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Questions And Answers - 22 February 2006

Questions And Answers Wednesday, 22 February 2006

Questions To Ministers

Transport, Minister—Confidence

1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Transport; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Dr Don Brash: What confidence can New Zealanders have in her Minister and in her Government, when today’s announcement from Transit shows that we will all be stuck sitting in traffic jams for a very long time to come because of Transit’s need to cancel a number of major roading projects all over the country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Clearly, the Leader of the Opposition does not know the difference between a draft document and a final outcome, and I know that the Leader of the Opposition will be greatly disappointed at the news reports: “Government rejects Transit cuts to roading programme”.

Dr Don Brash: How on earth can the Prime Minister have any confidence at all in the Minister when an agency for which he is responsible produced an elaborate and expensive report dealing with a multibillion dollar programme over a full decade, only to have a more senior Minister advise, less than an hour after its release, that it was fit only for the dustbin?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That was like being slapped over the wrist by a wet hanky.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question!

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: They do not like it. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition would not want to hold the Minister of Transport responsible for the rise in oil prices, which has had an effect on the programme. I am happy to say that because this Government has not promised unaffordable tax cuts it has room to move to address the issue.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Prime Minister any evidence to indicate whether the speed of the Leader of the Opposition in losing his grip on the Transit document was faster or slower than his speed in losing grip on the leadership?

Madam SPEAKER: I rule that question out of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not think it is acceptable for you to say just that the question is out of order. This Minister has been right at the heart of all the difficulties that we have had in the House trying to work our way through Standing Orders in recent days. We have just had a ruling from you about the appropriateness of questions to the Prime Minister and the expanse of her responsibilities, and here he is—a senior Minister—standing up and taking your ruling apart. This man should be required to apologise to the House, if not asked to leave it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: We have had a tradition of Leaders of the Opposition throwing ballpoints and now Transit reports around the House. If they do that, they can expect a bit of retribution.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank both members. That was not a point of order. I had ruled the question out of order. I say to Mr Brownlee that it did not relate to my ruling. I had given that ruling, and that was the end of the matter. That was on a different point. The question was out of order. It was ruled out of order.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I point out to you that Mr Mallard himself was the person on his feet yesterday calling the attention of the House to the use of ironic expressions and other such things in questions. That, I think, simply compounds the difficulty that he has got himself into.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. That is why that question was out of order.

Peter Brown: Does the Prime Minister recall that the Rt Hon Winston Peters when Treasurer in 1998 transferred 2.1c per litre of petrol from the Crown account into the land transport account with a view that it would be an ongoing process, and does she recall also that that was stopped by the previous National Government immediately after the fall of the coalition; noting that, does she accept that had the funding process continued there would now be billions more dollars in roading investment, the country would be far better off economically, and many New Zealanders who have been killed would still be alive, and that the current temporary Leader of the Opposition would be lauding the Minister of Transport instead of questioning our confidence in him?

Madam SPEAKER: The member is to ask a question, not give a speech. That is a warning to everyone in this House.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am absolutely prepared to accept the member’s word on what happened, and what that meant for the roading programme. I am sure that had the former Treasurer, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, been able to continue as he had planned, the roading programme would not have been allowed to lapse the way it did under the previous Government.

Gerry Brownlee: What’s happened for 6 years?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have been asked by Mr Brownlee, who interjects constantly, what has happened in the last 6 years, I tell him that land transport funding is up 80 percent.

Dr Don Brash: What confidence can New Zealanders have in Labour’s so-called commitment to roading, when today’s announcement from Transit is so markedly different from its report issued only 6 months ago; and is it not true that over the last 6 years there has been a steady procession of commitments to build major road projects—almost none of which have been delivered on time?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If one were to compare the value of projects under way or just completed in 2004-05 with those between 1999-2000, one would find that they are ten times as great as those under the National Government at the latter time. That is a good record.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that there was a bill before Parliament in 1995 to ensure that all money collected for the purpose of road construction and maintenance, and road safety, would be used for those purposes, but it was voted against by the National Party and, secondly, does she have any reports that a party in this country has received significant funding from those seeking to have roads privatised—which would explain the speed at which National’s leader dropped the report on fuel-based funding but maintains in his secret closet privatised funding from sources outside this country?

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that in supplementary questions the Minister is required to answer only one question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is quite clear that in the last 6 years there has been a huge increase in funding and activity on our roads and in our public transport system, because this Government has been prepared to invest in that. I know that New Zealand First is fully supportive of a greatly speeded-up roading programme, and that is what we have been providing. Where the National Party got its largesse from—who knows? But the truth will come out.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Prime Minister assure the House that the commitment to increased funding for public passenger transport in the Government’s post-election agreements will not be sacrificed to make up the shortfall for Transit’s wish lists for even more new roads?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That is certainly not the intention. I think where the member and I would agree is that there is no roading solution to the problems; there is a multimodal solution that covers alternatives to transport: roading, walking, cycling, and public passenger transport.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister recall her much-vaunted commitment in December 2003 to radically accelerate the road-building programme in Auckland, and the letter from the head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce 18 months later saying that no acceleration was visible at that point, or the repeated empty promises from Transit to build State Highway 20, the Mount Roskill extension; and what does that say about how seriously we should take this latest Transit programme?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Well, if the member had had time even to glance at the programme, he would have seen there is an absolute commitment to State Highway 20 in it. That is the first point. Secondly, I am sure it will be a great concern to him that the head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce has come out today and said that it is taking great comfort from the fact that the Government finds the document unacceptable—and will do something about it.

Dr Don Brash: Will the Prime Minister now commit to spending all the revenue generated from the petrol excise tax on roads; if not, why not?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You didn’t, and you wouldn’t.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I could certainly quote the leader of New Zealand First as saying the National Party never did, or made any sign of doing so. I can say that because of the rate at which spending on land transport has accelerated, that day cannot be too far away.

Rodney Hide: When did her Minister first alert her to the $635 million shortfall, and what action has she or her Minister of Finance taken to overcome the problem since that alert?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Ministers have been aware since before Christmas that there was likely to be a plan of this kind produced by Transit, not least because of the ripple-through effect of oil price increases on bitumen and other costs in the construction industry, and also because of the shortfall in revenue. So before Christmas Ministers have been actively turning their minds to how this would be addressed, and Mr Hide will recall that this was mentioned in the statement I gave last Tuesday, and Dr Cullen has been giving interviews about it for some time.

