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Wednesday’s Questions & Answers For Oral Answer

Wednesday’s Questions & Answers For Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions to Ministers:

1. Surgery—Waiting Lists

2. Student Debt—Tertiary Education

3. Supreme Court Bill—Cross-party Support

4. Local Government—Local Decision-making

5. Smoke-free Environments Act—Vote Health

6. Economic Growth—Small Businesses

7. Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation

8. Resource Management Act—Notification Procedures

9. Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Agricultural Levy

10. Drugs—Border Control

11. Schools—Zoning

12. Takitumu Drive, Tauranga—State Highway Designation

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Surgery—Waiting Lists

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: When she said yesterday that elective surgery waiting lists amount to 31,785, how many had been removed from those waiting lists without treatment under her administration, and does she think that is satisfactory?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): None of the 31,785 have been removed without treatment. They have actually been given certainty of treatment within 6 months.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can we believe that, given that the Canterbury District Health Board chairman, Syd Bradley, confirmed that prior to the instructions he and his board had received, 24,391 people were on the waiting list there, but there were 70,000 in 1991, and how does the Prime Minister square that statement with the statement that she has just made to this House, and in the common knowledge of everyone else here, tens of thousands have been put off waiting lists on the basis that their condition was not dire enough to require treatment now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Can I assist the member by answering as follows. Back in the 1997-98 Budget, funding was provided so that boards could go through all of what was called the residual waiting list, which had a figure of closer to 90,000 on it at the time, so that everyone on that list could be assessed as to whether they went to a booking system, with certainty of treatment within 6 months, or whether they went on to an active review list. Prior to this Government coming into office, over 50,000 people were reviewed. The review process carried on to distinguish between those who would get certainty of treatment—and that is the 31,785 people—and those who would go into the active review category. I can advise the member that 32,624 people are in the active review category, and those people receive a clinical review at least every 6 months to see whether they have moved into the category for treatment.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is it not true that in 1 year 25,000 people were dumped from the waiting list, and the reason was that the actual points needed to get surgery had been raised, and they have been raised not on clinical grounds but because of financially sustainable thresholds, and that is why those patients have been dumped and can no longer get treatment under this Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I cannot confirm any such figure at all. What I have said in good faith is that a process began a number of years ago, prior to the Government coming into office, to distinguish between those who would get treatment within 6 months—and that is an all-time high level, right now—and those who would go on to active review. When their condition changes, then their general practitioner sends them back through, and they get certainty of treatment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that the Prime Minister does not understand that the difference between the 1997-98 Budget and her policy is that, as a result of the 1997-98 Budget 32,000 extra elective surgery operations occurred; second, under her policy as at 7 May, letters were to be sent out to patients previously deemed to be in need of surgery, to be told that they are not in circumstances dire enough to qualify for publicly funded operations, which was the very directive that the Canterbury Health Board received; why is she trying now to disown the facts—again?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: There have always been clinical thresholds set to distinguish between those who are on active review and those who go into the booking system. That was the essence of the booking system that was introduced in the last term of the previous Government.

Hon Annette King: In relation to the elective waiting list, can she confirm that that change to the booking system in 1996 and the Budget of 1997-78 are providing funding to implement the booking system, which saw 50,000 people reviewed under that system—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have said there will be no interjection while questions are being asked. When I have heard the question I will then determine whether it is in order. I want to hear the question.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not beyond you to intervene when it is apparent that the Prime Minister has no responsibility for an area. Now someone on the front bench, one of her Ministers, is asking the Prime Minister about two financial years for whence the Prime Minister was, in fact, Leader of the Opposition. I have seen you in the past very quickly interrupt Opposition members when they are asking a question where you have deemed that they have gone beyond what the original question was or out of bounds. That question is of that kind.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance. I had been listening carefully to the question. There was interjection. I have realised that the question dealt with the period at the time when the Labour Government was not in power. The Prime Minister has no responsibility for that.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have ruled on the point of order.

Hon Annette King: There is a point that I was relating my question to. It is the actual booking system establishment. That is what the question is about, the booking system.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have ruled on the point of order.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just ask you to consider this. During the exchange that we saw, your initial ruling was that the Minister would be allowed to finish her question before you would rule that it was in order—which, as Mr Sowry has pointed out, is a new ruling. Second, while Mr Sowry was on his feet the Minister interjected on him in the point of order, and you did nothing. Thirdly, after you had ruled, the Minister attempted to contest your ruling. I have to say, that when any of us on this side of the House do that we certainly get sat down, and usually out.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member is not. Members are entitled to raise points of order, and I refer them to the Standing Orders. Whether the points of order are valid is a completely different question.

Peter Brown: Noting the Prime Minister’s answer about the 6-month guarantee, is she aware of Mrs Grimsdell, who lives in the Prime Minister’s electorate, who has been in touch with the Prime Minister’s electorate office, who is in pain and requires urgent surgery to her hip, who has been in touch with Mrs King—who, in writing, told me that Mrs Grimsdell’s operation would be conducted by 28 August—and who right now, at this very time, is at home in agony; if she is not aware of that, will she make herself aware of it and do something about it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My electorate office does its best to advocate for people within the rules set down. It sounds like it is doing a reasonable job.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table this letter from the Minister of Health, Mrs King, telling me that Mrs Grimsdell’s operation would be conducted by 28 August.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the letter. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the waiting fund review implementation plan, which shows that the booking system established in the 1997 Budget saw 50,000 people removed from the list.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does the Prime Minister think that she and her electorate office are doing a reasonable job, when there is a woman in her own electorate whose grievously serious and agonising condition was brought to both the Prime Minister’s and the Minister of Health’s attention; if that is her idea of a good job, why on earth would she spend hundreds of millions of dollars on all sorts of illegal immigrants and refugees, and disregard taxpaying New Zealand people?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I understood from the member’s colleague that Mrs Grimsdell has been told she will be getting the operation.

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Points of Order—Urgent Question

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want a clarification on your ruling with regard to urgent questions, as per Standing Order 374. I appreciate that you have made your ruling. However, when Mr Shirley asked for the question to be answered, he was referring to the very significant speech given by the American Ambassador today. I have no doubt that the serious questions raised by this speech will be asked by the media in the next few hours, and presumably answered by Ministers. I ask you whether your ruling effectively means that while the whole nation can read about it in the papers tomorrow morning, Parliament cannot get an answer to the questions until tomorrow afternoon?

Mr SPEAKER: Urgent questions have to relate to something that has occurred. Urgent debates can result from something that has occurred. This was the opposite situation.

