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Questions And Answers - Thursday, 28 August 2008

Questions And Answers - Thursday, 28 August 2008


1. Foreign Affairs, Racing, Minister—Confidence

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

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement to the House yesterday in respect of Owen Glenn’s letter regarding donations to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which statement she said: “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.”; if so, why does she stand by that statement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The matter has been referred to the Privileges Committee, which is in the middle of its consideration of that matter. There is a process there to be followed and to be completed. It is the clear intention, as I understand it, of all members of that committee that its report will be finalised and reported back to the House in time for that report to be debated.

Gordon Copeland: Is it not now impossible to reconcile her statement to the House on 22 July: “Mr Peters has said he was not aware of who contributed to the fund for his legal fighting costs,” with the fact that Mr Glenn has said Mr Peters asked him for a donation in 2005; and if it is, as everyone else believes, now impossible to reconcile those two statements, will she now act to preserve the reputation of this House and of our country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is my understanding that both Mr Peters and Mr Henry continue to assert that the approach to Mr Glenn for a donation was made by Mr Henry, not by Mr Peters.

Hon Bill English: In light of the Prime Minister’s statement today, in which she said she was advised by Owen Glenn that he had made a donation to New Zealand First and that she was advised in February, does she believe she misled Parliament yesterday when she said “it is somewhat futile for me as Prime Minister … to try to get into some kind of analysis of the evidence.” when it turns out she knew exactly the facts of the matter?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The last part of that question is an interpolation that does not rest upon fact. It is worthwhile—[Interruption] Madam Speaker, did you hear that? I heard it quite clearly.

Madam SPEAKER: You did? Would you ask then for it to be withdrawn and apologised for, please.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, Madam Speaker, indeed.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please do so. A point of order has been taken for the comment to be withdrawn and an apology made.

John Carter: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I thank the member. The notion that it is all some kind of huge secret seems to ignore the fact that on Tuesday, 20 February, on the 6 p.m. news, Television New Zealand carried the story that some kind of donation had been made to the New Zealand First party by Mr Owen Glenn. This was then followed up with a front-page story on 21 February in the New Zealand Herald, and that day Mr Glenn, of course, was attending the opening of the new business school at Auckland University, and the Prime Minister in the presence of Mr Trevor Mallard took the opportunity to talk with Mr Glenn and ask him whether in fact he had made a donation. He confirmed that he had made a donation, but it was not clear what to. New Zealand First—[Interruption] Madam Speaker, this really is like the crowd outside Tyburn Tree in the 18th century, I have to say. It is very much like it. I am not going to go further, but I remind the House that Mr Glenn is confused over this. Mr Glenn wrote an email, which was flourished on the front page of the New Zealand Herald, stating that he made a donation to New Zealand First, and has written a letter to the Privileges Committee saying the donation was to Brian Henry’s fees account for Winston Peters’ legal fees. There is a difference between those two statements.

Hon Bill English: Why has the Prime Minister withheld from the Parliament and the public the fact that she has known about Owen Glenn’s donation of $100,000 to Winston Peters since Owen Glenn told her in February?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister knew that Mr Glenn had made a donation; and whether it was to a trust account, a fees account, New Zealand First’s account, or some other account is, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, lost in the mists of time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Slippery!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure Dr Nick Smith can remember exactly what he was doing on 21 February this year, and might care to make a personal statement directly to the House to explain what it was. It could be very interesting, from some of the rumours that we hear about Dr Nick Smith. The reality is that the Prime Minister then rang Mr Peters, who was in South Africa, who said he had no knowledge of any such donation. Members will recall that on 28 February Mr Peters held up his famous “No” sign in that regard, and, according to Mr Peters, it was in July that he learnt about the donation. Nothing about that has changed.

Peter Brown: Will the Prime Minister put the record straight and clarify something: is she aware of the excellent work the Rt Hon Winston Peters has undertaken in both the portfolios referred to in the principal question, and does she believe that it is fair and ethical for Opposition members—senior Opposition members—to make such wild allegations whilst this issue is before the Privileges Committee, which is made up, I might add, of some senior members of the Opposition?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is no doubt that Mr Peters has served his country well as Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is no doubt there is a process in front of the Privileges Committee, and that that process should be followed through. I believe that Mr Key, Mr English, and others have placed their colleagues on the Privileges Committee in a seriously compromised position, because it is clear now that they are sitting there having prejudged the case.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether she, given the comments made earlier today about the Privileges Committee being able to do its work, will ensure, to the best endeavours that she can, that the committee is able to complete its inquiry and make its report to the House before the dissolution?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister does not control the Privileges Committee. It is master of its own destiny. As I pointed out to a couple of my colleagues on that committee—possibly at some risk of committing a breach of privilege myself—yesterday I raised the issue that with the House likely to be in urgency next week, leave of the committee will be required for it to sit before 9 a.m. on Thursday morning. I want it to seek that leave so it can complete its full 3-hour sitting time at that time. The members of the Labour Party on that committee want to see it complete its work.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that every time she has seen this picture on the TV in the last 6 months of Winston Peters saying the answer was “No”, she knew the answer was “Yes”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot, any more than I can confirm that Mr Key has ruled out a coalition with New Zealand First, because he only ruled out Mr Peters being in the Government, and did not rule out any other form of confidence and supply arrangement to prop up a National Government.

Hon Bill English: What trust can the public have in a Prime Minister who has led the media, the Parliament, and the public through a charade of weeks of questions and a Privileges Committee inquiry, while she has known the relevant facts all along, but did not reveal them?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is an assertion that is not based upon fact. As I said, the Prime Minister rang Mr Peters in South Africa, who clearly denied that he had any knowledge of that matter, and continued to do so, and the Prime Minister accepted his word on that matter. The Privileges Committee is not a charade; at least, it is not from the perspective of all the members other than those now, perhaps, from the National Party. But actually I do not think that it is a fair comment about Simon Power, or a number of other members on that committee. I would invite the member to think carefully before saying a Privileges Committee hearing is a charade.

Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister accept that the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in particular, to ride roughshod over due process calls into question the ability and the competence of the members that the National Party has on the Privileges Committee?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is a little akin to what would happen if the Minister of Finance said that interest rates should fall. The Governor of the Reserve Bank would almost certainly have to make sure they did not, in order to prove he was independent.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm to the House that the only reason she has made this information available today is her fear that Owen Glenn would reveal it if she did not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The Prime Minister and the Labour members on the Privileges Committee would dearly like to have Mr Glenn actually present or on television videoconference for full examination. One could then weigh the credibility of the various statements that have been made.

R Doug Woolerton: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports regarding confidence in her Minister that would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to run roughshod—sorry, I think that is the question that Mr Brown just read. However, Madam Speaker, there is another one.

Madam SPEAKER: From time to time we all make mistakes in this House.

R Doug Woolerton: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I will murder somebody when I get back to the office. Has the Prime Minister seen any reports regarding confidence in her Minister that would suggest that the previous leader of the National Party has shown up the current leader to be weak and noncommittal, and, as the presenter of Close Up put it, “slippery” in his statements about post-election negotiations?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you think about how the question was asked, there is no ministerial responsibility for the Prime Minister, or for the Deputy Prime Minister for that matter, in relation to the question asked—finally—by Mr Woolerton. When he talks to his staff back in the office—

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure about that, but I must say that if some members would lower their interruptions it would be a lot easier for the Speaker to be able to hear what was said. What I heard certainly was consistent with the Standing Orders, but, obviously, anything about another party’s policy cannot be commented on.

Gerry Brownlee: If you ask Mr Woolerton to read the question again—the right one—you will find that he did not ask for reports. He simply asked for comment.

Ron Mark: The question did start with: “Has the Minister seen reports?”.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, that is what I heard as well. I say to members these confusions arise when it is impossible to hear. There is much talk about freedom of speech—rightly so—in this House, and that includes the right to hear that speech.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a number of reports. I have seen a report in which Mr Key stated he would rule New Zealand First out of a coalition, but then qualified that statement by saying that only applied to Mr Peters, and failed to rule out any other arrangement that would secure confidence and supply. The current Government does not have a coalition with New Zealand First; it has a confidence and supply arrangement.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that Mr Peters’ denial that he received donations has turned out to be wrong, and that her denial that she knew anything about it has turned out to be wrong? So why should we believe the denial that the Labour Party arranged for this donation in order to secure the coalition arrangements with New Zealand First?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will take the last part of the question first. What Mr Glenn said was that he made a donation to Mr Henry’s fees account to pay for Mr Peters’ legal fees in relation to an electoral petition at a point that was after the formation of the confidence and supply agreement. How, therefore, could it have been a payment to secure the confidence and supply agreement?

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to reflect when you get a chance and to look at the Hansard of that, because that implied corruption, did it not? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Members will be asked to leave the Chamber if they intervene again during points of order.

Ron Mark: And that is directly contrary to the Standing Orders—no member of this House shall imply that another member has acted corruptly.

Madam SPEAKER: I will certainly look at it.

R Doug Woolerton: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports regarding confidence in her Minister that would suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is prepared to run roughshod over due process but lacks the courage of his predecessor, evident by his allowing himself room to wriggle out of his stance?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You know that there was unparliamentary language in that question. It cannot stand.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It was about lacking courage in that context.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. I must say to members that I simply cannot hear. As such, the rulings have to be based on imperfect information in that sense. So it is in the interests of members to please tone it down. I ask the member to withdraw the unparliamentary reference, then we will have the answer.

R Doug Woolerton: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have certainly seen reports indicating Mr Key has prejudged the Privileges Committee process. This is most unfortunate because that committee has been given greater independence in the term of this Parliament by having a senior member of the Opposition as chair. As I have already said today, Mr Key left himself an enormous amount of wiggle room yesterday in terms of any future arrangements with New Zealand First.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is getting a little bit tiresome to hear Dr Cullen constantly threatening members of the Privileges Committee and suggesting that Mr Key has somehow abused the process. It was the committee’s decision—the committee’s unanimous decision—to release the information that led to various decisions by all sorts of parties yesterday, including the Prime Minister’s decision to confess today about her own involvement in this matter. I think it is inappropriate for you to allow the Deputy Prime Minister to continue with the line of threat that he is taking at the moment. No one sitting on that committee has breached any committee protocols whatsoever and we reject totally the suggestion that we have. Mr Key, based on public information, made a very sound judgment.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Sound or otherwise, the point is that he made a judgment, and that is Alice in Wonderland territory. It is not sentence first and then judgment.

Hon Bill English: Why should the public and Parliament believe that the confession made today by Helen Clark is all that she knows about these matters; will she make herself available to the Privileges Committee to answer all questions directly about her involvement in donations to the Labour Party and New Zealand First?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is a specific matter in front of the Privileges Committee, and the committee is following through on that particular matter. It behoves all members of Parliament not to prejudge that outcome but rather to let the process proceed to its conclusion. The Prime Minister stated clearly on the basis of media reports that she was aware of possibilities, raised the issue with Mr Glenn, Mr Glenn said he had made a donation—not clear exactly to what—and Mr Peters denied that he had any knowledge of any such donation. That is where that matter rests, and nothing in that is inconsistent with all the material that is already in the public arena.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister understand how ridiculous her position now is, where she is trying to hide behind the Privileges Committee process—a process that would never have occurred if she had told the truth when she was asked?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I reject that accusation entirely. I do not think any member of that party should talk about telling the truth. We could go into that in a great deal more detail if Parliament had a few more months to run. I reject the notion completely that there is any kind of farcical aspect to the Privileges Committee hearing. The member is giggling because he thinks there is. I recall members doing exactly the same thing trying to convict Taito Phillip Field before there had been proper hearings in court.

