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Questions & Answers For Oral Answer

Questions & Answers For Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers

Sentencing Act—Effectiveness

1. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Does he remain satisfied that the Sentencing Act 2002 is working in the best interests of the victims of crime and protects the safety of the community; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Justice): I am satisfied that the Sentencing Act, the Parole Act, and the Victims’ Rights Act, together provide a regime that better serves the interests of victims of crime and protects the safety of the community than the previous regime. However, amendments can and will be made to the law over time, taking into account how the courts are applying them.

Marc Alexander: What kind of a signal, other than to popularise and normalise the use of a class A drug, doe the Minister consider the imposition of a mere 8-month jail sentence to quite possibly be served at home for convicted P and Ecstasy dealer Darren McDonald sends to the community, other dealers, and potential users of the drug, when the maximum for such offences is 14 years?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The advice that I have on the matter was that the individual concerned was determined to have played a small part in the offending. Based on the facts of the case, it was determined that 8 months was an appropriate sentence within a possible range of 6 months to 2 years. The main offenders in this case, I am also advised, were sentenced to 6½ and 6 years respectively.

Tim Barnett: Has there been any commentary on the Sentencing Act that compares it to the previous legislation?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I note that Justice Priestley said in July last year that it was “A huge improvement on the mishmash of laws which applied to sentencing prior to July 2002. It greatly assists courts.”

Ron Mark: At the time United Future was doggedly negotiating its in-depth confidence and supply agreement with him, what concessions, if any, did the Minister agree to with regard to addressing the flaws that the United Future is objecting to in the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act; or is it not the truth that they were so lacking in the required negotiating skills and so keen to get into bed with the Labour Government they rolled over like the poodle party that everyone says they?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that the last phrase is not allowed. The rest of the question is all right.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was not involved in negotiating the confidence and supply agreement with the party concerned.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that sentences for drugs offences must reflect the fact that, even if a drug is used socially amongst those with money and does not appear to have an impact on others, its effects on those who are addicted but of lesser means leads to serious criminal activity and other violent consequences in order for them to sustain their habits—as we have all seen in the case of methamphetamines?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I do believe that, and I believe that that is the reason the two main offenders in this case were sentenced to 6½ and 6 years respectively.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that the man at question in the principal question was convicted of conspiring to sell methamphetamine, and in light of the fact that the Minister of Justice has confirmed that not one dollar has been confiscated from convicted drug dealers this year, when will the Government amend the Proceeds of Crime Act so that we can get the money from the gangs that are dealing this dangerous drug—the Minister has promised it for 4 years and there has been nothing?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not have the detail in the House, but I assume that the member is referring to legislation that he could have amended when he was in Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has the Minister not seen the lengthy, detailed, and specific agreement between United Future and the Labour Party and the Jim Anderton - led party, given that it is surely her job to uphold its very detailed provisions; or is it the case that there is no reference whatsoever in that document to the matters before this Parliament or, in particular, to the ambit of the Sentencing Act—and what sort of lapdog agreement is that?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The first two can be answered.

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to ask you to think about how that can refer to the principal question. The question was to the Minister of Justice, and a great assumption is made that the Minister of Justice was somehow involved in supply and confidence agreements. That is the first point I make. Secondly, I make the comment that a lot of people in this country find poodles a lot nicer breed of dog than rottweilers.

Mr SPEAKER: The second comment is irrelevant. I am allowing the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that that member is a new member, but he has no right to refer to Lianne Dalziel like that.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Despite the interruption, I recall the precise wording of the question. I did not say that I had not seen it; I said that I had not negotiated it.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister think that the fact that convicted criminals may have some sort of celebrity status should make them eligible for home detention simply because they may receive more attention in jail, or can she confirm that prisons already have systems in place that protect at-risk inmates?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have advice from the Minister of Corrections to say that that is a matter being addressed within the prison service. But I also say that there was an attempt by the Minister of Justice to have parties agree to make some amendments to the deferral provisions where home-detention applications were being made, but the opportunity was declined by the ACT party, the New Zealand First Party, and the National Party.