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Student Debt—Tertiary Education

2. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What has been the impact of his tertiary education policies on student debt?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The latest student loan scheme annual report, presented to the House today, shows a $2.6 billion fall in forecast debt by 2020. Officials report that the main contributing factors to the decrease in projected long-term debt levels were the policy changes introduced in the Budgets of 2002 and 2003, especially the triennial freeze and course costs maxima policies.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Can the Minister confirm that the report also shows promising trends in the repayment of debt?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I can. We can see that the scheme is now beginning to mature. The amount repaid since the scheme began, more than $1.8 billion, is around a quarter of all debt that has been incurred. More than 120,000 New Zealanders have now fully repaid their debt.

Simon Power: Why is he so proud of his record on student debt, when his only achievement so far as Minister has been to double the total amount of student debt and deliver a student support review a year overdue and hopelessly lacking in any substance?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Apart from thanking the member for paying his own debt back, can I say that the Government is extremely pleased that—

Mr SPEAKER: We do not need to have any personal comment like that. The member will withdraw and apologise, and just give his answer.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise for thanking the member. The Government is extremely proud of its record on this matter. Apart from removing interest from loans, and many other policies that have reduced debt to students, I have to explain to the member—I know this is a very simple thing, but let me explain it to him—every year people come out of school and take a loan, and other mature New Zealanders under this Government are returning to study in droves and taking out loans. More loans mean more debt.

Nandor Tanczos: Will the Minister be travelling to Palmerston North today to talk to students there who occupied the university registry about 45 minutes ago about how good his policies are; and will he also be offering his condolences to the vice-chancellor of Victoria University, who also had his registry occupied and had his effigy burnt?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member for Palmerston North, I would love to be able to get leave from the whips to go home to Palmerston North today to join with, I think, the estimated number of about 20 students who are protesting, out of the somewhat 18,000 students who currently attend Massey.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table a television transcript of the Labour Party’s advertisement at the last election that stated that, according to Colin Powell, they were “very, very, very, very, very, very good friends”.

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

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Supreme Court Bill—Cross-party Support

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement regarding the Supreme Court Bill that “It would be nice to have more formal cross-party support in Parliament”; if so, can she explain why she wanted to have more cross-party support?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because I believe that members in other parties that now oppose the bill actually support the repeal of appeals to the Privy Council.

Hon Bill English: Does she recall making this statement: “Changes of this kind should not be promoted by one political party in isolation. A consensus should be worked for.”; and can she tell the House anything she has done to work for a consensus?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I do recall that statement. It is a matter of record that three parties in this House support the bill. I also recall a vote in this House in 1996 when Mr English, among other members, voted for the introduction of a bill to repeal appeals to the Privy Council.

Tim Barnett: Has the she seen any reports of support for ending New Zealand’s links with the Privy Council?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, rather a lot from a range of commentators over a long period of time. One worth quoting here said: “New Zealanders should feel sufficiently confident to remove appeals to the Privy Council. We should feel confident in our own abilities to administer justice fairly for all New Zealanders.” Those were wise words in December 2000 from the Hon Tony Ryall.

Dail Jones: In view of the fact that only 63 of this House’s 120 members voted for the Supreme Court Bill yesterday and that this minority Labour Government does not have a mandate of 50 percent or more from the New Zealand public as at the last election, why does it not take the proper step and have a referendum, so that all the views of New Zealanders can be properly canvassed?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am confident that the figure of 63 does not reflect the support in this House for the repeal. I note that, apart from Mr English, there are four other current National members of Parliament who were in the Cabinet that approved the legislation. They include the Hon Lockwood Smith, the Hon Maurice Williamson, the Hon Murray McCully, and the Hon Peter Dunne, and, of course, there were many other National members of Parliament sitting in the House at that time—Mr Ryall, Mr Smith, Mr Sowry, and Mr Carter, among others. I think they are opposing the bill because of politics, and I, for one, do not believe that a change in the courts structure requires a referendum.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister was asked why she will not offer a referendum. She was not asked to try to read the minds of members of Parliament as at October 2003, which is the real issue that she is seeking to canvass now. Will you bring her back to the question asked by my colleague as to why she will not offer a referendum?

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the Prime Minister’s answer. She did address the question that was asked by giving her particular reasons for indicating there was more support. That might not satisfy the member but it did address the particular question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She did make some attempt to answer the question. She said that she did not believe that 63 represented the total number in support of her bill, but she did not address, at any time, the question as to why she would not offer a referendum, which is the critical issue that everybody is asking at this point in time.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I was indeed addressing that when I was rudely interrupted by the member.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find myself in support of Mr Peters’s position. We have the Prime Minister claiming, as part of Government policy, that she knows the minds of Opposition MPs. I find that hard to believe. I cannot credit that that can be part of a ministerial answer. An answer would have been for the Prime Minister to say that she is so confident that there is a parliamentary majority that there will be a free vote and the Mâori caucus can vote for it. That would have been credible, but to say that National Party MPs would vote for it if there were to be a free vote cannot be part of her ministerial responsibility and has no credibility.

Mr SPEAKER: Members cannot ask the Speaker to interpret answers or put words into Ministers’ mouths. As the member who raised the point of order said, there was an attempt to answer the question. Whether it satisfied the member is another issue.

Hon Peter Dunne: When the Prime Minister casts her mind back over the last 7 years of parliamentary debate on this matter, and notes that parties that opposed the legislation in 1996 support it in 2003 and vice versa, what conclusions does she draw from that scenario?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The conclusion I draw is that there has been a long period of time for consideration of the issue. It is fair to say that when the Rt Hon Doug Graham introduced the legislation, it came after the legislation had been floated as an idea by the Rt Hon Geoffrey Palmer in the late 1980s. In this Government’s last term, a public discussion was released on these matters in December 2000. There were meetings with Mâori in 2001, and further regional meetings with Mâori that year. A ministerial advisory group was set up to look at the Mâori issues. The bill was introduced on 17 December 2002, more than 9 months ago. There has been a national hui involving Mâori on the court structure, a full select committee process, a report back, and, now, passage. I am satisfied that it has had lengthy consideration.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister accept that New Zealand has no written constitution; does she further accept that the courts are an important part of our constitution; if so, does she not agree that it is fundamentally dangerous for a minority Government with a majority of just three votes to change part of the constitution of New Zealand without having called for a referendum?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Prime Minister can answer two.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If a constitutional change gives more New Zealanders better access to justice in their own country, I think that is well worth pursuing. With regard to whether I agree that New Zealand has an unwritten constitution, in the sense that New Zealand does not have a document called the New Zealand constitution, the member is correct. But of course there are a great many documents, in writing, that are the basis of our constitution. They run across the Letters Patent, the Magna Carta, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, the Electoral Act and many, many different written documents.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Prime Minister agree that while the Privy Council might provide a good service for big business, ordinary New Zealanders are in general poorly served by it because they simply cannot get access to it; and what is her view of parties that put the interests of the rich above those of ordinary New Zealanders while pretending to support family values?

