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Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 23 Sep 2008

Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Questions to Ministers

1. Electoral Roll—Enrolment Rate

1. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Justice: What specific strategies has the Government initiated to improve the voter enrolment rate, given this morning’s reported comments by Kiwi Expat Association Chief Executive, Ivan Moss, who contends that there are about 750,000 missing voters, bringing the estimated enrolment rate down to 79 percent?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : I am advised by the Electoral Enrolment Centre that the figures quoted by Mr Moss are purely speculative. However, there has been an increase in the number of people enrolled overseas compared with the 2005 figures, and a comprehensive enrolment strategy is in place.

Dr Pita Sharples: What particular strategies will the Minister be undertaking to encourage the Māori population of Australia—estimated to be between 115,000 and 125,000—to vote in the November 2008 election?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As I said, quite a lot of activity is undertaken by the Electoral Enrolment Centre, including sending enrolment update packs to all overseas voters with postal addresses; sending voting information to all those enrolled with a postal address, from the announcement of the election date; providing advertising that targets New Zealanders overseas, encouraging them to enrol or to update their enrolment details; and providing information and enrolment forms through overseas posts. We also rely on informal networks of people, including people like the member who has asked the question and other members of this House, to advise friends and relatives overseas to vote if they are eligible.

Dr Pita Sharples: What does the Minister have to say about the findings of the Te Puni Kōkiri report NgāMāorii Te Ao Moemoeā, which found that just under half of the 1,600 Māori living in Australia who were surveyed in that report wished to remain as citizens of New Zealand only, and what action has the Government taken to ensure that Māori living in Australia can enjoy that citizenship right?

Hon ANNETTE KING: All New Zealanders born in this country have a citizenship right. That is what most countries have—if one is born in a country, one is allowed a citizenship right. One can have a citizenship right by descent, as well. But if one has no connection with this country by birth, it is a different situation.

Dr Pita Sharples: What specific strategies will the Minister undertake to ensure that young Māori people aged between 18 and 25 years old, close to 50,000 of whom are estimated not to be enrolled, exercise their democratic right to vote?

Hon ANNETTE KING: We take the same approach to all young voters, whether they are Māori or non-Māori: we use a variety of media to get to them. We know they are not keen to vote and we need to encourage them. There are a number of events aimed at reaching young voters, the new electronic technologies are being used to provide information to them, and so on.

Taito Phillip Field: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.I would like the Minister to clarify an earlier answer. She inaccurately referred to everybody born in New Zealand being a New Zealand citizen. I wonder whether she could consider how accurate that statement is.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that is a point of order. Does the member want to ask a supplementary question? Yes.

Taito Phillip Field: Is the Minister’s statement in response to an earlier question—that every person born in New Zealand is in fact entitled to New Zealand citizenship—accurate?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Most people born in New Zealand are entitled to citizenship; there are some exceptions to that.

/NR/rdonlyres/4B422518-F0AC-4AAC-AC74-5A2442102C96/93768/48HansQ_20080923_00000010_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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2. Rt Hon Winston Peters—Ministerial Status

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

2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What is the status of the Rt Hon Winston Peters in her ministry following yesterday’s tabling of the report of the Privileges Committee?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister) : Mr Peters continues to stand aside from his portfolios.

John Key: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement in the House on Tuesday, 26 August, that she accepts Mr Peters’ word “unless something arises out of the Privileges Committee …”, and does she not see that the Privileges Committee’s clear finding that Mr Peters committed a contempt of Parliament, quite clearly comes within her definition of something arising from that committee?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly will not listen to any lectures on truthfulness from that member, after yesterday’s revelations.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Privileges Committee has heard evidence from Labour’s biggest donor, Owen Glenn, from Mr Peters, and from his lawyer, and clearly accepted the evidence of Mr Glenn—the Privileges Committee accepted the word of Mr Glenn but not that of Mr Peters or of the lawyer—but that she has been happy to accept the word of Mr Peters over those people? Why is that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There is one person’s word I cannot accept—it is the word of that member to the public and the media.

John Key: Is the reason the Prime Minister does not want to answer any of these questions that she is locked at the hip to Winston Peters, and she has been covering up for him as well?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The only cover-up in this House is by Mr Key, who in an 8-week period asked written and oral questions in Parliament, launched an Official Information Act request, bought and traded Tranz Rail shares profitably, and claimed he never spoke on the subject while he did that. That was false, I say to Mr Key.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall the statements by Mr Key just a few hours ago when he said he had forgotten about those extra shares, but now he would fill out the form and correct that; does that not remind members of the word that begins with “h” and cannot be said in this House?

Madam SPEAKER: That was unnecessary, so I ask the member to withdraw that word beginning with “h”. We all know what is meant.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: Please, just do it!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw “h”.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question itself is out of order. The Minister asked whether Mr Key would fill out a form. There was no Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament until his party put it in place.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a matter of debate.

Hon Paul Swain: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I thought that was a bit unfair; I thought the “h” word the member was referring to was “hollow”, as in hollow men.

Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order, either.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To reply to the original question, I say there seem to be a lot of things Mr Key forgot: it was anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 shares at any one time, and, oh, maybe it was 100,000 shares. I bet that the member, as someone who thought about his shares every morning when he woke up—unlike any normal person—would know that he bought and sold shares profitably while he was raising questions publicly in this House and in committees and he did not tell the truth to the news media about it.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister explain why her Ministers, her staff, and her research unit have so much time to go through, line by line, my share dealings from 5 years ago—

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.Can I bring to your attention the obvious difference there. We were sitting in the cross benches trying to hear the Prime Minister’s answer and were totally unable to hear anything clearly—

Hon David Carter: Ha!

Ron Mark: It is a point of order, I say to David, and I ask him to shut up.

Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member knows that that was inappropriate. Please withdraw that comment.

