actually declined by 199, or 8 percent. As I said at the start, the proportion of front-line personnel went up; back-office personnel went down. What is the member’s problem?

Lesley Soper: What reports has the Minister seen on the number of medical personnel employed by district health boards?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The latest report I have shows that under this Labour-led Government there are over 2,300 extra medical personnel and over 3,000 extra nursing personnel employed by district health boards than there were back in 2001. That is over 5,700 more front-line staff. Again, for the member’s help, the proportion of front-line staff has gone up and the proportion of management and administration staff has gone down. Unlike the National Party, we are proud of our policies. People do not have to wait for someone in Labour to leak to find out what those policies are.

Hon Tony Ryall: Have any of the extra managers and administrators employed at the Capital and Coast District Health Board explained to the Minister why that district health board has today reported a $40 million budget deficit, why a new hospital is being built without enough beds, and why its emergency department is unable to cope with the needs of this city?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Some people always see the glass as being half empty. The fact is that Capital and Coast District Health Board does have a difficult transition time at the moment. It has a new regional hospital that is all but finished, and it will be into it by the first half of next year. Of course, it is under stress, and it has had some historical problems. That is why this Government has put in a new chairman and Crown monitors, and why there is a turn-round in progress. When we have problems we front up to them, we fix them, and we move forward.

Hon Tony Ryall: Have any of the extra 150 managers and administrators employed at the Canterbury District Health Board explained why Christchurch Hospital told a woman who was 36 weeks pregnant to go back home across the Southern Alps on a bus with a $40 McDonald’s voucher, why it has a budget blowout of $15 million, and why it has admitted providing sub-standard cancer care to South Island patients?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: On any given day hundreds of thousands of services are provided to New Zealanders, the vast majority of which are of a high standard, but that one was not. The chairman of the West Coast District Health Board has publicly given his regrets for the way that woman was treated, and I would add that it does not meet my expectations, either.

Paula Bennett: Have any of his hundreds of district health board managers told him that this weekend, while the Waitakere hospital emergency department was closed, patients who went to nearby White Cross found that there was no doctor there; and how can it be that after the Government has spent millions on bureaucracy, our fifth largest city has an overworked and closed emergency department and there was not a single doctor on duty anywhere in the city?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Let me repeat the facts once more for members. The facts are there are 3,283 more nurses since 2001, there are 2,188 more doctors since 2001, and there is a higher proportion of front-line staff today than when the National Party was in office. What is wrong with that picture? Nothing. We have invested across the board. We are bringing better health services to Kiwis—hey, which is why it is on our top ten list, and not National’s.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister should address the specific question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Waitakere Hospital’s accident and emergency services are a matter for the district health board to manage. Waitakere is very clearly under the impression that after-hours care is a matter that we are interested to see extended during its budget process, and that is an ongoing conversation.

Paula Bennett: Why was Waitakere Hospital’s emergency department closed 52 times in just 5 months of this year; and would not the money be better spent on our emergency department and after-hours care, instead of on 146 extra managers at the Waitemata District Health Board?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The National Party just cannot help being slippery with figures, can it? The first half of the question talked about Waitakere Hospital, and the second half talked about the Waitemata District Health Board. As anyone who spent much time in the west would know, unlike the member, the two are not the same thing.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister did not address the question. Would he please address the question.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is impossible for me to make a meaningful comparison between statistics quoted from Waitakere Hospital compared against the Waitemata District Health Board, when Waitakere Hospital is only one sub-component of that district health board. That is an answer to the question.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister of Health prepared to admit that in quoting the numbers about additional doctors since the year 2001, he has failed to admit to the House that the Ministry of Health has changed the way that it counts the numbers of doctors in the public health system since that time, such that it inflates the number by over 1,000 places? If he wants to talk about being slippery, he should come down and admit he has just deceived the House.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: What I consider to be slippery is the fact that when the member has access to the exact same information that I do—I know because I have sent it to him in answer to a written parliamentary question—he quotes an increase in management and administration personnel, which is true, but omits the fact that the number of support staff has decreased, and he omits the fact that medical staff numbers and nursing staff numbers have increased by more, and that, as I understand it, the statistics are on the same basis throughout, which is consolidated numbers. The fact is that the National Party is just trotting out an alleged growth in bureaucracy for one simple reason. It is because Crosby/Textor has told National that it is a good key line for the campaign. The fact is that it bears no relationship to the truth. The truth is that the proportion has gone down. The member should admit that he is misleading the House, and get on with life.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a schedule that shows that the number of district health board managers and administrators has grown by over 2,200 since—

