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Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 10 Sep 2008

Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Questions to Ministers


1. Health Care—Access

1. LESLEY SOPER (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports, if any, has he received on the cost of accessing health care?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I have seen a recent report noting that under the Labour and Progressive Government the cost of visiting one’s local general practitioner has plummeted. The average cost of visiting the doctor is now just $26. Kiwi families are saving about $500 a year as a result of this Government’s approach to funding primary health care. By contrast the National Party said it would “knock it on the head”, and if general practitioner fees go up Mr John Key thinks the market will “fix the problem”, and that people will “go down the road”. It is no wonder Kiwis do not trust him or them.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister received any further reports on the funding of primary health care?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a matter of fact, just by coincidence I have. This is a report that says the National Party will continue funding primary health care “in the short term”. That sounds like the National Party’s pledge to sell Kiwibank “eventually”. The report is from the National Party’s health policy, which I just happen to have a copy of here. When the National Party says in public that it will keep funding health care in the short term, it is once again saying something else behind closed doors. National’s Jonathan Coleman just recently told a public meeting in Auckland that he thought “GP fees aren’t high enough”.

Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the member makes an assertion like that, he should back it up with proof, because that is completely untrue and a lie.

Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. There is a general debate coming up. I remind Ministers that their answers should be short, as should the questions. Are there any further supplementary questions?

Lesley Soper: Has he received any reports on alternative approaches to funding health care?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, as a matter of fact I have. It is in the National Party policy. I have received a report suggesting that money should be taken out of the public health sector and put into subsidising the profits of corporate health insurers. The report proposes tax rebates for those who can afford private health insurance, effectively locking in a two-tier health system where those who can afford private health insurance are rewarded and everyone else gets left behind. Once again, that proposal came from the National Party’s health policy, yet to be released—except to us, of course—which we have. It is clear that National is more interested in creating profit-making opportunities for private health insurers than it is in providing public health-care services for the rest of New Zealand.

Lesley Soper: Can he confirm that tax rebates for those with private health insurance would do little to increase the quality of health care provided to the vast majority of New Zealanders and would, in fact, simply provide financial reward to those who already have access to the private health sector?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I can confirm is that for someone around age 70 who is on a retirement income, it costs $1,500 for health insurance, and the National Party is going to provide a subsidy for that for those who can afford $1,500 a year, and the rest of New Zealanders who cannot will have to fall around trying to get what is left of the public health sector, after those people have finished with it.

Lesley Soper: Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that instead of funding prescription medicines through an independent agency such as Pharmac, political leaders should have a greater role in determining which drugs are available and which drug companies win contracts?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I would not go as far as to call them political leaders; I would call them politicians. But I have a report suggesting that the independence of Pharmac would be overruled by a future National Government. It seems National MPs think they know better than the medical experts who currently make decisions on which drugs to fund. The risks are pretty obvious to me: would you like the front bench on the other side deciding who gets drugs and who does not, or would you like the present system that this Government operates.

I seek leave to lay on the Table a report of Mr Jonathan Coleman’s remarks about supporting his leader, and his attitude towards private health-care.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/DA72C42B-4D1C-4103-84F9-0019ACE238C7/93349/48HansQ_20080910_00000032_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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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: 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.”, and does she consider, in the light of Owen Glenn’s statement to the Privileges Committee yesterday, that she now has a reason to doubt the word of Mr Peters?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Yes, I stand by the statement, and I am aware of disturbing evidence given to the Privileges Committee last night, to which there is a right of reply.

John Key: Is it not clear that there is now enough evidence that Mr Peters has misled the public that, regardless of the Privileges Committee’s decision on the separate and narrow issue of whether or not Mr Peters should have declared a pecuniary interest, the Prime Minister should act to sack Mr Peters immediately?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Peters may be the hardest person in the country to insist on due process for, but I do think that any reasonable person would agree that he has a right to reply, tonight.

John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware of the statement made by Mr Glenn yesterday, in regard to a meeting they had in February 2008, in which he said “I also told her of my conversation with the Labour Party president, Mr Williams, before I agreed to make that donation back in 2005. It was my understanding Mr Williams would have to clear this with his colleagues.”; and does she accept Mr Glenn’s account of this conversation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Williams does not accept that version of Mr Glenn’s account. Frankly, I do not have reason to distrust my president’s word.

Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister share New Zealand First’s concern that it is totally unethical for any leader of a political party to make statements day after day to the media, and to ask umpteen questions in Parliament—all with the assumption of guilt—about the substance of an issue that is before the Privileges Committee whilst the hearings are still in progress, and does she believe that that is turning the Privileges Committee into a kangaroo court?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have on a number of occasions in the House expressed concern about the extent to which the comments of the Leader of the Opposition have compromised the position of his party’s members on the select committee.

John Key: Why did the Prime Minister tell the House last week, when asked whether any member of the Labour Party was involved in the process leading to Mr Glenn’s donation: “Mr Williams has been clear on the public record that he has not had such a role.”, when she knew from Mr Glenn that Mike Williams certainly did have such a role—or is this just another secret she decided to keep from the New Zealand public?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Williams has been very clear in his statements that he did not act as any kind of facilitator for that funding. Further, I am advised by Dr Cullen, who was at the select committee, that Mr Glenn was also clear that Mr Williams had not been a facilitator.

