Questions And Answers Wednesday, 15 November 2006
Wednesday, 15 November
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Police—Public Confidence
2. World Cup 2011—Auckland Stadium
3. Climate Change—APEC Summit
4. Electricity Commissioner—Minister's Comments
5. Primary Health Care—Reports
6. Ingram Report—Ministerial Review
7. Cancer Diagnoses—PET/CT Scanners
8. Health Sector Strike Action—Employment Relations Act
9. Energy Efficiency—Homes
10. Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations—Compliance
11. Māori Students—Educational Achievement
12. Court Fines—Collection
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
1. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Police: What reports has she received on public confidence in the New Zealand Police?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): I have seen two recent reports. The first is the State Services Commission survey of New Zealanders’ confidence in the integrity of State servants when delivering services. The New Zealand Police came out at No. 1 in the survey, at 74 percent, ahead of other organisations such as the armed forces or political parties, which came last. The second report was released last week. New Zealand has now reached No. 1, along with Finland and Iceland, on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. A corruption-free police force is something we can be proud of.
Martin Gallagher: Further to the Minister’s answer to the primary question, what reports has she seen in relation to a lack of trust in the New Zealand Police to act independently?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There is a lot of interest in this answer. I read the appalling comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Don Brash, in this morning’s Dominion Post, whereby he attempted to get off paying the GST the National Party owes from misspending around $100,000 of taxpayers’ money and receiving 12.5 percent more election advertising than it was entitled to by attacking the integrity and independence of the New Zealand Police. I believe that that was a deliberate attempt to subvert any possible future police action.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the police found a prima facie case against the Prime Minister, a prima facie case against the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, and a prima facie case against the Minister for Social Development and Employment, yet, mysteriously, and apparently without any political pressure, decided not to press any charges, in complete contrast to their decision to charge my colleague Mr Ardern for a minor incident involving a tractor and my colleague Dr Smith for a breach of a law that was subsequently changed; can she tell the House whether she might have noticed just a small discrepancy in the way that the police have treated those cases?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No, there is no discrepancy. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The member was heard in silence. We will have the Minister heard in silence.
Hon ANNETTE KING: No. The police make decisions on who will be prosecuted every day of the week. They do that with fairness and honesty. For example, the police decided not to prosecute—[Interruption]
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure you can anticipate the point of order. You did say that the reply would be heard in silence. I heard Gerry Brownlee call out not once but twice.
Madam SPEAKER: I ask members to please show courtesy to each other when they ask questions and when questions are answered.
Hon ANNETTE KING: The police make decisions on whom they will prosecute every day of the week, and have done so for generations. For example, they decided not to prosecute the National Party for not paying the GST—the overexpenditure—on election expenditure. Why? Because they did not know whom to charge, because no one would own up!
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is inappropriate for the Minister to mention in her answer a matter that is essentially operational. What is more, it is inappropriate for the Minister in her answer to say something that is patently untrue. There has been no breach of any law by the National Party.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: On the latter point, the police did indeed inquire into matters. Because there was no written contract or documentary evidence, they did not know whether to charge the National Party in Parliament or the National Party outside.
Madam SPEAKER: That is a matter for debate.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that Ministers’ answers to questions are supposed to be given in a way that is commensurate with the public good, surely it is inappropriate for Ministers to answer in a way that, if it is not untruthful, leads to debate.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If both questions and answers were ruled out on the basis that they could lead to debate, we might as well cut out question time immediately and go to orders of the day.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. As members know, it is not for the Speaker to determine the truth or otherwise of questions or answers and statements made therein. That was a matter of debate, not a matter of order.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister consider that public confidence in the police would be enhanced if the traffic service was to be split off as a separate agency, thus enabling the police to concentrate on catching criminals and those who do not pay their bills, and on keeping families and communities safe?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The issue of whether we should decouple the police, in terms of traffic and general policing, is the matter of a review by the State Services Commission, and that is due for report in March next year. However, having said that, I say policing in New Zealand also involves road policing, and road policing means not just issuing traffic tickets but actually apprehending criminals on the road, in their cars, when they undertake illegal traffic actions. The police pick up many people through that method.
Ron Mark: In light of that answer, does the Minister not agree that one of the issues that New Zealand First has raised in the inquiry that has been conducted by the State Services Commission, as part of the confidence and supply agreement between New Zealand First and the Government, surrounds the loss of confidence by the public in the police because of what it sees as a deviation from the police’s primary function—that being fighting crime and lawlessness—and an overly heavy-handed concentration on quota ticketing?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I think it is fair to say that that has been the perception. Interestingly enough, the number of tickets issued by the New Zealand Police has dropped for the last 2 years. I do believe there is far more confidence in the police than there has been for some time, and that is reflected in surveys, but the review will take place and decisions will be made after that.
Martin Gallagher: What other reports has the Minister seen in relation to police independence?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have seen comments, again by Dr Brash—but also repeated today by Mr Brownlee—where he claims that the police prosecute National MPs but not Labour MPs. I have to say, first of all, that that is a scurrilous attack on police integrity. It is also wrong in fact. Dr Brash claimed, as did Mr Brownlee, that the police prosecuted Nick Smith. They did not. The charges were laid by the Solicitor-General and he, not the police, prosecuted them. This is the same Solicitor-General who provided the legal opinion on election spending to the Auditor-General. In my view, the attack on the police by National is a blatant attempt to get off the corrupt hook it is hanging on.
