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Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Questions And Answers – Wednesday, 27 August 2008


1. Transport Funding—Waterview Connection

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

1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: What would do more to achieve her aspiration of a carbon-neutral New Zealand: spending $1.9 billion on the Waterview motorway project, or putting that same money towards completing and upgrading the Auckland passenger rail network?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Obviously, achieving the aspiration of carbon neutrality requires action on many fronts, including through investment in public transport, and, I would say, through the development of more environmentally friendly ways of powering vehicles.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister not aware that every study into this issue demonstrates that building more roads does not reduce congestion, and that even a roading fanatic like Maurice Williamson said in 1999, in a rare flash of exuberance—

Madam SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. Just ask the question. I know that everyone wants to be a comedian in this place, and wants to be able to make other comments. There is a general debate after question time. Just ask the question, and that goes for all members who are asking questions today and replying. Keep it straight.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister not aware that every study into this issue demonstrates that building more roads does not reduce congestion, and that even Maurice Williamson said in 1999, as Minister of Transport, that “Building more and more roads in congested areas on many occasions results in more congestion … and more pollution”; if even Maurice Williamson can get it, why can her Government not get it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I said in the House yesterday that the Government supports completing what have been long-held plans in Auckland for the roading network. But the Government absolutely agrees with the member that there is no “roads only” solution to congestion. Investment in public transport is extremely important. That is why the Government has spent an enormous amount of money, in partnership with Auckland local bodies, on upgrading Auckland’s rail lines, on double tracking, and on new station infrastructure, and it is why we have committed something like half a billion dollars to the electrification project. All of these are important investments that give people viable alternatives to the private car on the road.

Keith Locke: How can the Prime Minister’s Government go ahead with the Waterview Connection, when in a letter to me the Transit chairman said that the future price of oil does not feature at all in Transit’s assumptions that the project’s benefit-cost ratio is a miserable 1:0, and that, for some strange reason, the motorway is projected to be completely full in 2015, when it is projected to open?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in the House yesterday, part of the Government’s overall Energy Strategy sees this country being an early adapter of electric car technology. A lot of research is going into alternatives to the petroleum-powered car. Over time there will be, I am sure, technology solutions that come along, as oil becomes more and more expensive, and presumably, at some time beyond our lifetimes, perhaps not available at all. So I think the member is looking at the issue a little too narrowly, if he thinks the future of the private car on the road is dependent on oil-fuelling vehicles.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is it not a bit premature to build roads for electric cars, when the Government’s own Energy Strategy projected last year that electric cars will form only 5 percent of the fleet by 2020, and when this motorway is brand new, is being built at a time of declining traffic in Auckland, and is due to open in 2015?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have consistently said, the Government supports the completion of the Auckland roading network, but I have consistently said the completion of that network is not, in itself, a solution to roading congestion in Auckland. The solution lies in a dual approach whereby we encourage not only the use of public transport—in which we are investing 15 times as much per annum as the level of investment we inherited after the 1999 election—but also other forms of demand management, like encouraging walking school buses, and encouraging people to walk, cycle, use ferries, and so on.

Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister confirm that roading congestion in Auckland is estimated to cost the economy of New Zealand $1 billion a year, and that it is a priority that something is done about the roading system in Auckland?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As anyone who travels in Auckland knows, it is bedevilled by congestion, and there is a heavy economic cost to that. Part of the answer is completion of the roading network, but a very significant part of the answer is the big investments we are making in public transport, and they include the big investments in rail.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is it not true that no matter how many emissions trading schemes we get started on, we will not make progress towards her goal of carbon neutrality, or reducing congestion, as long as the Government, as outlined in its National Land Transport Programme, spends $12 billion on new roads alone, while spending only a quarter of that amount on all the sustainable alternatives put together—public transport, walking, cycling, and the rest—with the result that motorists who want to reduce their carbon emissions have no choice but to take their cars?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The reason for investments in public transport being 15 times the level they were in 1999 is precisely to give as many people as possible that choice.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a letter from Bryan Jackson, the acting chair of Transit, in which he says Transit has not made any projections for the future—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/675580AF-F409-4B27-A268-F276D1915ABE/92312/48HansQ_20080827_00000011_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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2. Foreign Affairs, Minister—Confidence

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

2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the letter released by the Privileges Committee from Owen Glenn earlier today that directly contradicts public statements made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and will she be sacking or standing down Mr Peters as a Minister as a result of those clearly contradictory statements; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have seen the letter. I have seen the response from Mr Peters. I am aware the matter is before the Privileges Committee. I await the outcome.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister personally asked Mr Peters today for an assurance that he did not ask for or know of the donation of, $100,000 from Mr Owen Glenn, in light of Mr Glenn’s clear, written statement given to the Privileges Committee, which states that Mr Peters did exactly that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, and I have received that assurance.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the letter—released by the Privileges Committee this morning—from Owen Glenn in regard to a payment from him of $100,000, which states: “The payment was made by me to assist funding the legal costs incurred personally by Rt Hon Winston Peters MP concerning his election petition dispute, at his request. Mr Peters sought help from me for this purpose in a personal conversation, some time after I first met him in Sydney.”; if so, does she accept that this statement is a direct challenge to the credibility of Mr Peters’ earlier denial of any involvement in, or knowledge of, the solicitation of that $100,000?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I have seen that statement and I have also seen the refutation of it by Mr Peters. The matter is before the Privileges Committee. There is clearly a conflict of evidence, and I await the outcome of the committee.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement in the letter from Mr Glenn, in that “Mr Peters subsequently met me socially at the Karaka yearling sales, I believe in early 2006. He thanked me for my assistance.”; if so, does she accept that this statement is in direct challenge to the credibility of Mr Peters’ earlier denial of any involvement in, or knowledge of, the solicitation of $100,000?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is clearly a conflict of evidence on this issue, which is before the Privileges Committee.