School Students—High Achievement

2. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received about high achievement by New Zealand school students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): Today the New Zealand Qualifications Authority reported the provisional results for scholarship 2005. One thousand eight hundred and five young people achieved 2,533 scholarships, and between them they will share $3 million over the next 3 years. I would like, therefore, to congratulate the eight young people who achieved three or more outstanding performances and will receive $10,000 a year for the next 3 years, the 55 young people receiving either premier or outstanding scholar awards who will receive between $5,000 and $10,000 a year for 3 years, and the 1,544 students who will receive a one-off scholarship of $500. These are the best and brightest of young New Zealanders, and I am sure the House joins me in wishing them every good fortune for their future studies.

Hon Marian Hobbs: How has the scholarship in 2005 recognised and rewarded these students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In 2004, following problems with scholarship results, two independent advisory groups were established to ensure that the 2005 scholarship results were fair. The Scholarship Reference Group, as it was called, made 26 recommendations to ensure improvements. I met with the group last week, which includes Professors John Hattie and Terry Crooks, both assessment experts. They advise me they are very pleased with the improvements that have taken place this year, and besides congratulating the students, I therefore want to congratulate all those who have worked so hard to give us an outstanding scholarship exam season this year.

Allan Peachey: Why are there an estimated 150,000 children currently in the New Zealand schooling system who will move through that system and not learn to read, to write, or to do mathematics to a level necessary to function effectively as adults in our community?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are not that number of young people. There are currently 11,098 who are on reading-recovery programmes. This Government is committed to all young people being functionally literate in numeracy and in literacy.

Allan Peachey: I seek the leave of the House to table two documents—first, the Education Review Office annual report for last year, which states that up to 20 percent of New Zealand children are not enjoying success at school, and I take that to mean not learning to read and write.

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

Allan Peachey: The second document is a report from the New Zealand Herald dated 25 October 2005 in which that 20 percent is translated to 153,000 students, and which has the Minister acknowledging that.

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

Roading—Funding Shortfall

3. Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga) to the Minister of Transport: What action does he intend to take to correct the funding shortfall and ensure that there are no delays of commencement dates for any major roading projects?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Transport): The Government’s roading programme is the largest ever funded in New Zealand, and we are working to ensure projects proceed. As Ministers have already said, the Government has commissioned work on options to address both funding and costs, and options will be considered by Cabinet before the State highway programme is finalised in June.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Why did the Minister let Transit put out an interim draft plan in February, when that has never been done before, at huge cost to the taxpayer, only to find an hour later that the Associate Minister of Finance said that it was a load of rubbish and did not count for anything?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The transparent way in which we plan for State highway funding and programmes follows the law. The present funding available to Transit New Zealand is that which is projected in the draft.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can the Minister confirm the view expressed in the Transit document that congestion between Mana and Plimmerton and on the Ngauranga interchange stretch of State Highway 1 in Wellington is a major problem; if so, will he therefore confirm to the House that the agreement between the Government and United Future regarding funding for Transmission Gully, if that is the preferred option to arise from the current consultation process—noting that 96 percent of the submissions favour it—will, in fact, go ahead?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that the Transit document identifies the congestion problems as we leave Wellington to the north. I cannot confirm what the outcome will be of the process that is currently running.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw your attention to the question asked by Maurice Williamson, which was a direct request that the Minister of Transport breach the law of this country. The member may not recall it, but he was the Minister of Transport, and for a Minister to interfere with the decision-making processes of Transit is, in fact, a breach of the law. His question should have been ruled out.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for raising that matter, but the question was a question; it was not seeking any breach of the law. The member was asking a question for information purposes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is not the way he phrased it; he said: “Why did the Minister…”, etc. That was a direct invitation for a Minister of the Crown, the Minister of Transport, to break the law of this land—something that no doubt Mr Williamson did countless times, to no effect.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, but obviously it was a legitimate question and the Minister could, in fact, have answered in those terms. He chose to answer in the terms he did.

Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask whether you are going to allow that list member, or whatever he is—the new Minister of Foreign Affairs—to say that I broke the law several times.

Madam SPEAKER: We are now trying in this House to do away with as many of those flippant comments as we can. I have dealt with that point of order; I upheld the question as being a legitimate question. I now request that the member asks his supplementary question.

Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. He did not deal with the second part. He said that I had broken the law many times while I was the Minister, and I do not accept that. I do not believe that he has any evidence of that, and I wish to have the protection of the Chair of this House to stop the member making such a claim

Madam SPEAKER: If the member is asking the member to withdraw, I will ask the member to withdraw, because of the offence that was given by that comment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise profusely. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: That is all that is required at this stage.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise profusely. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What is growing up in this House early in this session is the view that National Party members can do and act as they please, and that they can be so sensitive that any slight suggestion that they got it intellectually wrong, as shown by their past behaviour, is taken as an absolute affront. That is OK for them, but if we carry on in this House in the way that they are seeking you to judge various behaviours in this House, then we will have a turgid, boring House like something out of a Chrysler advertisement, which is thoroughly antiseptic and of no value to anyone. The reason why I make that response is that any former Minister of Transport who invites another Minister to intervene surely had a habit of doing so himself.

Madam SPEAKER: I ask the member to please be seated. That was not a valid point of order. There has been a withdrawal and an apology. Certainly, one tries to conduct question time and debates in this House in keeping with the Standing Orders and with discretion, because this is a debating chamber. I now ask the member to ask his supplementary question.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask you to assure the House, on the back of the very flippant comment made by the Hon Maurice Williamson, “… that list member, or whatever he is ..”, that all list and constituency members of this House, be it the honourable Dr Don Brash or the Deputy Prime Minister or yourself, are on equal terms here.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please sit down. I have already dealt with that matter. I did ask the member, and any other members, not to make those sorts of flippant comments. That matter has been dealt with; it does not need to be revisited.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Does the Minister consider it a satisfactory way to run the transport portfolio, and to give surety to the Contractors Federation and others about the long-term plan, when Transit published an enormously big, glossy document in June 2005 that, before it hit the shelves, had to have an orange sticker stuck on the bottom, stating that the document did not include reference to the extra $500 million just announced, when Transit then published an update in August with the same photo—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest of respect, this idea, no doubt dreamt up by the research unit and some spin doctor down in the National Party—

