Thursday Questions & Answers for Oral Answer
(Uncorrected Transcript—Subject To Correction And Further Editing)
Questions to Ministers
Supreme Court Bill—Interest Groups
1. RICHARD WORTH (NZ National—Epsom) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement that the Government was acting in the “wider interests” regarding the Supreme Court Bill; if so, what are those wider interests?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes, because the bill will benefit not only large corporations and those who can afford to have a second appeal; it will also give that opportunity to all New Zealanders. In addition, the Government accepts the reality that, if we do not leave the Privy Council, it will leave us.
Richard Worth: Does the Minister agree with media reports regarding the Supreme Court Bill that state: “To pass it into law would be an act of breathtaking arrogance. To assume that a wafer-thin majority is sufficient to enact fundamental changes to the legal and constitutional fabric of New Zealand is nothing short of an abuse of power.”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. Not to introduce the bill now would actually create enormous injustice to many New Zealanders, who would be denied that second right of appeal.
Tim Barnett: Has the Minister received any reports from the United Kingdom on leaving the Privy Council?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. Privy Counsellor Lord Bingham of Cornhill said in May 2002 that the Privy Council can be seen as a body in its death throes. Privy Counsellor Lord Steyn said in September 2002 that the British Government sees the Supreme Court Bill as a crucial affirmation of New Zealand’s self-reliant sovereignty and national identity. Furthermore, Sir Thomas Legg, former Permanent Secretary at the Lord Chancellor’s Department, at a conference on UK judicial reforms at Cambridge University last weekend said that non-UK users of the Privy Council should be politely invited to consider alternative arrangements, and that the new Supreme Court judges should not be burdened with Privy Council work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What percentage of the Privy Council does the number that she has outlined represent, or is it in keeping with the way she is ramrodding this through Parliament—a minority Government without a mandate at the election time, because the total number of votes, of the votes that could have been cast, was less than 36 percent; is that the reason why she finds those minority statements out of the UK so favourable to herself and her colleagues?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am not entirely sure I understood the question. I would appreciate some help with it.
Mr SPEAKER: Could the member please restate the question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, certainly. If she does not understand, I do. What percentage of the Privy Counsellors do those comments by those people represent, or is that minority view out of the Privy Council in keeping with the minority support that this matter has in the country in terms of a parliamentary mandate?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I thank the honourable member. I now understand the question. I do not know what percentage and what all the Privy Counsellors’ opinions are, if they even have one, on this issue. What I do know is that when I met with many senior members of the British judiciary in June, they all wondered why we were still going to the Privy Council when we had such excellent judicial officers ourselves in New Zealand. They love seeing us, but they could understand perfectly why we would want our own court.
Nandor Tanczos: Do the wider interests that the Minister has referred to include the concern that New Zealand does not currently have a fully functioning final court of appeal, because the restrictive nature of access to the Privy Council means that it deals with too few cases to play that function and because the heavy workload of the Court of Appeal means it cannot deal exhaustively with matters of law in New Zealand; and does she believe that the Supreme Court Bill will rectify that and give us a fully functioning final court of appeal?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, that is a very important reason why we need our own Supreme Court. The second level of appeal does in fact enable the court to consider questions that have been refined through the first appeal process. That is what has been lacking for the majority of New Zealanders in this country. It is overdue that they should have the right to have consideration of their matters at that level.
Hon Richard Prebble: Are the wider interests she was referring to the fact that this Government needs to remove New Zealanders’ right of appeal to the Privy Council if the Government is going to achieve her ambition to destroy our Westminster parliamentary system and replace it with her vision of a socialist republic of Aotearoa?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. I think I understand what is behind the member’s question, but I can assure the House that I am a dedicated supporter of the democratic process and the system we have.
Richard Worth: Given her particular constitutional responsibility as Attorney-General and chief law officer of the Government, why has she abused her office by ramming this legislation through, when on 10 October 2001 she said to the media that “maximum agreement” had to come from the business community if there was to be any change, and when in fact there is no support from the business community for this change at all?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The matter is not being rammed through. As the member knows, the matter has been under discussion here for over 4 years. I believe there is real support from the real business community, which can be seen in the latest Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion, which affirms the upward trend and net optimism in the business sector. If in fact there was so much concern about this issue from that sector, I am sure we would have heard about it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If she says she is a supporter of the democratic process, why does she not put her mouth where her money is and put it to the people of this country and let them decide—not some temporary, short-term politician such as herself?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think it is money where mouth is, not mouth where money is. I would note, as the member knows, that referenda in this country are used rarely and on matters relating to electoral issues. Although as the honourable member knows himself, when he sponsored a referendum on superannuation, it turned out to be a referendum on him and not the issue, unfortunately.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There we go. A business confidence survey is interpreted by the Minister as being an indicator of business support, or otherwise, of the Privy Council. This is, surely, drivel. Now she refers to a past referendum, where at least the people got to decide, and not her. Unlike her, I kept my seat—she did not.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter for debate.