Mr SPEAKER: I have said to members that all members are entitled to ask a question in silence. Having heard the question I rule that it is not in order.

Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister give a straight answer to the simple question: why will she not trust the public with a referendum on the abolition of the Privy Council?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is the Government’s view that referenda should be used sparingly and that this does not present a case for it. I say further that if this country, 163 years after formal colonisation, is not ready to run its top Court of Appeal, when will it ever be ready?

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table evidence that the Prime Minister and the Labour Party strongly opposed abolishing the Privy Council when it was proposed by Sir Douglas Graham.

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

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In the interests of fairness I seek leave to table the release from the National Party constitutional task force, which recommended the abolition of appeals, and Mr Ryall’s own press statement that he wrote 3 years ago fully supporting it.

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

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a supplementary question to the Prime Minister that addressed the primary question. It may be that the final part of the question was outside of her terms as a Minister, but the usual practice in this House is for that last bit to be dropped out.

Mr SPEAKER: The first part was outside the original question; the second part was out of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: In order to make sure there is a completeness of the record, I wish to table the manifesto statements and repeated statements from ACT showing that we have always been in favour of appeals to the Privy Council, and have never been in favour of repealing that right.

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

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Local Government—Local Decision-making

4. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he stand by his statement that “I am only too pleased to say that, as Minister of Local Government, I advocate local decision-making by, and on behalf of, communities.”; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Yes, I am only too pleased to say again that as Minister of Local Government I advocate local decision-making by and on behalf of communities. I wholeheartedly support the promotion of community well-being. Those are the purposes of local government and on that basis I can say that I am privileged to perform my responsibilities as Minister.

Marc Alexander: As a supposed advocate for local decision-making does the Minister acknowledge that contrary to statements by Tim Barnett, the Auckland City Council is only doing its best to minimise harm from legalised prostitution by preventing young people from being exposed to street-front brothels next to their schools and places of socialisation; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am very pleased to see that Auckland City is engaging in a process of engagement with its community in deciding the location of brothels. This is something that it is required to do under the new Local Government Act passed by this Government.

David Parker: Has the Minister seen any reports on the responsiveness of local authorities to their communities’ wishes?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I have seen a press release by the United Future party that says that local authorities are respecting the wishes of the people, that they are paying attention to what people are telling them, and that they are listening to the silent majority.

Gerry Brownlee: If he is so keen on local communities making their own decisions and determining their own future, why has this Government landed so many extra costs on to local government—costs like alcohol ban enforcement, anti - boy racer measures, increased community policing, additional costs due to the Prostitution Reform Act, additional dog control costs, extra Resource Management Act costs, and additional consultation and coastal control costs through the new Local Government Act; and why should ratepayers believe that this Government has any interest in them other than to collect additional property taxes from them?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: This Government has taken some very effective steps in supporting local government with infrastructure costs. For example, we have spent $247 million more in extra roading, $15 million in sewerage subsidy schemes, and so on. In addition, we have taken legislative steps, including the new Local Government (Rating) Act, which provides much more flexibility for councils to raise revenue.

Hon Brian Donnelly: In relation to his response to the primary question, why will local communities have no say whatsoever as to whether GE products are grown in their backyards, and why were local authorities not consulted at all over the GE legislation?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Local authorities in New Zealand are not responsible for implementing policies that are the responsibility of central government. We continue to dialogue with local government, and we will continue to do so.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: As part of his advocacy of local decision-making by local communities, why did he not support in the Committee of the whole House last night my amendment to the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill, which would have provided a legislative basis for local authorities to represent their communities and have a say on the growing of GE crops in their areas?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I repeat to the member my previous answer—central government has responsibility for setting policies that affect all of New Zealand.

Marc Alexander: As a purported advocate for local decision-making, does the Minister agree that it would make sense to lift the veil of secrecy that is currently cast over the registration of brothels, to allow councils and health and safety workers to find and protect sex workers and ensure the legitimacy of their operation; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The operation of that legislation is the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, but I would be happy to remind the member that if clients can find the brothels, I am sure that inspectors will have no difficulty.

Marc Alexander: As a supposed advocate of local government, has the Minister received any suggestions that local councils should turn responsibility for the Prostitution Reform Act back on the Government by passing by-laws that state that brothels may be established only near the homes of those MPs who voted for the bill, so they can convince their neighbours and constituents that it was all a wonderful idea?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: No, I have had no personal approach on that issue.

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Smoke-free Environments Act—Vote Health

5. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Associate Minister of Health: Has money from Vote Health been paid to ASH and other anti-smoking groups to: “create a climate of support for amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act”, to write letters to editors, to liaise with political parties, “visit key portfolio MPs and Maori MPs” and “make formal submissions and presentations to the select committee considering legislative changes”; if so, does he believe that health dollars should be spent lobbying for legislative change?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health): Non-governmental organisations receive contracts from Government, including the Ministry of Health. The key goal of one such organisation, Apirangi Tautoko o Wahikori, “ATTAK” as it is known,

is to reduce the negative effects of smoking on public health, and in particular on the health of Mâori. It has, as part of its key performance indicators, submissions to select committees, visiting portfolio MPs and Mâori MPs. These align with the key objectives of the New Zealand Health Strategy, which includes the reduction of smoking.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question has been down on notice, and the Minister never addressed the second part of my question.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard him address the question. Please ask the supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have asked the member to ask the supplementary question. The Minister gave quite an extensive answer, and I thought he did address the question.

Rodney Hide: With respect, this is my question on notice and we are allowed to ask two parts. My question states: “…if so, does he believe that health dollars should be spent lobbying for legislative change?”. I did not hear the Minister answer that point, or address it once.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the very first words he uttered addressed that part of the question.