Madam SPEAKER: This is not a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no, it is a point of order.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please come to his point of order succinctly.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that this is the second tossing of documents we have seen today. It was bad enough the first time, with the posturing and posing that there was, but now, here are those members again, someone having been promoted on to the front bench for 5 minutes, putting on a display. Frankly, it brings Parliament into disrepute, and everyone who watches a TV screen will know full well what I mean. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to make them desist.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member, and I bless the members for their sense of irony and humour. Certainly, throwing documents around the House is not permitted, particularly if it is others. But putting them on the floor just requires someone to come and pick them up. So I suggest that that behaviour be used with discretion.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Does the Minister think it a suitable way to run the transport portfolio, and to give surety to people like the contractors out there, when Transit published a big, thick, glossy document costing tens of thousands of dollars in June last year that, before it even made the bookshelf, had to have a sticker on it stating that it was not valid because of changes, when Transit put out an update in August, 2 months later, with the same car and the same road on the cover, stating that the plan had all changed and here was the new plan, when by February it had to put out another massive glossy document and all of these regional documents, and when, within an hour of putting those out, it had the Associate Minister of Finance saying: “Sorry, that’s not right either; forget all that.”, at a cost, I say to the Minister, of tens of thousands of dollars; is that satisfactory?

Madam SPEAKER: I remind members that this time is for questions and not speeches.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would say to the tosser of documents that the $685 million budget difference represents only 3.4 percent of the total $22 billion that will go into the National Land Transport Fund over the next 10 years.

Rt Hon Helen Clark: Could the Minister spell out a little more clearly to the Hon Maurice Williamson the nature of the statutory requirement for Transit to consult on its draft plans?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The legislation that this Government passed in the last term provides for a transparent process, so that the wool cannot be pulled over the eyes of New Zealand taxpayers and road users—as it was in the 1990s—by giving people a right of participation in funding decisions and the prioritisation of funding.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Can the Minister explain why, in the documents released today—whether or not they are valid—Transit put a construction date for most of the major projects in appendix D3, but in the actual regional flyers that came with it the construction dates for nearly every project are somewhere between 8 and 10 years longer than those dates? For example, the Kôpû bridge construction is scheduled to begin in 2008-09 in this document, but it is scheduled for a 2014-15 start in the flyer. How can anyone know what the valid start date for those projects is?

Hon DAVID PARKER: By relying upon the draft programme as the document of authority.

Hon Paul Swain: Can the Minister confirm that considerable extra funds have gone into transport in the last 5 years compared with the 1990s, and that that is in stark contrast to a policy of privatising the roads, which was put forward by National and Maurice Williamson, when he was the Minister—one of the reasons why National was thrown out in 1999?

Madam SPEAKER: There was no need for that last comment.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that, and I note that the funding for State highway new road construction increased from $248 million in 1999 to some $580 million this year, and that even under today’s projections on the basis of current assured levels of funding—which may increase—funding will still increase next year to over $600 million.

Hon Maurice Williamson: Which of the published dates should members of this House now be working to: the dates that appear in the massive document that Transit put out today, which shows, for example, that the start date of the Kôpû bridge construction is 2008-09, or should members be working from the regional flyer document that comes with it, which states that the Kôpû bridge start date is 2014-15; which of those dates is correct?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said, it is that in the projected State highway forecast plan, which is the lengthy document that the member tossed first.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister tell the House precisely who the Government has commissioned to work on the range of options to close the funding gap, which was referred to in his media release, and when can we expect detailed announcements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Some of those work streams will be carried out by Treasury, underneath the Minister of Finance, to determine what other funding streams should be brought into the fund. Some of the work relating to cost control will be carried out under my ministry.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I did ask whether the Minister could give us some sort of accurate date as to when we could expect something.

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I said in answer to the primary question, those options will be considered by Cabinet before the State highway programme is finalised in June.

Hon Maurice Williamson: In light of the Minister’s answer to the previous question I asked, which was that we should use the dates in the big, thick consolidated Transit book today and not the ones in the little regional flyer, why did Transit tell me only an hour ago that the differences between the two dates, which are considerable in most cases, are that the dates in the big document are what Transit could build now if it had the money, but the ones in the regional flyer are what is planned to be built because there is no money to build the original programme—and I thank him very much for his assurance that he will work off the first dates, not the second?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I cannot confirm that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a “privatise all roads” speech delivered in Queenstown, which was given by one Maurice Williamson, the then Minister of Transport, and which had all the levitation of a lead balloon at the time.

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

Hon Maurice Williamson: Does the Minister regret Labour’s having sold Government Print to Graeme Hart, given that the Government is now involved in funding the successor to that business on almost a weekly basis for mindless, rubbishy documents that need to be reprinted just about as quickly as Ministers change their minds?

Madam SPEAKER: I think that is a marginal question, but if the Minister wants to address it, he may.

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I do not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Jim McLay report made to National, advocating that all roading in this country be owned by six private companies.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection. It will not be tabled.

Taxation Policy—Finance and Revenue, Ministers

4. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Revenue: Is he satisfied that his working relationship with the Minister of Finance regarding tax policy is an open and constructive one?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue): Absolutely. The Minister of Finance and I have had an open, constructive working relationship and friendship for well over 20 years.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it evidence of a good working relationship when the Minister of Finance says that the increase in personal tax thresholds may not go ahead because: “We have to find answers to the fiscal hole left by the abolition of the carbon tax”, only for the Minister of Revenue to correct Dr Cullen, saying: “It is not a question of filling holes actually”, and, incidentally, who is correct?

Hon PETER DUNNE: We were talking about two entirely different things. I was talking about the state of the Budget as a whole, and I do not think a minor difference of that description is evidence of a bad working relationship. If it were, I would ask the member how he manages to sit next to Mr McCully, given their differences on foreign policy.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When that Minister said recently on the business tax review that: “The business community should have confidence that the changes will be substantial.”, was he trying to correct an impression given by Dr Cullen’s earlier statement: “It may well be that we end up saying … this is just too big and bold and we want something much smaller and more modest”?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No, I was confirming Dr Cullen’s view that the changes would be bold and innovative.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: With Dr Cullen telling the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and repeating it on the radio the next day, that the Budget personal tax changes may not go ahead, what guarantee can he give as Minister of Revenue that those personal tax rate threshold increases will go ahead on 1 April 2008?

