Questions And Answers - 5 April 2006
Questions And Answers - Wednesday, 5 April 2006
Questions to Ministers
Working for Families Package—Childcare Assistance
1. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has he received on the uptake of childcare assistance under Working for Families?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I am advised that 1 year after the Working for Families childcare changes were introduced 30,300 families with 36,900 children were receiving childcare assistance. That is an incredible 29 percent more families receiving assistance since October 2004.
Georgina Beyer: Has the Minister received any reports indicating how much better off people are as a result of these changes?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes. Data to the end of January 2006 shows that the average weekly payment to families receiving childcare assistance was $71 per week. I am also informed that 20 percent of the families receiving childcare assistance at the end of January this year would not have been eligible for any childcare assistance from the Government under the pre-Working for Families income thresholds.
Judith Collins: How much taxpayer money has he spent so far in writing letters to, and phoning, people who clearly do not qualify for welfare, and does he think that such a scattergun approach in providing welfare is a good use of taxpayers’ money?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, this Government is not focused just on developing good policy, it is also keen to make sure that people are only too aware of the opportunities they have.
Question time interrupted.
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Prime Minister—Comments on Deputy Prime Minister
2. GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Did she respond “I don’t know” to a media question about the prospect of her Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, delivering the next three Budgets because she wanted to give him a strong hint that he is now a serious liability to her Government, or because she expects that her Government will lose its majority in the Parliament inside that 3-year period?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Neither. I am pleased to have a loyal Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, which is a happy situation not shared by the Leader of the Opposition.
Gerry Brownlee: Can she then explain to the House why Dr Cullen refused to make any media comment on his intentions on Monday, and yesterday explained that his silence was the result of him “waiting for certain matters to be clarified”, and can she tell the House just what matters between her and her deputy required all of Monday and Tuesday to get clarified?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It would be a very foolish politician who took any media report at face value.
Gerry Brownlee: Can she confirm the report in the Dominion Post that Dr Cullen was “annoyed by her comments”, given that the author of the article, Dr Vernon Small, is widely known to have an open line into Dr Cullen’s office; would she now like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to Dr Cullen for his hurt feelings over this matter? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would the House please just settle. Every member in the House is entitled to hear the answer to the question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot confirm that report, but I can confirm that the Christchurch Press reported that the National Party caucus would not recognise unity if it tripped over it on the way to Bellamy’s.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Government intend to have weekly votes of confidence in the leader and deputy leader, which is clearly the recent practice of the National Party?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do note that in stark contrast to the cohesion of the Government, the National Party leader, at the first caucus of the year, was forced to lecture his caucus on discipline and unity after the finance spokesperson, John Key, accused a colleague of spreading rumours about the leadership challenge—a very common state of affairs in the National Party.
Gerry Brownlee: Can she confirm the further report by Dr Vernon Small that she and Dr Cullen “met on Monday to clear the air”, and can she tell the House what it says of her Government when it took 2 whole days for the Prime Minister and her deputy to negotiate a form of words offering support for her deputy?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The deputy leader of the National Party may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I dealt with that matter on Monday morning.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Prime Minister dealt with the matter on Monday morning, why was Dr Cullen not prepared to talk about it until late on Tuesday?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because the Prime Minister had adequately dealt with the issue.
Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister seen Dr Cullen’s statement reported in this morning’s media—Wednesday—“What Helen was doing was leaving me space.”, and can she tell the House why Dr Cullen just does not take the hint?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I can tell the House is that the longer the Deputy Prime Minister and deputy leader of the Labour Party stays in Parliament, the happier I will be. I do not think Mr Brownlee’s colleagues would say that about him.
Rodney Hide: Why did the Prime Minister undermine her loyal deputy and Minister of Finance on Monday, and leave him hanging for 2 days—because no other conclusion can be drawn—and is it not her practice to shoot her own colleagues not by sitting down and talking to them but by talking things up in the media?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: To the contrary, I have expressed my full confidence in, and support for, Dr Cullen. As I have said, the longer he stays, the happier I will be. Frankly, the shorter the stay of Mr Hide, the happier I will be.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Prime Minister confirm that her expression of confidence in Dr Cullen came only after they had had a meeting to clear up certain matters, and that the reality is that Dr Cullen now joins Russell Fairbrother and Dianne Yates on the “managed exit” list?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Dr Michael colleague—
Hon Members: Who?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK:—Cullen has been a colleague and friend of mine for about 34 years. He has presided over a very strong economy. He has my total support. That is not something Gerry Brownlee’s colleagues would say about him.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It was quite hard to hear the Prime Minister’s answer. I thought I heard her tell the House that she has been friends with Michael Cullen for 35 years. Is that what she actually said?
Madam SPEAKER: Members have the matter of barracking in their own hands. I have warned members about it. I could certainly hear the answer to that question. I do not think the answer needs to be repeated on this occasion.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I have ruled on that matter. If it is a new point of order, then that is fine.
Rodney Hide: My new point of order is to clarify whether it is now a ruling of the House that as long as the Speaker can hear the answer, it does not matter about MPs on the cross benches. And actually the matter is not in our own hands, because we on the cross benches are trying to hear and are not making a noise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Hide’s complaint would have some integrity if he had not been one of the principal barrackers at the time the answer was being given by the Prime Minister. He shouted “Who?” three times. He knows full well that he did. So if he could not hear the answer, it was because he had his mouth open.
Madam SPEAKER: I noticed that some barracking was going on, and I had warned members about that, but I felt that on that occasion the answer was perfectly audible. I have ruled on the matter; I do not want it to be raised again.
