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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Questions to Ministers

1. Rt Hon Winston Peters—Donations

1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in July regarding the Rt Hon Winston Peters: “I’ve made it clear all the way through this round of allegations that I accept an honourable member’s word as his bond unless I have reason to doubt it. I don’t have reason to doubt it at this point.”, and how does she reconcile that with her statement last week in the House that in her meeting with Mr Owen Glenn in February she was “left with the impression that he had been asked for money [by Mr Peters], and that some time later he had been advised where to pay it.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : As I said last week, my assumption was that both men were honourable gentlemen and there may be some innocent explanation.

John Key: Why did the Prime Minister maintain that she had no reason to doubt Mr Peters’ word that there was no donation from Mr Glenn, when, in fact, she had a very good reason to doubt his word, she had the best reason in the world to doubt his word, because Mr Glenn had personally told her not only that Mr Peters had asked for a donation but that he—Mr Glenn—had paid it to Mr Peters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because—and I repeat—I assumed that both were honourable gentlemen and there may be some innocent explanation. I can see that there has been a bit of a dust-up in the Tory party caucus this morning, and its members have decided to come down here and yell their way through question time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is the purpose of holding a Privileges Committee hearing, if the leader of a party with four members on the committee has made up his mind before he has heard any of the evidence as to who is guilty and who is not; or does he just base his decision on the word of the rich, and everybody else does not matter?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Clearly, in this House today a process will go on at the Privileges Committee, and I think it is important that both sides are heard.

John Key: Why has the Prime Minister continued to accept Mr Peters’ claim that he knew nothing of a donation from Mr Glenn until he was told of it by his lawyer on the 18 July, when, funnily enough, the Prime Minister herself told Mr Peters about it in February?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have told the House, I have always believed that there may well be some innocent explanation for the two conflicting stories. I realise that the fact that policy is leaking out of the National Party like a tidal wave is cause for concern among those members, but that is no reason for them to be a disruptive rabble at question time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister remember her call to me when I was in Africa in order to repeat a claim made by the New Zealand Herald that money had been paid to New Zealand First, which claim Mr Glenn, before the committee, has denied, as well; or should we have a Privileges Committee hearing where the facts do not matter—just bias and prejudice?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have consistently said, I believe that it is important that the processes in train are followed. It does concern me when people leap to conclusions about which side of the evidence they will come down on.

John Key: What could the innocent explanation be for a large donor of the Labour Party, someone who was trying to support the Labour Party, saying he gave $100,000 to Winston Peters, and Mr Peters, the man who was responsible for appointing—potentially—Mr Glenn as the consul in Monaco, saying he has no memory of it and cannot remember it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is to be hoped that the Privileges Committee will get to the truth of the matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that, as the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, the Prime Minister is now aware that the only written submission on the question of a position in Monaco came from Mr Richard Worth of the National Party?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Indeed, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Phil Goff, informs me that he was lobbied by a National Party member to have someone that member knew appointed the consul in Monaco.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister believe that it was misleading when she responded in February to the question of whether she believed that Owen Glenn had given substantial money to New Zealand First: “Well, that’s a matter for New Zealand First to answer, isn’t it—not a matter for me.”, when just 4 days’ earlier Owen Glenn had told her that he had given a donation to New Zealand First? She knew all along that there was conflicting information, but her modus operandi was to keep the New Zealand public in the dark for as long as she possibly could.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the record shows, I was asked to express an opinion and I declined to do so.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that if the assertion in the Leader of the Opposition’s last question is correct—that is, that Mr Glenn gave a donation to New Zealand First—then, clearly, there was no donation to Mr Peters that required declaration?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I suggest that the Deputy Prime Minister is right. Once again, Mr Key has come down to the Chamber rather ill-prepared because he is trying to put out the fires in his own caucus, which not only leaks his policies but leaks his diaries and his secret meetings with Lord Ashcroft where—what a surprise—he discusses Crosby/Textor’s advice to Tory parties.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Prime Minister whether this business of politics requires one to be able to hold a thought beyond the next currency movement, and that deals with facts; and if Mr Glenn has told the Privileges Committee that he now says he did not give any money to New Zealand First, why cannot the Leader of the Opposition accept that, and why cannot his members on that committee, who are meant to be impartial, neutral, and unbiased, not accept it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is certainly my view that the Leader of the Opposition has put his party’s members on the Privileges Committee in a very difficult position, but then, of course, flip-flops are no stranger to Mr Key, who yesterday had the Families Commission gone by lunchtime, whereas today he is just going to rebalance it.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister recall that a few moments ago, when she was asked whether New Zealand First had received a donation from Owen Glenn, she said she had declined to give an answer, when, in fact, that is not correct; what the Prime Minister decided to do was to keep the New Zealand public in the dark, keep this matter secret from them, and, hopefully, keep it hidden before the election?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Not at all. I was asked whether I believed that New Zealand First had had a donation, and I declined to express an opinion on the matter. If anyone is keeping this country in the dark, it is Mr Key on how he contrives to have Lord Ashcroft pay for his polling and his spin doctoring without having it appear in the National Party’s accounts. [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister, even though she is not a member of the Privileges Committee, aware of the fact that the committee has received evidence from Mr Glenn himself that, first, he did not give money to New Zealand First—[Interruption] I know that these facts hurt, but we are going to choke some people with facts soon. To get back to my point—[Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: We will have the question in silence so that everyone can hear it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is all I want, and the public, as well. Is the Prime Minister, though not a member of the Privileges Committee, aware that it has received evidence from Mr Glenn himself that, first, he gave no money to New Zealand First, and, second, he gave no money to Winston Peters, which were the allegations made all the way through, until this hearing?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my understanding that those were the allegations that were made, and when they were put to Mr Peters he denied them.