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

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table information that shows that the number of support personnel in district health boards has decreased since 2001.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table information that shows that medical personnel numbers have increased by over 2,000, or 47 percent—

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table information that shows that the level of allied health personnel has grown by nearly 2,000, or 22 percent, since 2001.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table information that shows that nursing personnel numbers have grown by 3,283, or 17 percent—

 Leave granted.

Paula Bennett: I seek leave to table a board report from August 2005 that clearly states that the Waitemata District Health Board is contracting services to White Cross—

 Leave granted.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table confirmation from the Ministry of Health that it has changed the way it counts—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/83B23E93-790D-4208-9D97-33D870250DD5/91743/48HansQ_20080806_00000505_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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8. Tertiary Education Policy—Transparency

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

8. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What reports, if any, has he received on the importance of transparency in tertiary education policy?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Tertiary Education) : Transparency in policy development and implementation is very important, especially in tertiary education. For example, when the Government pledged to remove interest on student loans in 2005, we did just that. It has not always been so. An earlier tertiary education pledge was to abolish student fees altogether, and the politician involved even pledged to resign if the fees were not abolished—one can see his saying it on YouTube. The fees were not abolished, of course; instead, they were doubled. The politician did not resign, of course; he is still here—just over there. He is the same politician who was caught out last weekend saying: “There’s some bloody dead fish you have to swallow … to get into government …”. Some things never change, and I congratulate the member on his consistency.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has the fashionable pledging to resign if tertiary education policy promises are not kept ever happened?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Well, no, not in recent times, not in tertiary education. Elsewhere the pattern of making such pledges is re-emerging from none other than John Key, who has pledged to resign if he cuts superannuation or changes the eligibility rules. Unfortunately for Mr Key, his party already has a track record of signing pledges up and down the land, then gaily ignoring them.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Minister, in the interests of transparency, and given that we know that the costing has been done, rule out any announcement between now and the election concerning the introduction of universal student allowances or a timetable for the introduction of universal student allowances; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a pleasure to repeat afresh the policy of the Government. The Government’s policy is to move towards, but not directly to, a universal allowance regime. This continues the pattern of nine Budgets in each of which there has been some improvement, large or small, for the student population. That contrasts with the 9 years prior to that; every year, the fate of students, the financial pressure on them, got progressively and inexorably worse. If members want to know which party in this House takes care of affordability in tertiary education, they should do no more than consult history.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw to your attention that my question was very specific: would he rule out an announcement between now and the election campaign, in the interests of transparency, etc. You will rule that he addressed the question, but he did not actually answer it. I point out that if, in fact—

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I will just point out to the member that that is what the rules require, and I will say it again—

Gordon Copeland: Can I—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry; I get your point of order.

Gordon Copeland: I have not finished—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Points of order should also be made succinctly. The Minister may not have answered the question, but the Minister did address the question. If he wishes to add to his answer, I invite him to do so.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Madam Speaker, let me repeat my answer, and then you can decide whether I merely addressed the question or answered it. Government policy continues to be that we will move towards, but not directly to, universal student allowances. What clearer answer than that does the member want?

Dail Jones: Does the Minister accept that the New Zealand First policy to abolish universal student allowances will do a great deal to retain young people in New Zealand and stop the drift of young people—

Hon Member: Abolish?

Dail Jones: —sorry, the New Zealand First policy to remove—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Was that the revelation of a secret agenda, which we shall see played on TV3 later this evening?

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. We will have this question in silence, because I cannot hear. Has the member got a supplementary question?

