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Questions And Answers – Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Questions And Answers – Tuesday, 2 September 2008


1. Tax Cuts, Budget 2008—Support

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

1. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on support for the tax cuts legislated for on Budget night 2008?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : I have seen widespread support for the tax cuts that come into force 4 weeks from tomorrow, which will see a couple on the current average household income of $72,000—split two-thirds and one-third—with two children aged 11 and 8, better off by $2,223 a year from 1 October, rising to $4,397 a year, or $85 a week, from 1 April 2011.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports of plans to remove aspects of this tax cut package?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. Despite voting in favour of the package, the leader of the National Party, Mr Key, seemed to confirm yesterday that National plans to scrap the April 2011 tax cuts. Indeed, every time details appear about National’s planned tax cuts, it is clear that it is not planning to offer New Zealanders more, but is simply engaging in a smoke and mirrors exercise to deliver less to those on low and middle incomes and more to those on higher incomes.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that before the 2005 election he promised tax cuts, and that afterwards he cancelled them when he could afford them; so this time around, when he has promised tax cuts again, why should people believe that he will follow through on them, when his fiscal outlook is not nearly as good as it was?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member may not be aware of it, but the tax cuts have been legislated for and come into force on 1 October. That could have been conveyed to “Lord Ashhurst” only a few days ago.

Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports on support for tax cut packages similar to the package announced in this year’s Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a report that tax cuts should primarily benefit lower and middle income families, who are most in need, rather than those at the top end of the income scale. That report comes from a United States senator, BarackObama, who differs from Mr Key on this issue, but who shares other similarities with him. As, indeed, a reader of the New Zealand Herald pointed out, “They are scientifically similar in that they are both male bipedal mammals with an identical number of arms, legs and internal organs.” The difference, of course, is that Mr Obama stands for change you can believe in.

Hon Peter Dunne: What does the Minister say to those who see this year’s tax cuts as merely a down payment on the likely increase in household costs arising from the implementation of the emissions trading scheme, given that the Government’s compensation package, announced yesterday, will give them a mere $2.15 a week in 2010 by way of compensation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The compensation will fully compensate households, on average, for the impact of the emissions trading scheme in relation to electricity prices. It is possible, of course, that some families will not be fully compensated, and some slightly more than that, but I am sure that if the member follows the details he will realise that a great deal of effort has gone into trying to make the compensation, as best as it possibly can, match actual household needs.

/NR/rdonlyres/4F025E0B-41BA-49A7-9A16-D75A287C9731/92481/48HansQ_20080902_00000021_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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2. Rt Hon Winston Peters—Donations

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

2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: On how many separate occasions did she discuss with the Rt Hon Winston Peters the issue of a donation from Mr Owen Glenn, and what responses did she get from Mr Peters that gave her the confidence to retain him as a Minister?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : I spoke with Mr Peters in late February, and on three occasions in July. On each occasion, Mr Peters assured me that neither New Zealand First nor he personally had received donations from Mr Glenn.

John Key: Can she confirm that Mr Glenn told her in February that he had made a donation to Mr Peters and/or his party, and that Mr Peters had himself asked for that donation to be made?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that Mr Glenn told Mr Mallard and me that he had met with Mr Peters in Sydney. We were certainly left with the impression that he had been asked for money, and that some time later he had been advised where to pay it.

Barbara Stewart: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports regarding confidence in the Rt Hon Winston Peters that would suggest that Mr Key has changed his position on this matter several times, from one allowing wriggle room to one of having no confidence in the findings of the Serious Fraud Office if it clears Mr Peters, yet he has said he wants to keep the Serious Fraud Office should he be in charge after the election?

Madam SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has no responsibility for the National Party or its views, but she can address the question as long as it does not address the views of the National Party.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question is not inside the scope of the primary question, which was about the donation given to Mr Peters—the Owen Glenn saga as we now know it. It does not relate to all sorts of extraneous things that might arise out of it.

Madam SPEAKER: However, it does raise the important question of confidence, and that is what is used in the primary question. I looked at the question closely and it was on that basis that I gave the ruling. But the Prime Minister is not responsible for National Party views.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not sure it would be possible to answer the question without getting into that sort of territory.

John Key: Did the Prime Minister not think that because this issue involved her Minister of Foreign Affairs soliciting a large donation from a person who was seeking to become the honorary consul to Monaco, she should have taken more action than simply observing that there was a conflict of evidence; and that, in fact, she should have forced a resolution of this conflict back in February?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, I did take action, and that involved phoning the Minister, who assured me categorically that he had never received money personally, nor had New Zealand First, nor had he asked for it. I must say that my assumption was that both men were honourable gentlemen and there may well be some innocent explanation.