John Key: Why did the Prime Minister not tell the public that Owen Glenn had told her he had given a donation to New Zealand First—why did she keep it secret?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not in the habit of rushing out and announcing that I have had a private conversation with A and a private conversation with B. As far as I am concerned, those statements having been made to me, I checked them out and I assumed that there might be some innocent explanation.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the Prime Minister’s experience, and in that of her senior colleagues and other senior members of this House, has she ever seen a situation where members have gone to the Privileges Committee with their minds totally made up for them by their leader, and where those members have gone public over and over again during the time of the hearing, which is a contempt of that committee; and how could one expect anything other than a kangaroo court from such biased members?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in response to an earlier question, it has concerned me that the Leader of the Opposition has placed his members on the committee in a very difficult position. I think it is important that the processes of this House are dealt with with integrity.

John Key: Why did the Prime Minister not tell the New Zealand public that she had had conflicting sides of the story offered to her by Mr Glenn and Mr Peters, when she would have known that it was a serious issue—so serious that, when Mr Glenn told her, she rang Mr Peters in South Africa—because she would have known that if a Minister in her Government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had accepted a personal $100,000 donation at a time when he was potentially appointing that person to a post in Monaco, it was a very serious matter; or is the reason the blindingly obvious one that she did not want to drag her Government down, so she lowered her standards?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the member cares to look back past his transcript of this question time, he will find that he has contradicted himself so often that he, too, will be embarrassed by that. But the fact is there was a conflict of evidence. Both men, I believed, were genuine in their belief, and I hope the Privileges Committee will get to the bottom of it.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Is the Prime Minister, in the light of these references to conflicting evidence, aware of any reports of a senior politician, when asked whether any member of the National Party had met Lord Ashcroft, saying “They might have.”, repeating that answer, and then, when asked whether he had met him, saying “Oh yes, I did.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, those deliberately misleading answers were given by John Key, because he did not want to tell the truth that Lord Ashcroft, a major funder of the British Tory party and a major funder of John Howard’s Liberal Party who was undoubtedly looking for a way to fund the National Party without the money coming near New Zealand, had visited Mr Key secretly at his Parnell residence. The first time Mr Key was asked about that, his instinct was to try to throw the reporter off the scent.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware of any case of a senior politician claiming not to have met the Exclusive Brethren, only for him to be exposed by television footage and photographs of a meeting occurring; and what is it about the star witness’s evidence today that has the National Party wanting to decide before it hears him, not after?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is perfectly clear that Mr Key met the Exclusive Brethren on several occasions before the last election, in his capacity as chief money-collector and donations-collector for the National Party. I come to the second part of the question: it does concern me that the National Party made up its mind on this issue before it heard both sides of the story.

John Key: Is the—

Hon Phil Goff: What about the email about the $1 million, John?

John Key: The member will get his chance in a few months’ time. Is the Prime Minister—

Hon Member: You won’t last.

John Key: —oh, we will see—aware that Dr Michael Cullen and Trevor Mallard have been going to social events and actually talking to journalists as well, and have been telling them that Owen Glenn is non compos mentis and casting aspersions on his character and his memory?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I am not aware of such things, but I am certainly aware that Mr Key could remember not opening an email he could not remember receiving from the Exclusive Brethren.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Mallard’s and Dr Cullen’s description of Owen Glenn, and is that the way she thinks they should be characterising Labour’s big donor?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That member makes so many wild statements that I would not take as evidence the fact that he asserted that anybody had said any such thing.

John Key: Would the Prime Minister be surprised, then, to know that I have a text message from one of the journalists in question, saying that Trevor Mallard was saying exactly those things at a function?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: We are well aware of the member’s furtive text messaging between this Chamber and the press gallery. Perhaps he would like to disclose the recipient.

/NR/rdonlyres/682A2C3A-3B4B-4164-8313-B2050C303FD3/93271/48HansQ_20080909_00000033_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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2. Emissions Trading Scheme—Financial Implications for New Zealanders