Benefits—Single Core Benefit
3. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is the Government still committed to delivering a single core benefit, given his statement in The Jobs Letter yesterday: “I can’t say that we will be delivering a single core benefit”; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes, the Government remains committed to delivering a new and simplified benefit structure. My comments referred to ongoing discussions about whether the new and simplified benefit structure will be called a single core benefit. The details of the new and simplified benefit structure, including its name, will be the subject of Cabinet decisions later in the year.
Sue Bradford: How does the Minister reconcile his comments in The Jobs Letter that he is trying to minimise the number of “losers” created by the April 1 instalment of Working for Families, with Steve Maharey’s categorical statement to the House in March 2005 that no one would be worse off under the Working for Families package?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The introduction of temporary additional support needs to be considered in the context of the $1.6 billion Working for Families package. Increases in assistance to families and for people on low and middle incomes will improve their financial position and, clearly, reduce the need for ongoing hardship assistance. No one receiving the special benefit at the point of change last Saturday was disadvantaged, and people receiving the special benefit at that point will continue to receive it until their circumstances change.
Steve Chadwick: What is the purpose of the new benefit structure?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The aim is to ensure that our benefit system is responsive to the needs of those receiving benefits, in order to help all those on benefits reach their full potential, and to ensure that those who are able to work get both a chance and the support to do so, such as offering the same range of case-management services for employment to people across the current separate categories.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that there are relatively few blind people who work for a living, and that because of their special circumstances they are allowed to retain their benefits; will he confirm that if this single core benefit regime comes in, this system will not change with regard to blind people?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: The ministry is currently preparing consultation material, which will seek feedback from stakeholders, including the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, and that will inform our subsequent decisions.
Judith Collins: Is the Minister trying to tell this House that Labour has worked on a single core benefit since 1989; can he still not tell the House exactly when it will be implemented or even what it will be called?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No, and mid-year.
Sue Bradford: Will the Minister assure beneficiaries that when genuine need arises, they will have access to the same levels of support as existed under the old special benefit, and can he explain what benefit mechanism he will use to do this, especially given that the current emergency benefit is not appropriate for this purpose?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Where a client faces costs that cannot be met by temporary additional support, case managers will help people access other hardship provisions, such as special-needs grants or benefit advances.
Judith Collins: Why did the Minister state in The Jobs Letter that the biggest challenge ahead for the Ministry of Social Development is the Child, Youth and Family Services - Ministry of Social Development merger, which was supposed to be a seamless transition; and what has really happened to the introduction of the single core benefit, which, earlier this year, he said was the biggest welfare restructure in 50 years?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Firstly, because I believe it is, and, secondly, nothing.
Sue Bradford: What steps, if any, is the Minister taking to ensure that the Government’s much-delayed progress towards a single core benefit—or whatever it is to be called—will not create a system that is less flexible, less financially generous, and more punitive to those in genuine need than the system it will replace?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not agree with the member’s proposition about delay, but the answer is yes.
Prime Minister—Comments on David Parker
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Prime Minister: Why did she make public comments about the possible reinstatement of David Parker to her Cabinet when the Companies Office has yet to complete its inquiry into declarations made by David Parker?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Because reinstatement is an option.
Hon Bill English: Why did she change the view she held on 21 March that Mr Parker had made mistakes serious enough for her to accept his resignation to a view on 28 March that the mistakes he had personally admitted were only “allegations”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Those are matters for the Companies Office to determine, and we will be guided by the facts.
Hon Bill English: Did any member of her office or her department, or any Minister’s office, seek or receive information, advice, or opinion from the Companies Office in relation to Mr Parker or the matters for which he is currently under investigation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Mr Parker has, of course, kept in touch with the leadership of the Labour Party. There has, I understand, been communication from the Companies Office to the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet about the pace of the inquiry. I do not want to comment on what may have occurred in those conversations, but I am satisfied that Mr Parker is keeping his leadership in the loop.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister telling the House that a statutory agency responsible for a decision over whether to prosecute a senior Minister in the current Government has been communicating with the Prime Minister’s department over the progress of that investigation?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I have made no request whatsoever for any information from the Companies Office, but—
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Just answer the question.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Settle down, Dr Smith. The member is very vocal at question time. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order, please.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am directly answering the question by saying that my understanding is that the head of the Ministry of Economic Development spoke to the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet at a very early stage about the likely timing of the inquiry.
Hon Bill English: Can I take the Prime Minister’s statement to the House today as confirmation of rumours and allegations that personnel from her department contacted an officer of the Companies Office last week, and that that officer of the Companies Office provided written advice on the Companies Office view of Mr Parker’s declaration; and does she regard that as appropriate behaviour for a member of the Prime Minister’s department and for a statutory officer responsible for making a decision about whether to prosecute a senior member of her Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no advice of any such interaction as the member has referred to.
Hon Bill English: How come the Prime Minister, then, is aware of a discussion between the head of the Prime Minister’s department and the Companies Office; and how can anyone not construe that as pressure on the Companies Office from the political leadership of the Government to consider its view very carefully?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Let me be very clear about what I have already told the member. The head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet quite correctly reported to me that he had been phoned by the head of the Ministry of Economic Development.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister now confirm to the House that not only has somebody from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet been discussing these matters with the Companies Office, but those discussions have been reported to her; and how does she think that looks to a Parliament concerned that a statutory agency should be totally independent in making a decision about whether to prosecute a Minister?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: All that I can confirm is that, as I said in the previous answer, the head of the Ministry of Economic Development apparently contacted my head of department at a very early stage. It would have been in the day or two after the matter became public. My head of department quite properly reported that to me.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister then answer a question I asked earlier as to why she said on 21 March that Mr Parker’s actions were “mistakes serious enough for me to accept his resignation”, then a week later, after being briefed by the head of her department on discussions with the Companies Office, changed her view to one where she said that Mr Parker’s actions were only “allegations”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The facts are that on day one Mr Parker said he had made mistakes.