John Key: Is it not a fact that in February 2008, when Mr Glenn told Helen Clark, the Prime Minister, that Mr Williams had known all along about the donation because he had sanctioned it, that that was not new news to Helen Clark, because she has four conversations a day with Mike Williams, and in the last 2½ years I am sure he has popped that into the conversation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can absolutely assure the member that no conversation of that kind between Mr Glenn and Mr Williams was reported to me at the time.

John Key: Are the facts of the situation not that when the Prime Minister rang Winston Peters in South Africa in February 2008, she was not ringing him to ask whether he had accepted a donation from Owen Glenn—because she already knew that—but was ringing him to ask whether he had left a paper trail that would see both of them get caught, as they have been?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member is really scraping the bottom of the barrel now—really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I have been quite clear about why I rang Mr Peters. It was because Mr Peters was being reported as denying that he or his party had received a donation, when it was being suggested to me that he had indeed received one.

John Key: Is it not as simple as this: the reason the Prime Minister has not sacked Winston Peters for taking a donation from Owen Glenn is that she would be sacking Winston Peters for a donation that was sanctioned by the Labour Party?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is a ridiculous and wrong allegation.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister answer this question then: is Owen Glenn a liar? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: I am reflecting on the use of the term liar in the House, in respect of a person who is not here to be able to defend himself. Maybe the member would like to rephrase his question.

John Key: Does Helen Clark agree with Michael Cullen’s assertion of the fact that Owen Glenn is a liar?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the member cared to consult the transcript of yesterday’s Privileges Committee meeting, he would find me saying that as far as I am aware, nobody has called Mr Glenn a liar. I certainly have not. I have once, in this House, in the open, in answer to a question, said he was confused as to whether his donation was to New Zealand First or to Mr Peters. He was confused about that.

Rodney Hide: I think the easiest way forward is for Mr John Key simply to ask whether Helen Clark believes that Owen Glenn is telling the truth.

Madam SPEAKER: That is very kind of you, but I am sure Mr Key is quite capable of framing his own questions.

John Key: Is Owen Glenn telling the truth, then?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said today, I have given both Mr Glenn and Mr Peters the benefit of the doubt. I frankly would compare honesty on this side of the House any day with Mr Key’s, because we have yet to have any honesty about what he talked to Lord Ashcroft about, what he talked to the Exclusive Brethren about, what he talked to the Spencer Trust about when he was raising money, and what he talks to offshore merchant banks about when he is talking about flogging off the State-owned enterprises. Let us have some honesty from Mr Key.

Peter Brown: Can the Prime Minister confirm that Owen Glenn’s lawyer, who was present yesterday and gave advice to Mr Glenn about how he should answer the majority of questions put to him by the committee, is none other than Geoff Harley who acted for Fay Richwhite during the wine-box inquiry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is my understanding that indeed he was involved with the wine-box matter.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister think Mr Williams, who was described today by Owen Glenn as “wrestling with the truth over these matters” and “an unmitigated falsifier of veracity”, and who has previously tendered his resignation after making misleading statements about Mr Glenn’s financial relationship with the Labour Party, remains fit to be a person who is a director of four Crown entities and is earning a Government salary of $107,000 a year?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think the comments made today are not atypical of the sort of hyperbole that flows when acquaintances fall out.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister agree with my advice to Winston Peters—that is, to take an oath tonight, expose himself to perjury proceedings under the Crimes Act 1961, and tell the truth?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My understanding of the requirement of those appearing before the Privileges Committee is that they are acting, in effect, as though they were on oath in a court.

John Key: Why did the Prime Minister not just simply tell the New Zealand public back in February that there were two versions of events, and that she could not reconcile the statements from Owen Glenn and the version of events by Winston Peters; why did she keep the New Zealand public in the dark for the last 6 months?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That question was asked yesterday, and I replied as follows: I am not in the habit of going out and saying I had private conversation A and private conversation B. As far as I am concerned, that was at that time primarily a matter between Mr Glenn and Mr Peters, and Mr Peters and the news media.

John Key: Is it not a summary of events that 2½ years ago Owen Glenn checked with Mike Williams, who almost certainly checked with Helen Clark, that it was OK to give $100,000 to Winston Peters; that in February 2008, when Owen Glenn told the Prime Minister, she already knew about the donation and had known about it for a long period of time; that for 6 months the Prime Minister kept it secret from the New Zealand public, and the reason she has not sacked Winston Peters is that she is involved up to her eyeballs in that; and that what happened yesterday was that the truth jetted into town?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not believe there is a shred of truth in anything that member has said, and, frankly, from my knowledge of him, that would not be a surprise.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table legal advice that actually taking an oath at the Privileges Committee does expose a witness to perjury proceedings under the Crimes Act—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/7FBA0DB6-FC94-436E-997C-FB25E92CEF92/93351/48HansQ_20080910_00000082_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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3. Thyroid Treatment—Eltroxin

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

3. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Why has the Government not provided alternative medication for the more than 800 New Zealanders who have reported adverse reactions to a new formulation of the thyroid drug Eltroxin to the centre for adverse reactions monitoring?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: As we announced yesterday, the Government is looking at two new alternatives for people who are having adverse reactions to Eltroxin. We have been encouraging Pharmac and the ministry to act as quickly as possible. An announcement will be made by Pharmac and Medsafe at lunchtime tomorrow.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree with South Canterbury pharmacist Allan Campbell that the number of adverse reactions that have been reported to this medication make it “the worst in New Zealand’s drug history”, with the number of people reporting reactions to the centre for adverse reactions monitoring increasing every day; if so, why has it taken the Government 11 months to act after it first began to receive serious complaints of adverse reactions?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I am advised that the adverse reactions in New Zealand remain somewhat of a mystery. Nowhere else in the world has the new formulation of Eltroxin caused this level of reaction. Mystery or not, however, we have been working to secure alternatives for new users and people who are suffering side effects. The Government has been encouraging the Ministry of Health and Pharmac to act swiftly. However, this Government makes drug policy decisions based on evidential systems and processes, and on health needs, not on the politics of the situation.