John Key: Maybe the Prime Minister would like to answer this: if she accepts Mr Peters’ version of events over Mr Glenn’s, she is in effect saying to a person whom she gave a new year’s honour to, and that her party accepted $500,000 and a $100,000 interest-free loan from, that he is a liar?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is a ridiculous statement. There is clearly a conflict of evidence.

Dail Jones: Is the letter to which reference has been made an unsigned letter that would never hold up in a court of law; that could have been sent to the Privileges Committee by a public relations firm, for all we know; and that does not conform with Mr Glenn’s usual form of writing, I understand, which has his letterhead and his signature on it and also his title?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Certainly the copy of the letter given to the Privileges Committee is not signed. I have drawn no conclusion from that, one way or another.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Prime Minister accept the implicit assertion by Mr Key that a person who makes a statement that is subsequently demonstrated to be incorrect is a liar; if so, what does that say about Mr Key’s view of Maurice Williamson, Bill English, and Kate Wilkinson?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What it probably says is that double standards are applying.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that Mr Peters’ version of events—that he had no knowledge of and was not involved in the solicitation of the $100,000 from Mr Glenn—is completely at odds with the statement that Mr Glenn made to the Privileges Committee, that on that basis both of them cannot be right, and that if she is accepting Mr Peters’ version of events, she is saying to a man whom she was happy to accept half a million dollars from for her party and was prepared to give a new year’s honour to that he has lied to the Privileges Committee?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat, those assertions are ridiculous. There is a conflict of evidence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the allegation made by the New Zealand Herald on 12 July was that the money was paid by Owen Glenn to New Zealand First, is it not a fact that the letter before the committee now says precisely the reverse—that it was not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is correct.

John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement, also by Mr Glenn, that said: “I agreed to help, in the belief that this step would also assist the Labour Party, in its relationship with Mr Peters. I supported the Labour Party.”; and can she tell the House just who in the Labour Party would have given Mr Glenn this impression?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My answer is that nobody needed to give him that impression.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the money was paid over, according to Mr Henry, barrister, on 22 December 2005 and the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Government was signed on 17 October 2005, is there not reason to have some doubt as to the veracity of the statement made in that letter?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: These matters are before the Privileges Committee. I really think that it is somewhat futile for me as Prime Minister and not sitting on the committee to try to get into some kind of analysis of the evidence.

Gerry Brownlee: What a joke!

John Key: Can the Prime Minister tell the country, if Mr Peters cannot give any greater assurances than the one he has given her today, but Mr Glenn is quite prepared in writing to state the facts of the case as he sees it, what her actions will be as a result of that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It should also be noted that Mr Peters has put in writing his understanding of the facts. If there is any joke around here, it is the National Party that does not believe in a process of the Privileges Committee looking at the evidence. If the death penalty applied, Mr Key would be hanging people before the trial was finished.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So that we can dissect and dispose of these allegations, one by one—the second one was one of fraud—is there any evidence in Mr Owen Glenn’s letter that suggests any such thing as fraud at all?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Certainly not on my reading of it.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement yesterday that she would accept Mr Peters’ word “unless something arising out of the Privileges Committee or some other appropriate authority suggests I should not do so.”, and if a letter from Owen Glenn stating everything that is opposite to what Winston Peters said is not something out of the Privileges Committee that should suggest to her otherwise, what on earth would be?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The letter is to the Privileges Committee; it does not arise from it. Unlike Mr Key, I prefer to wait for the outcome of a proper process.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister think it is a good look for her Government—or, indeed, for the country—for her Minister of Foreign Affairs to question the veracity of a statement made to the Privileges Committee by Mr Owen Glenn, who was described at the committee by Brian Henry as “a very honourable man”, especially considering this man was recognised by her Government this year with the New Zealand Order of Merit? He has given millions of dollars to many good causes in New Zealand, albeit he has also given some hundreds of thousands of dollars to some very shonky projects—$500,000 to the Labour Party, an interest-free loan of $100,000 to the Labour Party, and $100,000 to Winston Peters’ legal fees—and what does he get? He gets shunned, and the veracity of this man’s word to Parliament is questioned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Is that all OK?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That long ramble could surely not be a parliamentary question.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. No, I have said time and again to all members that the questions should be succinct.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, the shonkiest allegation I have seen this week is that from the former ACT member of Parliament, Deborah Coddington, who said that the Asian chapter of ACT paid the legal expenses for the party to get rid of Donna Awatere Huata so that one of the chapter’s members could come into Parliament.

Dail Jones: Does the Prime Minister think it is a good look for the work of the Privileges Committee to be prejudged by the leader of the National Party in the House today; and will the Prime Minister take any action to have those members of the National Party removed from the Privileges Committee, bearing in mind that the evidence before the committee so far is on the basis of an unsigned letter from Mr Glenn, a signed letter from Mr Peters, an actual physical appearance by Brian Henry barrister at law in New Zealand, and a physical appearance before that committee of the Rt Hon Winston Peters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Key’s behaviour would suggest that the National Party has indeed prejudged the case, and they may wish to think better of that.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister recall that earlier this year it was actually Mr Owen Glenn who came forward and gave the information that it was he who gave the $100,000 loan to the Labour Party? Guess what? It turned out to be correct. So why would the information that Mr Glenn has given to the Privileges Committee, which contradicts everything that Winston Peters has said, be incorrect?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For the umpteenth time, there is conflict of evidence and the matter is before the Privileges Committee.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If Mr Glenn remembers a meeting in Sydney at which there were certain discussions that relate to the electoral system in this country, yet the meeting was over the Bledisloe Cup weekend in August—well before the election—what does it suggest with respect to whose recollection may be true or false?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is no way that question can be within Standing Orders. The Prime Minister of New Zealand has absolutely no responsibility for the recollection of Mr Owen Glenn. She does have responsibility for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but that is not what the question was about.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The member is 100 percent wrong. First of all, the Prime Minister is apprised of the reference to Sydney by Mr Owen Glenn, and by me as to the date of it, which, unhappily for the National Party and Mr Hide, was before the election.