Richard Worth: Why did the Associate Minister of Justice say, in answer to one of the supplementary questions, that an advantage of the new Supreme Court is that there would be two levels of appeal, when it is now the case that there are two levels of appeal, and when there would be a further restraint with the new court in that it would be accessible only by leave?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I realise that the member is not a litigator, but in many instances there are not two levels of appeal—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to answer the question.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: On many matters there are not two levels of appeal for many New Zealanders. That fact is known, and that is why it is absolutely essential in the interests of justice that we have the Supreme Court to provide that. Of course it would be available only by leave, which is the same requirement for every final court of appeal, as it is in the Privy Council at the moment. One cannot get there by right.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You pulled the Minister up and asked her to get on with her question, but you missed the point. Yesterday the Assistant Speaker spent a lot of time in the House hauling me over the coals for apparently using unparliamentary language in describing the seven Mâori MPs as “the seven gnomes in the bottom of Helen’s garden”. That was apparently a derogatory allegation made against them. In starting her comments today, Margaret Wilson had a go at Mr Worth, who is a litigator, has appeared before the Supreme Court, and is well respected in the New Zealand legal community. She should be required to withdraw and apologise for her ridiculous comment.
Mr SPEAKER: No, because the member’s comments were not out of order in terms of parliamentary wording, but they were irrelevant to the question and that is why I asked her to continue with the answer.
Te Whanau o Manawanui—Closure of Mental Health Unit
2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does she support the closure of the inpatient service of the Auckland region’s only residential Mâori mental health unit, Te Whanau o Manawanui; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: The decision to close Te Whanau o Manawanui was made by the Auckland District Health Board, following a review of the service and following extensive consultation. Poor facilities were one factor that continued to impede the development of the service. Furthermore, the landowners, Ngâti Whâtua, terminated the lease, effective from January next year. I support the decisions made by the board.
Sue Bradford: How does it make sense to close Manawanui—which, with its mental health inpatient beds, could have been shifted to another site—when we all know that Auckland mental health services are desperately short of acute and sub-acute beds; and where will the homeless find a home, and those without whânau find a new whânau, in the nebulous packages of care proposed to replace Manawanui?
Hon RUTH DYSON: A comprehensive range of services is being proposed by the Auckland District Health Board—including residential inpatient beds—either with non-governmental organisation providers or with the Auckland District Health Board itself. I do not agree with the description of the wrap-around packages, but I do agree with the underlying concern raised by the member regarding the continuation of those residential services, and they will be offered—the tender for those is going out right at this very moment.
Dave Hereora: Has the Minister received any advice regarding alternatives to Te Whanau o Manawanui?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, I am advised that the Auckland District Health Board announced on 24 September a new direction for kaupapa Mâori mental health, which includes a provision that those who need 24-hour care as part of their intensive rehabilitation package may access beds at the Auckland District Health Board, or beds provided by a non-governmental organisation. This a new service that will offer wrap-around packages of care and intensive kaupapa Mâori services, which will be tailored to meet the expressed needs of the patients, delivered either at home or wherever they are most appropriate. There will be greater flexibility in arranging beds and respite to suit the needs of the clients. I am happy to provide, at the end of this question, the full list of services that will be offered.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why is this Government so determined to allow the closure of specialist inpatient psychiatric beds, when we all know the lack of bed space for mentally ill patients is causing a crisis for patients who are discharged too soon, for staff who are leaving because of stress, and for families who are tortured by fear; has not deinstitutionalisation gone too far?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Our Government is not prepared to support the continuation of substandard services.
Pita Paraone: Are Mâori given any priority of access to mental health care; if so, how does the closing of the one Mâori mental health unit by the Waitemata District Health Board address this priority?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I indicated in the answer to the primary question, the decision to close the unit was made after extensive consultation, and ensuring that the alternative Mâori health services required would be provided. The other consideration is the fact that the lease on the land expires in January next year. The reconfigured services are in line with the Mâori mental health strategy, which does address the specificity that the member addressed in his question. We have acknowledged the longstanding problems with Auckland’s mental health services; we are seeking change. I quote from the Mâori mental health strategy: “Insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting a different result.”
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister aware that affected staff have not received any documentation showing this apparent extensive consultation, which was apparently carried out with Mâori in the Auckland region, despite their repeated requests? So can the Minister herself produce any such documentation of extensive consultation, if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I do not have, in the House with me right now, written information about the consultation process, but I will provide that to the member and table it as soon as possible. I have been advised that the extensive consultation that I referred to did include with the staff, and at the beginning of the proceedings there was 100 percent support for the process, but at this stage it has not been as united.
Sue Bradford: Given that Te Whanau o Manawanui served not only the Auckland District Health Board area, but also Counties-Manukau, Waitemata, and Northland district health board areas, and given the ongoing shortage of acute beds in all those districts, and in particular Waitemata, where there are many Mâori patients, how can the Minister say that having a few beds in non-governmental organisations is going to replace that need by often homeless and displaced Mâori people with mental illness, with the closure of this unit on the top of everything else?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I make two points in response to that question. First, that was a very inaccurate representation of the answers that I gave to the member in the previous question. Secondly, my understanding is that part of the reconfiguration of services will include allocation of funding directly to the Northland District Health Board, so it is able to provide services more locally in its own area; that Counties-Manukau is satisfied with the level of services of provision in the south; and that the inter - district health board arrangements between Waitemata and Auckland will continue under this configuration.
Prime Minister—Personal Comments
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she still stand by her comments “I sometimes wonder whether I’m a victim of my own success as a popular and competent Prime Minister.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, and I am confident that the tall poppy syndrome is alive and well in New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can she ever imagine good Prime Ministers—such as Maggie Thatcher, Tony Blair, Menzies, Hawke, Howard, Seddon, Savage, Fraser, Holyoake, Muldoon, and Lange—ever being so arrogant and conceited as to make a comment like that?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not recall the late Sir Robert’s name being mentioned. I do think that humility is an important part of public office and I aspire to meet that standard.