Hon Bill English: And you agreed.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I accepted his word. Since that time Mr Parker has been in communication with the leadership of his party, as is entirely proper.
Defence Force—Proliferation Security Initiative
5. JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Defence: What are the reasons for participation by the New Zealand Defence Force in the Proliferation Security Initiative in Darwin?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence): New Zealand is participating this week in an exercise called Pacific Protector, which is designed to prevent the proliferation and movement of weapons of mass destruction. This is part of the New Zealand Government’s longstanding commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. The exercise involves like-minded countries working together to develop and test procedures to detect and interdict such weapons in a scenario where those weapons might be trans-shipped by air.
Jill Pettis: Is the exercise consistent with international law and the position of the United Nations?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The exercise is consistent with our domestic law, with international law, and with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, adopted in 2004, on non-proliferation by non-State actors. That resolution calls on countries “to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials;”. It is worth noting for the member that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, has commended the Proliferation Security Initiative for its contribution towards controlling proliferation.
Benefits—Single Core Benefit
6. JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: When does he expect the single core benefit to be implemented?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I repeat the answer I have already given to the House today. Details of the new and simplified benefit structure, including its name, will be the subject of Cabinet decisions later in the year.
Judith Collins: Do the Minister’s comments on March 31 that “while I can’t say that we will be delivering a single core benefit certainly the system is going to be hugely simplified.”, indicate that Cabinet and this Minister are backing away from a single core benefit because it was, is, and always has been unworkable?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: No.
Judith Collins: Could the Minister tell us who is correct: the Prime Minister, when she said in February last year: “Merging seven existing benefits into a single benefit would leave no one worse off.”, or the Minister, when he said just last week: “We are not prepared to say, ‘Well, sorry, no one will be worse off.’ ”? Who is right, the Minister of the Prime Minister?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I made it quite clear in my earlier answer that at the point of change for the introduction, last Saturday, there were no losers.
Judith Collins: Why is he withholding the results of the review on the 12 pilot programmes?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am not withholding any information, and I would say that the record of this Government on delivery of movement of people from benefits into the workforce is exemplary.
Judith Collins: Why, given Labour has worked on this concept since 1989 when Michael Cullen was the social welfare Minister, is the Minister still unable to provide intelligible answers to either written or oral parliamentary questions? Why can he not just tell the truth?
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am sorry. Would you please withdraw that comment. Thank you.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I do not know which part of the word “No” to the earlier answer the member does not understand.
Human Rights—United Nations Special Rapporteur's Report
7. RON MARK (NZ First) on behalf of PITA PARAONE (NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Is he satisfied with the Government’s response to the report by the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the situation of Mâori in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): The Government made every effort to ensure, in the very brief time—in fact, only 8 working days—he was in New Zealand, that the UN special rapporteur Dr Stavenhagen had access to those most informed about the issues he was addressing. Sadly, he chose to ignore much of what was said to him. The Government then responded, in an earlier draft to his report, to correct factual errors and errors of imbalance. Sadly, he ignored that as well. The Government will make a further formal report in an effort to correct these errors. I suppose it is best summed up by the MP Shane Jones, who said on morning television that Mr Stavenhagen would be better off saving the Marsh Arabs than interfering with our race relations.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister believe that the report of the United Nations’ special rapporteur on issues relating to Mâori accurately reflects the situation of race relations here in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a very important question, because there are some who believe it does. The facts are, of course, that he was captured by those entrenched in a grievance mentality who ignore even the most rudimentary social context in which Mâori socially and economically mix with other people in this country. He ignores the fact that a Mâori set up the Waitangi Tribunal, that there are more Mâori in Parliament than the Mâori population in terms of ratio, or that, for example, it is mandatory to follow the Treaty of Waitangi State-owned enterprise legislation, not voluntary. Such fundamental errors surely could not have resulted from anything other than a brief talk to certain people on the fringes of academia in this country.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that that report cannot be taken seriously, as it represents just “one man’s view”, despite that man’s view being consistent with the Waitangi Tribunal, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and 30,000 thinking New Zealanders who marched on the hîkoi to Parliament; and if he does agree, how then should the Government respond to the advice of key Mâori leaders who have stated this morning that the Government criticism of the United Nations report will do the country no credit internationally?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: By preferring one hard fact, rather than 12 lovely emotions. The fact of the matter is that the primary case did not find in favour of Mâori in the Ngâti Apa case, at all; neither did the Court of Appeal—and any lawyer in this country knows that. The second thing is that decisions of the Treaty of Waitangi are not coerced. The Waitangi Tribunal has never made a claim that it is coerced into decisions. It was never the claim of Tainui. It was never the claim of Ngâi Tahu, at the time. Those members who were there remember it very, very well. More important, when one can get something as wrong as saying that the State-owned enterprise legislation is voluntary yet it is clear as daylight that it is mandatory and the Government is required to follow it, then what else in the report is worth reading?