Foreshore and Seabed—Mâori Land Court

2. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Will the Mâori Land Court have a role in determining the influence of iwi and hapû in the Government’s new “co-management perspective” over the seabed and foreshore; if so, how?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): The nature and role of the Mâori Land Court is one of the matters under consideration and, as is stated in the Government’s proposals for consultation, “The Government seeks comment on whether the Mâori Land Court jurisdiction extension would be a useful addition to the current range of mechanisms already in place with customary interests, how the new jurisdiction might operate, and the nature and rights that might be recognised.”

Hon Roger Sowry: Does the Minister agree with the reported statement by the Hon Trevor Mallard that the four principles shaping proposed legislation were open to negotiation; if so, does this mean that the Government has backtracked and will now not necessarily guarantee the public access to the beaches and foreshore?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, the Government has not backtracked. My understanding is the comment from my colleague referred to the nature and the way in which those principles could be implemented, not to changing the principles.

Darren Hughes: Is the concept of co-management between Mâori and the Government a new concept?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, the Ngâi Tahu deed of settlement passed by the then National Government in 1998 included co-management provisions that protected Ngâi Tahu’s historical, cultural, and spiritual links to specific sites. Also, the 1992 arrangement between the Crown and the Tûwharetoa Mâori Trust Board on Lake Taupo had similar provisions. I also note that the former Prime Minister the Rt Hon. Jim Bolger in 1995 offered to talk to Mâori about greater self-management and co-management arrangements.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is it the Government’s new suggestion that iwi and hapû have co-management of the foreshore and seabed what she and the Prime Minister meant when they said on 30 June that the Government was seeking a “win-win” on the foreshore; if so, how is it a win-win for the public to have iwi and hapû co-managing our favourite beaches?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I have just pointed out, the whole notion of co-management is not a new notion at all. What was being sought were ideas from the process of consultation and discussion as to how—or if, in fact—a customary right was established by the Mâori Land Court, how that could be implemented.

Nandor Tanczos: What does the Government intend to do to build capacity in local government so that it is better able to recognise and respect customary rights, and so that co-management becomes a workable and viable option?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The proposals do highlight the importance of implementation of the proposals as much as the legal regulation. That is one of the matters we are engaging in with local government, as to what they would see would be their requirements in this respect.

Gordon Copeland: For the benefit of all New Zealanders, will the Government define what is meant by “customary rights” in order to help clarify the influence iwi and hapû will have over ongoing management of the seabed and foreshore, where such customary rights are found to exist; if not, why not?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Strictly speaking, it is for the Mâori Land Court to define what is the “customary right”. However, the process of consultation and discussion that is going on at the moment is to aid and assist what statutory guidance could be given to the court when it decides in a specific fact situation.

Hon Roger Sowry: How does the Government’s latest proposal that Mâori will have some role in “co-management over the seabed and foreshore” differ from co-ownership?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I repeat that it is not a new notion. It is one of many tools that we are seeking a discussion on to ensure that the proposals can be fully implemented. I could go on at some length about the difference between ownership and management, but I think the honourable member knows that as well as I do.

Peter Brown: Noting the answer the Minister gave to Gordon Copeland that, strictly speaking, customary rights should be determined by the Mâori Land Court, can I take it that it is the Minister’s view that only Mâori can have customary rights?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: In the context that the common law was talking about, yes.

Hon Roger Sowry: Can the Minister inform the House as to whether the Government’s view of co-management means that iwi and hapû will have some say over the use to which the seabed and foreshore are put?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: It may assist the member if I refer him to page 101 of Healing the Past, Building the Future, where there is a definition of co-management. It describes the activities where Government and communities are involved to greater or lesser degrees in providing information, consultation, cooperation with the community, communication about initiatives, advisory boards, management boards, and the like. It is not a concept that is confined only to Mâori; it involves the whole community.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was very interesting, but it in no way answered my question, which was quite clear. I asked whether, under the Government’s view of co-management, iwi and hapû have a say as to the use to which the seabed and foreshore are put. I see the Minister acknowledging that that was the question, and I ask her whether we can get an answer to that.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am happy to answer it. That is precisely one of the many proposals that are under discussion at the moment.

