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Questions And Answers – 26 August 2008

Questions And Answers – 26 August 2008

Road Tolling—$50 Charge

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Has she received any reports that suggest imposing a $50 per week charge for using New Zealand roads?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes, I saw a report of someone saying that he did not know anyone who would not pay a new toll of $5 each way, or $50 a week, to drive to work. That person was Maurice Williamson, who just gobbled up the people’s tax cut from the National Party.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the comments made by Mr Williamson on Agenda, can the Prime Minister recall the comments made by him on 5 April 1995—

Gerry Brownlee: Come on, get in the modern day!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —I will get into you shortly—regarding a bill that was designed to have all road taxes go to roading: “I want to start by saying right from the very beginning that the Government is totally opposed to this bill,” and further, “Yes, in the very unlikely event that they ever came to power would they actually do it if they were in Government or part of a coalition Government? I can tell members that I know the answer to that question—the answer is no, a Labour Government would not do that.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Maurice Williamson is known as an enthusiastic member, and what we saw on Sunday was his enthusiasm for privatisation going beyond that which he floated for the roads in the 1990s, to the private building of our schools, our hospitals, our prisons, and heaven knows what else, at great cost to the Kiwi public.

Hon Bill English: Was the Prime Minister thinking about costs to motorists when Labour issued the policy that proposes a tax on car emissions, when those emissions are higher than that of a Suzuki Swift, with the effect that under Labour a Toyota Hiace van will cost $4,600 more to run in 2009, rising to $11,250 more by 2015; and does she agree with the Minister who signed the foreword, that the vehicle fuel economy standard is an important initiative to assist Labour in achieving its transport strategy goals, its energy strategy goals, and its climate change goals, at the expense of thousands of dollars to the motorist?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I thank the National Party’s de facto spokesperson on transport for the question. I note he was wheeled out yesterday because Mr Williamson, who is also the Opposition spokesperson on communications, apparently could not find a telephone to ring Nine to Noon on Radio New Zealand National. I find it interesting that the first reaction of the de facto spokesperson on transport was to go straight back into climate change denial and pretend that nothing should be done about transport emissions.

Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports that indicate whether it is more likely that someone who said road tolls should be $50 a week really meant that tolls should be a bit less than $50 a week, that someone who said Kiwibank would not be sold really meant that it would not be sold just yet, and that somebody who said he would get rid of KiwiSaver really meant that no decisions have yet been made; or that all of those statements were right the first time round because they were accurate reports of the National Party’s secret agenda?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Thanks to the open and transparent methods of members like Maurice Williamson the agenda is no longer quite so secret, and that is very much in the interests of the Kiwi public as we come up to an election where people will make a choice.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Prime Minister confirm that it would cost a toll of $10 a trip to recover the full cost of Transmission Gully—as the Minister of Transport revealed yesterday—and how many Wellingtonians does she think would be prepared to fork out $10 every time they were to travel on Transmission Gully?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In response to the member, the Minister of Transport has used a figure of around $10 each way, and I would have thought that figure would not be acceptable to commuters up the Kapiti Coast, at this time. I hasten to add that the Minister of Transport did not propose that toll. That is National Party policy—just as tolling the Kōpū Bridge, which is an essential roadway to the Coromandel peninsula, is National Party policy.

Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister agree that private-public partnerships are not all they are cracked up to be. For example, the Clem Jones Tunnel in Brisbane, forecast to cost $A2 billion is now likely to cost $A4 billion; the CrossCity Motorway Consortium building the CrossCity motorway in Sydney has gone into receivership; and Metronet, an organisation involved in the London underground system, is also experiencing serious financial problems?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member has rightly drawn our attention to a number of cases where public-private partnerships clearly have not worked particularly well. But let me give a local example of the National Party getting the private sector to build the Napier Health Centre for the public sector. National signed up to a lease for 13 years of $1.2 million a year. It would have spent more over the course of the lease than the building is worth, and there was no ownership of the building at the end. What a loser set of policies—and Mr Williamson was advocating the private sector building public facilities in health, yet again!

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether it is Labour policy that it will tax cars on their emissions in excess of the level of those emissions of a Suzuki Swift, with the effect that a Toyota Hiace van will pay a tax of $4,650 next year and $11,000 by 2015, and that a Holden Commodore will be levied $11,000 under this plan signed by her Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member is well aware, the Government’s policy is to impose a cost on carbon. I understand that is also the National Party’s policy—except that National will never agree to any scheme advanced by this Government, because National is a destructive Opposition. I thank those parties that are prepared to work constructively with the Government to make sure that this country has a responsible approach to reducing our use of carbon.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Prime Minister appears to be confused. My question was not about the emissions trading scheme; it is—as Dr Cullen is trying to point out to her now—about a Government proposal to improve the fuel economy of vehicles as a supplementary measure, which involves taxing vehicles to the extent of $10,000 or $11,000. I asked the Prime Minister whether this document I have in my hand, issued by the Government and signed by the Minister of Transport, is Government policy. The Prime Minister did not address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: Does the Prime Minister wish to add anything further to her answer?


Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question—obviously not in a way to the satisfaction of the member, but I listened carefully and it was addressed.

Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether this proposal, which has nothing to do with the emissions trading scheme, for taxing cars on their emissions to the extent that a Toyota—[Interruption] I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would prefer to be able to ask the question in a way that the House can hear it without continuous interruption.

Madam SPEAKER: The member has a point.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member could very easily assist the House by simply telling us what the date is on that document.

Madam SPEAKER: I take the member’s point of order, and presumably answers will also be heard.

Hon Bill English: If it is so long ago that the Prime Minister has forgotten, then she needs to be briefed on her policies.

Gerry Brownlee: They haven’t got any.

Hon Bill English: That is right. Labour has not got any policy. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: If the member could just ask his question, otherwise we will have it in silence.

Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister stop trying to avoid the question and give an answer. Is this policy, which was outlined by the Ministry of Transport in a public discussion document signed by her Minister and is a proposal to tax vehicle emissions with the effect that a Toyota Hiace van will be liable for a tax of $4,500 next year, and over $11,000 by 2015, and a Holden Commodore will be liable for a tax of $11,000, Labour’s policy?


Hon Dr Nick Smith: Secret agenda.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have just had an interjection that implied that Mr English has been manufacturing a document. Dr Smith just claimed there is a secret agenda, and Mr English has been waving what is a public document in front of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not a point of order. Please be seated. I will just remind members, when there are points of order they are heard in silence. We have had two now, and on both occasions there have been interjections. So that is your warning.

Dr Russel Norman: Has the Prime Minister read yesterday’s press release from the Sustainable Business Network arguing that both Labour and National are letting their obsession with building new roads distract them from the real priorities for infrastructure investment, namely public transport; and in the context of rising petrol prices resulting in falling traffic numbers, will she answer the network’s telling question: “Why build new roads for motorists who won’t use them, tolls or no tolls.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government takes the view that there is a roading network to be completed—for example, in Auckland, and clearly there are improvements that need to be made in other places—but we have increased investment in public transport by over 15 times as much as we inherited. That will have to keep happening because, increasingly, with high prices of fuel internationally, people are looking for alternative modes of transport.