Ron Mark: Is he confident that the role of indigenous people in New Zealand reflects positively in the international arena?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I say very clearly that Mâori are a huge asset to this country—and some more than most. [Interruption] I take that as a total affirmation of what I am saying. Not only is Mâori culture and language an integral part of who we are; it is also amongst the strongest identifiers of our New Zealandness amongst the international community.
Rodney Hide: What about the poodle?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The member may want to speak about himself, but the question is not about him; it is about us. It is not about irrelevant poodles like Mr Hide, whom his founding leader says is a joke; it is about the serious people of this country who happen to be Mâori. And whilst I am here, deputed
to represent them, I intend to carry on and say this—[Interruption] Oh, look—take a Valium!
Madam SPEAKER: Order, please.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The member should take a pill, for goodness’ sake!
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister just reply to the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Let us say this: New Zealand’s “Mâoriness”, when it comes to Mâori culture and society, should be celebrated, not misused by those with grievance agendas trapped in negativity. There is no question that things can improve on many fronts for Mâori—[Interruption] Ha, ha!
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I notice that Mr Peters is taking a very long time in his reply to the question. That raises two points. Firstly, I heard him laugh during that answer. Is it our ruling that it is OK to laugh if one is answering a question but not if one is just a normal member listening to a question? Secondly, can we assume that the great leniency Mr Peters seems to attract from the Chair is part of some unofficial affirmative action programme?
Madam SPEAKER: Obviously not, Mr Brownlee. But I would say that if members interject on others, they are likely to get a response. I ask the Rt Hon Winston Peters to please complete the answer to his question quickly. It was long.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It may help matters if Mr Peters just tabled his spontaneous answers that he is reading to the House.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, as the member knows.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Nowhere in my “spontaneous answer” was there an intention to talk about somebody who is a lapdog of this Parliament; the member raised the issue himself. I conclude by saying that Mâori are actively engaged in every part of this country’s economic and social life—and so they should be.
I seek the leave of the House to table a report of an interview conducted this morning with Sir Douglas Graham, the former National member of Parliament charged with the Treaty of Waitangi portfolio, in which he says that the whole thing is “lightweight”.
Health, Ministry—Elective Surgery
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: Has the Ministry of Health written to district health board chairs recently to express concern about a lack of satisfactory progress in elective surgery; if so, which district health boards did the ministry write to?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): No, but the ministry did write to all district health boards to remind them of their obligation to meet their district annual plans regarding their surgical booking systems.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why did the Government write to the district health boards last week, complaining about worsening elective surgery figures and performance, when the Minister gets up in this House every second day to defend the Government’s record on elective surgery?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The letters were about installing what are called “ESPIs”—elective services patient flow indicators. That is what it is about. About six or seven of the district health boards look as though they are too slow in getting those indicators up. The rest of them—
Hon Tony Ryall: Name them.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I will name them. The ones that are a bit slow are the Auckland, Waitematâ, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, MidCentral, Capital and Coast, and Canterbury boards. This is not about surgery, it is about measuring the surgery in a modern context.
Ann Hartley: Has he received any reports about how New Zealand compares internationally on the provision of timely access to treatments, including elective surgery?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have today received a report from the Commonwealth Fund in Washington that rates New Zealand as second out of six developed countries on the timeliness of treatment, including elective surgery. It puts us ahead of not only Australia and the UK but also well ahead of the United States, which came last and has a health system the National Party is keen to replicate here in New Zealand.
Judy Turner: Will the Minister recommend to all district health boards that they at least consider the initiative proposed by the Hutt Valley District Health Board to contribute up to 30 percent of an operation’s cost at a private hospital; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I understand that idea was tossed out at a recent district health board meeting. It is not clear to me how far it was tossed. I remind the House that a Minister of Health in the then National Government lost his job about 15 years ago for attempting part charges. I think that the proponent of that idea, who is now on the district health board and was in the House at the time, should learn from history.
Hon Tony Ryall: When the Government stated in its letter of last week to district health boards that it will put errant district health boards under intensive monitoring and investigation, what will that actually mean for the 18,000 New Zealanders who are sick enough to qualify for an operation but cannot get one in his 5½ out of 10 health system?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member continues to confuse two ideas—one hopes unwittingly. One is whether New Zealanders are accessing sufficient elective services, and the long and short of it is that the numbers are getting better and better each year. The other is that we have decided to install over a number of years a new patient flow indicator system. Those letters are designed to go to the hospitals and district health boards that have not yet fully implemented such a system, so that we can measure even more transparently what is being done and what is not.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree, in light of the case of 8-year-old Patrick Casey, whose life was hanging in the balance while waiting for elective surgery, that contracts between district health boards and private hospitals would reduce waiting lists, speed up the process for elective procedures, and potentially save lives; if so, will he actively encourage district health boards to pursue contracts with private providers, and if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON: District health boards are fully entitled to contract with private providers now—and many of them do. Typically, the private providers get the easy jobs, and therefore the price per unit is a little lower than usual—and that is a good thing. But when I compare the member’s two questions, I realise she does not seem to understand the difference between private provision and private funding.
Judy Turner: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What I actually asked was whether he would actively encourage district health boards. I know that they are allowed to contract with private providers and that they do have that discretion, but I want to know whether the Minister will actively encourage district health boards to do that.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am happy to answer that.