Hon Roger Sowry: Given her statement “I sometimes wonder whether I’m a victim of my own success as a popular and competent Prime Minister.”, what particular events made her think she is a victim?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Precisely the false allegations that I had taken personal responsibility for and directed issues around alleged GM contamination of corn, when I had not.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can she cast her mind over the following matters—the Yelash affair, the maltreatment of Dover Samuels, the “paintergate” affair and the denials that were patently not true, and the “corngate” affair—and tell us which of those affairs bespeak confidence, popularity, or honesty; or is it a case of “It’s so hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would observe that, notwithstanding the so-called mini-scandals, the Government was re-elected and the Prime Minister remains held in rather high regard.
Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill—Contracts, Non-governmental Organisations
4. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Associate Minister of Health: Has he received any reports on smoke-free contracts provided by non-governmental organisations?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health): I have received reports from the Ministry of Health outlining contracts that it holds with non-governmental organisations advocating non-smoking activities. I am advised that standard advocacy clauses have existed in these contracts as far back as the mid-1990s—a period when the National Government was in power and Bill English was, for a time, Minister of Health.
Steve Chadwick: Is the Minister reviewing whether this practice should continue?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Yes, the ministry has been instructed to review all current contracts and the most recent amendments to ensure the contracts are appropriate for a Government agency. I am not satisfied with the current situation, and intend to tighten the rules around advocacy clauses. In this regard, I have asked my officials to seek advice from the State Services Commission in reviewing contracts.
Dr Lynda Scott: Were the members of the Health Committee, chaired by Steve Chadwick, ever informed by the Ministry of Health that its advisers to the committee had, in fact, paid some of the anti-smoking groups to prepare submissions on Miss Chadwick’s own member’s bill; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am not aware whether the select committee was informed. I am aware of contracts that go back to 1993 that have, as a
core part—and if I am allowed to quote from one that liaise on an advocacy services, where it states in the 1999 to ______ contract between the Northern Regional Health Authority and the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH): “the provider will liaise with Government and private health agencies, members of Parliament, political parties, the media, and any other appropriate organisation to raise public awareness of tobacco-related issues”.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister quoted from a document, and I require that document to be tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can seek leave.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am more than happy to table.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the document. Is there any objection? The member is required to table it. Please table it, and he will.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I will table this after question time.
Mr SPEAKER: He will table it as soon as the question is over.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Firstly, the member is required to do it, so leave was not required, but, further, there is another question on this matter further down the Order Paper. I think it would be helpful to the House if we could have that paper from Mr O’Connor tabled now.
Mr SPEAKER: He must table it now, and I ask him to do so. [Interruption] There are a couple of supplementary questions to come. Just as soon as those questions have come, I will ask him—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know what you have said, and it would be helpful to my parliamentary colleagues if he did table it now, but he is not required to table it until the end of the day’s sitting.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is slightly different. If he is quoting from an official document and he is asked to table it, and if he said it is an official document he must table it straight away.
Document laid on the Table of the House..
Heather Roy: Does he find it acceptable that his officials paid Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) the Smokefree Coalition, and Apararangi Tautoko Auahi Kore to lobby MPs and make submissions to select committees—
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt. There is a point of order. Mr O’Connor was asked to table the document. Could he please do so now.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Clerk has advised me that Mr O’Connor, by walking to the Table, putting the document on the Table, then walking away with it, has tabled it, and he has decided to keep it for himself for the rest of question time. This is the same Minister who was caught out yesterday by misquoting a document and had to come down to the House. Mr Speaker, I seek your help and assistance in ensuring that the document is tabled and that other members have access to it. If it means that we leave the question and come back to it, so be it.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister must table the document right now. Please table it.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My understanding is that the member actually has. Having tabled it, any member can pick it up, and he was the first to pick it up. [Interruption] No, he was absolutely entitled to do that. He can put it down and pick it up again. He has picked it up, and that is what he is entitled to do.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that, as always, Mr Prebble has an interesting point of view, and technically he is correct, but I am going to ask the Minister to table the document now, as requested—right now.
Document laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Richard Prebble: In that case I seek the leave of the House for this question to be stopped now, and for us to do the next one, and then we can come back to it. It is just unreasonable for a Minister who is using a document not to be able to quote from it. Let us have time so that other copies can be given. Why do we not wait until the next question with notice.
Mr SPEAKER: All I want to say is that that is a sensible suggestion. I am moving on, and I will come back to the question.
Dr Lynda Scott: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am coming back to the question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I see no point in the document being tabled so it can be Xeroxed so other members can have it, if then the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is going to sit there reading it.
Hon Roger Sowry: I have just asked the Clerk to photocopy it, and was told by the Clerk that he would not photocopy it because he would not let it leave the room.
Mr SPEAKER: This is getting right out of hand, and I want it to stop right now. I ask the Clerk to have it photocopied now. [Interruption] We will come back to question No. 4 later.
United States—Free-trade Agreement
5. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (NZ National—Rodney) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: When does he expect New Zealand will get a bilateral free-trade agreement with the United States in light of comments contained in a speech that was to be given by American Ambassador, Charles Swindells, which said: “The United States Government is not prepared to schedule bilateral trade negotiations at this time.”? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to stop again. When questions are being asked people will be leaving if they start making a noise.