Sue Kedgley: Does he concede that alternative thyroid drugs have been available for the duration—the 11 months—that Medsafe does have a fast-track approval process that could have been used to get alternative medications quickly to people experiencing side effects, and that by failing to act sooner hundreds of New Zealanders have been forced to endure debilitating side effects such as heart palpitations, blurred vision, depression, and so forth; and by what date will he guarantee that an alternative subsidised medicine will be available for these people?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: My advice is that Pharmac, with the support of the Ministry of Health and Medsafe, has been asking the industry for a number of years now to offer an alternative to Eltroxin and no alternative has been offered on the market. Two are now being offered, and announcements on this matter will be made tomorrow. I am assured that within a matter of weeks an alternative to Eltroxin will be on the market.

Sue Kedgley: Is he concerned about the patronising comments that Medsafe has made publicly about those reporting side effects, even implying that it was all in patients’ heads; and why does he think Medsafe blamed the patients, dragged its heels, and failed to respond for almost a year to what was clearly a very serious case of drug reaction?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I have no knowledge of those comments, but what I do know is that Medsafe and Pharmac have been working for some time now to get an alternative to Eltroxin on the market, and an announcement will be made tomorrow to show that it has achieved that.

/NR/rdonlyres/EF89F646-DC34-4B80-A563-1F4A77AD0124/93353/48HansQ_20080910_00000218_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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4. Budget 2009—Available New Spending

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: What is Treasury’s best estimate of how much is available for new spending in Budget 2009 after pre-commitments and future charges against it are deducted from the allowances signalled in the 2008 Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : That depends on whether one includes only spending commitments formally made, or whether one includes an assessment of likely major pressures.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister give us an estimate, based on those expenditures that were committed to in the 2008 Budget, plus those that were not formally made but have to be paid—such as $200 million for teachers’ pay increases—and can he advise that it will leave him with something like $300 million of spare cash for the 2009 Budget?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In terms of the formal commitments in the Budget, I think the total was $1.14 billion out of $1.75 billion. Since then, however, there have been a number of further commitments: the police pay round is now under consideration by the police for ratification; there has been a pay offer to caretakers and cleaners, which I think is still out for ratification; and there are, obviously, the commitments in relation to the emissions trading scheme—the one-off payments in that case. There are also some issues, of course, around the acceleration of Treaty of Waitangi settlements. If all likely major pressures are included, then the operating allowance is pretty much fully committed for 2009-10.

Hon Bill English: If the allowance from 2008 for 2009 is already committed, before the Government has started making extravagant election promises, how does it intend to fund the undertakings it has made to the Greens, including a $1 billion insulation programme and $400 million for emissions trading scheme compensation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sorry but I misunderstood the member’s question—I thought he was referring to the spending allowance for 2009-10. His latest supplementary question refers to, obviously, the contingency for 2008-09. There is still some room left in the 2008-09 contingency at this stage—probably around $20 million for 2008-09, and $32 million for the out-years.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen any proposals on alternative ways to raise additional revenue to provide greater opportunities for new spending in Budget 2009?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen a proposal from National to scrap the research and development tax credits, which would cost businesses a very large amount of money, and to transfer that money from the private sector to the public sector. I have also seen, amongst proposals to somehow or other retain a cap on the number of bureaucrats, proposals for new Government departments, such as a new Department of Immigration, a new Environmental Protection Agency, and—apparently—a new office of chief scientist.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that he has advised the Public Service to find significant savings—or, to use the Labour Party term, “cuts”—in order for him to be able to cover the commitments he has made to the Greens, including a billion-dollar insulation programme and $400 million of emissions trading scheme compensation, and in order to cover the fact that the allowance he has left for the next Budget has virtually gone already?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot. The member appears to be having a conversation with me, when the conversation really seems to be directed towards his benchmate. Mr English is arguing that there is no room in next year’s Budget for large, new fiscal initiatives; well, that is something I have been trying to tell him for quite some time.

/NR/rdonlyres/280C1841-8F39-4D91-87BA-02608EEB27BC/93355/48HansQ_20080910_00000260_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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5. Families—Advocacy

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

5. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to ensure that the voices of families are heard in New Zealand?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The Labour-led Government has supported the Families Commission to be an advocate for the interests of families. We are prepared to be clear about that, regardless of which audience we are talking to, unlike the leader of the National Party, who delivers what line he thinks will get the most applause.

Russell Fairbrother: What issues has the Families Commission advocated for on behalf of New Zealand families?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The Families Commission has consulted widely to identify issues that are of concern to New Zealand families. These include preventing family violence, supporting parents, and improving families’ work-life balance. It is not surprising that the National Party wants to axe—the Leader of the Opposition describes it as “rebalancing”—that kind of advocacy, because we know that it runs counter to its agenda on opposing paid parental leave, scrapping 20 free hours’ early childhood education, and dismantling Working for Families.