Madam SPEAKER: I thought he had addressed the question.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I thought I had, too. District health boards are in charge of what they do. They are fully entitled to use private services if they wish to. I will not actively encourage them to use private services if they have no need to; that would seem to be a waste of an idea. But they are fully entitled to use private sector capacity if it exists—and often it does.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the Minister seen reports that the Hutt Valley District Health Board has agreed to investigate providing patients with a subsidy of between 10 and 30 percent to get an operation in the private sector, as a way of reducing the growing backlog of elective surgery in the public system; if so, will the Government permit district health boards to use their funds in that way to benefit patients who have enough points to get an operation but have been waiting too long?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I thought I had addressed that in the answer to an earlier question from a member. This member apparently not only fails to listen to answers I give him but he fails to listen to questions that come from other parts of the House. I say to the member that that appears to be a very, very early idea. I do not think it is a very, very good one. It sounds like part-charging to me. National tried to pull that trick 15 years ago, and its Minister of Health lost his job.
Hon Tony Ryall: Can the Minister tell the House why, after contact from his office to the Auckland District Health Board, the board promised an 8-year-old boy with a life-threatening aneurism a new date within 2 days for his twice-cancelled surgery, and yet the boy and his family have still not been given a new date almost a week after that promise was given?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not aware of the number of times that that young boy’s surgery date has been changed. What I will say about that young lad is this—
Hon Tony Ryall: You do know.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not. [Interruption] The member can just accept my word on that. I do not know all the changes that have occurred in the Auckland District Health Board in respect of that case. I do not. Indeed, the board may have made another change half an hour ago, for all I know. But what I will say about that young boy is that whereas there is an annual risk from his not receiving the surgery—which is for a condition he has probably had for all of his 7 or 8 years—of 2 or 3 percent a year, and, of course, the risk is now accumulating, there is a risk of surgery itself, which is by no means minor. So we would do well to wish him well. Finally, that young lad requires, as I understand it, surgery on 2 consecutive days. There must be certainty of the availability of theatre staff and theatre space. The staff cannot begin that surgery unless they are sure they can complete it.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Why did the Minister say, in a press release at 1.52 this afternoon: “It’s time for everyone to realise that a health system that leaves people behind is not a health system that should be advocated in New Zealand.”, when the case of the boy in Auckland is an obvious case of a New Zealander requiring elective surgery and being left behind; and does that contradiction not further erode the Minister of Health’s credibility?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, because the press statement referred to the proclivities of the National Party and its preoccupation with Americanising the New Zealand health system, as the then National Government attempted to do in the 1990s. [Interruption] The member may want to shout me down or he may want to listen to this: in the second half of the 1990s, the number of children waiting for paediatric surgery exceeded 3,000.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I for one was interested in listening to the response, but back here we had an exchange going on across the cross benches, with people yelling from that side to people on this side. I think that is disorderly.
Rodney Hide: That is true, Madam Speaker, and I apologise. It is just that Mr Peters was explaining to me that he had paid up the $40,000 that he owes to Mr Bob Clarkson, but I understand he has not. I was just checking that out. I apologise.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order. We do not really need to hear the substance of the exchange.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you do. Now that he has put that at question, let me say what my response was. I said that, unlike him and the ACT party, who cheat the system, I pay up my debts if they are so found to be.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I am sorry. That is why—
Hon David Carter: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: No, please.
Hon David Carter: Winston Peters, since 2004, has owed me for my legal fees. I am still waiting.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: As every lawyer in the House would know, if that were true he would have a course of action. He does not, because I am still suing him and he is trying to stop the case from going to court.
Madam SPEAKER: Would anyone else like to share on this issue?
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Unfortunately, as a result of the election, Mr Ken Shirley is no longer here. But he too, I know, would like to say that he is still owed money by Mr Winston Peters for his legal bills.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, he is no longer in the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. What is happening here is that Mr Hide, joined by Mr Carter, are making baseless allegations on the basis—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order! The member is talking to a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will back mine up with the court judgment and with the testimony of the lawyers in question, not with baseless allegations made in this Parliament. But the bad news for Mr Carter and Mr Shirley is that I am suing them and I do not intend to stop.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I wish to move on, unless it is a totally different point.
Gordon Copeland: I thought I had come to Parliament today, but it sounds more like a new-age love-in. I am staggered by the interchange that you have allowed between members of those two parties, who have simply used the House’s time to advance a personal quarrel.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his observation, and I am sure all members will take note of it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just hope that you will look at the Hansard of that exchange. It seems to us that repeatedly in this House disruption is caused by the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I do not know how long you can expect the House to allow that to happen. I think we have come, with all due respect to your good humour, dangerously close to the place going out of control. Mr Peters needs to be reined in quite considerably; otherwise, when we come back after a 3-week recess, we could well be in a permanent state of disorder.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his observation. I may say that the Rt Hon Winston Peters is not the only one who sometimes contributes from the cross benches when others are speaking. I would ask all members to take note of what Mr Brownlee said, so that we can, of course, have an orderly House.
David Bennett: I seek leave to table question for written answer No. 4381 in regard to legal expenses.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is objection. And I might say that comes very close to actually being a point of order that, in the context and timing in which it was done, brings this House into disrepute. [Interruption] Would all members please be seated. I do not, of course, deny the right of a member to raise a point of order. But in the context of the previous debate on points of order, when that point of order could be raised at any other time and when I have been invited by the House to ensure that we conduct the House in an orderly fashion, I make that observation. I will allow no comment on my ruling on that. I wish to move on now, please.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: This point of order had better be on a different point.
Gerry Brownlee: I do not think you can direct what my point of order is about.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am not. I merely said it should not be on the matter I have ruled on—that is all.
