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Questions And Answers – Thursday, 7 August 2008


Questions And Answers – Thursday, 7 August 2008

1. Domestic Savings—Promotion

1. SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on alternative ways of promoting domestic savings?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : Despite the fact that this Government has radically transformed the savings environment in New Zealand in the last year with the introduction of KiwiSaver, with over—

Gerry Brownlee: They are all losing their money. They are all going broke.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Not a single KiwiSaver account is going broke, and that is about the most irresponsible thing I have heard from that member for an extraordinarily long time. He seems to be confusing finance companies and mortgage investment funds with KiwiSaver funds. Despite the fact that this Government has radically transformed the savings environment in New Zealand with the introduction of KiwiSaver, with over 750,000 New Zealanders signed up to it, I have seen reports to suggest that KiwiSaver should be “adjusted” in order to make savings for tax cuts. That is one issue on which the National Party needs to front up publicly on its plans, rather than relying upon the back-door method of cocktail parties or overseas ratings agencies to get its views out into the public arena.

Su’a William Sio: Has he seen any suggestions for increasing the range of businesses that New Zealanders could invest their savings in?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen a suggestion that the Government should partially float State-owned enterprises such as Kiwibank and the power generators so that New Zealanders can buy shares in these companies, which of course we already own. That suggestion was made by Mr English on Agenda last year, and it confirms that rather than choosing his words badly, what has emerged from the National Party conference is an unorchestrated litany of truth about what National really plans to do in the unlikely event that it ever has the chance.

Hon Bill English: Has he seen the quote from the Minister for State Owned Enterprises on 13 July 2008 where he said: “Well I’m happy to have floats as long as it’s non core assets.”, and is it the Labour Party’s policy to float non-core assets on the public market; if it is, why is Labour getting so moralistic about any public discussion on this matter?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member should float non-core. If the member thinks that Kiwibank is a non-core asset, that KiwiRail is a non-core asset, that Transpower is a non-core asset, that Genesis is a non-core asset, and so on, that is a very fascinating view and we have at last found the weasel words that National could use in Government to justify flogging off those State-owned enterprises.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect to the variable statements on Kiwibank, has the Government received any reports—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Firstly, you might like to consider whether the Minister is aware of what the nature of the question initially was. Secondly, he of all people should know that that is not the way to start asking a question in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many times are you prepared to put up with this buffoon making pointless points of order?

Madam SPEAKER: This is question time, not statement time. Would members please note that, so that everyone asks a question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the variable statements on savings—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry; please be seated. Start with a question, not a statement. “Having regard” is a statement. Just ask the question, please.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have no difficulty in doing that by just rearranging the words to say, on savings and the Kiwibank—

Madam SPEAKER: No, no, please be seated. You are not turning today into a circus. Please be seated. Now if the member does not ask his question, I will be asking him to leave the House. He knows how to ask a question; he should just ask it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, Madam Speaker, I am entitled to at least point to the subject I am about to ask my question on.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member knows that you ask a question. That question can, of course, contain that which you wish to know in terms of an answer, but you start with a question. We have had this out in this House many times before.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What, where, when, why, and how did the Government learn of variable statements on Kiwibank and savings, and has the Government ever received reports that would suggest that one deputy leader is undermining his leader in the way that happened to Muldoon and Marshall many years ago?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is fair to say that Government members have been glued to their television screens at 6 o’clock every evening watching TV3, as we watch the unfolding saga of the various statements that the National Party has made. But, of course, we were also fascinated with Close Up last night, when we learnt that Mr Key had no basis in fact for his accusation of Labour Party involvement in the leaking of the cocktail party - circuit rubbish or in the nonsense about the rubbish outside his electorate office.

/NR/rdonlyres/091775BF-0E57-4118-8F60-456D1C99AD90/91799/48HansQ_20080807_00000108_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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2. Economy—Management

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

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement made yesterday that “my confidence in the management of the Kiwi economy is entirely shared by Standard and Poor’s”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Bill English: Does she agree that the Standard and Poor’s report specifically states: “ongoing fiscal discipline is likely to remain the norm, even if there is a change of government at the upcoming election.”, and does she accept that the Standard and Poor’s outlook for New Zealand rebuts directly her ridiculous claims about National’s plan to use some additional Government borrowing to invest in infrastructure?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes and no.

Hon Bill English: Yes and no?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There were two parts to the question; yes and no. What the Prime Minister draws from that is that the National Party was telling Standard and Poor’s something different from what it was telling the public at large, which underlines exactly what the Government has been saying about National’s secret agenda.

Hon Bill English: Does she believe that the Standard and Poor’s outlook for New Zealand indicates that a gross debt ratio in the low 20s does not represent any risk to the economy as is now being claimed by Labour, and will Labour stand by its claims sufficiently to ask Standard and Poor’s to reassess New Zealand’s outlook?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Labour is not working on the assumption that National will be the Government by the end of this year. Labour is working on the assumption that its fiscal policy is what Standard and Poor’s was primarily looking at, which is why it confirmed our AA+ stable outlook rating. The last time, of course, that Standard and Poor’s downgraded New Zealand’s credit rating was in September 1998 when the then National Government, with Mr English as Minister of Finance, saw a credit downgrade.

Hon Bill English: Before the Prime Minister made her ridiculous statements about debt levels did she speak to the Minister of Finance—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. “Before” is not a question word, and we had a rather long exchange on this matter previously.

Madam SPEAKER: Now that we have embarked upon this track would members please be conscious of the fact they use a question word to start.

Hon Bill English: Did the Prime Minister speak to her Minister of Finance before she made her ridiculous statements about debt levels, and ask him about a statement in the 2006 Budget, which were made when the gross debt was 23 percent of GDP—that is, higher than National’s debt target—a statement that says: “Debt has now reached prudent levels”; and why are she and her Minister of Finance now directly contradicting statements made by the Government about a debt level of 23 percent of GDP?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister speaks to the Minister of Finance frequently, on many, many occasions. But the difference is, of course, that under this Government, the Government has projected in each successive Budget—until the most recent one—a decline in debt levels. The National Party is happy to forecast an increase in debt levels.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister answer this question: if the Minister of Finance claimed yesterday in the House that Labour has a large infrastructure plan, and he has said borrowing is stupid, then given that the Government does not have a cash surplus, how will it pay for its large infrastructure plan?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member has done his usual trick of making a non-factual statement to preface a question and asking me to comment on the non-factual statement. The question is a stupid question. The Budget this year forecasts borrowing, and as I said in the pre-Budget statement, in my Budget speech, and subsequently, the Government is planning to borrow for infrastructure investments. National members did not listen to that. The National Party has said that it wants to borrow more on top of that, then it wants to borrow more on top of that for tax cuts, and then it is not worried if the forecasts change, because that will make no difference to its borrowing plan. That is truly dumb.