Dail Jones: Yes, I am trying to give it.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you please ask it succinctly?

Dail Jones: I am trying to.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Dail Jones: Does the Minister accept that if students receive universal student allowances that do not have to be repaid and therefore become student debt, that will encourage young New Zealanders to stay in New Zealand and stop the drift of people overseas?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not sure that I got the entirety of that question, but I can say that, in general, the Government finds itself well supported by the Greens, by, in particular, United Future, and now by, it seems, New Zealand First, in ensuring that the affordability of tertiary education gets better and better in this country, whereas the history of the members on the other side of the House is precisely the opposite.

/NR/rdonlyres/D7582DD9-3762-4CD3-9286-C9F112AB7937/91745/48HansQ_20080806_00000654_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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9. Drug and Alcohol Abuse—Assessment and Treatment Programmes

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

9. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied with the current availability of drug and alcohol abuse assessment and treatment programmes in New Zealand; if so, why?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) : No.

Barbara Stewart: Is he aware of reports that in Christchurch addicts wait for an average of 8 weeks for a specialist assessment, the first step for entry into detoxification programmes, and does he think that is satisfactory; if not, what is being done to shorten the waiting times?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I am aware of that. The national average for waiting times for assessment is around 4 weeks, and Christchurch happens to be the worst area in the country. At any one time, of course, about 22,000 people are in treatment using services from 97 providers, and about 130 sites are funded, of course, through district health boards around the country. The Government now spends 50 percent more on this area of treatment than it has in the past. I congratulate and thank our support parties, including New Zealand First, for assisting us to do that. In return for that, the waiting times for services have dropped. As I say, it takes on average 3 weeks to get into community assessment programmes and about 1 month for residential care.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: What provision is the Minister making for the massive increase in demand for residential programmes to treat P addiction, and does he understand that many, many working families just cannot afford to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for private treatment at the Pakuranga facility?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: P, of course, is an addictive methamphetamine, and there are many other varieties of it, but the treatment for addictive substances is basically the same. The number of residential facilities for that treatment has expanded rapidly under this Government. During this year, in the last 3 to 4 months, I personally have opened two more of those facilities in Christchurch alone. That would be 200 percent more than National ever opened in its term of office.

Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Is the Minister aware that only one kaupapa whānau drug and alcohol programme exists in the whole of Aotearoa—Te Whānau Manaki o Manawatu—which does an incredible job with insufficient resources, and when will he be taking action to address that deplorable situation?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Unfortunately, because of the level of alcohol abuse in New Zealand, I have no doubt that there will always be gaps in the services. I understand that, but I have to point out that since 2001 we have increased the funding for residential and other treatment for drug and alcohol abuse from $65.6 million to $94.7 million. That is the largest increase in this area of service in any Government’s record. I suggest to the member that this Government is at least addressing the problem, which was never addressed before.

Barbara Stewart: Is he aware of comments by a longstanding Christchurch defence lawyer that “[Crime] is very intimately linked with the abuse of alcohol and drugs. If it wasn’t for the drugs and the alcohol, I’m sure we wouldn’t have the crime level we are currently grappling with.”; is that not a compelling reason to increase the availability of drug and alcohol treatment nationally?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, it is. I have said many, many times that in my experience—and I am sure in the experience of any member in this House—alcohol is the most serious drug abused in this country by a very, very long way. For example, Christchurch had a youth drug court but no residential facility for the treatment of young criminals. That has now been fixed, and there is now a residential treatment facility there. It was opened this year. That is typical of the measures that are being taken throughout New Zealand.

Taito Phillip Field: Given the incidence of problems with regard to P, other drugs, and alcohol in South Auckland, what are some of the Government’s initiatives concerning offences related to those problems in recent times, in terms of partnership—real, effective partnership—with communities on the ground with regard to that issue?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I would like to be able to say that the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and criminal offending as a result of that, were restricted to one or two regions in New Zealand. But unfortunately they are not; they occur right across the country. In Manukau City, in particular, I am aware of many initiatives that have been taken by the police in that community. We have, in fact, two community action groups on drug and alcohol for young people that have been established there for 2 or 3 years, and they are doing very good work indeed. But we would not have to be rocket scientists to work out that all of this is extremely complex, and we cannot say in any way that we are satisfied with the results.