Dr Russel Norman: Has she read the recent report from the New Zealand Transport and Logistics Business Week stating, in relation to the policy of building yet more road capacity nationwide: “It is hard to imagine a more short-sighted and economically crippling strategy.”, and can she confirm that this economically crippling strategy seems to be shared by both sides of the House?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No; I repeat that the Government takes the view that there are roading improvements that need to be made, and a network in Auckland that needs to be completed. But I also point out that in sustainability strategies this Government has issued we are, for example, looking to be an early adopter of electric car technology in this country. There is an enormous amount of research going on worldwide into technologies that would run cars without petroleum, and I think it highly likely that, one way or another, human ingenuity will find ways of keeping the private vehicle going beyond the use of the world’s oil supply.

/NR/rdonlyres/DF511F3F-AAE9-47D2-9120-2A883F2DFAFE/92270/48HansQ_20080826_00000053_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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2. Migration—Net Position

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

2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that “When I am looking at year after year after year of positive net migration to New Zealand, I know this country is very capable of attracting and retaining its best and brightest.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

John Key: How can New Zealand be “retaining its best and brightest” when 81,000 people left New Zealand last year to live permanently overseas—the biggest annual exodus since 1979—and is she telling New Zealanders that that is all OK as long as 82,000 people turn up in their place?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am surprised that the member has raised the question today, because the net migration figures most recently received actually show an improvement on the month before. So that is positive. I note that although in the year ended July this year net migration was positive 5,201, in the 1999 year, when National was responsible, net migration was negative 11,369. We inherited negative net migration from the National Government.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why under Labour the average net loss of people each year to Australia has been more than double what it was under the previous National Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I also point out that in 8 of the 9 years that the National Party was in office, there was a net loss to Australia—a very, very big net loss at that. In case the member has not noticed, I tell him that Australia is undergoing a minerals extraction boom, and that means it is bringing in labour from many places. But the member is obsessed with Australia. We look at overall net migration: it is positive under Labour; it was negative under National.

John Key: What does the Prime Minister think is the main reason that 46,000 people left New Zealand for Australia in the last 12 months? Is it the relative state of the two economies, as she used to say?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat what I just said: Australia is undergoing a minerals extraction boom, which is attracting labour to those states where it is happening—not only from New Zealand but from states within Australia that do not have that particular boom. Of course, I am always interested in what will lure people back to New Zealand. My eye did alight upon this statement: “It’s not the wages that lure young people back here from their OE, more often it’s the open spaces, easily accessed beaches and native bush.”

Hon Jim Anderton: Who said that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Key said it last year.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that the mineral sector makes up only 7 percent of Australia’s economy, and is she telling us that if she does an analysis of the people who left, she will find that the 46,000 who went to Australia last year are accounted for by its minerals boom alone? That is not what the statistics show.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It might be of interest to the member that every year about 1.3 percent of the Australian population leaves Australia to go and live somewhere else. We are a much smaller country, so the chances are the proportion leaving would be higher—and it is a little higher, at 1.7 percent. But, obviously, the member misses the point that there is a global labour market for skilled and unskilled people, and many people are moving in many directions around the world, including to and from New Zealand.

John Key: Why does the Prime Minister not accept that the reason why so many Kiwis are flocking across the Tasman to Australia is that Australian wages are rising rapidly, and that the previous Liberal Government spent 7 of the last 9 years cutting taxes, while her Government sat around for 9 years doing nothing, until election year?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, Australian wages now have a chance of rising, because the Employment Contracts Act - lookalike policy that the last right-wing Government in Australia had has been chucked out by the Labor Government. Mr Key’s policy is to bring back Employment Contracts Act - like provisions and to have our workers unable to negotiate the wage rises that are their due.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm for the country, then, that losing 81,000 people overseas, which is the worst figure since 1979, and losing 46,000 people to Australia, which is the worst figure since, I think, about 1979 or 1980, is all OK by her, that it signifies that absolutely nothing is wrong, and that there is no need for change?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I focus on is net migration figures. As I have pointed out before to the member, firstly, net migration is positive, and, secondly, the permanent and long-term arrivals in New Zealand actually have higher skill levels than the permanent and long-term departures. There is a brain gain going on.

/NR/rdonlyres/3FEE165D-E221-4F89-BF3B-899BE2F6D9FA/92272/48HansQ_20080826_00000166_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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3. Economic Policy—Consistency

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

3. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports on the importance of consistency in economic policy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : I have received a number of such reports. For example, I have seen a report of what was billed as a major speech on infrastructure, which never once mentioned tolling of roads. I have seen subsequent reports indicating that tolls are central to National’s infrastructure plan, repeating interviews given in 2005 by the same person. Of course, it is very hard to be consistent when parties announce policies and refuse to reveal the detail behind them—one page comes out, and 30 pages remain hidden.

Charles Chauvel: What reports has the Minister seen on consistency in economic policies around revenue reduction?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen proposals for revenue reductions in the form of cuts to income tax. I have also seen proposals that suggest around $50 of this could be clawed back through new tolls on the roading system. I have seen subsequent reports that this is “exuberant” and “cantering ahead”. Of course, if somebody is merely cantering ahead, that person is merely leading the way for others to follow.

Hon Bill English: Why would anyone believe what the Minister says, when—[Interruption] If members listen they will agree with me. Why would anyone believe what the Minister says when he was against tax cuts, and cut taxes; he was against borrowing, and now he is out borrowing; he was against cash deficits, and now he has a $13 billion cash deficit; and he was against public-private partnerships and tolls, and he announced one today?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member has forgotten that in 2003 this House voted for public-private partnerships and, potentially, tolls. This Government voted for it; that party voted against it in the division lobbies. The difference is that I have never had to stand outside my caucus room like a naughty little boy, with my hands behind my back, abjectly apologising to my leader for saying what I actually believe rather than what the public wanted to hear, as that member had to do only a couple of weeks ago.

Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister tell the House how many blocks of cheese people could buy if they did not have to spend $50 a week on road tolls?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am glad that at last we have come back to the iconic block of cheese that so fascinates members opposite. Of course it depends on what cheese people buy. If, for example, they go and get the Home Brand tasty 1 kilogram block of cheese at $10.99, then nearly 5 kilograms of cheese will be required to pay for those road tolls. Indeed, if we are to believe the National Party, cheese will be the new unit of currency in New Zealand if there is ever a National Government.

Charles Chauvel: What other reports has the Minister received on consistency in economic policy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen many reports of inconsistency, which, for example, resulted in the leader of the National Party announcing the party’s industrial relations spokesperson, who knows nothing about the party’s industrial relations policy; and the party’s transport spokesperson, who knows nothing about the party’s transport policy. The party’s finance spokesperson should just put a large piece of tape across his mouth.

/NR/rdonlyres/C648EAA1-E110-41CF-ABB6-3F8810B475E9/92274/48HansQ_20080826_00000238_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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4. Waterview Connection—Public-private Partnership

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Transport: Has the Waterview Connection Procurement Steering Group reported to Ministers on the feasibility of a public-private partnership for the Waterview Connection; if so, what level of tolling, if any, is the Government now considering?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : Yes, and I say welcome to National’s new transport spokesperson. When he comes to grips with the portfolio, he will realise that I have not only received the report but also released it today, and that I gave details of the extra work that the Government has asked to be done before making a final decision to proceed with the Waterview Connection as a public-private partnership.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the toll mentioned in her press release is suggested as being about $2 per trip, and that that adds up to $20 per week—which more than wipes out the tax cut that Labour has promised from 1 October?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I realise that the member has not had a chance to read the report or he would know that the Government is not considering any specific level of toll, or whether it is even necessary to charge a toll. In fact, my media release made it quite clear that motorists will not necessarily be charged tolls if the public-private partnership for the Waterview Connection goes ahead. The steering group made it clear that if a toll was imposed, it could only ever be a small part of any funding equation.