Hon Bill English: So when—

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. “So” is not a question word.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I know; we have embarked upon this. A question, please.

Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister said that any idea of borrowing money was ridiculous—I think she said “hilarious”—had she spoken to the Minister of Finance to clarify with him that in the 2008 Budget the Labour Government announced that it will have a cash deficit of $13 billion, and it will finance that with $6.5 billion of borrowing, and $6.5 billion of selling of financial assets owned by the Government; and why does he not just tell the public what he is doing, instead of trying to make up stories about what everyone else is doing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Given that that question was pre-prepared, one wonders why the member asked the previous question, which claimed that I said we were not going to be borrowing, because clearly the member knew that the previous question was incorrect. But for a member who said he wanted to sell Kiwibank eventually, then said he mis-stated, and then tried to claim that the tapes have been doctored, that was a particularly rich question.

Hon Members: What about an answer?

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member like to add anything more to his answer? [Interruption] No, there were numerous shouts that that was not an answer to the question. I listened to it. I then asked the Minister to repeat his answer. Would the member please address the question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What is clear is that the National Party is planning to borrow even more on top, it is planning to borrow more on top of that for tax cuts, and, indeed, it is forecasting rising debt to finance tax cuts. That is dumb.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, when, which, will, can, could, shall, should, how, and has the Government learnt of reports that New Zealand’s debt levels are about to be imperilled, and by what technology did it learn that?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I think most of my colleagues know, I am not exactly the most au fait with modern technology. So I can say that I acquired this from steam television, where I heard that the National Party was planning to increase debt, and indeed that the entire centrepiece of its economic policy, the one conclusion after 8½ years of hard, serious thinking, is that we should increase the level of debt over and above that currently forecast.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Prime Minister received any reports that give the deputy leader of the National Party credit for consistency in terms of the way in which he is undermining John Key and the manner in which he undermined Jenny Shipley previously?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am used to the notion that the job of a deputy leader is to support the leader. Mr English still has yet to get that idea into his head on his second chance of being deputy leader.

Hon Bill English: Will the Minister confirm for the House that while he is railing about other parties borrowing money to invest in infrastructure and he is saying that it is stupid, he is doing the same thing himself, and that while he is railing about other parties saying they will lift debt levels slightly, his Budget suggests he will do that himself; and when will the Prime Minister stop her nonsense claims and admit that a gross debt ratio of 22 percent of GDP is prudent, that it is lower than Government debt was for every year Labour has been in office, except this year, and that at 22 percent New Zealand would still have one of the lowest Government debt ratios in the developed world?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: One of the problems with the member claiming that the debt ratio National is now aiming for is 22 percent is that we are starting from a position of something under 18 percent of GDP. The National Party has stated that it will lift debt by 2 percent of GDP to fund infrastructure investment. Therefore, Mr English has just confirmed that debt levels will lift by something like 3 percent of GDP to fund tax cuts. I say thank you very much to Mr English.

Dr Russel Norman: How can the Prime Minister be confident in the management of the Kiwi economy when Treasury, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Reserve Bank are all still forecasting oil prices at about half of what they actually are; and is he certain that the plans of National and Labour to borrow money to invest in infrastructure such as large motorway projects are really wise, given those flawed forecasts?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is out of date, because the forecasts he referred to were committed to some time ago, and quite clearly both Treasury and the Reserve Bank are not using those numbers at the present time. I do note, much to the disappointment of the Green Party, that oil prices are again falling internationally, having been assured that prices could go in only one direction. I finally draw the member’s attention to the fact that already we are seeing major adjustments in terms of fuel efficiency around the world. I invite him to read the motoring editions in our daily newspapers that show that we are now looking forward to cars coming out very soon that will do 3 litres per 100 kilometres. That is significantly better than the Honda Jazz his co-leader drives around in.

/NR/rdonlyres/6740DE87-5D86-4CD6-87A2-966785AE4017/91801/48HansQ_20080807_00000171_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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3. Private Security Industry—Regulation

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

3. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What progress has the Government made on its review of the current system for regulating the private security industry?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the Associate Minister of Justice: Work is currently is under way on the preparation of a private security personnel and private investigators bill. This bill updates the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act 1974.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Associate Minister seen any reports on why it is necessary to enhance the regulation of private security personnel and private investigators?

Hon PHIL GOFF: On behalf of the Associate Minister, yes I have seen some reports that cause concern. For example, I have seen reports from a private investigator, Mr Wayne Idour, who admitted that the Exclusive Brethren had paid him to spy on Labour MPs to help the National Party at the last election. Having used that as an example, I have to say that not all reports I have seen have been substantiated and would stand up to that sort of scrutiny. One report is from a Mr John Key, and it suggests that secret recordings at the National Party conference had been doctored. Given that the person who had been taped, a Mr Bill English, actually confessed to, and apologised for, what he had said in the conversation about Mr Key, about selling Kiwibank, and about cutting Working for Families, that sort of allegation clearly would not stand up to scrutiny.