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

2. R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Is he confident that ordinary New Zealanders will not be worse off financially under the proposed emissions trading scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Thanks to the support of New Zealand First and the Greens, the Government will provide transitional financial support to ordinary New Zealanders to assist them with increased electricity prices. Without the emissions trading scheme, ordinary New Zealanders would be paying the full cost of emissions through their taxes. Of course, the liability falls on the Government under the current arrangements.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister confirm that the electricity rebate and cash payments to those on fixed incomes, which were secured under negotiation between the Government and New Zealand First, will be equivalent to the total increased cost to residential power consumers under the proposed emissions trading scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I can. It will consist of two parts: an across-the-board payment to households, plus targeted payments in relation to beneficiaries and the Working for Families credit system.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister have confidence that this critical and complex legislation is right, when the Government introduced and passed 785 amendments last Tuesday, when not a single member of the House can honestly say that he or she has read and understood every one of those 785 changes, and when the Minister had told the House only the week before that that the bill, having been reported back from the select committee with a thousand amendments, was all correct?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is quite normal for there to be substantial Supplementary Order Papers on complex legislation of this sort. Of course, when one is taking body counts one is counting a very large number of changes from “a” to “the” or from “the” to “a”, and similar kinds of changes. The number of substantive amendments is significantly fewer than 785.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that any home receiving a package of insulation, draft-stopping, cylinder and pipe lagging, efficient showerheads and lights, and a clean heater, under the billion-dollar green homes fund, will be better off financially and health-wise, not just for 1 year but for ever, than if the emissions trading scheme bill had not been passed?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is quite correct. The opportunity is now being taken for a substantial upgrade and retrofit of existing New Zealand housing to bring it up to much better standards in terms of warmth and protection of health. We know very well that cold, damp housing has a great impact upon people’s health standards. The long-term effect of this measure will be to save the Government money in terms of health costs.

Hon Peter Dunne: How can the Minister be confident that ordinary New Zealanders will not be worse off under the proposed emissions trading scheme, when independent analysis estimates that 22,000 jobs may be lost, wages will drop by the equivalent of $90 per week, and almost $6 billion will be lost from the economy, all by 2025; and can he tell those ordinary New Zealanders how he expects his one-off payment of $112 to compensate them for the long-term economic and social hardship ahead?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: A variety of economic models are run. Most of the economic models suggest a very small impact on total GDP by that end point. That impact, of course, is not a contraction of GDP; it means that growth in GDP may be some very small fraction—indeed, 1 percent, or around that order of size—less than it otherwise would have been. In fact, if New Zealand grasps the opportunity for research and development in these areas, we can become exporters of technology relevant to dealing with global warming.

R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that doing nothing is not an option, and that the potential damage to our economy from doing nothing is often overlooked by research undertaken into the potential cost of the proposed emissions trading scheme?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed, some of the models—so-called independent models—that have been around seem to assume no significant adverse effects if the issue of global warming is not dealt with. That, of course, makes a mockery of those models. Some models assume, on the contrary, that other people will bear all the burden of adjustment to global warming, but we in New Zealand will sit proudly doing nothing and hope that others will solve the problem for us.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Is the Minister confident that ordinary New Zealanders of NgāiTahu whakapapa will not be worse off financially, given that they stand to lose tens of millions of dollars off the value of the forestry assets they received as part of their settlement; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, in general, I am. There is an issue around process and whether the Government of the day in the 1990s did not disclose full information. That process is under way. But, in general terms, people will be better off, or no worse off, as a consequence of these changes. Emissions units, of course, will transfer as part of the emissions trading scheme, and it should not be assumed that consent will be forthcoming for all the forests in Canterbury at present to transfer to dairy farming, given the absence of adequate water supplies and other difficulties.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Government now regret delaying the entry of transport into the emissions trading scheme by 2 years on the grounds that fuel prices were already too high, when petrol prices have dropped by 11c a litre since that announcement, and the emissions trading scheme would have added only 6c; and does the Government really think it will be easier to add 6c a litre to petrol in 2011 than it would be to do it now?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government was certainly concerned about the short-term inflationary pressures over the next couple of years. And perhaps I could gently say that perhaps we took too seriously the member’s confident forecast that petrol prices will continue to rise without ever coming back down again.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with Shane Jones’ comments following the Ngāi Tahu claim involving its forestry assets and the effects of the emissions trading scheme bill that “What the Ngāi Tahu stoush shows is that if there is either bad faith or if there is an opportunity for game playing, then you can expect some of those iwi to do that.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have no reason to believe that people, given opportunities, will behave any differently according to their ethnic or other backgrounds.

/NR/rdonlyres/4427F2B6-DBA4-4E23-9D77-A5F5B91810E6/93273/48HansQ_20080909_00000240_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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3. New Zealand - Australia Migration—Economy

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

3. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported statement from 2000 that the main driver of the number of well-skilled New Zealanders choosing to move to Australia was the state of the two economies, and does she think this remains the case today?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : At that time I was very concerned about the huge growth in the earnings gap between New Zealand and Australia under the last National Government. That gap in the 1990s increased by 50 percent. Since that time, and despite the minerals boom in Australia, the gap has increased by around only 2 percent, and, of course, New Zealand’s average annual economic growth under Labour in the first 8 years of our Government exceeded that of Australia.