Ron Mark: I withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: The point of order should be made succinctly.

Ron Mark: With the amount of noise, we could not hear the answer. By contrast, as soon as Mr Key got to his feet to ask his question, the rest of the House was silent so that he could ask it. I ask that from here forth we are able to hear the Prime Minister’s answers as clearly as we are allowing Mr Key to have his questions heard.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the level of interventions was getting to the stage where it was impossible to hear.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister explain why her Ministers, her staff, and her research unit have so much time to go through my 5-year-old share dealings line by line but she has absolutely no energy or interest to do the same thing when it comes to Winston Peters; or is the answer that she does not need to do that—2 years ago she knew he had accepted a donation, because she had arranged it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Of course, when Mr Key makes public statements saying he tells the truth at all times, we as a party opposing his party are going to see what the veracity of those statements is. We have proven that they have no veracity.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Prime Minister comment on the previous question from the Leader of the Opposition, in which he admitted the transactions were his, when he told the media this morning that they belonged to a trust?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That would be absolutely typical of the flip-flops of this member, who cannot keep to one straight answer from one hour to the next.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister got any reports that suggest that Winston Peters made even one cent out of his involvement in this legal case, in contrast—[Interruption] I know that members do not want to hear it, but it will get worse shortly—in contrast to Mr Key, who apparently made thousands, which is a conflict of interest?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no evidence that Mr Peters made a cent, as he said. On the other hand, I do have evidence of parliamentary questions lodged by Mr Key in October 2002, April 2003, and again in April 2003, and an Official Information Act request in April 2003; then he purchases in his own name another 50,000 shares; then he meets with people who want to buy Tranz Rail, then he sells those shares bought in his own name, doubles his money, and carries on asking parliamentary questions all the time—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Key was again allowed to ask his question in relative silence, and then when the Prime Minister started, the braying began right around the National Party benches. This is not acceptable and they should be told to either desist or leave the House.

Madam SPEAKER: In fact if that level of intervention is heard again—I had warned members once—then members will be asked to leave the House.

John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that it really does not matter what comes out of the Privileges Committee, it really does not matter what comes out of the Serious Fraud Office in relation to the allegations against Winston Peters, and it would not really matter what came out of the police, because the Prime Minister will not sack Winston Peters, because if she did she would be sacking for the stupidity of getting caught; she arranged the loan through Mike Williams, she is up to her neck in it, and why does she not admit it—she is not an innocent bystander.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: All I can say is that that member can talk about getting caught, because he has been caught red-handed claiming he never spoke in this House while he was an owner of Tranz Rail shares when he was peppering the Minister of Finance with questions, and buying and selling shares at a profit through that time. He stands accused of not being clear and concise, to the point, and straightforward, in this House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Supplementary question, Madam Speaker—[Interruption]—well the member would have been busted long ago, if that were true. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Leader of the Opposition just said that Mike Williams arranged the donation from Mr Glenn, but the entire case of the majority in the select committee is that Mr Peters asked Mr Glenn for the donation; and if Mr Key is correct, then how come a majority arrived at its decision on contempt?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is just more evidence that the Leader of the Opposition makes it up, just like he made up the idea that he was going to run a clean campaign, when Dr Smith and Mr English are at meetings in Nelson telling smutty jokes about the Deputy Prime Minister as part of their dirty, filthy, unclean campaign.

Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister telling the public of New Zealand that it is acceptable to her to have a Minister who is running a secret trust that is not known to his party—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It has been made very clear to the select committee that that allegation is totally false. I should not have to have him corrected, but that is the kind of thing he has been doing around this country for months now. The committee all know, including his own member Heather Roy, that that is false, so would you ask him to desist from telling the House porkies.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member who is asking the question please make his question succinct and get to the point of it.

Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister telling the people of New Zealand that it is OK for a Minister in her Government to have money go into a trust but which was meant for New Zealand First; to have money come from secret donors to the tune of $40,000 but not declared under the electoral laws and not declared in the register of pecuniary interests; and to pay that Minister’s legal bills, as reported to the Privileges Committee by the Serious Fraud Office?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no reason to believe that Mr Peters knew any less about the Spencer Trust than Mr Key knew about the Waitemata Trust, for which he personally raised money. But further, I have been advised by the senior Labour representatives on the Privileges Committee that it is not reasonable to hold someone in contempt for a retrospective ruling on what is a gift. If that were to be the case, I look forward to Nick Smith and Bob Clarkson now declaring their gifts on exactly the same basis, which they have not done.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I did.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I said that Mr Smith had not declared a gift. It is my understanding that his return does not show the declaration of a gift. He declared he was a beneficiary of a trust. He did not declare that he received a gift from that trust.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the letter I received this morning on this very issue—where Dail Jones had laid a letter of complaint—where you have dismissed the complaint.

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

Hon Jim Anderton: Why should the Prime Minister take any account whatever of the accusations that Mr Key has made against her, and others, over this political donations issue, when every single thing he has said about his own share transactions in Tranz Rail has proved to be false on almost every occasion?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member raises a fair point, because we now cannot believe anything Mr Key said in this House or to the news media, who have him on tape, on the issue of his Tranz Rail shares, which, I repeat, he bought and sold a portion of at a profit while he was peppering the Minister of Finance with questions in this House and through the Official Information Act. Mr Key failed to declare his interest in Tranz Rail, and that, in my understanding, is not acceptable behaviour for a member.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister received any reports of a present MP who failed, when the president of a political party, to disclose an interest in a trust called the Cargill Trust for $1.7 million—a matter that went all the way to the Privy Council, which found against that party—and is that MP Mr Rodney Hide?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am not personally aware of that allegation, but I am all ears.

Rodney Hide: Does she accept the Serious Fraud Office evidence that $40,000 was given by one donor to the Spencer Trust, which was then paid—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Privileges Committee heard no such evidence, at all, and Heather Roy, the member’s colleague, can tell him that. So would you please tell him to stop telling the House what is plainly false.