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): As the Ambassador said, not at this time, although I do not rule it out.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why does the Minister think that New Zealand was not invited to a key meeting of friends of free trade, hosted by US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick at the recent World Trade Organization ministerial at Cancun, a meeting of the countries with which the US is planning trade negotiations in the next few years, if it was not that the US is not planning trade negotiations with New Zealand in the next few years?
Hon JIM SUTTON: My understanding is that the breakfast referred to was for countries with which the United States has already announced it will do trade agreements, mainly as part of regional or plurilateral agreements. As we are not one of those I was not surprised not to be invited.
David Benson-Pope: What action has the Government taken to advance the case for a trade agreement in Washington?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government, our embassy in Washington, and the business community in New Zealand have been making continuous efforts to recruit support amongst the US business community and in Congress for a trade agreement with New Zealand. We have continued to promote the need for a trade agreement in discussions with the US administration, including in talks I have had with US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick and other senior members of the administration.
Dail Jones: With reference to Ambassador Swindells’ speech from pages 7 to 10, will the Minister draw to the attention of the Prime Minister the following words in the speech: “With honesty, understanding, and hard work we can create a relationship where the United States and New Zealand are allies in the broader sense, not merely in security terms but across a spectrum in economics, business, science, and the environment.”, and remind the Prime Minister that it does not help to abuse the President of the United States with references to Al Gore and the like—an attitude that ensures that we do not have honesty, understanding, or hard work in our relationship with the United States?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I believe that the Prime Minister has read the speech that the Ambassador had planned to deliver. I think she would have been particularly taken with the part that stated that the bilateral relationship is fundamentally strong, deep, and healthy—a longstanding friendship that has withstood the test of time and occasional differences.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister acknowledge that New Zealand’s ban on the visit of nuclear-propelled vessels is a major obstacle to our hopes for our bilateral trade agreement with the United States, and in light of the Somers report findings that there is no public safety or environmental risk reasons for continuing the ban, what are his Government’s reasons for refusing to remove this paramount obstacle to a negotiated free-trade agreement with the United States?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I accept the assurance of several members of the United States administration that the two issues are not directly connected.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does the Minister believe the Prime Minister’s recent comments to this Parliament that US Trade Representative Bob Zoellick has looked to make room for this country to come into a list for trade negotiations conveys the same message to the public as the US Ambassador’s statemen: “Not at this time.”; if not, which of those two statements tends to mislead?
Hon JIM SUTTON: I do not believe either of those two statements tends to mislead.
Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the Minister’s response to my earlier question, which part of the following quotation from Ambassador Swindells’ statements does the Minister disagree with: “The nuclear issue inevitably colours important policy decisions on both sides, limits the scope for further deepening of cooperation in key areas, and plays an unhelpful role in how we respond to one another. Twenty years on, a re-examination of this issue could benefit us all.”?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Ambassador, no doubt, accurately conveys the views of the US Government. However, where I differ from the member is that I do not want New Zealand to abandon its nuclear policies in order to get negotiating coin.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call question No. 6 I intend to come back to question No. 4 just before question No. 11. Both those questions deal with the same subject, and it gives members a chance to look at it if they wish to do so.
6. CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What initiatives is the Government taking to promote employment in industry?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Formal employment partnerships with industry are a part of the recently announced Jobs Jolt package. The first of these industry partnerships was signed last night with the hospitality industry. An agreement has been signed between Work and Income and the Hospitality Association to take people who are on a benefit, train them, and employ them in that industry. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Hospitality Association, in particular its Chief Executive, Bruce Robertson, for its commitment to industry partnership and job growth.
Clayton Cosgrove: What other employment partnerships are proposed, and how many job seekers will be helped into jobs as a result?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Hospitality is the first of a number of industry partnerships for employment. We plan to sign job partnership agreements with a number of high growth industries in the immediate future. Road transport, tourism, retail, and trades will join the hospitality industry. By working with industry and unions to address training and skill needs we aim to get at least an additional 2,500 people into work as part of the overall 22,000 jobs that are to come from the Jobs Jolt initiative.
Katherine Rich: Why does the Minister not admit that this agreement is nothing new; that Work and Income regularly enters into agreements with organisations designed to put people into work well before the Jobs Jolt, and why does he not explain to the House why the number of long-term unemployed has increased by 50 percent in just 4 years—50 percent on his watch?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It would be news to the Hospitality Association that it did not sign an agreement for the first time last night for these additional 200 jobs as part of this programme. I tell that member that in 2001 this country enjoyed the fourth highest job growth in the OECD, and in 2002 the second highest job growth at 2.9 percent compared with the OECD average of 0.1 percent. I tell this House that we have the lowest unemployment rate in 16 years.
Peter Brown: What initiatives is the Government taking to expand employment in the shipping industry, noting that several years ago the Government commissioned a review that outlined several initiatives and nothing positive has happened since, at all?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The role of the ministry that I am responsible for—Work and Income—is to match people to jobs, and we will take initiatives to match people to jobs wherever they appear.
7. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Education: Further to his answer in the House yesterday that “children have the right to attend their neighbourhood school,” will he step in and protect this right for those children whose neighbourhood schools are under threat of closure?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment), on behalf of the Minister of Education: This Government is committed to providing children with the highest possible quality of education. We want to see money spent on teaching and learning rather than buildings. As the size and makeup of communities change, schools must also change to meet their students’ needs. The current round of network reviews we are engaged in may result in some school amalgamations or closures. If those kinds of changes are necessary it is better to begin planning early rather than delaying until issues have become so difficult to deal with that the options are limited and communities end up being short-changed.