Hon PETER DUNNE: That will depend on this House passing legislation to give effect to those changes. We are still working on that legislation.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Did he voice his support for a free-trade agreement with Taiwan last Thursday—something totally contrary to the Government’s one-China policy—to send a warning shot to his Labour partner that he does not appreciate being publicly usurped on tax policy by Dr Cullen?

Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In view of what occurred earlier, I just wondered whether that came within the scope of the original question. That was all.

Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. If the Minister wishes to address it—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Clearly the Minister of Revenue does not have responsibility for trade policy, and while he might even want to comment on it, he is proscribed from doing that by the Standing Orders.

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Both were actually within the scope of the question, which is why I hesitated. That is why, if the Minister wishes to address the part of the question that relates to tax within his responsibility, that would be in order.

Hon PETER DUNNE: The comments that the member raised in the question were not made as Minister of Revenue but as leader of my party. But I can assure the member that they were made out of heartfelt conviction, not out of any attempt to try to exert some pressure on issues of tax policy.

Police—Destruction of Rifles

5. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Are the police to proceed with plans to destroy more than 800 Remington bolt-action rifles; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Acting Minister of Police): Yes, for the reasons given to the member in July 2005 and again in December 2005.

Ron Mark: How can the police legitimately justify the destruction of these sporting rifles, therefore denying taxpayers the opportunity to recover approximately $300,000, by their “obligations under an international convention to prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in small arms.” when New Zealand has not signed the protocol of which they speak; further, New Zealand has not ratified that protocol and will not do so unless the House completely supports the Arms Amendment Bill (No 3), which is still before the House?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I should advise the member that the police routinely destroy hundreds of seized weapons every year—some of them quite valuable weapons. The principal reason that the police have independently made that decision is they believe that dumping 800 high-powered weapons on to the market would create risks that it does not wish to incur. Secondly, it believes that that decision is consistent with the United Nations recommendations and therefore wants to be in line with what other responsible countries do.

Ron Mark: If the police are so concerned about dumping 800 sporting rifles on the market into the hands of police-authorised, licensed firearms dealers and police-authorised, duly accredited, fit and proper firearms owners, what does that now say about the police’s confidence in their own vetting systems, and what does it say about the taxpayers’ right to have money recouped back into their coffers, which could so easily be done?

Madam SPEAKER: I just remind members again that questions are for questions, not speeches, and in the case of supplementary questions, the Minister is only obliged to address one of them.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I and, I think, most members of this House would have every confidence in the police vetting system. It is very good. But that member knows as well as I do that weapons that are acquired legitimately do not always end up in legitimate hands.

Kyoto Protocol—Auditor-General’s Report

6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What action does he intend to take in response to the Auditor-General’s report to the Local Government and Environment Committee that the Public Finance Act 1989 was breached last year for not including the then $309,843,000 Kyoto liability in the supplementary estimates?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): None. I am advised that the Kyoto Protocol liability was not included in the 2004-05 supplementary estimates because the value of the liability had not been ascertained by the date of those estimates. The liability was included in the books as soon as it was reliably quantified in consultation with Treasury and Audit New Zealand, and validating legislation is now before the House.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why would the Auditor-General’s office tell the select committee that the Government had broken the law, broken the Public Finance Act, in not disclosing the liability, if the figures were not available, and why should anybody in this country believe that Minister and that Government over the Auditor-General after the Prime Minister’s record over the pledge card fiasco?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Because the Auditor-General did not express himself in those words. It is a moot point as to what particular day the liability was quantified to the standard expected for inclusion in the Crown books, but it is absolutely clear that neither the Minister nor the ministry failed to disclose the projected deficit in volume terms—in terms of the number of tonnes of carbon dioxide—and accounting for it was duly made by Treasury.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister say that the Auditor-General did not express in clear language that the Government had broken the Public Finance Act, when, in response to the question “Did the Government breach the Finance Act?”, Mr Keate from the Auditor-General’s office said: “Yes, they did. There was a breach.”; and, furthermore, the office, in its written advice to the committee, said that validating legislation would be required to fix the difficulty, which had been notified to the Minister of Finance?

Hon DAVID PARKER: As I tried to explain in one of my earlier answers, at the time when the supplementary estimates were being prepared it was known that a deficit was projected for the first commitment period, but it was, at that time, projected by the relevant ministry in terms of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, not dollars. Crown accounts express things in dollars. The conversion of that kilogram figure to the amount that Treasury thought should be included in the accounts—in dollar terms—did not happen until after the closing date for supplementary estimates.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister come to the House and expect us to believe that explanation when the Auditor-General rejects it and says the Government broke the law?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I do not accept that the Auditor-General was blind to the fact that the disclosure had been made in terms of quantity rather than dollars. Indeed, the Auditor-General appeared, on my reading of the report, to be quite satisfied that the matter had been appropriately tidied up as soon as it could be.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: To clarify issues, I seek leave to table the Auditor-General’s report that says that the Government did breach the Public Finance Act, and that it required validating legislation, and, furthermore, the transcript from the select committee—

Madam SPEAKER: Can I take the first one. Leave is sought to table that report. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the select committee transcript in which Mr Keate from the Auditor-General’s office said it was a breach of the Public Finance Act, because there was no appropriation for that year.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain to the House why the Government should not face some consequence of breaching the Public Finance Act, when anybody else who breaks the law faces consequences, even if the offence is a minor speeding offence under his transport portfolio—or is this $300 million bungle by the Government in the same class as the Prime Minister signing paintings she did not paint, the Prime Minister speeding in motorcades and not facing prosecution—

Madam SPEAKER: That is not relevant to the question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith:—and the sort of standard we have seen from Mr Benson-Pope?

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but I am trying here to ensure that questions are specific, and answered accordingly.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The issue here is compliance with the law, and this Government has a track record, whether it is paintings, motorcades, or Mr Benson-Pope, of ignoring the law. I am asking the Minister—

Madam SPEAKER: I ask the Minister, then, to address the question.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I quote from the report from the Auditor-General in my reply:

“The unappropriated expenditure during 2004/05 relates to the recognition of New Zealand’s Kyoto Protocol liability. This was not included in the supplementary estimates as Treasury decided to include this liability under Vote Climate Change in late June. Therefore, it is outside the ministry’s”—that is, the ministry for climate change—“control.”