Rodney Hide: Does the Prime Minister accept that the Serious Fraud Office evidence was that $40,000 was paid by one anonymous donor to the Spencer Trust—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the second time, the select committee was told no such information by the Serious Fraud Office, at all, and Heather Roy, who is sitting there behind Mr Hide, knows that.

Rodney Hide: Does she accept the Serious Fraud Office evidence that $40,000 was paid by one anonymous donor to the Spencer Trust, which was then used to pay Brian Henry to cover—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the third time, Heather Roy, the member’s colleague, sat on the select committee and knows full well that that allegation, like every other one he has made, is false. I am prepared to ask the members of the committee who are here now for their word, but they know full well that no such information came in that way to the select committee.

Madam SPEAKER: I would ask Rodney Hide when he asks his question—otherwise we will be going on here all afternoon—that his question would, in fact, reflect what was in the report, and we might be able to make some progress.

Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister seen the wiring diagram from the Serious Fraud Office that shows that $40,000 was given from one donor to the Spencer Trust, which then paid the legal debt—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Privileges Committee was given no such evidence, and every member on that Privileges Committee knows that, including Heather Roy. In fact, my memory is that the select committee was told that three donors made up the amount of $40,000—

Hon Lianne Dalziel: That’s right.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and Lianne Dalziel is confirming my memory of that at the select committee. So why is the member persisting and saying something that is plainly, palpably, demonstrably false?

Madam SPEAKER: We will have another try.

Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister seen the Serious Fraud Office wiring diagram presented to the Privileges Committee that showed, yes, separate legal entities controlled by the one donor gave $40,000 from the one person—from the one person—to the Spencer Trust, which was used to pay Brian Henry for Bob Clarkson’s legal costs; and does she think it is acceptable for a Minister in her ministry to be receiving $40,000—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The select committee was told that the Serious Fraud Office got its wiring diagram wrong, that it could not even analyse what they were reading, that it went from a law firm’s account to Brian Henry’s account, to the National Party’s lawyer account, to the National Party, which says that Mr Clarkson was on the same footing as Winston Peters; one rule for them, a different one for me.

Madam SPEAKER: I do not think we are making much progress here, so I will refer members to Speaker’s ruling 152/1. I shall read it; it is rather long: “Some supplementary questions are admitted which, if one had the time to analyse them in the way that primary questions are analysed, would be ruled out of order or would require further authentication. However, members should not be permitted to ask a Minister to respond to outlandish assertions. Supplementary questions will be disallowed whenever a member raises a serious objection to their factual accuracy so as to require that a question of that nature be pursued—if it is to be pursued at all—through the normal question system with notice.” I so rule.

Rodney Hide: Has the Prime Minister seen the wiring diagram presented by the Serious Fraud Office to the Privileges Committee with money routed through the Spencer Trust to cover Winston Peters’ legal costs to Bob Clarkson, and does she find money moved in that way acceptable for one of her Ministers in her ministry?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The answer is no, I have not seen the diagram.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave, for the Prime Minister’s benefit, to table the wiring diagram.

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

/NR/rdonlyres/9F2D8E81-CB26-48F0-80AE-E5A1DAE198B9/93770/48HansQ_20080923_00000067_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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3. Rail—Investment

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

3. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any recent reports relating to investment in rail?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : Yes. I have reports showing widespread public support for the Government’s decision to purchase the rail operator and to establish KiwiRail. I have also seen reports showing public concern about National’s refusal to give a firm commitment not to sell off KiwiRail at some point in the future.

Hon Mark Gosche: What other reports has he seen relating to investment in rail?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen various reports showing that in 2002 and 2003 as Minister of Finance I was asked both written and oral questions by, and received Official Information Act requests from, Mr John Key relating to the Government’s decision to invest in the rail network. Last night I saw a report showing that during that time, contrary to his previous assurances to the House and the New Zealand public, and despite making no disclosures of interest, Mr Key was purchasing shares in Tranz Rail.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell Parliament why he paid for Toll Rail almost twice as much as the best official advice he could get on its valuation, and does that mean that because it is other people’s money, he is happy to be reckless with $350 million?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As he sits next to a past money trader, the member should not talk about being reckless with other people’s money. But coming to the point of the matter, I say that half of the purchase price for the Toll operation was to buy it out of a contract that would have led to ever-growing subsidies being paid to an Australian operator that was repatriating profits back to Australia.

Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister of Finance seen any reports that when New Zealand Rail was sold by the National Party, it sold it for less than the price of the wooden sleepers on the tracks?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is certainly correct. The value of the business was vastly greater than was paid for it at the time, but subsequent asset-stripping occurred by a succession of foreign-dominated owners. Only New Zealand ownership, and Government ownership, with a long-term programme of investment will realise the full potential of rail.

Hon Mark Gosche: What reports has he received on investment in the rail network, as opposed to that in the rail operator?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports that show that just like it did with the purchase of the rail operator, National initially opposed the purchase of the rail network. Of course, it is now apparent that at the time that Mr Key was leading the opposition to that investment, he had been trading in shares in Tranz Rail.

/NR/rdonlyres/B3A303CF-3BF9-40DB-BA2E-FA37DE2F3C14/93774/48HansQ_20080923_00000226_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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4. Taxation—New Zealand - Australia

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

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “If, as some have suggested, New Zealanders are fleeing as tax exiles to Australia, one can only conclude that those individuals are functionally innumerate, and we are probably better off without them”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : That statement was made in July 2005, it related to tax rates at that time, and it remains correct in that respect. But I welcome the opportunity to remind the House that on Wednesday of next week Labour’s $10.6 billion tax cut package starts rolling out, and it will deliver between $12 and $28 per week to all workers.

