Questions Of The Day Transcript - 13 November
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 13 November, 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1 to Minister
Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader--ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my honourable friend, but I notice that Mr Anderton is not here. I do not want to comment on the absence of members, but we have been trying to ask Mr Anderton questions, so has the House, and he appears to have decided not to come to the House. If that is not so, could I then ask for leave for the question to be diverted to tomorrow when Mr Anderton, hopefully, will be here.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to divert the question to tomorrow. Is there any objection. There is objection.
Industry New Zealand--Grants
1. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Economic Development: Is he satisfied that Industry New Zealand is distributing grants in a fair and equitable way, and maintaining the standards of good governance that he would expect?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: Yes. Grants are allocated under the Public Finance Act, and systems are subject to internal and external audit.
Deborah Coddington: In the light of that reply, how can he justify the fact that Industry New Zealand gave six grants, totalling $27,620, to Snowy Peak Ltd, the chairman of which is Craig Boyce, who set up Industry New Zealand for the Minister in 2002, is still a member of Industry New Zealand's board, and has just been appointed Acting Chairman of TVNZ?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: It would be kind of useful if the ACT party would indicate ahead of the time precisely what grants it has in mind, in order that a good answer might be given in the House, and everyone might be better elucidated. However--
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not believe that is a fair answer for the Minister to give. We have already asked permission of the Government, who denied it, to put the question across. Mr Anderton, of course, who is a good friend of Mr Boyce knows all about those grants.
Mr SPEAKER: It is not out of order to answer unfairly, the question has to be addressed, and I thought the Minister had not finished his answer.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I would put it to the House that whatever it is that is behind those grants it might be worth the House reflecting that if a person ever is involved in any board or any advisory group with the Government that they should somehow therefore be excluded from any access to an Industry New Zealand programme, or whether it is satisfactory for us to rely on the procedures to make sure that if someone is compromised in any way they leave the room, as happens in Cabinet most weeks, and happens around the boardrooms of this country most weeks.
Hon. Matt Robson: Was the ACT party's last oral question on the issue of the fair and equitable nature of an Industry New Zealand grant accurate?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No, it most certainly was not. Rodney Hide had failed to do his homework, the grant was for--
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the question was inaccurate surely it was out of order and you would not have allowed it?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the word was inaccurate.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The grant was $100,000 for developing systems so that Internal Affairs might know just how much money has gone into pokie machines, not, as was asserted by Mr Hide, to build and distribute pokie machines. They were out by 180 degrees, and I say more, the reason this question has today been put down by Deborah Coddington is that Rodney Hide would otherwise have to limp on both feet.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Given that Mr Boyce is a member of the board of Industry New Zealand and is now the Acting Chairman of Television New Zealand, can we take it that Mr Boyce is on the road to being the next Dr Ross Armstrong?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I point out to the House that not only does Mr Boyce allegedly chair a company that allegedly received some grants, I would be able to confirm that if only I had prior knowledge. Not only that, but members of this House and their families are eligible to apply for, and, on occasion, especially amongst the ACT party membership, receive grants for various purposes. That is not the point. The point is whether the process is fair and whether the grants made are put to good use.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister confirm Industry New Zealand's involvement with the Knowledge Wave conference for 2003, if so, why?
Mr SPEAKER: That is rather wide. [Interruption] I will make that judgment. I was about to say that was rather wide of the question. The Minister may comment very briefly.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I will comment very briefly, just to say that the name of the conference to be held in 2003 is not the Knowledge Wave conference, that was held in August 2001. However, a leadership forum is coming up in February 2003, part of which is a youth leadership forum to be held a day or two prior that. Yes, the Government is proudly involved in sponsoring and organising that forum in close cooperation with the Knowledge Wave Trust.
Dail Jones: Will the Government also take the trouble to associate New Zealand First with the Knowledge Wave conference, rather than having all the speakers at that conference being, for example, Helen Clark and her associates, and little support and little interest from other members of the various Opposition parties represented in the House?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The forthcoming conference in February, which I say again is not called the Knowledge Wave conference--that was last year--has a very limited political involvement, but the Prime Minister has agreed, having been invited by the Knowledge Wave Trust. However, I should say that I think she has agreed, I am not sure--
Hon. Brian Donnelly: She's on the agenda.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I am delighted to hear it. I might say, in respect of the Knowledge Wave Trust, that not only am I the Government representative on it, but I think Maurice Williamson is still on it if the Leader of the Opposition will allow him. The Leader of the Opposition himself is on it, and, indeed, the Opposition spokesperson on finance is on it. We would have New Zealand First people on it I am sure, if the trust, as a whole, thought that New Zealand First had anything to offer.