Gerry Brownlee: Well, that is exactly the problem that we get into, because it does not escape the attention of members on the Opposition side of the House that Mr Bennett got a stinging rebuke, when day after day Mr Peters comes in here and has huge license to disrupt the place, with barely a word said to him.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That, of course, challenged the ruling that you just made. But more than that, it was Mr Brownlee who, just before, took a point of order, in my view quite rightly, to call the attention of the House to the fact that there is far too much of that kind of pointless exchange going on. Immediately Mr Bennett took a point of order to repeat a request for leave, which had already been declined on a previous sitting day, to table a matter that is to be found in the lobbies at this time. On at least three counts that was a trivial point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The best response to Gerry Brownlee would be an open admission from Mr Hide that he started it with his comment about paying some court bill. He knows that he started it. Those members know that, and this sort of flatulent protection of Mr Hide will not do in this House.
Madam SPEAKER: That is why I am asking members to move on, please.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am asking us to move on. I have ruled on the matter. Would Mr Hide please sit down while I am on my feet. As I said, I have ruled on that point. Everyone has had an opportunity to put a point of view on it. Now I think we should move on to the next question, unless it is a totally different point of order—and I mean that this time.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is absolutely a new one, and it is this. This is quite remarkable. I do not think there is a more inoffensive MP in this House than Mr David Bennett. He stood up in the House—
Madam SPEAKER: This is not a point of order, Mr Hide.
Rodney Hide: Yes, it is.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, come to it quickly, please. Points of order have to be given succinctly.
Rodney Hide: If you allow me to, I will. I just wish you would not try to sit down Opposition MPs. David Bennett got up and very calmly and correctly raised a point of order. It is about the second one he has raised since he has been here. He got a stinging rebuke from you, Madam Speaker, and what you said was in the context of others having been rebuked. Then Mr Peters got up and did exactly the same thing—in fact, it was far worse than that, because he accused me of some monstrosity in this House—and you did nothing. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: No, I do not need any more assistance on this matter. I have ruled on the matter and we will move on.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I just draw your attention to, and ask you to consider, the fact that two of those points of order were direct challenges to your authority and judgment.
Madam SPEAKER: I am aware of that, Mr Mark. I have warned members about that. I do like members to have their say—perhaps a little too much, at times—regardless of the allegations that I do not. This is a robust Chamber. I have always operated on that basis. But if my points and rulings are challenged again, then members will be leaving this House.
Hon Tau Henare: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have just observed something in the House that I have not seen before. The Rt Hon Winston Peters was holding something up to David Bennett in a threatening manner. I do not know what was written on it, but that is the sort of thing that brings the House into disrepute. When a longstanding member who should know better is up against a minnow—
Madam SPEAKER: I ask the member to please be seated.
Hon Tau Henare: We expect more from that member.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. Does the member wish to remain in this Chamber? You will seated when the Speaker is on her feet, Mr Henare.
Hon Tau Henare: Well, you should be doing your job.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please leave the Chamber. I am doing my job.
Hon Tau Henare withdrew from the Chamber.
Low-wage Earners—Government Action
9. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Labour: What action is the Government taking to support New Zealand’s lowest paid workers?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Labour): Successive Labour-led Governments since 1999 have lifted the minimum adult wage by 46 percent. That minimum adult wage now applies for people aged 18, rather than the previous 20 years of age. We have lifted the minimum youth rate by 95 percent.
Hon Mark Gosche: [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the ruling in the House is that members do not speak when a question is being asked. Mr Rodney Hide was actually doing that. Given the Opposition’s desire to have this House run in order, I think he should be asked to leave the Chamber. I have tried to ask this question about five times while spurious points of order were taken. I think I have a right as a member of this House to ask a question without interruption, and I have been interrupted. I ask the Speaker to take some action on it.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is correct. I heard Mr Hide laugh. I did not hear him actually make an interjection. We had that discussion yesterday, as I recall. There is always a crossover between members coming to their feet and asking their question. I ask members to please maintain a level of silence and order in the House.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports that are opposed to the idea of supporting New Zealand’s lowest-paid workers having higher-quality working lives?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have. I have seen a report that suggests we abandon not only the minimum wage but also abandon minimum holiday entitlements, parental leave, and any moves to close the gender pay and employment gap. Those are the wishes of Dr Don Brash.
Sue Bradford: What is the Minister’s view of employers who are circumventing the just announced increase in the minimum wage by reducing service pay or skill allowances by the amount of the increase, thus, in fact, leaving some low-paid workers no better off?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Under the Employment Relations Act any change to employment agreements must be renegotiated in good faith between the employer and the employee. Employers cannot reduce terms and conditions already agreed to in their employment agreements without renegotiating the agreements. If the member knows of any specific instances of this happening, then I warmly invite her to provide them to either me or the department for investigation.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that, in some cases, people who are employed casually are worse off than those who are employed permanently, even those who are employed permanently on a lower wage; if she does accept that, what is the Government doing to address the problems of casualisation?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I do accept that people whose employment is on a casual basis are more vulnerable than those who are in permanent employment, but the minimum wage provisions apply to both situations. At the direct request, again, of the deputy leader of the National Party, I seek leave to table Dr Don Brash’s comments confirming what I relayed in my answer to the supplementary question from the Hon Mark Gosche.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Question No. 6 to Minister
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon): I apologise for not raising this matter earlier, but I would like to give the Minister for Social Development and Employment an opportunity to correct his statement to the House. Earlier today Mr Benson-Pope, in relation to my question as to why he was withholding the results of the review of 12 pilot programmes, answered that he was not actually withholding any reports. I seek leave now to table two documents, one a parliamentary question and the other a letter from Mr Benson-Pope declining on various bases to provide the report.