World Cup 2011—Auckland Stadium
2. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When she said, of the proposed Auckland waterfront stadium: “I just favour whatever can be built within the timeframe available to do the best credit we can for the country.”, did she mean that there should be no limits to the expense incurred on behalf of the nation’s taxpayers; if not, what did she mean?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): The Prime Minister meant what she said.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm yesterday’s statement made by the chairman of Fletcher Building, Dr Roderick Deane: “If it was to proceed, then stage one, it has been indicated to us, would be on a cost reimbursable basis.”; and will the Prime Minister tell the House just what arrangements have been made with Fletcher Building to date?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It had already been said publicly, I think, before the Prime Minister said that, that if the waterfront stadium proceeded, the platform construction would need to be on an open-book basis because there is simply not time to proceed with a full tender. However, the second stage, the building of the stadium on top of that platform, can be done through a proper tendering process.
Keith Locke: How can giving Aucklanders only 2 weeks to decide on such a hugely expensive project be consistent with section 82 of the Local Government Act, which says that affected residents must have their views properly heard before a local authority makes a decision; and why is the Government overriding both its own Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act? [Interruption]
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the latter point, I thank Dr Smith for his introduction. Mr McCully has already written to Mr Mallard to support special legislation for the Eden Park option.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question asked why Mr Cullen and the Government took the position, not why the National Party took its position.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The reason for my reply is quite a simple one. In the case of both the options before Auckland at the moment, it seems likely that special legislation will be needed to override the Resource Management Act.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The main thrust of my question was on the Local Government Act. The Minister did not reply to the overriding—
Madam SPEAKER: It is a useful reminder for all members that supplementary questions should contain only one question. Ministers in reply can, in fact, reply to any of whatever questions are asked.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Prime Minister confirm the statement made by Dr Deane in relation to the platform for the proposed waterfront stadium: “It would not be on the basis of a fixed price. That’s because of the risks involved and the uncertainties and the toughness of the timeframe.”; and can the Prime Minister confirm that the Government plans to enter into a contract that would see all of the costs associated with the risks, the uncertainties, and the toughness of the time frame carried by taxpayers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The statement made by Dr Deane, in fact, mirrored a statement made by Mr Mallard publicly last week, so there is nothing new in that statement. In terms of the risks and the risk sharing, of course Eden Park does not have a fixed design, does not have a fixed cost, does not have a budget, and does not have a source of funding.
Keith Locke: What consideration has the Government given to the Auckland City district plan, and how will the Government build a 37 metre high stadium when the district plan covering that area prescribes a maximum height of 15 metres—that is, less than half of the height of the planned stadium—and when the neighbouring residents were given an assurance that that would be the maximum height?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is one reason why, indeed, there would need to be legislation. But, equally, if the member cares to look at the Eden Park option, he will find that it is almost certain that it will need to be higher than that limit, as well.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister have any confidence in the $120 million estimate for the platform announced by Mr Mallard, in light of the absence of a fixed-price contract and the fact that the costs associated with the risks, the uncertainties, and the toughness of the time frame will not be met in any way by a contractor appointed by the Government without any tender process?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think somewhat more confidence than in the original estimate of $150 million for Eden Park, which has already got to $387 million, and may end up being a good deal more than that, with probably—let us be realistic—the risk being borne by the Government.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree with the statement of her Minister of Finance that Mr Mallard’s estimated price tag of $500 million for a waterfront stadium could rise; if so, by how much would it have to rise before the Government decided that the project was not such a smart idea?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I happen to be fully briefed on what the Minister of Finance said, and what he said was that both projects could rise in cost.
Dr Don Brash: Has the Prime Minister seen the statement from the chairman of Fletcher Building that a fixed-price contract was unacceptable, and a cost reimbursable basis acceptable, to the company, because “that would minimise the risk for Fletcher Building”; and can she therefore confirm that the Government intends that all of the risk should be carried by taxpayers and ratepayers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The reference is only to the platform building project, which will be done on an open-book basis, but I remind the member again—I am sorry to be repetitious—that, in the case of both projects, there are not full, detailed design projects; in the case of both projects, there are not completed final costs; in the case of both projects, there is not a source of funding; and in the case of both projects, there is not a budget.
Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree with her Minister Trevor Mallard, who stated today that Eden Park is “a poor second option, it shows a lack of imagination, it shows a city that doesn’t have a vision, but it might be that that’s what Aucklanders want.”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I come back to what the Prime Minister says. She wants a stadium that will make Auckland and New Zealand proud. We are awaiting the results of the Auckland consultative process.
Ron Mark: Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether any of those questions just asked of her were put by National when Murray McCully met with Trevor Mallard?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The impression I have from reports is that Mr McCully is quite an enthusiastic supporter—indeed, a supporter also of the waterfront stadium. But that member coming from the East Coast Bays district, I assume he has some residual loyalty to the North Harbour option as well.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a copy of page 10 of the central area section of the Auckland district plan, which shows a maximum height of 15 metres in the area where the proposed stadium would go.
Climate Change—APEC Summit
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will he be raising the issue of climate change in his discussions with other foreign and trade ministers at the APEC summit this week; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will he be seeking support from his APEC colleagues for the position that a precondition to any trade deal with OECD countries is that they sign up to an international binding greenhouse gas reduction treaty such as the Kyoto Protocol; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because the issues are treated as somewhat separate and, of course, environmental issues come into play at least as much with non-OECD countries as they do with OECD countries in terms of trade discussions.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What discussions has he had with the non-OECD members of APEC about the likelihood of their ever agreeing to carbon reduction targets if the US and Australia do not, and is that not a suitable subject for a regional cooperation forum that includes some of the fastest-growing countries in the world to address?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am not specifically briefed on the first part of that question. I can say that obviously it is desirable looking forward beyond the first conference of parties period for Kyoto that we see a more broadly based and inclusive agreement internationally, and it is useful, I think, to see that the aspirant for the National Party leadership is now fully supportive of matters to address climate change issues.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware that right from the very beginning of the negotiations that led to Kyoto a precondition of the developing countries taking targets was that the OECD countries should demonstrate progress, and how does he expect them to ever take responsibility if the United States and Australia do not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it is always easy for countries to say “I won’t do something unless everybody else does the same thing.” If we took in that same attitude, we would still have hugely high tariff barriers around New Zealand to the detriment of most New Zealand producers.