Hon Bill English: Does he still believe that the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who left for Australia in the last 12 months are so innumerate that they have not noticed Labour’s economic record of zero growth, 4.5 percent inflation, climbing unemployment and bankruptcy, New Zealand slipping down the OECD rather than going up, and an opening of the books that will reveal very significant cash deficits in the Government’s books?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The record, of course, is one of growth that has equalled that of Australia and outstripped that of the United States, Britain, and the European Union; of reductions in unemployment to levels that the member previously described as a hoax; and of strong growth in household incomes. On the matter of the Pre-election Fiscal Update, yes, it will show a significant deterioration in the level of cash deficits, yet the member continues to promise billions of dollars of tax cuts. Apparently, Jacqui Dean was right—the money will come from overseas.

Sue Moroney: Has the Minister received any advice on the comparative financial position of individuals in New Zealand and Australia?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The most recent advice from Treasury shows that the real wage gap between Australia and New Zealand fell by 2.6 percent between 1999 and 2008. That compares with an increase of 50 percent during the 1990s, when that member and many of his colleagues were in Government. Real wages in New Zealand have grown faster than those in Australia since 1999, reversing a long-term, historical trend.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the figures that Labour, the Council of Trades Union, and the Public Service Association are using were calculated by Trevor Mallard, and they are wrong?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot confirm that, at all. In fact, I would be quite happy to table this particular piece of paper, for the member’s instruction.

Madam SPEAKER: Is leave sought to table it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, please.

 Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: Does the Labour Government think that the thousands of Kiwis who have left New Zealand in the last 12 months for Australia are so innumerate that they have not noticed the legacy of 9 years of mismanaged growth and lost opportunity, including the Minister promising tax cuts in 2005, then changing his mind after the election? One reason they have left is that they simply do not believe him.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I can say is that this Government has nearly trebled spending on infrastructure from the parlous level of spending it inherited from the previous National Government; it has massively increased spending on industry training, including such measures as Modern Apprenticeships; it has introduced major reforms into almost the entire education system; it has introduced KiwiSaver, which 800,000 Kiwis are now benefiting from; and it is working on further measures to improve the operation of New Zealand’s capital markets. Indeed, the real issue with Australia is its higher wages, not the level of the tax rate. During the 1990s, under a National Government, the out-movement to Australia grew every year, peaking in a net figure of close to 30,000 in 2000.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Minister promise tax cuts before the 2005 election, then break that promise; and why should any New Zealander believe he will implement another round of tax cuts in 18 months’ time, if he is re-elected?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The story is changing; he is catching “Key syndrome”, as it is called! On 1 October, next week, tax cuts come into force; tax cuts for Mr Key, who can go and buy some shares in a foreign rail company on this occasion. Of course, Mr English is trying to raise doubts about the 2010-11 tax cuts because he will pretend, when National announces its tax policy, that all its tax cuts are additional, and are not, in fact, simply sucking back money from what has been legislated already, handing out more at the upper end and taking it away from the bottom end, which is what he is planning.

Hon Bill English: Why is the Minister implementing tax cuts on 1 October, when for 8 years he bitterly opposed personal tax cuts and said that any cuts in taxes would have to be financed by borrowing, and now he is implementing tax cuts and is financing them by borrowing?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member thinks about the logic of that, he will see that any additional tax cuts will have to be totally financed from borrowing.

Sue Moroney: Has the Minister received any other reports on tax obligations in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I am advised that when someone actively trades shares, he or she may have obligations to disclose profits on the sale of those shares as income, and to pay income tax on it. In other words, if somebody buys shares with the intention of selling them quickly, then, in fact, there is a question of intention of sale. I note that John Key said that when he bought the Tranz Rail shares in 2003, he bought them with the intention of sale. Let us see the tax returns, I say to Mr Key.

/NR/rdonlyres/7C33CFA1-DC5C-4929-89D8-73044994BD05/93776/48HansQ_20080923_00000277_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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5. Free-trade Agreement—New Zealand - United States

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

5. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Trade: What progress is being made towards a free-trade agreement with the United States?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Minister of Trade): Excellent progress is being made. Today the United States announced its decision to enter into comprehensive free-trade agreement negotiations to become a full partner of the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, or P4 group, consisting of Chile, Singapore, Brunei, and New Zealand. Today’s announcement is of huge significance and benefit for New Zealand. To have this commitment from the United States, in the same year as we have also concluded free-trade agreements with China and the ASEAN economies, is a great achievement and opens up the prospect of significant and sustained benefits to New Zealand businesses, employment, and the economy in general.

Martin Gallagher: What would be the value of a free-trade agreement between the P4 group and the United States for New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It would be considerable. The United States is New Zealand’s second-largest individual trading partner and second-largest export market. New Zealand’s total trade with the United States in the year to June 2008 was worth $8.14 billion, accounting for 9.6 percent of New Zealand’s total trade. With the involvement of the United States, the P4 group is now poised to expand rapidly to encompass other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and to lead to greater economic integration in the region.

Dr Russel Norman: Will the Minister publicly guarantee that he will not sign any trade deal with the United States that undermines Pharmac’s role as a monopoly purchaser of pharmaceuticals on behalf of all New Zealanders—yes or no?

Hon ANNETTE KING: As with all our free-trade agreements, in order for New Zealand to be able to agree to any outcome the agreement overall must be able to pass the test of being in our national interest. Those issues will be discussed and we will look at our national interest.

Martin Gallagher: What response to the announcement of these free-trade agreement negotiations has the Minister seen from industry and producer groups?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen statements welcoming the significant benefits that will flow from the proposed free-trade agreement for many key sector groups, including Export New Zealand, Federated Farmers, the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), and Business New Zealand. I have seen comments such as “would deliver a fantastic boost to exporters’ confidence …”, “the potential for New Zealand in this is immense.”, “a Free Trade Agreement with the world’s largest economy is something to be savoured.”, “The government is to be loudly congratulated for getting the US to the negotiating table on this issue. … it would be the most important trade development for New Zealand since the CER deal with Australia in 1983.”, and “the trade policy hat-trick announced this year—the China, ASEAN and now a potential US FTA—holds open the hope of significant growth in the future.”