John Key: What does it say about her Government’s management of the economy when, after 9 years of Labour, 46,000 people went to live permanently in Australia last year and only 13,000 came back the other way, making that the largest ever net exodus across the Tasman?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said to the member on many occasions, he should focus on the overall net migration figure, which is positive. I repeat that in 1999, under the sad, last—and I repeat, last—National Government, overall net migration outwards was negative by over 11,000, in contrast with a positive figure today.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that, according to figures independently produced by Statistics New Zealand, the average net loss to Australia under National in the 1990s was 9,800 people a year, whereas under Labour the average net loss to Australia has been 19,800 and is rising, and what does that say about the fact that for 9 years her Government has not bothered to cut taxes—except, that is, until election year?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: At last the member comes close to acknowledging that under the National Government, in 8 out of 9 years in the 1990s, there was a net loss to Australia. But what he will not own up to is that in the last, sad 9th year of the National Government in the 1990s net migration overall was over 11,000. That was an indictment of that Government.

John Key: What does it say about her Government’s record when, according to figures independently produced by the Parliamentary Library, the after-tax wage gap between Australia and New Zealand has blown out from 20 percent in 1999-2000 to 38 percent last year, therefore almost doubling—and she should pay attention to this, because she is always getting it wrong—whereas under the previous National Government the gap went from 16 percent to 20 percent; so just so she understands that, I say that under a National Government it went from 16 percent to 20 percent, and under a Labour Government it has gone from 20 percent to 30 percent?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure the member would know better than anyone else the old saying “there’s lies, damn lies, and statistics”, and the member will plug out any index he likes in order to try to prove his figures. But I say our legacy of the Employment Contracts Act and of Kiwi workers getting a bad deal for 9 years was what really opened up that wage gap. It is still National’s policy to drive workers’ wages down.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister saying that it is a damn lie when the Parliamentary Library produces a set of records that show the wage gap under the National Government from 1990 to 1999 moved up 4 percent, and under her Government it has doubled?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I am saying is that the information I have long had is that the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia blew out by 50 percent under the National Government in the 1990s. That is what I rest my case on.

/NR/rdonlyres/24CA0BDF-ECFB-4A1E-8BB3-D2F394AD1039/93275/48HansQ_20080909_00000325_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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4. Research and Development Tax Credit—Reports

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

4. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What reports, if any, has he received about the research and development tax credit that was introduced earlier this year?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology) : Several reports are already to hand. Both anecdotal evidence and formal monitoring show that our best and most innovative businesses are the ones most likely to benefit from this policy. In short, those businesses are delighted because it means they can expand faster and it means they are more and more competitive with Australia. The news from the policy leaked this morning that National intends to cut the credit will be received by many of those companies with dismay; it is a shameful policy.

Sue Moroney: What other news on research and development has he seen this morning?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Apart from National’s plan to cancel New Zealand Fast Forward, the main additional news is that there is no money—no new money—going into research and development in New Zealand for the next 3 years. That is to say, the only new funding going into universities or Crown research institutes is money taken off some of the best businesses in this country. There is not one dollar of extra research and development in the next 3 years—not even one dollar of research into where all those leaks came from.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister agree with the statement by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, who said: “the design of research and development tax incentives is difficult and … without great care one can see great leakage from the revenue base without the extra research and development you hope to attract.”; if he does not agree with that statement, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I do. That is why when this Government put the research and development tax credit together, whilst we made sure that research and development was broadly defined—one of the best definitions in the world—we also made sure that some areas of research and development were capped, most notably software, so that the situation the member refers to will not occur. The member thinks that this is a great source of leakage of tax revenue into the private sector. My view is that this is the best and most effective way to ensure that the best, most innovative businesses in our country have the opportunity they need to grow faster and to beat those Aussies. After all, the National Party was on about that just in the last question.

/NR/rdonlyres/BF44A8A5-AC4D-417C-9CB5-1B4F7F92FB1E/93277/48HansQ_20080909_00000376_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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5. Corrections, Department—Confidence

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

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

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Corrections) : Yes, much more confidence than was possible 9 years ago, when National was in Government; for the following reasons. With a significant improvement in prison security, the escape rate has fallen by a massive 84 percent. With better controls on the contraband that enters the prisons, drug tests show that the number of inmates who have taken drugs has fallen from an average of 34 percent in 1998, down to 14 percent—one-third of what it was. More inmates, some 60 percent of sentenced prisoners, are now in work, more are attending intensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and more are accessing literacy and numeracy programmes. Finally, I say all of those advances have been achieved while the Department of Corrections has coped with 3,200 net additional inmates since 1999, a 71 percent rise because of the enactment of tougher laws and the provision of more police.

Simon Power: Can he confirm that eight inmates from Auckland and Spring Hill prisons have been charged with involvement in a $5 million methamphetamine drug ring from behind bars, and can he also confirm that it has taken 7 years to introduce cellphone-blocking technology, that there are still only 4 prisons that have that technology, and that they do not include the Auckland and Spring Hill prisons?

Hon PHIL GOFF: What I can confirm is that because of better monitoring and intelligence work within the corrections system, Department of Corrections officers, working with police and customs officers, have now successfully cracked an external drug ring. This was much-praised work by the Department of Corrections and by the police, who say it will significantly interrupt methamphetamine production in the Auckland and North Island regions. On the second question, I say although National did nothing for 9 years about cellphone use within prisons, by February next year every prison in our country will have cellphone jamming, a fact much admired by our colleagues across the Tasman, who are now working to emulate New Zealand’s example.

