Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Questions And Answers - Tuesday, 6 November
Questions to Ministers
Sea Freight—Draft Domestic Strategy
1. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Transport: What reaction has she received to the launch of Sea Change, the draft domestic sea freight strategy?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Transport): The reaction to the draft strategy has been extremely positive. The New Zealand Shipping Federation president, Rod Grout, has congratulated the Government on its initiative. He said it was the biggest boost to the New Zealand coastal shipping industry he could ever recall. My colleague Peter Brown from New Zealand First, an ardent campaigner for coastal shipping, has welcomed the proposal, saying it was time that a Government breathed life into the industry, which had been neglected. The Maritime Union of New Zealand has welcomed the strategy, as has the Green Party.
Hon Mark Gosche: What action does the Government intend to take to help transform coastal shipping in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: There are four specific and immediate steps the Government intends to take. Firstly, we are establishing the maritime liaison unit within the Ministry of Transport to create a focal point for the coastal shipping sector, similar to that which exists in the UK or the United States. Secondly, we are addressing the barriers to coastal shipping interests in accessing Government funds. Thirdly, we are gathering information to provide a clear picture of services—their performance, and the required performance. Fourthly, we are ensuring that Government agencies and sectors work together to increase the supply of skilled workers.
Hon Mark Gosche: What impact does this initiative have on other transport modes?
Hon ANNETTE KING: This draft strategy does not mean that the Government will unfairly be supporting coastal shipping as a competitor to the road or rail freight industries. It does mean that in the rapidly expanding freight market, the Government will be supporting efforts to give freight users a choice of transport modes and encouraging them to choose the mode, or combination of modes, that is not only in their own best commercial interests but also in the best interests of New Zealand as a sustainable nation.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that the Government funding she has just referred to, which is also mentioned under the action plan in the report, is new Government money, not money extracted from the National Land Transport Fund?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Funding for the strategy will be decided in Budget 2008, and I say to the member to watch this spot.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has the Minister not taken a far more proactive approach to New Zealand shipping interests—small though they are—given that it is our long-term purpose to minimise our carbon footprint, and given that although billions of dollars have gone into the infrastructure for road and rail, that has not been the case in respect of New Zealand shipping, which has been treated in a very prejudicial way in the last three decades; and why should we not take up this better option for the movement of our goods?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Well, of course, I agree with the member; shipping was neglected. In fact, it was withering and had almost died. But under this Government, and with the support of New Zealand First, we have put in place a strategic direction for coastal shipping, and one would not have that sort of comment from the Shipping Federation unless it believed it was a good move. As I have already said, the Shipping Federation’s president has said that the draft strategy was the biggest boost to the New Zealand coastal shipping industry he could ever recall—and it has happened on this Government’s watch. It certainly did not happen under the National Government, which sought to destroy the shipping industry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I thank—
Gerry Brownlee: Why didn’t this Minister move up in the reshuffle?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Because you are there, and I am happy where I am over here, and that is the way it is going to be for a long, long time, by the looks of it. Could I just say to the Minister, in thanking her for her insightful answer and encouraging her to go further in this respect, does she recall who passed the legislation that was so destructive to New Zealand maritime interests—that is, the Maritime Transport Act? Which party and which Minister did that?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The destruction of the maritime industry in New Zealand occurred under the National Government in the 1990s. My colleagues may be able to help me as to who was the Minister. He was less than memorable, can I say. I suspect it was Maurice Williamson, but then he was less than memorable in transport right through the time he was the Minister and is even less memorable in Opposition as a spokesperson on transport.
Tax Cuts—Treasury Advice
2. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement, in regard to a personal tax cut: “I’d have liked to have done it earlier and I think all our Cabinet and caucus would have, but we’ve never had advice which made that possible.”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes—and I am sure those members are going to like the answer—because our Government has not been prepared to sacrifice investment in areas like health and education to fund tax cuts. That is National Party policy.
John Key: Has Treasury ever advised the Minister of Finance or any other Ministers that personal tax cuts were possible; if so, when was the earliest this advice was given?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Probably to earlier generations; but most specifically I can refer to the 2005 briefing papers to incoming Ministers, which advised that there was scope to redirect some of the money set aside for new spending into tax cuts. That would have meant that our Labour-led Government could not have implemented policies like interest-free loans for students, 20 hours’ free early childhood education, completing the roll-out of cheaper doctors’ fees, giving rates rebates to older citizens, and supporting our families. We put those areas ahead of National Party - style tax cuts.