Dr Russel Norman: Given the Minister’s previous answer, where she refused to publicly guarantee to protect Pharmac, will the Minister publicly guarantee not to loosen the current rules around genetic engineering as part of a trade deal with the United States—yes or no?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I repeat: as with all our free-trade agreements, in order for New Zealand to be able to agree to any outcome, the agreement overall must be able to pass the test of being in our national interest. Those are issues that we will look at.

/NR/rdonlyres/3563E6C6-CBF9-4199-BDA8-E92E52A6D79D/93778/48HansQ_20080923_00000357_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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6. Youth—Education and Training

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

6. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement that “Schools Plus articulates the goal of every young person being in education, skills development, or structured learning, relevant to their needs and abilities, until the age of 18.”; if so, how many young people are currently not engaged in education, skills development, or structured learning?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education) : Yes; although New Zealand students are performing among the best in the world, the 2006 census revealed that 9,300 15 to 17-year-olds were not currently engaged in education, training, or employment. We estimate that another 20,000 are in very low-skill jobs. It is exactly those sorts of students that Schools Plus aims to keep in education or training.

Anne Tolley: Can the Minister confirm that in 2002 his Government promised that by the end of 2007 every 15 to 19-year-old would be in work, education, or training, so the fact that we are talking about almost 30,000 young people not being in work, education, or training, as the Minister has just outlined, means that Labour has failed to achieve the goal it announced in 2002?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member never listens to the answer. She asked me about students who were in training or education, and she has now included employment. Actually, 6,000 young New Zealanders were unemployed in 2002; today only 250 are, which is a 96 percent reduction, as we promised the Mayors Task Force for Jobs. We are talking about students and young people who are in very low-skill jobs. We want to lift up their skills. We are proud of our employment record. We want to make sure that every young New Zealander lifts up their skills.

Hon Mark Burton: What recent announcements has the Government made to support the implementation of Schools Plus?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Last week at Massey High School the Prime Minister and I announced $39.7 million for the initial roll-out in 2009 of Schools Plus. This will include about $11.5 million towards improved careers guidance for schools; another $21 million towards an expanded Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource course, which is an already successful programme; 100 new schools next year joining the Young Apprenticeships scheme; more funding for pre-employment training; and a tertiary-secondary opportunity at the Manukau Institute of Technology. I contrast that with National’s plan—boot camps for bad kids.

Anne Tolley: When the Government set itself a goal in 2002, and the Minister today has admitted that it failed to achieve that goal for at least 10,000 17-year-olds, why is Labour now reheating that same goal of having all young people in education and training, and now asking the New Zealand public to wait until 2014 to get what Labour promised it would have done by 2007?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member criticises our Government for reducing the number of young unemployed people from 6,000 to 250, a 96 percent reduction. Somehow, she says, that is not good enough. Well, I say to Mrs Tolley that boot camps will not work.

Anne Tolley: If he were a schoolteacher, what would the Minister of Education say to a student who asked to have 5 years to achieve a task but failed miserably to do so, and who then came back 6 years later to ask for a 6-year extension; and does the Minister think the New Zealand public are foolish enough to listen to a Government that broke its 2002 promise, and is now shamelessly reheating that same promise and asking them to wait for another 6 years to get any results?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: For many years, I was a schoolteacher, and I would tell that student that I am very proud now to be the Minister of Education in a Government that has put an extra $5.5 billion into education, and that has come up with a revolutionary scheme like Schools Plus, brought in 20 hours’ free early childhood education, built 1,500 classrooms and 42 new schools, and increased teachers’ salaries by 38 percent. That student would be very impressed with that real achievement.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that the Schools Plus policy will deliver very little to students if the New Zealand Qualifications Authority continues to refuse to receive achievement marks for students whose parents have failed to pay the New Zealand Qualifications Authority fee; and will he move to correct this so that students’ results are not lost due to the inability or unwillingness of parents to pay?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: One of the most important things about Schools Plus is that it is a collaborative approach involving schools, the community, trade unions, business, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the New Zealand Teachers Council, the teachers’ unions, and so on, so that we can get all of the ducks lined up to make sure it works properly. That is why it is being resourced by $40 million next year, and why it has a very long period of consultation—we want it to work. Yes, we will have to work closely with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and with every other stakeholder in education.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that it would be preferable for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to at least collect and hold all student achievement data—even if it will not then provide written evidence to school leavers if fees are not paid—to avoid the risk that currently exists of students losing their marks altogether; if he does agree, will he move to fix this so that Schools Plus qualification gains are not lost?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I, like every other Minister in the Labour Government, am determined to make Schools Plus work, so that we can get the outcome we want, which is better skills and better training for all young New Zealanders. So, yes, I will be working closely with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to make sure we have the most robust and best possible systems in place to make Schools Plus work for our kids.

Anne Tolley: Why is the Ministry of Education paying for 120 principals to fly to Wellington at short notice for a briefing on Schools Plus—that is, why is his Government using tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, 7 weeks out from an election, to fly in principals for a briefing to publicise Labour Party election policy; and is that not a breach of the Electoral Finance Act?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am really delighted to hear, as no doubt every principal in New Zealand will be, that the Ministry of Education is assisting those schools. Usually I hear the opposite complaint—that we do not give schools enough support. I am glad the principals are coming to Wellington, because we want Schools Plus to work.