Russell Fairbrother: What other plans does the Minister see for toll roads in Auckland?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I read a report in the New Zealand Herald yesterday, in which Maurice Williamson made a very strong suggestion that National would charge a toll on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge if it ever became the Government. He said it would be a dreadful distortion if tolls were charged on a new tunnel under the harbour—which he favours as one of the five toll roads—and that means the existing bridge would be tolled as well. I am glad that Aucklanders now know exactly what National has in store for them should it become the Government.

Keith Locke: Will we now have the same madness we have seen in Australia, where the private operator of a public-private partnership road seeks compensation when a new public transport service takes away road patronage and undermines toll revenue, which is exactly what we might see with Auckland’s Waterview Connection project if the planned new passenger rail line is built along the same State Highway 20 corridor?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If one is going to look at something like a public-private partnership on a major roading project, one does the work before one opens one’s mouth and makes pronouncements about it. This Government has done the careful work, including asking for additional work to ensure that if a public-private partnership does go ahead, issues like the one identified by the member would be ironed out.

Hon Bill English: What is the Government’s policy now on tolls, given that it has suggested a $10 per trip toll on the Transmission Gully road—

Hon Member: That was Maurice.

Hon Bill English: —no, actually it was the Prime Minister who mentioned it today—that it is levying a $2 toll on the Pūhoi extension, that Dr Cullen said today there might be a $2 toll for the Waterview Connection, and that she is saying there will not be a toll on the Waterview Connection?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am very happy to assist the member. First of all, it was this Government that passed legislation enabling tolls to be put on roads as long as there was a free alternative. It was this Government that allowed for the establishment of public-private partnerships—the cornerstone of National’s infrastructure policy, but National voted against it. There is no way that this Government would allow a $10 toll to be charged on any road. However, Mr Williamson’s policy announcement at the weekend said that National would pay for its five major projects out of tolls. If a road like Transmission Gully is to be paid for out of tolls, because that would release the money Maurice Williamson said is in the National Land Transport Fund for all the other roads, there would need to be a toll of at least $10—and that is a conservative figure, I say to the member who asked the previous question—for Transmission Gully. That is National’s policy; it is certainly not ours.

Russell Fairbrother: What other reports has the Minister seen in relation to Auckland roading?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I read the editorial in today’s New Zealand Herald about the National Party having to issue another one of its “clarifications”, this time to cover up for Maurice Williamson’s so-called exuberance. Although I believe the New Zealand Herald was far too polite to say so, instead of saying it was another “clarification” it could have actually said it was “another one of those cock-ups by a National front-bencher, which requires National to cover it up”. That is what National is doing now; it is trying to cover up the truth. Maurice Williamson has always been consistent in his transport policy. He does not beat around the bush; he is upfront and honest. That is the policy, and until yesterday, when there was a front page New Zealand Herald story, the National Party has never contradicted him.

Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that RiskMetrics, a New York-based corporate governance organisation, has delivered a stinging report on the Australian Macquarie Group and Babcock and Brown—the report questions the rates of return and highlights such concerns as high debt levels, high fees, the payment of distributions out of capital rather than cash flow, overpaying for assets, related party transactions, booking profits from revaluations, poor disclosure, a myriad of conflicts of interest, auditor conflicts, and other poor corporate governance—and can the Minister confirm whether either of those organisations will be involved in the Waterview Connection project?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot confirm that any private company will be involved in the Waterview Connection project. As we announced today, the steering group has said it is a project that lends itself to a private-public partnership. But we have asked for additional work to be done before a final decision is made, then it would be open to private providers. Certainly they would have to abide with whatever rules are put around the public-private partnership procurement.

Hon Bill English: Will the Minister agree that it is a bit odd that after the Government has spent 2 years on examining the Waterview Connection project, which consists of putting a tunnel under a part of Auckland that the Prime Minister is particularly fond of, she is not able to tell us today what Labour’s tolling policy is, when that is such vital information for any private operators who may be interested in the project?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I suggest that the member should have allowed Maurice Williamson to ask the question, because he understands the report and he will know that the report does not set out a toll. The steering group has never suggested a toll, and says if there was a toll it would be a very small toll. I say to members that Labour has a record in terms of the tolls that there have been in this country; they have not been over $2. But no decision has but for made as to whether we even need to charge a toll for the Waterview Connection. I ask the member to get up to speed with the portfolio if he is going to do it; otherwise he should give it back to Maurice—at least he is honest.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister believe that a public-private partnership will ever build at Waterview without a change of law to permit build, own, operate, and transfer public-private partnerships to be introduced into New Zealand—something that, for ideological reasons, her Government has ruled out?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I also commend the steering group’s report to the member who has just asked that question, because the group made it clear there was no need to change the law in order to enable a public-private partnership to be developed in New Zealand.

Hon Bill English: What is the Minister trying to hide when, in response to a question about Labour’s tolling policy, she says “Well, there might be, and if there is, well, it might be small, but there isn’t one and no decision’s been made.”; why does she not just tell us Labour’s policy on tolling—or does she not have one?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Labour does have a policy on tolling. We enable toll roads to be developed on routes where there is a free alternative. We have also said, in terms of the Waterview Connection, which these questions are about, that there has been no decision on any toll for that road, and that it may not need one. But we are prepared to do the work before we open our mouths and make accusations—unlike National, which then has to rush out and cover them up by apologising and taking the National spokesperson off the job, because he is not allowed to do it. The only people who are talking about tolls of $3, $5, or $10 are National members. And for their benefit, once again I tell them that the person who suggested that all these national roads of significance—the five of them—need to be paid for by tolls completely was from the National Party, and that that would mean at least 10 bucks on one project alone.

/NR/rdonlyres/A4026086-2BBC-4A51-9684-CE4B530F62B2/92276/48HansQ_20080826_00000290_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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5. Corruption Allegations—Investigation

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

5. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her answer given in oral question No. 4 from the Rt Hon Winston Peters on 10 April 2003 that “This Government does not tolerate corruption. Any allegations are investigated.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes.

Rodney Hide: Will the Prime Minister therefore assure the House that the Serious Fraud Office will be able to assess and investigate, unimpeded, the claims of corruption by a businessman, repeated on several occasions to Dominion Post reporter Phil Kitchin, that this businessman was one of several people to whom Peter Simunovich gave $9,999.95 in 2002, to pass on to New Zealand First in exchange for Winston Peters’ “shutting up about his allegations of wrongdoing against Simunovich Fisheries”, and that “Sure enough, within a couple of weeks Winston Peters did shut up.”, and that the man’s statement and details were provided last week to the Serious Fraud Office, and that the businessman himself was concerned for his personal safety?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have just heard a very serious allegation from a member who, typically, failed to name anyone other than one company. But the critical person is the one he claims to be a businessman, whose life is under threat, apparently—unless it is from Rodney I cannot imagine from whom. But, I want to know, is that a fair question in this House?