Hon David Benson-Pope: How effective has the Crime Prevention Information Capability strategy, recently developed by the Department of Corrections, been?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It has been very effective, indeed. The goal was to detect, to prevent, and to prosecute crimes, using intelligence gathered within the prison system. We know that a very large number of gang leaders and members of organised crime are now imprisoned. They endeavour to continue to commit crime from within the prison, and what the Department of Corrections has successfully done, through monitoring telephone calls and through other intelligence-gathering work, has been to prosecute cases against those inmates and to assist the police in very effective operations to disrupt organised crime. I congratulate the Department of Corrections on that achievement.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that at this time last year the previous Minister, Damien O’Connor, stated that cellphone-blocking technology would be in all prisons by now, but that that is now not expected to occur for another 6 months; and can he confirm further that Auckland Central Remand Prison used to be the only prison that had cellphone blocking, but that that ended when the Government cancelled the private management of that prison?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I cannot confirm that, but I can confirm that already seven prisons have cellphone jamming or have that system being installed. Not one prison in Australia, including the private contracted prisons, has yet got to that point.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the monitoring of all landline calls made by inmates started only in June this year, yet the enabling legislation was passed in October 1999; and why did nothing happen for so long, when an internal memo from 2004 warned: “The fact that legislation is in place and no monitoring is occurring is a continued risk for the department’s credibility.”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: What I can confirm is that although there was absolutely no telephone monitoring at all under 9 years of the last National Government, every telephone call made from a pay phone in every prison in New Zealand is now recorded, and calls are monitored on a targeted basis and a random basis. I have had the opportunity to listen in to some of those calls while information that implicated people in gang activity outside the prison was carefully recorded, taken down for use in evidence, and later used to convict organised criminals outside the prison.

Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by his statement in October 1999 that “We are left with a situation where there are no constraints on cellphones in prisons other than security measures, which have proven utterly inadequate in detecting cellphones.”, and does that mean that in the decade that it has taken for his Government to block cellphones in all prisons, security measures have continued to be “utterly inadequate”?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Just to correct the member, I say this Government will not have had a decade in Government until about this time next year. I say to that member his Government failed utterly to put anything in place to jam telephones. Not only did that Government not jam telephones but also I have a copy of a remark made by the chief executive of the prison system in the last year of the National Government, stating that our maximum security prison, Pāremoremo prison, had a fence around it not to stop prisoners escaping but just to slow them down on the way out. I have a report from Manawatū Prison, admitted to be correct by Nick Smith, the then Minister of Corrections, that 42 percent of the inmates in Simon Power’s local Manawatū Prison were on drugs. Forty-two percent of inmates at that prison were on drugs, and 41 percent of inmates at Rimutaka Prison were on drugs. Simon Power’s local paper, the Evening Standard, said a typical week at Manawatū Prison would see 20 to 30 nocturnal visitors climb the six-wire fence, reach through the window at Manawatū Prison, and pass drugs through the window. That was the shambles that we inherited from Simon Power’s Government, even in his own patch.

/NR/rdonlyres/88B3D673-B716-493C-88D4-B427CD86AA26/93279/48HansQ_20080909_00000411_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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6. New Zealand Fast Forward—Progress

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

6. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture: What reports has he received on progress with the New Zealand Fast Forward initiative?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) : The New Zealand Fast Forward Fund is making excellent progress. A high-quality business and science board has been appointed, and it met for the first time last week. Major business and industry organisations that have signed up to Fast Forward include Dairy New Zealand, Fonterra, Meat and Wool New Zealand, the Meat Industry Association, PGG Wrightson, and Zespri. Aquaculture New Zealand has announced that it will now sign up, as well. This is the single largest boost to innovation, research, and development in New Zealand history. Combined with private sector contributions it will amount to $2 billion in innovation, research, and development.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has the Minister seen any reports of plans to change the funding for New Zealand Fast Forward?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have seen one. It is this publication, which is evidently the National Party’s so-called science policy. It says that National will scrap New Zealand Fast Forward and replace the $2,000 million of public and private funding with a budget allocation of $25 million a year. The National Party’s funding would take 80 years to add up to the value of New Zealand Fast Forward, by which time everyone in this House except Darren Hughes will be dead. Not only is it cutting research funding, National is also slashing the research and development tax credit. That makes sense only if one thinks New Zealand is doing too much research and development. It may come as a surprise to the National Party that this policy is the greatest leap backward since the Catholic Church tried Galileo for his theories.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Why is the fund better than the annual grant?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: A fund like New Zealand Fast Forward gives the private sector confidence that the Government is committed and will continue to fund. The private sector therefore gives a commitment of its own to increase its expenditure. There is no way that that commitment from the private sector would be forthcoming if we were just to increase—as the National Party proposes—a budget for a couple of Crown research institutes. Research and development budgets are the first to go when budgets get cut; everyone on this side of the House knows that. We watched the National Government do exactly that. Who says that there will not be budget cuts for science, research, and other matters under a future National Government? National wants to axe the research and development tax credits because really too much research and development is proposed by the private sector. More research and development is proposed by the private sector; the National Party wants to scrap it and put it in the hands of bureaucrats in the Government. I thought it was against bureaucrats. I thought it was against the public sector knowing everything. But no—

Madam SPEAKER: This is not the general debate.