Gordon Copeland: Does Industry New Zealand have in place a post-grant audit procedure to ensure that the New Zealand taxpayer has received value for the grants made?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: We most certainly do. We have a series of procedures. They come in various forms, depending on the programme and the nature of the grants. For example, all Industry New Zealand programmes are either evaluated or being prepared for evaluation, and that will be ongoing. Secondly, the money goes out only for some individual grants if milestones have been reached; others, the money will go out only if the co-funding has arrived, and so on. So there is an elaborate array of post-grant evaluation and monitoring.
Deborah Coddington: In light of the Minister's answers, what is his response to the report in today's Independent that Industry New Zealand has given $160,000 to the purportedly independent Knowledge Wave Trust, whose board contains one Bridget Wickham, another member of the board of Industry New Zealand--if that is not cronyism, what is?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: It is kind of interesting that the ACT party is so antagonistic towards business, and is so antagonistic to individual business people in this country who create wealth. That is kind of interesting. As far as the charge of cronyism is concerned, she should consider carefully before she makes that charge outside the House, or she might find herself getting a letter from a lawyer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] They have all got a lot to say at the back.
Mr SPEAKER: I have called a point of order, and that will be it.
Rodney Hide: There was a ruling in this House that if the member was attacked at question time, he or she would get an additional question. The difficulty that we have now--I am not saying it is a bad thing--is that under your guidance, parties are required to suggest and submit to you what questions they will ask. I am asking you whether, if one gets attacked like that, one can ask an additional question, or whether it comes with one's allotment.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member is wrong. Each party is allocated so many supplementaries in question time. If they want to have all of them on the one question, they can. I had already given Deborah Coddington a second supplementary question. If she wants a third one, she can have one.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We had a situation there where the Minister said that my question was inaccurate. It is absolutely accurate. Let me advise that there will be more information coming out about that matter, straight after the general debate. I suggest that he come along and listen.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is just using the point of order procedure to ask a supplementary question. He had better be careful or that will be counted against his party.
Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table a response to questions for written answer detailing grants from Industry New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
2. CRAIG McNAIR (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Health: What initiatives, if any, is he taking to discourage the usage of cannabis by young people?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs) on behalf of the Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): The Ministry of Health funds a range of public health services aimed at reducing alcohol and other drug-related harm. The programme is aimed to both reduce the demand for cannabis as well as minimise the harm.
Craig McNair: In light of the recent study by the British Lung Foundation, which stated that tar from cannabis cigarettes contained 50 percent more carcinogens, the agents that produce cancer, than tobacco; and that three cannabis joints a day caused the same damage to the lining of the airways as 20 normal cigarettes, is he considering a tougher preventive stance to marijuana used, rather than merely harm minimisation--whatever that vague term means?
Hon. John Tamihere: We are taking all information into hand, to come up with credible results.
Steve Chadwick: What progress is being made with drug education in schools?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: The health promoting programme uses schools as settings for health promotion, and it has been adopted by many schools in Australia and New Zealand. Drug education is an important component of the health and physical education curriculum within the programme. The Government is working with schools to build the capacity of teachers, to the extent that they have the skills necessary to deal with young people with drug and alcohol issues.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister expect the public to have a cynical attitude to this Government's flip-flop on cannabis, given that when it needed the Green vote, it was all for re-examining the legal status, and now that it needs United's vote, it is all for harm minimisation, and when will we have a clear and unambiguous message to young New Zealanders from all parliamentarians that cannabis is harmful to their mental health, educational achievement, and physical health?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: No, and in the very near future.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister have any evidence whatsoever that cannabis prohibition discourages the use of cannabis; if so, can I see it?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: Evidence indicates that the most successful public health strategies to reduce cannabis-related harm are inter-sectoral community action approaches. Those strategies work.
Judy Turner: Could the Minister give examples of specific information the ministry has supplied to young people about the health consequences of cannabis use?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: One particular example is the ______ programmes currently purchased by the Ministry of Health. They specifically target communities that have evidenced major risk, such as Opotiki, Nelson, Whangaruru, and Te Araroa. I will make that particular document available to the member.
Craig McNair: In the light of some of his answers to the House today, does the Minister condone the actions of the Green Party in employing a part-time staff member for 20 hours each week at the taxpayers' expense to promote the use of cannabis; if so, why?
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister has no responsibility there.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled, and there had better be a pretty good reason for the member raising a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Yes--consistency. Earlier today you chipped me about an interjection that I made about a patsy question from the Government to Mr Hodgson being wide of the mark. You said that you would make a call on it. You then stated to the House that the question was wide of the mark, but that the Minister was invited to make a comment. Why can the Minister not be invited to make a comment on this question?
Mr SPEAKER: Because in that case the Minister was responsible, and in this case he is not.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I point out that my colleague is a new member of Parliament, and ask whether you would allow the question if he drops the reference to the Green Party, but lets the reference to the taxpayers' expense remain?
Mr SPEAKER: It is not the Minister of Health's responsibility.