International Students—Modern Age English Language Schools

3. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to ensure the provision of accommodation for students affected by the recent difficulties at the Modern Age group of English language schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I am aware that there are students at risk of losing their accommodation because payments have not been made to the people providing the accommodation. The Government has undertaken to meet the future accommodation costs for that group of students, including the payments to home-stays for August, should Modern Age not be in a position to meet those costs. The money will be recovered by way of an adjustment to the export education levy for that group of providers.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House why the Government has taken those steps?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The affected students had pre-paid their accommodation costs and the Government wishes to ensure they do not lose the accommodation they are entitled to. We also want to ensure that this incident does not unnecessarily tarnish New Zealand’s reputation, which, by and large, is one of being welcoming to international students.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What does it say about the Minister’s haphazard management of overseas fee-paying students that, firstly, he has regularly been overseas, particularly to Asia, promoting the idea of young children coming to New Zealand to do their schooling, and that he is now going to shut that down, and, secondly, that he put in place a New Zealand Qualifications Authority monitoring system of English language schools, which, in the case of the Modern Age language school, has quite clearly failed?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there are three questions in there. On the first, I have never promoted school-aged children coming to New Zealand, because it is my view that that is a decision for individual parents, and something that I am frankly not comfortable with. That is why we have moved to a position whereby primary school - aged children will be required to have a guardian—[Interruption] I make it absolutely clear to the member that I have promoted tertiary relationships in Korea and China, but I have never promoted primary school - aged children coming to New Zealand, because I think it is wrong. On the question of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority monitoring system, the money was in the appropriate accounts in February, but was not there when a check was made a month or two later. That is probably a result of a separate business failure of the proprietor, which is something that is very hard for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to take account of.

Hon Brian Donnelly: In order to clarify his answer to the principal question, could the Minister tell the House whether he is saying that to cover the additional costs of about half a million, the export education levy is going to be increased upon all providers?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes and no. It will be increased but not on all providers. It will be increased on the particular subgroup of English language providers from which this group came—not across the board, but for this private English language group from which this provider came.

Home Detention—Homicide

4. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Justice: As Bailey Junior Kurariki, convicted of killing Auckland pizza delivery man Michael Choy on 12 September 2001, is now eligible to apply for home detention, does the Government believe that two years in a residential centre is an adequate penalty for homicide?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Justice): The maximum penalty for manslaughter is life imprisonment. Sentences in individual cases are a matter for the courts. In this particular case the individual was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment, and it is not appropriate for me to comment on the nature of that sentence.

Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the Ministry of Justice report on the death of Michael Choy, which found that: “All of the young offenders shared common negative influences in their lives. Their families were unable to control their behaviour.”, how can Bailey Kurariki possibly be considered for home detention?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I made a mistake when I said 8 years; it was 7 years’ imprisonment that he was sentenced to. Any offender who is subject to a long-term determinate sentence may apply to the board for home detention at any time after the date that is 5 months before the offender’s parole eligibility date. That is why he can apply.

Dr Muriel Newman: What is the Minister’s response to Michael Choy’s mother, Rita Croskery, who claimed on Breakfast television this morning that she was not informed that her son’s killer was eligible to apply for home detention and that under the present laws “offenders have all the rights and victims have no rights.”?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I was not aware that that was the case, and I will certainly follow it up.

Hon Tony Ryall: If Kurariki is allowed out on home detention, can the Minister assure the House and the people of New Zealand that his care and supervision will be superior to the ineffective care that her own inquiry concluded had been shown previously by the authorities of Justice, Education, and Child, Youth, and Family?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Section 35 of the Parole Act explains what the board has to take into account in determining whether to grant home detention. It will include the nature of the residence and the circumstances of both his offending and the sentence of imprisonment. Therefore the Parole Board will take all those factors into account under the legislation, as it is required to do.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister not recall the Hon Rick Barker’s statement in this House that nobody convicted of a serious crime would get home detention, and if Mr Kurariki ends up with home detention, what sort of message is that sending to every junior “would be if he could be” who looks upon this young boy as a hero as opposed to the criminal that he is?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not aware of anyone who looks upon Bailey Junior Kurariki as a hero. He is not a hero. He was involved in a very serious crime. The Parole Board has a list of matters it has to take into account before it makes a decision about whether to grant home detention.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a copy of the report of the senior public servant expressing the concerns that young people were seeing Kurariki as a hero figure—front page of national newspapers.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is it a newspaper report?

Mr SPEAKER: Is the member seeking to table the report?

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is it a newspaper report?

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry; the member was asked whether it is a newspaper report.

Hon Tony Ryall: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your assistance because in one mouthful I am told by the Minister that she is not aware of any such report where this man is being seen to be a hero, and now the Minister has just admitted that she has read the very newspaper report that states precisely that. One of her statements is untrue, and I ask you to rule on that.