Hon David Carter: Will the Minister confirm that, despite his waffle, the New Zealand Fast Forward Fund will deliver only $20 million this year, and $30 million next year, as compared with National’s policy of delivering at least $70 million each and every year into primary sector research? That is the truth.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I will confirm is that National members are so deceptive in what they put out that they put out a table for only 3 years, which actually shows $70 million versus $65 million. If they went out to 10 years, they would find $2000 million spent versus the $70 million they claim they are spending, which only becomes $25 million in any case. This policy of the National Party to scrap research and development funding and to scrap New Zealand Fast Forward is a blow against the provincial sector and the pastoral and agricultural sector of New Zealand that the National Party will regret, right up to the day of the election.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What effect would cuts to science and research funding have?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: These cuts would be disastrous for the New Zealand economy in general, and for the pastoral, agricultural, food production sector in particular. The only way to improve this is to improve productivity. National is proposing to cut the research and development grant. I ask National members whether that is true.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about free trade.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I ask Mr Smith whether that is true. Yes, it is, we know that. National could not move backwards faster, in a more anti-science way, if it actually put its science policy in the charge of astrologers and faith healers.

Hon David Carter: I seek leave to table a press release dated 18 March 2008 from the Progressive party’s website in the name of Mr Anderton—

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

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I seek leave of the House to table an example of the appropriate artwork for the National Party’s science policy—

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

Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I sought leave to table Mr Anderton’s press release. You have not even put that leave to the House.

Madam SPEAKER: I did put the leave, and if members would be quiet they would hear it. There was objection.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I seek the leave of the House to table a picture of the kind of scientist who would be impressed by National Party—

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

Hon Pete Hodgson: I seek the leave of the House to table 300 millilitres of “Stop Leak”.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/1D86C001-933E-44DB-84E5-89A81EE0F7BA/93281/48HansQ_20080909_00000476_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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7. Health Services—Pressures

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

7. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Has he seen this week’s reports that Auckland cancer services are struggling to cope with patient demand, that South Auckland anaesthetists are threatening to work to rule due to shortages, and that local emergency department specialists warn hospital overcrowding may cost lives; and what action has he taken to deal with these crises in the public health system?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes; and a lot is being done.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a sign of yet another crisis in the New Zealand public health system when cancer patients from Auckland are yet again being sent to Australia for treatment because the region’s radiation therapy waiting times have blown out yet again—a situation that his colleague Annette King described 3 years ago as a scandal?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: It is not a situation that any Minister of Health would like to see. We are aware that there has been a blowout. There have been several resignations in the last few weeks. Some of the radiologists who have resigned have gone to the private sector. The resignations have put additional pressure on the system. The important thing is that the district health board gets treatment to those patients when they need it, whether it be at Waikato Hospital or in Australia, and that is what the district health board is focused on.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. What progress has been made in reducing the incidence of cancer across the country?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: We have taken many significant actions and moves. We have begun three community cancer pilots to support Māori and people in rural areas affected by cancer. We have established a new graduate programme for radiation therapists. We have funded additional advanced training positions in medical physics. We have funded five new linear accelerators for radiation treatment in the last year alone. We have improved the performance of radiation treatment, ensuring that 97 percent of people receive radiation treatment within 8 weeks of their first specialist assessment. Much is being done in this very challenging area of health care.

Hon Tony Ryall: If so much has been done, then why are services for New Zealand cancer patients so bad?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The realities are that we have in some areas, such as South Auckland, an increasing population; we have an ageing population, as well; and we have better methods of identifying cancers earlier, and that does put pressure on treatment systems. But we are committed, through training more specialists and through attracting more people to work for the district health boards, to providing better cancer treatment for each and every New Zealander who needs it.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a sign of yet another crisis in the New Zealand public health service, when Middlemore Hospital, in South Auckland, is short of anaesthetists by a third—20 anaesthetists—the shortage is such that it is on the verge of losing its accreditation for training anaesthetists, and this Government has known for quite some time about the workforce crisis in South Auckland affecting that profession?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The member is wrong in his assertion about the shortage of specialists there. We are aware that there is currently a shortage of four fulltime-equivalent anaesthetists in the Counties Manukau District Health Board, and the district health board is working to address that problem. The member exaggerates wildly the shortage in that area. It is not one third; it is four fulltime-equivalent anaesthetists.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not another sign of yet another crisis in the New Zealand public health service, when the leading emergency department position in New Zealand is warning the country that as many people are being killed by overcrowding in our emergency departments as are being killed on the roads, and when this Government has known for month after month that New Zealand hospital emergency departments are crammed to overcrowding and lives are being put at risk because of the hopeless timelines that this Government is forcing on our hospitals?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I do not accept the outrageous assertions that the member made. Many factors contribute to the pressure on emergency departments. The Government has been undertaking the largest hospital-rebuilding programme ever in New Zealand’s history, and we have dramatically reduced the cost of going to a general practitioner. Those two factors alone are helping our health system. We accept that there can be improvements, particularly in emergency departments, and I know that the Minister of Health is looking into that.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek to table a pledge from the Rt Hon Helen Clark that no one would miss out on a hospital bed if he or she needed it.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/1130D0CD-F793-4884-A128-5002DDF22F01/93283/48HansQ_20080909_00000539_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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8. Electoral Law—Appointment of Panel

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

8. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Why was the appointment of an expert panel to look at electoral law announced last Friday?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Because that was when the appointment process had been completed.