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister been advised of any actions taken by that member when he was a Minister, or by any other member of the National Cabinet, to reduce our inevitable liabilities for the high cost of carbon in the future, after the National Government had signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio in 1992, which committed us to reducing emissions, and after its Minister Rob Storey had committed to a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2000?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question—

Madam SPEAKER: Would members please be seated. There is a lot of moving around the Chamber today, which is very distracting for everyone, and members having their backs to everyone is not a good idea, either. Would members please sit down.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Not only were the allegations made by Jeanette Fitzsimons untrue but, more important, events that occurred a good 6 to 8 years before the Minister came to office are well outside his ministerial responsibility.

Hon Trevor Mallard: From memory, I think the question was phrased: “Has he seen any reports of” or: “Has he seen any evidence of”. The Minister’s having seen reports or evidence of matters, even if they occurred before the time he was responsible for them, is certainly something that comes within his responsibility—if he has seen them as Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: There is no rule about how far back one can refer, as long as the reports are official reports. The question was phrased correctly, so I ask the Minister to address it.

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen no such report, because there was nothing to report on.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the people of New Zealand have any confidence in the Government’s approach to Kyoto, when it proposed the “fart tax”, then dropped it, proposed the carbon tax, then dropped it, and then told us yesterday that it was back in discussions with the forestry sector, although the forestry sector said last night that that could not be believed, either; is there anything about climate change that this Government has said that can be believed and has been stuck with?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Climate change policy is in a state of flux worldwide, and New Zealand is not excepted from that. We have 15 comprehensive work programmes due to be reported back to Parliament within the month.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table a news release from Mr Jim Anderton yesterday stating that he had had a very positive meeting with the sector, and that officials would be talking with it again, and also a release from the forestry sector saying that this was all untrue, and that there would be no further engagement with officials.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table both those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Kyoto agreement, with the National Government’s signature on it.

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

Firearms Safety Seminar—Police Contribution

7. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Police: How much did the police contribute to the budget of the international firearms safety seminar currently taking place in Christchurch, and what other support did they provide?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Acting Minister of Police): The firearms safety seminar was jointly organised and coordinated by the Mountain Safety Council, the Council of Licensed Firearm Owners, and the New Zealand Police. The police contributed $20,000 towards the cost of the seminar.

Keith Locke: Does the funding of keynote speaker, Canadian Gary Mauser, indicate that the Government supports his view that reducing criminal violence is helped when Governments “encourage responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns”; and is there any connection between the invitation to Gary Mauser and the fact that he and conference organiser, Inspector Joe Green, who is also in charge of gun registration for the New Zealand Police, went off on a hunting trip together last year?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer to the first question is no. But let me remind the member that he risks misleading the House and the country by quoting five out of 22 presenters. I wonder why he did not mention that other presenters are Professor Annette Beautrais, who supports tougher legislation in New Zealand because it has helped reduce firearms-related suicide; David Capie, who has supported and improved firearms laws, secure armouries, and improved weapon controls to stop illicit small-arms trade in the Pacific; and Tsutomu Ishiguri, who is the director of the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific. Clearly, a wide range of views are being expressed at this seminar. The Government does not stand behind, or vet, the view of anybody who turns up at a seminar to debate what is best to make firearms safe. In relation to the second part of the question, I regret the fact that the member is reflecting on the integrity of Inspector Joe Green, simply because he did something totally legitimate, which was to go hunting with Mr Mauser. I would no more hold that against him than if I saw him having a beer in the pub with an anti-firearms person.

Keith Locke: Does it not undermine and run counter to the main purpose of the seminar as the Minister has just outlined it—that is, firearm safety—to fund keynote speakers such as John Lott, who is the author of a book called More Guns, Less Crime, American National Rifle Association lobbyist Mark Barnes, and Colin Greenwood, who describes the British handgun ban as “a pathetic irrelevance”; and what does the Minister think it achieves when five of the 11 keynote speakers at the conference are extreme pro-gun lobbyists?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is compounding the error that I just drew to his attention. He is selectively taking some—five out of 22—presenters and facilitators and saying that he does not agree with their views. I do not happen to agree with their views either, but a range of people are invited to the seminar to debate and, as the programme says—if the member had bothered reading it—to “exchange ideas, concepts, strategies and procedures for firearm safety”. One does not get a debate if one only chooses like-minded people who all say the same thing.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table photographs from the website of Canadian Gary Mauser of him and Inspector Joe Green on a hunting trip together.

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

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table an article from the website of Canadian Gary Mauser in which he explains how one reduces criminal violence by encouraging citizens to have concealed handguns.

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

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table the biographies and abstracts on the Christchurch seminar website that explain the extreme pro-gun views of the five out of 11 keynote speakers I have mentioned.

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

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table the full programme of the international firearm safety seminar, which sets out the seminar’s objectives—which are purely focused on firearm safety—and gives a balanced account of the wide range of speakers who have turned up to that seminar.

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

Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty): I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Because the Minister of Health is not in a position to answer this question, I seek leave to have this question held over until tomorrow.

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

Focus 2000 Ltd—Auditing Systems

8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: When he said that the quality of care at Focus 2000 Ltd was “no better or worse than the quality of care anywhere else around the country.”, did he have confidence in the auditing systems used to assess disability services, and does he still have confidence in those systems?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes and yes. The quality control and auditing systems used by the Ministry of Health are comprehensive, but no system is perfect.

Hon Tony Ryall: When the Minister of Health told Parliament yesterday that he had received new information from a variety of sources about Focus 2000 mainly during the course of Friday with a little more over the weekend, why did he not pass that information on to the Ministry of Health, given that the ministry confirmed this morning that the Minister has not passed on any new information or allegations already in the public arena, nor has it received any material from the weekend; and should he not be passing on that information, which the Minister himself called “potentially serious” allegations, to Ministry of Health officials who are meeting with Focus 2000 representatives tomorrow?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I understand that information has been passed on. Those allegations, and they are allegations, are being investigated.