Nandor Tanczos: How will New Zealand’s stance at APEC assist the plight of New Zealand furniture manufacturers driven to the wall by cheap imports made from illegally and unsustainably harvested rainforest timber from South-east Asia and the Pacific, the logging of which is causing biodiversity loss, species extinction, and accelerated climate change, and will the Government support international agreements to prohibit the import of unsustainably and illegally harvested timber?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Obviously, the Government does support effective measures to try to reduce the usage of such timber. But if one is also trying to negotiate with developing countries around the whole issue of greenhouse gas emissions and targets, it may be best not to start off by kicking them straight in the face in that respect.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister aware that those developing countries themselves have asked for assistance in stopping the illegal theft of their forests by foreign multinationals, and would it not be a good idea to institute rules in New Zealand that supported the rights of those countries to log their own forests legally and sustainably?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of such moves; we are sympathetic towards such moves. But I do not think it is adequate simply to blame multinational companies. That kind of bogeyman approach to international environmental issues is not terribly convincing.
Electricity Commissioner—Minister's Comments
4. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Finance: Why did he call the electricity commissioner into his office on 23 May 2006, endorse Transpower’s new proposal to put power lines through the Waikato, and say that he would deny that the meeting ever took place if he were asked?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The only correct part of that statement is that I called a meeting with the Electricity Commission and Transpower. Its purpose was to bang heads together, given the stand-off between, and the bad behaviour of, both players.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why, at the meeting on 23 May, did the Minister tell the commission—as was quite explicitly stated by the electricity commissioner at the Commerce Committee—“You have to stretch things a bit.”, and make this statement: “We were definitely being pushed to accommodate Transpower rather than enforce the law.”; and why do Ministers in this Government, whether in relation to the pledge card, Mr Field, and now Transpower, believe they are above the law?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are two responses to that. The first is that at the start of the meeting I made it clear that I did not wish to hear any arguments for or against any particular proposal. The meeting was about telling both players to get on and solve the issue, and not to play games with each other—as both were, both publicly and privately. That is the most important point that was made at that meeting.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why would Mr Hemmingway, who has been described by this Government as a “person of great integrity”, and about whom the Minister of Energy, last month, said: “a person who had done a very good job” and “we were very fortunate to be able to attract him to this country”, mislead a select committee of this Parliament, and say quite explicitly, not once but five times, that at that meeting Dr Cullen made it absolutely explicit that they should get on and approve the Transpower proposal, against the law?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I regret to say that what Mr Hemmingway says is simply not true. I gathered at the meeting that he was not entirely listening to what was going on and, unfortunately, his more recent statements demonstrate that. But of course it was Dr Nick Smith who, only 3 weeks before this meeting, asked the Government why it was relying upon the advice of the Electricity Commission rather than that of Transpower. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: The member will be heard.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did Mr Trevor Mallard release a press statement entitled “Independent assessment of proposed grid upgrade” on 13 April this year, and in that press statement state quite explicitly: “The Government could not influence the outcome at all.”; and why did he then meet with the electricity commissioner and make it plain that he wanted the Transpower proposal approved—how can that possibly be consistent?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not, because I did not. I have already told the member that. What we told Transpower and the Electricity Commission—I have publicly and privately many times referred to the male rutting that was going on between the two of them—was that the interests of the country and the interests of Auckland meant that they had to find a solution and stop playing games with each other.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can that Minister’s Government dismiss repeated statements at the select committee, on Radio New Zealand, and on Newstalk ZB, when the select committee heard last Thursday that another member of the Electricity Commission said: “He had worked with Ministers all his career and had never been spoken to the way he had by Ministers under this Government over this issue.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because in my view both the commission and Transpower at the time were not serving New Zealand well, and I do not apologise for trying to ensure that the commission and Transpower arrived at a solution, in the interests of New Zealand. Mr Hemmingway also needs to be reminded that he has the legal status of the commission wrong. It is a Crown agent.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister tell the House what other independent statutory officers he has been bullying—commissioners from the Commerce Commission, the Solicitor-General, the Commissioner of Police, the Health and Disability Commissioner—and which of those has he been having secret meetings with, behind the scenes, and telling them what to do rather than allowing them to go about their independent lawful business?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely none. The only person I know of in this House who has been convicted of contempt in relation to independent officers is that member, for contempt of court.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the very explicit Morning Report transcript in which Mr Hemmingway said that he was told by Dr Cullen to approve the Transpower proposal, and that he would deny that that meeting ever took place.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the transcript of the Commerce Committee last Thursday, in which Mr Hemmingway made a number of very serious allegations about interference in the independence of the Electricity Commission.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Primary Health Care—Reports
5. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on primary health care?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): New research from the Commonwealth Fund shows that New Zealand has one of the world’s best primary health care systems. New Zealand general practitioners are leaders in the use of information technology, electronic patient records, electronic laboratory results, and so on. New Zealand also has much better provision for after-hours primary care than do many nations. Our practices perform strongly in many measures of quality, and New Zealand has good levels of service coordination. Our primary health care providers have much to be proud of, but as always, there is still room for improvement.