Madam SPEAKER: Well, unfortunately, yes, from time to time allegations are made, and that question falls into that category that is permitted under the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The relevant question to me was “Can such allegations be fully and independently investigated?”, and the answer is, of course, yes.

Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Rodney Hide. Oh, point of order, the Rt Hon Winston—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I want to ask a supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: Well, you can take your turn.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is my turn.

Madam SPEAKER: Would you both sit down, otherwise you will both leave the Chamber and no one will be asking the question, which will solve the problem. Be seated. I called Rodney Hide before I saw the Rt Hon Winston Peters, so I will call Rodney Hide and then we will take the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it a good look for her Government to be abolishing the Serious Fraud Office just as it is assessing the complaint made by a former business associate of Peter Simunovich that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, went to see Peter Simunovich to show him the evidence of corruption he had against Peter Simunovich and stated that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly get rid of it”, or will she just keep accepting her Minister of Foreign Affairs’ word that he has done nothing wrong—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are not going to truly have some sort of half-baked Serious Fraud Office inquiry inside this House conducted by “Rodney Hide QC”. The reality of it is that he has not presented one fact to make these serious allegations. They are deadly serious in my view, and they also concern the issue on which we turned over Radio New Zealand and Television New Zealand (TVNZ) in December last year with one Phil Kitchin, who was working for them—those are the facts.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. The only breach of the Standing Orders is that questions are meant to be succinct, as are answers. If the member could please make his question succinct, then it would be much appreciated, being consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: It is very hard; he has been up to such a lot of naughtiness.

Madam SPEAKER: No, could the member please just ask the question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it a good look to be abolishing the Serious Fraud Office just as it is assessing the complaint made by a former business associate of Peter Simunovich that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, went to see Peter Simunovich to show him the evidence of corruption he had against Peter Simunovich and stated that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly …”—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I demand that either the member gives me the evidence now or he apologises. What he is saying is baseless and, more important, it is the subject of a serious defamation case for which at the time, all the way through December last year, TVNZ and Radio New Zealand argued that they had never at any point sought to impugn my integrity. The member is now seeking to litigate a sub judice matter in the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. That is not a point of order. Would the member just complete his question, please.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The sub judice rule applies in this House. You know I have an action against TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and others.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; would the member please be seated. No, I did not know that; I am sorry. I had not realised that. If matters are before the court, there are many precedents that they are not to be raised in this House. So would the member please just succinctly ask the point of his question, consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: I will pick up where I was interrupted—that through a payment of $50,000, “we would just slowly get rid of it”, or will she just keep accepting her Minister of Foreign Affairs’ word—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member may not know any Latin, but the sub judice rule does not allow him to raise the matter in this House. I am fighting this case in the court—and doing rather well at the moment—and with the greatest respect TVNZ, Radio New Zealand, and ACT are not going to win inside this House. They have to come to court with me, and I am very happy to join them.

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

Rodney Hide: Can I finish my question now, Madam Speaker?

Madam SPEAKER: No.

Hon Bill English: There is a fairly important issue here. The member is clearly trying to stop a question being asked—and I have to say that the way in which he is doing it is one I have never quite seen before—but certainly it would be difficult if the House had to accept on the word of Mr Peters that this matter was sub judice, particularly when he is often involved in court cases more than other members. It could end up with the ridiculous situation where no questions could be asked, because a member has said that he or she was involved in a court case, if we are to go just on the member’s say-so, and some members may well be in the position where they are always involved in some kind of legal matters related to their own activities. So I think we need to be pretty careful in order to make sure that a member cannot be prevented from asking a question. It is one of the basic freedoms of this House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Unfortunately, there is a limitation upon our freedom of speech in this House in relation to things that are sub judice. The issue here presumably is whether the matter being raised by Mr Hide is central to the matter that is in front of the court in terms of the defamation case. Now you are hearing, I think, from Mr Peters that what he is telling you is that the matter being raised is central to that defamation case. If so, then clearly it is sub judice and one cannot go around the back door by pretending that that matter has come from somewhere else and therefore is unrelated to the case before the court. I think Mr Hide really can tell the House whether, in his understanding, what Mr Peters is arguing is true, because if what Mr Peters is arguing is true, then the House should not be pursuing this matter at this point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There are numerous Speakers’ rulings with respect to the sub judice rule in this House that one may refer to an event of a case, but not the substance of it. Those are the previous rulings of this House. Mr Hide well knows that, so do his backers, and that is why, having lost in court, they seek to pursue it inside this House. They should be stopped from doing so.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the difficulty that has arisen is that Mr Hide could have asked the substance of his question without the elaboration that went on that would have, in fact, breached sub judice, if this matter—and I take the member’s word for it, because I have to, as we all do—is before the courts. So I am in a difficult position, because the question went on for so long. I understood the substance of it; it was to deal with a matter about independence of inquiries. Can the member, without reference to any specifics, ask the essence of the question?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is nothing before the courts relating to this matter. Mr Peters himself said he thinks he has won something in the court, which again is news to everyone here. The matter I am referring to is not before the courts, and I think it is a sad day if you are going to shut down a question from a member of this House over a most important matter. I do not see why I should not be allowed to finish my question.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. I refer the member to Standing Order 111, and I will certainly take it away and look at it. I accept the member’s word that there is a matter revolving around these issues being raised that is before the court. I have to do that. If the member wishes to ask another question, please do so.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you be telling the House tomorrow what matter is before the court that prevents me from asking the question?

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member knows that that is improper. That is not the case. I have said I will look at it. I take the member’s word. We all know that we take a member’s word. If there is a matter before the court I take the member’s word for it, as we do with other matters in this House. Now either the member asks a question or we move on.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: This is the last point of order on this matter.

Rodney Hide: Well, it is a difficult matter for me. I have waited patiently to ask my question today, as I am entitled to as a member of Parliament. What we have heard from Mr Peters is that there is some matter before the court. He has provided no elucidation as to what that matter is. You have told me you do not know what the case is, and you have told me that I can ask a question as long as it does not relate to some matter before the court of which no one in this House is aware. I would like you to ask Mr Peters to please explain what the matter is before the court that he is talking about.

Madam SPEAKER: As members well know it is the convention in this House that one takes a member’s word and there are consequences if, in fact, that word is proven otherwise not to be the case. That is the way in which it works.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. On the ruling you have just made around Standing Order 111, it is dependent on the Speaker taking the view that it appears to the Speaker that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case. Could you please tell us what is that—

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is not the question, please; and I suggest a little bit more experience, if I can say before we end all this.

Rodney Hide: Does it concern the Prime Minister that a second business associate of Peter Simunovich has repeatedly said, unrelated to any court case, that he too wrote cheques for Peter Simunovich to New Zealand First, and kept the bank records just in case something went wrong; and what will it take for her to finally take my advice and to stand Winston Peters down so that his shonky dealings, secret trusts—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Hide must surely have been looking in the mirror when he made those last comments. This is a man with a $2.8 million trust. But here is the point: this is a matter before the court. I took it seriously. I sued five different parties and I still am suing them. Before my lawyer left for overseas he advised me of the exact updated state of the case. Just to put the record straight, I say that in December last year it was found by the courts that there was a prima facie case for those parties to answer. That is where things stand at this point in time. Mr Hide cannot get away with that sort of allusion in this House, when the facts are before the court and they are sub judice.