Mr SPEAKER: I wish that the member had listened to what the Minister said. The member is wrong in his assertion.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact is that the Minister said that she was not aware of any such reports.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: No, I didn’t.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, she did. She is then offered the opportunity by another member of Parliament to have such reports put before her, reports that Mr Ryall said were in all the national newspapers, then she opposed it. That is just treating Parliament with contempt.

Mr SPEAKER: Any member of this House has the right to deny leave.

International Students—Age Restrictions

5. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Immigration: What steps is she taking to respond to the announcement of the new rules for enrolling young international students in primary and intermediate schools?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I have announced a new guardian visa, which will match the visa of young international students. This has been introduced as the visitor visa has not been adequate for this purpose.

Lynne Pillay: Why is the guardian visa necessary?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In response to the announcement of the Minister of Education in respect of very young international students coming to this country requiring the support of parents or guardians, current visitors policy restricts them to a 9-month stay in any 18-month period. This does not cover the full year. The evidence shows that these young children need the supervision and support of their parents.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Other than children who are in New Zealand with their parents here on legitimate business, why should any foreign fee-paying students be allowed to attend taxpayer-funded primary schools?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Because they pay student fees.

Ministerial Confidence—Justice and Corrections Portfolios

6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Corrections; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because they are both hard-working and conscientious Ministers.

Ron Mark: How can the Prime Minister possibly expect the victims of crime to have confidence in a Minister of Justice who does nothing to prevent class A drug dealers and killers to avoid serving their prison sentences by allowing them to gain home detention, or her Minister of Corrections who allows those same people on home detention to live the life of Riley—going to the gym, family outings, shopping, rugby, participating in community activities, gambling, smoking, and taking recreational drugs—all whilst they sit on the dole on home detention?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand home detention goes back many, many years. No doubt the whole issue was looked at again when the sentencing and parole legislation was before a select committee, which it was for rather a long time. I am not satisfied that there needs to be changes at this point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have faith in a Minister of Correction and a Minister of Justice who have said: “Home detention is designed to accommodate low-level offences warranting a sentence of less than 2 years, and seem to be a low-risk to the community”, when just in the last 2 days we have seen a convicted killer and class A drug supplier join the for ever growing list of violent and dangerous home-detention criminals; why is she satisfied that no changes need to be made now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that both have made application for home detention. That is quite a different matter from getting it agreed to.

Ron Mark: Can the Prime Minister explain why the Government has bothered to put out a 19-point methamphetamine action plan, aimed at controlling supply, reducing demand, limiting harm, and improving treatment services—all in response to the devastating and dangerous effects of the class A drug—while a New Zealand celebrity gets a slap on the hand and is able to avoid a prison sentence by swanning off on home detention?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understand that is what he is applying for; it has not been granted. The Government views P in very, very serious terms, indeed. It is an extremely dangerous drug, and that is why the police have been given more resources through the Budget process to combat it.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Prime Minister view P as a dangerous drug, but is happy to support the decriminalisation of cannabis?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Clearly cannabis and P are quite different kinds of drugs. For the record, from the time I was Minister of Health I have received advice that partial decriminalisation of cannabis should be considered by the Government. I did not action that as Minister of Health, but there are plenty of credible people in public health who would make that recommendation today.


7. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister of Transport: How many tractor accidents have there been over the last year?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): I am advised that in the last 4 years 14 people have been killed in tractor accidents in New Zealand. The latest data show that in the first 9 months of 2002-03 there were a total of 48 tractor accidents. To improve farm safety the Government has been working with Federated Farmers on a farm safety campaign. This encourages leadership amongst farmers to support injury prevention and the appointment of key persons to champion industry prevention.

Mark Peck: What support has the Government received for its campaign?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Federated Farmers are fully behind the campaign. In fact, they recently sent material on farm vehicle safety to a National Party MP as a result of his operating a tractor on Parliament’s steps without a safety frame and in blatant disregard of public safety. Federated Farmers have rightly expressed their extreme disappointment at the MP’s foolishness. I hope he feels some remorse for making a complete and utter idiot of himself on the steps of this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister went too far in his last comment. He will withdraw and apologise.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon David Carter: How many tractor accidents occurred in 1987, the last time a tractor was driven on to the steps of Parliament and on that occasion by a senior Labour Party Minister?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not have that exact figures, but two wrongs do not make a right. It is interesting to note that at that time the National Party called for tough action against the member who did that, as opposed to the weasel words of the current Leader of the Opposition around the current incident.