Gordon Copeland: Why, when it become clear some 6 months ago that Owen Glenn’s advice to the Prime Minister that he had made a substantial donation was contradicted by Winston Peters, first to the Prime Minister, and then to the public of New Zealand, did the Prime Minister not take steps to determine the truth of the matter, since, given his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the issue had the potential not only to destabilise the Government, but also to negatively impact on New Zealand’s reputation within the international community?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in my previous answer, I believe that both gentlemen are honourable gentlemen, and I assumed there may be some innocent explanation.

R Doug Woolerton: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports regarding confidence in Winston Peters that would suggest that Mr Key has given away parliamentary questions in an effort to damage Mr Peters by proxy, to a member who went on to blatantly mislead the House by making outrageous claims of a TVNZ cover-up, only to find that the item that the member claimed TVNZ destroyed had been sitting on a shelf since January 2005; and what does that say about the credibility of Rodney Hide? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I repeat again, and then I will take Mr Brownlee’s point of order, that reports must relate to ministerial responsibility, and therefore they relate to the confidence that is in the primary question. The Prime Minister has no responsibility for other matters. So I would ask those members who may have already prepared questions to reflect on that ruling, because it may well be that their questions will have to be ruled out of order.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously I have no responsibility for the way in which the National Party allocates its questions or supplementary questions. I can only observe that Mr Hide seems to have had rather more than what an ACT member would be due.

John Key: Was it not a sign of how serious this issue was, that the Prime Minister rang Mr Peters in South Africa to discuss it with him; and if so, why, when she was unable to reconcile to the two conflicting stories that were being told to her, did she not seek to resolve this matter rather than letting it drift on until it was discovered by the media?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because as I said in response to an earlier question, I assumed that there must be some innocent explanation as both gentlemen are honourable gentlemen.

John Key: Did the Prime Minister or any of her staff or colleagues go back to Mr Glenn after she had discussed the issue of the donation with Mr Peters; if so, what was discussed with Mr Glenn?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Certainly, I have not been back to Mr Glenn. I do not know of anyone who has been back to Mr Glenn on this.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister not think she had an obligation to disclose what Mr Glenn had told her, when Mr Peters subsequently called his press conference on February 28 to deny that there was ever a donation and to waive around his infamous “No” sign?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, because I have assumed that both gentlemen are honourable gentlemen.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister accept that by failing to disclose what Mr Glenn had said to her at a time when Mr Peters was emphatically denying such a donation, and calling editors and senior journalists liars, and demanding their resignations, she made herself complicit in Mr Peters’ attempts to mislead the New Zealand public?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Absolutely not. It has been clear all along that there is a conflict of evidence, and both gentlemen are honourable gentlemen. One assumes there is some innocent explanation.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister think that after she raised the issue of a donation with Mr Peters, Mr Peters did enough to check whether Mr Glenn’s claims were true; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It seems clear to me that Mr Peters was very confident that no money had come to him personally and no money had come to New Zealand First.

John Key: Did she have any involvement in facilitating the donation from Mr Glenn to Mr Peters and/or New Zealand First?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Most emphatically not.

John Key: Can she tell us whether any member of the Labour Party was involved in the process leading to Mr Glenn’s donation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously I have no responsibility for the Labour Party president or council in this House, but Mr Williams has been clear on the public record that he has not had such a role.

John Key: Has Mr Glenn ever told her about any other donations or offers of donations to politicians or to political parties in New Zealand, aside from those made to Mr Peters and to the Labour Party; if so, who were those politicians or parties?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No.

John Key: How much confidence does she have in assurances from Mr Peters that he and his party have acted inside the law, in the light of revelations that New Zealand First appears to have breached the Electoral Act by failing to disclose funds received from the Spencer Trust?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There are a couple of other trusts this House might be quite interested in breaking open, for example to see whether Lord Ashcroft, whom the member had the secret meeting with a few days ago, put in money through the Waitemata Trust and the Ruahine Trust. He seems to have paid for Crosby/Textor to help the British Tory Party; how about helping the New Zealand National Party through those means?

John Key: Does she consider that it is her obligation as Prime Minister to uphold the highest ethical standards in her ministry; if so, was she not obliged to sort out whether Mr Peters asked Mr Glenn for a donation way back in February, rather than to turn a blind eye to it, hold on to a key piece of evidence for 6 months, and let Mr Peters turn this affair into a circus?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said, I consider both gentlemen to be honourable gentlemen and I have assumed that there is some innocent explanation.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: With reference to a meeting in Sydney, can the Prime Minister confirm that that meeting took place in, I think, August 2005; if so, has she received any credible explanation as to how Mr Peters could have asked for a donation to legal fees for an electoral petition arising out of an election that had not yet been held?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Peters is emphatic that the only occasion he met Mr Glenn in Sydney was indeed in the August prior to the general election.