Madam SPEAKER: I have made my ruling. I say to Rodney Hide that he can ask his question without referring to those matters. The substance of his question can be asked, but not in relation to those matters that are before the court.

Rodney Hide: No matters before the court are in my question.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. I ask the member to please be seated. I will go through it one more time and that will be it. If my ruling is challenged again I will be asking the member to leave the House. We have taken the member’s word for it. I have said that the member Rodney Hide can ask the substance of his question, without specific reference to those particular matters, to which the Prime Minister can then reply. So I ask the member to do that, otherwise I will have to move on to the next question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If this whole issue hangs on your taking the word of a member, then which member are you taking the word of? Mr Hide has made it very clear that his question does not relate to a court case. We on this side of the House have some understanding of where things are at with this particular matter and concur with Mr Hide.

Madam SPEAKER: That is all very well, but I have taken the word of the member who is affected and who has the matter before the court—you are right. He is obviously the subject of the case.

Rodney Hide: Of course he is an honourable member—

Madam SPEAKER: I ask Mr Hide whether he has a question to ask.

Rodney Hide: To the Prime Minister—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: How much are they paying you, Rodney?

Rodney Hide: Cheer up Michael. Does it concern her—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am reluctant to intervene in this dispute, but the Deputy Prime Minister said across the House: “How much are they paying you?”. That is out of order when directed at any member of Parliament, but particularly in respect of asking a question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. On a number of occasions in the past I have raised allegations in Mr Hide’s presence that he receives, and has received in the past, outside payment—before, of course, the current rules came into force—and at no point in the past has he ever denied that.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will I be allowed to ask my question now?

Madam SPEAKER: Not if you ask it in the way you asked it before, but you can ask the substance of it.

Rodney Hide: Well, let me try, because I do not know what substance you are objecting to.

Madam SPEAKER: The member is starting to trifle with the Speaker. If the member finds himself in that position, I suggest that he does not ask his question.

Rodney Hide: I am definitely going to ask my question.

Madam SPEAKER: OK, I call Rodney Hide.

Rodney Hide: Does it concern the Prime Minister that a former business associate of Peter Simunovich is on record—a record that I provided to the Serious Fraud Office—as making a complaint of corruption against her Minister of Foreign Affairs—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.

Rodney Hide: —stating that Peter Simunovich—

Madam SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. A point of order has been called. All members have rights of speech in this House, and we are hearing those rights exercised today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you may have given six rulings to this member already. He is choosing to ignore them because his purpose is to get some sort of story out, false as it is, for the newspapers up the stairs to publish, regardless of the veracity or the truth of the matter. This matter is the subject of a court case. In fact, five defendants have been involved, and that still remains the case. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to ask the member for the last time to change his question, or to send him from the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I have asked the member, and this will be the last time.

Rodney Hide: I am going to ask my question, Madam Speaker. If you do not allow me to ask it, then you had better get me to leave now because I am entitled in this House to ask this question. Does it concern—

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Please be seated. I have told the member; all members are entitled to ask questions that are consistent with the Standing Orders. That is all I am asking the member to do. I have ruled that his question, in the way it was phrased, is not consistent with the Standing Orders, but he can still ask the substance of the question. All I am asking him to do is comply with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: Thank you. Let me ask precisely the substance of my question. Does it concern the Prime Minister that a former business associate of Peter Simunovich is on the record making a complaint of corruption against her Minister of Foreign Affairs—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have given him now six or seven rulings. He simply stood up, the last time, to read out the question from the previous time you gave him a ruling. I think he is trifling with the Chair now and that he should be asked to leave the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I am also being persuaded of that point. So I am sorry, Mr Hide, I have made my ruling. I am not—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Shameful!

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is not a shame; and that member will be asked to leave if he says that one more time. I am here to try to ensure that the Standing Orders are complied with and that the rule we abide by in terms of taking a member’s word is also abided by. Mr Hide is perfectly entitled to ask the substance of his question, and I have done this on many other occasions where I have said that to members and they have, in fact, complied. Now, if the member does not wish to do that, I suggest that he does not ask his question.

Rodney Hide: I am going to ask my question, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, then, I am sorry to do this. I really am sorry, but I will ask the member please to leave the House.

Rodney Hide: No. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I have asked the member to leave the House. I have not denied you the right to ask your question

Rodney Hide: You have.

Madam SPEAKER: I have merely said you ask that question consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: It is consistent.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please leave the House. Thank you.

Rodney Hide: This is an absolute disgrace that you have shut down an MP from asking a question. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Please leave. I call the Rt Hon Winston Peters.

Rodney Hide: I actually will not go, Madam Speaker, until I have my say.

Madam SPEAKER: Well, I am sorry. The member wants to think very carefully before he does that. I understand that he is not being denied the right to ask his question; it is merely to ask that question consistent with the Standing Orders. That is all that is asked, and the substance of it can be asked. Others members have to comply with those rules; Mr Hide I ask you to comply with them.

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

Madam SPEAKER: No, I have asked the member please to leave. Thank you.

 Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have taken an extremely strong step today in denying Mr Hide the right to ask his question and you have relied heavily on the conventions of the House. Can I ask you to refer to Standing Order 111, “Matters awaiting judicial decision”, and ask why you have applied paragraph (c), which requires that such matters may not be referred to in any question, including a supplementary question, “if it appears to the Speaker that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial of the case.” The particulars of this case are not unknown to members on this side of the House. It would be our position that there has been a travesty of justice here. Mr Hide has been done a wrong and the question should have been asked. The Hansard record will show that he used very simple words, heading in a particular direction, that had nothing to do with the court case that Mr Peters is relying on.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There are two issues, which may be related but actually need to be carefully separated. The first, and much more important, issue now, is respect for your authority as Speaker. Your authority was deliberately flouted. You gave rulings, on a number of occasions. Mr Hide refused to accept those rulings and continued to behave contrary to your rulings. You allowed him very, very significant leeway in that regard, because that matter occurred on a number of occasions. Any member of this House who behaved in that way, as frequently as that, sooner or later would be subject to the sanction that you have applied; and, indeed, given his subsequent behaviour, you would have been justified in the next stage of the sanctions being applied—that is, naming the member. All members in this House need to remind themselves that they are here to obey the authority of the Speaker when issues of that sort arise.

The second matter, of course, is the matter of judgment that you made about the sub judice rule. The member most closely involved in the case assured you that these matters were before the court. In all the time I have been in Parliament, Standing Order 111 has been interpreted very broadly to protect the court against Parliament’s discussing the matters before the court, unless there are actually very strong circumstances that might justify that occurring. You have clearly determined that that was not the case; it is not for the House now to question your judgment. If Mr Hide has other evidence, he may bring that evidence to you before tomorrow in the House, so that you may consider that evidence. But that is the way this place has to work. In essence it is like a game of rugby: sometimes a call may be made that one may dispute, but the dispute should not occur with the referee. The referee’s judgment is final, and we continue on from that point. This House cannot function unless we obey that rule.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I think you should know that when the National Party member Gerry Brownlee says what he says, he knows full well that one of his colleagues knows otherwise. He has lawyers in his party who could tell him otherwise, but, more important, this is a case where Mr Carter, his colleague, had his lawyer get up in court and say that at no time did he ever, associated with these allegations, mean to impugn Winston Peters, his integrity, or his honesty. That is what he argued.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. I also do not need assistance, Mr Finlayson, on running this House. I thank you for your asides, but I would say that in future they are not necessary. I have said I would look at this matter, and I will look at the matter. Under those circumstances, we normally move on. Mr Hide would have ample opportunity tomorrow and the next day to be able to come back, in the light of that. He chose not to take that course of action. I now ask the House, can we please move on to the next question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like a few supplementary questions myself.