Gerrard Eckhoff: If the Government had not put such a dumb proposal in place like the livestock emissions tax, there would not have been a single tractor anywhere near the steps of Parliament, so why does the Government not try the novel approach of reducing the costs of doing business in New Zealand for the wealth creators of this country, for a change?

Mr SPEAKER: That has no relevance to the original question, but the Minister can comment very briefly, if he wishes.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: A Government policy is no excuse for that member making a complete idiot of himself.

Home Detention—Victims' Role

8. Hon TONY RYALL (NZ National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Corrections : What role is there for victims, or for families of victims, in the application for home detention?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): Victims’ families who are part of the victim notification process are entitled to receive information about the hearing for the offender if he or she is being considered for home detention. Victims may make a submission in writing to the board in advance of the hearing and orally to the panel considering the case. The Parole Board takes into account victims’ submissions when making decisions on offenders’ applications for home detention.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why was Mrs Rita Croskery not advised that Kurariki had applied for home detention and that that would be considered by the Parole Board, and why was the victim’s family not told, when the law requires that they should have been told?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am advised by the department that the Parole Board wrote to that person on 18 August informing her that the person in question was coming up for a hearing. The woman wrote back to the Parole Board seeking further information, and a couple of days later the board wrote back and has since spoken to her by phone.

Georgina Beyer: Apart from submissions made by victims, what other information does the Parole Board consider when hearing applications for home detention?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Public safety is the paramount concern of the Parole Board. In addition to the victim’s submission, other matters taken into account include submissions from the police, details about the offender’s current and previous convictions, information about how the offender’s home detention would be managed, a report from a psychologist, and the views of the Community Probation Service on the offender’s suitability for home detention.

Hon Tony Ryall: Given that the Minister has confirmed that his department did fail to advise Mrs Croskery appropriately, that the department failed to advise a Kawerau family that the killer of their brother was being paroled to live next door to them, and that the department recommended that a wife basher get home detention back with the very woman that he bashed, and then he bashed her again within weeks of being home, why should Parliament have any confidence that his department will protect the community from Bailey Junior Kurariki?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In relation to the first part of the question, I can say that there has been correspondence and phone calls between the person concerned and the Parole Board. Secondly, the final decision on whether a person is granted home detention lies with the Parole Board.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister now telling the House that of all the people who were convicted of assaulting a child, including the individual who assaulted a child with a firearm, the individuals who raped girls under the age of 16, and the 10 who were responsible for killing with a motor vehicle, in every instance where they were granted home detention, the victims of their crimes were informed and they were given the opportunity to appear, or is it not the real truth, according to Mr Glen Goodman, that the home detention system is totally out of control and that this Government is “deceiving the public”?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I do not agree that home detention is out of control. I acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the notification system, and I am turning my attention to that. Mistakes should not be made in the notification system.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister not think that the whole concept of home detention—given the case we have been talking about, where a convicted killer has served only 1 year of a 7-year prison sentence, and the case of the former television newsreader Darren McDonald, sentenced to 8 months in jail for supplying drugs—is bringing the whole justice system into disrepute in that one can now kill people, sell drugs, and stay at home?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I note firstly that, of course, the home detention system was introduced by the previous National - New Zealand First Government, and perhaps we should not forget that. What I can say is that home detention, by and large, has been a very effective custodial arrangement and leads to a much, much lower reoffending rate than normal prison sentences.

Hon Tony Ryall: I think this may assist the Minister. I would like to table a transcript of a television interview this morning, where Mrs Rita Croskery goes through the process and says that she was not advised as she was legally entitled to be advised.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Gambling Bill—Labour Party Council Motion

9. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will he be proposing amendments to the Gambling Bill, following reports that the weekend meeting of the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party passed a motion expressing “its very grave concern at aspects of the Gambling Bill that are being imposed on the Government by United Future through a series of anti-family amendments”; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): No, because the Government Supplementary Order Paper has already been tabled.