Gerry Brownlee: No, it wasn’t; it was November.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it was not. Good try. [Interruption] This is a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, it is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Tell the buffoon to sit down and keep quiet.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will sit down. The primary question was a very broad question. The supplementary questions that have flowed from it have been equally broad, but I think the member has raised a good point. We should keep within the parameters as to the primary question although, as I said, it has been broadly canvassed on a variety of issues. The Rt Hon Prime Minister, I ask you to address the question if you can.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have long since forgotten what it was.

/NR/rdonlyres/C82B9BF0-6A3E-4920-831B-E8C5F4B4A313/92314/48HansQ_20080827_00000077_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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3. Roading—Waikato

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

3. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has she received on developments in Waikato roading?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : I have seen a report in the Waikato Times noting that National’s deputy transport spokesperson, David Bennett, has backed Maurice Williamson’s exuberant statements about tolling. He went so far as to say tolling is a “big vote-winner”. Unfortunately for him, 24 hours later, there was yet another clarification. David Bennett has now been muzzled, and, as the Dominion Post would say, he is choking on his own spurt of honesty.

Sue Moroney: What reports has she seen about tolling the existing Auckland harbour bridge?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, the stories go on and on. Today in the New Zealand Herald columnist Bryan Rudman talks about how North Shore MP Wayne Mapp has gone silent on his campaign for a toll on the existing harbour bridge. Not $3, not $5, but $6 a trip is what Mr Mapp has been proposing. That is $12 a day—at 5 days a week, that is $60 a week. The tax cut is gone and so is some of the grocery money.

Hon Bill English: When will the Minister of Transport outline Labour’s tolling policy, which she has failed to do after repeated questions in this House; or is she as embarrassed about her tolling policy as she is about Labour’s exhaust tax, whereby it plans to put a $10,000 tax on the average family car, as outlined in an official Government document that I showed the House yesterday?

Hon ANNETTE KING: All of the rest of New Zealand has heard Labour’s tolling policy. Labour’s tolling policy is set out in the very legislation this Government passed in 2003. I wonder whether Mr English would now like to tell the House—and give the House a little bit of honesty—what he said about roads that do not have a free alternative. He said: “We wouldn’t toll roads unless there was a free alternative.” I draw his attention to the commentary of the Land Transport Management Bill where the National Party said the Minister has to ensure there is a feasible untolled alternative road available for road users. “We believe”—this is the National Party—“that this provision will make it most unlikely that toll roads will receive any investment in New Zealand.” So what Bill English said about there being another alternative is not true.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I may have misheard; I thought Mr English just said “That’s right.” Is that correct?

Hon Bill English: That’s not a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is right.

/NR/rdonlyres/A66D58E6-FF1F-42AA-A9AF-671676EBFADD/92316/48HansQ_20080827_00000237_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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4. Election Advertising—Government Departments

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Is it Government policy that Government departments may not publish election advertisements; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : As I have told the member previously, it is not only Government policy but also it is the wish of Parliament, as set out in section 67 of the Electoral Finance Act 2007.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Inland Revenue Department dropped plans to distribute 1.4 million copies of a KiwiSaver flier to every household in the country, and can she confirm that the Inland Revenue Department drafted an email to the Minister of Finance, which stated: “The main reason that we are concerned that a leaflet arriving into every household in an election year is too risky, there is too much potential for people to say: ‘Look how the Government is spending your money to get around the Electoral Finance Act.’ ”, and what does it say about a Government, when even its own departments believe it is trying to rort the law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Perhaps I could just update the member. He has a nice little email that he thought would be a very good little question today, but I would like to table the letter from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Mr Robert Russell, who said the eventual decision reflected the fact there was a high awareness and uptake of KiwiSaver, already much higher than anticipated, meaning the household-wide distribution of the flier was not warranted, and this was conveyed to Ministers. [Interruption] Oh, so they are saying that Mr Russell was a liar. Well, I take exception to that.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that Mr Russell informed both the Minister of Revenue, who is not a Labour Party member, and me that the advice he and officials gave was that there was no need for the flier, because the uptake was so high, that Ministers were never informed about any departmental officials’ doubts in terms of the Electoral Finance Act, that that played no part in the final decision; or is the National Party—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yeah, right!

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: —now going to call Mr Russell a liar? “Yes, that’s right.”, says Dr Nick Smith, the only person in this House convicted by a court of being a liar.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you know what the point of order is, Madam Speaker. Earlier on you pulled up my colleague Rodney Hide for using that term. I would have thought you would pull up Dr Cullen for the same reason.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Dr Nick Smith was convicted of contempt of court, and the judge made some lengthy comments about the fact that he did not regard any statement made by Dr Smith as at all reliable.

Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker, in the case of Rodney Hide and Winston Peters you took the action of getting the member to withdraw that term because it is unparliamentary. I suggest that these are similar circumstances and that the same action would be required of the Chair.

Madam SPEAKER: The reason I was hesitating is that I was recalling that what was said was in the context of not directly calling Dr Smith a liar, but in the context of a decision by the court. However—if members wish to remain to hear the end of my ruling—if members taken offence, I will ask the member to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Perhaps Dr Nick Smith would like to apologise for implying that the Commissioner of Inland Revenue is a liar. Anybody who knows Mr Russell knows he is not. In fact, Mr Russell is on record as saying that the matter around the KiwiSaver pamphlet was not drawn to the attention of Ministers and therefore played no part in their decision.