Sue Bradford: What does the Minister think of today’s calls from the Every Child Counts conference happening here in Wellington for children’s interests to be at the centre of Government decision-making; and will she support the establishment of a cross-party parliamentary group for children after the election?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I support, and have demonstrated as the Minister responsible for social development, having children at the centre of all policy development. I certainly endorse the comments that were made. In regard to the cross-party proposals, I have had a discussion with Baroness Massey about the way cross-party groups operate in the United Kingdom and I do not believe they have much that is dissimilar to what is already operating in New Zealand.

Judith Collins: What is her justification for the Families Commission spending $200,000 of taxpayer dollars on a summit and cocktail party to discuss “money, time, and relationships”, and does she endorse the Families Commission soliciting sponsorship for this vanity event by promising to help telephone companies to “capture potential customer details and the age of their current phone for replacement, provide assistance in developing a publicity plan that targets your specific consumer markets, and provide media access to top experts and celebrities”, including Rajen Prasad, and how does Rajen Prasad’s self-proclaimed celebrity status help everyday Kiwi families?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I will answer just a couple of points in the many questions that the member raised. I strongly support the comment of National list candidate Viv Gurrey, who said the Families Commission is the bedrock for the community sector. In regard to Rajen Prasad, I would put him up as our number 12 candidate against National’s Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith as its number 12 candidate any day.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I listened very carefully to the Minister’s answer. She did not address the question, which was about her justification for this outrageous spending. She did not address that, at all. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to ask her to now address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: I listened very carefully to the member’s question, and a variety of thoughts were contained in it. As the Minister indicated, normally a supplementary question contains one thought, which then enables a response. The Minister chose to answer at least two of the thoughts in the question, so she addressed it.

Gordon Copeland: How can the Minister claim to listen to the voices of families when her Government gave its complete backing to the criminalisation of good parents, even though 80 percent of them voiced their opposition to that Draconian law, and, although 390,000 signatures were collected to force a referendum, her Government has put the referendum off until 2009, when it could have been held on polling day this year?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Again I will address just some of the questions contained in the member’s supplementary question. In respect of the first part of his question, the overwhelming majority of this Parliament voted against allowing a legal defence for assaulting a child. That is what section 59 of the Crimes Act was—a legal defence for assault. If people around the country had known that that is what section 59 was about, the referendum would not have gained any signatures, in my view, because I do not know a single New Zealander who supports assaulting a child. In respect of the latter part of the member’s question, I say that if the member was able to participate in question time more regularly, he would have heard the Minister of Justice address that issue on many occasions.

/NR/rdonlyres/264249F6-05BE-44B2-B0C5-A6808DC3559E/93357/48HansQ_20080910_00000311_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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6. Emergency Departments—Pressures

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

6. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his recent statement that accident and emergency department performance is “pleasing” in light of the reported crisis situation in many of the country’s emergency departments?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes, I am pleased that in the last period for which information is available, between 99.9 percent and 100 percent of patients in the most seriously ill category have been seen immediately. I am also pleased that in the second-most urgent category the proportion of people seen immediately has improved from 59 percent to 72 percent over the last 3 years. That is a much better performance in large emergency departments in particular, especially in Auckland and Christchurch. District health boards have been introducing improvements in the way they manage patients, and that, as I have said, is pleasing to this Government. It might actually be unpleasing to the shroud-waver from Whakatāne.

Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister seen the comments of the head of the Auckland City Hospital emergency department, Dr Tim Parke, in respect of the Minister saying he is pleased with performance of accident and emergency departments, that the crisis in hospital emergency departments causes as many deaths as occur on the roads; and what will he do about that?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have seen those comments. As I have said to the House, there has been a steady improvement in the number of people being seen immediately in emergency departments. Even if seeing more people in emergency departments faster is not pleasing to the member, it is pleasing to this Government because it evidences progress over any period when there was a Government of another persuasion rather than this one.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Minister say it is “pleasing” that hospital emergency department waiting times mean that at Wellington Hospital emergency department a dialysis patient waited in excess of 20 hours, and that some patients were languishing on trolleys for 9 days—does he think that is pleasing?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: There are always individual cases that members can raise in this House, and if they want individual answers on them they can put questions to me as Associate Minister or to the Minister of Health, and they will get them. What I actually said is that a lot of investment is going into steady improvements in patient management. The focus of most of that work is on making sure that patients can be quickly admitted to wards and not have to wait. That is the record of this Government—one of steady improvement—and any day the member likes to compare that to 9 years under National, he will be welcome to do so.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why has Labour broken Helen Clark’s promise that “If someone needs a hospital bed they will get it, and they will stay there as long as they need to.”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I have said to the House is a reaffirmation of that commitment. More people are being seen faster and getting access to treatment faster than ever before, and that is a record that will stack up against anything National performed in 9years.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister want to reconsider his answer in the light of the fact that official information from his own district health boards shows that patients at Wellington Hospital’s emergency department are waiting over 130 percent longer now than they were a year ago?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have given the House the national data that is most recently available, which indicates that right across the hospital system more people in serious condition are being seen faster than at any time in hospital history. Even if that does not satisfy the member, it is very satisfying to this Government.