Hon Bill English: If the Prime Minister is so concerned about telling the truth, did she tell the truth in this exchange on 25 February on 2ZB: “Presenter: ‘Do you believe that Owen Glenn gave substantial money to New Zealand First to help them pay their electoral spending bill?’ Clark: ‘Well, that—that’s a matter for New Zealand First to answer, isn’t it. It’s not a matter for me.’ ”; was that the truth?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely so. It was a matter for New Zealand First to answer. The Prime Minister had conflicting evidence. She, of course, took the word of her Minister. You see, the Prime Minister does not face the problem the Leader of the Opposition has—he cannot take the word of any of his front-bench colleagues on anything.

Rodney Hide: Why has the Prime Minister allowed the office of Prime Minister of New Zealand to be trapped in the web of deceit and deception that Mr Peters has woven around this $100,000 donation, and therefore put the New Zealand Government—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether I need to go very far, but the question itself is out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, if the member could rephrase his question in a parliamentary way; the comments about deception and corruption are not appropriate in this instance—just ask the question of the Minister.

Rodney Hide: Why has the Prime Minister not upheld the standard that every New Zealander expects and been totally honest about what she knew, therefore avoiding the suspicion that there could be a web of deceit and deception?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister knew that Mr Glenn said he had made a donation of some sort to some account. The Prime Minister also knew that Mr Peters denied any knowledge of any such donation. Indeed, my understanding is that the story that led to all of that was not in fact about the Glenn donation, in any case—the matter that Mr Dail Jones was referring to.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Prime Minister reveal today the fact that she knew about the donation, and not at some stage in the 6 months since the event occurred?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister knew that Mr Glenn had said he had made a donation, and knew that Mr Peters had denied there was a donation. The Prime Minister has a lot of things to do in life.

Hon Bill English: So is it now the Prime Minister’s position that the reason she revealed this information today was that she was not busy; and she did not reveal it earlier, because she was too busy?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister had been told by Mr Glenn something, and told by Mr Peters something else, and that still remains the state of affairs, except for one key point: Mr Peters and Mr Henry are saying the same thing, and Mr Glenn is saying something different.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Prime Minister not reveal this information yesterday when she was asked in Parliament, and when she is bound in Parliament to give straight answers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member would be quite unable to quote any Hansard where the Prime Minister did not give a straight answer to the question. The member would be quite unable to find any Hansard in that respect.

/NR/rdonlyres/31EB0C77-55F1-4F15-99CF-93698C42FC19/92350/48HansQ_20080828_00000035_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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2. Emissions Trading Scheme—Support

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

2. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What reports has he received on support for an emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : Both New Zealand First and the Greens have confirmed they will support the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill. I commend both parties for their principled support, and I believe that more robust legislation has resulted from our talks. I am confident that we have an excellent piece of legislation that will well equip New Zealand to meet the challenge of climate change.

Charles Chauvel: What further reports has the Minister seen on support for an emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: This morning I heard Nick Smith say that climate change is a huge issue, and that emissions trading is the correct way forward. But that is all talk; when it comes to doing something about it, National has completely abrogated its responsibilities. It claims to have six principles it would incorporate into an emissions trading scheme, but it has negotiated on none. Those six principles were always just six excuses. We have worked with parties that take climate change seriously, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister tell the House that the support from the New Zealand First Party is “principled”, when it is blindingly obvious to every political commentator and parliamentarian that the deal is that Helen Clark will turn a blind eye and leave the leader of New Zealand First as Minister of Foreign Affairs, in exchange for his backing the emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because, amongst other things, my confidence that New Zealand First would back this legislation arose from a meeting that I had personally with Mr Winston Peters some months ago, before these other allegations were swirling around. The reality here is that, once again, we have caught National members saying one thing and doing another—this time it is on climate change—just as they have done on superannuation, KiwiSaver, asset sales, the minimum wage, and doctors’ fees.

/NR/rdonlyres/B58AAFDD-378C-4415-85A5-951FEF5B55CC/92352/48HansQ_20080828_00000246_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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3. Electricity Revenue—Insulation and Household Compensation

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

3. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: How does he reconcile his statement yesterday that the $1 billion home insulation and household compensation for the emissions trading scheme is coming from the extra revenue that flows from the Crown through electricity prices, when he confirmed in the House on 20 May 2008 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 renewal energy production, and that without that increased investment there is not the slightest prospect of meeting our targets?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : What I said then—and it remains true—is that State-owned enterprises do use revenues they collect from electricity to invest in renewables. They, and private electricity companies, are already responding to the Government’s clear direction on climate change. They know that it is the smart and affordable thing to do.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister able to tell the House this afternoon which New Zealand households will benefit, and by how much each week, from the package of household compensation that has been negotiated as part of this bill; if he is not able to tell the House this information today, how does he expect the House to be able to make an informed decision on the bill in the absence of this critical information?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The projections as to likely additional revenue to the Crown and generators as a consequence of emission pricing have been public for months, for those who wish to look at the record at the select committee to ascertain it, and the amount that is being invested includes $1 billion in energy efficiency.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with this statement made by Michael Cullen 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 its renewable energy targets—does he agree with that statement from Dr Cullen?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Tedious repetition.