Hon. Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I put this proposition to you. The issue that the question raised was one of the implications for public policy of another party in this House employing someone to advocate a particular policy stance. Although you are absolutely correct in your ruling that, thankfully, the Minister has no responsibility for the activities of the Green Party, I suggest to you that, given his delegation, he does have some responsibility overall for the implications of actions taken by others on the ability of the Government to achieve the particular policy outcomes to which he has referred. In that context, if the wording of the question was amended along the lines that the member suggested, the question would be in order.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is perfectly correct in the point he makes. I listened to the question very carefully, but the way the question was asked was out of order.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you then saying that if a Minister is asked whether he or she condones something, that Minister has no opportunity to express his or her opinion on that matter to the House?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not, because if the Minister is asked to condone something for which he has ministerial responsibility, then of course he has an opportunity to do that. In this case, the question was about an action taken by the Green Party.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I acknowledge and respect your ruling, but I think that it is important for the House to be aware that the question actually contained inaccurate information and was dishonest.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. If, of course, the member states that, that is a reason for ruling it out, but that was not the original reason that it was.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Frequently since the last election you have allowed new members to have a second shot at a supplementary question. Mr McNair is a new member. We have been here for some months, but I do not believe that the question roster has enabled him as many opportunities as some others might have. Perhaps he could be given a chance to ask that question in a different way.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, on this occasion I am prepared to be generous, and Mr McNair may rephrase the question.
Craig McNair: Would the Minister condone actions emphasising that a part-time staff member had been employed by, say, a Government department, for 20 hours each week at the taxpayer's expense to promote the use of cannabis; if so, why?
Nandor Tanczos: Point of order--
Mr SPEAKER: That question is perfectly in order.
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I reiterate that the question is dishonest. It is--[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: We are getting quite ridiculous here. I asked the member to rephrase the question. He rephrased it in a particular way, which was perfectly within the Standing Orders. He did not refer to any party at all.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now it is out of order because it is hypothetical!
Mr SPEAKER: If I ruled out everything that was hypothetical, we would be through question time by half past two.
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
Minister's Assessment of Foreign Policy
3. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with this morning's Dominion Post editorial which states ``To the outside world, which does not have the benefit of reading her press releases, New Zealand has just joined the build-up against Iraq.''; if not, what is the basis for her alternative assessment of foreign perceptions of New Zealand's actions?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No, because, like the member, the editorial is misguided. New Zealand assets and military personnel are being deployed to the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman for the Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interdiction operation. Cabinet has not approved the use of those forces for any military action against Iraq.
Keith Locke: Can she confirm what MPs were told at a ministerial briefing yesterday that the shipping information gathered by our frigate and Orion will be forwarded to the American overall commander of the interdiction operation aboard a United States aircraft carrier, and is that aircraft carrier the Abraham Lincoln, which this morning's Dominion Post states is used for bombing operations against Iraq and is the only US carrier in the Gulf?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The member should put down detailed questions to the Minister of Defence, but what I can say is that we are not taking part in any unilateral action against Iraq.
Graham Kelly: Why has New Zealand decided to deploy these forces at this particular time?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: New Zealand recognises that the international effort against terrorism, including its military component, will run for the foreseeable future. It is impossible to rotate the SAS contribution continually over a prolonged period. That is why consideration has been given to other contributions, and decisions on those were announced this week.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In the event of a coalition of the United States, Britain, and Australia taking enforcement action against Iraq for breaches of the United Nations resolution for it to disarm, will New Zealand stand by its closest allies and friends and act in concert with them?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government's position on any unilateral action against Iraq has been stated many times, and the member is familiar with it. We believe in upholding the authority of the UN Security Council in these matters.
Ron Mark: Can the Prime Minister confirm to the House that the aircraft carrier the Abraham Lincoln is nuclear-powered, and if so, does that indicate a shift in this Government's acceptance of being associated with, and working alongside, nuclear-powered vessels?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, I have not noticed it in Auckland harbour.
Hon. Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that it was just confirmed that the New Zealand frigate Te Kaha, part of the Maritime Interdiction Unit, is under the direct command based on a US aircraft carrier stationed in the Gulf and the Arabian Sea, why does the Prime Minister not just come clean with the New Zealand public and say yes, we are participating and positioning ourselves in the campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Simply because we are not.
Hon. Peter Dunne: In the event that the UN Security Council does subsequently mandate action against Iraq, what will be the procedure by which New Zealand determines whether we wish to be involved in that action, and will that procedure include a full debate in this Parliament, as has been the case in the past on such activities?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The procedure will be the normal procedure and yes, in the event that that happens.
Keith Locke: Will New Zealand's being involved in an operation that is seen as supportive in some ways of an American invasion of Iraq not undermine the neutrality and the effectiveness of our personnel on the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I cannot say any more clearly to the member than I have, that New Zealand is not involved in any unilateral action against Iraq.