Hon Tony Ryall: If this Government has spent so much money on new buildings, new emergency departments, new this, and new that, why are most of our major hospital emergency departments in code red, unable to sufficiently see patients so that they are languishing for days in emergency departments; and is that what Labour will continue to offer people in New Zealand?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: What Labour and its associate parties in this House have offered and are offering is a much more effective and efficient hospital system than we have ever had before. The member is so regularly waving shrouds in this House that he is beginning to look like one.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister really think the House will believe that the health system is effective when women in their 80s are required to languish on hospital trolleys under bright fluorescent lights for 4 days?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It does not sound effective in that particular case.

Hon Tony Ryall: That’s the point. It’s not.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I see—so we are going to measure the entire health and hospital system against the one case that Mr Ryall brings to the House every now and then! That is a ludicrous way of measuring the quality of the health system, and the member makes himself a joke to any health professional who knows it.

/NR/rdonlyres/72561B21-38D7-4E5E-A99C-3920C72EF5EA/93359/48HansQ_20080910_00000361_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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7. Hospitals—Bed Numbers

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

7. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Is he aware that public hospital bed numbers have declined from 2.48 per 1,000 people in 1988 to 1.56 in 2006 although our population has increased significantly in that time, and what is being done to solve the problems arising from this decline?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I am advised that the biggest decline in hospital bed numbers per head of population occurred during the 9 years of the last National Government. By contrast, this Government has been engaged in the largest hospital building and redevelopment programme in New Zealand’s history. We have built seven new hospitals, done eight major upgrades, and built 10 new specialist facilities, and seven more hospital redevelopments are almost complete or are under way. That record would stand against that of any Government in New Zealand’s history, and is in stark contrast to the pitiful efforts of the last National Government.

Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister of Health aware of estimates by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine that a 15 percent increase in bed numbers is needed, and will this increase be achieved under the Government’s hospital building campaign?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The Government has shown a commitment to investing in infrastructure. However, it is important to take a holistic approach to relieving pressure on emergency departments, and that work is currently under way at the Ministry of Health. The work will look at how we can make hospitals more efficient, and will look at the role of primary health care, where about 12 million people received treatment last year, to find out whether more resources are needed. If they are needed, this Government will allocate them in a way that the National Government never got round to doing in its 9 years in office.

Lynne Pillay: What is the Government doing to ensure that health infrastructure keeps pace with the increasing population and new ways of delivering health services?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: As I have indicated, there have been new hospitals, upgrades, new specialist facilities, 1,000 more doctors, and 4,000 more nurses. The track record of this Government in health bears little resemblance to any track record of any other Government in recent history, so we can be very proud of that. Is it perfect? No, it is not. Is it in crisis? No, it certainly is not.

Barbara Stewart: How many existing hospitals, such as Kenepuru Hospital in Porirua, are currently underutilised, when they could be used to reduce the bed shortage?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I do not have information on exactly that, but I am quite sure the Ministry of Health and the district health boards are working together cooperatively and constructively to make sure they get the best use out of all the hospital facilities and resources that are available to us.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Government has spent so much money and built so many more hospitals, why is the public health system lurching from crisis to crisis in the final months of this dying Government?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I think I have given enough facts before the House today to deny any kind of crisis in the health system. The alternative is that the health system is being well managed and is being invested in in ways that have never happened in recent years. The member tries to gee himself up, like someone in the dark yelling out to cheer himself up, but, actually, this Government has an incredible record in terms of health and hospital care, and we will stand on that record and not let the facts get in the way of our prejudice.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I seek leave of the House to table a graph that shows the trends in public health care over the recent period, under National and—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/2D073442-62C8-4FCD-9D28-E8E3FABD6799/93361/48HansQ_20080910_00000432_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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8. Conservation, Department—Re-branding Project

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

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Does she support the re-branding project for the Department of Conservation to contract an agency as per the request for proposal that sets out the key elements of the project as a brand audit, research review, brand strategy, brand communication strategy, and an implementation plan?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Minister of Conservation) : I support the project by the department in so far as its goal is to promote the message that conservation is a must for New Zealand’s economic future, not a nice add-on. I was unhappy at supposed leaks within the Department of Conservation that circulated false information about the costs of the project. But Nick Smith should understand about leaks, having had his limp conservation policy announced by Trevor Mallard last week.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has the department in the last year abolished the marine conservation group and laid off marine scientists, and at the same time established a marketing and communications group at a cost of $610,000 per year, and why are marketing and re-branding more important than marine conservation?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: That is absolute hypocrisy, actually. National does not even have a policy.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please withdraw the comment—

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I withdraw and apologise. I just want to add that the Department of Conservation’s marine science capacity has been retained. It is focused on implementing a network of marine-protected areas around the coastline, and it is working with local communities and iwi to achieve that. We have that in our strategy, as opposed to the conservation policy of the Opposition with no mention of marine conservation.

Moana Mackey: What other proposals has the Minister seen to reposition the valuable species recovery and land protection work done by the Department of Conservation?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have seen a proposal misleadingly entitled “Net conservation benefit” that would instruct the Department of Conservation to trade off New Zealand’s national parks and heritage instead of protecting them. This was in National’s blue-green policy. It will still not deny that this is its real agenda for conservation, instead of the collection of copycat Labour policies released last week.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Would you consider whether the answer is in line with the frame of the original question in my name?