Sue Bradford: Will the Minister be supporting the call by the New Zealand Labour Party Council to stop the anti-family aspects of the proposed amendments to the Gambling Bill, such as the Lotteries Commission providing Internet-based gaming and allowing banknote accepters on pokie machines; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: No. The move to Internet gambling with the Lotteries Commission was done after very careful consideration by the Government.

Dianne Yates: How does the Gambling Bill address problem gambling?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government recognises that problem gambling is a public health issue. The bill makes the Ministry of Health responsible for problem-gambling services. The bill also provides measures to minimise the harm caused by gambling, including restrictions on the number of gaming machines at certain sites.

Judith Collins: When did the Minister consider it would be a good idea to get the Government’s Lotteries Commission to promote and sell the two most addictive forms of gambling—Internet gambling and pokie machines—and why did he think he should not tell the people of New Zealand about it until the end of last week?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government has considered views from a wide range of the public, a number of submissions, and, in fact, I have written 900 letters to correct the misleading information that the Opposition put out.

Brent Catchpole: What did United Future say in its highly detailed, very specific, and oh-so-flimsy confidential confidence and supply agreement that supports its anti-family position on the Gambling Bill; and, if there is nothing in that agreement, why has the Government agreed to the anti-family amendments?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I must say that the idea of Internet gaming for lotteries is a very well reasoned piece of information that the Government itself proposed.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that the amendment to include Internet gambling was never brought by United Future but was instead initiated by the Government at the request of the Lotteries Commission, meaning that claims by the Greens to the contrary are totally and utterly false?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, yes, and yes once more.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware that the Gambling Bill was discussed last week at the Association of Child and Family Support and Community Services conference, at which a resolution was passed, supported by over 100 social service agencies working for families and whânau, calling for a ban on Internet gambling, given the harmful effects that gambling has on families; if not, will he be consulting the Hon Ruth Dyson, who was at the conference?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I always speak to my colleagues. Ruth Dyson is a very good Minister; and, of course, when one speaks to Ministers one gets all sorts of useful information.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister agree that amendments negotiated by United Future—to make the process of setting the problem gambling levy more accountable—are a positive change that will ensure that tax dollars are spent cost-effectively and in a way that ensures that those most in need get help?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. I have to say the United Future Party has been very positive all the way through and has come up with some very good ideas, which the Government has been prepared to adopt.

Sue Bradford: Will the Minister be changing the Gambling Bill to respond to calls made by its own New Zealand Labour Party council to allow local authorities to apply local gambling venue policy to all gambling venues in the area—not just the 16 percent of venues that, according to Department of Internal Affairs figures, were licensed after October 2001; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I will not be responding to those calls, because matters that are decided by the council are its own business and in-house.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister confirm that, thanks to United Future’s support, local communities, including emergency rescue services, sports and recreational clubs, and church-based social service providers, will all be able to continue to be funded—an outcome less certain had the Greens succeeded in centralising and bureaucratising the distribution of profits from gaming?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I am very much in agreement. I have to say the Greens could have played a bigger part, but they decided to take their ball and go.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister not consider that members of the New Zealand Council of the Labour Party, and the people it represents, are worth listening to?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: All Labour people are worth listening to, and I say to everyone in the House “Listen on.”

Sue Bradford: What answer does the Minister give to the 15 district and city councils that will not be allowed to exercise control over a single gambling venue in their area, under the Gambling Bill, because all those venues were licensed before October 2001?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I say that those councils are very lucky they have not had new machines installed since 17 October 2001.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Sue Bradford.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not quite know what is happening here—it is like ping-pong. You are calling Sue Bradford, before she has even stood to seek a call.

Mr SPEAKER: The Green Party always—and I congratulate it—indicates to me how many supplementary questions it has on a particular question. Sue Bradford told me the number, and that is why I am calling her. But she does not have to take the call if she does not want to.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might approve that process, but to add your endorsement of it is, in my view, entirely wrong, particularly as it evinces that here we have a party that has no regard to the nature of questions, whatsoever. It just comes along here like some robotic institution, and asks the same number of questions they planned for at the start of the debate.

Mr SPEAKER: That might be the member’s opinion. It is not mine.

Sue Bradford: In regard to a reply made earlier to Mr Alexander, is the Minister not aware of repeated efforts by the Green Party to communicate with his office and with the Labour Party about the Gambling Bill, subsequent to its reporting back from the select committee?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I have made available to any party that wants it briefings on the bill, and those who have asked for it have been given them.