Kyoto Protocol—New Zealand’s Liability
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by the statement to the House on 16 February 2006 that New Zealand’s Kyoto liability for the first commitment period would be $562 million; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues): Under present policy settings the first commitment period liability listed against the Crown accounts is $562 million. However, that liability is revised every May, and my best guess is that the revised price of carbon will rise substantially.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why will the Minister not accept that the cost of Kyoto is now over $1 billion, given that Treasury advised the Local Government and Environment Committee that the median estimate of the carbon price for that period is $16 a tonne, and that the Minister has already accepted a 64 million - tonne deficit—and when I went to school 64 million times $16 came to $1.024 billion.
Hon PETE HODGSON: If the cost did become $1 billion this May, next May, or some other time, it would be $1 billion over 5 years. Without wanting in any way to minimise that, I point out that it would be about one-seventh of 1 percent of GDP over that time. That is the size of it. That cost needs to be weighed against the costs of climate change itself and what happens if the world does nothing.
Hon Marian Hobbs: Further to the comment he has just made, has the Minister seen any reports costing the economic impacts of climate change on New Zealand as opposed to the cost of Kyoto compliance?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. From an economic perspective the most significant costs of climate change would be an increase of up to fourfold in flood risk in most regions; a twofold to fourfold increase in drought risk, especially in eastern regions; eroding and retreating coastlines; and changing biosecurity risks. The costs of these impacts are likely to be highly significant for New Zealand. The February 2004 flood cost about $0.3 billion. The late-1990s droughts cost well over $1 billion.
R Doug Woolerton: Would the Minister agree that we should look at the whole Kyoto question again, given that we cannot seem to achieve an international regime that is acceptable to the major players?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member misunderstands the state of play. Every country in the Kyoto world, with the exception of Russia, quite a few Eastern European States, and with a bit of luck Germany, will be buying. That is every country—nearly all of Western Europe, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, etc. New Zealand had hoped to be in the selling list, but we are likely not to be. We would be the only country in the selling list with an ordinary economy—not collapsed like the Eastern European economies—but it is now likely that we, too, will become buyers.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain to the people of New Zealand how sending a cheque to the Russians for $100 million—maybe $1 billion—will make any difference at all to the number of droughts or storms New Zealand might have?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member pretends he does not understand “cap and trade”. The member pretends he does not understand the role of economic instruments. This is despite the fact that the member has given many speeches in favour of Kyoto, of bringing economic and environmental policy together, of “cap and trade”, and of getting on top of climate change. He professes to want a cross-party arrangement. He professes to want to do something, yet at every chance, he gets up and grandstands because he gets his short-term kicks from doing so.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was quite specific. I asked how droughts or floods in New Zealand might be made less severe by sending a cheque to Russia. No part of the Minister’s answer sought to address that question.
Hon PETE HODGSON: If a country receives money from the Kyoto Protocol, it is because the country has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions—[Interruption] Indeed, it has. Because it has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions, the global atmosphere will be less affected, and because the global atmosphere will be less affected, that will make New Zealand’s climate, and the climate of the rest of the world, a little less changed than it otherwise would be.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister recall telling the people of New Zealand that New Zealand stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars from his Government’s decision to ratify Kyoto; and now that we are, in fact, going to have to pay about $1 billion—or $250 for every man, woman, and child—for his blunder, does he believe he owes the public an apology?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I do recall that. I was relying on advice that I received year after year after year from officials—which advice changed in May 2005. Those are the facts of the matter.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Minister seen the statement by Dr Kevin Patterson, senior energy analyst at the Ministry of Economic Development, who said: “The energy modelling team at the time did all the work, working out what the projections were going to be. Then they came up with a final number. Then they had a big whack taken off, and that was Pete Hodgson’s initiative.”; why, pre-election, did the Minister cook the books to hide the scale of his bungling?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I resent the question, actually, because there was no cooking of the books by me pre-election. In fact, 4 months before the election, the bad news of May 2005 came out. That was the timing. The member has forgotten. The truth of the matter is that the reversal of our fortunes occurred 4 months before an election, not afterwards. What is more, I will say straightforwardly to the member that I played no part in influencing that report, except to ask for it to be reviewed.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the news report from the “Business Herald” in which Dr Kevin Patterson said that Pete Hodgson deliberately changed the numbers.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that newspaper report. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Human Rights—United Nations Special Rapporteur's Report
11. Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Mâori Party) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported comments that the report of the United Nations special rapporteur for indigenous issues is disappointing, unbalanced, and narrow and that the special rapporteur himself is “out of touch … with New Zealand”, and will the Government make a complaint to the United Nations?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes; the Government will provide an appropriate response to the United Nations.