Sue Moroney: Has he received any reports on aspects of our primary health care system that need improvement, and has he seen proposals to address any shortcomings?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have. The Commonwealth Fund report shows that New Zealanders still find going to a general practitioner too expensive. However, the research was done only part-way through the low fees roll-out, and is therefore a very strong endorsement of Government policy in that regard. I am concerned, however, that the National Party is still on record as supporting higher doctors’ fees for patients. Its members should study the Commonwealth Fund findings closely. They really do need to get on with their inevitable U-turn.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not time the Minister of Health stopped picking the eyes out of various reports and admitted to the House that the most damning fact in this entire survey, which the authors have made very clear in the report, is that based on doctors’ reports, long waits for elective surgery appear to be the norm in New Zealand; is it not time that he admitted that this Government is failing to deal with the desperate elective surgery needs of patients in this country?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is absolutely correct.
Hon Tony Ryall: Tell the full story.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am agreeing with the member, if he would just like to hold his breath for a little while. I am on his side. I think the finding that New Zealanders—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Not too close. Don’t get too close.
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, we will not get too close.
Madam SPEAKER: The member who asked the question was heard in silence. Would members please give the member who is answering the question the same courtesy.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I agree with the member who asked the question, and indeed, that is a strong showing in the fund’s report. It was, however, research that was done around May or June of this year, and since then most of our district health boards have, at long last, moved to a situation where people will receive their surgery within 6 months. At the moment we have about 13 or 14 district health boards complying with that, and by Christmas time we will have nearly all of them complying. The very thing that that report showed is the very thing that this Government has fixed.
Ingram Report—Ministerial Review
6. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his statement to the House on Tuesday, 12 September 2006, that he has reviewed the immigration matters covered in the Ingram report?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration): Yes. A number of immigration matters are covered in the Ingram report, which I have read on a number of occasions.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: If, as the Minister told the House yesterday and repeated just now, he has read the Ingram report on a number of occasions, why could he not tell the House yesterday that neither the Hon Phil Goff nor Ross Robertson MP provided the evidence they held to the Ingram inquiry?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I told the member and the House yesterday, the Minister of Immigration is not responsible for the provision of evidence by members of the House to the Ingram inquiry.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: When reviewing the immigration matters in the Ingram report, has the Minister asked the Prime Minister whether she had in her possession a letter dated 3 August 2005, revealing that her Ministers Phil Goff and Paul Swain had both been introduced to Mr Sunan Siriwan by Taito Phillip Field while Mr Siriwan was working on Mr Field’s house in Samoa in March 2005; if so, did the Prime Minister ensure that her Ministers informed the Ingram inquiry of what they knew?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No, and I suggest he puts the question to the Prime Minister.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the material evidence held by the Hon Phil Goff, the Hon Paul Swain, and Ross Robertson MP—that in March 2005 Taito Phillip Field was aware that Mr Siriwan was working on Mr Field’s house in Samoa—have been relevant to the Ingram inquiry, given that Noel Ingram QC could not establish that Mr Field was aware of the fact that Mr Siriwan was working on his house any earlier than 26 May to 30 May 2005, because of a lack of evidence?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: With due reference to the previous caveat, I guess that that depends on what the evidence was.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Would the material evidence held by the Prime Minister—that two of her Ministers had, in the presence of Taito Phillip Field, seen Mr Siriwan working on Mr Field’s house in Samoa in March 2005—have been relevant to the Ingram inquiry, given that Noel Ingram QC was forced to conclude at paragraph 199: “the evidence does not support a finding that Mr Field knew that Mr Siriwan was working on Mr Field’s house in Samoa at the time he wrote that letter.”, that letter being Mr Field’s final submission to the Associate Minister, dated 18 May 2005?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place I suggest that the member ask the question of the Prime Minister, and in the second place I would note that if that is in any way connected with a Mr Williams, who is apparently a witness in that matter, the Ingram inquiry found him to be entirely without credibility.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What conclusion should we draw from the fact that the Prime Minister, the Hon Phil Goff, the Hon Paul Swain, and Ross Robertson MP all had material information contradicting the evidence Taito Phillip Field gave the Ingram inquiry, yet not one of those people supplied the evidence they possessed to Noel Ingram QC?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The member’s repeated innuendo reflects badly on that member. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister just address the question, please.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As I have confirmed to this House on a number of occasions, both Mr Robertson and Mr Goff have made no secret of the fact that they visited the Hon Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa. What is clear from the evidence is that they did not discuss immigration matters surrounding Mr Sunan Siriwan—according to any evidence I have seen. I suggest that the member learn that repeated assertion does not proof constitute.
Cancer Diagnoses—PET/CT Scanners
7. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Does he share the concern expressed by a visiting American cancer expert that New Zealanders are missing out on high-quality diagnoses because we do not have a PET/CT scanner in this country; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health): The first positron emission tomography (PET) scanner was brought into New Zealand just under a year ago by Pacific Radiology in Wellington. Although PET scanning is an exciting technology, there are a number of issues to consider around its wider use in New Zealand, including the sourcing of isotopes, which are currently flown to New Zealand from Australia. The case for public provision of PET scanning in New Zealand is under consideration now.
Barbara Stewart: When did his ministry begin investigating the viability of PET scanning, and how much longer does he anticipate these investigations will take?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The answers to the member’s two questions are earlier this year, and early next year.
Ann Hartley: What is the process for deciding whether new technologies such as PET scanning should be introduced into New Zealand’s public health system?