Deborah Coddington: How can he justify depriving parents of choice on the grounds that the Government is saving money on empty buildings, when in the Wellington area alone, 2 years after five schools were closed, buildings worth $4 million are still sitting empty, unused, and wasting away?
Hon Steve Maharey: The issue is one of quality of education. This is not a policy designed to save money, it is a policy designed to ensure that money that would be spent on buildings will instead be spent on teaching and learning, and while Mr Power might shake his head, his Government followed the same policy.
Lynne Pillay: What are the risks of not conducting area reviews?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Across many parts of New Zealand there is a primary school roll decline. That will flow through to the secondary school sector, and if we do not proactively review the school network to address those changing demographics we run the risk that schools will fall over in an ad hoc manner, removing parental choice and jeopardising the quality of education. That appears to be the policy being advocated by the new far right ACT-National coalition.
Simon Power: Will he guarantee that children attending rural Taihape schools currently under review will be able to continue to attend their neighbourhood schools—schools that are providing a quality education to children in Taihape?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In line with the policies followed by both the previous National Government and this Government, we will ensure that those children in Taihape get a quality education and have a right to go to their neighbourhood schools.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is not the real truth that, by giving in to New Zealand Educational Institute demands, the Minister has created gold-plated staffing ratios for small schools and that has jeopardised their future existence by pricing them off the market, and that that is the real reason why so many small schools are having to be closed under his watch?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Minister of Education, I quite often bow to the member’s knowledge in those matters, but on this occasion I am sorry to say that he is wrong. The Minister of Education is not used to giving in to anybody other than the Prime Minister! However, on this occasion he is simply trying to ensure that the quality of education is there for New Zealand children.
Murray Smith: Does the Minister accept that even schools in close proximity to each other like Pinehaven and Silverstream can have different cultures and identities that can impact on a child’s educational achievements, and if he is really interested in children’s educational achievements, why will he not factor in the need for a variety of school cultures into his consideration of Upper Hutt school closures?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Minister of Education, yes he does accept that different school cultures do need to be taken into account when an area review is being undertaken. If Mr Smith had bothered to reply to invitations to two briefings on the matter about schools he may have learnt that some time ago.
Deborah Coddington: Since he is concerned about quality education, what does he say then to people like Mr and Mrs Osbourne from Ngahere who wrote to me, because they want their children to go to their neighbourhood school, rather than travel by bus for 3 to 4 hours a day to attend another school, because the Minister wants to close Ngahere school in the Gray valley, and what is quality education about sitting on a bus?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On behalf of the Minister of Education, I would say to those people—and if the member wishes them to ring me this afternoon I will say it personally—that we have to ensure that we have schools that are viable so that students get a quality education. Propping up schools when they are not providing that quality education is not the case. We are not saying that that is the case at that particular school. However, I am saying that that is the way that policy runs and we believe it is the right way to go for quality.
8. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What threat does HIV-AIDS pose in the Pacific region and what steps are being taken to respond to that threat?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Currently, there are some 8,000 known HIV cases in the Pacific region. Papua New Guinea already is experiencing a generalised HIV epidemic. Several other Pacific Island nations have high and increasing infection rates. Over the past year there has been a significant increase in emphasis on HIV prevention and treatment efforts in the region, including by New Zealand. Through the secretariat for the Pacific community we are now developing a regional strategy. Individually, last year New Zealand invested $1.4 million into HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives in the Pacific, and a further $2.25 million into global efforts to combat the disease.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What has New Zealand done to address this impending crisis in the region?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Within the context of the funding that I have just mentioned, and other funding besides, the New Zealand aid organisation funds a number of important initiatives in the region. These include efforts to promote commitment to HIV/AIDS by Pacific Governments and to coordinate externally funded HIV/AIDS projects in the region. We have supported the establishment of a Pacific Island AIDS Foundation, and we work with agencies such as the AIDS task force of Fiji and Fiji Red Cross. New Zealand has also supported key efforts to address key risk factors for HIV transmission and the needs of young people to be better educated about sexual health issues.
Paparua Prison—Emergency Response Unit
9. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: What was his reason for not supporting an inquiry into the operation of the emergency response unit formerly based at Paparua Prison in Christchurch?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections): There were many reasons. That member’s public comment was one of them.
Ron Mark: Noting that one of the reasons the Minister gave publicly yesterday was that he did not want a “parade of former crims” appearing before the committee, why would the Minister say such a thing when he knows full well that most of the people who have called for an inquiry or taken legal action against the Department of Corrections over the goon squad are Department of Corrections staff, such as Maureen Love, John Kinney, Tony Dyer, Nigel French,
and a large number of prison officers who are afraid to use the whistleblowers legislation, because the managers receiving the complaints are, firstly, their direct employers and, secondly, the very people who have sought to cover up this whole affair?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: A narrow inquiry is one thing, but providing the opportunity for a political platform for that member to have every ex-criminal in the country who has a whinge against the prison service to be paraded before that committee is not a good idea. The vast majority of prison officers in this country do a great job keeping us all safe. I would expect that member to show more support for them, rather than taking the side of every ex-criminal who gives him a ring.
Mr SPEAKER: The last comment is out of order, and the last part will be withdrawn by the Minister and apologised for.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw and apologise.