Ann Hartley: What options exist for people to bring forward complaints about disability support services?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: If people have complaints, they should express their concerns to service providers. If they are not pleased with the reactions of service providers, they should immediately approach either the Ministry of Health, the Health and Disability Commissioner, or the Minister of Health, so their complaints can be investigated.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the Minister did indeed pass on all the information he had to the Ministry of Health, why then was he telling Parliament yesterday that he could not give members any details in order to protect both the privacy of individuals and the national interest, when the Ministry of Health revealed this morning that all that information is already in the public arena and there are no secretive new allegations, as the Minister has tried to suggest?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The rights of the complainants to privacy must be upheld. The accusations are being investigated by the Ministry of Health, and its officials will meet with the provider tomorrow.

Hon Tony Ryall: Why does the Minister of Health not treat the issues around Focus 2000 with the due seriousness that is appropriate, instead of embarking on that campaign of media spin about secretive allegations to protect the names of people who have been interviewed on the radio and who have given their names; or is all that part of a plan to cover up his embarrassment at yet again jumping the gun and being caught out in endorsing an organisation that he now does not want to endorse?

Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Minister of Health, and the ministry, are committed to due process wherever complaints are made. They are not undertaking some kind of cheap political campaign at the expense of disabled people in this country—as the National Party seems determined to do.

Minimum Wage—Reports

9. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What recent reports, if any, has she received on minimum wage levels?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Labour): A Department of Labour report shows that as of next month successive Labour-led Governments since 1999 will have lifted the minimum adult wage by 46 percent and the minimum youth wage by 95 percent.

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister seen any other reports concerning minimum wage rates?

Hon RUTH DYSON: As a matter of fact, I have. I have seen a report in which is expressed a strong desire to scrap the minimum wage and increase the number of people on welfare. I quote: “If they can’t live on those wages, then find some way of supplementing their income.” So said Dr Brash.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Nick Smith, at the end of that question, said: “That’s just untrue.” He is not allowed to say that about something that is said quite specifically by a Minister in this House. It calls into question the veracity of the Minister, and on many occasions members have been disciplined for doing that.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: A common technique of Ministers to get outside—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member speak just to the point of order, please?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes. Well, the point of order is about compliance with the Standing Orders. The Minister conveniently—and she is not the only Minister to do it—gets around Standing Order 377, in that it is not her job to talk about what Don Brash or any member of the National Party said. We are quite capable of talking for ourselves. So what Ministers do is get a long list of terrible things that were said—most of which are untrue—and tag on, right at the end, who said them. I interjected, quite properly, that what was said by Ruth Dyson was not true. It was a perfectly proper interjection, firstly because she has no responsibility for what was said—she was breaching Standing Order 377 in the first place—and, secondly, what she said was not true.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Madam Speaker—

Madam SPEAKER: It is members’ day!

Hon Trevor Mallard: I want to make it absolutely clear to the House that as that reply was being given by the Minister, Don Brash was nodding in confirmation—pleading guilty, in fact, to making the comments.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that. The point is whether there is an implication of deliberate misleading—and I did not take that to be this situation. It was just that it was wrong, from the member’s point of view; it was not that the Minister was personally misleading the House.

Hon RUTH DYSON: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand from the interjection Dr Smith made that he was accusing me of misrepresenting Dr Brash in a quote. That quote was directly from an interview with Dr Brash on Good Morning on Television One on 26 August 2004. Therefore my integrity has been challenged, and I ask you to seek withdrawal of that comment from Dr Smith.

Madam SPEAKER: Dr Smith, the Minister has sought a withdrawal of the comment—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What the Minister said was not true, and I stand by that.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister has asked, because offence was taken in respect of the implication. She has given evidence of where the quote came from.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Might you explain to the House, under Standing Order 377, where that Minister was in order at all, in talking about what Dr Brash had said, as it occurs all over the place. It occurs repeatedly. The reason why the House gets into trouble is that you do not enforce Standing Order 377, whereby Ministers have no responsibility for what any member of the Opposition says. It has nothing to do with their ministerial responsibilities. I think I am perfectly entitled, when members from this side of the House are half-quoted, to say “simply not true.”

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister was replying to a specific question as to whether she had seen any reports. The Minister had clearly seen a report, and furthermore she subsequently quoted the source and date of that report. It clearly was in order.

Madam SPEAKER: I think the point here, however, is that any member has a right to object to a personal reflection. That has happened here, so in that context I would ask the member to please withdraw the comment.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw.

Dr Wayne Mapp: How will the Government’s proposal to boost the minimum adult wage to $12 an hour in 2008 improve New Zealand’s already low productivity, given that Britain, the United States, and Australia have minimum wages lower as a percentage of incomes than New Zealand, but they are much wealthier than New Zealand?

Hon RUTH DYSON: The member is correct in pointing out that addressing productivity is a key priority for this Government, and it is good that we are able to do it with the lowest unemployment rates recorded in New Zealand for over two decades. Making workers feel valued for the value of the work that they contribute by giving them a fair wage is an important contributor to that goal.

Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Minister seen any OECD reports where the OECD now believes that minimum wages are a very positive reinforcement of productivity and economic growth for economies when previously they held a different view?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is absolutely correct, and I would recommend that the member who asked the previous supplementary question read the report.

Social Development and Employment, Minister—Allegations

10. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does he believe his ability to perform his duties as Minister for Social Development and Employment could be impaired, in light of allegations made against him in Investigate magazine; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): No, as Minister I have no responsibility for the views expressed in Investigate magazine.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister believe that his ability to perform his duties as Minister for Social Development and Employment would benefit from him issuing defamation proceedings against Investigate magazine and Mr Wishart, or is he willing to leave unanswered allegations amounting to misuse of his ministerial warrant?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think it is very important in this case that it is made clear to the House that allegations of a criminal nature were made about a Minister in the past. They were made about him in his personal capacity. Mr Wishart has suggested that the Minister used his position in relation to the Ombudsman—that is what he has said. Of course, any individual who has been dealt with by a Government department has the right to approach the Ombudsman. That is not something that is a ministerial responsibility, it is something that every individual has the right to do, and therefore the member cannot mix up personal matters and ministerial responsibility.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for the comment, but I listened carefully to the question and it is in the terms of the Standing Orders, and the Minister will answer the question within the terms of his responsibility.