Hon PETE HODGSON: A process to assess new technologies was formulated recently—earlier this year. PET scanning became the first technology to undergo assessment. The process is designed to assess whether we need this or that new technology and if so, how many bits of kit we need, how and where we will place them, and how they will be funded. I am meeting with the relevant advisory committee on the PET scanner tomorrow to update myself on progress, and I anticipate that the final decision to proceed—or not—will be made early in the new year.
Barbara Stewart: Is it possible that we are being denied the benefits of what has been described as the gold standard in cancer imaging because of bureaucratic dithering about who should pay for it?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, we do not have bureaucratic dithering; we have a fairly determinative process to work out whether, when, where, and how we fund such items.
Health Sector Strike Action—Employment Relations Act
8. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Labour: Will she consider changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 to limit the unrestricted right of radiographers and other crucial health staff to go on lengthy strikes, as has been unanimously requested by the Canterbury District Health Board; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Labour): The right to strike is not unrestricted. Industrial action is not permitted in the first 40 days after bargaining is initiated. Industrial action in essential services requires that notice be given to the employer and to the Department of Labour, who must then provide mediation to attempt to avoid the industrial action. There is also a requirement to provide life-preserving services as agreed between the Council of Trade Unions and District Health Boards New Zealand. These restrictions and requirements maintain balance in a modern health system and a modern employment relations regime.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Does that answer mean that she has not considered the Canterbury District Health Board’s request that hospital workers be deemed an essential service provider, much like the police, who have binding statutory procedures for settling disputes, or is the Minister of Health just going to sit there and let more and more health workers go on strike?
Hon RUTH DYSON: My answer to the primary question reflected the obvious fact that the member’s question was inaccurate. In my view, our employment relations regime provides a balanced framework.
Darien Fenton: How does the right to strike for health workers under current legislation differ from previous legislation?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Health workers were able to strike under the Employment Contracts Act. The key difference now is that unions and employers must agree as to how life-preserving services will be provided during the strike.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Has the Minister given any advice to the Minister of Health to ensure that parties use mediation, instead of us seeing this perpetual round of strike threats, strikes, patients inconvenienced, loss to the public, and huge disadvantage and disquiet in the community?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The Minister of Health is not a party to the negotiations, but actually there is a requirement that parties are referred to the Mediation Service. I am confident that requirement has been met.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is the Minister aware that in the last 12 months New Zealanders had more strikes than at any time in the previous 10 years, and that this particular 12 months looks like it will even break that record?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The initial reference that I have in relation to health strikes indicates that in this current year, compared with the first three-quarters of 1999, we have had about a third of the number of industrial stoppages. So under that member’s Government the situation was actually a lot worse.
Jo Goodhew: Can the Minister understand the desperation that district health boards, like the Canterbury District Health Board, feel when industrial action results in intolerable delays for cancer treatment and makes it very difficult for district health boards to provide the elective surgery that New Zealanders desperately need?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes; I certainly understand the problem. I do not share the member’s views on the solution.
9. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for Building Issues: What reports has he received on proposals to improve the energy efficiency of New Zealand homes?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister for Building Issues): The Government’s initiatives to reduce the amount of energy required to heat new homes, to heat water in new homes, and to light, heat, ventilate, and air condition commercial buildings have been warmly received. I agree with the Registered Master Builders Federation when it said that it is important that good progress is made in the area of sustainable building, and with Jennian Homes when it said that such initiatives are important for consumers.
Steve Chadwick: How will the changes benefit the homeowner?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Higher thermal insulation performance requirements for new homes—walls, floors, ceilings, and windows—could potentially save these homeowners up to 30 percent on their electricity and gas bills. For example, I am advised that the annual energy savings could range from 5,205 kilowatt-hours per year for a home in Auckland, for instance, to 12,720 kilowatt-hours per year for a home in Dunedin. An improved solution, making it easier to install solar water heating systems, could potentially save homeowners who choose this option up to 50 percent of their water heating bills. These homes will be healthier, drier, and more comfortable, and homeowners will also benefit from a higher capital value from having an energy-efficient home, if, and when, they come to sell.
Hon Bill English: Where is the consistency in the Government imposing these higher up-front costs on homeowners because of the benefits in terms of a sustainable environment, when the Government, in putting up its own new buildings, follows a different policy, such as when it told Clutha Valley School—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Oh, you’ve changed the name now.
Hon Bill English: —yeah—to remove from its plans for a new school—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It was Clydevale! Which one?
Madam SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have observed over recent months your regularly throwing out of the House members who interrupt during a question. That was consistent barracking.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the member will be aware that the rulings are that interjections are permitted; barracking is not. That was an interjection—I called “Order!”—just as there are also interjections from that side of the House during questions. Would the member please proceed.
Hon Bill English: Madam Speaker, what is the distinction you make between interjections and barracking?
Madam SPEAKER: The distinction is that the person can be heard. Barracking is when it is impossible to hear. A solitary interjection was not loud enough that members could not hear the member.
Hon Bill English: Where is the consistency in the Government imposing upfront costs on homeowners for long-term sustainability benefits, but in terms of its own buildings, such as the new Clutha Valley School, telling that school’s board to remove from its plans solar heating, natural-light roofing, high-grade double glazing, high-grade batts, and an efficient heating system?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Firstly, in respect of the school that the member refers to—
Hon Bill English: Why don’t you fix it?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The member should breathe through his nose. I am advised that the school has been peer reviewed by an architect whom the school agreed to, who has found that in all but one case the same job and the same techniques can be done in a more economical way. In respect of the first part of the member’s question, in relation to the imposition of costs, the choice is for new homeowners as to whether they challenge their builders or designers upfront to look at their family profile and say whether, if they were to spend a few more dollars on some of these energy-efficient measures, they could have a long-term cost saving of—as I said—perhaps 30 percent per year in their gas and power bills, which is a huge payback in these high energy cost times.