/NR/rdonlyres/AEEF7190-BA0C-428C-AB7F-06EDD55CD12F/92483/48HansQ_20080902_00000079_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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3. Emissions Trading Scheme—NgāiTahu

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

3. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Does he agree with Te Rūnanga o NgāiTahuKaiwhakahaere, Mark Solomon, that the emissions trading scheme represents a significant threat to both the integrity and finality of their 1998 settlement; if not, why?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues) : No, I do not agree, for several reasons. The compensation package we have negotiated around the emissions trading scheme has substantially reduced the scheme’s impact on NgāiTahu. It is true that a live issue remains around whether the Crown had information about the Kyoto Protocol at the time the settlement was signed with NgāiTahu in 1998 that was not disclosed to NgāiTahu. That is why the Crown has agreed to open its books to ascertain whether that was the case. If this assertion is correct then the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations will address the matter.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What response will the Minister make to NgāiTahu to address their analysis that the emissions trading scheme legislation would “literally wipe tens of millions of dollars off the value of the forestry assets we received as part of our settlement.”?

Hon DAVID PARKER: That, too, is a moot point. The amount of compensation in the form of deforestation emission units, which are a valuable commodity, was close to doubled in the final package, and the economics of some of the land conversion proposals that NgāiTahu rely upon for their assessment of loss assume water availability for dairy conversions that is by no means certain.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What advice has the Minister received from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to suggest that the scheme could leave the Crown open to substantial claims, because the value of the land handed to iwi under Treaty of Waitangi settlements could be substantially decreased?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not accept the assertion in that question.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What assurance can the Minister provide tangata whenua that the provisions of the bill relating to pre-1990 forested Māori land are not a confiscation contrary to the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi, and are not ultra vires to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, when the owners’ submissions have advised the House that the scheme is an alienation without their required consent of 75 percent?

Hon DAVID PARKER: A large number of iwi have exactly the opposite view, and believe that the compensation package under the emissions trading scheme is a net benefit to them rather than a net cost.

/NR/rdonlyres/E077D7DB-78A8-4E4F-8D14-B58FE30C2E52/92485/48HansQ_20080902_00000231_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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4. Serious Fraud Office Investigation—National Party

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

4. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in relation to the National Party that “it’s almost certain they got a tip from the Serious Fraud Office that it was about to move”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : As has been widely reported in the media, gossip was rife in Wellington by last Tuesday night that the Serious Fraud Office was poised to announce a formal investigation. I have little doubt that the National Party was aware of that.

John Key: What evidence does the Prime Minister have, given that she said she is not dealing in rumour, that either the Serious Fraud Office, Crown Law, or the police leaked material to the Opposition; if she cannot produce any such evidence, will she apologise to those bodies for besmirching their good reputations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Somebody somewhere in the government system had to be responsible for this matter leaking out into the public arena. We know that rumours were widely circulating at a function on the Tuesday night that many National MPs attended, and I find it interesting that Mr Key moved the next day, telling his colleagues that time was of the essence.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister accept that it is a very serious matter for the Prime Minister to accuse the Serious Fraud Office of acting improperly, at a time when that agency is investigating a political party with which she is in a governing relationship and whose leader was her Minister of Foreign Affairs; and can she explain exactly on what basis she made these outrageous and unfair accusations?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I find it impossible to believe that the timing was a coincidence.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that, in fact, two members of this House were tipped off in advance that the Serious Fraud Office was about to commence its investigation, and that those two members were the Rt Hon Helen Clark and the Hon Dr Michael Cullen?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes; at 5 o’clock on Wednesday, after Mr Key had done his grandstanding. I can assure him that neither of us was the source of his information.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister also confirm that, on the basis of this knowledge, she decided to reveal what she had been hiding since February—that Mr Glenn had told her that Mr Peters had asked him for a donation—knowing that the only thing that would push such a startling confession from the headlines was the announcement of the Serious Fraud Office investigation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know that Mr Key and Mr English very seldom speak or share any confidence, but I advise Mr Key that Mr English himself raised the question, to which I responded in the House.

/NR/rdonlyres/6AA19C36-7856-4DCC-96BD-6B472D217320/92487/48HansQ_20080902_00000290_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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5. Broadband—Uptake

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

5. SUE MORONEY (Labour) on behalf of Hon PAUL SWAIN (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology: What reports has he received on reaction to proposals to extend high-speed broadband uptake in New Zealand?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) : Labour’s plan to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to faster, cheaper broadband has been widely welcomed. Michael Cranna, the managing director of broadband performance measurement company Epitro, called our plans “ambitious but achievable”. Ernie Newman of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand said the Government’s scheme is “particularly focused on rural people and we think that is a good move”. Media are also heralding the arrival of a third mobile plan, with Telstra announcing expanded operations this week. I understand that the National Party spokesman on telecommunications is not allowed to comment.