Hon DAVID PARKER: As Dr Cullen says, this is tedious repetition from the member opposite. The statement the member refers to was a question from Dr Cullen, and I responded appropriately. Both the question and the answer were correct.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is an important issue, because the Government said yesterday that it would use the $1 billion for the Green Party’s negotiated package for insulation. I asked the Minister a very simple question. Did he agree with the statement made by Dr Cullen in a question to him a few weeks ago? I did not receive an answer to that question.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed it. The member may not have got an answer he wanted, but certainly the Minister addressed the nature of that question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What budgetary provision has been made for the $1 billion home insulation package promised to the Green Party and for the one-off electricity rebate promised to all consumers, or are we seeing a rerun of 1990, when the outgoing Labour Government made a whole lot of financial commitments without any budgetary provision?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The normal appropriation processes will be followed. Amongst other things there will be reference in the legislation to the $1 billion insulation retrofit and other efficiency programmes. But it seems somewhat ironic that Dr Smith has been complaining in the last few months that we were not recycling extra revenues back into the economy, and is now complaining that we are.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm, in response to the question from the Hon Peter Dunne, that every home that is fully insulated and that has a clean wood-burner installed will save tens of dollars a week forever on power bills, and that the more the cost of electricity rises, the more those homes will save?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Indeed I can, and it reinforces what the Labour-led Government has been saying for a long time—that just about everything one does in the name of climate change makes sense for other reasons. We hope to help consumers save a lot more in energy than the cost will be under the emissions trading scheme.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How much will homeowners receive in the rebate that was announced yesterday as part of getting other parties’ support for the emissions trading scheme?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As has already been publicly disclosed, the combination of the cash payments to people who receive Working for Families or benefits, plus the rebate on people’s electricity accounts, is expected to equal the cost of the rise in electricity prices in the first year.

Moana Mackey: What are the benefits of the billion-dollar investment in energy efficiency for New Zealand homes?

Hon DAVID PARKER: This is undoubtedly the biggest push for energy efficiency this country has ever seen. Electricity prices are estimated by Contact Energy to rise by 4 percent in 2010 from the emissions trading scheme. Energy efficiency can help New Zealanders save more than that—as Jeanette Fitzsimons has already said, forever. In other words, it is a no-brainer, which should mean that even the National Party can understand it.

/NR/rdonlyres/FC0C066A-E2CF-4462-98FF-9BDD72BDE462/92354/48HansQ_20080828_00000281_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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4. Health Sector—Funding

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

4. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he agree with the statement of the Rt Hon Helen Clark that “The deficit funding of the public health sector has to stop”; and why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes.

Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister explain why it is, when Annette King announced that extra funding given in 2002 would mean that district health boards would be able to eliminate their deficits by the end of 2003-04, that the latest information from the Ministry of Health shows that hospitals have recorded a record deficit of $161 million for this past financial year; and what action does the Government intend—

Hon Annette King: That’s not a record.

Hon Tony Ryall: It certainly is a record under district health boards from that graveyard of failed Ministers.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let us just leave aside the fact that there is no record about $161 million—it was well over $200 million in the late 1990s, year after year. Actually, the really interesting thing is that it is not $160 million this year either. The net deficit for the district health boards—all 21 of them—as at 30 June this year is about $40 million. If the member wants to know how that fits into the perspective of the total budget, I can assure him that it is a little less than half of one percent.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. Has the Minister seen any reports to indicate whether public-private partnerships provide an efficient funding model for the health sector?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I certainly have. I can recall a situation where there was insufficient money put into Napier’s health services, which saw that administration forced into taking up a private sector lease over 13 years that cost them more than $15 million when the building itself cost $11 million.

Hon Tony Ryall: In light of that last answer, why is Wellington Hospital planning to send 50 heart patients to Australia for their operations because those patients can wait no longer, without a serious risk of dying?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not aware of the plans of the Capital and Coast District Health Board, but I will make this comment: if it so happens that there is insufficient capacity in New Zealand in the public and private sectors for cardiovascular surgery—for example, because there is an outbreak of norovirus at Dunedin Hospital, which is a big provider of cardiothoracic services—and if those New Zealanders need treatment and need it in a timely manner, then going to Australia is a good idea.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a terrible confession of failure that after 9 years the cardiac waiting lists in this country are so bad that the only way these New Zealanders’ lives can be saved is to send those heart patients to Australia?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I think what the National Party spokesperson on health is advising this House is that if he were the Minister and there was, for example, a norovirus outbreak at Dunedin Hospital, he would have New Zealanders die rather than send them to Australia for their surgery. That might be the difference between his approach to health and the approach on this side of the House.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would it not have been better for these patients for the public health sector to have entered into longer-term contracts with the private sector to deliver additional cardiac services in New Zealand, instead of rushing to them when there is an absolute emergency and they are unable to fulfil those services; after 9 long years of a Labour Government cardiac patients are now having to be sent to Australia to have their lives saved?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I said earlier that I was unaware of the details of cardiac patients going to Australia, but I can say that if they are going to Australia it is because the private and public capacity has been taken up. The public capacity has been taken up. The private capacity has been taken up. There remains a need. There are some hospitals that cannot provide because, for example, of norovirus, and if that means New Zealanders go to Australia to get timely intervention that is a good idea.

/NR/rdonlyres/1DCC6666-72BF-46C7-B63A-66414C6496D7/92356/48HansQ_20080828_00000350_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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5. Taser Guns—Introduction

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

5. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: How long will police have to wait to be equipped with Tasers following today’s decision by the Commissioner of Police to introduce them as a tactical weapon option?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police) : Madam Speaker—

Gerry Brownlee: Hang on; he’s got to consult all MPs first!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, he certainly would not bother to consult that member. I am glad that Chester Borrows actually had the sense to put out a statement saying National does support the use of Tasers, after the disgraceful behaviour of Gerry Brownlee yesterday. I have been advised by the Commissioner of Police that the Taser used during the trial will be reissued to the four trial districts as soon as they are retrofitted with the cameras and the appropriate refresher training is undertaken. He has also advised that New Zealand Police will made a Budget bid for the next financial year in order to equip the remaining eight districts with Tasers.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm that the police initially looked at the Taser back in 2000 following the fatal shooting of Steven Wallace, that they announced a trial in February 2006, that that trial commenced in September 2006 and was concluded in August 2007, and that the commissioner has today, on 29 August 2008, a year after the trial ended, given the OK to Tasers; and does she feel that that is an acceptable time line for the introduction of a device that will save the lives of police officers and offenders alike?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have no difficulty with the time line and the time that the commissioner took to make that decision. It is a very serious decision that has been made by New Zealand Police, and to the commissioner’s credit he wanted to ensure that he got it right for New Zealanders. He also wanted to ensure that he had information on best international practice, and he made the effort to look at other countries and other jurisdictions to see how the Taser worked, including obtaining input from the Canadians in June, and from the Home Office late in June around its trials. I think he did the right thing.