Hon Tariana Turia: What will the Minister do to address the ongoing concerns expressed by Māori communities about the lack of Government support for kaupapa whānau drug and alcohol abuse assessment and treatment programmes; and how does such a failure to act sit alongside the National Drug Policy, which states that drug and alcohol problems in Māori communities may be addressed more effectively when targeted approaches are developed by and for Māori?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I have said, the waiting times for both residential treatment and assessment have been reduced.

Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not want to waste the Minister’s time by his going through that answer again, because that is not what the question was.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I was asked whether the Government was concerned about treatment. The member has a specific commitment to Māori; I have a commitment to the whole population—

Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am speaking particularly about kaupapa whānau alcohol abuse assessment and treatment programmes. They are not the same as individual treatment programmes, and I am offering the Minister an opportunity to answer.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, maybe we will let him answer fully.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I mentioned, there are a number of community programmes—actually, 25 of them—throughout the country, and many of them are specifically aimed at Māori young people throughout New Zealand. They are based in the community and have very well-known leaders in the Māori community leading them, and, as far as I know, in respect of the national hui that will take place this month in Wellington, they are all very impressed and satisfied with the way in which those services are operating.

/NR/rdonlyres/EC4D19AE-EC13-4930-8531-E112ED8A0265/91747/48HansQ_20080806_00000705_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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10. Work and Income—Income Support

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

10. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she stand by her statement that “From 1 April 2009, Work and Income will talk to their clients in a much more generic way about their income support. The focus of discussions about income support will be on ensuring full and correct entitlement to financial assistance rather than making any reference to specific benefit type.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Yes.

Judith Collins: How can she justify issuing a ministerial directive to dictate the words that Work and Income staff must use when talking to beneficiaries, including banning mention of the type of benefit people receive; and how is this going to work in practice when the benefit types remain in force within the Social Security Act but staff are not allowed to refer to them?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is actually the point of a ministerial directive.

Judith Collins: How silly is it to attempt to ban staff from referring to benefit types when presumably beneficiaries are still permitted to refer to the type of benefit they receive; or is she going to try to ban that, as well?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The aim is to treat people as individuals with specific needs and ensure that those specific needs are recognised and supported so that the person can move off a benefit into a job.

Sue Moroney: What are the advantages of taking a more generic approach to the provision of income support to clients?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The aim is to treat people as individuals with specific needs and to ensure that those specific needs are recognised and supported so the person can move off a benefit into a job.

Sue Moroney: What are the advantages of taking a more generic approach to the provision of income support to clients?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The aim is to treat people as individuals with specific needs rather than lump them into categories. We should move away from stereotypical and derogatory terms such as that used by the Opposition Leader, John Key, when he referred to sole parents—mothers on the domestic purposes benefit—as “for want of a better term, breeding for a business”.

Judith Collins: What is it that the Minister thinks is going to be said when someone comes into a Work and Income office and says he or she would like to get on to the domestic purposes benefit because of need; is that person not allowed to talk about that now?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That person will get his or her full and correct entitlement, unlike when that member’s party was in Government and people had to argue every inch of the way.

Judith Collins: Why does the Minister not put some effort into the important issues such as the ever-increasing sickness and invalid benefit numbers, which now total almost 132,000, instead of this ridiculous attempt at PC nonsense of banning members of her department from referring to the benefit that a person is wanting to get?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am delighted to inform the member that yet again she is wrong with her figures. Between June last year and June this year the number of people on a sickness benefit actually declined. I am not able literally to make them well but I have often recommended to people who are feeling sick to stop listening to the member who asked the question.

Judith Collins: How ashamed is she that after almost 20 years of announcements, re-announcements, and name changes, the single core benefit—also known as phase 2—has been reduced to nothing more than a bossy and absurd attempt to control the rules that come out of people’s mouths; what is next, a ministerial direction on what people at Work and Income are to think?