Lynne Pillay: Will the bill provide for a complaints process?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. However, with any complaints process it is important that those making the allegations actually have the evidence to back it up. Last night on Close Up John Key admitted that he had absolutely no evidence for his claims that the Labour Party was responsible for the secret recordings. Clearly, the claims were without substance and simply an invention to distract attention from the fact that if the individuals taped were telling the truth to National Party delegates, then the National Party has been lying to the public. As GuyonEspiner, of Television New Zealand, said the other night, Mr English has been caught out telling the truth.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister seen any reports relating to private investigator techniques for collecting documentary information?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. From time to time concerns have been expressed about private investigators going through people’s rubbish. I have, for example, seen reports from Mr John Key, who has been sending the media photos of his rubbish strewn across the street, claiming that somebody has been going through it. On investigation, however, it would seem that this was paranoia. I have pictures for the House, which I will seek leave to table. Here is the evidence of the crime scene. Here is the evidence of the prime suspect, a small dog—members can see that it is wearing a hoodie. That is probably why it is the prime suspect. Lastly, I have a picture of the sleuth—a bloodhound—that we are putting on the trail to try to find the culprit.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Labour Government condone the covert recording of conversations, such as those that have been played in the media over the last few days, or does it believe that it is inappropriate and should not form part of the coming campaign?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Labour Party does not condone dirty tricks in politics. Let me quote from Mike Hosking last night—Gerry Brownlee should listen to this. Mr Hosking asked Mr Key: “But what’s worse? Running an entrapment campaign …” by a person who apparently has no affiliation to any political party “or actually being busted saying something you didn’t want the public to know?”.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister may have substantial ambitions, but at the moment he has no responsibility for television interviews.

Hon Annette King: I recall in this House that that member asked many questions about Mike Williams, whom I had no responsibility for, yet he thought it was his right to ask them.

Hon PHIL GOFF: If I might just finish the answer to my question. What is clearly interesting is this quote from Mr English, who just raised the point of order. He said that Mike Williams should resign or be sacked—“Mike Williams has been caught red-handed saying one thing behind closed doors and another thing to the public.” I say to Mr English that what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I have not ruled on the first point of order. Is it a different one or the same one?

Hon Bill English: It is a different one.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I will rule on the first one. Listening to the context of the question, it seemed to me that the answer was in order.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mike Williams was filmed by a TV crew and he was advocating breaking the law.

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

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister compare and contrast the situation in respect of Mr Mike Williams, where a covert recording took place at the Labour Party conference, but Mr Williams’ greatest error was unwisely suggesting the Government should put out all the facts into the public arena, whereas Mr English’s offence was failing to put out the facts into the public arena?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I can absolutely confirm that. What Mike Williams was not guilty of, was saying one thing to the Labour Party conference and the opposite thing to the public. Mr Williams most certainly was not guilty of lying to the public, like the National Party has continuously done.

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I find myself in the unique situation of not being able to hear my colleague the Hon Phil Goff. The volume from the rabble opposite is just ridiculous. We cannot hear the answers.

Madam SPEAKER: The volume at which members are expressing themselves is making it difficult for everyone to hear.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table the evidence surrounding the crime committed on Mr Key’s rubbish.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/B05E68A0-25FD-49AE-9FE2-50C3444AAC2F/91803/48HansQ_20080807_00000286_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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4. State-owned Enterprises—Assets

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

4. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he stand by his statement of 13 July 2008 on Agenda in reference to State-owned enterprises that “Well I’m happy to have floats as long as it’s non core assets”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for State Owned Enterprises) : Yes. I would like to add that it is a longstanding policy of the Labour-led Government not to sell core assets, unlike that member and his party, with its now public—formerly secret—agenda that would see the selling of Kiwibank. That is a bank with over 600,000 New Zealand customers, a bank that pays tax in New Zealand, retains its profit in New Zealand, and is a distinctly New Zealand brand. What we will not do is sell it out from under our feet in the way that Bill English is promising to do.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister define for the House what he considers to be non-core assets, given that he has said on no fewer than three separate occasions this year that he is happy to float non-core assets, and will he also provide some examples of some of those non-core assets that he thinks it would be a good idea to sell?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is no problem at all. One very clear example of a non-core asset that could have been floated and has been sold is Southern Hydro. Southern Hydro is a wind farm in Australia that was owned by Meridian Energy. It was sold for $1.4 billion, and it is an example of a non-core asset that has been sold. A flotation methodology, if the price was good, could have worked for it, as well.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a document showing that the sale of Southern Hydro happened well before the Minister made any of the three statements I speak of.

 Leave granted.

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear. Members will be leaving the Chamber if this continues.

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister seen any reports on the value of State-owned enterprises?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I have. I have seen another outbreak of the truth. In this case it was from Dr Richard Worth in material drafted by him that outlines the National Party approach. In it he says—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is about to quote from a select committee document that is currently privy to the select committee and has not been tabled in the House. One of his own members, the Hon Paul Swain, is doing considerable support work on that document. It would be advisable for the Minister not to breach the conventions of the House by discussing select committee business on the floor of the House before it is reported.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think the member makes a very fair point. If this material is draft material before a select committee, then, of course, it would not be appropriate for it to be used in the House. Of course, that does not change the fact that Dr Richard Worth is proposing precisely those facts.

Madam SPEAKER: Members know they cannot actually quote from those documents.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I want to finish my answer.

Madam SPEAKER: As long as it is consistent with the Standing Orders; you cannot quote from that document.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have seen material from Dr Richard Worth—

Madam SPEAKER: No. I am sorry. Please be seated.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister deliberately defied your ruling. I could come in here with the draft monetary policy inquiry report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and make allegations about who has written what, what Paul Swain said, and there perhaps being other, different points of view in the Labour caucus, and then talk about splits and divisions. It is absolutely out of order for that Minister to bring any material into this House that is from a committee report and the property of that committee. He has no idea whether it represents the ideas of the committee clerk or those of members of the committee.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I have ruled on this matter. We will move on.

Gerry Brownlee: What did the Minister mean in June of 2006 when he confirmed that he hopes that “mum and dad New Zealanders might get a chance to have shares in subsidiary companies” of State-owned enterprises to be listed on the stock exchange; and can he tell us which subsidiaries of State-owned enterprises he intends selling after the next election, should Labour be returned to office?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I meant exactly what I said.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not infrequent for you to ask Ministers to expand a little on their answers. We know what the Minister said, because I have the quote; we are just asking what he meant. Clearly, he would have to name some assets that the Labour Government intends selling.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister actually did address the question quite clearly. But the member has another supplementary question.

Gerry Brownlee: Why was the Government’s decision to launch the Capital Market Development Taskforce, which is chaired by Rob Cameron, a well-known proponent of partial floats of State-owned enterprises, a response to the Minister’s trio of public expressions supporting partial sales of State-owned enterprises?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you are to have us stick to the conventions, he could not make a question out of that. He said: “Why was”, which made it a statement, not a question. If we are going to have the rules applied, let us apply them to everybody.