Gordon Copeland: Has the Minister considered an initiative that would require, over time, all houses sold, leased, or let in New Zealand to be assessed for their energy efficiency and given a standardised energy-efficiency rating, in much the same way as washing machines and fridges are given one today; if so, what is being done to explore this idea further?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I believe that Jeanette Fitzsimons, in relation to her responsibilities in respect of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, is studying an action on that very point.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did his Government promise in 1999 to upgrade the building code to improve energy efficiency, when now, 7 years later, nothing has been done; and can he be explicit as to when that upgrade will actually be achieved, or will it be another 7 years of all talk and no action?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I can say that in my role—and I have been 1 year in the job—I am committed to ensuring that these changes—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: When?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Just settle down. The changes will be in place by October 2007. As Minister for Building Issues I am committed to those changes being made just as I am committed to the ongoing implementation of the Building Act 2004, the licensing of building practitioners, the ongoing protection of DIYers, changes and enhancements to the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, product certification, investigation of home warranty insurance, the reviewing of the building code—all work that could have been done when that member was a Minister; he had 9 years to do it but sat on his chuff and did nothing.
Madam SPEAKER: Ministers are reminded that when making their answers they should keep them to addressing the question, without innuendo.
Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations—Compliance
10. PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Fisheries: What action, if any, has the Minister taken to address non-reporting of customary fishing activity, since seven of the 15 iwi or hapū groups required to put in quarterly reports under the Fisheries (Kaimoana Customary Fishing) Regulations 1998 have not done so for 2 years, which equates to eight consecutive reports?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Associate Minister of Fisheries): In relation to the kaimoana reports, I am concerned at the level of non-reporting. Ministry officials are working closely with the relevant groups to improve reporting.
Phil Heatley: Why did the Minister’s office write that it was choosing to take a “partnership approach to the regulations with our Treaty partner, rather than an enforcement approach”, when the law states that quarterly returns must be provided; and is the Minister aware of whether the police or the Customs Service are also taking a partnership approach rather than an enforcement approach to burglary, drug running, or anything else?
Madam SPEAKER: That was a little wide of the question.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I think the partnership approach is a great approach, in the sense that regulation 27 of the amateur fishing regulations, which are currently in place over a large part of New Zealand, does not require any returns for customary catch.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What initiatives have been undertaken by the Minister to support the management of customary fishing?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have met with a number of iwi groups, on weeknights and during the weekends, regarding the establishment of iwi forums. The forums will work with the Ministry of Fisheries to develop and implement programmes to ensure that the requirements of the regulations are properly carried out. Other things include the employment of pou hononga, who are advisers and people with regulation expertise, to assist people on the ground—who are generally haukāinga people doing it voluntarily—the development of a database to better monitor customary harvest, and the establishment of a training programme for kaitiaki.
Phil Heatley: What sort of message does it send to iwi like Ngāi Tahu, who always file quarterly reports and obey all the rules, when this Minister turns a blind eye to seven iwi in his electorate, and can commercial and recreational fishers also look forward to a partnership rather than an enforcement approach; and how can we possibly keep track of fish stocks for everyone’s benefit—Māori, commercial, and recreational fishers alike—if this Minister will not insist on catch reporting?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The great thing about Ngāi Tahu, in so many ways, is that because they got off the rank first, they are a good model of consistency. What we have done, in the sense of the document I have here, is ensure that those who are behind are catching up. I tell that member that a whole lot of other groups have reported consistently. Some of them have been patchy—certainly; that is right. But it will be quite surprising to members that in the magazine of the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council there is an article stating: “A practical training programme initiated by SITO is helping tangata whenua rebuild and sustainably manage their customary fisheries taonga and, as Sheridan Gundry discovered, it is winning some rave reviews.” That person is one of the top international writers, and the article actually made the cover of the magazine. I will give the member a copy.
Madam SPEAKER: Would members respect that when a member is still on his or her feet, they do not rise.
Phil Heatley: Apart from the poor reporting, why did the ministry do 267 regulation 27 customary fishery inspections in the year before the customary rules were supposedly tightened, but only 81 inspections in the year after the customary rules were supposedly tightened?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: In 1998 the National Party did nothing. It did nothing for 2 years—nothing whatsoever; zip. What the Ministry has done is really improve the performance going forward. We need to keep in mind that the Ministry is made up of hardworking people who support partnerships on the ground.
Phil Heatley: When Dover Samuels said in 2004: “… if we keep abusing and depleting our fisheries there will be nothing left for Māori to have customary rights over.”, and the then Minister of Fisheries, David Benson-Pope, responded: “I plan to start work on tightening up the customary fishing regime.”, why has this Minister since then, firstly, not insisted that hapū in his electorate file quarterly reports and, secondly, slashed the number of regulation 27 customary fishing inspections by two-thirds?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is important for that member to remind himself of what I just said about the performance of the ministry, and what is happening. [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. Members will be leaving the Chamber. It is impossible to hear the Minister’s answer, yet there was silence when the member asked his question.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: My colleague Dover Samuels knows all about this—about the people who are pillaging, raping, and setting-to on the kai moana, the seafood. We will see them all at Christmas—the Pākehās, the Asians, and the Māori—getting stuck in. What this Government is doing something about is making sure it is looked after. I am not too sure what that member is insinuating. Only about 5 percent of the North Island coastline is covered by customary regulations, and the take is minor compared with other takes of kai moana. It is minor compared with what everybody else savages and raids the seabed over.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request that shows that quarterly fishing returns have not been filed by half the North Island hapū groups in that Minister’s electorate in the last 2 years.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the annual report of the Ministry of Fisheries, which shows that only 81 customary fishing inspections were carried out this year, with 267 in the previous year.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a document from the Minister’s office saying that they were choosing to take a partnership approach rather than an enforcement approach.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table various reports that show Dover Samuels railing against customary fishing abuses and David Benson-Pope fixing them.