Georgina Beyer: What checks and balances are now in place to ensure that a similar unit could not be established in the future?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Given that the unit was established 4 years ago under a previous National - New Zealand First Government and disbanded under a Labour-led Government, since the abolition of that unit the public prison service has procedures in place for the allocation of prison officers, which means a region can no longer establish such a unit. Also, issues of accountability of the chief executive, ministerial oversight, and complaints by prisoners are all dealt with in the new Corrections Bill currently before the select committee.
Gerry Brownlee: If evidence was presented to the Minister, without prejudice to those who supplied it, showing that senior executives within the prison service were well aware of the activities of the goon squad and often issued instructions on a daily basis, would he then allow an inquiry into the emergency response unit? I tell the Minister that there are people out there who cannot blow the whistle because of the position they currently hold. If they could do it without prejudice, and if the Minister would allow that, we could have an inquiry that would expose the bad behaviour.
Mr SPEAKER: The question has been asked. That was too long.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am on record as saying that if the member has new and separate allegations around some of the issues that have been made that have not been dealt with, I will happily look at it and take appropriate action.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister advise the House as to whether there are former members of the goon squad currently negotiating their employment grievances, and whether such negotiations, past and present, will be made available to the public, who will be paying for those through their taxes?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I can confirm that there are some employment issues, but those are for the Employment Court, not for a select committee.
Ron Mark: Has the Minister heard allegations that the reason the leaders of the goon squad, namely Messrs Smith, Bird, and Kelly, were not dismissed from the Department of Corrections as recommended by the Love report was that they have specific information on their two bosses, Mr Paul Rushton and Mr Paul Monk, regarding dynamite and detonators smuggled into the Paparua prison by Rex Haig, Dean Parata, and Nigel Johnson that would show that Mr Rushton and Mr Monk have not told the truth regarding the hostage-taking incident in order to protect themselves from investigative action; if he has heard those very serious allegations, why has he not launched an inquiry of his own?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There have been a number of allegations around this matter. They have been investigated and most of them proved to be false or highly exaggerated. I am aware that that member himself makes allegations, such as those around the Ukrainian farm workers. Those allegations were proved to be false, and the farmer is still waiting for an apology from Mr Mark for the allegations that he made, which proved to be utterly without substance.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister knows full well that the statements I made about real salaries for assistant herd managers are available to the public, and that the money those Ukrainians were being paid was not what they were fully entitled to. He is deliberately trying to—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister deny the payouts the Department of Corrections made to inmates _____________________________________________;
and will the Minister justify the circumstances surrounding each case so that the public interest will, for once, be upheld?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware that there has been at least one payout, but, once again, that is a matter for the Employment Court. It is not a matter for a select committee.
Coal-mining—Opencast Mine, Waikato
10. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday, in relation to the proposed Waikato opencast coal-mine, that “If Forest and Bird had a local group, I would have expected it to be consulted”, in light of the fact that the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society has branches in Waikato, Franklin and Thames-Coromandel?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Yes. I understand the chair of the Environment Waikato subcommittee hearing the resource consent application has said that the local branch of Forest and Bird should be involved in future consents, and that the applicant is happy to involve them.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: When the Minister said yesterday: “It is not for me to agree whether they have major or minor effects. That is the job of the local authority.”, did she mean that she and her department have no role in overseeing whether councils are carrying out their role as the Resource Management Act intended?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Ministry for the Environment does give advice on its website, along with explaining and sharing case law on what is “major” and what is “minor”. But I make the point that the decision about whether something is minor is complex and is not decided on size alone, as we had described in the House yesterday. For example, a small piggery on flat land next to a wetland could have a much more significant environmental effect than a large extension to an existing coal-mine.
David Parker: What local organisations with environmental interests were asked to comment about Solid Energy New Zealand’s application to expand its operation at Rotowaro and what were their responses?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Fish and Game Waikato was asked for comment, as was the local office of the Department of Conservation. Both consented to the application. Fish and Game Waikato had no concerns because the expansion uses existing treatment facilities and will not affect surface wetlands. The Department of Conservation similarly consented because of the limited adverse effects on their interests of fresh water fisheries and vegetation clearance.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that even if a judicial review by the High Court was to find this notification decision to be wrong in law, it cannot reverse it or provide any redress, and if so, will she reinstate the amendment introduced by Hon Simon Upton in 1999 to allow reviews and reversal of notification decisions by the Environment Court; and if not, why not?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I think as the member well knows, the Environment Court is under considerable pressure. As I have explained before, for the Resource Management Act to be able to work well the load on the Environment Court has to be reduced, and we are doing that by reducing the backlog. Once that backlog is reduced, I will reconsider those questions.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: If this case sets a precedent for the definition of minor effects, because an opencast coal-mine excavating the equivalent of two Mount Victorias down to sea-level has not been notified, can she suggest any kind of resource consent application that would have to be notified in the future?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I think I reiterated before that major or minor is not decided on size alone—a lot of things are not decided on size alone, including effectiveness. I make the point again that a small piggery beside a wetland can have a much more major effect than the extension of an existing mine.
Question No. 4 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: I will tell the members what I propose to do. I am returning to Question 4. I have heard a Labour question, a National question and I had called Heather Roy to ask a supplementary question and I intend to return to her.
Heather Roy: Does the Minister find it acceptable that his officials paid Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the Smokefree Coalition and Aparangi Tautoko Auahi Kore (ATAK) to lobby MPs and make submissions to select committees, and why will he not demand that those officials who have been running covert political operations be sacked just like the Prime Minister did with Kit Richards?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I know of no covert political operations run by these organisations.