Madam SPEAKER: No. I think it was a question this time. We are not going to get silly over this.

Gerry Brownlee: If we are going to be pedantic, I should try again. Was the Government’s decision to launch the Capital Market Development Taskforce, which is chaired by Rob Cameron, a well-known proponent of State-owned enterprise partial floats, a response to the Minister’s trio of public expressions supporting the idea of partial floats of State-owned enterprises?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No; it could not possibly be, because this Minister, like the Government, opposes the sale of core State assets. Can I make it absolutely clear that, unlike Bill English, who wants to sell Kiwibank, and unlike Richard Worth, who wants to list State-owned enterprises on the stock exchange, we do not want to do that.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister try to tell the House just what the Government’s position on State asset sales is, because Helen Clark says one thing, he has said another thing on three separate occasions, and Michael Cullen and Lianne Dalziel have launched the Capital Market Development Taskforce, but when we look at the Labour Party website, we see that there is no current policy on there, whatsoever, let alone any discussion about State-owned enterprises; and is it not true that the real secret agenda around this issue is being circulated among the Labour Cabinet Ministers?

Hon Bill English: Given that Dr Cullen appears to be the person who knows the answer to that question, I seek leave for Gerry Brownlee to be able to redirect his question to Dr Cullen.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection. Will the Minister please just address the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I spent lunchtime today at the Hutt railway workshop. That workshop is a clear example that this Government buys assets, and does not sell them in the way that Bill English wants to do.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister might confirm that that was a job interview.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I was well greeted by the workers, who were highly offended by Gerry’s description of skilled tradesmen as people who worked in a sheltered workshop.

Madam SPEAKER: That answer did not address the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Brownlee raised a facetious point of order, which invited precisely that response, given that Mr Brownlee had insulted the Hutt workshop workers.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Minister wish to expand on his answer?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Madam Speaker, can you confirm whether it was a question, and not a point of order, to start with?

Madam SPEAKER: It was a question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Oh, right. Can I make it absolutely clear that I spent time at the Hutt railway workshop discussing the Government’s plans to have an efficient, New Zealand - owned railway system, unlike the National Party, which already wants to change the name from KiwiRail to “DingoRail” again.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There was an interruption between the answer the Minister gave and the supplementary question I asked. I wonder whether you might allow me to ask that question again, so that he can give us an answer, because he has not addressed it. For him simply to say what he did at lunchtime, etc., is not really addressing the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. A question was asked, points of order were made, the Minister addressed the question, I asked him to expand on it, and he did.

Gerry Brownlee: Since the Minister made his trio of statements in favour of selling, or partially selling, State-owned enterprises—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. To say “Since the Minister”, is not how one starts a question.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, that is true.

Gerry Brownlee: It is a great way to make one’s point twice! Can the Minister tell the House whether, since his trio of statements favouring the partial float of State-owned enterprises, he has had a “please explain” conversation with Helen Clark, given her speech to the Labour conference in April in which she said that asset sales were a defining issue of the election; or was his trio of statements in favour of partial floats in fact Labour’s real policy that she was referring to?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have regular conversations with the Prime Minister across a broad range of issues, but can I make it absolutely clear that the policy of the Labour-led Government is not to sell core State-owned enterprises. If members opposite think that State-owned enterprises never sell anything, I ask them to consider what happens every day with electricity.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm—in order to make it clear to some parliamentarians—that the sale of, for example, vehicles owned by a State-owned enterprise is not a core State asset sale?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can absolutely confirm that. Every day these multibillion-dollar enterprises sell non-core assets. Doing that is part of their role. Small subsidiaries are sold on a monthly basis, and many more are bought.

Chris Tremain: Name one.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I named one earlier—Southern Hydro. Whisper Tech has just entered a big joint venture. Quotable Value has sold its assets to a new vehicle. Every State-owned enterprise sells non-core assets, many of them on a weekly basis.

Gerry Brownlee: If we are to believe the Minister—that all he was talking about was used cars, old furniture, etc.—why did he say that he wanted mum and dad New Zealanders to have a chance to have shares in subsidiary companies of State-owned enterprises listed on the stock exchange; what is so hard about his explaining what he meant, when he has made that statement no fewer than three times this year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, it might have been three times in this House this year, but I think I gave the member a very good example in Southern Hydro. If the price of a float had been higher than the price—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A document currently being tabled in the House shows that long before Trevor Mallard made his statement of aspiration for mum and dad New Zealanders to have a share of used Government equipment, the Southern Hydro scheme had been well sold.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, that is all very interesting, but the Minister is addressing the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I was asked to give an example of the sort of thing that could be floated, and Southern Hydro was a very large asset that was sold to Australians. If the price had been as good, then it could have been sold to a floating vehicle in New Zealand.

/NR/rdonlyres/36A9F39A-3BA9-4A74-8DD3-656048B14E76/91805/48HansQ_20080807_00000358_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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5. Multiculturalism Bill—Possible Introduction

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

5. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: Is the Government considering introducing a multiculturalism bill?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: No. New Zealand already has a strong human rights and race relations legislative framework, including the Human Rights Act, which replaced the Race Relations Act, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Everyone enjoys equal treatment and protection under the law, while it respects and values their diversity.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does she recall the Minister saying in October last year “we have made a conscious decision that the only way a multiethnic, multicultural population is going to prosper and thrive is by embracing diversity and promoting its cultural and economic opportunities.”; if she does recall that statement, why will the Minister not now proceed to formalise that arrangement in the form of multiculturalism legislation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do, but that does not necessarily lead one to the conclusion that further legislative provisions are required.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What actions is the Government taking in response to New Zealand’s increasing ethnic diversity?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Since 1999 the Government has proactively implemented a number of initiatives, including the establishment of the ethnic affairs portfolio and the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the creation of a tradition of celebrating important events for communities at Parliament—such as Islamic Awareness Week and a reception to acknowledge 150 years of Croatian settlement—and the introduction of a range of programmes, such as the Connecting Diverse Communities project, the Building Bridges project, and Language Line, a telephone interpreting service that has now logged more that 100,000 calls.