Madam SPEAKER:. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I indicate to the member that if he wanted to seek leave to table the response on the Official Information Act, I do not think there would be objection. I think it was the request he wanted to table.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the response to the Official Information Act request that was chased up by the Ombudsman because it was refused—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. We all know what it is now.
Māori Students—Educational Achievement
11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Education: How does the Minister account for Māori students being nearly three times as likely as non-Māori to leave school with little or no formal attainment?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education): The Government inherited an education system that clearly did not meet the needs of Māori, as the member will know. We have set ourselves the very clear goal of transforming that system to ensure Māori do succeed. That has included major research on what works for Māori students, such as the work by Russell Bishop, which I am sure the member is familiar with; the Hui Taumata process, which is now in its fifth year and involves educators from all over the country; many new resources such as the $26 million for te reo; and the Māori education strategy that the member, I am sure, has hold of. Of course, I have to draw to the member’s attention that resolving the issues of education of Māori will not just be an education issue. It will relate to family responsibility, parenting skills, housing, employment—large numbers of things will come into the success story. But, certainly, we are doing our bit.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister concerned that more than 61 percent of all schools are unable to provide consistent evidence of improved learning outcomes for Māori students, that 17 percent can provide no evidence, and that, in fact, only 9 percent had substantial evidence of improved outcomes for Māori over time; and, given this, what commitment is he prepared to make to improve the achievement of Māori students?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I draw the member’s attention back to my first answer, which shows that the Government has, over the last 7 years, certainly shown its commitment. I think one of the things that helps with the ongoing measurement, is, for example, the annual report on Māori education that I have here in my hand. While that report does show that some schools are not very good at reporting on these particular issues, we do now have a very good record of achievement over the past 7 years. Members can see that there is steady progress. I repeat, it will not just be education that makes the difference here. Something as fundamental as family life comes into this, as well. But steady progress has been made over the last 7 years.
Hon Marian Hobbs: What have been the improvements in Māori achievement under a Labour-led Government?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There has been, in the words of Mason Durie, “a major transformative experience for the education sector” under the policies of the Labour-led Government. Many more students are achieving qualifications under the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). In 2002, 35 percent of Māori school-leavers left with low attainment; by 2004 this had dropped to 25 percent. In 2004, 12 percent of Māori school-leavers achieved the university entrance qualification or better, up from 8 percent in 2002. Now, of course, Māori are moving on to tertiary education at a higher rate than the population as a whole.
Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that the percentage of Māori leaving school with little or no formal attainment dropped from 34.9 percent to 25.4 percent from 2002 to 2004; and while the figure for Māori is double that for all school leavers, there has, in fact, been a positive move in the right direction?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I can confirm that those figures are there. It is steady improvement; it will not be radical, because there is a complex of reasons why Māori underachievement has been there, but we are getting on top of it. To the member who asked before for Mason Durie’s quote, I refer him to Māori Achievement: Anticipating the Learning Environment of the Hui Taumata Mātauranga in 2004 for the full quote. Of course, he could also just ring him.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the annual report on Māori education claims that a review of three ethnically targeted parent support and development programmes—two targeted at Māori—found that risk factors such as parental education and socio-economic status were far more accurate predictors of poor educational outcomes than ethnicity?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, that is absolutely right, and it is why, for example, programmes such as the SKIP programme have been so successful, not just for the families in parenting but it has followed on to schools, which recognise the change in the behaviour of the students.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with the Minister of Māori Affairs, who said in this House yesterday that “What has to be understood … is that Māori are decreasing in the negative statistics three to four times quicker than Pākehā.”; if so, how does he account for the fact that NCEA levels for Māori students remain significantly lower than for non-Māori students in years 11, 12, and 13?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In the way that I have accounted before. I think we have had a system that has not served Māori well, because they have been asked to fit into the system rather than the system addressing their particular learning needs. But on top of that, I think we are talking about the issues raised by Mr Donnelly; for example, parenting, family background, the fact that people often come from homes where there is not a high level of education, and they are often in lower socio-economic groups. These are very complex issues, as the member, I know, knows, but I also understand that he knows that we are doing what we possibly can in the education area right now and we are seeing steady, positive results.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with his official Rawiri Brell, who stated in today’s select committee that the Ministry advocates learning to be by communities, of communities, and for communities; and if so, does he agree that it would logically follow that, for Māori communities, “by Māori, of Māori, for Māori” is a worthwhile goal that should be supported; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I agree it is a worthwhile goal but I point out that what really makes the difference for any student is not that we simply have by/for Pākehā, or by/for Tongan, or by/for Māori, but the experience in the classroom of teaching and learning. Regardless of the setting, there still has to be effective teaching. So, yes, I agree it is a worthwhile goal, but I would still want to add on top of that: good leadership in the schools, good resourcing, effective teaching, and all the components that go towards a good education.
12. SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister for Courts: Does he stand by his statement that “we’re doing a great job collecting fines”?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): Yes, of course I do and I want to thank that member for the question. The courts are responsible for collecting fines on behalf of more than 100 issuing authorities. That is 25 times more than the four issuing authorities there were in 1990. More money is being collected by courts in total dollars and this is more in proportion to the amount of fines lodged with courts than ever before. I have also implemented a number of new initiatives including the collection of fines at airports, which has already netted $92,696 in overdue reparation fines from travellers in the first few months of operation. We are doing heaps and we are doing a very good job.