Madam SPEAKER: That may well be the case, but you do not do it through a point of order.

Gerry Brownlee: Does she still accept all of the assurances that she has recently received from Winston Peters about the various allegations made against him?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have accepted the honourable member’s word, and will continue to do so unless something arises out of the Privileges Committee or some other appropriate authority that suggests I should not do so. But I do not have such information.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If there was a subsequent series of cheques, paid some substantial time later, despite the fact that there was an inquiry in this House on a matter that concerned a business, and—here is the relevant point—those cheques were never cashed, therefore at no point could New Zealand First be seen—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you have well indicated to the House that this matter is sub judice and therefore questions cannot be asked about it.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree with you entirely. If the member has a question that is consistent with the Standing Orders he may ask it. If not, I suggest he does not ask it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports in the weekend papers, written by former ACT MPs, confirming an undeclared gift of $20,000 per annum of free office space over several years, and further adding that the bill to refurbish the gifted office space, after ACT vacated it, was sent to Parliamentary Service for the taxpayer to pick up?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A supplementary question surely has to relate to the question that is asked. Mr Peters appears to be not only changing the tack of his question, but is now drifting right off the point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The member in his primary question referred to corruption. I am giving an example of it.

Madam SPEAKER: I would agree with the member. The question was quite broad in terms of those allegations, so I call the Rt Hon Prime Minister.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Not only did I see reported the matter the member referred to, but I also saw the extraordinary report in the same article, that a property developer had paid around $20,000 for a photograph of Richard Prebble. That must be pretty close to constituting fraud.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would an example of the kind of thing Mr Hide alleges be the Asian chapter of the ACT party paying the legal costs to get rid of Donna Awatere Huata so that the ACT Asian candidate could replace her, to the tune of substantial money, and why was that not, under its rules, declared?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed the allegation was made in a Sunday newspaper by the former ACT member of Parliament that an Asian chapter of ACT was “pressured” to pay the legal bills of ACT with respect to Donna Awatere Huata because its candidate from the Asian chapter, Kenneth Wang, was next on the list and would benefit from Donna Awatere Huata’s departure from the House.

/NR/rdonlyres/F9EFE491-E924-4BED-935B-B2F6F9563D76/92278/48HansQ_20080826_00000387_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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6. District Health Boards—Reduction

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What consideration, if any, is the Government giving to reducing the number of district health boards, and why?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : None.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why, then, did he candidly inform a conference in Auckland that he was going to do something about the number of district health boards, when he now says he is not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Because he did not.

Hon Tony Ryall: Which version of the Minister’s story is correct: the one he told the Healthcare Providers conference, which was that he was going to do something about the number of district health boards, or the one he is telling the House now?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: May I quote from a comment made to that conference: “Linda is quite right. The last thing the sector wants is wholesale structural slaughter because it takes a lot of money and a lot of time and you end up back in square one with a different letterhead.” May I repeat that the Government has absolutely no plans to reduce the number of district health boards.

Barbara Stewart: Would he concede that the original decision to have 21 district health boards in order to maintain existing communities of interest and to enable greater community input has been overtaken by funding constraints and workforce shortages, and that it is time for a review to assess what changes are necessary; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No, but what I will say is that it is essential that the district health boards work together as a cohesive and integrated network. We therefore will insist on more cooperation and collaboration, including through shared procurement, regional clinical services, and greater national coordination of the underlying enablers.

Hon Tony Ryall: So what did he mean in this interchange with the audience at the Healthcare Providers conference: “Mr Cunliffe: Have we got too many DHBs? Audience: Yes. Mr Cunliffe: Are we going to do something about that? Audience: No. Mr Cunliffe: Well, I wouldn’t be too sure, because I’ve been working overdrive in the last wee while, and I’ve got a lot of stuff going through Cabinet, and we will be making announcements before the election.”; what did he mean when he spoke then about reducing the number of district health boards?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Madam Speaker—[Interruption] We have already got material through Cabinet, for that member’s information. It refers to the matters I just spoke of to the previous member who asked a question, including regional shared service networks—which I note are in the member’s own discussion document—shared procurement, and more efficient national integration of the underlying enablers. All these matters will give greater productivity and value for money, which I would have thought all parties in the House would agree on.

Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Will the Minister review the funder/provider role of the district health boards, and is he concerned that the community and non-governmental organisation sector finds it hard to compete with the district health boards for contracts?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There are no plans to review that aspect of the district health board system.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is not the Minister’s new desire for greater collaboration between the district health boards—despite his telling the conference otherwise—another example of his copying the National Party’s proposals, with the list now including more medical student places, clinical networks, greater involvement of doctors in planning, capping the number of ministry bureaucrats, and smarter use of the private sector? He will soon announce student loan write-offs, to complete his imitation.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I refer to a speech I gave in May of this year, which recorded excellent examples of partnership arrangements, joint purchasing, and regional clinical networks. I concluded by saying that I encouraged those collaborations to continue.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister confirm today that he is working on plans affecting communities and their district health boards throughout the country, that those plan include taking at least 11 papers through the Cabinet process, and that he is not prepared to tell the people of those communities what he has in store for them?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Government has indeed been working hard to progress the evolution of the health system, and a great deal of work has been going through Cabinet. I look forward to giving a series of major speeches in the near future that will tell the member everything he needs to know.

/NR/rdonlyres/7C7E409F-57B7-49E8-8551-4E8C4F4AA857/92280/48HansQ_20080826_00000496_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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7. Land Transport Infrastructure—Auckland

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

7. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What update can she provide on progress on Auckland land transport infrastructure?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : Today I released a report from the Waterview Connection procurement steering group and welcomed its finding that procuring the Waterview Connection of Auckland’s western ring route as a public-private partnership could deliver greater value than conventional procurement. The Government has asked officials to undertake further work as quickly as possible to enable a final decision to be made consistent with international best practice.

Darien Fenton: What other reports has the Minister seen on Auckland land transport infrastructure?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen a transcript from the Agenda programme last Sunday, where Maurice Williamson said that tolling the new Kōpū Bridge was an example of National Party policy. Under the existing legislation that is not possible, because a free alternative route to any toll road must be provided. We now know what National thinks a free alternative route is—it is a 47 kilometre drive on a mixture of local roads or on State highways to bypass the bridge, or a 60 kilometre drive just on State highways. The truth is the Kōpū Bridge will be built anyway, starting in 2010-11. It will be fully funded by the Government, and it will not need any toll from Mr Williamson or the National Party.