Dail Jones: Why, when we already have such a vibrant multicultural society in New Zealand, would anyone even want to consider introducing a multiculturalism bill in New Zealand—a bill that would only pander to PC claptrap?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Frankly, I do not agree with the assumption the member has proposed in his question. I believe that the federation that has proposed the bill is genuine in its view that it would strengthen the valuing and appreciation of the diversity of our communities. In my view, the legislation is not needed.

Hon Peter Dunne: Supplementary—

Madam SPEAKER: No more supplementary questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister not understand that there is a world of difference between “multicultural” and “multiculturalism”: one is respect for other cultures, and the other is the promotion, by the taxpayer, of every culture in a country so that it ends up with no single culture for that country?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I do understand the difference.

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have asked one supplementary question this week. United Future is entitled to ask at least two supplementary questions, and I want to know why we were denied the second one.

Madam SPEAKER: No, you had one yesterday and one today. So you have had your quota, I am sorry.

Hon Peter Dunne: No, I did not—I did not ask one yesterday.

Madam SPEAKER: It was in question No. 3 yesterday. I am happy to look at the documentation afterwards, but—

Hon Peter Dunne: I can assure you that I did not ask one yesterday—

Hon Member: Seek leave.

Hon Peter Dunne: —so can I seek leave to ask a further supplementary question?

Madam SPEAKER: Leave may be sought; that is fine. Obviously the member is entitled to do that.

Hon Peter Dunne: I seek leave—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Hon Peter Dunne: Madam Speaker—[Interruption] It is not an option. Has the Minister had a discussion with the Federation of Ethnic Councils regarding the development of a multiculturalism Act; if so, what has been the outcome of that discussion, and what advice has he given the federation about the Government’s intentions with regard to that?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I am aware of the Minister’s interest in the debate that is being stimulated throughout the country, and my understanding is that the Minister is prepared to continue engagement with the federation.

Madam SPEAKER: I would also invite the member to come and look at the documentary evidence.

/NR/rdonlyres/0067C5EB-18F5-4B08-AEFC-368CD457E61E/91807/48HansQ_20080807_00000484_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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6. Health Personnel—Numbers

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his answer in the House yesterday that in claiming “over 2,300 extra medical personnel” since 2001, “the statistics are on the same basis throughout,”?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I have addressed this matter in a clarifying statement to the House at the earliest opportunity. My answer yesterday to the House was that, as I understood it then, the data provided was consistent, and in that regard it remains a true statement. It also remains a true statement that I am advised the proportion of management and administration staff in the district health board system has declined since 2001. I was not aware yesterday of an adjustment to the fulltime-equivalent definition in 2006-07. However, I am advised that this definitional change applied to both the clinical and the non-clinical workforce categories.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that comparable information is collected every 6 months by me under the Official Information Act, and that this shows that there have been only 1,200 new medical staff in the past 7 years, not the slippery 2,300 that he claimed yesterday, meaning that under Labour almost twice as many new health bureaucrats have been employed for every new doctor?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I will be spending some further time with these data sets and my advice is that the aggregate proportion of non-clinical staff has declined since 2001. I note that the member picks out medical staff, but ignores nursing staff and other clinical staff. My advice remains that the combined effect of this is that non-clinical staff have grown by less as a proportion than clinical staff to date.

LESLEY SOPER (Labour) : Has the Minister seen any reports that make claims regarding the health sector that have caused him concern?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. I am aware that on Tuesday Mr Ryall informed the House that there had been a 182 percent increase in staff at the Ministry of Health, and that Ms Goodhew recently sent out a press release quoting an increase in nursing vacancies of 275 percent at the Waitemata District Health Board, despite being told by the district health board that this was not an increase in vacancies but were newly created positions because the hospital was increasing capacity. Jo Goodhew also falsely claimed in this House that the Public Health Bill would make health risk management plans compulsory for hairdressers. None of these statements is even remotely correct, and I wonder whether the opportunity will be taken by the Opposition to apologise for any inaccuracies.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has the Minister told the House twice that he was unaware of the changes being made to the way the Government was counting this information, when he gave an answer in a written question from me in February this year stating that there was a change to the accrual method for counting fulltime equivalents to provide better definition and enable consistency of fulltime-equivalent counting across the sector—why, when he has given that answer, where he confirmed that he knew about it and gave an explanation for the change, is he now coming down to the House and saying that he was completely unaware of the change?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member may remember every last caveat on the answer to every written parliamentary question that he has ever received—good luck to him. My statement remains true. I have given my assurance to the House that as of yesterday I believed that the numbers I gave to the House were true and that assurance has been received by the House.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that the new basis for counting the number of doctors in our hospitals, which the Minister explained in February 2008, swells the data by 1,000 phantom doctors, and is not this designed to cover up the workforce crisis in the New Zealand public health system?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have inflated nothing. What I am wondering is whether Mr Ryall would like to comment on why he told this Parliament that the Ministry of Health had increased its staffing by 182 percent—a claim that he knows is not correct.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Government has changed the way it counts medical staff to make the numbers look better, what other slippery changes has it made to the way it presents other health information data, like elective surgery results?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I can confirm to the House that the Leader of the Opposition has not been helping me to draft answers to Parliament.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do you consider that answer addressed the question?

Madam SPEAKER: No, but what I do consider is that if questions are asked that contain comments that are likely to get responses, unfortunately we get the answers that the questions imply. I ask all members to play it straight between now and the end of question time, then we will get through quickly—both questions and answers. Just ask the question directly, and give the answer directly.

Hon Tony Ryall: What sorts of priorities does this Government have when it is prepared to swell the health bureaucracy by millions and millions of dollars, but it cannot find the money to provide 12 months of Herceptin treatment for women dying from breast cancer?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I invite the member to rise to his feet on a further supplementary question and explain to the House exactly what the National Party is proposing. Having set up a world-leading, evidence-based, lobby-proof system that saves the New Zealand taxpayer a billion dollars a year, is he advocating ad hoc decisions that reach over that process? If he is prepared to do that for one drug, how will he decide what drug to fund next time, and next time, and next time, or will it just depend on which drug companies are mates with John Key?

Madam SPEAKER: That was uncalled for, too.