Simon Power: How can the Minister claim that he is doing a great job collecting fines when half a million people owe fines that date back further than a year, including 73,000 that are over 10 years old, and 7,000 that date back to 1987 when the Berlin Wall was still intact and Labour had a flat-tax policy?
Hon RICK BARKER: The member will recall that the National Government was in office for 9 years, and it could have traced them then. I can tell the member some very interesting facts. In 2001-02, $113 million of fines money was collected. In 2005-06, $206.9 million—that is almost a doubling of it—was collected. At that same time, the outstanding amount in 2001-02 was 79 percent and the outstanding amount now is 54 percent. Everything that should be up is going up. We are collecting more and the amount in proportion of what is outstanding is going down. We are doing a good job.
Martin Gallagher: What other reports has he seen on the new improved collection of fines?
Hon RICK BARKER: I have seen reports that say the courts have collected $10.8 million in 2004, and $10.4 million, then $11.6 million this year on, for example, the “Confiscated Car Club”. I have already said to Parliament that the amount we are collecting is going up in absolute terms—that is, in dollar terms—and the amount that is outstanding is dropping in proportion to that. We are doing a very good job.
Simon Power: Can he confirm that these historic fines are often for significant amounts, ranging from $3,000 from 1987 and some for over $100,000 dating back to 1992, and since he is doing such a great job letting offenders from the 1980s off the hook, has he investigated the possibility of using private debt collection agencies to recover these fines instead?
Hon RICK BARKER: That member’s statistics show that no-one gets off the hook. The amount that defaulters owe is outstanding. There are two problems with this. Firstly, on occasions, is identifying the people, and, secondly, is finding where they are. In terms of 1987, the 9 years the National Party was in power, these people could not be tracked down. The trail has gone even colder now. We track everybody. No-one gets off the hook. I tell the member that we have, on occasions, engaged private investigators, and we have introduced a new system. For example, for the top fines defaulters owing more than $50,000, under the new system I introduced in June 2004, 55 were identified and now only 16 still owe more than $50,000. We are slowly but surely getting on top of it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Are the court systems sufficient to collect a fine of $100,000 if, in fact, one results from the National Party paying its bills?
Hon RICK BARKER: Of course, we have sufficient systems. The warning is clear to those people who do not pay the fines at airports. If the National Party members did not pay their fines they would be staying in New Zealand.
Simon Power: Can he confirm that, in addition to fines, there are over 18,000 reparations to victims that date back further than a year, including 16 offenders who owe victims over $100,000 each dating back to 1997, and what does he say to the 284 victims who are still owed money from 1987—in one case over $20,000 after 19 years waiting for resolution?
Hon RICK BARKER: The situation is simply this. In 2001-02 there was $31 million overdue in reparation. This was 70 percent of the total. In 2005-06 this has now fallen to $27 million and is 43 percent of the total. This Government has got tougher on people, and I will give the member some other simple statistics. In 2001-02 there were 41,000 attachment orders put against people’s pay. In 2005-06 there were 203,208—a 500 percent increase. We have got on with the job.
Simon Power: Can he confirm that the biggest fine defaulter is a man who owes $1.8 million, but lives in Brisbane, and in light of the fact that a newspaper journalist was able to track down this man driving his Mercedes earlier in the year, why has he not sought cooperation from the Australian authorities to get the money from him, and how does the Minister think this squares off with his earlier comments this afternoon that “We’re getting tough.”?
Hon RICK BARKER: My staff have known for a long time where that gentleman lives. The man got fined for breaches of the Customs and Excise Act for importing wound-back odometers that Murray McCully refused to do anything about at the time. We have made approaches to Australia, and the simple fact is that the Australians will not agree to extradition of a person such as this. But the message is clear to that gentleman. Should he come back to New Zealand he will be arrested at the border.
Simon Power: Can he confirm that a Wellington woman who owes more than $145,000 in fines and reparations for theft from her employer and traffic offences is serving a 2-year sentence on home detention, but has not been contacted by the Ministry of Justice to arrange repayment despite the fact that her whereabouts on home detention should, presumably, be fairly easy to establish, and what does he say to the woman’s former employer who is still waiting for the money?
Hon RICK BARKER: I can confirm to the member that data matching between the Department of Corrections and the Ministry of Justice has improved and we have better data links. I also say to the member that the number of people who get a prison sentence in lieu of paying their fines has also increased. In 2002-03 there were 140 people who got a prison sentence as an alternative, and in 2005-06 there were 293. So, in fact, the system is getting tougher on people.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister, given his statements on getting tough and data matching, explain why on the one hand the Government prevented the expansion of information sharing between the Collections Contact Centre, the Inland Revenue Department, and Work and Income to improve the collection of outstanding fines as recommended by New Zealand First during the select committee stage of the Courts and Criminal Matters Bill, yet on the other hand has not fast-tracked the expansion of information sharing to track down people overseas with student loans who are not convicted criminals?
Hon RICK BARKER: As I said to the member during that particular debate, we already have data matching between the Collections Contract Centre and, for example, the Ministry of Social Development. In fact, if he goes through the attachment orders that I spoke about previously—saying that 41,000 were issued in 2001-02, and 203,208 in 2005-06, which is a 500 percent increase—he would see that there has also been an increase in the number of deduction notices against banks. In 2001-02 there were 154, and in 2005-06 there are now 4,858. These are very impressive figures.