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Those matters have been fully investigated, and as far as I am concerned there is nothing further to add.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister believe that his ability to perform his duties as Minister for Social Development and Employment would benefit from him issuing defamation proceedings against Investigate magazine and Mr Wishart, or is he willing to leave unanswered allegations that he acted improperly towards young women in his charge?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I just answered that question.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister accept that his ministry has overriding policy responsibility for the well-being of our most vulnerable children, and that allegations such as the ones made recently in Investigate magazine prevent him from doing his job?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes and no.

Judith Collins: What assurances has the Minister given to the Prime Minister that allegations of him influencing and intimidating the police will not affect his ability to perform his job as Minister for Social Development and Employment?

Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I think questions about my performance and capacity to perform in the role should be addressed to the Prime Minister.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister what assurances, if any, he had given the Prime Minister. I should not have to ask the Prime Minister what assurances she has received, if I am already asking him what he has told the Prime Minister.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question, and the member is perfectly entitled to lay down a question at a future time to do so.

Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. On that basis you are saying that the Minister does not need to answer any question—from now on, his answer can be just “Ask the Prime Minister.”?

Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. I addressed that point of order. The Minister is entitled to address the question. The Minister did address the question. It related to the subject matter of the questioner. It may not have been to the satisfaction of the questioner.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. How can it possibly be an answer addressing the question, when all the Minister did was say “Go ask the Prime Minister.”? The question from my colleague was quite specific, about what assurances he had given, as Minister, to the Prime Minister. That is a question that can be directed only to the Minister. It was directed quite properly, and the answer did not address the question.

Hon Mark Burton: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been listening for 2 days, and this has been happening repeatedly and we have just seen another example of it. A member raised a point of order, you made a ruling, the same member got up and basically engaged in a continuing debate with you about your ruling, and then a second National member got up and continued the same process. That is a blatant abuse of the Standing Orders, and it really is time that the National Party front bench was called to account.

Madam SPEAKER: I had ruled on it. The questioner asked a question; she received an answer. Whether or not the member liked the answer is not a matter for the Speaker to judge.

Stewart Island—Rakiura National Park

11. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Conservation: What assistance is the Government providing to ensure Stewart Island infrastructure is able to meet the tourism demands expected following the establishment of the Rakiura National Park?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Dr Cullen and I have just signed off on a $2.5 million grant to fund a range of projects on Stewart Island, including extending the sewerage scheme and building additional toilets, providing new footpaths, and providing a new building to house the local museum, council staff, and a tourism information centre. Those projects will be delivered in partnership with Southland District Council.

Steve Chadwick: What other initiatives is the Department of Conservation undertaking in the Rakiura National Park?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In the past year alone a number of important projects have been undertaken on the island. They include upgrading the popular Mason Bay huts so that they can accommodate more people, improving walking tracks, and working with local iwi to eradicate rats from the nearby Tîtî Islands.

United States Relationship—Foreign Policy

12. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays) to the Prime Minister: Has she been advised of reports that her Minister of Foreign Affairs is intent on building a better relationship between New Zealand and the United States; if so, does that represent the foreign policy of her Government?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, and I welcome building on the already very, very good relationship that New Zealand has with the United States.

Hon Murray McCully: Why did the Prime Minister respond to Mr Peters’ stated intention of seeking help from the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, to improve the relationship with the United States, by rejecting the need for a better relationship or any help from Mr Downer, because New Zealand could “paddle its own canoe”; and why did her Minister of Foreign Affairs ignore her and ask Mr Downer for help anyway?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Even the very best of relationships can always be improved on, and I look forward to the Minister’s efforts in that regard.

Hon Murray McCully: Which policy is the policy of the Prime Minister’s Government: the policy promoted by Mr Peters that we need a better relationship with the United States and that Mr Downer is helping us to get one, or her policy that the relationship with the United States needs no improvement and therefore we do not need any help from Mr Downer?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: He’s sensitive.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am always very sensitive about things that are total untruths. My point of order is that that statement made by Mr McCully is absurdly incorrect. It is not the policy of the Government, it has never been a policy articulated by me, and the member should not be allowed to get up and just make it up on the hoof, as he tried to do yesterday in front of a very august group of people, who went away horrified at his suggestions.

Madam SPEAKER: That is a debating point.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not sure of the name of the member—it is the new one over there next to the one from the West Coast—who interjected twice or three times during Mr Peters’ point of order. I know that the front-bench members are sticking to the rules; maybe the back benchers could.

Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear that, but I know we are getting towards the end of question time and there might be a slight anxiousness to move to the general debate. I just ask members to observe the rules. When points of order are being made—before they are ruled to be in or out of order—the members doing them are to be given courtesy.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I repeat that we have a very, very good relationship with the United States, but even the best relationships can always be built on. However, unlike the National Party, this Government would not sell the nuclear-free policy down the drain to do it.

Hon Murray McCully: When the Minister of Foreign Affairs said recently that he wanted to put the New Zealand - United States relationship “on a much more harmonious and positive level”, what was he saying about the current state of the relationship?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: He was saying precisely that very, very good relationships can still be improved. I might say it is a great comfort to speak for a party that has a policy, unlike the National Party—“McCully: Nats need policy”.

Te Ururoa Flavell: E whakaae ana te Pirimia ki te kôrero o tana Minita o te Manatû Aorere, i a ia e kî ana i tçnei Whare i te 13 o Hakihea i te tau kua hipa mô ngâ take whakawhitiwhiti kôrero ki ngâ tângata whenua o te ao. Anei pea te whakautu pai ki a mâtou ko te kâwanatanga e kôrero ana ki te tangata whenua, kua whakaae mai tçtahi, ngâ tângata whenua nei hei minita mô ngâ take o tâwâhi. Mçnâ âe, ko wai mâ te hunga i wânanga nei tçnei kôrero?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

Does the Prime Minister agree with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who told this House on 13 December 2005, on matters of consultation with indigenous peoples of the world: “…perhaps the best answer is this: in consulting the indigenous people, the Government appointed one as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.”?]

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am having a little problem understanding that question. Of course, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is very proud of his Mâori heritage. He is an indigenous person. I really do not know what else to take from the question.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Ko te tikanga o taku pâtai e hângai tonu ana ki te kôrero a te Minita i te tau kua hipa. Koinei te tika o taku pâtai ‘kaua mô te pai, mô te kino rânei engari, mô tana kôrero.i te tau kua hipa. Kâore i whakautu mai tçrâ kôrero.