Stephen Franks: So you knew about it.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am aware that most international organisations involved with the reduction of smoking, are involved through their contracts with advocacy. Some may call it lobbying, others would call it providing information. I do not consider it appropriate that there should be provision to lobby on a specific bill, but I do believe that those organisations have an obligation to provide information to influential people.
Dr Lynda Scott: Can the Minister point to where in the 1995 northern Regional Health Authority contract with ASH there is a gagging clause and a lobbying-MPs-for-a-law-change clause, and if he cannot point to it, why is he trying to spin this as a rollover of contract rather than a major constitutional shift by this Government?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The so-called gagging clause, as stated by that member, is one in relation to public statements in advertising. It is clause 17 of a contract signed between ATAK, the Maori health coalition, and the Health Funding Authority. The one I have here was signed on 1 July 1999 when that Government was in power. This clause is a standard part of any contract that places an obligation for both parties to speak with one another before they go out in public and criticise one another.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a very precise question about a 1995 contract and a claim he made around it. He answered by quoting a clause out of a 1999 contract, a completely different contract. He has quoted the clause and I require him to table the document.
Mr SPEAKER: Will the Minister table that particular document?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reconsider that. I did not hear the Minister quote from the clause, not at all. I heard him refer to the fact that there was a similar provision within the clause; it was not a quotation. The Standing Order is very precise about what it does cover.
Mr SPEAKER: I shall ask the member whether he specifically quoted from the document, or did he answer the question? I know he quoted clause 17.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, I did not quote directly from this document.
Mr SPEAKER: Right, all I need is for the member to give me that information.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We get into an extreme amount of difficulty then, if when the Minister was first asked this question yesterday he gave answers that proved to be wrong and he had to come down late at night and correct them. Today he quoted from a document during question time when he was required to table it. The document showed that what the Minister was saying was at the very least debatable. I think when he reads his Hansard we will probably see him back in the House on Tuesday correcting it. Then we asked him a deliberate question about the document that was tabled—in fact we held the question back so he could have access to the document—he does not answer the question, he answers it in relation to a different document 4 years later. Surely you cannot let that answer stand as addressing the question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I object to much of the material within that point of order, which itself is out of order and irrelevant. To keep reverting to matters previously raised by points of order ruled upon and dealt with, is disorderly and will invite disorder from this side of the Chamber. The last part is a matter of whether the Minister addressed the question. He most certainly did. The thrust of the question was to see whether there had been any precedent before this Government took office. Indeed, there was.
Mr SPEAKER: The member did refer in his earlier answer to a particular contract. He then tabled that contract. The question asked by Dr Scott related to that contract and I invite the Minister to answer the question relating to that document.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: There was no such clause in the 1995 document. I am aware of such a clause in the 1999 document, signed by the previous Government. I am aware of that clause in subsequent documents.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to go back to the question of whether the Minister is required to table the document. Mr Speaker, when the Minister started to explain what he did, you cut him off. I may have misunderstood the Minister as well, but it appeared to me that he was stating what was in a document. I understand that he has the document. That is quoting from the document. It is not sufficient for him to say that he was not quoting. If it was from the document, then he was quoting from it. That is what the English language is, and if he did that then he has to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: The House has always made a distinction between actually quoting from a document and saying what is in it. I specifically asked the member whether he was quoting and he said no. I have to accept his word on that issue.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister held up the document in his hand, and the exact phrase that he used was: “Here it has got a clause 17(2)”. As soon as he said “clause 17(2)”, surely he was quoting from the document he was reading from?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I made my ruling before. The Minister said that he was not quoting specifically from the document and that he was referring to the substance of it. There has always been that distinction in all of the time I have been in this House.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are absolutely right, and Ministers go out of their way to make sure they do not have to table a document. They frequently come along with a different document. So they have it in their hands, and it is not the official document. A Minister does that so that when a member gets up and asks whether the Minister is reading from an official document, the Minister can obviously answer, “No, they are my own notes.” But that is not what this Minister did, Mr Speaker. We have a junior Minister here, and I think you are in danger of putting him in front of the Privileges Committee, Mr Speaker, because he stood up—as I understand it; he can deny it if he likes—and he gave the impression that that was the document. The moment that he quoted from it, that is what he did, and to suggest he did not is just a nonsense.
Mr SPEAKER: I asked the Minister a definite question as to whether he was quoting, and he said no. I have to accept his word. I have no other obligation.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Speaking to the point of order, I say that I did not quote directly word-for-word from the document. I do have the document and I am prepared to table it after question time, but I seek the opportunity to use it for the next question.
Mr SPEAKER: Right. The member has cleared the matter up.
Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill—Lobbying of Members of Parliament
11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Associate Minister of Health: How many members of Parliament were lobbied by anti-smoking groups, funded by the Ministry of Health, to “create a climate of support for amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act”; and were all of those members of Parliament advised that the Ministry of Health had paid those groups to undertake that activity?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health): I do not know how many members of Parliament have been lobbied to “create a climate of support for amendments to the Smoke-free Environments Act”. Amendments were first proposed in 1991, and again in 1993, 1995, and 1997, then in 1999 we had Tuku Morgan’s Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill. The answer to the second part of the question is, to the best of my knowledge, no.