Sue Moroney: Has he seen any reports on reaction to alternative proposals to extend broadband uptake?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. This morning I saw another report criticising the National Party’s broadband policy as “political opportunism and a lot of hype”. That report was from the chief executive of the No. 3 telecommunications company, TelstraClear’s Allan Freeth, who stated that Kiwis know where they stand with Labour—unlike with National, which now says that it could be up to a year after the election before we know what it would actually do. Labour tells the public before the election. Labour’s plan is working. There is $3 billion of investment, with another $1.5 billion leveraged by our funding. The Labour-led Government is committed to encouraging real competition, not a monopoly utility. I seek leave to table a newspaper article with today’s date from TelstraClear noting that the National Party plan—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/30E04D89-9CB5-4371-A111-D5B9592FE77B/92489/48HansQ_20080902_00000340_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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6. Hospitals—Services

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that as this Government’s parliamentary term comes to an end, New Zealanders are getting the hospital services they can reasonably expect; and why?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I am satisfied that New Zealanders would be far better off with having this Labour-led Government re-elected in a few months’ time than they would be if National were to ever get hold of the Treasury benches and have the opportunity to ram through its secret privatisation and health cuts agenda.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why, after 9 years of a Labour Government and a doubling of the health budget, are New Zealanders’ chances of getting lifesaving heart surgery significantly lower than those of people in other countries, and why does the Minister’s own ministry say that because New Zealand is not providing clinically acceptable levels of heart surgery, some patients will die?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: When this Government finds issues in the health system, as in other portfolios, we front up to them, we fix them, and we move forward. That is why I met last week with the cardiac services review group and why we are putting in place a comprehensive plan to upgrade New Zealand’s cardiac services. It is why I know that the Capital and Coast District Health Board is also taking extraordinary measures to shorten a waiting list that has built up over a long period of time, but which we are now dealing with.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that New Zealanders now have better access to health care than they did when Labour became the Government?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes, I have. Under Labour the average cost of seeing a general practitioner is now just $26 nationwide. A million Kiwis pay no more than $15.50. A young family’s annual cost of going to a general practitioner has fallen from about $750 a year under National to about $200. An older couple who used to pay about $780 a year now pays about $340 a year. The cost of prescription medicines has been cut to no more than $3. While National is stuck back in the 1990s, we are making real progress.

Barbara Stewart: Does he believe that New Zealanders can expect a better, faster, more convenient public health service without additional taxpayer investment and/or extensive privatisation; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I believe that Labour’s track record speaks for itself. We are committed to increasing the public investment in our public health system, unlike the National Party, which wants to privatise it so that big business can make a profit from sickness.

Lesley Soper: Can the Minister confirm that this Labour-led Government has undertaken the largest hospital building programme in New Zealand’s history?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Absolutely. This Government has built seven new hospitals, done eight major upgrades, and built 10 new specialist facilities. We have three hospital redevelopments almost complete, including Waikato Hospital, and four more are under way. This Labour-led Government is committed to public investment in health care, not to creating profit-making opportunities for the National Party’s big-business backers.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is the Minister proud that the Labour Government is leaving a legacy of dangerous workforce shortages in the health sector, like that at Christchurch Hospital, which is suffering a shortage of over 210 nurses, resulting in bed closures and hospital gridlock in the South Island’s major public hospital?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: While the rest of the country is dealing with a high level of winter flu and other demands on the health system and clinicians are working overtime, all we get from the Opposition is it decrying what is, in effect, a global shortage of nurses. It simply cannot have it both ways. It criticises the Government for paying more to nurses, then it criticises the Government when there are still occasional shortages. What is National’s policy: another empty discussion document, or a leaked Merrill Lynch paper?

Hon Tony Ryall: Why is he proud that the Government is leaving a legacy of hospitals that are going into code purple overload—such as Waikato Hospital, which was 109 percent full yesterday—putting surgery and patients at risk?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: That is patently ridiculous. The Government is in the middle of investing $214 million in upgrading Waikato Hospital. That member complains because it is the end of winter, people have flu, and the hospital is full. Here is a news flash to the member opposite: Governments do not control viruses.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that despite his excuses and the valiant efforts of overworked staff, the legacy of that Government is hospitals that are lurching from crisis to crisis and failing to meet even the most reasonable needs of New Zealanders?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member is getting desperate now. He simply cannot have it both ways. Either the Government has failed to invest or we have invested too much, depending on which day of the week one takes his questions. He is arguing from both sides of that street. The Government has roughly doubled the investment in public health care. It has built a record number of new facilities. It has invested in the health workforce. It has developed a primary-care strategy, and it has upgraded technologies throughout the system. There is a systematic upgrade occurring of New Zealand’s public health care, and the member knows New Zealanders have better, more affordable, more accessible health care as a result of it.