Anne Tolley: Can we sum up the situation in this way, then: in 2002, the Labour Government promised to have all of our young people in education, training, or work by the end of 2007, and it failed; now, a year later, it is reheating that same goal, giving itself another 6-year extension, and, to top it all off, it is using tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to fly principals in, to brief them on Labour Party election campaign policy?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can sum up for the member in just a few words: in 2006, 6,000 unemployed youngsters; today, 250. Yes, I tell Mrs Tolley that our programmes are working.

Anne Tolley: I seek leave to table the letter from the Ministry of Education to principals, inviting them, at the Ministry’s expense—

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

/NR/rdonlyres/37CA3400-577B-489B-8C56-9302CA33EBAE/93780/48HansQ_20080923_00000409_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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7. Government Initiatives—Implementation

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

7. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What Government initiatives come into force next week that will benefit New Zealanders?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : From 1 October New Zealanders will experience the benefit of a new low tax rate of 12.5 percent, the lifting of tax thresholds for workers on middle and high incomes, and increases to the Working for Families tax credits. These are just a few of the initiatives of a responsible, Labour-led Government, planning for a strong and sustainable future for all New Zealanders.

Lynne Pillay: Who will benefit from these initiatives?

Hon RUTH DYSON: All workers will pay less tax after next Wednesday, but in particular these initiatives will benefit those on low incomes, families with children, and superannuitants. Recent research shows that the gap between rich and poor in our country has reduced for the first time in over two decades. The 1 October changes continue our Government’s focus on delivering fairness.

/NR/rdonlyres/B8982DBC-D847-442E-AA04-DC2A3E6B0A47/93782/48HansQ_20080923_00000494_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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8. Justice—Government Policies

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

8. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Has she asked the Prime Minister why there were no new justice policies mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement that “In the next few weeks I will be announcing significant new policies in critical areas such as health, education and housing.”; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : No. Unlike National, which has an inner clique that decides policy and feeds its backbench manure only, Labour has a proper policy process that involves all its members of Parliament. I point out to the member that the Prime Minister said “such as” in her statement; it was not restricted to just those three areas.

Simon Power: Why has the Minister of Corrections proposed looking at banning gangs, when the Minister of Justice has told this House three times that she did not believe it was feasible or possible to outlaw them, and when Labour did nothing about gangs for 2 years, then left a bill that increased the penalties for gang members in the draw for a year after it had been approved by Cabinet, because the then Minister was too busy with the Electoral Finance Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Minister of Police would be silly not to consider looking at legislation in another country if it works, and what the Minister of Corrections has said is that we ought to look to see whether it works. I totally agree with him. But I do not agree with the member’s saying that this Government has done nothing about gangs; we have done a lot about organised crime. The member does not recognise what we have done, because that would not suit his purposes.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that there are no new justice policies because the Government still has not passed laws it announced much earlier, like the criminal proceeds bill promised at the last election, the corrections amendment bill first announced in June last year, and the Legal Services Amendment Bill, which she told the Sensible Sentencing Trust conference would be introduced in May and passed soon after, but has yet to receive its first reading?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member that there will be a very strong justice policy from the Labour Party, as there has been in every election. I wonder how many members of the National Party know anything about their justice policy; I am pretty sure that they will not have been told it yet.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that neither the new legislation to govern electronic bail, which the Prime Minister announced in June, nor the amendment to the Domestic Violence Act, which the Minister said would be introduced by July, has yet to appear before the House at all; and in light of the 43 percent increase in violence under her Government, why have improvements to laws dealing with family violence been put on the back-burner?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I can assure the member they have certainly not been put on the back-burner. We undertook a major review of the Domestic Violence Act, we consulted widely, the legislation has recently gone through Cabinet, and it will be in this House in due course. I look forward to the National Party voting for it. You see, it is very easy to sit there, shout, and interject; when National was in Government its record on law and order was abysmal—whether it was organised crime or domestic violence. It really disappoints me that, even today, National does not recognise that family violence is a major issue.

Simon Power: Does “in due course” mean that those bills I have referred to will be in the urgency motion this week?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member will have to wait and see.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister’s announcement at the beginning of the year that Labour would investigate a victims compensation scheme rests on the advice of the Law Commission, which is not due to produce a discussion document until this month; and why has the policy not firmed up in the 14 years since her leader last announced it, in 1994?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is not correct in his comments about the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister ensured the passage of the Victims’ Rights Act in 2002. The National Government had 9 years to put in place legislation for victims in New Zealand; there was no legislation from National. Not only did we put in place legislation but this week we announced the victims’ charter, and we also announced an 0800 number so that victims can get information when they need it. We have put money and commitment behind victims; National has only ever talked about that.

Ron Mark: Would it be helpful, given that on 14 March 2006 the Government was dismissive of New Zealand First’s calls to pass legislation to outlaw gangs, and given that on 21 November 2007 the Government dismissed New Zealand First’s request that it look at the South Australian Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act, which had been put through Parliament that day, if New Zealand First tabled for its first reading the Anti Gang and Organised Crime Bill that it has drafted, which blends the strengths of the South Australian Act with the Terrorism Suppression Act here in New Zealand and the US Congress’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; would it be helpful of we tabled that bill now?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member has every right to table whatever he likes. I would have no objection to his tabling whatever he wanted. However, we have said that we want to look at the South Australian legislation. The last thing we want to do is to put in place something that does not work, but we have the opportunity, because we work closely with South Australia, to look at how its legislation works, and then to see whether it can be applied to New Zealand.

Ron Mark: I seek leave for the Anti Gang and Organised Crime Bill to be introduced and set down for first reading as a members’ order of the day, despite Standing Orders 276(1) and 277(1).

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

/NR/rdonlyres/E3FF900E-885B-4BAF-9E5F-41ED163F8322/93784/48HansQ_20080923_00000520_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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9. Principles of Justice—Application

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

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does she agree that the principles of British justice, which have evolved in New Zealand, still apply in New Zealand?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) :Yes. New Zealand has adopted, through history and common law, many of the justice principles first articulated in the British justice system. Over time many of these principles have been refined in New Zealand legislation and judicial decisions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it one of those most basic, fundamental principles that one cannot be convicted of an offence that is not in the law?


Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it one of those basic, fundamental principles that there cannot be in a case retrospective legislation or retrospective rules, and then justice?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe that is correct.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it also fundamental to our laws and our system that an offence is only applicable when the law or rules have been, in fact, put in place?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Again, the member is correct.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister regard that as being game, set, and match?

Hon ANNETTE KING: All the issues the member has raised I gave affirmative answers to. If that is game, set, and match, then it must be.

/NR/rdonlyres/885E1542-75CB-4F35-80FF-D5D126231E0E/93786/48HansQ_20080923_00000591_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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10. State Services—Delivery

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

10. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of State Services: Does he stand by his statement in June that “If State servants don’t deliver services efficiently and effectively, people lose faith and trust in the State Services”?

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

Gerry Brownlee: Does he stand by his statement in June—I am sorry, Madam Speaker. My question is to the Minister—

Hon Member: Big words, Gerry—big words.

Gerry Brownlee: Yes, they are big words—that is right. Are services being delivered efficiently and effectively, when in the last 5 years the amount of floor space leased to house bureaucrats in central Wellington has increased from 313,578 square metres to 445,915 square metres; and how is that 42 percent increase in occupied floor space of benefit to the taxpayer?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I cannot verify the exact figures that the member used, but I am happy to accept his word. Three areas of costs that I, as Minister, have been moving to control are building lease costs, advertising costs, and air travel costs. The Government is paying attention to these issues.

Darien Fenton: What reports has the Minister seen on public servant numbers?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Of course, the big cost centre is, and always will be, wage costs—wage and salary costs. I have seen reports that John Key, Bill English, and Gerry Brownlee all say that National will not cut the number of public servants, yet we have National still talking about unaffordable tax cuts—tax cuts that would cost many billions of dollars on top of the amount that Labour is already committed to. If it is going to do that—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Reckless borrowing!

Hon DAVID PARKER: You have got it, Mr Mallard—reckless borrowing and substantial increases in Government debt at a time of international turmoil. Some might expect that from a party of paper shufflers and speculators, but I, for one, think it would be disastrous for New Zealand.

Gerry Brownlee: How can people—[Interruption] I am just waiting for the retiring member from Wanganui to finish. How can people have trust in Labour’s stewardship of the Public Service, when it is overseeing an increase in the amount of floor space leased to bureaucrats in central Wellington over the last 5 years that equates to an additional 13.2 hectares of office space?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No doubt the vast proportion of that increase relates to the increase in the number of public servants, which is at a lower rate than the increase in the labour force.

Gerry Brownlee: How can people have trust in Labour’s stewardship of the Public Service, when in the last 5 years it has chosen to create a 17 point difference—[Interruption] I am doing well! In the last 5 years—[Interruption] I know how they feel, Madam Speaker. It is their last day in those seats. It is like the end of a school year.

Madam SPEAKER: If the member keeps on chipping backwards and forwards, the question will go on forever, so just ask the question, please.

Gerry Brownlee: How can people have trust in Labour’s stewardship of the Public Service, when in the last 5 years it has chosen to create extra space for bureaucrats that is equal to the two new Auckland City hospitals, 27 new Sunderland Schools, or 1,470 State houses; and what are they doing in all that office space?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The country can be assured that if voters choose to return a Labour Government, we will prudently look after their money. We will not recklessly borrow to increase Government debt.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister seen a report by Bayleys Research that states that the Government sector now occupies almost 40 percent of the total commercial space in the Wellington central business district; and does he agree with its analysis that the surge in floor uptake over the last 5 years involves quite staggering numbers, and serves only to illustrate how big the core bureaucracy in New Zealand has become?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said before, State servant numbers have decreased as a proportion of the labour force.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the cost of leased office space in central Wellington now amounts to at least $106 million a year; and is not the growing of the bureaucracy simply driving up costs for the taxpayer, who has to pay for further space to contain them?

Hon DAVID PARKER: What I can confirm is that it was the last National Government that flogged off the Government-owned premises that now increase the cost of the rent paid by the taxpayers. If National got on the Treasury benches, it would flog off the remaining assets that are owned by the taxpayers.

/NR/rdonlyres/ECBB8AAB-6710-4F05-8AB4-1C51701F79D9/93788/48HansQ_20080923_00000642_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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11. Food Labelling—Country of Origin

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

11. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Does she stand by her statement that “country-of-origin labelling does not serve a food safety purpose”; if so, why?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister for Food Safety) : Yes; because all food for sale in New Zealand is required to meet New Zealand standards, no matter where it comes from. A label that advises the country of origin of the whole food, or of each or some of the ingredients, does not in itself provide information on the safety of the food, but provides information only on the origin of the food. That being said, I say the Government fully supports voluntary country-of-origin labelling as a service to consumers.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is it, therefore, the Minister’s opinion that New Zealand and China have equivalent food safety standards?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I should say that high-risk foods that come to New Zealand from anywhere are, in fact, monitored by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority. So it is not actually a question of the levels of standards that apply in individual countries; it is whether the food is up to the New Zealand standard when it arrives here. In that respect, it does not matter whether it comes from China or Timbuctoo.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister tell us what routine tests New Zealand applies for detecting melamine in dairy products imported from China; if there are none, how can she deny New Zealand consumers the right to know where their food comes from, so they can make their own decisions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No country routinely checks dairy products for melamine. This has been a situation that has arisen in China in respect of the addition of melamine in the chain of supply, and, as I made the point the other day, one of the products we found that might potentially have had dairy product from China in it had come via Australia. The product did not, in fact, have melamine in it, so I hasten to reassure people about that. But the product had the country-of-origin labelling that is required in Australia, and that labelling said: “Made from domestic and imported products.”, and therefore it did not assist in identifying whether the product came from China.