Madam SPEAKER: It was about branding. It was a general question, so I ask the Minister that in future when she addresses questions she does stick to that theme.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Minister justify the additional cost of the re-branding of her department, and the setting up of a new marketing and communications group, when at the same time, it is closing Department of Conservation offices like the Murupara office in her own Rotorua electorate; and does she support that choice of priorities?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: As to the first aspect of that question, conservation is fundamental to the economic future of our country; it is about the quality of our water, the air, our wildlife, and our land. My department is committed to both its advocacy and protection roles. This is not about changing our signs, or our letterheads. And in regard to the second aspect of the member’s question, it is actually the Ōpōtiki office, to clarify. [Interruption] No, Murupara is not. The Ōpōtiki office is an operational matter that the department is considering. However, the proposed reorganisation is not about removing resources on the ground. It is about improving the Department of Conservation’s effectiveness right across the country.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister confirm that she supports the funding and the contract for an advertising agency for a branding project; that she supports the establishment of a new marketing and communications unit within the Department of Conservation; and that she also supports closing of local offices, including Ōpōtiki and Murupara?

Madam SPEAKER: I just remind members that there are three questions within that supplementary question.

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: As to the advertising agency, this is specialised work; it is standard practice for Government organisations to contract agencies, from time to time, instead of permanently tying up valuable resources for one-off projects. Specialist advice helps to ensure that communications are effective and targeted. With regard to the communication staff, this is not just about conservation staff doing advertising campaigns. Most staff, in fact, are working on the very things that National said that it wanted more of—corporate support for conservation-led projects, and community-led projects on private conservation land.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with marketing consultant Owen Scott, who wrote in the Christchurch Press yesterday: “Government departments too often get carried away with ‘branding’ projects, when the value they deliver is only marginal, … DOC shouldn’t obscure the great work it does with this sort of muddled marketing thinking.” if not, why not?

Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have not seen the article, but this is an outcome of the operational review the department has just undertaken that made sure the department’s resources match its strategic direction, including its commitment to advocate for conservation and to protect our conservation land. National, on the other hand, has made clear that it will water this down even further.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the brand refreshment project for the Department of Conservation.

 Leave granted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: As the Minister has not had time to read it, I seek leave to table the criticism of the department’s re-branding project, by Owen Scott, marketing consultant.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/0A32F1A2-F04F-4220-AD9B-A1D412C656BC/93363/48HansQ_20080910_00000487_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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9. Treaty of Waitangi Clauses—Inclusion in Legislation

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

9. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Is it Government policy not to include Treaty clauses in bills other than Treaty-related legislation; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) : No.

Dr Pita Sharples: Is he aware that the Māori Focus Forum set up by the Commissioner of Police called the absence of a Treaty clause in the Policing Bill a particular disappointment; if so, why did Labour vote against the Treaty clause put forward by the Māori Party for the Policing Bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I am not aware of that statement, but even if I had been, I would not have been inclined to alter my advice to my colleagues. These matters are dealt with on a case by case basis by the Government. It is not clear what a Treaty clause would mean in this instance.

Dr Pita Sharples: Does he recall the Minister of Immigration justifying Labour’s decision to vote down the Māori Party’s proposal for a Treaty clause in the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill by stating that Labour had consulted extensively with what he called “the kaitiaki of tikanga in the Labour Māori caucus”; if so, what was the advice of the Labour Māori caucus about Treaty clauses?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The advice I receive on that is that these matters should be dealt with on a case by case basis. Labour has a proud record of implementing Treaty settlements over recent times.

Dr Pita Sharples: Would he agree that the fact that Ngāi Tahu has taken a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal against the emissions trading scheme now makes that bill Treaty-related legislation; if so, why did the Labour Government vote down the Māori Party’s proposed Treaty clause for the emissions trading scheme bill?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The tribunal would arrive at its own decisions. The fact that somebody takes a case does not make it a Treaty-related issue; otherwise, any case could be taken to the tribunal and halt any kind of action in that regard. In relation to the Ngāi Tahu situation, there are two quite separate issues. The first is whether, in any sense, the Government in the 1990s negotiated in good faith. There is a process to deal with that issue through an independent process. The second is whether any general Government legislation may at any point impact, in any fashion, upon any value of any property that resulted from a Treaty settlement. If the argument is that it cannot, then that is to set up a two-tier process of legislation in Government from this point on. In any case, the member and, I suspect, Ngāi Tahu have not fully taken account of the fact that emissions units and the value of those will apply to the land bought before 2002, and at a carbon emissions price of $23 a tonne, Ngāi Tahu actually is a net gainer from the transfer.

/NR/rdonlyres/2D6275D5-5DEF-4B89-A0AB-C2750BE7CE5C/93365/48HansQ_20080910_00000554_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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10. Government Appointments—Election Period

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

10. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of State Services: Does he stand by his statement of 29 July 2008, in relation to the convention that significant Government appointments are deferred in the 3 months prior to a general election, that “the Government has adhered, and always will adhere, to that convention”; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services) : Yes.

Hon Bill English: How can the Minister possibly believe that nonsense, when yesterday the Government announced the appointment of five new members to the Waitangi Tribunal, which is clearly a significant and important body, and when the latest that the election can be held is just over 2 months away, not 3 months away?

Hon DAVID PARKER: We certainly have been consulting on significant appointments—

Hon Bill English: No, you haven’t.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, we have. The Tourism New Zealand appointments were consulted upon, and National is currently being consulted upon appointments to the Independent Police Complaints Authority. Those are but two examples.