Ron Mark: Does the Prime Minister recall the report published in September this year on our Anzac frigates, entitled No Early Fix for Frigates, in which the Minister of Defence said, ``There were problems with unreliable infrared cameras and target indication radar.'', and if so can she assure the House that the modifications that were discussed there, and projected not to be completed until the year 2006, have now been completed?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: What I can tell the member is that Te Kaha is competent for the mission. It is mission capable.
Maintenance Services for Sub-standard Homes
4. CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour--Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received regarding the Government's weathertight homes resolution service?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Consumers Institute said it made a lot of sense and would give redress to people who otherwise would not have been able to afford it. The Wanganui Chronicle and Hawke's Bay Today also praised it as the right response and good old-fashioned common sense. I would encourage all members to consult interested groups in terms of the Supplementary Order Paper placed on the website last week.
Clayton Cosgrove: Has the Minister seen any criticism of the service?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The only significant criticism has come from the National Party housing spokesperson, Dr Mapp, who, as a law graduate, issued a press statement on Friday criticising the fact that mediation was not compulsory. I have given him 5 days to correct his error. Mediation is, by definition, compulsory. That is what distinguishes it from arbitration and adjudication. That is why the Supplementary Order Paper provides for adjudication.
Gerry Brownlee: It's the other way around.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I correct myself? Mediation by definition--
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could not quite hear the last words of the Hon. Dr Cullen. Could he please repeat that last statement. There was too much noise in the House.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mediation is, by definition, voluntary. That is why adjudication is provided for in the bill.
Dr Wayne Mapp: When will the Government be formally consulting Opposition parties about the Supplementary Order Paper, as the Minister promised on 4 November, and when will it be introduced into Parliament, given that the Construction Contracts Bill still languishes at No. 15 on the Order Paper?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member consulted his whips he would find out that I have already indicated to the Business Committee that the bill will be dealt with under urgency. Copies of the Supplementary Order Paper have been sent to members of the select committee. The select committee has been invited to consider informally the Supplementary Order Paper, and to make suggestions on amendments. If the member had followed that process he would have understood what has been going on.
Brent Catchpole: What reports has the Minister received regarding the failure of the Building Industry Authority to notify the Minister responsible, and that has facilitated the need for the Government's weathertight homes resolution service?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I refer to press statements issued by myself indicating that the Building Industry Authority did not inform the Minister. Indeed, I draw attention to the fact that while the Act provides that the Building Industry Authority has a prime responsibility to advise the Minister, the authority's own website, in summarising its statutory duties, omits that very fact.
Murray Smith: Given that the Building Industry Authority's negligence appears to be one of the prime reasons for the current debacle, will the Government allow, and instruct, the authority to be a willing party to any mediation, and commit itself to funding whatever financial contribution the authority decides to make to affected homeowners as a result of the mediation hearings?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister in charge would not be instructing the Building Industry Authority to be a party to mediation. Whether, of course, the Building Industry Authority is cited in any adjudication proceedings, or in any subsequent court proceedings, is a matter for those taking complaints.
Mike Ward: In view of the fact that treating framing will not stop houses from leaking, nor would it prevent Stachybotrys, soggy carpets, saggy ceilings, damp houses, and rotting floorboards, is the Minister sympathetic to resourcing the Building Industry Authority to improve design and building standards and to stop houses from leaking; if not, why not?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Building Industry Authority is not the only body responsible for stopping buildings leaking. Architects, local authorities, builders, and various other people also have responsibilities in that respect. The Government is reviewing the entire framework around the Building Industry Authority and the Act, and I hope will be introducing new legislation next year.
Executive Director's Expenses
5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader--NZ National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement made prior to the 1999 General Election when she pledged to stamp out the ``culture of extravagance''; if so, will she direct a full and proper audit of all expenditure incurred by Dr Ross Armstrong during his tenure as the chair of Television New Zealand Ltd, New Zealand Post Ltd and Industrial Research Ltd?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, I stand by the statement. I have been advised by the responsible Ministers that appropriate audits of Mr Armstrong's expenditure have either been completed, or are in the process of being completed. Further queries should be directed to those Ministers.
Hon. Bill English: Why should we accept her claim, made yesterday, that this affair has now come to an end, when, within hours of making that claim, New Zealand Post discovered further claims made by Dr Armstrong that he should not have made, and an audit report was issued that did not examine all his expenditure, but only his credit card expenditure?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I understand that New Zealand Post is compiling information to respond to a range of Official Information Act requests, and members will get those in due course.
Darren Hughes: Has the Government taken any action to ensure that all expenses incurred by directors of State-owned enterprises are appropriately audited on an ongoing basis?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Yes, the Minister for State Owned Enterprises wrote to all the chairs last week. He reminded them of the need for directors to act prudently and for boards to ensure that they all have adequate audit processes in place.
Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister recall a senior police officer and two judges who were sent to hell and back for flogging their expenses; does this treatment of Dr Armstrong represent a degrading standard, or does she think that it is preferential treatment by the Government?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It may have escaped the member's notice that Dr Armstrong has lost his public appointments, and I think any fair-minded person looking at the media coverage would consider that he has been sent to hell and back over $1,032 from TVNZ and $360 from New Zealand Post.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister accept some responsibility for her friend Dr Ross Armstrong's extravagance, given that the media reports that whenever anyone attempted to question him, Dr Armstrong replied that he was a very good friend of the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I would be appalled if that were the case. It should never happen.
Hon. Peter Dunne: Do the audit reports that the Prime Minister referred to as having been completed disclose any improper expenditure on the part of Dr Armstrong; if so, what action is being taken in respect of any such activity?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: What has come to light are the two sums of money that I just mentioned, which he has paid back.
Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that yesterday she said that the affair had come to an end; that since then further areas have been discovered in Dr Armstrong's expense claims; and that her answers today indicate that the affair has been reopened and that further audits are occurring?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I understand that both New Zealand Post and TVNZ are compiling information in response to Official Information Act requests. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.
Tertiary Education--Economic and Social
6. MARK PECK (NZ Labour--Invercargill) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What reports has he received on aligning tertiary funding to New Zealand's economic and social development priorities?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Ministry of Education and the Transition Tertiary Education Commission have reported on the first round of allocations from the Private Training Establishments Strategic Priorities Fund. The purpose of that fund is to start moving the allocation of tuition subsidies to focus on New Zealand's economic and social development needs. Those are expressed through the tertiary education strategy and the statement of tertiary education priorities; $16.8 million has been allocated to 48 private training establishments in 121 qualifications in the year 2003.
Mark Peck: How are the allocations from the fund supporting the focus sectors identified in the growth and innovation fund?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Of the funding, $5.5 million is going into the areas of design, culture, and arts, and $2.1 million is going into computing and information technology. The three largest allocations in the creative industries groups are to Design and Art College of New Zealand, New Zealand Institute of Fashion Technology, and Freelance Art School. The three largest allocations in the information, communication, and technology group are to Avonmore Tertiary Academy, Information Technology Institute, and the EDC-COL Tertiary College.
Simon Power: Exactly how many recommendations on aligning tertiary funding and social and economic priorities from the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference of August 2001 has his ministry implemented?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: If the member would put that down as a written question, I will him the answer.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: If the tertiary reforms are about aligning tertiary funding with New Zealand's economic and social priorities, why has he determined, in setting the tertiary strategy, that the Minister should be required to consult only educational agencies and not other groups, such as employer groups, farmer groups, iwi, churches, etc.?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: It is actually quite the opposite. As the member will know, the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission, and the commission in its transition form, is required to consult very widely with all stakeholders in relation to the tertiary education strategy, which then produces the priorities. That in turn relates to the funding that people get. So the tertiary education strategy is the place where we get that kind of wider stakeholder consultation.
Executive Director's Expenses
7. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National--East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Can he assure the House that the KPMG review of expenditure directed by Dr Ross Armstrong has addressed all items of excessive or extravagant expenditure, as indicated by him in the media last Friday; if not, why not?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): The member is wrong. The review was not directed by Dr Armstrong. It was directed by the Acting Chairperson of TVNZ, Mr Craig Boyce. The KPMG report did not find any evidence of inappropriate claiming of expenses incurred by Dr Armstrong on his corporate credit card. I am advised that TVNZ is presently preparing a report in response to Official Information Act requests on spending, and I am sure the member is the author of some of those.
Hon. Murray McCully: Given that the Minister himself was quoted last Friday in a New Zealand Herald article, which refers to Dr Armstrong's 5-day trip to Paris, expensive hotels, an interpreter, and a swanky car, would the Minister agree that a KPMG report 4 days later that a total of only $875 was spent in Paris, with none of those items accounted for, was either incompetence or negligence, or does he have some other explanation to offer?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: What I actually said, or was quoted as saying, in the New Zealand Herald, was that I was working on the assumption that if there was extravagance, that would become part of the process of asking for some money back. I still stand by that quotation. That is what I have asked of TVNZ. If the member reads the KPMG report, which I am sure is anxious to protect its reputation, he will see that KPMG makes it clear that as far as it was concerned, domestic and international travel was not extravagant.
Lynne Pillay: How does the handling of this matter compare with previous instances when money has been paid improperly?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: In December 1998, $340,000 was paid to former Tourism Board members, Michael Wall and Bryan Mogridge. When these payments were later found to be illegal, the then National Government and Minister of Tourism, Murray McCully, asked if they would please pay it back. Eventually, many months later, a complicated deal was--
Mr SPEAKER: Order! When I say ``Order!'', the Minister will be seated. It is not the responsibility of this Minister of Broadcasting.