Hon RUTH DYSON: When that member’s party was last in Government, Work and Income staff were forbidden to put any photos of their family in their offices, and they were forbidden to have any personal items on their desk; that is PC gone mad.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the relevant page of the Cabinet paper “Special Needs Grants Core Benefit Changes and Further Work”.

 Leave granted.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I seek leave to table the statement in which National Party leader John Key referred to sole mothers—sole parents—as “breeding for a business”.

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the latest combined sickness and invalid benefit numbers.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/8A68FEDF-FD05-413A-B1B6-031E8E362ABB/91749/48HansQ_20080806_00000781_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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11. Liquor Licensing—Communities

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

11. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What is the Government doing to give communities more say in liquor licensing decisions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice) : The Government has today introduced the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, which will give community members the ability to object to licensing applications that affect their communities, and will also give licensing authorities the power to take social impact into account when making licensing decisions. Most important, we are giving real teeth to local alcohol plans by requiring licensing authorities to give effect to them. That means that if a local alcohol plan has a set closing time or a one-way-door policy, then it will become a condition of all licences in that area. I have also today announced a Law Commission review of the sale and supply of liquor, which will give a say to all stakeholders, including the community and industry.

Charles Chauvel: Why did the Government decide to include some measures in the bill and others in the Law Commission review?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Apart from the new provisions I mentioned before, the bill contains provisions that were the subject of earlier work and have broad-based community and industry support. It is important to progress those, and also to address the problem of licensing being issued to dairies by another name, despite Parliament voting in 1999 against the extension to dairies. The Law Commission has been given a very broad brief; in particular, it will look as such matters as the proliferation of specific outlets, the age at which liquor can be purchased, the application of competition law to the sale of liquor, and the management of risk around licensing and enforcement. With Parliament having a conscience vote on liquor issues, the report will give an evidence base for good decision-making.

/NR/rdonlyres/59EBE991-22DC-4430-AB0D-1E3406543F4A/91751/48HansQ_20080806_00000862_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 06 August 2008 [PDF 211k]

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12. Police—Numbers

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

12. CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by the Prime Minister’s statement prior to the last election that “It is not credible, however, to promise thousands more new police when the capacity of the police college and the labour market conditions in a strong economy mean that such numbers could not be recruited and trained without seriously compromising standards and quality.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : Yes, because that quote was in response to a proposal to double police numbers in 5 years, which would mean training 1,691 sworn staff every year. The considered and realistic approach taken by the confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First to recruit an additional 1,000 sworn officers over 3 years is on target, and it is being done without compromising standards, as shown by the Cerno report on police standards and assessment practice released in October last year.

Chester Borrows: Can she confirm calculations from the Police Association that show that although there is one sworn officer for every 510 people nationwide, the ratio in the Counties-Manukau Police District is 1:646, making it the second worst in the country; and is that ratio acceptable when violence in the Counties-Manukau Police District has increased by 64 percent since Labour took office?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can confirm to the member that, in the allocation of the additional staff, the first priority was the Counties-Manukau Police District, and we continue to put officers into that area. But, as the member knows, the districts in the Auckland area support each other district, so although there are a certain number of police in the Counties-Manukau Police District, that district has the resource of the whole Auckland area to call on to help it, as has happened to deal with some of the tragedies in that area lately.

Chester Borrows: Is the Minister satisfied with staffing in the Counties-Manukau Police District, when an internal email last month from the regional Police Association representative, Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Pizzini, reveals that there are “senior investigators in this district who are nearly falling over”, and that “workplace stress in this district is not peculiar to the CIB.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Counties-Manukau Police District has had a lot of serious issues in its area, and the officers there are under stress, which happens in any district when there are a number of homicides. But I know that the Commissioner of Police will ensure that extra staff go into the area when they are needed. Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) staff can be taken from any part of New Zealand to back up the work being done by those officers.