Tim Barnett: What progress has been made so far on reducing taxes? [Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: We will be having the answer in silence.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know this is an answer the National Party will not like, because the Labour-led Government has reduced taxes on families, it has reduced taxes on business, and it has reduced taxes on savers. Those reductions will amount, by 1 April next year, to $4 billion per annum. The National Party voted against every single cent of every cut.
John Key: Is it the case, therefore, that the Prime Minster should have sought advice from her own Minister of Finance, because in May 2003 Treasury advised the Minister of Finance that the surplus was so big the Government could cut taxes without sacrificing the rest of its fiscal objectives, and it went on to say: “This healthy fiscal financial position presents the Government with scope to cut taxes, increase expenditure, and build up financial assets.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member will recall that in the 2004 Budget this Labour-led Government delivered substantial tax cuts to families, which the member voted against.
Tim Barnett: What feedback has the Prime Minister received about the tax cuts already available through Working for Families?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from families about those Working for Families tax cuts, but I have seen reports that suggest the National Party now cannot work out whether it supports them. I have seen a report that Mr Key said at the time of Budget ‘05 that middle-income New Zealanders eligible for Working for Families would probably get less under National. By Morning Report yesterday he had changed his tune, but then we do find he has difficulty singing in the same key for long.
John Key: When did the Prime Minister’s Government first become aware that increases in tax revenue, and therefore the Government’s surpluses, were structural in nature rather than cyclical?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: At the weekend I referred to the Government—[Interruption] Madam Speaker, it is—
Madam SPEAKER: It is impossible to hear the answer.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Even the National Party must have worked out that tax revenue has consistently come in well over forecast because Treasury’s model has got it wrong. The 2005 Budget forecast for the June 2007 year forecast a deficit of $1.6 billion. Even in the 2006 Budget the forecast for the June 2007 year was a deficit of $1.5 billion. Earlier in October that deficit came out not as a deficit but as a surplus of $2.6 billion. Treasury has now advised Dr Cullen that it is forecasting an increase in revenue over the forecast period, and the National Party will just have to wait for the updates in the fiscal situation to see the full picture.
John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could ask the Prime Minister to answer my question. I asked a very specific question: when did Treasury advise the Government? That has been the premise on which the Government has said there was advice from Treasury that surpluses went from being cyclical to structural. I asked the Prime Minister a very direct question about when she received that advice.
Madam SPEAKER: I listened very carefully to the answer—that which I could hear over the barracking—and it seemed to me the Prime Minister addressed the question.
John Key: On what date did the Prime Minister receive the advice from Treasury that surpluses had now moved from being cyclical to structural, which would allow the funding of personal tax cuts under a Labour Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have received advice from the Minister of Finance, whom I trust—unlike John Key not being able to trust Bill English, I trust the Minister of Finance—
John Key: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We have had two goes at this now. I asked the Prime Minister for the specific date on which she received that advice. I wonder whether you could ask her to answer the question.
Madam SPEAKER: If the member would enable the Prime Minister to complete her answer, I am sure she will.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In recent weeks Dr Cullen has advised me that Treasury’s advice to him is that it is forecasting an increase in revenue across the forecast period, which is a structural movement in revenue not a cyclical one.
John Key: Is the Prime Minister aware that in 2003 the Minister of Finance in fact said that Treasury had given him advice that there had been “a structural increase in tax revenue which made more money available than was flagged in Budget 2003 while still delivering on their fiscal objectives”; and is it not a fact that Michael Cullen had, years earlier, received advice from Treasury that the surpluses were structural, and the reason tax cuts did not happen is that Michael Cullen and Helen Clark did not want to deliver them?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have already pointed out today that the National Party has voted against the whole package of tax cuts delivered by the Labour Government. Because the Labour Government has run a strong economy and surpluses, it has been able to cut taxes for families, taxes for business, and taxes for savers. It has cut taxes on the racing industry, as well. The National Party has consistently voted against tax cuts.
Hon Member: Oh, they’re in trouble!
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Prime Minister is never in trouble when answering Mr Key—that much is clear. I am interested in the answer to the next question: has the Prime Minister received any reports that Mr Key continues to oppose Working for Families as too generous to people, and can she confirm that Working for Families delivered $100 a week to the average Kiwi family, which could not have been delivered by changes to tax rates?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is absolutely true that when the Labour Government made its choices about where to cut taxes it decided to cut them first for families rather than spreading the amount of money available thinly across every other taxpayer. That was our judgment and we stand by it because families carry out arguably the most important job in our society. My understanding is that the National Party’s position—articulated, it is true by Mr English, not Mr Key—is that our Government invests too much in Working for Families and, indeed, too much in superannuation and savings.