Deborah Coddington: In the light of the revelation that Dr Ross Armstrong initially used TVNZ funds to pay for his private business dinner with Prime Minister Helen Clark, is the Minister not concerned that the Government might have just gone from the frying pan into the fire by appointing Mr Anderton's good friend Craig Boyce as acting chairman of TVNZ, when companies that he is involved with received six different grants totalling thousands of dollars from Industry New Zealand where he is a board member, or is double-dipping a job requirement?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No.
Hon. Murray McCully: Given the Minister's statement last Friday that Dr Armstrong would be asked to repay items that came into the category of excessive or extravagant--a commitment he has just reinforced to the House--would he expect such action to be taken in respect of the TVNZ corporate box at Wellington stadium if there was evidence that obtaining the box was purely Dr Armstrong's initiative?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I was quoted as saying that I am working on the assumption that if there was extravagance, then TVNZ would ask for money back. The member can take it from me that the answer is yes. I also point out to the member that in my view I have no idea why TVNZ has a corporate boxes and I have asked TVNZ to investigate selling them.
Secondary School Teachers--Specialist Subject
8. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps has he taken to increase the number of secondary teachers in specialist subject areas?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The Government has put in an extra $9 million over the next 3 years to increase the number of secondary teachers. The extra funding extends the secondary subject trainee allowance to include English and chemistry. The allowance is worth between $7,000 and $10,000, and is available to students undertaking teacher-training in targeted secondary subjects. When we introduced the scheme in 2001 it targeted mathematics, physics, computing, te reo Maori, and physical eduction. As from 2003, students in English and chemistry will also be eligible.
Helen Duncan: Has the Minister received any reports on the effect of the secondary subject trainee allowance?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. The allowance is a huge success. I have been advised that around 40 percent of people in secondary-teacher programmes have this allowance--that is, 561 out of 1,400. The availability of the allowance, along with other incentives, such as, relocation grants for teachers to move to areas of high demand, the non-contact time for the first 2 years of teaching, and increased salary rates will all increase the number of teachers in our secondary schools.
Simon Power: Does the Minister believe his current position on the G3 equivalency issue helps with the shortage of teachers in the technology and information technology sector; if so, why?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I refer to the comments made by the president of the Post Primary Teachers Association. She very strongly differentiated on the basis of qualifications. If the member is unsure about the effect of that and the importance of it, then I suggest that he look to his right.
Jim Peters: Why has the alternative disputes resolution panel not been reconvened, thus allowing an objective hearing of outstanding G3 issues, especially the issue of teachers with qualifications such as advanced trade certificate, diploma of physical education, music, and home science, which were the common relevant points of entry qualifications, thereby ensuring that for the future there will be the retention of the present secondary specialist areas that are a cause of concern at the present moment?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Each of those subject areas listed by the member will receive three pay increases--two retrospectively, and one prospectively.
Waitangi--Settlement Legislation, Ngati Tama
9. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: As it is now 10 months since the Minister's advice in her press release of 24 January 2002 that ``Settlement legislation ... is currently being prepared for ... Ngati Tama.'', has the drafting of the legislation been completed; if not, what is causing the delay?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Yes, it has been drafted.
Murray Smith: What progress has Ngati Tama made in establishing a suitable governance entity to receive and manage the settlement on behalf of Ngati Tama, and what is the Government doing to assist that process so that the legislation can be progressed to the House?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Ngati Tama submitted its final governance proposal for the Crown's consideration on 30 October--a couple of weeks ago. The Crown completed its review of that proposal 5 days later--4 November. The governance proposal is now out with the people of Ngati Tama for their ratification consideration, and we expect to be advised of that ratification outcome just before Christmas.
Hon. Georgina te Heuheu: Can the Minister give an undertaking to this House that in future, claims that have been accorded top priority status, such as Ngati Tama has, will have a faster turn-round through the Office of Treaty Settlements than has been the case here, and if necessary the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations will properly fund the process to achieve that?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: This is not really an issue about a faster turn-round in the Office of Treaty Settlements. The turn-round in the Office of Treaty Settlements was 5 days. The time from signing the deed of settlement to Ngati Tama submitting its final governance proposal was around 10 months.
Bill Gudgeon: Does the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations know whether the hapu of Ngati Tama has received the mandate from the claimants to proceed with the claim; yes or no?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No, I do not know. There are about 25 different claimant groups at various stages of the negotiations process, and I apologise to the member that I cannot recall the precise stage that each of those 25 claimant groups is at. However, in the last 3 years there have been five settlements, which is a rate of about one every 6 months. They are Te Uri o Hau, Ngati Ruanu, Ngati Tama, Ngati Awa, Tuwharetoa ki _______, and also Nga Rauru is not far away. That is not bad progress.