/NR/rdonlyres/DFA90D74-AACC-46F5-80BF-3B0D35B59C04/91809/48HansQ_20080807_00000545_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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7. Māori Child Poverty—Government Interventions

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

7. Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What specific interventions will she be making to address the fact that 27 percent of Māori children live in poverty, and does she believe this is a fair go for Māori children?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : I believe in a fair go for all children. The 27 percent Māori child poverty figure quoted by the member is in fact for 2004. Since then, and using the same measure, overall child poverty has decreased by one-third. Labour is committed to ensuring these trends continue, through measures such as annual CPI benefit adjustments, an improved number of people in paid work, additional money on Tāmariki Ora services, and higher participation in tertiary education.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does this Government have a new policy platform that really supports our children to achieve their potential and be healthy contributing citizens, and can she tell the House what those new policies are for the 150,000 children who are not benefiting from any Government policies to date?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I do not know a single child in New Zealand who has not benefited in one way or another from the Labour-led Government’s policies over the last 9 years.

Sue Moroney: What specific expenditure interventions have an impact on children and poverty?

Hon RUTH DYSON: A critical factor in a family’s balance sheet is the money it spends on accessing health services. We have ensured that we have improved the health of young New Zealanders by strengthening child and adolescent oral health services, expanding Well Child checks, and creating a universal new-born hearing screening programme. Fifty-seven thousand children are participating in the Fruit in Schools programme, we have invested an additional $2.2 billion into primary healthcare, focusing on health promotion and getting ahead of chronic diseases, lowered doctors’ fees, and reducing the cost of most medicine. We now have 88 percent of Māori children under 6 receiving free standard general practitioner consultations.

Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe. When will the Government set national targets to ensure that progress can be measured to adopt a sustained coordinated plan of action to end child poverty in New Zealand, as urged by the Child Poverty Action Group?

Hon RUTH DYSON: For the first time ever in New Zealand’s history our Government has a publicly accountable document called the Social Report, which is published every year with consistent data so we can accurately measure and debate the success or otherwise of initiatives in these areas.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister agree with the definition from the rangatahi of Streets Ahead 237 of Porirua that poverty is the lack of something to make one’s life better; and what action will she take by the year 2020 to make life better for specific population groups by developing measurable targets to eliminate child poverty for Māori and Pasifika children in migrant and refugee families, children with disabilities, and children in foster care?

Hon RUTH DYSON: There is a clear definition of poverty. There are two options for that and both are held accountable by this Government in terms of public data. One of them is in the Social Report and others are used in other data. We want to ensure that we have consistent tracking of comparable data to ensure that the targets we set in eliminating child poverty in New Zealand are met.

/NR/rdonlyres/C951C693-2120-4E24-96D0-0AE04319872A/91811/48HansQ_20080807_00000619_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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8. Education, Ministry—Spending

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

8. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied that the Ministry of Education is spending taxpayer funds wisely; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes. The recently released school-leaver statistics show that that is indeed the case. Each year since the National Certificate of Educational Achievement was introduced in 2002, the rates of achievement have been lifting. More students are getting the qualifications they need, and fewer and fewer are getting left behind.

Anne Tolley: Why does an education report from 11 April 2008 show that the Minister of Education was the one who had to approve, and did approve, the spending of nearly $60,000 on badges with phrases such as “Wassup!” and “Nice!” on them; badges that have been rubbished by the education sector, which wants money to be spent on the teaching of students, rather than on useless promotional badges?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That was one part of Ka Hikitea, which is a system-wide strategy aimed at improving the performance of Māori students. Ka Hikitea is based on clear evidence of what will make a difference to Māori student outcomes. And those interesting phrases are used by the majority of youngsters in this country. They understand what they mean, even if some people in that member’s party struggle with them—just like they are struggling at the moment with the truth.

Hon Mark Burton: What announcements made today support the Government’s commitment to 21st century learning?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Government announced today that 87 new schools will benefit from the latest round of funding for information and communication technologies professional development, bringing the total number of schools involved since 1999 to 1,744. This Government has committed $408 million to information and communications technology since 1999, and a further $65.3 million in Budget 2008.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister satisfied that the Ministry of Education is spending wisely the funding for 20 free hours’ early childhood education; if so, will he ensure that it is urgently extended to playcentres and to those sections of kōhanga reo that are not fully benefiting from the scheme?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Forty percent of kōhanga reo are now using that early childhood education funding. Playcentres are a different issue. But there is huge uptake by nearly 80 percent of all preschool children in any preschool education forum.

Anne Tolley: Why is it that, under his watch, the Ministry of Education contemplated spending $7,000 on origami pyramids with motivational statements on them to promote Ka Hikitea, but, instead—apparently, because it could not think of enough motivational statements to cover the pyramids—decided to spend $56,000 on similarly useless, but eight times more expensive, gimmicky badges; and can he explain how Māori achievement levels will be lifted by Japanese folding pyramids or badges with “Wassup!” on them?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: At the end of the day, that is one part of that strategy. There are several things that this Government is involved in, such as TeachNZ, Team-Up, Mission-On—those things that the general public support.

Anne Tolley: Can he confirm that his ministry spent almost $70,000 on checklists and word-find puzzles to, supposedly, fight bullying that were labelled “an absolute insult” by one principal, and that are being stacked in the corners of classrooms and in recycling bins around the country, because cards and notices do nothing to stop bullying?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The feedback on Ka Hikitia has been amazing. It has been very supportive. Some principals—very, very few—and schools have returned the material. But in relation to the anti-bullying cards, I am surprised that that member, who preaches platitudes about getting rid of violence, dares to say that whatever effort is put in is no good. The pocket card is just one part of the Government’s wider strategy to tackle disruptive behaviour in schools. The total budget was $81,200, which included the development, printing, distribution, and launch; 675,000 cards were printed at a cost of 12 cents each. If that is the way to get into kids’ heads to stop them from bullying and creating violence, then we will do it; we will do anything to help cut that out in schools. What is that member’s policy?