Hon Tony Ryall: Although the Minister says this was ridiculous, I seek leave to table the press statement from the Waikato District Health Board stating that the hospital was 109 percent full yesterday.

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

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just want to clarify that it was not Waikato Hospital but the member I thought was ridiculous.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is what creates disorder in this House.

/NR/rdonlyres/8A5E1619-851A-4E80-B9E1-AE64BB5F2137/92491/48HansQ_20080902_00000367_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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7. Television New Zealand—Recording

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

7. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Would he expect to be advised by TVNZ if TVNZ recorded allegations of illegal behaviour; and has he received any such advice?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Broadcasting) : No and no.

Rodney Hide: Has he seen or had any reports on the New Zealand blog Whale Oil Beef Hooked at www.whaleoil.co.nz that contains a 2004 Television New Zealand (TVNZ) interview by Brent Fraser, where a former fisheries skipper, Wayne Crapper, explains how Peter Simunovich’s boss and his lawyer coached him to lie to the scampi inquiry, and to perjure himself in an affidavit; would he expect to have been advised of that?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If that member wishes to trawl websites on political matters, can I recommend he go to 08wire.org and view John’s Got a Crush on Obama.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption] Sorry?

Madam SPEAKER: Points of order are heard in silence!

Rodney Hide: I fail to see how a reference to another blog could, in any way, shape, or form, be an answer to the question of whether the Minister had seen or had any reports on a blog.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I indicated that I preferred the other site.

Madam SPEAKER: The member may not be satisfied with the answer, and others will judge the quality of it, but it was addressing the question of blogs.

Hon Marian Hobbs: Did the Minister look further into Mr Hide’s allegations last week that TVNZ had destroyed the tapes?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have received an assurance from TVNZ that no tapes were destroyed, and that various tapes on this matter are held at TVNZ and at Simpson Grierson. I look forward—I must say more in hope than in expectation—to Mr Hide apologising for misleading the House again last week.

Rodney Hide: Has TVNZ advised him that in the tape that it ordered destroyed in the newsroom but has kept on a shelf—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please continue his question.

Rodney Hide: Has TVNZ advised him that on this tape it is alleged that Parliament was lied to, that witnesses were coached to lie, that at stake was an inquiry that cost tens of millions of dollars, involving $140 million of quota—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It seems to me, from listening to this supplementary question—and I have let it run for a little while—that it is now traversing the same ground that has been previously the subject of points of order in relation to matters being sub judice. My understanding is that Simunovich Fisheries is still suing TVNZ, and, presumably, this matter is all part of the evidence in that particular case. If that is so, then we should not be traversing it—not to mention that the Minister has already argued and noted that he has not actually received any material relating to allegations of criminal behaviour, so the supplementary questions are scarcely able to elucidate that particular answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Speaking to the point of order, I can confirm that I am advised that TVNZ is involved in live civil proceedings: Simunovich Fisheries Ltd and others v Television New Zealand and others, as well as the related live proceedings Winston Peters v Television New Zealand and others.

Madam SPEAKER: I think if the matters are before the court and are live— and I understand that there are defamation proceedings—the member is perfectly entitled to ask general questions, as he knows and as he has been told before, but not to repeat specific allegations that have been made by others.

Rodney Hide: Would the Minister expect to be advised by TVNZ that it had evidence that Parliament had been misled in a systematic and conspiratorial way; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No; because if it is a programming matter, advising me would be a breach of the Television New Zealand Act 2003. If that member wants Ministers to be involved in approval of news reporting, he should go live in Zimbabwe.

/NR/rdonlyres/96554FB3-8EA5-4F5C-872A-6EA85413DC60/92493/48HansQ_20080902_00000446_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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8. Criminal Justice System—Prison Populations

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

8. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement with regard to the rising prison population that “The criminal justice system cannot go on as it is”; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : Yes; over the last 8 years New Zealand’s prison population has increased by about 71 percent, which is an enormous increase. That figure reflects tough laws against criminals. It reflects the biggest-ever increase in policing numbers in New Zealand—things that never happened under the member’s National Government. The system has responded to that increase by creating an additional 2,345 beds. That comes at a cost of about a billion dollars and around $200 million in annual operating costs. The Prime Minister is quite right in saying that imprisonment cannot be the sole solution to making the community safer. Labour has always said that cracking down on crime has to be accompanied by addressing the causes of crime, and the Prime Minister’s announcement at the time—of effective interventions—is designed to do just that and has been successful.