Hon Jim Anderton: If the Government were to introduce a $50-a-week toll for using roads, how much would be left over from a $50-a-week tax cut?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, obviously not very much if a person were to travel on just one of National’s toll roads. But imagine if one had to travel on one of them that cost $5—or $50 a week—and then one went across the Auckland Harbour Bridge, which the National Party believes ought to be tolled. That would probably cost another $5 each way, and now one is paying up to $100 a week—in fact, one is out of pocket.

Hon Bill English: Why is the Minister able to comment on everyone else’s tolling policy but not tell the House today what Labour’s policy on tolls is, except that it looks like its $2 toll on the Waterview Connection would wipe out the tax cut Labour has promised?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If my mother was talking to Bill English she would say he had cloth ears. I have set out very clearly where this Government stands on tolls. National wants to charge at least $5 a week, and as much as $10, if it is going to fund all toll roads and all major roads out of tolls.

Peter Brown: Am I correct in thinking that a public-private partnership will borrow money at a higher rate of interest than the Government, and that it will need to make a profit, which over a 30 or 35-year time frame will make a significant cost on a $2 billion project?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It very much depends on how the public-private partnership is constructed, and that is why we have been doing extra work and getting additional information before we make the final decision. But there are different ways of funding a public-private partnership, and obviously that is part of the mix. I seek leave to table the progressing the Waterview Connection as a public-private partnership—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/5CAC0056-7526-4650-860C-141AD2BAA820/92282/48HansQ_20080826_00000573_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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8. Criminal Justice System—Ombudsman’s Comments

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

8. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Does she agree with the Ombudsman that the criminal justice system is at “serious risk”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : As I told that member in response to a similar question on 6 December 2007, the Ombudsman’s wide-ranging report deserves careful consideration. Since then the Government has established the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, progressed work to improve the services and support available to victims, further enhanced the role of the justice sector in leading work to prevent crime, and been involved in many other projects, as well.

Simon Power: Why should the public have confidence in Labour’s management of the justice system, when the crime reduction strategy introduced in 2001 has been left unchanged after an independent stocktake concluded that “The concept of it providing an overarching framework was never properly developed, a work programme was never defined, targets and accountabilities were never agreed.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The public can have confidence in this Government because our crime reduction strategy is working, as shown by the annual crime statistics released to all New Zealanders.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the contents of the 2001 Cabinet paper that established the crime reduction strategy, which states that “most of these priorities were in fact already in place or in preparation.”; if so, what did the crime reduction strategy add, given that British crime prevention expert Dr Sohail Husain found that “It’s debatable whether a crime reduction strategy was ever properly formulated.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If the member is saying that it was in place before Labour became the Government, and that work had been done on it before Labour became the Government, I can only assume that Dr Husain did not actually believe that the National Government had done anything. However, in terms of crime reduction as far as this Government is concerned, as I said, we can see the work that has been done by this Government in the crime statistics—

Simon Power: It’s not working.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, I can tell the member that there has certainly been a lot more done by this Government, in terms of sentences, in terms of parole, in terms of prison, in terms of youth offending, and in terms of family violence, than was ever done by the National Government. In fact, the National Party is still in denial about the level of family violence we have in this country.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Does the Minister recall her response to the Ombudsman’s report of 6 December 2007 that “The Government intends to give it serious consideration, and not make ad hoc and off-the-hoof comments …”, and what response will she now make to his recommendation to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the operation of the entire criminal justice system, and to put forward the philosophies and values that should guide its policies and practices into the future?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is quite correct: we said it did require careful consideration. We also rejected an inquiry, because we believed that a lot of work had been done in the criminal justice system, including in the whole area of effective interventions. In fact, our response was to establish the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, which was laughed at by National members. They said that they did not need to have any consideration of the views of people outside Parliament—that they knew it all. They laughed at people such as those who work in the criminal justice system—Victim Support, the Salvation Army, and others—and said they would not take any notice of them. We believe that those people have something to offer.

Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with Dr Husain’s finding in 2006 that the crime reduction strategy is “no longer fit for purpose, in so far as it’s not effectively giving strategic direction to crime reduction activity.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. I believe that this Government has put in place, through a number of agencies—it has not relied on just the police and the Ministry of Justice but has worked across agencies—a very comprehensive approach to crime in New Zealand, particularly youth crime and family violence, and we are seeing the benefits of our putting in place such an approach.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the director of the crime reduction unit of the Ministry of Justice described in an email Dr Husain’s critical report of the crime reduction strategy as “accurate and balanced”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm that. I do not have the email in front of me and I have not seen it. I judge this Government on the result—the work that has been done, and the investment that has been made. Our Government has put our money and our actions where our mouth is, unlike the National Party, which when in Government had a lot of hot air about this issue but did very little about it.

/NR/rdonlyres/8F72B5F8-3A58-4300-B106-240797CCED64/92284/48HansQ_20080826_00000624_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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9. Polytechnics—Privatisation

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

9. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Is he considering privatising public polytechnics?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Tertiary Education: No. Polytechnics are an important part of our tertiary education system. It is important that they work closely with the private sector stakeholders, such as employers, but the institutions themselves will and must remain in the public sector.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reports has he seen on public-private partnerships in the education sector?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen proposals that suggest New Zealand should follow the Australian example and privatise educational infrastructure such as polytechnic facilities. That statement was made by yet another senior National Party member caught in an unorchestrated litany of truth. Of course, National’s leader said that Mr Williamson was overexcited when he told us of National’s tolling plans. We are yet to hear what National thinks in terms of privatising polytechnics and other educational institutions.

Anne Tolley: Why is the Minister so concerned about collaboration with the private sector, when the Labour Government put $20 million per year into the Partnerships for Excellence programme in order to encourage partnerships between the private and tertiary sectors, with the tertiary sector still owning the buildings, and when one of the main beneficiaries of these Government-mandated private partnerships was the Owen G Glenn Building based at the University of Auckland business school?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member clearly cannot tell the difference between selling buildings and a partnership with the private sector to deliver certain kinds of services. For example, just today the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology announced that its project manager won a 2008 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics award for the development of TradeFIT, which is a public-private sector partnership in relation to producing trade skills, which the National Government tried to destroy. If the member does not understand the difference between that and flogging off the buildings, then she really has a long way to go on the road towards becoming a credible education spokesperson.

/NR/rdonlyres/EEC8318D-AE4E-4201-B477-F0876C4B4EA0/92286/48HansQ_20080826_00000689_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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10. Electoral Finance Act—Public Participation in Democracy

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

10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she believe that the Electoral Finance Act 2007 is achieving one of its stated purposes to “promote participation by the public in parliamentary democracy”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes.

Hon Bill English: How can the Minister state that the Electoral Finance Act promotes public participation in democracy, when a well-known public interest group, Family First, was deterred from producing material, after legal advice to it from the law firm Bell Gully pointed out that the Electoral Finance Act was “unhelpfully vague in a number of important respects including the definition of an election advertisement”, and therefore did not publish its material?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is very much up to Family First to decide what it does. If it wants to campaign in the election, then I think it should enrol as a third party and get stuck in.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the definitions in the Act are so vague that one group has decided it cannot legally circulate a pamphlet that points out the voting record of MPs on issues that are relevant to that particular group?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That is a decision that the group will make. It will distribute what it wants, but it will have to be within the law.