Land Transport Safety Authority—Small Passenger Service Vehicles

10. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied that the Land Transport Safety Authority is properly applying the licensing rules for small passenger service vehicles for hire or reward, and what are the maximum penalties for operators operating vehicles which are incorrectly licensed?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): The reward aspect of hire and reward is a complex issue, and has been the subject of much debate over the years. In this context I am satisfied that the Land Transport Safety Authority is properly applying the licensing rules for small passenger service vehicle operators. The maximum penalty for an incorrectly licensed vehicle is a $500 fine if it has the wrong class shown on the vehicle’s annual licence label. In terms of a person offering a passenger service without a passenger service operator’s licence, the maximum penalties are for a first offence, a maximum fine of $10,000, and for a second or subsequent offence, a maximum fine of $25,000, and the court can order the surrender of the vehicle used in the unlicensed service for up to 90 days.

Rodney Hide: How does he square his reply with the Land Transport Safety Authority deciding that the Government’s own VIP Transport service did not need to licence the Mercedes Benz that they used to ferry around United Emirates airline staff last month, because it was “a courtesy service”, when the Minister in charge, the Prime Minister, says that she cannot answer parliamentary questions in this House about what cars were used at what cost because the transportation was provided on a “commercial basis” with the information being commercially sensitive? What is it, a courtesy service or a commercial deal?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can easily reconcile my answer. I said it was a complex business, right from the start. Having said that, if the member has, or is part of a complaint going into the Land Transport Safety Authority, then it would not be appropriate to comment. If he has not, then I suggest he takes it up with the Land Transport Safety Authority.

Moana Mackey: What is the procedure if a member of the public has a complaint about the hire and reward licensing rules?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Fortunately, I have that with me. They can approach their local Land Transport Safety Authority office with the vehicle registration number. The Land Transport Safety Authority will check to see whether the driver holds the necessary licence and the Land Transport Safety Authority compliance staff in the regions would do any further investigation needed. The public also has the option of laying a complaint with the police, who will liaise with the Land Transport Safety Authority to check licence details.

Hon Roger Sowry: Will the Minister undertake to the House today that he will investigate what the true facts are surrounding these allegations? Are they, as the Land Transport Safety Authority has stated, that the cars that VIP Transport service used were supplied as courtesy cars, or is it, as the Prime Minister has stated, that they were supplied as part of a commercial contract?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I understand that the Land Transport Safety Authority is currently looking into this matter, so it would not be appropriate to comment any further.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister think it fair or reasonable that private sector operators like Jean-Michel Jefferson

get weighed down with considerable cost and hassle to have their Mercedes meet Land Transport Safety Authority regulations, when the VIP Transport service does not have to bother, because following the complaint to the Land Transport Safety Authority the Land Transport Safety Authority wrote back to Mr Jefferson and said it was a courtesy service and they were not investigating further; or is it the case, as everyone suspects, that VIP Transport is a special case because Prime Minister Helen Clark is in charge?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the last part, absolutely not.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the Land Transport Safety Authority’s response to the complaint.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the Prime Minister Helen Clark’s answer saying that, contrary to the Land Transport Safety Authority, it was a commercial operation and she cannot answer questions.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Arts—Government Assistance

11. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: How is the Government assisting New Zealand’s professional, regional, Mâori, community and emerging arts organisations?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): This year Creative New Zealand received an extra $11.6 million, spread over 4 years, to continue its support for well-established professional arts organisations, emerging organisations, regional arts initiatives, Mâori arts, community arts, and contestable project funding. The Government also increased the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s funding by $2 million over the next 4 years, to continue the company’s artistic and audience growth. This support builds on the cultural recovery package, which is seen as a strong, confident New Zealand voice emerging in the creative sector.

Jill Pettis: What reports has the Minister received as to how that funding increase is benefiting New Zealand’s professional art organisations?

Hon JUDITH TIZARD: With the recent increase Creative New Zealand has been able to offer more funding to several of the 38 recurrently funded organisations it supports. This means more New Zealand works will be created, more New Zealanders will see that work, and more New Zealanders will have work in the creative industries. For example, the National Business Review New Zealand Opera plans to stage another national tour, following its extremely successful tour this year, as well as developing new New Zealand operas, while Taki Rua reports that next year it will be able to extend its tour of a New Zealand play in te reo Mâori.