/NR/rdonlyres/91E312CE-9B75-4CD4-A6CD-AC15D20DA21E/93790/48HansQ_20080923_00000719_2.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Tuesday, 23 September 2008 [PDF 221k]

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12. Electoral Finance Act—Freedom of Speech

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

12. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement in relation to the Electoral Finance Bill: “This bill does not restrict free speech.”; if so, why?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice) : Yes; and we are already seeing examples of people freely expressing their views in this election campaign. A good example is the untrue jibes about Dr Cullen’s sexuality, made at Dr Nick Smith’s campaign launch, which the member asking the question had no hesitation in joining in. So much for the clean campaign promised by John Key!

Hon Bill English: How can the Minister continue to defend the Electoral Finance Act when the New Zealand Law Society’s rule of law committee, which includes, as a member, the Deputy Solicitor-General, said recently that the Act is an “unwarranted intrusion on the right to freedom of political expression …”, and it is “fundamentally flawed and misconceived, and ought to be repealed …”; and why should we regard the Minister’s opinion on this issue as more valid than the opinion of the Law Society?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The New Zealand Law Society is exercising its right to free speech.

Hon Bill English: Well, under the law it would have to register to do that! What does the Minister think of the comment made by her Cabinet colleague Jim Anderton, who is now subject to two police investigations under the Electoral Finance Act, when he said that complying with the law is an extraordinary waste of everyone’s time; and was Mr Anderton not at the Cabinet discussions about this law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Jim Anderton is also entitled to exercise free speech and is allowed to make whatever comments he wishes. In the end, it is up to the Electoral Commission. But I think that member has probably distorted what Jim Anderton said.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister stand by her rather obvious statement that she is not an expert on this law but that the Electoral Commission is; and what does she think about the expert opinion of the chief executive of the Electoral Commission, when she said: “It is clear that having uncertainty remaining within the regulated period has had a chilling effect on the extent and type of participation in political and campaign activity.”; and also said: “The meanings of significant sections of this legislation are obscure.”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Dr Catt is independent and she can hold her own views. However, I point out to the member that free speech is available and able to be used in this campaign, and that fact can be seen in these posters here, which have been put up on hoardings around Wellington. There are quite a number of them. People are allowed to do that under the Electoral Finance Act. They are authorised.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Table them.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will table them. This poster shows Maurice Williamson when he had a beard and was allowed to speak! These pamphlets are an example of free speech in an election campaign. No one stopped this, because the organisation did it right; it followed the rules. The National Party does not want to follow the rules. It wants big business to be able to buy this election campaign. Well, it has failed.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister not aware that it is a disgrace that the law that she passed has been described by the Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, 2 months out from the election, as “having a chilling effect on the extent and type of participation in campaign activity.”, and that 2 months out from an election New Zealand’s top electoral official has said: “The meanings of significant sections of the legislation are obscure.”, which means that MPs, campaigners, and lobby groups who try to comply with this ridiculous law could easily find themselves in court and in jail after the election?

Hon ANNETTE KING: If it is so difficult, how did manage to be able to work within the rules, put out posters like these, and not be caught by the Electoral Finance Act? They followed the rules. That is all anybody needs to do. But of course Bill English is on a mission to try to spread as much misinformation about this Act as possible, because the National Party wanted to spend its millions of dollars and it was not allowed to. It is a bad case of sour grapes.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that the Minister now professes to a detailed knowledge of the rules, when all the parties that voted for the Electoral Finance Act have been found to have breached the rules—namely, the Labour Party, New Zealand First, Progressive, and the Greens?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The point I was making to the member was that over and over again he has said that nobody could campaign; nobody could get out there and put up a hoarding or put out a pamphlet. He said that was not possible, but I say that it is possible, and that organisations are out there doing that right now and they could have been doing it from the beginning of the year. That member needs to get over his sour grapes, get out there and campaign, and do his best, but at the end of the day people will remember that he was “Mr Pension-cutter” for the older people of New Zealand.

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that when canvassed on the doorstep, many New Zealanders are keen to get rid of a Government that has passed a law where one has to register to have a political opinion, where the rules are so complex that many people are too scared to have a go at campaigning, and where the chief executive of the Electoral Commission has said that the law has a chilling effect and that meanings of the legislation are obscure; and has any Minister done a worse job than her on this law?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There we go—“Mr Nasty” always makes it personal. I say to the member that I think he has lost the plot on this issue. It is his last shot on it; why does he not just get over it and get out and campaign? He has been whinging and snivelling in this Parliament for most of the year when he could certainly have been out and campaigning.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think the Minister referred to me as personalising the issue and then went on to use some very unparliamentary and highly personalised language. I ask that she withdraw.

Madam SPEAKER: She may well have, but unfortunately members were shouting too much for me to hear. But if the member has asked for a withdrawal, would the member please withdraw.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw—I think the words were “whinging and snivelling”, but I did not know they were unparliamentary.

Madam SPEAKER: It is all right; the member has withdrawn.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is a longstanding member who knows the conventions around statements of withdrawal, and I ask that she be held to those conventions.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please withdraw and apologise, and do nothing else.

Hon ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister would clarify for the House why those posters that were held up are in such perfect condition, when they are supposed to have come off lamp posts and when the organisation that put them there is not connected to the Labour Party? [Interruption]

Madam SPEAKER: The member has asked for an explanation; the Minister is to give it.

Hon ANNETTE KING: With very delicate hands one might be able to get them off a lamp post, but I can assure the member that these posters are available anywhere around Wellington. He can just go into any place and he will find them; they will be available for him. He can collect the whole set. There is a whole set of them. There are, in fact, three in the set. If the member is really lucky, they will give him the whole set.


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