Madam SPEAKER: Normally it is when you call each other liars that it is required that you withdraw and apologise. When a reference is made to someone outside this House, there are procedures that enable that person also to take a course of action to correct the record if that is what that person wishes to do.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was making a different point. I was inviting the member to withdraw and apologise on this matter because we are talking about a very senior public servant and, given the very nature of his office, members of Parliament have to have a very high level of confidence in the Commissioner of Inland Revenue. He is a man who has said very clearly—and the documentation is available—that the matter raised in that email was never brought to the attention of Ministers and therefore played no part in the Ministers’ decision. It was based solely on the advice that the uptake of KiwiSaver was so large there was no need for any further publicity.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The Minister said that the decision by the Commissioner of Inland Revenue not to publish the KiwiSaver pamphlet was nothing to do with the Electoral Finance Act. I interjected “Yeah, right!”—I did not call the Commissioner of Inland Revenue a liar or anything else. The only person who suggested that has been Dr Cullen himself. I suggest that the member get a little bit less sensitive, rather than going down the track that he has.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I cannot let this point go, because of the nature of the official we are talking about. What I have said very clearly to the House, and with documentary evidence that has already been in part tabled by the Minister, is that the matter in the email was never brought to the attention of Ministers. The only matter brought to the attention of Ministers by the Inland Revenue Department was that the KiwiSaver scheme was so successful that there was no need for further publicity. So the member is either calling me a liar, or he is calling the Commissioner of Inland Revenue a liar.

Madam SPEAKER: I will take the member’s word for it. He said he did not call the official a liar, and if he said he did not, then we must take his word for it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the last contribution to the point of order, and the previous one that Dr Cullen was making, both Dr Smith and Mr Brownlee repeatedly—at least twice each—interjected during the point of order. I ask that the normal rules apply to members at this time.

Madam SPEAKER: It would certainly assist with the rulings on the numerous points of order that I have been asked to rule on today if people would not speak or interject during them, as is the rule.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I agree with the comments made by Dr Cullen. I have with me a letter from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Robert Russell, who makes it clear that the decision on the KiwiSaver pamphlet—not to issue it—was because there was already much higher than anticipated uptake, meaning that the household-wide distribution of the flyer was not warranted. That is the reason why there was no distribution of—[Interruption] You see, they do not have to say he is a liar. The members imply it by their comments.

Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the emails written by the Department of Inland Revenue officials, which include the statement: “The main reason that we are concerned that a leaflet arriving into every household in an election year is too risky” is because people will say: “Look how—”

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

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am speaking on a point of order. I seek leave to table the letter from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Robert Russell, setting out the KiwiSaver flyer decision.

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

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that in the Electoral Finance Act, which did prevent the Inland Revenue Department from putting out that pamphlet, Labour also altered section 32 of the Electoral Finance Act to ensure that Owen Glenn would be able to continue to donate to the Labour Party, despite having lived overseas for decades. They altered a provision designed to stop overseas donations, simply for Owen Glenn.

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister, as part of the Labour Cabinet, now regret changing the law so that Owen Glenn could continue to donate, given the complexities that have arisen from his donations to various political parties?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government does not regret the changes that were made by the Electoral Finance Act, because it has meant that Bill English and his mates, who were salting away millions of dollars so they could spend it in a rort to buy this election with their Brethren mates, have been stopped.

/NR/rdonlyres/2C815877-D50E-45DE-B6CF-A010166B4B3B/92318/48HansQ_20080827_00000273_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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5. Māori and Pasifika Students—Equity Funding

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

5. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: How many Māori students and Pacific students currently enrolled at a private training establishment would be eligible for equity funding if they attended a university, ITP, or wānanga; and what would be the annual cost of extending equity funding to include Māori students and Pacific students in private training establishments?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Tertiary Education) : Strictly speaking, the answer to the question is none, because the money is attached to the institution, not to the students. Equity funding is paid for Māori and Pasifika students studying at diploma level, degree level, and post-graduate level. From memory, if we were to extend it to private training establishments, it would increase the budget by a little under half a million dollars.

Te Ururoa Flavell: When was the decision made to exclude private training establishments from receiving equity funding for Māori and Pasifika students, and what was the rationale behind the decision?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry, I do not know when the decision was made. I had a look at it when the member put his question down, and I think he raises a good point, although it has to be said it is not a very large point. To give members some idea of the size, I point out that the student achievement funding that would flow to private training establishments if equity funding is included in their mix would go up from about $132.3 million to $132.7 million. So it is a good issue that the member raises, but it cannot be said to be a large one.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister have any intention of reviewing the policy of excluding private training establishments from receiving equity funding for Māori and Pasifika students; if so, when; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: As a result of the member putting the question down, I had a look at the issue earlier today. I think, as I said, that the member raises a good point, albeit not a large one. The fact that it is quite small does not mean that it should not be looked at. I think we should take a look at it. As private training establishments move into the investment plan process, it may well be that equity funding becomes part of that mix. It is finally the decision of the Tertiary Education Commission, but I will ask officials to take a look at it next week.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is there any evidence that Māori students and Pasifika students enrolled at private training establishments have less need of Government support compared to Māori students and Pasifika students enrolled at universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, or wānanga; if so, what is the evidence?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I do not think there is. The issue here is that there is a very small number of students studying at the appropriate level in the private training establishment sector who are not getting equity funding. As I said, it is a very small amount of money. The fact that it is a small issue does not mean that it should not be looked at.

/NR/rdonlyres/A4CD26CE-F65E-4CDC-A129-D9A7C8A25957/92320/48HansQ_20080827_00000324_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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6. Emissions Trading Scheme—Cost of Changes

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

6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What are the changes to the emissions trading scheme that the Government has agreed to secure its passage, and what is the cost of these measures?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : The Government will in due course release a full list of the measures agreed to.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What is the cost of the compensation package referred to by Jeanette Fitzsimons, which she said would be available to all households when electricity entered the scheme, with the level based on household income?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I find it somewhat ironic that the party that has been, to be frank, whingeing for weeks that the Government will pocket $20 billion from the emissions trading scheme—which has always been untrue—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: He wishes!