Hon Bill English: How ridiculous is it that the Ministry of Health believes that it cannot run a campaign informing people about the human papilloma virus vaccination programme, for fear of it breaching the Electoral Finance Act; and can she explain how the best interests of New Zealand women are served by this kind of ridiculous decision?

Hon ANNETTE KING: What a piece of cant we have just had from that member! He has railed for months in this House against Government departments being able even to put out a pamphlet, in case it breached the rules. Now that member is concerned about women. Well, I say it is hogwash from him.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why this three-page letter from the President of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, begging for money while telling lies about the National Party—[Interruption] I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that, on a number of my questions, I have been subject to puerile barraging from the member for Hutt South, and I would like to be able to ask my question without it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If the member wants to make comments like “telling lies about the National Party”, when nobody in the rest of the country knows what the truth is about the National Party, he will get interjections.

Madam SPEAKER: We will hear the member’s question in silence.

Hon Bill English: Well, Mike Williams knows, because he has referred here—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When a person asks to have his questions heard in silence, he should not start off immediately with a provocative statement unrelated to the question; otherwise, that person will get interjections.

Madam SPEAKER: I agree. If we could just have the question, please.

Hon Bill English: Mike Williams refers to the “National Government” in his fund-raising letter!

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You just instructed the member not to do that. He completely ignored your instructions.

Madam SPEAKER: I know.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Yet again we see somebody on the right wing of the National Party showing no respect for authority.

Madam SPEAKER: Would both members please be seated. I did, as a concession to the member—because I think he was right—say that his supplementary question was to be heard in silence. I have said on several occasions that interjections are permitted, but they should be orderly, and members should be able to be heard—not only questions but also answers. I do think the member took advantage of my saying that his question should be heard in silence. Would the member just ask his question; otherwise, we will have interruptions again.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister explain why this three-page letter from the President of the Labour Party, Mike Williams, is not an illegal election advertisement, when it makes claims about other political parties, it has no authorisation, and it has been sent to people who are not members of the Labour Party? That is a breach of the law.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. Once again, “Lawyer English” is on the job, so no doubt he will send it off to the Electoral Commission. He is Parliament’s tell-tale tit.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table Mike Williams’ letter, which refers to the actions of the “National—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

/NR/rdonlyres/9B7F6781-C8F4-4449-AABE-6454679F6DC0/92288/48HansQ_20080826_00000722_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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11. Health Infrastructure—Investment

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

11. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has he received on investment in health infrastructure?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I have seen a report confirming that this Government has undertaken the largest hospital redevelopment and rebuilding programme in New Zealand’s history, including seven new hospitals, eight major upgrades, and 10 new specialist facilities, with three hospital redevelopments almost complete and four more under way. Unlike the National Party, this Labour-led Government is committed to public investment in our hospitals.

Lesley Soper: Has he seen any reports that suggest the market rather than the Government should provide hospital infrastructure?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, I have such a report. This “back to the 1990s, market knows best” approach came from the honest Maurice Williamson, one of the few people in the National Party who are being honest about the secret agenda. The National Party tried that approach in the 1990s—

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. There is enough disorder in the House today. Just answer the question without the interpretations, please.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I apologise for describing the member as honest.

Madam SPEAKER: No—that is unacceptable. The chipping back and forth is not helpful to the order of this House. Just answer the question or leave the Chamber.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The National Party tried that approach in the 1990s and it failed. The message to New Zealanders is clear: if they want investment to be made in public health services, they are safe only with Labour.

Lesley Soper: Has he seen any reports that suggest the previous National Government refused to provide capital funding for health care services in Napier, forcing it to turn to the private sector; if so, what was the outcome?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes; when National refused to stump up with the extra money for health services in Napier, Heath-care Hawke’s Bay was forced into a 13-year, $1.2 million per year lease for a building that had cost only $11 million to build. That is $15.6 million in rent for an $11 million building. And members should wait for this: the building has a current replacement value of only $4.5 million. Because of the sloppy ideologically driven decisions of the last National Government, the taxpayer has kept paying time and time again for the same asset—a $10 million hole. Who would sign off such a crazy deal? It was none other than National’s own Bill English, who, due to Maurice Williamson’s recent attempt to eat his own feet, appears to be more and more likely to become National’s infrastructure spokesperson once again. Madam Speaker, I seek leave to table a media release from the New Zealand National Party dated 25 November 1997, heralding its investment programme.

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a media release by the Hon Annette King, dated 14 March 2000, where she sets out the financial consequences of the National Party—

 Leave granted.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a further press release by the Hon Annette King, dated 21 March 2000, where she heralds the release of the investigative report—

 Leave granted.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a series of press releases from the Labour Government announcing the privatisation of Telecom, the Shipping Corporation of New Zealand, and numerous other Government businesses during its term of office.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/FC31EC9F-4F7B-4853-9F93-7D993CE18172/92290/48HansQ_20080826_00000785_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 26 August 2008 [PDF 220k]

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12. Electricity—Thermal Generation

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

12. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: How much electricity, if any, was generated from thermally fuelled sources in the months of April, May, June, and July 2008, measured as a percentage of total electricity generation for each month?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : Electricity from fossil-fuelled sources in those months peaked at 46 percent of the total in June and fell to 37 percent in July. This compares to around 35 percent in a normal year.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister’s stubborn insistence on advancing the thermal ban, in the face of overwhelming opposition from industry experts, an indication of a total lack of confidence in the ability of the Government’s emissions trading scheme to incentivise new renewable generation, because, if the emissions trading scheme works—as he assures us it will—why is it that we need this heavy-handed thermal ban?

Hon DAVID PARKER: First, it is not a ban. [Interruption] It is not a ban. National is doing its best to set up a phoney war. Its members are trying to argue that security of supply and renewables are incompatible, but of course we know that we can have both. The first casualty in this phoney war that is being set up was a salvo in National’s own energy policy. It produced a graph on security margins that left off the period after 2006, because it did not suit the myth that National was trying to portray. National excluded from its security margins the 1,000 megawatts of electricity capacity that has since been added or is currently under construction. It is a phoney war and the first casualty is truth.

Moana Mackey: What reports has he seen on thermal electricity and renewables?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Just today Contact Energy, one of New Zealand’s biggest generators, outlined its plans to invest up to $3 billion in about 1,400 megawatts of new generation projects, nearly all of it renewable. It includes about 500 megawatts of geothermal, a renewable baseload source of renewable electricity. Mighty River Power is also building more geothermal. These investors have confidence in a renewable future. In contrast, of course, we have the backward-looking energy policy from the National Party, which is wedded to fossil fuels—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well supported! Very well supported!

Hon DAVID PARKER: It is well supported by Nick Smith and about one other. National would tie electricity prices to rising gas prices and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is no wonder that Greenpeace said of National’s policy: “Earth to National: there is this thing called climate change.”

Gerry Brownlee: Is it now the Minister’s position that thermal generation has saved his bacon this year but we do not need any more of it?

Hon DAVID PARKER: That is not what the policy says. It is clear that we have large amounts of economic, geothermal, baseload renewable capacity that the generators are willing to build and that we know is cost competitive. National is turning its back on that, saying “More fossil fuel, less renewables”.

I seek leave to table the graph used by National in its energy policy that excludes the 1,000 megawatts.

 Leave granted.


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