Hon David Benson-Pope: Is the Minister able to tell the House the increase in the total number of full-time equivalent police staff since 1999?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There has been a 28.3 percent increase in the total number of full-time equivalent police staff since 1999. I would like to compare that situation with the National policy in 1999, under the then Minister of Finance, Bill English, to cut 500 sworn staff. He was prepared to do it then, and I believe he would do it again.

Chester Borrows: Can the Minister confirm that in the first 6 months of this year, up to the day of the murder of Navtej Singh, there were 53 aggravated robberies of commercial premises in Manukau, but only five have been solved, because there are not the staffing resources to do the basics, like checking registration numbers and following up on descriptions of offenders?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm that that is the reason, but I do know that aggravated robberies, as the member knows, are not easy issues. First of all, the robbers have to be found before they can be arrested. But I can tell the member that in that same area, where there have been a number of homicides, and around the rest of New Zealand, the police record in catching murderers and ensuring they are locked away is almost close to 100 percent.

Chester Borrows: Can the Minister confirm that of the 103 CIB staff working in the Counties-Manukau Police District, 81 are not qualified and 43 started in the last 12 months, making an attrition rate from the CIB of 40 percent?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm that. I would like to know what the member’s definition of “not qualified” is, because, as the member knows, officers undertake CIB training in different districts, and work with those who are qualified. One has to go through training to become a detective, and, no doubt, it takes some time to do that—at least 2 years, I believe. The fact is that officers who are in training work alongside other officers, and that happens all around New Zealand. But if the member is saying that the CIB officers are not up to the mark, I disagree with him. I think the CIB officers in New Zealand are very good, and their record is second to none.

Taito Phillip Field: Does the Minister have confidence in the police, when concerns have been raised in recent times in relation to poor judgment by the police, and even cowardice when it comes to their lack of attendance at some calls involving violence? That concern has been expressed in the community. Does the Minister have confidence in the quality and the training of the police?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have confidence in the quality and the training of the police, and I reject the suggestion that our police are cowards—they certainly are not. They face the most horrendous criminals out on the streets 24 hours a day, every day of the week, 365 days of the year. They are not cowards. There certainly are a lot of criminals out there who are cowards.

Chester Borrows: Does the Minister agree that the measure of success of the law and order policy in this country is how policing is done in South Auckland in terms of public expectation and unmet needs in relation to police response and investigations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The success of policing will be measured right around New Zealand, because although there are problems in South Auckland, a sole officer working in the backblocks of Otago is under immense pressure, as well. Those officers need to perform their jobs just as officers in urban areas need to. The measure of success is how well our officers come up to the mark. I believe they do an extremely good job, and they have my full support.

Chester Borrows: Does the Minister accept that now she is well down the track towards implementing the National Party policy of increasing the number of police staff, there is still a long way to go to meet public expectation and need, and that she should reject the Treasury advice that it is undesirable to continue adding extra police staff past the current target of 1,000?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I say to the member that if he ever gets the opportunity to be Minister of Police, he should make sure he never has a report carried out by a consultant who then tells his party’s Minister of Finance to cut police numbers by 500, because that is what happened under the National Government. The only reason the numbers were not cut is National was dumped from office and Labour became the Government.

Ron Mark: Would it surprise the Minister to know that New Zealand First highlighted publicly the disparity between police staffing in the Counties-Manukau Police District and staffing in other areas some 6 months ago; and that although New Zealand First in its time in Parliament has negotiated to have 1,750 extra police, National has slashed police numbers, bought a computer and cut police numbers to pay for it, consistently told the public that recruiting an extra 1,000 police was simply a gimmick, and shown a solid track record of not supporting the police when it gets to Government? Who does the Minister think the public believe will look after police interests—us or them?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I think the public will go by the track record, and the track record of the National Party is appalling when it comes to supporting the New Zealand Police. I say to Chester Borrows that when he is railing against the number of police, he ought to remember what he said back in May 2007. He actually questioned the sustainability of an extra 1,000 police. If National members question the sustainability of an extra 1,000 police, I can only assume that there is no way that that number of police would be recruited if National were in Government.


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