Hon Bill English: If he is saying that the Government is adhering to the convention, and always will, why should anyone believe that, when the Government last week, within 2 months of an election, appointed an expert panel to inquire into electoral law, which is one of the cornerstones of our constitution and clearly of great significance; and does not the appointment of that panel inside the 3-month period show that Labour has learnt nothing, and continues its high-handed, arrogant, and totally partisan dealings with our constitutional arrangements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: With respect to the member, the question actually discloses his ignorance as to the principles that underlie the period of restraint. That restraint applies to significant appointments to bodies with decision-making roles and significant assets, and not to advisory bodies. Thus the appointments to the expert panel on electoral matters, which has an advisory role and not a decision-making role, are not covered by the principles.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the Government continues to support the tenure of Mr Mike Williams—labelled today by one of his friends as a liar—on a range of Government entities, including five State-owned enterprises and other Crown entities; why does the Government continue the appointments of that person?

Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s not on five SOEs. He’s making it up.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member is making it up. The double standards of the National Party have to be brought to the attention of the House again. It was those members, when in Government, who appointed Mr Robert Browne of the Waitemata Trust as the chair of Transit. That is the same Robert Browne who, as a trustee of the Waitemata Trust, pumped $1.4 million into National Party coffers before the last election.

Hon Bill English: When the Minister appointed the new members of the Waitangi Tribunal, appointed the expert panel on electoral law, and made over 50 appointments to conservation boards and others, did he advise those people that because he had not consulted—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister of State Services does not appoint the members of the Waitangi Tribunal; the Minister of Māori Affairs is the responsible Minister for that purpose.

Madam SPEAKER: That is actually true. Would the member cast the question in terms of ministerial responsibility, please.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell us whether, when he participated in the appointment of five new members of the Waitangi Tribunal, the expert panel on electoral law—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is a very clever way of rephrasing it, but it would make any Minister responsible for any appointment under the Government, because, of course, in the end all these appointments are passed through Cabinet. But the actual Minister responsible is the Minister who proposes these matters to Cabinet. I do not think that any of the appointments on the list that Mr English read out are actually the responsibility of the Minister of State Services.

Hon Bill English: Speaking to the point of order, I note that the Minister answered earlier questions about all those appointments, so this question must be in order.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That was because I was trying to save the House time by not raising points of order, to try to keep—

Madam SPEAKER: I agree, and I should have intervened at that point. I thought there was the one question, but it became a line of questioning, and, obviously, objection was taken. I apologise to the House for not ruling that question out of order at the appropriate time.

Hon Bill English: Will the Minister, under the convention for which he is responsible—that significant Government appointments are deferred in the 3 months prior to an election—ensure that all—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Of course, these are conventions that, in the end, lie in the hands of the Prime Minister—

Madam SPEAKER: That is true, too.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: —as the Minister responsible for the Cabinet Manual; the responsibility does not lie with the Minister of State Services.

Hon Bill English: When the Minister said he stood by his statement that the Government has adhered, and will always adhere, to the convention of not making appointments 3 months prior to a general election, will he follow through on it by making sure that all appointees are told that the Opposition would not be bound by those appointments, should it become the Government, and that they run the risk of an incoming Government not confirming those appointments?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The member again misrepresented the principle. It relates to significant appointments, not to all appointments. Given that there have been 50 appointments to conservation boards, one might actually conclude that those are not the sorts of high-level appointments to which the principle applies.

Hon Bill English: Why does the Minister not just confirm what the Labour Party is doing—that is, trying to stack public bodies with its cronies, before it is defeated in a tide of funding scandals?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for the Labour Party, but has a responsibility in terms of his ministerial authority.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that significant appointments to bodies with decision-making and funding powers, such as Tourism New Zealand, have been consulted upon, and that National is currently being consulted upon other appointments, including to the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

/NR/rdonlyres/AF37C035-775D-43D5-A854-58C3318A517E/93367/48HansQ_20080910_00000596_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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11. Housing Policy—Reports

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

11. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Housing: What recent reports, if any, has she received on housing policy?

Hon MARYAN STREET (Minister of Housing) : I have seen a policy release from National showing that, aside from repeating its old answer to everything—which is tax cuts—it has flip-flopped on Labour policies such as income-related rents, as well as shared equity, and National now parades as good ideas those very things that it was vigorously opposing in the House just last week. It shows that when the National Party is not actively leaking its policies, it is busy copying ours.

Lynne Pillay: Has she seen any policies that would affect State housing?

Hon MARYAN STREET: Yes. I see that despite regularly railing against the waiting list, which National created by selling 13,000 State houses, National has confirmed that it will not be increasing the stock. Although Labour has created nearly 8,000 new State homes, spending $221 million last year alone in doing so, National is saying to those on the waiting list: “Give up now.”, and to those thinking about applying: “Don’t bother.”

/NR/rdonlyres/E0D2A94A-FBA6-4B82-AD22-34B25245B689/93369/48HansQ_20080910_00000666_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Wednesday, 10 September 2008 [PDF 204k]

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12. Numeracy—Year 11 Expectations

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

12. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Why did he state yesterday that he disagreed with the Post Primary Teachers Association’s views that the numeracy requirements at 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”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : The member, as usual, is distorting my response to her question yesterday. I was responding to her claim that level 1 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) is a school-leaver qualification. That may be the position of the National Party, but the Labour-led Government has always regarded NCEA level 2 as the minimum achievement we want all students to achieve.