Martin Gallagher: Why did the Minister issue the ministerial statement yesterday?

Gerry Brownlee: Ha, ha!

Hon ANNETTE KING: I hope “Mr Blowhard” over there listens.

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, Madam Speaker, before I even start to answer, we get that barracking from the member.

Madam SPEAKER: Interjections do get responses, both of which are, on occasions, inappropriate.

Hon ANNETTE KING: At the Law and Order Committee on 2 July, I advised that the Commissioner of Police would be keen to seek Parliament’s view on the Taser issue, and that he would be providing me with advice in July. The commissioner provided me with that advice in late July—

Gerry Brownlee: Then you waited till yesterday.

Hon ANNETTE KING:—and 27August was selected some weeks ago as the date for the ministerial statement. The Commissioner of Police confirmed that on Radio New Zealand National today, and I can only assume that Gerry Brownlee, with his interjection, doubts the commissioner’s word.

Keith Locke: How can the introduction of the Taser be a matter for the police rather than the Government to decide on, when New Zealand’s introduction of the Taser, which the Commissioner of the Police has announced today, will put the Government in breach of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, given that the United Nations Committee Against Torture has decided that Tasers are an instrument of torture and are to be ruled out in international law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It would very much depend on how a Taser was used. I can assure the member that because an evaluation and trial has taken place, because work has been done in relation to how Tasers would be deployed, and because safeguards have been put in place and transparency has been assured, I believe that what the police in New Zealand have done is the right thing. They have made a decision to protect the public and the police. I believe that most New Zealanders support that decision.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question revolved around the use of Tasers being contrary to the UN convention against torture. The Minister has not answered that question.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I said it depends on how Tasers are used. To say that the police will use the Taser as an instrument of torture is a nonsense.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister confirm that despite the 8 years the Taser has been under consideration, according to the announcement of the police today no budget has been formulated, approved, or allocated for the general purchase of Tasers, and that it will be at least a further 12 months before districts like Christchurch—recently reported to be the most violent city in New Zealand—receive Tasers; and does she believe that that is acceptable?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The New Zealand Police has no exemption from to any Budget process that is available to departments. It must follow the rules. If the Commissioner of Police wishes to introduce Tasers to other districts earlier than he proposes, he will need to reprioritise his spending.

Ron Mark: Would it not be easier, recognising just how urgently these devices are needed in the interests of protecting our men and women in the police force and of saving offenders’ lives, for the Government itself to make a decision to provide appropriate funding now, so that the police can place an immediate order, with the aim of getting these things issued to front-line officers in a far more expeditious manner?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If the Commissioner of Police wishes to make an out-of-Budget bid, he is entitled to do so. That does not mean the Government will agree to it. The Government would tell him, first of all, to look to his own resources, if that is his first priority.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an item from CBSNews where the United Nations Committee Against Torture says the use of Tasers, provoking extreme pain, constitutes a form of torture.

 Leave granted.


Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a second document, pointing out that five Americans have died since the beginning of this month—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/15437A1B-6259-41BB-9967-6B4330F1789E/92358/48HansQ_20080828_00000412_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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6. Corrections, Department—Confidence

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

6. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Minister of Corrections) : Yes; compared with 10 years ago, when National was in Government, the escape rate has fallen by 84 percent, positive random drug tests have fallen from 34 percent in 1998 to 14 percent, serious assaults on staff have fallen by 90 percent, and much more.

Simon Power: Has can the Minister be confident in the management of his department when, since May, there have been six prison escapes, including an escape using a knotted sheet, and at least 11 incidents where guards and inmates have been assaulted, including the hospitalisation of staff members with eye injuries, fractured skulls, and stab wounds?

Hon ANNETTE KING: He can have confidence because there has been a dramatic decrease in the escape rate; it has fallen from 84 percent since the National Government was in office. He can also have confidence because serious assaults on both staff and prisoners are a fraction of what they were 10 years ago.

Simon Power: How can the Minister be confident in the management of his department when, following a very serious assault on a guard at Pāremoremo prison on 19 July, neither the prison nor the unit in which the assault occurred was locked down, until there was a riot 3 weeks later and four prisoners were stabbed?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There will always be difficulties in prisons, and prison guards do their best to manage those issues at the time. It is very easy for a member of Parliament, sitting in the comfort of his chair, to make judgments after the event.

Simon Power: Can he confirm that since 2005 his department has been unable to say how many contraband items have been found in prisons, because the department no longer collates the information; and can he confirm that although there are plans to install an electronic system to gather the information, the department “ is currently not in a position to provide a time line on this”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm that, but I can confirm that the Government has done a lot to crack down on contraband, including cellphone jamming, telephone monitoring, single points of entry, perimeter fences, electronic security devices, cameras, closed-circuit television, video motion-detectors, microwave sensors, and extra electronic barrier arms.