Hon Bill English: Has the Labour Party learnt absolutely nothing from its self-serving, partisan treatment of electoral law, which has led to the disaster of the Electoral Finance Act, and why did Labour go ahead and appoint a committee to deal with something as constitutionally important as electoral law but fail to consult the major Opposition party and other parties in the Parliament?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My understanding is that from the time the electoral expert panel idea was mentioned as something that could be done—I think it was part of a Green Party initiative agreed to in the Budget process—the National Party pronounced itself against it. So there would be little point in consulting, would there not?

Hon Bill English: Can the Government confirm that it has appointed as the leader of the expert panel Associate Professor Andrew Geddis, New Zealand’s leading academic proponent of State funding, and why does the Government not own up to the fact that it has done that in order to avoid discussing, during the campaign, Labour’s policy, which is State funding, because it knows that that policy is very unpopular with the public?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not know associate law professor Andrew Geddis to be the nation’s leading advocate on State funding, but I do know that 20 years ago the royal commission suggested that State funding was not a bad idea; and perhaps Andrew Geddis has read that report.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister confident that the Electoral Finance Act did enough to clean up money-laundering by secret trusts that some parties have engaged in—some very well, and some less skilfully—or does the Minister agree with the Greens that there are many outstanding issues regarding anonymous donations and electoral finance that clearly need reviewing outside of this House by an independent citizens forum?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My view is that the latter assessment is the one that is worth proceeding with, and, indeed, that is part of the terms of reference. It includes, certainly, whether we should have the same, or different, funding models for political parties; or, if there is to be State funding, how that would be allocated. But also it has a recommendation to take a look at any issues with the current system of funding elections and political parties to see whether the Greens’ proposition is one that comes through the test.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware of the longstanding convention that no Government makes significant appointments within 3 months of an election, and why did Labour proceed to make appointments to that important committee, in yet another example of its consistent breach of that longstanding convention, simply to give jobs to its mates?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I am aware of the convention. That convention is managed on the advice of the Cabinet Office, and to my knowledge that advice is always taken.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister now confirm that starting with the pledge card debacle after the 2005 election, Labour has persisted with its blatant partisan attempt to screw the scrum on electoral law, and that it wants to avoid having to tell the public, in the election campaign, that it favours State funding, so at the last minute it has appointed an expert panel run by someone who can be guaranteed to implement Labour’s policy?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member kind of makes it up. Why do I not put him out of his misery and say that State funding has been New Zealand Labour Party policy since before he left school. It has been that way all that time. So there is no particular surprise in it. However, I think the member besmirches the reputation of the people who have been appointed to the expert panel and actually besmirches the citizens process that the Greens have helped devise. Those people, of course, have not even yet been discovered, so it is a bit hard to criticise them.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that the Green Party fought incredibly hard to secure the right of ordinary New Zealanders to have their say on electoral law through a citizens forum, and if that citizens forum never gets to meet, then the public will never get to have that opportunity to participate in electoral finance law reform, through a combination of the reluctance and delay by Labour and outright opposition to citizens’ participation by National?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My gentle advice to the member is to quit while he is ahead.

/NR/rdonlyres/14BC2BA7-88A5-40FB-BB44-88BA1049555B/93285/48HansQ_20080909_00000597_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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9. Environmental Policy—Developments

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

9. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent reports has he received on developments in environmental policy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) : I have seen a very good proposed national environment statement on water flows. It will be particularly useful for estimating the impact of leaks, in the longer term.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister expand further on any analysis that has been done on the water flows document?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I can. Leaks, of course, are occurring on a daily basis around the country and are becoming more frequent around Wellington at the moment. What is clear is that someone with access to National Party policy and caucus material is determined that there is a proper analysis of that policy, and what is clear from the lack of denial from John Key today is that he did discuss Crosby/Textor funding with Lord Ashcroft and ways of doing that, that kept it off the National Party books.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister intend to tell Owen Glenn to his face the things that he has been telling the press gallery about Owen Glenn?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is absolutely clear that some confusion is involved in this, and that is what I have said.

/NR/rdonlyres/6E1DE93B-7677-49CB-BB24-C3E493BD6121/93287/48HansQ_20080909_00000662_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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10. Education System—Business Needs

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

10. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied with the performance of our education system, in light of the findings in the Business New Zealand election survey 2008 that 72 percent of respondents believe that the education system is not meeting the skill needs of business; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Yes; by international standards, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment scoring, New Zealand students are performing at near the top level of students in other OECD countries. However, for some New Zealand students, our current secondary school programmes are not working. That is why the Labour-led Government is introducing the revolutionary Schools Plus programme for those who are not succeeding, not boot camps as suggested by Mr John Key in January this year.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister agree with the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) that the numeracy requirements for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1 reflect “a very low level of achievement”, and that they are not “likely to match the community’s expectation of numeracy at year 11”; if so, why are we sending our school leavers away with a high school qualification for a knowledge of maths that everyone agrees we should expect of intermediate school pupils?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would not agree with that. Nor would I agree with the PPTA’s comment, recently reported on the front page of the New Zealand Herald,that the NCEA was too hard.