Anne Tolley: Why did the Ministry of Education have five communications staff in 1999, but in 2008 it has 35 communications staff, plus contractors at a cost of almost $2.5 million a year; is this extra spin expenditure to convince schools that they do not really need more money for teaching rather than the ministry spending money on websites, Japanese paper-folding gimmicks, and cringe-worthy statements like “Wassup!” on badges?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is surprising that that member does not believe that support—financial, or in whatever form—for websites is OK in this modern day in relation to education. The Ministry of Education’s total staff numbers—excluding the 1,380 staff who transferred to the ministry from Special Education Services in 2002-03 and the 78 staff who transferred from Early Childhood Development in 2003-04—have increased by 302 since 2004. That is a 15 percent increase in staff, which is good support for the education that our children need.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the project brief for the origami—

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

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table an email saying no to the origami—

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

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the report to the Minister of Education asking whether the badges saying “wassup” and—

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

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table answers to questions that show that communications staff have increased from five to—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/33A15495-A5FF-4330-B65C-0CB4840CFA1B/91813/48HansQ_20080807_00000674_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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9. Social Trends—Recent Advice

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

9. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Has she received any recent advice on New Zealand’s social trends?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Yes, I have. I have been advised that the gap between rich and poor households has closed for the first time in 20 years. The proportion of people with low incomes is also considerably lower. The earnings per person was higher in real terms in 2007 than it was in the mid-1990s, and overall poverty fell from 19 percent in 2001 to 13 percent in 2007, using the Social Report measure, representing a total of 190,000 fewer New Zealanders in poverty in the last year.

Russell Fairbrother: Has she has received any advice that explains why the gap between lower household incomes and higher household incomes has closed?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I have. The fact that incomes for lower and middle income households has grown more rapidly than others is attributed mainly to the Working for Families package. This is, of course, why National’s Bill English says their message to the public before the election is to keep Working for Families intact because they do not want to be seen as taking money off people. However, after the election, if National is the Government, it will give it “a bit of a sort out”.

Gerry Brownlee: Does she recall giving a recent speech in which she said: “We must cater for the diversity we know exists. By this I mean the range of relationships, from single, couples, triples, blended de facto, and so on. That’s where we are going with social policy.”, and in the recent advice she received on social trends in New Zealand, was there a description of the relationship she describes as a triple; if so, what was that advice?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table an excerpt from the Minister’s speech in which she talks about this new relationship called a triple.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/6DFC0BD5-E603-49D0-9FF1-8A2D7C568685/91815/48HansQ_20080807_00000753_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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10. Accident Compensation Corporation—Confidence

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

10. PANSY WONG (National) to the Minister for ACC: Does she have confidence that the Accident Compensation Corporation is responsible with taxpayers’ money?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister for ACC) : I am a lot more confident about that than I would be about National’s accident compensation plan, which would cost New Zealand taxpayers a whole lot more, as evidenced by the PricewaterhouseCoopers report and the leaked Merrill Lynch briefing, than the present scheme costs.

Pansy Wong: How does giving staff $250 each per year to spend through the activa card on activities like manicures and day spas promote a more active lifestyle and keep staff fit and well for work?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I presume it is a case of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) practising what it preaches, in that it is trying to prevent injury. I commend it for that. It is in fact an operational matter that is under the jurisdiction of the chief executive officer. But I suppose it is good to hear the National Party spokeswoman on accident compensation actually saying something about the portfolio at least once every 6 months, given that she was not able to—or not allowed to—say anything about National’s policy when it was released.

Madam SPEAKER: That was unnecessary.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House whether she has seen any conflicting reports on plans for the ACC?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have seen a report from John Key saying that National might privatise the earners and motor vehicle accounts, and a report from Murray McCully soon afterwards saying National Party policy “doesn’t go there”. It is obvious that National will privatise those accounts eventually, following a discussion document process. But Mr Key forgot that he was not supposed to talk about privatising those accounts.

Madam SPEAKER: I remind Ministers that they can comment on what is in reports, but not on other parties’ policies.

Pansy Wong: Does the Minister believe that the active and healthy lifestyle of ACC staff is promoted by spending $250 for each person per year on animal care, including pet grooming?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I have no idea what that has to do with the health and safety of ACC staff, but I am happy to look into that for the member.

Pansy Wong: Can the Minister assure the House that ACC staff are not spending $750,000 worth of taxpayers’ money on Botox, facelifts, and other cosmetic treatments that are services provided for through the activa cards, or does she think that this is an acceptable use of ACC funds?

Hon MARYAN STREET: In respect of the first part of the question, I think I can assure the House of that. But I will check that with the chair of the board, given the member’s obvious concern about the expenditure of ACC money.

Pansy Wong: I seek leave to table the list of service providers under the activa card for appearance medicines.

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

Pansy Wong: I seek leave to table the list of service providers through the ACC activa card under animal care.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection. Would members please indicate their objection loudly.

Pansy Wong: I seek the leave of the House to table the list of service providers through the ACC activa card under hair and beauty.

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

Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that physiotherapists play a very significant role in the rehabilitation of accident victims and that taxpayers’ money spent on them is well spent; if she can confirm that, what will she and the ACC do to address the financial predicament that largely embraces physiotherapists?

Hon MARYAN STREET: I can confirm the worth, value, and contribution of physiotherapists to the ongoing rehabilitation of injured New Zealanders. I am currently addressing with physiotherapists the issue of their remuneration.

/NR/rdonlyres/C5BFF21E-0D12-416A-BF4B-420806799F38/91817/48HansQ_20080807_00000790_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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11. Māpua Site—Contamination Clean-up

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

11. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Is he confident that the Māpua clean-up has reduced risks to the health of the community and the estuary; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : On balance, probably yes, but I want to read the auditor’s final report and the subsequent report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment before finalising my own view.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that soil containing up to 21 tonnes of organochlorine pesticides was fed into the soil drier at Māpua while it was running at between 250 and 380 degrees Celsius, and is he comfortable with the fact that this was in breach of the resource consent that stated that the maximum temperature had to be kept at 120 degrees Celsius, because at 250 degrees Celsius organochlorine is converted into the deadly chemical dioxin?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have the scientific knowledge that the member has, but clearly that is one of the questions that will be looked at when the final report is received.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister both last week and today refuse to accept the conclusions of the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and to say it was only an interim report, when the parliamentary commissioner told the select committee this morning: “This is my final report. The future technical audit statement will not affect these conclusions.”; and will the Minister now simply state whether the Government accepts these damning conclusions of his Government’s environmental stewardship?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I made those comments because I understood that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment was open to looking at the final auditor’s report, to see whether that affected her decision. If the member says that her mind is closed on that, I will accept his word.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that if dioxins were produced in the drier at Māpua, as seems almost certain from the evidence, those dioxins would not have been contained within the drier at Māpua, because although the air filtration system contained carbon filters designed to filter out dioxins, those carbon filters were not functional for at least 12 months; if so, is he concerned that this clean-up has spread persistent cancer-causing dioxins through the air over Māpua?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is certainly one of the propositions that has been put, and it is an area that, I understand, there is still debate about.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What are the serious financial issues over the ministry’s management of the Māpua contamination site that have led to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment referring the matter to the Auditor-General?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The fact that a final contract was never signed because there was disagreement as to who had ongoing liability.