Anne Tolley: Will he tell the House why he thinks he is right and the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) and teachers are wrong, when they have clearly told the public that the level 1 numeracy credits are so easy that students still at intermediate school should be able to pass them?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I do not disagree that we can always improve exam processes. Indeed, I announced in this House in June—and had the member who asked me the question been listening, she would know this—that we are doing a review of standards with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Ministry of Education. Indeed, we have done things like appoint 33 permanent moderators, whose task is to ensure that assessment in schools is of the highest quality. We have done lots of other things, like introducing achievement endorsements to NCEA certificates, and we have made national assessment reports available online to parents. Actually, there are lots of processes to improve the assessment process.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What progress has the Labour-led Government made in raising student achievement?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It has made fantastic progress, and of course it would have done so, because Labour has doubled the amount of investment that has gone into education. In 2007 just 5 percent of students left school with few qualifications or no qualification. In 2002 it was 18 percent.

Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think that question and the Minister’s answer are pretty wide of the primary question I asked, which was about the PPTA’s view that numeracy requirements at level 1 reflect a low level of achievement.

Madam SPEAKER: Can the Minister please try to confine his general answer to the specific question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: What I am trying to tell this House, and am successfully doing with most members, but not, of course, with the Opposition—

Madam SPEAKER: There is no need for those comments. Just address the question, please.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The question that has been asked of me is whether the NCEA is a robust system of assessment. The NCEA is an internationally recognised assessment system; it is recognised by all British, Australian, and American universities. Assessment processes in New Zealand are being examined by educational specialists from all over the world. The MP who asked the question, National’s spokesperson on education, seems to despise what happens in our schools. I am proud of what New Zealand teachers are doing to educate the next generation of New Zealanders.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister prepared to take on the PPTA’s criticism and to liaise with the association to ensure that NCEA level 1 and, indeed, other levels of the NCEA are maintained at levels necessary to test the abilities of the relevant age groups; and, if necessary, is he prepared to increase those levels?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am always prepared to talk to anybody about education. I regularly meet with the PPTA and with many other groups associated with education. I would be happy to sit down with the member and hear his views on education.

Anne Tolley: If there is nothing wrong with the mathematical skills of our young New Zealanders and the PPTA and teachers are wrong, why is it that under this Labour Government the National Education Monitoring Project shows that from 2001 to 2005 there has been a “clear decline” in the ability of our 9 to 10-year-olds and 12 to 13-year-olds to deal with simple number facts?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: New Zealand students score extraordinarily highly in international comparisons. In the Programme for International Student Assessment scoring system or assessment process, which all 31 countries of the OECD submit results for, New Zealand students come out as being top in the English-speaking world in science, they come out as being equal with Canada’s students in literacy, and they come out as being top in the English-speaking world in numeracy. Those results speak for themselves. New Zealand teachers are doing an excellent job in our schools, and the National Party should be praising education, not condemning it.

Dail Jones: What action is the Minister taking to liaise with the PPTA on NCEA levels with regard to, for example, computer teaching, bearing in mind the great problems that are associated with that area?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I meet monthly with the PPTA. In addition to that, I regularly attend regional meetings of the PPTA. In respect of the particular area the member has raised with us about computer skills, I have met not just with the PPTA but also with the Computer Society in order to try to work through a process wherebt we have standards that are acceptable to everybody.

Anne Tolley: If there is nothing really wrong with the maths of young New Zealanders and he thinks that the PPTA and teachers are wrong, can he explain why the ability of our 9 to 10-year-olds and 12 to 13-year-olds to count, do basic arithmetic and algebra, measure, and do geometry is either stagnating at 2001 levels or has actually declined since 2001, according to the National Education Monitoring Project?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Actually, I do not disagree with teachers. I think teachers are getting it right, and in most cases they are getting it very right. Of course, we have some students who could achieve much better than they are doing. That is why the Government is introducing the revolutionary Schools Plus programme into our secondary schools. But I remind that member and this House that New Zealand students stack up extraordinarily well against students in other developed countries.

Dail Jones: What assurances can the Minister give the House and the PPTA about NCEA levels 1, 2, and 3 in the field of technology teaching, where there has been considerable concern about the dearth of teachers?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I spend a great deal of my time visiting schools, and I am aware that schools are concerned about the number of teachers in the technology area. We are trying to recruit more teachers. We are making it easier for overseas-trained teachers who are suitable to teach in New Zealand schools to be registered. I am continuing to be in dialogue with the New Zealand Teachers Council, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the PPTA, and the New Zealand Educational Institute over these issues.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister explain this to the House: we have teachers telling us that under Labour we are giving out numeracy credits to high school students for a test that is far too easy, and we have the National Education Monitoring Project backing that up and telling us that basic mathematical skills amongst our primary and intermediate school children are either stagnating or declining under this Labour Government, yet the Minister is still telling the House that everything is OK and the mathematical skills of New Zealand children are no cause for alarm?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am not telling this House that things are OK; I am telling this House that things are very good. Of course, some students are not succeeding as well as they should succeed, which is why we are bringing in Schools Plus. But I can say that when a comparison is done with comparable countries in the OECD, New Zealand schools are shown to be world class. That member should be proud of what is happening in our schools, not rubbishing teachers and education.

ENDS


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