Hon DAVID PARKER: As Dr Cullen says, he wishes. It does not even break even until 2020 and now we have a complaint going the other way. I am sure we can expect questions in the future—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have not complained; I have simply asked a very straight question: what is the cost of the compensation package? National does not make a judgment as to whether it is good, bad, or indifferent. We just want to know what it is. I ask the Minister what the cost is of the compensation package.

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said in the answer to the primary question, those details will be released in due course.

Moana Mackey: What is the cost of not going ahead with the emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: If the emissions trading scheme does not proceed, the cost to the taxpayer of increasing emissions is many hundreds of millions of dollars in the period to 2012 alone. That would be the fate of the country if National were in power. I know that the National Party says it would have an emissions trading scheme promptly if it were the Government, but the editorial in this morning’s New Zealand Herald nailed it when it stated: “That promise is not credible.”

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Where is the money coming from for the $1 billion for home insulation and household compensation, noting that Dr Cullen has said there is no fiscal room without borrowing, or is the Government now borrowing to buy Green and New Zealand First support for the emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I am glad that the member has raised the issue again, because members on this side of the House are proud to stand and say that we will not increase debt as a proportion of GDP to fund tax cuts. Where is the money coming from? That member sat on the select committee. It was only 1 month ago. I expect he would recall that the money is coming from the extra revenue that flows from the Crown through electricity prices.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that the principle of recycling of revenue from the emissions trading scheme meets one of the six conditions that the National Party has put forward for an emissions trading scheme—that it be revenue-neutral to Government—and that giving households back, in the form of warm, dry homes, some of what they will pay to the electricity companies is actually a very sensible way to recycle revenue?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm my belief in the wisdom of the move. Indeed, I do not think there is any doubt that what is proposed here, if this legislation gets the support that we desire, will constitute the biggest ever investment in household energy efficiency that this country has ever seen. It really is another great example of how some of the things we do in the name of climate change make such good sense for New Zealand in so many different ways.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister just tell the House that the package for the Greens is to be funded from the windfall profits to the State electricity companies when Dr Cullen told Parliament on 20 May that “the State-owned enterprises that are anticipating increased profits have already planned to use those increased profits as part of their investment programme in … energy production,” and that without that increased investment there is not the slightest prospect of the Government meeting our renewable energy targets; how come he has now spent the money somewhere else?

Hon DAVID PARKER: For a start, the issue as to energy efficiency, although it is important to the Greens, is important not only to the Greens but to the Labour Party and to New Zealand First and, I am sure, to other parties in this Parliament that I hope will support the legislation. In terms of some of the revenue that flows to State-owned enterprises being needed for reinvestment in renewables, that too is true—there is no inconsistency between those statements.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister accept what is blindingly obvious to every parliamentarian and political commentator that the only reason the Prime Minister has not sacked Winston Peters is that she is absolutely desperate to get the legislation on the emissions trading scheme through, regardless of what it does for parliamentary or ministerial standards?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would say in respect of the minority parties that often support this Government that they have a more responsible voting record in this House than members of the National Party, whether it is increasing support for superannuitants rather than cutting it, like Mr English did when he was Minister of Finance; whether it is support for KiwiSaver, which was backed by the Greens and New Zealand First and opposed by National; or whether it is support for the emissions trading scheme.

/NR/rdonlyres/0E022CE8-394B-4473-BDE9-EC9D7910EEA4/92322/48HansQ_20080827_00000367_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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7. Education—Public-private Partnerships

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

7. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on public-private partnerships in education?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) :I have seen a report from National’s infrastructure spokesperson, Maurice Williamson, which was later confirmed by National’s education spokesperson, Anne Tolley, that the party would, effectively, privatise school property by contracting out the building and maintenance of schools. This report, of course, comes hot on the heels of National’s other pledge— also blurted out on the Agenda programme by John Key—to double the funding for private schools. Clearly, National does not support a State-funded, quality public education system for all New Zealanders.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What models for public-private partnerships has the Minister seen being promoted?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen reports of Mrs Tolley promoting public-private partnership projects in Australia. Overseas experience of public-private partnerships shows they can have a very negative impact on public education. Experience in the US, Canada, and the UK has shown that schools built by public-private partnerships cost more than State schools in the life of the project. Indeed, only a few companies ever bid for them, so competition is cut down. Schools have faced huge hikes in management fees, community groups can no longer use public school buildings, and parliamentary oversight is severely diminished under a cloak of commercial sensitivity. After 11 years of public-private partnership education policies being championed by the Howard Government in Australia, almost half of Australian students attend totally private schools. Coupled with Mr Key’s pledge to double funding for private schools, this disastrous public-private partnership model may be the sort of public education system that National wants for New Zealand, but Labour will continue to directly resource schools in a very significant—

Madam SPEAKER: The answer is far too long.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister confirm that the Government does not own the buildings of over 2,500 early childhood centres, over 300 State-integrated schools, over 100 private schools, or, for that matter, even the Ministry of Education building here in Wellington; if so, why on earth is he showing all this faux outrage about the use of the private sector in school property building and maintenance?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Why does that member never listen to an answer! I have just laid out the perils and pitfalls of public-private partnerships in public schools. In Australia, in Canada, in the UK, and in the USA, these policies have been a disaster. That member would like to semi-privatise our public schools; Labour is totally opposed to that.

Dail Jones: Can the Minister confirm that a public-private partnership in education can include the sale of existing State-owned schools on the basis of their being leased back to the school trustees for a market rental—a policy that could, for example, easily fund the National Party’s tax cuts?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister should not answer the last bit of the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Indeed it could. But, of course, National will fund its tax cuts by slashing education spending, which is what it did last time.