Simon Power: Does he share the view of his Cabinet colleague Shane Jones, who was reported in the Northland Age as saying that he wanted the Government to wage war on gangs but “did not except to receive much support from his party for a more direct approach” and was “afraid that just effective measures were not likely to please some of his colleagues.”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Every member of our caucus is committed to voting for the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill, which is currently before Parliament. That will take the toughest-ever action in reversing the onus of proof against gangs and effectively confiscating their assets. That speaks for itself.

Lynne Pillay: What would be the impact on prison numbers and costs if parole was abolished?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The impact would be huge in both respects. As it is, with the continuing rise in prison numbers and the need for modernisation, the country will have to spend some hundreds of millions of dollars on prisons. If we were to abolish parole, I am informed by the Department of Corrections that that would require an additional 2,200 beds, capital spending of more than $1.3 billion, and ongoing costs of around $233 million a year. So when the National Party implies it would abolish parole but never quite commits itself, it needs to explain whether it will pay for that by abolishing tax cuts; by borrowing money, which it has promised to do; or by cutting spending on health and education. The truth is that National is making a promise in that regard that it intends to dishonour.

Simon Power: Does he agree with his colleague Russell Fairbrother who said, when speaking on behalf of a group calling itself The Really Sensible Sentencing Trust, that common thieves, taggers, and disqualified drivers do not deserve to be locked up and instead should be “supported in the community with taxpayer funds.”; and can we expect to see that rolled out as Labour Party policy during election time?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is well aware of the tougher measures against tagging that have been passed by this House and launched by the Prime Minister. But I do not think that even the rednecks in the National Party are advocating that we should be locking up 14-year-olds in prison for tagging.

Lynne Pillay: In what ways has the Government moved to toughen laws against serious offenders, as the Minister suggested in his answer?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There is a whole series of measures. The Bail Act in 2000, for example, reversed the onus of proof so that recidivist offenders had to prove to the court why they should be bailed, rather than the police having to prove to the court why they should not. The Sentencing Act increased from 10 to 17 years the minimum period of time before parole faced by an aggravated murderer. It also resulted in the time actually spent in prison by convicted sexual violators going up by 40 percent, and in people convicted of serious assault spending 70 percent of their sentence in jail not 50 percent. Finally, before I exhaust your patience, Madam Speaker, the Parole Act requires the paramount consideration to be the safety of the community, which is why the Parole Board is now declining 72 percent of applications, not the 50 percent it used to under a National Government.

Simon Power: Does he agree with the following statement: “We have candidates saying that we have to lock them up for longer, and that we have to have more police to lock them up, then saying the prison numbers are going up too much. We can’t have it both ways.”, and does not what he said on 2 June 1994 describe Labour’s own confusion on law and order policy?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There is absolutely no confusion in Labour’s policy. We are not slippery like the National Party. It is quite clear, as I said earlier, that this Government has taken a tougher position on law and order issues. That is why the prison—

Hon Members: Ha, ha!

Hon PHIL GOFF: Members can laugh, but that is why the prison population has gone up by 71 percent. It is equally clear that this Government is committed to addressing the causes of crime, which is what Effective Interventions is doing very effectively right now—it is both aiming at reducing offending and is successfully reducing reoffending.

Simon Power: Can he confirm that when he was asked to report to Cabinet in March 2005 on credible options for reducing the prison population, he rejected the use of electronic bail, rejected the expansion of home detention, and rejected sentencing guidelines and lowering maximum sentences; and can he also confirm that all of these have since been introduced after he was moved on as Minister of Justice?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member needs to do his homework a little better than that, quite frankly. Electronic monitoring of bail has changed, and it has changed because we now have the technological equipment to do that effectively. What I find strange about the member is that one day he stood up in this House and said that there were only 26 on it and it was far too few, and when he found out that he was wrong and it was four times that much, he said that there were far too many on it and it was dangerous.

/NR/rdonlyres/6023B59C-8488-4363-A644-CA503577CDAA/92495/48HansQ_20080902_00000508_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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9. Auckland Hospital—Acute Psychiatric Unit

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

9. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: What steps, if any, is the Minister taking to ensure the safety and well-being of patients at Auckland City Hospital’s acute psychiatric unit?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I am satisfied that following an independent review earlier this year, Auckland District Health Board has begun making extensive changes to its adult mental health services to improve the safety and well-being of patients. These include appointing a new head of psychiatry in the department, extensive changes to nursing accountabilities and rosters, and new reporting mechanisms through to the Ministry of Health, which will follow up on the full implementation of the recommendations.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that the man whose body was found floating under Wynyard Wharf in Auckland on Sunday, 17 August had been discharged from Auckland City Hospital’s acute psychiatric unit very shortly before he died?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I have received no specific briefing on the identity of that gentleman.