Genetically Modified Sweetcorn—Testing

12.Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What additional tests was he referring to on 10 July 2002, with respect to “corngate”, when he said: “The reason that the Ministry for the Environment advised the Government that there were some contaminated corn in New Zealand was that at that moment, after the Lincoln tests, before the Australian tests, we thought there was. We rushed to get more testing done and found to our relief that there wasn’t.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): The additional tests were the Australian tests done by GeneScan in Melbourne. There were also tests done by Central-Hanse Analytical Laboratory in the United States, and by Crop and Food Research in New Zealand.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister tell the New Zealand Herald on 11 July 2002, as well as Television New Zealand on 12 July 2002, that: “The subsequent test disproved the suggestion of contamination when the last test results from Australia on 5 December”—just 3 days before the Cabinet decision—“from GeneScan concluded ‘one may draw the conclusion that the samples do contain trace contamination levels of BT11 GM sweetcorn.’ ”?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Officials came to advise the Government that they felt there was sufficient evidence to conclude that there was no contamination. I will give the member a little context. The protocol that used to exist said that a good idea would be to test 1,400 seeds; the current protocol used in this country says to test 3,200 seeds; and the number of seeds tested in that episode totalled 49,000.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has the Minister seen any reports endorsing the Government’s handling of the allegations about genetically modified corn?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. I saw the editorial in last week’s National Business Review, which says that the Prime Minister appears to have acted properly throughout this matter. It also says that Mr Nick Smith has “long been a Green in National drag”, and that Bill English should sack him if he wants to pursue the “corngate” conspiracy.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that the samples sent to GeneScan were larger than those at either Crop and Food Research or in the United States, that three of them showed preliminary positive results before an equipment breakdown, and that GeneScan advised that “our standard operating procedures dictate repeat testing to the point of a definitive result”, why did neither he, nor any other Minister or Government official, show the slightest interest in ever having those tests completed?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I repeat that officials got themselves to the point where they felt there was more than enough evidence to advise the Government that the tests for that corn were negative, and, on that basis, the Government proceeded.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minster not find it strange that the three tests undertaken by GeneScan, which showed preliminary positive results, were not completed to validation; and, on reflection, does the Minister not want to rethink the statement reported in this primary question?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I will say again that officials had this corn tested by Crop and Food Research on more than one occasion, by GeneScan in Australia, by Biogenetic Services in the USA, and by the Central-Hanse Analytical Laboratory in the USA. That sample of corn was tested to the ends of what was reasonable. Officials then concluded that they had sufficient evidence to advise the Government that there was no contamination.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: If what the Minister just said were correct, why are there no official papers showing that they ever said that there was no contamination; and why did the he, the Minister for the Environment, and the Minister of Agriculture all say there were further tests beyond Nicky Hager’s book, yet nobody in the last 11 months can find them?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The further tests we referred to, then and now, are the further tests taken after an initial test at Crop and Food Research in New Zealand gave a suggested positive. No other tests did.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister, on Television New Zealand when the interviewer referred to five positive tests, interject twice saying: “Not true; absolutely false!”, when the chief executive of the Environmental Risk Management Authority said there were positive tests, when the chief executive of the Ministry for the Environment said there were positive tests, and all the papers that the select committee received—38 of them—refer to positive tests; and why was the Minister telling porkies in the middle of the election campaign?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will withdraw and apologise for that last statement.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. Why was he saying incorrect statements in the middle of the election campaign?

Mr SPEAKER: No, that part of the question is taken out. The rest can be answered.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The tests, which the member will know full well because he has been studying them for 4 months now, involve testing two parts of a gene. One needs to get a positive result for both parts to get a positive test. Getting a positive result in one part is not difficult. It is usually caused by an agro-bacterium. In other words, any amount of soil contamination will cause that—

Hon Richard Prebble: No, incorrect.

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member should not say it is incorrect. It is well known science that an agro-bacterium will give a positive NOS test. I suggest that the member, who has a doctorate, starts to use his brain and understand what part of “negative” he really has not got his head around.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table a formal report by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Environmental Risk Management Authority, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, dated 18 June 2001, that says that the two constructs are not required for a positive result. In fact, for six out of 10 GM corns, what the Minister said is not true.

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

uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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