/NR/rdonlyres/73DDA01A-E1DF-48B0-B257-DD6C55983AAC/92324/48HansQ_20080827_00000441_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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8. Education, Ministry—Staffing

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

8. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement on 13 March 2008 that “in 2002 the Special Education Service was merged with the Ministry of Education. Statistically this increased the Ministry of Education’s staff but actually created no new positions”; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) :Yes; although that member and her party have been trying to beat up the notion of a huge surge in staff numbers at the Ministry of Education, actually 1,458 existing staff from special education and early childhood merged with the ministry. Another 112 staff were taken on at that time, but they were to fill existing vacancies, as well as to deal with growing areas like international education, work on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and initiatives like AIMHI. I guess that to that member, 112 new staff positions out of a total ministry employee roll of 2,890 would be a blowout, but not to the parents and schools that those 112 staff positions were designed to help.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister confirm that on 13 June this year he received a report stating that when the merger of the Special Education Service with the Ministry of Education is taken away, the size of the ministry has ballooned by 111 percent, from 578 fulltime-equivalents to 1,223 fulltime-equivalents?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: That member always confirms that she never listens to an answer. I just said in my primary answer that 112 new positions were created to deal with issues like international education and to fill existing vacancies in special education. If she thinks that 112 out of over 2,800 staff is a ballooning, then her numeracy is as poor as her literacy.

Hon Mark Burton: Can the Minister tell us whether he has seen any other reports about the funding of schools?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen numerous reports of Mrs Tolley and her leader, John Key, telling schools up and down the country that National—

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That question is actually very wide of the primary question, which related to the numbers of staff who work for the Ministry of Education.

Madam SPEAKER: If the Minister interprets the question in that context, he can answer it in that way.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen numerous reports of Mrs Tolley and her leader, John Key, telling teachers and schools up and down the country that the only way National will increase funding to schools is by sacking bureaucrats and staff at the Ministry of Education. As I have told this House already on a number of occasions, if we slash the total salary of every staff member not involved in front-line services, it comes to $54.6 million, which equates to $21,900 per school—not even enough to employ a single teacher. It is time that National came clean with regard to its educational policy. So far we have only heard of doubling the funding for private schools, discredited national testing, the semi-privatisation of public schools through public-private partnerships, and taking the word “free” out of the 20 free hours that all 3 and 4-year-olds are entitled to. I ask Mrs Tolley to tell us what her policy is.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister confirm that under Labour the number of teachers has increased by only 13 percent, but according to his June report the size of the ministry, without the Special Education Service, has more than doubled, from 578 fulltime-equivalents to 1,223 fulltime-equivalents?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I remind the House again about that member’s poor grasp of both literacy and numeracy. She has already told the House that the staff has increased. She used the word “ballooning” by 112 positions. Actually, my maths tells me that that is by 7.4 percent, so I am sorry, I tell “Mrs Tulley”, but the numbers do not add up, again.

Anne Tolley: Does the report that the Minister received in June, which talks about 111 percent—percent, I tell the Minister, not numbers—not completely discredit his previous statements that the ministry increased only because of the special education merger, and prove that he has been completely wrong to blame ballooning staff numbers at the ministry on the special education merger—and I remind the Minister that the figures are 578 growing to 1,223; my maths seems to be a lot better than his.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am looking forward to going through the Hansard account of this question, because we have heard from Mrs Tolley a number of different numbers. I remind her that she talked about 112 being that ballooning number of bureaucrats. I tell Mrs Tolley that no matter how much she wriggles and twists, and no matter how much she tries to repeat—

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Whatever disrespect the Minister has for a senior female MP, he should at least show her the respect of using her name correctly, and he has not been doing so. I ask that he does. She is not “Mrs Tulley”.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; I heard it as Tolley. But I have always understood that the member wished to be referred to as Anne Tolley. I think that is the acceptable mode of address. However, I thought the point of order was going to be, so I will make this point anyway, will the member please be succinct and address the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: If Mr English’s understanding of the English language is different from mine—and I guess he does come from Southland—I will repeat my answer.

Madam SPEAKER: That is unnecessary.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will repeat my reference to the member. Mrs Tolley has told us that there were 112 new staff at the Ministry of Education in 2002. The ministry’s total staff was 2,890, so where does she get the percentage from that she came up with? Clearly, her numeracy skills leave much to be desired.

Anne Tolley: Why has the Minister not come to the House and corrected the statement he made on 13 March 2008, when he knows full well from the report he received in June that even putting aside the special education merger, the Ministry of Education has ballooned out by 111 percent, from 578 fulltime-equivalents to 1,223 fulltime- equivalents, putting aside any of the staff that are involved in special education; that, I tell the Minister, is very easy to do, so why has he not come to the House and corrected the statement he made back in March?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Just because the member keeps repeating something, that does not make it true. The truth of the matter, as has been explained in this House not just today but on previous occasions, is that Group Special Education and the early childhood service came into the ministry. If the member cannot grasp that, then I will send it over in big print and in simpler language.

Madam SPEAKER: Oh, that is not necessary.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the report that went to the Minister in June, which shows quite clearly the figures—

 Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know this may not be an issue that you should deal with now, but I am concerned that in that particular exchange we saw an extreme example of a member making snide references to another member’s lack of intelligence. I think that it was part of the content of every answer that he gave. I know that this is a robust environment and that we could expect occasionally—as does happen, but only occasionally—that references are made to other members’ lack of intelligence. In this case it was persistent, and I would be interested in your view as to whether you think that is to become acceptable behaviour in the Chamber.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I sure what the member has said is true, but the member often uses the word “dumb” to describe members on this side of the House.

Madam SPEAKER: Members often, in their interjections, probably do not hear themselves in the excitement of the moment. The member is right, however, that members should address each other in a courteous way, and references to the mental prowess, or lack thereof, of a particular member are inappropriate in questions and in debate.

/NR/rdonlyres/21B0D437-3E3C-4D6F-BF40-117AE3F86DAC/92326/48HansQ_20080827_00000485_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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9. Broadband Network—Roll-out

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

9. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology: What steps is the Government taking to accelerate the roll-out of high-speed broadband?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) : This Government is committed to ensuring that all New Zealanders have access to faster, cheaper broadband. Yesterday I announced details of the Broadband Investment Fund, which will help facilitate high-speed broadband to businesses, universities, schools, and hospitals; extend the reach of broadband into underserved regions, particularly in the rural sector; and improve the resilience of New Zealand’s international connections.