Sue Bradford: Why does the Minister think it acceptable that despite the small number of changes he outlined in his earlier answer, Te WhetuTawera continues to deal with patient safety and releases inappropriately, and what action will he take to ensure incidents like this latest one will not happen again; does he really think that changing the designations of nurses and changing a few rosters will deal with the seriousness of the situation in Auckland?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I hope the member will forgive me if I did not capture in one answer to a parliamentary question all of the changes that are being made. Very significant changes are being made in those mental health services, and they include a full review of the security arrangements—including the discharge arrangements—for patients needing supervision. I have also further given a commitment to the member that I will expect the full implementation of recommendations from the independent review.

Sue Bradford: Does the Government have any longer-term strategies in Auckland to ensure that there are more spaces available in quality rehabilitation units—at the moment there is only one—and that there is sufficient step-down accommodation, community support, and accommodation services for patients such as the gentleman who was recently released in these circumstances?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yes. I am advised that there are further increases in the community-based acute mental health provision following from that review, and also that there are enhancements to the cultural training and practice of staff at Auckland mental health services.

/NR/rdonlyres/8D715230-2FAD-4042-9A93-393947AF4A23/92497/48HansQ_20080902_00000579_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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10. Incandescent Light Bulbs—Minimum Energy Performance Standards

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

10. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does the Government still intend to introduce minimum energy performance standards for incandescent light bulbs?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : Yes. The standard is for all lighting, not just for incandescent light bulbs. Under CER, together with Australia, we ensure a wide range of imported electrical goods meet prudent energy-efficiency standards. The standards for energy-efficient light bulbs are scheduled for October 2009.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister telling the House and the hundreds—thousands, in fact—of New Zealanders who are storing up incandescent light bulbs that he has to go ahead with this because the Australians have told him to?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I am not. Also, contrary to the member’s other assertions, these standards do not force consumers to use compact fluorescent light bulbs. There is a range of choice other than the compact fluorescent light bulbs, including more energy-efficient halogen bulbs that look identical to the traditional incandescent bulbs but still save power. Also, incandescent bulbs will still be available where there is not a range of cost-effective energy-efficient alternatives.

Su’a William Sio: What savings to consumers are likely to result from the change to energy-efficient light bulbs, and are these in addition to the savings from the $1 billion energy saver fund?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Each year New Zealanders spend around $660 million on electricity for lighting. Changing to more efficient bulbs is expected to help New Zealanders save hundreds of millions of dollars. For the individual homeowner, replacing the four most-used incandescent bulbs with the most energy-efficient bulbs saves around $50 a year, and if one changes the whole household the saving is around $140 a year. These savings are separate from the $1 billion efficiency fund savings.

Gerry Brownlee: If energy-efficient light bulbs—[Interruption] He certainly was not talking about the Labour backbench when he was talking about a bright future. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Order!

Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: Right, we will have the question in silence.

Gerry Brownlee: I am happy to ask all the questions if we just get a bit of order around here.

Madam SPEAKER: Gerry Brownlee.

Gerry Brownlee: If energy saving light bulbs are so brilliant at saving money, why is there a necessity for the Government to ban other sorts of light bulbs?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The old-fashioned incandescent bulbs are a bit like the National Party: 95 percent of the energy is wasted as heat. New technology light bulbs use a far higher proportion of the energy for light.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm reports that his Labour colleagues have been asking him to change his mind on the ban on incandescent light bulbs because they are receiving calls from their constituents bemoaning the Government’s nanny State mentality; and when will he decide to drop this foolish ban, given that he has just said people can save money if they make the choice themselves?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Quite the contrary—members on this side like to help New Zealanders have lower power bills.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister had any calls from his colleagues to reverse the energy-efficiency standards for refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, and several dozen household appliances that have been coming in over the last 7 years; if not, why is it that New Zealanders were not able to access those cost savings without a standard actually being put in place?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have not heard even the National Party calling for the reversal of those standards, which are identical in principle, and were it not for the standards that this Government has introduced in concert with the Australian Government, New Zealanders would be wasting a lot more money on electricity.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept that although energy efficiency is important and something to be strived for, it is also important to take the public along with him, otherwise the whole aim of the policy is undermined because of the backlash it causes; if so, why will he not listen to what the public are telling him?

Hon DAVID PARKER: There have been two or three underlying issues for the public, which have been based on misrepresentations of what we are doing. One of them was a concern that these things are ugly. We have now shown that there are alternatives for those who do not like the curly shapes of some the compact fluorescent light bulbs, and there are similarly good explanations in respect of other issues. The assertion that there is a fire risk in respect of these things has been well and truly disproved. There are approximately 13 million compact fluorescent light bulbs in New Zealand, and overall they reduce fire risk because they run at lower temperatures than traditional incandescent bulbs.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister recall the Labour Government’s 1975 policy of banning cats in dairies, which caused a huge public backlash, and does he see that his ban on incandescent light bulbs is heading Labour towards exactly the same position?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The best retort to that particular allegation came from Dr Cullen a few weeks ago when Mr Brownlee was talking about the nanograms of mercury in fluorescent lamps, when he said “You are accusing us of being the nanogram State.”