Dr Russel Norman: With the benefit of hindsight, was the most polluted site in New Zealand, which is surrounded by estuaries and residential dwellings, the best site to trial an experimental and high-risk technology for the remediation of toxic sites?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Probably not. But the member will remember that the decision to start this project and to progress it was not made by the Government; it was made by the local authority.

/NR/rdonlyres/4A2D1490-3586-4A76-91E8-42D4E069BD80/91819/48HansQ_20080807_00000854_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 07 August 2008 [PDF 212k]

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12. Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry—Confidence

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

12. Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he have confidence in his ministry; if so, why?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services) on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture: Yes.

Hon David Carter: Is it acceptable that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s 2008 policy group staff conference cost over $500 per head, which is more than double the cost of the same conference in 2007; if so, why?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am unable to help the member in respect of that particular issue. If he wishes to put down a primary question on it, I am sure it will be answered. I would note that during the period of this Government the good efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have helped the agricultural industry increase its export earnings from approximately $16 billion in the year ended June 1999 to $23.5 billion in the year ended March 2008.

Hon David Carter: If one considers that the delegates at the conference enjoyed sumptuous food such as tiger prawns and venison, washed down with Riverstone Reserve sauvignon blanc, and heard speeches from people such as the Minister himself, can the Minister explain why the feedback from those attending the conference included comments such as “Long and boring.” and “Basically, we’ve heard it, seen it, and read it all before.”?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot.

Hon David Carter: Does the Minister support the presentation made by the political commentator Colin James to the conference that said “National is odds-on to be the next Government.” and that National offers “fresh leadership”; and can he explain what prompted the memo from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to his office the very next day saying that the ministry “would have been better advised not to have used Mr James”?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am not sure whether the Minister heard the whole of Colin James’ presentation, but I can only suppose that it was given before the latest faux pas by the National Party over subsequent weeks disclosing its intention to increase debt as a proportion of GDP, to sell Kiwibank, to privatise accident compensation, to decrease the rate of contribution to the Superannuation Fund, and to do other things that are obviously not in the interests of voters.

Hon David Carter: Can the Minister explain why the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry felt the need to screen repeated clips of Yes, Minister at the conference; was it a reflection of the fact that his own ministry now treats him much as Sir Humphrey treated the Hon Jim Hacker MP?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues, who has regular interactions with the Minister of Agriculture, understands him to be a most competent Minister. Because of the holistic approach taken by the Minister of Agriculture to issues like trade access overseas, scientific research, and technology transfer, as well as sustainability issues, the agriculture industry is marching forward.

Hon David Carter: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry memo to the Minister’s office, dated 8 May, which basically says that, in hindsight, the ministry would have been better advised not to use—

 Leave granted.

ENDS

And as to what happened to citizen journalist/ Obama Supporter/ tool of Hillary Clinton Mayhill Fowler after her Obama scoop. Was she shut out of the limelight.

Nope a few weeks later she was there dictaphone in hand (though probably obscured) getting a stream of consciousness discourse from former President Bill Clinton on Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum.

Mr Purdum, who had just written an not particularly flattering article on the former president, was called "sleazy," "dishonest," "slimy" and a "scumbag," by Bill after prompting from Ms Fowler Though this story was only the biggest political get for a day or two.

According to the legend Tawhaki ascended to the heavens via what is known in Maori astronomy as Te Arapiki O Tawhaki; The Stairway of Tawhaki. These stars can be seen during June and July by looking to the eastern horizon before dawn. The Mt Bruce lookout affords an outstanding view of this highly significant aspect of Te Ao Maori.

“This project demonstrates how successful we can be when different parties work together. Today is a marvellous opportunity to celebrate the coming together of the community and DOC to achieve a shared vision of a world-leading centre to preserve and promote New Zealand’s unique wildlife.”

Pukaha Mt Bruce is well established as New Zealand’s National Wildlife Centre for conservation of some of New Zealand’s most endangered species. It is also a centre for environmental education and co-tourism destination.

More information: http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/PlaceProfile.aspx?id=34978

ENDS

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Back Again: Government Approves TPP11 Mandate

The Government has approved a negotiating mandate for Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 (TPP11), which will ensure New Zealand businesses remain competitive in overseas markets.

Trade Minister Todd McClay says New Zealand will be pushing for the minimal number of changes possible to the original TPP agreement, something that the remaining TPP11 countries have agreed on. More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On Why Labour Isn’t Responsible For Barnaby Joyce

As a desperate Turnbull government tries to treat the Barnaby Joyce affair as a Pauline Hanson fever dream – blame it on the foreigners! We’re the victims of the dastardly New Zealand Labour Party! – our own government has chosen to further that narrative, and make itself an accomplice. More>>

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Rail: Greens Back Tauranga – Hamilton – Auckland Service

The Green Party today announced that it will trial a passenger rail service between Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga starting in 2019, when it is in government. More>>

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Housing: Voluntary Rental Warrant Of Fitness For Wellington

Wellington City Council is partnering with the University of Otago, Wellington, to launch a voluntary Rental Warrant of Fitness for minimum housing standards in Wellington, Mayor Justin Lester has announced. More>>

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Treaty: Agreement In Principle Signed With Moriori

“The Crown acknowledges Moriori was left virtually landless from 1870, hindering its cultural, social and economic development. The Crown also acknowledges its contribution to the myths that the people of Moriori were racially inferior and became extinct." More>>

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Susan Devoy: Call For Inquiry Into State Abuse Reaches UN

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy is in Geneva and has asked a United Nations committee to urge the New Zealand government to initiate an inquiry into the physical and sexual abuse of children and disabled people held in state institutions. More>>

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(Not National): Cross-Party Agreement On Pike River Re-Entry

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

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