Dr Pita Sharples: Why does the Government, every time a report affirms Mâori rights, discredit, deny, and dismiss both the report and the report writer—and, in this case, the United Nations committee that the report writer represents; if the Government’s concerns are so strong, will it request that another international expert be invited to report on indigenous issues in New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In answer to those four questions, and perhaps some implicit other questions, firstly, no, we do not do that. Secondly, the committee referred to is in such ill odour that it is being abolished and replaced because it is seen as quite inadequate in terms of its performance over a number of years, and, in fact, the report is littered with errors of fact and interpretation. I recall, for the information of the House, having Mr Stavenhagen in my office. He was quite stunned to find out that most Mâori live in towns and cities. After being around the country, he thought most Mâori lived in isolated rural settlements.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the report refer to a “law on indigenous rights” when there is no such law; is that one of the reasons why a number of UN countries are looking to a new human rights council—something that might have credibility in the future?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, my understanding is that that reference is made, and that law clearly does not exist. There are many errors within the report that are simple errors of fact, not least in relation to the legal decisions regarding foreshore and seabed, both pre and post the Ngâti Apa decision and pre and post the Foreshore and Seabed Act.
Dr Pita Sharples: Will the Minister confirm which of the following people he was referring to on National Radio this morning as “the usual collection of academic radicals”, given that the consultation included himself, Parekura Horomia—
Madam SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Pita Sharples: —Nanaia Mahuta, chief executives and senior officials from 12 Government departments, the Human Rights Commission, the Waitangi Tribunal, the Mâori Land Court, paramount chief Tukino te Heuheu, and kaumatua, kuia, and leaders of Kâi Tahu, Hauraki, Ngâti Whâtua, Taranaki, and many other iwi throughout the motu?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I noticed, and noticed that you noticed, that Parekura Horomia interjected during the course of that question. Having had your very harsh sanction, I wondered why you chose not to take any action.
Madam SPEAKER: I heard several people making comment during that question. That is why I said “Order!”. I did not identify any particular person at the time. If every person who made a comment or laughed during that left the Chamber, we would probably have few left. So I ask members please to respect those who are on their feet asking the question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Different rules.
Madam SPEAKER: They are not different rules, Dr Smith.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I ask Dr Smith to please withdraw and apologise for that statement. I try very hard not to have different rules but to maintain order in this House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The people referred to by the member cover a very wide range of political views. It was certainly my very clear impression, when I talked to the UN rapporteur, that he was mainly influenced by one or two academic radicals at Auckland University and a few other people he had met. I asked him whether he had actually talked to any large numbers of urban Mâori. He seemed somewhat surprised to hear that there were large numbers of urban Mâori.
Youth Development, Ministry—Performance
12. ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: Is she satisfied with the performance of the Ministry of Youth Development?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Youth Affairs): Yes.
Anne Tolley: Why has the Minister continued to ignore warnings from the Ministry of Youth Development’s partner, the Gisborne District Council, about the risks of granting $118,000 of public money for a proposal that the council describes as “vague, lacking in definition, with a sloppy budget”?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Because the chief executive has entered into the agreement and signed off on it.
Anne Tolley: Is the Minister confident that the grant of $118,000 in Gisborne will be used for new activities, or will the ministry continue to ignore double-dipping by a community group, as warnings from the Gisborne District Council suggest?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Youth Development Partnership Fund is a partnership fund with local councils to ensure that new initiatives or existing initiatives can be entered into on behalf of youth in the local community. The Ministry of Youth Development will be discussing with the council any concerns that have been raised in regard to that particular contract. Let me reiterate that that particular contract has been endorsed by the chief executive of the Gisborne District Council.
Anne Tolley: Is the Minister unconcerned about the wise expenditure of $766,000 nationally on the Ministry of Youth Development’s youth development contracts because, firstly, all the ongoing risks are left not with the Ministry of Youth Development but with the councils, which feel that they are expected to rubber-stamp such proposals at the eleventh hour, and, secondly, there are no ongoing management or monitoring costs for the Ministry of Youth Development to face?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Youth Development Partnership Fund is a partnership fund that works with councils. Agreements, in terms of the contract arrangements, are strictly between the Ministry of Youth Development and the council. Any concerns in relation to that particular contract are currently being discussed with the ministry and the council.
Darren Hughes: Can the Minister tell the House what focus those projects that are funded through the Youth Development Partnership Fund have to have to meet funding criteria?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Youth Development Partnership Fund was launched in October 2005. It enables the Ministry of Youth Development to respond to emerging youth needs, and create new opportunities, by partnering with territorial authorities. The theme for this year is education, training, and employment. It rolls off the back of the Mayors Task Force for Jobs, and is an important part of working with territorial authorities. Successful applicants for the first round of funding include 12 projects throughout the country. Let me say again that any concerns in relation to that particular contract are currently being worked through with the Gisborne District Council and the Ministry of Youth Development.
Anne Tolley: Has the Minister pursued this Gisborne project, and maybe $766,000 worth of projects nationally, despite a raft of concerns about financial accountability, duplication, double-dipping, and even the very need for the project, in order just to be seen to be doing something, and to counter observations from people like Stephen Bell of Youthline, who stated that there is no point in developing a youth development strategy if it just sits on the shelf as a pretty book?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Youth Development Partnership Fund is an important partnership fund that actually gives life to the youth development strategy. Any issue in relation to that particular contract is a matter currently being discussed and worked through. It is not money being frittered away. It is money that actually supports positive youth development. We want all young people in New Zealand to grow up to be proud, confident Kiwi kids, culturally diverse and respected in today’s society.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Can the Minister confirm that through the strong Government support and the efforts of a whole lot of communities in Gisborne, people in that area are really revelling in the contract signed up to by youth organisations such as the Kaiti youth group?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I can confirm that the Gisborne District Council wants to ensure that young people are supported, and the Youth Development Partnership Fund is one way of achieving that. I seek leave for the member Anne Tolley to table any correspondence she may have that supports her claim that—
Madam SPEAKER: The member knows she cannot seek leave on behalf of another member.