Madam SPEAKER: Oh dear—I am not sure what it is about light bulbs.

/NR/rdonlyres/D86A72D3-D709-4D50-9A84-3403B0AD3DAD/92499/48HansQ_20080902_00000624_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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11. Accident Compensation Scheme—Changes

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

11. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Has she received any reports from medical professionals about potential changes to the accident compensation system?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister for ACC) : Yes. I have seen a report from an overwhelming number of medical professionals, including physiotherapists, podiatrists, and osteopaths, who describe patients’ experiences of National’s previous privatisation of accident compensation as a nightmare, a disaster, chaotic, and confusing. If the public does not want it and experts do not want it, then just who is National’s privatisation plan meant to benefit?

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister seen any research on which groups are likely to miss out on cover for their injuries, under a privatised scheme?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes. Australian research shows that those in the lower socio-economic groups are, unsurprisingly, more often uninsured or underinsured and do not pursue compensation through the legal system because they cannot afford it. John Key is not listening to the professionals or to patients about how privatisation will affect ordinary Kiwis. In fact, to paraphrase Barack Obama, it is not just because John Key does not care; it is because John Key does not get it.

/NR/rdonlyres/0A6950B9-D5CC-428F-ABF1-FF13B974903B/92501/48HansQ_20080902_00000708_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 02 September 2008 [PDF 201k]

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12. Passports—Microchips

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

12. SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Is he satisfied that the new passport microchips are tamper-proof; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Internal Affairs) : No passport could be tamper-proof. Tampering with a passport does not mean that the passport can be credibly forged. Any attempt to tamper with the chip in an e-passport will be detected when the e-passport is presented to border control authorities. A microchip is only one of the security features in an e-passport.

Sandra Goudie: Has the Minister seen reports that Auckland University researcher Peter Gutmann and a group of computer experts have cracked the chip, and described the security flaws as serious, and will the Minister ask his department to report on the integrity of the chip, which stores digital information on the new passports; if not, why not?

Hon RICK BARKER: I have seen the reports, I have asked my department for a report, and I can assure the member and the House that the passport chip has not been cracked. What they have done is to clone some elements of the passport, but that they have been able to clone it does not mean to say that they then can pass the information off as genuine, because the security codes that go with it, necessary for it to be a genuine passport, and read as such,were not present.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister tell the House or explain how the Government is improving passport security, generally?

Hon RICK BARKER: This morning I unveiled a new passport design cover, which I have here, which adds to a much better-looking passport for Kiwis, and I can assure the House that the new passport will have better security features physically, and in the chip as well. So there is a good-looking, new passport on the way with much better security.

Sandra Goudie: Does the Minister think it acceptable that the passport microchips are “embarrassingly simple to hack into”; if so, why?

Hon RICK BARKER: People have over-egged their claims for a gullible audience before today. I want to assure the member that that is not the case.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In line with your ruling in the House the other day, we will take one of our Thursday supplementary questions, if that is all right, and offer it to—

Madam SPEAKER: As the member well knows, since I made sure he got a copy of the ruling, that applies only to the smaller parties that are specifically named. So I am sorry that—

Gerry Brownlee: Why is that? [Interruption] I see, you are just acknowledging that that is a fundamental unfairness approved by the Labour Party.

Madam SPEAKER: No, the member is being silly. This matter has been discussed, and it is for the obvious reason that the smaller parties get very, very few supplementary questions. At times they have a question and they wish for the opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech, which we hear so much about and which we do try to ensure happens in this House. It has been a rule for over 3 years or so.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The smaller parties have every opportunity to get more questions in the House, simply by getting more members here. To say that our opportunities will be curtailed, simply because of some fairness to the small parties, is, I think, quite wrong.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Brownlee. I have ruled on the matter, and that is the end of it. I suggest if you wish to change it, that you bring the matter up at the Business Committee. That will be an opportunity to be able to establish a new rule; but meanwhile, that is what has been decided.

Sandra Goudie: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave to ask a further supplementary question.

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the press release, dated 3 November 2005, which stated: “NZ passports to contain security chip”.

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table the Sunday Star-Times August 17, 2008 release: “Kiwi ‘geek’ cracks passport”.

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table today’s press release by the Minister saying that the New Zealand passport is one of the most trusted passports—

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

Sandra Goudie: I seek leave to table a question provided today: how does he reconcile—

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

ENDS


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