/NR/rdonlyres/3BA6AA57-F352-4AA4-8834-B90F1E2CACBC/92360/48HansQ_20080828_00000493_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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7. Māpua Site—Contamination Clean-up

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

7. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Did the Ministry for the Environment prevent the Tasman District Council from testing for dioxin in the air coming out of the stack at the Māpua toxic clean-up site; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : I am advised that the Tasman District Council requested sampling from the Māpua remediation plant. After discussions with the Tasman District Council and the peer review panel of experts, the monitoring of dioxins within the carbon filter was decided on by the ministry. The test results were provided to the peer review panel, which advised that the results provided “very good assurance of a clearly acceptable low level of dioxin formation in the dryer and very low levels of dioxins in the emissions from the carbon filter.”

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister aware that the plant was operating for more than a year, between May 2005 and September 2006, despite written concerns from the Tasman District Council to the Ministry for the Environment about dioxin emissions, and that during that time his ministry used legal means to block testing for this highly poisonous chemical, even after the district council offered to pay for the tests?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As I think I indicated to the member in the previous reply, there was a different form of testing for dioxins.

Su’a William Sio: What is he or the ministry doing to resolve these matters and move forward?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I understand that the chief executive officer of the Ministry for the Environment is in the process of engaging an independent Australian remediation expert to review the processes used at Māpua. The review will include the ministry’s decision-making systems and the reviewer will be tasked with providing advice on what needs to be done in the future. This should provide assurance around Māpua itself, as well as to ensure wherever possible that the problem is not repeated in future clean-up sites.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister aware that after the Ministry for the Environment finally lost its battle to stop the district council testing the carbon filters for dioxin, the day before the first tests were due the company running the clean-up operation, which had a very close relationship with the ministry, took the carbon filters that were to be tested and destroyed them, removing all the evidence?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This is the first time that that allegation has been made to me.

Dr Russel Norman: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: No, there are no further supplementary questions. [Interruption] They have one more? There are five today.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that the Tasman District Council was only allowed to test for dioxin in the stack air, as opposed to the carbon filters in the air itself, a year and a half after it raised its concerns, and only after a formal request from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and that when the test was done the temperature of the plant was turned down to produce less dioxin, and then after the test was done the temperature was turned back up again for normal operations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just thinking about your little discussion there with Dr Norman where you were looking at the number of supplementary questions that he had available. Am I right in thinking that Dr Norman took one from next week, or he had an extra one today, or something like that?

Madam SPEAKER: No, it is the same process that the member has also followed with another member in this House. So there has been an allocation of supplementary questions to Mr Hide, I understand.

Gerry Brownlee: Right. Some time ago I recall you saying that members could in fact use a supplementary question on a particular day in lieu of a supplementary question they might use on another day. Is that still your position?

Madam SPEAKER: As long as I am notified of that fact, and therefore we know what the numbers are, the members from some of the smaller parties have in fact done that, yes.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: In the same week.

Madam SPEAKER: In the same week. It cannot be transferred for ever and a day. It has to be done in the same week.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a letter from the Tasman District Council, dated 15 June 2006, in which it raises concerns about the significant discharges, or the potential for significant discharges of dioxin and seeking the ability to test—

 Leave granted.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a letter from the Ministry for the Environment, dated July 2006, in which it denies that attempt to test for those discharges—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/D7724F64-288E-47C7-89D2-8B1B3F500DB3/92362/48HansQ_20080828_00000535_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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8. Television New Zealand—Legal Actions

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

8. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is Television New Zealand involved in any legal action before the courts?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Broadcasting) : Yes.

Rodney Hide: What does the Minister think of the State broadcaster Television New Zealand (TVNZ) being engaged in legal action, filming in December 2004 an interview with a former Simunovich Fisheries skipper, Mr Wayne Crapper, who says on tape that he lied to Parliament’s scampi inquiry—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We are now going back over the ground we have been over any number of times this week. Of course, that supplementary question in particular does not arise out of the principal question. The fact that TVNZ was filming something is nothing to do, necessarily, with the fact that it is engaged in legal action, and if the legal action is in front of the court it is sub judice, in any case.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Speaking to the point of order, I can confirm to the House what Winston Peters confirmed yesterday and what was denied by Mr Hide, and that is that Simunovich Fisheries Ltd and others v Television New Zealand and others is a live defamation action before the court. Mr Hide was wrong yesterday in what he said to the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the Minister for that clarification. I ask Mr Hide to ask his question, consistent with the rulings that have been made, and consistent with the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can this matter be before the courts as evidence, when the State broadcaster ordered the tapes destroyed, ordered all transcripts destroyed—

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but that is not a point of order. That is a point of information or a point of debate, or, if the member wishes to ask a supplementary question, that may be in order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the House has wrestled, obviously for the last couple of days, with what is sub judice and what is not. If what Mr Hide is now suggesting is the case—that he is referring to a tape that no longer exists—then it surely cannot be one of the discovered items in this case, and therefore cannot be material to any conclusion that comes from that case. It is just an allegation about an activity that hangs out there, and any reliance on this matter being before the courts cannot be substantiated because it is something that does not appear to exist.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think the member misunderstands. The transcripts are in front of the court—yes—and of course, it is perfectly legitimate for the member to ask why, if the matter is before the court, Television New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ) has destroyed the tapes. I think the transcripts exist. That is a question he can clearly ask.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I agree with that. As I indicated to the member, he can ask that question; it is the other information that is superfluous to the central question that is out of order. But the member may ask that question.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister of Broadcasting find it acceptable that the State broadcaster, TVNZ, when confronted with evidence of orchestrated perjury to Parliament not only failed to notify the police but ordered the tape and the transcripts destroyed, thereby obstructing justice, and is this the sort of standard that he expects the State broadcaster to set?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have no information that would confirm that what that member says is correct. I would add that what he has told the House in the last 2 days has not been correct, and therefore I will not rely on him.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That raises a very interesting question. Mr Hide has been repeatedly blocked from either making statements or asking questions around this matter. The only issue on which there appears to be any particular dissent is whether this is a live case. Now, if Mr Hide is talking about a particular transcript, a particular video, a particular interview—whatever—that has now been destroyed, then none of what Mr Mallard has just claimed can be so. Secondly, I would ask—perhaps to stop the House going through these long exercises of trying to find out who is saying what, what is the truth of either position, and whose word you have to take over the other—would it not have been a good idea for the Minister of Broadcasting, knowing this question was coming up, to have required TVNZ, because he is also Minister for State Owned Enterprises, to supply him with the discovery list so he could know exactly what he was denying?