Rodney Hide: Does he believe it acceptable for civil servants to lobby members of Parliament for a law change; if not, does he think it acceptable for civil servants to pay supposedly independent interest groups to lobby MPs on their behalf?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government has contracts with a number of non-governmental organisations and organisations up and down the country. For example, the Accident Compensation Corporation has a contract with Federated Farmers to run farm safe programmes. That does not eliminate them or prevent them from bringing their views to Parliament. The same can be said for Government funding that goes through to private hospitals. The fact that we fund them for services does not prevent them from bringing their views to parliamentarians.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider very carefully whether the Minister has addressed the question. He certainly addressed it when he opened his mouth and a pile of words fell out, but I ask whether he has, in all fairness to Parliament, addressed the question. It is an extremely important one. The question is whether the Government should be paying outside organisations to lobby MPs, particularly Opposition MPs, to support their legislation. To suggest that because the Accident Compensation Corporation contracts Federated Farmers to run safety programmes covering various farm vehicles and other machinery activities is in any way comparable to the sort of activity that Mr Hide’s question is pitched at is, to say the least, a stretch of the imagination. The Minister should answer very clearly. He was asked a simple question, which could have been answered with yes or no. That is what he should give the House.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: No doubt a point of order would have been raised had the answer been given in that form. We are back in the same old situation, where the National Party keeps disliking answers and attempts to litigate those answers, one after the other. An answer was certainly given, but it shows the danger of getting into an issue of debates around whether an answer is adequate. A Minister is merely required to address the question. Those are the Standing Orders; those are the Speakers’ rulings. This place, whether or not the Opposition likes it, is a political chamber and occasionally politics intrude into both questions and answers, in my long experience.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Cullen misses the point. This is not about whether some Government is engaged with outside groups in implementing Government policy. This is a member’s bill. That is the first thing. The second thing is that I do not believe that any of the expenditure in these three contracts would survive an Audit Office investigation, but we will pretty soon find out. More particularly, the issue is that this legislation is a member’s bill, from the member for Rotorua, and we have Government money out there, being spent on three private organisations. That is what the Minister is being asked about, and he is not addressing the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard quite enough. Did the member just want to add to it briefly?

Hon Richard Prebble: I want to reply particularly to the points made by Mr Cullen because that is not what the Speakers’ rulings state. If we go Speaker’s ruling 128/3 we see that it states: “Questions are an important means by which Ministers are accountable to the House. For a Minister to respond in an irrelevant manner is to act contrary to the spirit of the question process. It is incumbent on Ministers to treat questions in a manner that is consistent with their constitutional responsibilities.” The Minister was asked a question that was capable of a yes or no answer. He was asked whether he believed as a Minister that it was appropriate for taxpayers’ money to be given to a lobby group to lobby MPs. That was the question, and it required a yes or no answer?

Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say two things. First of all, members may not like the way the Minister answered the question. That is their right, but it is his answer. Secondly, members cannot stipulate a yes or no answer. It is the Minister’s responsibility as to how he answers.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have actually ruled on the matter.

Rodney Hide: It is this matter of determining relevance. I put a question down on notice; the Minister did not address the second part. I then used a question to ask him whether he thought it was appropriate for taxpayers’ money to be given to a lobby group to lobby MPs. The Minister spoke about other contracts where money is paid across to Federated Farmers to do something specific. It was nothing to do with lobbying MPs. He then said that it does not stop Federated Farmers from lobbying MPs. That has nothing to do with my question. [Interruption] There is no point in Parliament. We get shouted down, we cannot make a point of order, and we cannot ask questions.

Mr SPEAKER: I say to Mr Hide that I am not prepared to take those sorts of comments. I listened to him and he went to some considerable length to make the same point twice. I make the same ruling that I made before. The Minister addressed the question.

Dr Lynda Scott: Can the Minister explain why, when Timberlands’ public relations firm asked people to write letters to the editor and to lobby MPs without payment, the Prime Minister was outraged and it was scandalous, but now, when he pays the piper to do this same thing with money from Vote Health, it is perfectly OK?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The organisations that have contracts with the Ministry of Health have a number of objectives. They are not solely lobbying organisations. Their objectives are to improve the public health of New Zealanders. As part of their key performance indicators they have some objectives such as strengthening strategic alliances and interagency networks to optimise the impact of smoke-free initiatives. That is up to that organisation, with the Ministry of Health, to work out how best to achieve those objectives.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the Minister has put an answer in—although I do not think deliberately—that cannot be right. In order to put the primary question in I had to justify it, as you know, to the Clerk of the House. It is not something for these lobby groups to negotiate with the department; it is in their contract that they have to lobby MPs, write letters to the editor, and appear at select committees. The Minister said that it is something for them to negotiate.

Mr SPEAKER: This is debatable material.

Sue Kedgley: Does he think it is more reprehensible for public moneys to go to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) to try to reduce smoking in New Zealand than tobacco funding going to political parties to try to curry favour and support for its industry in its efforts to sell as many harmful and addictive cigarettes as it possibly can to as many New Zealanders as possible?

Mr SPEAKER: In so far as public money is involved the Minister may comment.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am aware of many claims around these issues. I would hope that no political party gains such favours given the undeniable evidence that smoking kills people.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister tell the House of any other instance where hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money have been advanced to a private-sector lobby group to lobby members of Parliament to support a member’s bill on a particular subject?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: These organisations that are funded with the Ministry of Health have objectives to improve the public health of all New Zealanders, not just to lobby. I am not aware of any comparison because these organisations are not solely lobbying organisations.

Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not wish to be frivolous, and I say this with respect to the Minister who is sitting very close to me, but because of the noise I could not hear his answer. I thought I heard him say that he was not aware of any other such instances, but I would be grateful if he could confirm that.

Mr SPEAKER: There was too much noise—I take responsibility for that. I wonder whether the Minister could just repeat that part, which he is responsible for as the Associate Minister of Health.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not accept the claim made in the question that this is solely a lobby organisation. Therefore I am not aware of any such comparison.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does the Minister deem it appropriate that public money should be used for a member’s bill that would see over half a million dollars going to three groups, one of which is a Mâori smoke-free coalition, whatever that means, and that requires that neither of us may, during or after this agreement, either directly or indirectly, criticise the other publicly—in short, to buy silence using public funds; how does he justify that?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I appreciate that that member has probably not come into this Mâori smokefree coalition lobbying round—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What on earth has that opening statement got to do with it? The Minister says that he appreciates that I probably have not been in that round, so he does not actually know. He had a stab in the dark, sort of “I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth I knew not where.” That should not be allowed in here.

Mr SPEAKER: That was the Minister’s first comment, and it was probably perfectly valid. I am listening now, and perhaps the Minister could come to the answer.