Stephen Franks: Has the United Future party raised with the Minister the question of whether the bill as drafted takes United Future's election treaty settlement policy into account--a fiscal envelope of $1.6 billion and all claims completed by 2010--which is remarkably similar to the ACT policy in the last respect?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No, I have no such advice, but the United Future party, as well as the Government, is keen to make progress, which I would have thought would be the origin of the original question.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board--Annual
10. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: What changes does she expect the Hawke's Bay District Health Board to make to its Annual Plan before she will sign it off?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am informed that no further changes are needed. Agreement has been reached. It is expected that the plan will be signed by the end of the month.
Dr Lynda Scott: How has the Hawke's Bay District Health Board met the Minister's definition of being financially sustainable, when it stated that Treasury and Dr Cullen were not prepared to approve the deficit, that the Minister would not let the board officially cut services, that the district health board has been underfunded for the past 2 years, and, in the words of a previous chief executive: ``they have been at the bottom of the barrel in terms of trying to find more efficiency gains.''?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The board has worked with the Ministry of Health and Treasury to reach agreement. It will now come to me and the Minister of Finance and be signed off.
Dave Hereora: Has the Minister received any reports on the response of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board to Dr Scott's comments?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, the chair contacted my office today and said he was extremely annoyed by Dr Scott's comments in his local paper. He considered them to be misleading, to say the least, and said he is sick of quotations being taken out of context to drive political agendas.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You denied my colleague a question just now, and we have another two prepared. I accept that you have to restrict us. Would you please tell us the Standing Order under which you cut us back to such a limited amount.
Mr SPEAKER: The Standing Order is that the Speaker will be the sole judge of determining the number of supplementary questions. I sent around a note to all parties, earlier this year, pointing out that as we have an extra party with quite a considerable number of members, I have to determine a fair number of supplementary questions for members. I have done that, and the member's party has had, in each of the past 2 days, 11 supplementary questions. Today he gets entitled to 10 questions, because the New Zealand First allocation is 10 or 11 per day. Other parties give me their allocations and tell me, for example, that they want--and I am looking at question No. 11--two supplementary questions. They are entitled to do that. They can have all their supplementary questions relating to one question, but once the questions are exhausted that is it.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have indicated that we are rationed. We would like to suggest that we have considered submitting a list to you, but we have refrained from doing that because we respond to the Minister's answers, as a political party. We believe that the rationing that you are giving to us, compared with the other smaller parties, is not the same formula. I ask you to look into that.
Mr SPEAKER: I have, and it is. I refer the member to Standing Order 374, which states that supplementary questions are at the discretion of the Speaker.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You indicated that if everything was to be proportionate, New Zealand First would get either 10 or 11 supplementary questions. Therefore, I think that National should surely be getting 20 or 22 supplementary questions, as opposed to 15 or 16, as we currently accept, in terms of your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point made by the member.
Heather Roy: Can the Minister deny that 6 weeks ago at the annual general meeting of District Health Boards New Zealand she was questioned on the slow signing-off of the Hawke's Bay plan, was told the delay was costing the board up to quarter of a million dollars a month, and she confessed that signing off board plans had not been a good process, and given these facts how can she consider that her handling of these plans is competent?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member, on Monday night, was at the health forum where this question was raised, and, as I said to district health board chairs on Monday night, I am not happy about the slowness of signing-off of draft annual plans. However, I also said that it is considerably better, under this Government, than it has been in the past.
Dr Lynda Scott: Is it not correct that the Hawke's Bay District Health Board is just trying to be honest in its approach, by clearly stating that the price of hospital deficits is that patient services will be cut, and, to quote the chair in the committee report, he is very concerned about this, because he does not think there are any more reductions to be made, and that the Minister had said she is not prepared to sign the annual plan in its current form for two reasons: Treasury is not prepared to approve the deficit, and the Minister is not prepared to consider any service cuts or reconfigurations to the plan?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Part of process is that boards put forward their plans for the year. They then negotiate with the Ministry of Health and Treasury to ensure their plans meet the financial imperatives of the Government. That has not changed, as far as I know, for many years.
Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table the minutes of the annual general meeting that District Health Boards New Zealand held on 26 September.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
11. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: What is his response to the call by the Child Safety Foundation to review regulations concerning arsenic-treated timber because of dangers it may pose when used in playgrounds, especially given the high levels of arsenic found in some Wellington playgrounds and the fact that such timber is banned or being phased out in some countries?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): In response to the foundation's concerns, the Ministry of Health wrote to the Environmental Risk Management Authority in January this year, to see whether a reassessment of chromated copper arsenate was scheduled. The Environmental Risk Management Authority is yet to establish whether the issue surrounding what we commonly call tanalised timber in New Zealand warrants reassessment.