Dr Lynda Scott: Noting that the ministry’s contracts with these organisations required them to provide 6-monthly reports on performance and outputs, is the Minister really expecting the House to believe that the Government and its officials paid these organisations to lobby MPs, but did not require them to prove that they had delivered on the very specific outputs listed in the 2000 contract; and is that an effective way to spend precious health dollars?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have not received reports from that contract. I believe it is appropriate for those organisations to spend taxpayers’ money informing people about the dangers of smoking. As quoted from the 1995 contract, there has always been an obligation for them to “liaise with Government and private health agencies, members of Parliament, political parties, and the media”. This has been a standard part of their contracts for many years.
H V Ross Robertson: Does the Associate Minister of Health have any advice that concerns about contracts containing such clauses—dating from 1993 to the present day—were raised by Ministers of Health with the Health Funding Authority of the Ministry of Health?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, possibly because the Minister of Health has never been involved in negotiating these contracts, which I presume is the reason why Bill English never objected to the contracts while he was Minister.
Rodney Hide: When the Minister met the representatives of Action on Smoking and Health, the Smokefree Coalition, and Apararangi Tautoko Auahi Kore, did he know that his own officials were paying these groups to see him; if not, would he not have expected his officials to tell him that these meetings were part of their “performance indicators”, with these lobby groups bought and paid for with health dollars?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I meet every day with many people whose salaries are paid for by the taxpayer, including members of Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will come specifically to the question that was asked by Mr Hide.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I was not informed, but I am aware that they are organisations—
Hon Roger Sowry: Yes, so are we.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: That was not a very good one. They are organisations that are funded by contracts with the Ministry of Health. I know that, along with most other members of Parliament.
Hon Peter Dunne: How does the Minister justify his ministry giving funding to private sector agencies to lobby members of Parliament and others to support the Smoke-free Environments Bill, which is a member’s bill that his own Government has thus far shown unwillingness to adopt as a Government measure by virtue of the fact that it still remains on the Order Paper as a member’s bill?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not find that satisfactory. That is why I am investigating these contracts, and have asked for assistance from the State Services Commission to review contracts in place.
Dr Lynda Scott: Noting that the State Services Commission has produced a series of fact sheets on political neutrality, and that one of those states that public servants should not initiate oral or written contacts with MPs or any political party without the prior knowledge and consent of their Minister, why is it acceptable for the Ministry of Health to contract for anti-smoking groups to undertake an activity that they themselves are expressly forbidden from doing, if he is saying he knew nothing about it?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: We are currently seeking advice from the State Services Commission on that very thing. I am not sure why the previous Government allowed such contracts to be put in place, either. That is why we are seeking advice on that very matter.
Rodney Hide: Could the Minister tell the House whether the gagging order clause and the “let’s lobby MPs to affect a law change” clause were ordered by the officials without any Minister knowing, or were added at the direction of the Minister of Health; or does this Minister not know who was responsible for a political operation that even caught him?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am happy to quote word for word from the document that was signed in 1999 by the previous Government. Clause 17 is the gagging clause that the member refers to. I had no input into such a clause. The previous Minister under the previous Government may have—I doubt that. It stated: “Neither of us may during or after this agreement, either directly or indirectly, criticise the other publicly without first discussing the matters of concern with the other in good faith and in a cooperative instructive manner.” This is a standard clause in any good faith agreement between two parties.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have quite a serious situation with this Minister. Yesterday everything was OK, today it is not. The situation is that we have had taxpayers’ money used to lobby MPs. We want to know if it was a covert operation directed by the Minister of Health, or by officials. This Minister is talking about documents that we have not seen, that we are not asking questions about. I ask you, for the sake of this House, get that Minister to answer the question or just explain that he does not know.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did definitely address that particular question that was asked.
12. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Has his ministry provided assistance to any member of Parliament who is not part of the executive to prepare a member’s bill, for example, one that seeks to decriminalise cannabis?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): No, the ministry has provided no assistance to provide for any member a member’s bill on decriminalising cannabis.
Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of that answer, can the Minister then explain why his ministry has been working on a civil union bill since 3 May 2002, yet it adopted it as Government policy only in May 2003, and for most of the intervening period that draft bill was a member’s bill in the name of Mr Russell Fairbrother that had not even been drawn from the ballot?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member wants to ask a question about the civil union bill he will have to ask the Minister to whom that particular bill has been delegated. I have done no work in that area and do not know information pertaining to it.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister saying to the House that his ministry has done no work on a civil union bill since 2002?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The question sets down as the example to the original question the question of cannabis. That does come within my responsibilities. If he wants to ask about the civil union bill he should have used that as an example and asked the correct Minister.
Richard Worth: Following on the question asked of the Minister, would it be the case that if someone like Mr Tanczos was to put forward a bill of the type that he proposed, that there would be support from the ministry to assist in that drafting exercise?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No. If a member wants to introduce a member’s bill, the normal way they go about doing that is get the assistance from the parliamentary Clerk’s Office to do it.
Hon Peter Dunne: Following on from that answer, will the Minister give this House a categorical assurance that no ordinary non-executive member of Parliament is receiving assistance from his ministry to draft members’ bills that may or may not become subsequently part of the Government’s legislative agenda?
Hon PHIL GOFF: When I asked my ministry whether it has prepared or is preparing a member’s bill for any member, the answer was clearly “No”.
Questions No. 4 and 11 to Minister
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health): I seek leave to table a contract signed on 1 July 1999 between the Smokefree Coalition Trust and the Health Funding Authority
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I seek leave to table the submission to the Health Committee by Apararangi Tautoko Auahi Kore which is paid for by the Ministry of Health but makes no mention of that fact.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that submission. Is there any objection? There is.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and