Hon Mark Burton: To return to the original question, what other reports has the Minister seen about the findings of Business New Zealand’s election survey 2008?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen a very interesting comment: that 94 percent of the businesses surveyed also wanted there to be a stronger focus on apprenticeships and industry training. The House will no doubt remember that the last National Government abolished the apprenticeship system when it was in office. Indeed, in 2000, 81,000 New Zealanders were in industry training. Today, 185,000 people are accessing industry training. Another 15,051 people are training in the restored Modern Apprenticeships programme, brought in by the Labour-led Government.

Anne Tolley: Does the Minister agree with the Education Review Office report that says that when it comes to our underachievers “The area where we are least effective is in identifying these students.”; if so, why will he not support National’s national standards policy, which identifies those underachievers at primary school, to ensure they have the help they need in order to bring them up to national standards in reading, writing, and numeracy so they will have every opportunity to make a good life for themselves?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am very confident that our primary and middle schools have very effective assessment processes for identifying students who are not succeeding. Discredited internationally is standardised testing. It is rejected in the UK and elsewhere; teachers teach towards those tests. I want to see our schools use tests that identify what students need to know, not what they already know. Those are the modern assessment processes, and those are the sorts of processes that are happening in our schools.

/NR/rdonlyres/AB04DDC1-61CB-449D-A06C-C49339768664/93289/48HansQ_20080909_00000696_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 09 September 2008 [PDF 188k]

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11. Rt Hon Winston Peters—Donations

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

11. RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in answer to oral question No. 5 on 26 August 2008 in respect of Rt Hon Winston Peters that “I have accepted the honourable member’s word, and will continue to do so unless something arises out of the Privileges Committee or some other appropriate authority that suggests I should not do so. But I do not have such information.”; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : As I have said, my assumption was that both Mr Glenn and Mr Peters were honourable gentlemen, and there may well be some innocent explanation.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister accept Judge Dalmer as “an appropriate authority”, who—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that that case went to appeal. Judge Dalmer’s word is not gospel any more; there is a higher court ruling. Mr Hide is about to make another stupid mistake because of his ignorance of the law, but those, you know, are the facts. And every law student, right now, studies them.

Madam SPEAKER: Yes. Well, do we have a case that is before the courts at the moment? And there is no appeal from that judgment? All I need to know is whether there is a lower court judgment—if there is, then that is fine—and whether the case is not still active.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I can help you, Madam Speaker. An appeal was taken from that case, at the lower court. You will remember that rather than being put in front of a jury, the plaintiff just sued for $50,000. That is why he got the lower court. I sought a higher court ruling, and I got a decision, as every law student who has studied the law of defamation knows.

Madam SPEAKER: OK. But the case is not current before the court?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is important here—

Madam SPEAKER: No. I just want the answer to that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I could tell you. What is important here is that the higher court ruling stands. Ask any lawyer about that—

Madam SPEAKER: No. As I understand, there have been court proceedings. They have been concluded; therefore it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister accept Judge Dalmer as “an appropriate authority”, who in Cushing v Peters found that “apart from getting Mr Cushing’s name right in the House of Representatives on 10 June 1992, there is, on examination, not a word of truth in the statements made by Mr Peters on the Four Corners programme and the Holmes show on the 1st and 3rd of June 1992.”, and that “It would be hard to find a clearer case of malice.”; and why does the Prime Minister, on behalf of New Zealand, continue to accept the word of a man whom a respected judge in the New Zealand court found to be a malicious defamer?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have any knowledge of the case that the member has cited, although I do accept that he may have quoted it accurately. I also know that a judge in another case found that Nick Smith had not told the truth. But three different processes are going on at the moment concerning Mr Peters and his party, and I am awaiting the outcome.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that the case Mr Hide places such great store on was at the lower court in New Zealand at the time, that Winston Peters never bothered to appear because it was a matter of parliamentary privilege in his view, and that when the decision was made against him, even though he did not give evidence at all—nor did any lawyer, for that matter—what he did was to appeal it to the Supreme Court, where the decision in substantial part was overruled?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I take from the contributions made to this particular question and answer session is that the matter was kicked around from one court to another, and that things that stood at the lower court may not have stood at the higher court.

Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister prepared to campaign and be judged at the general election on honesty and integrity as demonstrated by the Clark-Peters Government?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Hide cannot get up and grossly misinform the whole country and the House by describing the Government in that way. He knows full well what the arrangements are, but, of course, sticking to the truth is not what he does very well.

Madam SPEAKER: No, that is a point of information.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The short answer is that of course there is no such Government, and what I would expect to be judged on is whether people are treated fairly and given a chance to put their case.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table Judge Dalmer’s decision in Cushing v Peters.

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


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