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[The essence of my question focused on the Minister’s statement that he made last year. In fact my question was not about whether it was good or bad but, rather, about what he said in the year past. She did not answer that statement.]

Madam SPEAKER: The difficulty I had with the supplementary question, I suppose, was that it was a very broad one, given the primary question. I think the Prime Minister has addressed it, so I ask for the supplementary question from the Hon Murray McCully.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The focus of the primary question—I will try to help you by speaking English on this—was foreign policy. This supplementary question was based on the response given by the Minister to a question in this House sometime around 13 December last year about consultation with indigenous people. The interpreter has given you the response to that—a direct quote from Hansard. I was asking who had been invited to attend the consultation process, if that was the case. I still think the answer has not been given.

Madam SPEAKER: The focus of the primary question was on the foreign affairs relationship between New Zealand and the United States. I thought your supplementary question was broader than that. But the Prime Minister did address it.

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but I have ruled on that matter—unless it is a new point of order.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Yes, it is, actually. As I said, I took the original question to be about foreign policy. Under that wide heading, I would have hoped that the supplementary question was in fact valid.

Madam SPEAKER: If you read the whole of the question, you will see that the question was specific to that, but, as I said, the Prime Minister did address your question.

Hon Murray McCully: Can we take it from the Prime Minister’s recent public comments that it is her position that she will contradict and ride roughshod over her Minister of Foreign Affairs when he says he intends to improve our relationship with the United States, and to get help from Mr Downer to achieve that goal, but will stand 100 percent behind him when he sets back New Zealand - United States relations as he did yesterday; can she tell the House just what sort of signal those actions are intended to send to Washington?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I will certainly support the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ efforts to build on our very, very good relationship with the United States.

Hon Murray McCully: I seek the leave of the House to table two documents. First of all, I seek leave to table a transcript of an interview with the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, in which he makes it clear that Mr Peters sought assistance from him in improving relations with the United States.

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

Hon Murray McCully: Second, I seek leave to table a press report quoting Mr Peters directly as calling for a more positive and harmonious relationship between New Zealand and the United States.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given how busy the United States is in the Middle East, Iraq, and other parts of the world, and given the huge, complex, and intricate arrangements that we have put together in this country over the last 4 or 5 years in respect of the Pacific, might it be that the United States is not as aware of them as it could be, and that, in terms of enhancing our relationships, its better understanding of that might just help; might that not be the case?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: For all the reasons the Minister has given, it would be entirely understandable if not a great deal of notice was taken in Washington of what happens in micro-States in the South Pacific.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister whether—

Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he standing up or sitting down?

Madam SPEAKER: That is outrageous—I agree. That was totally uncalled for. Would the member please withdraw and apologise for that comment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise, but my point of order is that I was on my feet—

Lindsay Tisch: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. New Zealand First members are normally allocated four questions. Today they have six questions because the Government has given them an extra two supplementary questions. This would be their seventh question, and that is out of order.

Madam SPEAKER: That is out of order, actually. There is an arrangement to transfer supplementary questions, and I know that other parties do that.

Lindsay Tisch: No, I have checked today, and New Zealand First members were allocated six questions. They have had their six questions. The Minister is now trying to ask the seventh question, which is out of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Due to the nature of the question, and knowing full well that National members would not be able to sustain the attack for more than four questions, I arranged with Labour to be able to ask three questions, that being its allocation. It is very simple, really. Knowing who I was up against and how weak they would be, I tried to till the debating chamber for three more questions. That is exactly what the arrangement is, and it is above board.

Hon Trevor Mallard: My understanding, leaving aside some of the comments the member made, is that in fact there are still spare Labour supplementary questions, which the member is quite able to use, because we think he is doing a very useful job in showing up the Opposition.

Madam SPEAKER: I have checked, and in fact the Labour members have supplementary questions left. If they wish to transfer those questions they can, in the same way that other parties can.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take you back to a few minutes ago when Mr Peters made his rather unfortunate remark. You asked him to withdraw and apologise. He did so in a very qualified sort of way. I do not think you can put up with that. It is not unusual for him to do this sort of thing. He may be a Minister, and he may want to ask a question now to justify his own position, but I suggest that probably a spell out of the House is what is now needed for him.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of some tranquillity around here, I apologise and withdraw. Can I ask the Prime Minister, given that the United States has advocated its engagement in large theatres of the world where democracy or the growth of democracy is imperilled, and given that it seeks to re-establish it, is the United States’ understanding of our own engagement in our part of the world, in an identical and a like-minded cause, important in our obtaining a better relationship with the United States?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I believe it is. That is why we will welcome a visit that I understand is impending from assistant secretary of State Christopher Hill, so that we can take the opportunity to have him on our home ground to talk about the work we do in the South Pacific.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister recall reading page 8 of yesterday’s speech by myself—[Interruption] A wonderful speech it was.

Madam SPEAKER: Members should remember that when members are asking questions, they are to be heard in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Madam Speaker, but that was more by way of an applause intervention.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member just ask the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does she recall reading three paragraphs, in which I specifically pointed out that US assistant secretary of State—the former Ambassador to Seoul, who is now in charge of Asia and the Pacific—Christopher Hill was aware of what we have done, and has pointed out the need for us to better get our message across to Washington on that record; and would that not help us to have a better relationship with the United States?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I understand that the member did draw attention to that in the speech. I myself have had the chance to speak with Mr Hill, and to endeavour to make him aware of that, and I know that if and when Mr Hill comes to New Zealand, the Minister will work to see that New Zealand’s fine efforts in the Pacific are well recognised.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Pai te Pirimia mçnâ ka pâtaia te pâtai ki te Minita o te Manatû Aorere mehemea he Mâori ia ka taea e ia te kî ,‘he pâtai kaikiri tçrâ’; mçnâ kei te whakaae, he aha ai, ki te kore, he aha ai?

[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Does she agree that asking the Mâori Minister of Foreign Affairs about his ethnicity amounts to racism, if so, why, and if not, why not?]

Madam SPEAKER: That question is not in order in this context. I presume it relates to question 12, and that is not in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In respect of the ruling you gave to my colleague from the Mâori Party, it seems that that question has been asked twice, in respect of the issue of ethnicity, by a so-called leading journalist. You might give the Prime Minister the chance to point out just how absurdly embarrassing it is that—

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. That is not a valid point of order.


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