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: These organisations have been around for a lot longer than this member’s bill. They have been funded by Government to carry out key objectives in public health. The member’s bill before the House is a reasonably recent initiative. It is supported by this Government because it will improve the work environment for tens of thousands of New Zealanders so that they are protected from the dangers incurred through second-hand smoke.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to know whether we are going to re-edit Speakers’ rulings. The ruling I quoted to you stated that a Minister cannot answer by giving irrelevant answers. The question Mr Peters asked was a very clear one and, I thought, an extremely important one. Apparently this contract has a clause in it whereby, forever more, the organisation can never criticise the Government. The Minister was asked whether the Government is putting out contracts to interest groups and telling them that there is a bundle of money, and one of the things agreed is that from now on they could never criticise the Government. The Minister did not address that question at all, in no shape. Mr Peters might as well not have bothered to ask his question. Everything the Minister told us was completely irrelevant to that point.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point. I am sure that he realises that he has made his point. However, the Minister did address the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not saying that. What I am saying is that Speakers’ rulings actually say that a Minister is accountable to the House, and for a Minister to respond in an irrelevant manner is to act contrary to the spirit of question time. That ruling was by Speaker Gray. However, I am now saying to you that your ruling is saying that Ministers can give any irrelevant answer, providing they can claim that they were addressing the question. In this case, all the Minister had to do was mention was a lobby group.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot assume that, and, of course, he is perfectly correct in saying that Ministers cannot do that. I listened very carefully to the answer. I judged that it was addressing the question.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is it appropriate for taxpayer money to be used to lobby for a member’s bill?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I consider that it is appropriate for taxpayers’ money to be used to carry out the objectives of the primary health strategy in this country. The Government has laid down some key objectives in its health goals for this country. We must support that through taxpayer funding.

Heather Roy: Has he or any ministry officials received a report on which members of Parliament, ASH, and the Smokefree Coalition have lobbied for the support of the member’s bill and fulfilment of the Government’s contracts; if not, why not?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, I have not received a report on that, and I do not expect to receive one. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Members cannot have it both ways. When a specific question is asked and a specific answer is given, it is an answer to the question.

Rodney Hide: On what date did he learn that the Ministry of Health had paid the Mâori coalition to “visit key portfolio MPs and Mâori MPs” to lobby them in support of this legislative change, as a performance indicator; and where in Vote Health has that money come from?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I was made aware this morning of the inclusion in the contracts of references to this particular bill. I am aware of a large number of questions that have been asked of the ministry about funding for a wide range of organisations involved in the promotion of public health.

Hon Roger Sowry: Given the Minister’s earlier answer that he does not expect to receive a report on which MPs were lobbied, how will he determine whether the contract that was signed was carried out?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I expect to get advice and to have assessed the key objectives, which are to strengthen and increase the level of community action on smoke-free issues. I am sure members will be aware of the success of that, depending on the outcome of the legislation.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the statements made by the Prime Minister at the time of the Timberlands incident, saying that it was constitutionally irresponsible for Timberlands to pay a consultant to lobby MPs.

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

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the Government contracts with ASH, the Smokefree Coalition, and the other group.

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

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Question No. 1 to Minister

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First): In light of the fact that since I first requested leave to table this letter from the Hon Annette King to myself about Mrs Grimsdell, and she has just since been contacted by the Health Department with a view to having her operation, I seek leave to table the letter again.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the letter. [Interruption] That is slightly overdoing the point of order procedure. The member has sought leave to table the letter. He is perfectly entitled to do that. Is there any objection? There is.

Rodney Hide: 25,000 Noes.


Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I seek leave to table information received from the Counties-Manukau District Health Board stating that Mrs Grimsdell’s surgery was delayed because during her pre-admission check a heart murmur was detected, and she is waiting for a clearance from a cardiology specialist. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: All members will be seated while I am on my feet. Leave has been sought to table a document. Is there any objection?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I am asking—

Rodney Hide: I want to ask this question now.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am seeking leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am now greatly concerned at the way in which private medical information has been presented to the House. Quite frankly, I do not care what party it came from. The Prime Minister is a former Minister of Health; she ought to know that she has privileged access to information—that is the first question, how she got hold of the information in the first place. But, secondly, to publish that information she needs a waiver from the person concerned. I ask her to table that waiver.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): It is a bit rich to raise that point, when a question was raised earlier in relation to why Mrs Grimsdell had not received her operation. As soon as the answer is given the Opposition gets all hoity-toity about that matter. I notice that no objection was taken to tabling the correspondence between the Minister of Health and Mrs Grimsdell. There is a word for that that we cannot use in this House.

Mr SPEAKER: As members will realise, this is a matter more akin to the general debate than the question time. This is not a matter of order on which I can rule.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Having obtained by my colleague verbal permission to do this, I seek leave to table information that says she has long since had the satisfactory heart ultrasound screening. So what the Prime Minister is talking about in terms of delay, no one knows about it—she never knows.

Document laid on the Table of the House.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I sought leave for the Prime Minister to table the privacy waiver that I presume she has, because of the way she released personal medical information about an elderly woman to the House. That leave has not been put.

Mr SPEAKER: No. You cannot seek leave on behalf of anybody else. The member can seek leave on behalf of himself to table a document, not on behalf of anybody else.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was the one that denied the Prime Minister leave. I attempted to have a point of order, but could not. I am quite happy to agree to the Prime Minister tabling the document, so long as she can assure the House that in doing so she would not be breaking any laws of New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and that is not in relation to this. Please be seated. I asked whether there was any objection. The member perfectly, properly, as he is entitled to do, said: “Yes”. That is where the matter then ends.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There have been many times in the House when members have objected and asked for clarification. I have never seen anyone sat down for that. My clarification is that I am quite happy for details to be documented, as long as the Prime Minister can assure us that no laws of New Zealand will be broken.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, the member does not realise that the Standing Orders state that when a leave issue is asked for, the leave issue is put. I put the leave issue, and it was denied. That is perfectly proper. The member did not break any rules in that regard. He said “No”, and that is what he is perfectly entitled to do.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Part of the operation of the Standing Orders is that you are able, on behalf of the House, to exercise judgment about whether information is correctly produced in the House, and whether things that are said by MPs are regarded as in order or out of order. In that context, I am interested in your view on whether we have now set a new precedent in the House, in that it will be regarded as parliamentary to introduce into the public arena—under the privilege of Parliament—personal and identified medical information about a New Zealand citizen. I would not regard that as fit practice for Parliament, and, in my long experience, whenever it has occurred it has been a matter of some public distress and real debate in the House. I suggest that you take some time to review the way in which the Prime Minister made those statements, and make a ruling as to whether it is parliamentary behaviour. Not only is it a longstanding tradition for politicians, but it is also a requirement of the law that private and identifiable medical information is kept confidential and not brought into the public arena without the express waiver of the person who owns the information.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Firstly, that kind of information has not infrequently been tabled in the House, and indeed some members specialise in the tabling of that kind of information.

Gerry Brownlee: One example.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Not far from where the member is sitting.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, you are very lucky. I want no interjections on points of order, and the member knows that. That is the only and final warning.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Secondly, once the matter was raised by Mr Brown, introducing information that otherwise might be regarded as private, then clearly—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Katherine Rich will now leave the Chamber. I said there would be no interjections during points of order.