Madam SPEAKER: The member asked his question. The Minister responded to the question.

Rodney Hide: Would the Minister expect to be advised that the State broadcaster had evidence of the stealing of millions of dollars of scampi quota, and evidence of repeated lying to Parliament to cover up the stealing, especially given that Winston Peters—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hesitate to raise this point again but this is repeating exactly the issue that has been raised time and time again during this week, which has delayed the business of the House for a very long period of time this week. The member seems to be once again transgressing and getting himself into trouble, remembering of course that the Minister is not responsible for how TVNZ deals with news items. That is clearly outside ministerial responsibility, and I would think the member would be quite grateful for that fact.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the member can ask his question without the interpretation he is placing on the events in his assertions. Certainly, he can ask the question. There is a wide ministerial responsibility so I will allow the question, although I take the point that with broadcasting there is a particular issue of independence of the media as separate from ministerial direction. I will let the member ask the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I have got the question. The answer is no, and for me to be involved in, and briefed on, those matters would be a breach of the Broadcasting Act.

Rodney Hide: When does the Minister think that a tape goes from being a matter of news to a matter of evidence in the obstruction of justice, which is a criminal case alleging that TVNZ destroyed that evidence; fortunately the member for Epsom has a copy of the tape—TVNZ does not—and would the Minister like to see that tape before I take it to the police?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Absolutely and definitely not. If the member is withholding matters that the High Court wants, he is in contempt.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I say to the Minister that I am not withholding the tape. I have given it to TV3, which, hopefully, will happily broadcast it.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you for that information.

/NR/rdonlyres/54E8B4FB-4C77-4A07-96CB-44CC2F794F8F/92364/48HansQ_20080828_00000592_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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9. Early Childhood Education—Support

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

9. Hon MARK BURTON (Labour—Taupo) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received about support for early childhood education?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : I have seen a report of a recent visit by a member of this House to an early childhood teacher diploma class in Napier. While there, the member described the early childhood education teacher trainees as glorified babysitters. Research clearly shows the critical importance of high-quality care and education for our youngest children. Craig Foss should be ashamed of himself.

Hon Mark Burton: Can the Minister tell the House what other reports he has seen about the importance of trained teachers in early childhood education?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen a report from the New Zealand Childcare Association expressing dismay at National’s plans to loosen requirements for trained teachers for very young children and early childhood education, stating: “We are appalled by the idea that children under the age of 2 need fewer qualified teachers.”

/NR/rdonlyres/AA1BEE3B-C5FA-4F1C-8EC6-46C341B34C64/92366/48HansQ_20080828_00000644_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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10. Education, Ministry—Staffing

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

10. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Can he confirm that according to the report on Ministry of Education staffing that he received in June of this year, the number of fulltime-equivalents excluding the Special Education Service was 578 in 1999, and 1,223 as at 31 March 2008; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : I can confirm those figures, and I remind the House again that 70 percent of the new staff are working on front-line services like special education, truancy, disruptive behaviour, and professional development programmes in information and communications technology, literacy, and numeracy.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister confirm that if there were 578 fulltime-equivalent staff, not including special education staff, in 1999 and there are now 1,223 fulltime-equivalents, not including special education staff—as at 31 March 2008—then that is a percentage increase in staff in the ministry of 111.59 percent over 9 years?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can confirm that, and I also remind the House that 70 percent of those staff are working in front-line services where they are helping our kids.

Anne Tolley: So having finally got that answer with confirmation of the mathematics from the Minister, can he say why, according to his own briefing, the Ministry of Education, excluding special education staff, has grown at the ballooning rate of 111 percent since 1999, while the number of teachers funded by the Government has grown by only 13 percent?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: There are, of course, 90,000 teachers in New Zealand.

Hon Trevor Mallard: 6,000 more.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: There are 6,000 more above roll growth than there would have been if the Labour Government had not been in power. I would like that member to tell this House whether I should cut the staff provided for newborn hearing tests, disruptive behaviour management, export education, or truancy. Where does she want the cut to be made?

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What reports has the Minister seen about the effectiveness of the additional staff employed by the Ministry of Education since 1999?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen a lot of reports from very grateful principals, but I would like to quote one report. It is from the principal of St Joseph’s School in Upper Hutt, who praises the Labour-led Government for “its 9 years of very strong support for education.” He notes, in particular, a strengthened and supportive Ministry of Education. The additional ministry staff welcomed by the principal of St Joseph’s School are the very same people that Anne Tolley and John Key would sack.

Anne Tolley: With truancy up by 40 percent since 2002, with a Progress in International Reading Literacy Study survey showing that our 10-year-olds have barely improved their literacy rates since 2000, and with schools screaming for more money and fewer “Wassup!” badges, why have ministry staff numbers, excluding special education staff, increased by 111 percent since 1999?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have, on many occasions in the last 10 months while Minister of Education, reminded this House and the country that the Labour-led Government has put an extra $5.5 billion into education, including putting 6,000 teachers above roll growth—that is more than the total staffing of the Ministry of Education—into schools. What about the 1,500 new classrooms or the 42 new schools we have built? That shows our commitment to education.