Sue Kedgley: Given that test results in Wellington playgrounds found arsenic levels in soil at ten times the Government guidelines, and that the Minister of Health is responsible for protecting New Zealand children from the risks of arsenic poisoning, what specific and immediate steps is the Minister taking to protect New Zealand children from that risk?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As most parents in this country would be concerned, we are taking steps. I would like to remind the member that those levels referred to in that report were related to domestic ingestion, and were at levels that would not normally ever be seen in a children's playground. However, the Environmental Risk Management Authority is undertaking a reassessment. Both the Minister for the Environment, and myself, have sought briefings from officials. I reassure people that there have been no notified detrimental outcomes for children's health in this country from this cause.
Martin Gallagher: Why do we treat some timber?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Tanalised timber preservation has been used widely in New Zealand for many years to protect timber in contact with the ground, and to prevent rotting. That is why it is used in decking, house building, and in some playgrounds. According to playground standards the ground is to be covered with grass chips or rubber matting. Most educational local council facilities have installed, or are installing, rubber matting. That should mitigate any contamination of soil that might possibly affect children.
Dr Lynda Scott: What advice does the Minister have for parents who are concerned that their child may have suffered ill-effects from exposure to arsenic-treated timber, and why has it taken so long for action to be taken on the issue?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: If any parents should suspect that might have happened I suggest they go to a doctor. However, there have not been any notifications of such incidents in this country. I suggest that parents advise their children not in ingest large amounts of soil around playgrounds, and the same advice should be given to large amounts of soil around any compost heap, as well.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister have any figures regarding the number of children's playgrounds that this review would need to include?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, I am sorry, I do not.
Sue Kedgley: Given that the Ministry of Health wrote to the Environmental Risk Management Authority more than 10 months ago, requesting that it reassess CAA treated timber, and that it failed to so, why would the Minister have any confidence that the Environmental Risk Management Authority will respond more expeditiously, or effectively, to his latest directive, and why does he have confidence in that authority rather than initiating action within his own Ministry of Health?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I can reassure the member that both the Environmental Risk Management Authority and the Minister of Health will be working on that issue as we speak.
12. MAHARA OKEROA (NZ Labour--Te Tai Tonga) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Employment): What recent reports has he received on Maori youth employment outcomes?
Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA (Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Employment)): I have recently received a report stating that the Department of Work and Income has exceeded its Maori youth employment targets for 2 full years. In the last 4 months alone 2,302 stable employment placements for young Maori have been achieved. That is 500 more placements in 4 months than were achieved in the whole of 1999.
Mahara Okeroa: Has the Minister received any other reports about Maori employment?
Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, I received a report that shows that Maori labour-force participation has grown by 33,000, or 19 percent between September 1999 and September 2002. Maori employment growth over the same period exceeded that figure, leading to a reduction in Maori unemployment. It is a good result and it starts to address the high Maori unemployment rate we inherited.
Hon. Georgina te Heuheu: In the light of the information referred to recently by the Minister himself that 40 percent of people entering the workforce are functionally illiterate, why is the Government not putting more effort into improving literacy rates for Maori, which would be far more constructive than the silly schemes this Government tends to come up with?
Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: In relation to literacy, this Government has put more resources into that area than anybody over the last 15 years. We want to give all young Maori the chance to participate in education and work, to gain the skills they need to succeed in today's local, national, and global labour market.
Sue Bradford: Is the Minister concerned that for Maori undertaking youth training with Skill New Zealand, only 62 percent moved on to a job, or to further training or education, and that positive outcomes for Maori are substantially lower than for non-Maori?
Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: If that member goes back to my first answer she would understand that there has been a major increase. I point out that 536 Maori make up 16.5 percent of the total number participating in Modern Apprenticeships; 495 males, 42 females. There is also 11,315 Maori participating in industry training, and a lot of those move on to permanent jobs.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the statistics showing that Maori unemployment rose 8 percent, and unemployment for young people in their twenties rose by over 30 percent, how can the Minister seriously expect anyone to believe that Maori youth unemployment has gone down, especially when he uses placement figures that everyone knows are unreliable?
Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: We intend to bring some reality to the figures. Can I say that the level of Maori unemployment is not acceptable to this Government. It has decreased under this Government from 14.8 percent, which we inherited in December 1999, to the rate of 12 percent recorded. It was also known in December 1999 that there were 16,950 Maori youth on the unemployment benefit. I am told that in 2002 there were 11,701 Maori youth on the unemployment benefit. This is a decrease of 5,249. That member wants to get her mathematics right.
Peter Brown: Noting that you told me earlier that questions were at your discretion, I seek your discretion to ask one supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot seek my discretion. The member can ask leave of the House to ask a further question. Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the official statistics showing youth and Maori unemployment are going up.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)