Katherine Rich withdrew from the Chamber.Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Secondly, once the matter had been introduced in the House by Mr Brown, which included private information about Mrs Grimsdell, then clearly other information relevant to the case can be quite legitimately introduced to the House in rebuttal. [Interruption] In that case, we have the capacity for people to mislead the House from outside by ensuring that only partial information is ever presented. That can be quite unacceptable. Thirdly—and I see Mr Prebble nodding because I think he probably knows what my third point is going to be—in terms of the privileges of the House, Mr Speaker, you go to the Governor-General at the start of each Parliament to affirm the privileges of free speech in the House. Every member is aware that things can be done in the House in terms of the presentation of information that cannot be done outside. I see many members on the other side of the House engaged in precisely that kind of activity.

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First): I want to make two points. First of all, I had the permission of the Grimsdells to speak and refer the case to the House. Secondly, I have a comment from Mr Grimsdell that since the satisfactory heart ultrasounds scan there has been silence. The scan was taken some time ago, and they are waiting for an operation.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I was involved in the point of order, and I want to make a statement in support of the Prime Minister’s position. We frequently see members of Parliament raising individuals’ private medical records in the House. If members look at statements made by the Privacy Commissioner—because that always presents a problem to health authorities—the Privacy Commissioner has said that if a member raises some health details, then having a response from the relevant authority that tells of other things—Rau Williams will be a case that Mr English will remember—the House would have been greatly served. In that case, we had had a prompt response letting us know about his total health condition. If a member raises a person’s health record, then in my view the Government is entitled to give us the full answer.

Peter Brown: Full.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: The member can interject, but I say that how can we, as a Parliament, hold Ministers accountable if we then do not allow Ministers to give a full account?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I want to address two new points that have been made by Dr Cullen and Mr Prebble. I do not believe that Mr Prebble is correct. I recall the Rau Williams case very well. The political problem was precisely that Rau Williams would not give the Government permission to release the information that would paint a full picture of his medical situation. The Minister—who was, as I recall, either Mrs Shipley or myself—had to sit and take the political pressure for some months, precisely because the family would not allow the release of it. That is the first point. My second point is that the Privacy Commissioner has referred to relevant authorities having the capacity to release information. Ms Clark is not a relevant authority. She may regard herself as an authority on everything, but she is not a relevant health authority at all. She is just a Prime Minister trying to get a cheap shot away in the House. In that sense, she is not allowed to release personal, identified medical information of a confidential nature. Mr Speaker, if you are going to stand back and allow that to be the new standard in the House, then you can expect to see the standard of debate around health deteriorate quite rapidly.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Mr Prebble has a point, in that where some constituents put the issue of their medical treatment into the House by way of a question, they must then expect an answer from the authorities. My point is that if the authorities are to respond via the Prime Minister, then a modicum of honesty would be required. The so-called scan that the Prime Minister was talking about happened over 8 weeks ago. She left the House with a clear impression that she was still waiting upon an investigation into that condition—a demonstrable, dubitable, misleading lie.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What was it?

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot accuse another member of a lie.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I followed your instructions.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I did not hear the member.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I thank Mr Prebble for what he said, because I believe he drew the House’s attention to the fact that once someone puts his or her details in the arena, the Government has no way of responding unless it puts the facts out there. My advice is that the woman concerned will be operated on as soon as she has a clearance. The advice I have is that she does not.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to say to members of Parliament this. The first act of a Speaker when appointed by the House is to go to the Governor-General and ask for the right of free speech. That is where this starts from. Mr Prebble is completely correct. There has to be free speech in this Parliament. That does not mean that everything said in this Parliament is wise or is accurate, but we have free speech in this Parliament and it must never be denied. Whatever the privacy rule is outside the House, it does not apply here. It is up to members to judge whether they observe privacy rules. There is no House rule that says that members cannot release private information. The House decides whether to admit documents by leave, not the Speaker. If members think it is inappropriate, they can object; sometimes they do, sometimes they do not. Just to sum up, this is a matter of political conduct by members. There is no procedural issue arising.

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to be absolutely clear about what you are saying. Where, for example, the criminal record of someone who has been accused of a crime, and tried for it, is not made available to the jury, but a member of Parliament becomes aware of it, would it be perfectly reasonable for that member of Parliament to put that into the public arena by disclosing that criminal record here in this House?

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is this. Members have the right of free speech in this House. They have had it all the time I have been here. I have myself availed, I think, three times the opportunity of making a statement in this House, having very carefully checked out facts, statistics, and figures. Each time what I have said has been justified. Some members have done that, too, and that is no change in the Standing Orders whatsoever.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to correct you, but in fact there is a very clear answer to the question that Mr Brownlee raised, which is Standing Order 112, “Matters awaiting judicial decision”. No, a member cannot get up and cite the criminal record in that situation. Standing Order 112 is there is because we do have free speech, and that is one of the limitations on us.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the member is absolutely correct, and I apologise to him. I misheard the original comment. Standing Order 112 does still apply, but there is the right of free speech in this Chamber, with very, very few exceptions.

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Economic Growth—Small Businesses

6. MARK PECK (NZ Labour—Invercargill) to the Minister for Small Business: What reports has he received on economic growth in the small business sector?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): According to the National Bank’s small business monitor released last Friday, the small business sector grew 1.4 percent in the 3 months to 30 June, taking year on year growth to 5.5 percent under this Government—solid and dynamic growth, producing tens of thousands of jobs.

Mark Peck: Did the report highlight any Government initiatives that might assist small business growth?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The report highlighted the following initiatives as targeted at supporting small business: establishing a small business advisory group involving small business in the heart of Government, the valuable research on the small business sector generated by the small to medium sized enterprise/business directorate out of the Ministry of Economic Development, and the recently released tax simplification discussion paper, recognised by the report as a move to make life simpler for small business owners by reducing the compliance costs associated with paying tax.

Dr Don Brash: Given that in each of the last six National Bank surveys the most important problem reported by small businesses has been Government regulation, does the Minister agree that his Government’s attempts to address business concerns over regulation have been totally unsuccessful; if not, why not?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No, because given a search of over the last 10 years, regulation always appears in the top five priorities of business, regardless of Government. What I can assure the member is that this Government is mitigating quite excessively the impact of compliance costs on small business.