/NR/rdonlyres/85357F42-B897-4F10-AF2E-BFCBD007ADAC/92368/48HansQ_20080828_00000671_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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11. Social Outcomes—Trends

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

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received on trends in social outcomes in New Zealand?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The Social Report 2008 released today shows that the gap between rich and poor has narrowed for the first time in two decades, poverty has fallen, life expectancy has increased, school leavers have higher qualifications, and workplaces are safer. Those are just some of the positive changes delivered by the Labour-led Government.

Lynne Pillay: What is the value of the Social Report?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Social Report provides a transparent report card on how New Zealand is doing. That concept would be alien to the National Party, which will not commit to such open reporting. National members know that such indicators would only get worse as a result of their policies, and they certainly would not want to let facts get in the way of their agenda.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Is the Minister concerned that in 2007 only 49 percent of school leavers from decile 1 to 3 schools—the most disadvantaged communities—obtained National Certificate in Educational Achievement at level 2 or above, compared with 79 percent of those leaving decile 8 to 10 schools; and how does she explain the 30 percent difference in outcomes?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member is correct in identifying areas where there is still improvement to be made. That is one of the many purposes of the social report.

Te Ururoa Flavell: How can the Minister explain the fact that the ratio of Māori to European median hourly earnings was over 85 percent between 1998 and 2006 but fell to 81 percent in 2007; is this an indication that the Labour Government’s decision to pull the closing the gaps strategy was a little bit premature?

Hon RUTH DYSON: In answer to the latter part of the question, absolutely not. The fact that there are significantly more Māori in employment now is something that the whole House should celebrate and it actually contributes to the figures outlined by the member. Other areas where Māori well-being has improved include greater participation in early childhood education—and I know that member would be a very strong supporter of that—the percentage of Māori with tertiary qualifications, which has more than tripled since the mid-1990s, and the increase in earnings of Māori workers by 15 percent over the last decade.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Could the Minister please provide some reasons why employed Māori have the lowest rate of satisfaction with work-life balance—namely at 71 percent in 2006?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Again the member has identified a critical area where there is significant improvement yet to be made. I am sure that the recently introduced legislative change to the ability for workers to ask for flexible work hours will assist the issue the member has identified.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table a report that shows that the principal of St Joseph’s, whose glowing letter the Minister of Education recently quoted from, was defeated as a Labour candidate—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/03355C78-BB0C-4F3E-9C6B-85201362E1AA/92370/48HansQ_20080828_00000726_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 28 August 2008 [PDF 216k]

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12. Social Development and Employment, Minister—Speeches

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

12. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she stand by her statements on 12 August 2008, regarding the quality of speeches she receives from her department, “I don’t want to be too critical of people who draft my speeches, but I get a lot of speeches, in draft, that I never use.”, and “The quality of speechwriting in some places isn’t great.”?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Yes, with an emphasis on the word “too”.

Judith Collins: How can she expect taxpayers to believe they are getting value for money when staff numbers at the Ministry of Social Development have grown so much that the expenditure on salaries increased from $236 million in 2002 to almost $540 million in 2007, but for all the extra staff and the generous salaries, the Minister does not actually use a lot of the material she gets in the department because it “isn’t great”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member, yet again, refuses to acknowledge that the Ministry of Social Policy in 1999 was then added to, with the amalgamation of the Department of Work and Income, which was a separate department, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, the establishment of the Office for Disability Issues, the establishment of the Office of the Community and Voluntary Sector, and the integration of the Ministry of Youth Development.

Judith Collins: Is she aware that recruitment advertising costs at her department have increased from $338,000 in 2002 to $1.32 million in 2007; and why does she expect taxpayers to accept this blowout in expenditure on advertising for staff when she goes around saying the quality of the work “isn’t great”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The quality of social work in New Zealand is great and it is about time that that member and her party started supporting the overwhelming majority of frontline staff within the ministry instead of attacking them.

Judith Collins: Is she aware that communications, media, and public relations staff at the Ministry of Social Development have increased from 22 in 2002 to 61 today, and the policy unit has increased from 200 to now 369; if so, how can she justify such enormous increases in staff while at the same time saying she cannot rely on the department for quality speech material because the work “isn’t great”?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Ministry of Social Development has 31.75 public relations and/or corporate communications staff—not the figure the member alluded to. In my view, it would be preferable for her to not focus on statements that I have not made, but on the public reaction to statements that she and her leader have made, such as the statement from John Key that women on a domestic purposes benefit are “breeding for a business”—that quote has been put in the public arena—or the statement from Judith Collins that “Beneficiaries sit around all day watching Sky TV, living off the taxpayer, letting their children run riot, and getting stoned.” That is what that member thinks of beneficiaries.

Judith Collins: Does she now disagree with the lines her department wrote for her: “We must cater for diversity; we know it exists. By this I mean the range of relationships from single, couples, triples, blended, de facto, and so on.”; given that the speech was removed only after it was reported in the media, can she assure the House that she stands by her other speeches on the Beehive website, or is her position the same as last week when she said she did not have a clue?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member misinterpreted my very clear statement at the start of her question by asking whether I “now” deny it. I have always denied it.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table Ruth Dyson’s statement on 12 August 2008 when she said she did not want—

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table Ruth Dyson’s speech to Victoria University’s first-year social and public policy students, dated 6 May 2008—

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table “Big Love: Is this Labour’s hidden agenda?”, from the Listener on 22 August 2008.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the State Service Commission’s Human Resource Capability Survey of June 2007, showing that staff at the Ministry of Social Development increased from 5,106 to—

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table the Ministry of Social Development’s financial reviews and estimates, showing that the public relations, communications, and media staff are—

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table “Welfare State is in many more hands”, an article in the Independent Financial Review—

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

Judith Collins: I seek leave to table “Government pay spinning out of control”, from the Independent Financial Review—

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

ENDS


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