Moana Mackey: Has he received any other reports on ways to speed up investment in broadband?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, I have seen a report from Maurice Williamson MP that he was “going to have to be very careful about any detail”, and when asked whether he intended it to compete with the incumbent, Telecom, he said: “Well, no. The intention is to have a sort of utility, just like your water, your sewerage, your gas.” From one of the National Party’s great proponents of privatisation, this sudden urge to renationalise the telecommunications industry is somewhat curious.

/NR/rdonlyres/61BFDC0F-7A5A-4347-B401-97320D837172/92328/48HansQ_20080827_00000561_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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10. Vehicle Fuel Economy Standard—Government Goals

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

10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Associate Minister of Transport: Does she stand by her statement that the vehicle fuel economy standard is an important initiative to assist the Government in achieving its transport strategy goals, its Energy Strategy goals, and its climate change goals?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister of Transport) : Yes, and I would note that that is also National’s A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand discussion document policy. Mr English may not have realised this, as he is new to the transport portfolio, but the policy discussion paper that he is so excited about, Improving the Fuel Economy of Vehicles Entering the New Zealand Fleet: A discussion paper for public comment, was published in January 2008.

Hon Bill English: Can the Associate Minister confirm that Labour’s car tax next year will add a tax of $900 to a Honda Accord, a tax of $4,650 to a Toyota Hiace, and a tax of $10,200 to a Holden Commodore, so that by 2015 that family car will be bearing a tax of $16,800; and does that show any concern for the cost to motorists?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No. Ministers do not favour, and have never favoured, the option that Mr English is focusing on—to place a fee on inefficient vehicles. That is National Party policy, as stated on page 5 of A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand, where National states: “Providing incentives for more fuel-efficient imported vehicles, financed through penalties for inefficient vehicles,”.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Associate Minister confirm that the penalty for inefficient vehicles, as proposed by the Business Council for Sustainable Development and referred to in A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand: Discussion paper by Hon Dr Nick Smith MP, was $2,000 per vehicle?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Yes.

Hon Bill English: Is the Associate Minister of Transport pleased that the Labour Government has put so much faith in her that throughout the election campaign she will be justifying to New Zealanders taxes of up to $10,000 on family vehicles?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: At no stage has any Minister proposed that. Bill English cannot hide National’s embarrassment about proposing a toll of $60 a week on every Aucklander for its supposed roading project. That is what he will have to justify during the election campaign.

Hon Bill English: Can the Associate Minister tell us why, if no Minister has proposed a tax of $16,000 on a Holden Commodore, she signed the foreword of the document that laid out these proposals, which claims that this proposal was critical not just to the carbon reduction strategy but also to the Energy Strategy and a number of other strategies that, apparently, the Government wants to execute?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The rest of the world is introducing rules to improve the efficiency of cars entering fleets. If New Zealand is not careful, we will end up being the dumping ground for dross that is no longer acceptable in most other countries. This Government is trying to save money for New Zealanders at the petrol pump, and to make sure we have clean air to breathe. What is wrong with that?

Lesley Soper: Has she seen any reports of flip-flops on vehicle efficiency policy?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Yes. Bill English has proposed a policy that would introduce a $2,000 penalty on inefficient new cars, as announced on page 5 of National’s A Bluegreen Vision for New Zealand, which was released in October 2006. National described the introduction of financial penalties as “common sense” and “practical measures that New Zealand could be taking”. I compare that statement with Bill English’s behaviour yesterday, when he claimed that the Government had approved a stealth tax, when we had done no such thing. National is being two-faced. It is becoming a complete pantomime every day. I feel sorry for John Key, who has found out that, as Brian Rudman says, that when teaching old dogs new tricks, playing dead should be one of them.

Madam SPEAKER: Those final comments were unnecessary.

Hon Bill English: Would the Associate Minister promise to actively campaign in Auckland Central, so that we can win it, and will that campaign—

Hon Harry Duynhoven: There’s no need for that nonsense either, Bill.

Hon Bill English: Eh? Does the Minister—

Hon Harry Duynhoven: You complain readily enough when flippant questions are asked, so why do you go and ask stupid ones yourself?

Hon Bill English: Just because Harry’s now polling behind someone we put up 6 weeks ago! I say him that he is going to be well up the list; he should not worry—it will be fine. Does the Associate Minister intend to carry out the Prime Minister’s wish to make sustainability the core of Labour’s election campaign, and is it her intention to do a pamphlet drop to every household in New Zealand to advertise Labour’s plans to impose taxes of over $10,000 on family vehicles; and is that the kind of strategy she expects is going to win her Auckland Central?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The discussion paper that was released by the Government, which believes in open debate, called Improving the Fuel Economy of Vehicles Entering the New Zealand Fleet,had submissions made on it that indicated that no one thinks the status quo is an option. If the National Party wants to campaign on inefficient vehicles that cost New Zealanders fuel, and time, and air quality, then it should campaign on that. I am serious about indicating to New Zealanders that increasing fuel economy means that they have options to buy vehicles that will save them money and save them from sickness and death. These options are about open government, not hidden agendas.

Hon Bill English: Can we take it from the Minister’s answer that Labour’s proposal to save motorists money is to put a $10,000 tax on the cars?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: No. At no stage has any Minister suggested that or accepted that.

/NR/rdonlyres/B5A9B952-AABA-4329-B09D-82DC3B7BE768/92330/48HansQ_20080827_00000606_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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11. Oil Prices—Managing Transport Challenges When Oil Prices Rise

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

11. PETER BROWN (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Is the report Managing Transport Challenges When Oil Prices Rise going to be adopted as Government policy; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport) : No; the Government has recently released the New Zealand Transport Strategy, which sets out its policies for transport. This research report was commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency to provide further information on potential impacts of changing oil prices on New Zealand’s medium to long term transport needs. The New Zealand Transport Agency regularly commissions and publishes research of interest in the transport sector. The findings of this report are the findings of the research company alone.