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Foreshore and Seabed—Legislation

7. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of her statement that foreshore and seabed legislation will be introduced “when it is ready”, can she provide a more precise date on when that will be, and why is the Government not releasing a public statement on the seabed and foreshore issue until after the Waitangi Tribunal hearing on 17 October 2003?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No, the Waitangi Tribunal hearing is scheduled for 5 to 7 November; 17 October is the date by which the Crown must advise the tribunal of its current position. The Government is presently in the process of analysing submissions and feedback on its proposal.

Hon Bill English: What issues does the Government expect the Waitangi Tribunal will deliberate on, and does the Government intend to release publicly its submission to the Waitangi Tribunal?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not have any advice on what issues the tribunal might be raising with the Government. Another Minister might be able to answer that if that was set down specifically. Yes, it would be our intention to release the submission.

Metiria Turei: Given that the Waitangi Tribunal recommendations on the foreshore and seabed issue will not be binding on the Government, will the Prime Minister commit to adhering to the tribunal’s eventual findings as a demonstration to tangata whenua that the Government is prepared to act with good faith on this issue and not merely pay lip service to it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, no Government is bound by the Waitangi Tribunal. All Governments are respectful of it, but that does not mean they are bound to agree with it.

Stephen Franks: After Mâori Land Court judges on the Waitangi Tribunal have openly canvassed Mâori for support in the tribunal’s intervention in this issue, is the Prime Minister satisfied that they can still appear impartial; does she still plan to leave those same judges to decide where and when customary rights might apply?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would be interested to hear from the member, either now or at a later date, whether he has evidence of judges declaring such positions, because my own view is that there would be a conflict of interest with their judicial responsibilities.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government is approaching the Waitangi Tribunal on an issue that could be the single biggest Waitangi-type issue in a generation and that, as yet, it has no idea how the Waitangi Tribunal might approach it or what kind of submission the Government might put to it; why is the Government going into that exercise so blind?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government is presently preparing a submission. If the member wishes to set down specific questions about what advice the Government has on what issues the tribunal might raise, I imagine the Minister would be willing to answer them, but I do not have that information today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Treaty of Waitangi (State Enterprises) Act, which, contrary to what the Prime Minister just told the House, requires the Government of the day to regard following decisions as mandatory.

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

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Resource Management Act—Notification Procedures

8. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Is she satisfied with the way that the new limited notification provisions of the Resource Management Act are working; if so, why?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes, I am, because affected parties are getting a say in consent applications that affect them.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does that mean that the Minister agrees with recent judgment of Environment Waikato that the environmental effects are less than minor of an open-cast coal mine that is 225 hectares by 100 metres deep, diverts a stream, dumps 113 million tons of spoil, and discharges into the Waikato River?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The question of limited notification comes in two stages. First of all, the council has to decide whether the activity will have major or minor effects, and it is that primary decision that triggers the amount of notification. It is not for me to agree whether they have major or minor effects. That is the job of the local authority and always has been.

Jim Peters: Does that particular example of a limited notification provision under the Resource Management Act not indicate inconsistency with the requirements of the Local Government Act 2002—specifically, sections 77 and 78, which are required to make judgments under section 79—and when will those Acts be amended?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Because I do not actually know what those sections in the Local Government Act 2002 are referring to, I would need to have that spelt out better in a question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: When is the Government proposing to introduce special fast-track provisions for the Resource Management Act, as announced by Jim Anderton; do those changes that propose a “think big” - type approach to Government projects only have her support?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Can I respectfully suggest that the member is making assertions that are based on speculation and on comment in the papers. Work on improving the Resource Management Act and its processes is, I stress, permanently ongoing. There is no proposal on the executive table.

Gordon Copeland: Which environmental organisations will be consulted, in accordance with the limited notification provisions of the Resource Management Act, in relation to Solid Energy New Zealand’s recent application to expand the Rotowaro coal mine; how many of them have objected to the proposed expansion?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As I understand it, there are 22 affected parties, including the New Zealand Fish and Game Council—which is a pretty strong environmental organisation—the Department of Conservation, Tainui, and neighbours, all of whom have been asked for comment and all of whom have consented, except Tainui. Environment Waikato is holding a hearing tomorrow, at which Tainui and the other affected parties can present their concerns.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister see any difference between the environmental effects of an opencast coal mine and the example she gave of “minor” in her third reading speech on the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2), which was of a minor extension on a building; if so, will she instruct her department to investigate how councils are interpreting “minor” effects, with a view to publishing some guidelines for them?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The question comes back to the primary answer I gave, which was that there are two parts to the issue. The first is to decide whether something has major or minor effects. That decision has always been made by the courts, and, as we know from the debate that we had on the amendments to the Resource Management Act, it is determined by case law, as defining “minor” has been far too difficult to do by legislation in the House.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister still agree with her statement in the second reading debate on the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) that: “For the purposes of limited notification, groups representing relevant aspects of the public interest must still be considered affected parties by consent authorities”; if so, will she advise Environment Waikato of her disappointment at its approach, which excluded interested groups such as the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand and Greenpeace?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The people who were approached by Environment Waikato and by the applicant, the mining company, included the New Zealand Fish and Game Council, which is an environmental group; Tainui; the Waahi Whanui Trust; the Department of Conservation; the Bush Tramway Club ; and others. If Forest and Bird had a local group, I would have expected it to be consulted. If Greenpeace had a local group, I would have expected it to be consulted. I mean a local group. I do not mean, as the member does, I presume from the first Earth Summit, that acting locally is the most important, and that decisions at local levels are the most important.

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Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Agricultural Levy

9. Hon DAVID CARTER (NZ National) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: Does he stand by his description of the O’Hara report into agricultural greenhouse gas emissions research as a “comprehensive report”; if so, why?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): Yes. In the forward to the report I described it as comprehensive, balanced and robust. So did the co-signatory to the forward, Mr Jeff Grant the chairman of Primary Industries Council.

Hon David Carter: How much did the O’Hara report identify as contributions to Greenhouse gas emission reduction research by farmer organisations?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not sure what the question, “How much” means. But if the member is referring to the potential to reduce Greenhouse gas emissions on a comparison with business, as usual it depends of the area of research under consideration.

Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very specific question about how much did the O’Hara report identify as contributions. The Minister said he was not sure what I meant. I am quite happy to rephrase it by saying: How much money did the O’Hara report, report? I expect the question to be answered sensibly.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister did address the question.

Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell me then how much money there is, because the Minister was not able to?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not up to me to say—

Hon David Carter: Well you said it was addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister said he did not know how much and that is a perfectly sensible answer to give.

Janet Mackey: Has the O’Hara report provided the solid foundation for discussions with the agriculture sector and the science community, as the Minister and Mr Grant said in the foreword?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, it has and those discussions, which will result in a detailed science plan and decisions on managing intellectual property and management and so on are now under way.

Hon David Carter: Is it not a fact that the O’Hara report was a politically contrived report, written solely to justify the flatulence tax, and that it totally mis-records current Greenhouse gas reduction research?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, no and no.

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Drugs—Border Control

10. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Customs: Has he any evidence that shows that increased resourcing of border agencies is helping reduce the quantities of illegal drugs from entering New Zealand?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): I am pleased to report that the New Zealand Customs Service recently made this country’s second largest seizure of a class A drug, cocaine, at Auckland International Airport. Customs officers seized approximately 7 kilos of the drug, with an estimated street value of $10 million, from a 40-year-old South African man who carried the drugs through customs and was arrested. The courier is believed to have come from Santiago, Chile, Papeete, Rarotonga, and was on his way, we think, to Australia.

Martin Gallagher: What are the most significant border drug challenges facing the New Zealand Government?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a wide question, the Minister can comment briefly.

Hon RICK BARKER: I can answer it in one word: Methamphetamine. The customs agency is, with other agencies, addressing this nationwide problem, which is an evil drug. We are taking a whole-of-Government approach with the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy.

We have asked that committee to provide a customs report for us and what it can do to hasten up the process. With regards to methamphetamine, this year in ephedrine and precursors we have seen 623,000 tablets, which is up on the 32,000 last year.

Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.

Hon Matt Robson: How will the classification announced yesterday by the Associate Health Minister, the Hon Jim Anderton, of pseudoephedrine as a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act help customs and police in their fight against methamphetamine?

Hon RICK BARKER: The change in the classification will better equip customs and police to deter would-be importers of a major ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine, because the penalties for unlicensed imports will increase from a maximum of $500 or 3 months imprisonment, to a sentence of a maximum of 8 years.

Hon Tony Ryall: When will the Minister and the Government close the legal loophole that has allowed at least four million pseudoephedrine-based tablets to be lawfully imported into New Zealand for manufacture into methamphetamine—imported by people supplying fake names and addresses—considering that he was first alerted to this tidal wave of imported drugs over 6 months ago?

Hon RICK BARKER: I am pleased to be able to tell that member that this Government has committed an extra $1.9 million to help boost the drugs intelligence officers. We are cracking down on the border to make sure that we have sufficient control of the drugs coming through, and the ability to identify the drugs coming in. We are also looking at all the other legal loopholes as well.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just ask you to reflect on what I asked. I asked a question about when the Government was going to change the law. The Minister gave an answer as relevant as if he had stood up and said: “Rhubarb”. Is that addressing the question?

Mr SPEAKER: No, in the very last sentence he said: “We are looking at all the loopholes involved.” I thought that was addressing the question.

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11. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Education: Does he believe that parents should have choice in relation to which school their children attend?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Yes. However, I will not attend the launch of the member’s book on the subject, which was written while she was on holiday in Europe recently, and which she is using this question to promote.

Deborah Coddington: How does he reconcile that answer with the fact that, despite parental opposition, he has closed a record 96 schools, and what does he say to mothers like Lisa Thompson,

whose children go to Ngaiotonga Valley School, which is just one of 18 Northland schools under threat of closure, and who says: “This is going to rock families.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The reaction I had when I went to Northland to front up on this issue, in a way no Minister has before—[Interruption]—in a way that that member, when he was the Minister, never had the guts to do—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw that comment.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw. I fronted up in a way that Nick Smith, when he was Minister, was never prepared to do, and the reaction I had from the people in Northland was—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I know what the member is going to say. I want the Minister to answer the question and not refer to a previous administration.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This administration has a new policy of fronting up to local communities, and in this case the people in Northland said that they knew it was inevitable and did not want an ad hoc approach that would see school after school fall over in a way that was unplanned and that left a network that did not work for their communities.

Jill Pettis: Are parents forced to send their child to their neighbourhood school?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No. Children have the right to attend their neighbourhood school, but they are not compelled to. They also have a right to attend another school, unless it squeezes out a child who lives next door. This, of course, is as a result of the zoning policy introduced by the National Government.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister confirm—which I think he has already partially done—that the legislation that reintroduced geographical zoning of schools was passed through this House not during his administration but, rather, in late 1998 by the minority National Government, with the full support of the ACT party?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I cannot quite confirm the last bit, but I am prepared to take the member’s word—

Hon Brian Donnelly: Go to the Hansard.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: —and, if necessary, go to the Hansard. But consistency from ACT is something one would never expect.

Deborah Coddington: If the Minister does agree that children should go to the school next door to them, how can he claim in Masterton, where he has been busy closing emerging schools, that children’s education will not suffer, when he is saving $7 million to push together three schools on to a major earthquake fault line, or is he just conducting a fire sale of school buildings; and how does that fit in with this Government’s policy of non-privatisation?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think there were four questions there. I will try to answer as many of them as possible. No decision has yet been made on the Hiona Intermediate site, because we have not had the geological reports, which are important before that is finally decided. The Government does not save $7 million out of the Masterton review. What happens is that Masterton schools get $7 million that would otherwise be wasted on empty buildings.

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Takitumu Drive, Tauranga—State Highway Designation

12. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied that the Transit New Zealand Board’s failure to act on the recommendation of its staff that Tauranga’s Takitimu Drive and the Takitimu Drive/Tasman Quay link be designated as a State highway is transparent, democratic and non-partisan?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): I am advised that Transit New Zealand, in deferring its decision to designate the roads mentioned by the member as a State highway, acted according to its statutory mandate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister prepared to push for the designation of that road as a State highway and so avoid the possibility of a major transport route becoming a toll road, which is a policy his party opposed during 1998-99; or is it the case that this was a decision, not transparent, not democratic, not non-partisan, and not minuted, which is the extraordinary thing about it, and that it included the Labour Party President, Mike Williams—who made the decision—having been put there for a “jobs for the boys” operation from Labour?


It is not my job to push for designation of any particular road as a State highway; that is Transit’s job.

Hon Mark Gosche: What level of land transport funding is Tauranga – Bay of Plenty projected to receive, including State highways, in 2003-04, and how does this compare with last year?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am advised that the Tauranga – Bay of Plenty region has been allocated $56.78 million over 2003-04, which is an increase of 5.3 percent from last year. Most of these projects are in the Tauranga area.

Gordon Copeland: Will the designation of Tauranga’s Takitumu Drive and Takitumu Drive - Tasman Quay link as a State highway by Transit remain a possibility in the future, regardless of any alternative funding mechanisms established by the Land Transport Management Bill?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. For a start, the decision has simply been deferred as more information is sought and as more discussion takes place with local authorities. As I understand it, these decisions are reviewed every 5 years.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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