Peter Brown: Noting those comments, how can this report be taken seriously when it ignores completely any uptake of new vehicle technology, and goes on to state: “If improved vehicle technology reduces the sensitivity of travel demands to high fuel prices, then results of this report may need to be re-evaluated.”; how the dickens can it be taken seriously?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As I said, the New Zealand Transport Agency regularly commissions and publishes research. Not everybody agrees with the research that is undertaken, and obviously this is the report of the research company alone. Any research that is done in relation to the Government’s policy statement, and in relation to our strategy, will relate to the goals that we wish to achieve.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister share my view that it is much better to have a report that shows some faith in human resource, initiative, and innovation, than to undertake an exercise that evaluates the situation when we do have cars appearing on our roads that operate under improved technology and not powered by petrol or diesel, and thereby not paying terribly much into the National Land Transport Fund?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Can I assure the member that a lot of work is being done on the use of new technologies, and I would not get too worried about this particular research report. I think the work that has been done by my colleague David Parker, and by Jeanette Fitzsimons in her own area, will be more significant in terms of new technology than any comments in this report.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that there are only 36 electric cars registered for use on the roads in New Zealand, that those 36 cars are rated as if they were diesel vehicles and are therefore required to pay road-user charges at the same rate as a diesel vehicle, and does she think that the failure of the Government’s desire to see more electric vehicles on the road is because the policy from the Government does not encourage it?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, quite the contrary. The Government does encourage it, and has set the goal to be the first country in the world to have a large number of electric vehicles. However, the member is not very informed about electric vehicles, because it is very new and cutting-edge technology. We are seeing some of the first electric cars being produced on a mass basis in Japan, and I believe we will see more of those cars here. But I have to say to the member that whether vehicles are powered by diesel or petrol, eventually every vehicle will have to pay for the use of the road, because no matter how they are generated in terms of energy, they still use the road, and I do not believe that, in the long term, New Zealanders would want to see one lot of road users paying for the use of the road and another lot not.

/NR/rdonlyres/2AED2FF0-C195-43DA-ADE7-E60272F6D3C0/92332/48HansQ_20080827_00000691_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 27 August 2008 [PDF 233k]

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12. Māori Trustee—General Purposes Fund

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

12. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does the Māori Trustee support the expropriation of $35 million out of the Māori Trustee’s general purposes fund?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs) : The Māori Trustee was closely involved in the proposal to establish the new statutory corporation, including the transfer of the $35 million, and continues to support the concept of Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand.

Hon Tau Henare: In light of that answer, can the Minister confirm that the Crown Law Office has advised that “the Māori Trustee is the legal owner of the general purposes fund, and no other person can claim ownership of the assets in that fund”; and can he explain why the Minister is actually ignoring advice from the Government’s own Crown Law Office and pushing ahead with plans to steal beneficiary money out of the said general purposes fund?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: There is also a Crown Law opinion that other things can be developed on the way through, and it is on that basis that we are going forward in relation to setting up Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand, which will help Māori develop enterprise.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker, tēnā koutou katoa. Why is the Government proposing changes to the Maori Trustee Act?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The proposed changes arise from a longstanding review of the Māori Trustee and the Māori Trust Office, along with the decisions taken in Budget 2008. They provide for the Māori Trustee better funding, accountability, and returns to beneficiaries, a significant funding pool for Māori economic development, and, in terms of Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand, a significant funding pool for Māori economic development, independent governance and decision-making processes, and accountability to Māori for those decisions.

Hon Tau Henare: Given that the Māori Trustee is, by law, independent of the Crown, why, despite Crown Law Office that the Minister has no legal or beneficial claim to the money in the general purposes fund, is he and his Government trying to force the Māori Trustee, who said at a select committee that he does not support the taking of $35 million from the general purposes fund; why is it that the Minister is again trying to steal money through the legislative process?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I was surprised that during the select committee process the Māori Trustee said he no longer supported transferring the $35 million via legislation. But I was also interested in the press release of 23 July, where he said that at the select committee Mr Paki reiterated his support for the stand-alone agency and his agreement in principle for the proposed Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand, and he restated his view that more work needed to occur before the entity was established.

Hon Tau Henare: If, if the Māori Trustee—

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: If, if what?

Hon Tau Henare: Sorry, what was that?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Carry on!

Hon Tau Henare: What did the Minister not understand when Crown Law advised that “no other person can claim ownership of the assets in the general purposes fund”, or is this another case of Labour thinking it does not have to obey the law of New Zealand just like everyone else—just like the Electoral Finance Act, just like the pledge card, and just like every other law that it has broken in the last 9 years?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: What is at stake here is a proposal to write off over $60 million worth of historical debt, and to introduce $19 million to improve the operational capacity of the Māori Trustee—a $4 million capital grant and a transfer, hopefully, of $35 million. It is akin to transferring from one waka to the other to help aid and abet the progress of Māori. What is the member’s policy on that?

Hon Tau Henare: Our policy is not to steal.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will just ask the question.

Hon Tau Henare: When was the Minister—[Interruption] Oh, just give the diary back. When was the Minister given the Crown Law advice that the Māori Trustee—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think you’ve tucked it in front of your tummy, Tau.

Hon Tau Henare: How’s Tuku Morgan eh? What’s it like dealing with Tuku Morgan now, Trevor? Ha, ha! Never mind, Trevor! When was the Minister given the Crown Law advice that “the Māori Trustee is the legal owner of the general purposes fund, and no other person can claim ownership of the assets in the fund”—when was he given that advice?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Crown Law advice has been there for a period of time. I also assure the member that there is other Crown Law advice, and other legal advice about what we can do in developing a fund for the sake of Māori progress.

Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave to table the Crown Law advice, which actually says—

- Leave granted.


ENDS

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