John Key: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Minister of Finance’s opinion on future tax cuts that under Labour “individual amounts are not likely to be large”; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure that under a Labour-led Government we would not be proposing to throw New Zealand’s Government books into the red to the tune of $6 billion per annum, which is what National would have had New Zealand’s cash deficit at by this year.
John Key: If the Government’s decision to now look at personal tax cuts is as a result of large surpluses, does she still agree with the Minister of Finance, whose analysis of last year’s fiscal position went something like this: “Eight and a half billion … and still no tax cuts? So? What’s the connection between the two? None, right.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It really is quite disturbing when a leader of the National Party does not know—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. It is impossible to hear the answer. This is the last warning. Those with the loudest voices will be leaving the Chamber next.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It really is disturbing to hear a Leader of the Opposition so financially illiterate that he does not know the difference between a cash surplus and the operating balance.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the briefing to the incoming Minister in 2005 said that the Budget allowance was $1.9 billion a year and that any tax cuts should be paid out of that; and that National was promising $2.5 billion a year in its first year?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I certainly can, and I can say, on the basis of the financial forecasts that were put out at the time of the 2005 Budget, that National was prepared to run, by this year, cash deficits of around $6 billion a year. It has always been prepared to borrow for tax cuts and to cut basic services for families and older citizens.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister not think it is a better idea, rather than to have a so-called tax cut regime of the type National is promising—which will end up in the hands of foreign banks, because as people downsize their mortgage that is where the money will go—[Interruption] Well, I know why Maurice is laughing; it is because he is in their pockets—
Madam SPEAKER: That last comment is out of order, and the member knows it. Would he please withdraw.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take high offence at that. I did not even slightly snigger at Mr Peters’ comments. I made no comment whatsoever. For him to bring me into the debate and then to accuse me of being in anybody’s pockets is outrageous, and the member has been here long enough to know that he should have to go.
Madam SPEAKER: I know, and I intervened on your behalf. The member has withdrawn and apologised. Would the member please ask his question.
Gerry Brownlee: Paying off a foreign mortgage is not good for the country? How does that work?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no, what I am saying is that if we are going to spend all our money by handing it over to foreign bankers, how will that advance the domestic economy? It is only a right-wing moron who would think that. It is only a right-wing loony-tune who would see any sense in that. I am saying—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Madam Speaker, I know they are all getting very excited, but I want to ask the Prime Minister why would it not be a smarter idea, in the interests of the growth of New Zealand’s economy, and higher wages and higher incomes and therefore, in the end, a greater tax take, to target tax cuts towards New Zealand’s exporters, who are the people on whose backs we live or die?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member will recall, the Government this year did offer very substantial tax cuts for business, and the whole package included incentives for research and development and also substantial export grants for up-and-coming exporters. I believe that is a far better decision to have made this year, on the advice we had available to us about revenue, than simply just cutting personal taxes.
John Key: In preparing her conference speech this year, which praised tax cuts, did the Prime Minister get any advice from the Labour Party leader, who announced at Labour’s 2000 conference that “Tax cuts are a path to inequality. They are the promises of a visionless and intellectually bankrupt people.”?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That would be true of every tax cut the National Party has ever offered.
John Key: Which announcement surprised the Prime Minister more: the one from Treasury that surpluses had moved from being cyclical to structural, or the one from Charles Chauvel’s office telling us that he had been promoted?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would not be surprised about the penny dropping at Treasury, after all these years, that the revenue was running well ahead of forecast. I can say that I am extremely fortunate to have ambitious people on this side of the House who can be Ministers—unlike the tired old retreads of the 1990s sitting over there.
3. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Police: What police procedures are followed to detain people without charge, and to search and photograph others, while stopped at roadblocks?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Police): Procedures for detaining, searching, and photographing people at roadblocks follow the relevant standard operating procedures in legislation. The nature of the operation and the potential or actual risk to the community and the police dictate which procedures in legislation are used.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What compensation is available to families for damage to property in normal circumstances when subject to police actions?
Hon ANNETTE KING: My understanding is that the police compensate families for damage that has occurred during a raid, should the people be found not guilty of any charge.
Keith Locke: Is the Minister concerned at the over-the-top way these raids were conducted, and at the fear they have created among not only Tūhoe people but politically active people throughout the country; and what will the Minister, together with the police, be doing to overcome that very real problem in our community?
Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, I will be awaiting the outcome of the inquiries and not rushing to judgment. I think that if we looked at the most recent UMR Insight poll on this issue, we would see that most New Zealanders agree as well that we ought not to rush to judgment on police action. I say to that member that he should wait and see. If inappropriate action has been taken, then there is a proper course of action to be followed.
Dr Pita Sharples: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Tēnā tātou katoa. Is the Minister satisfied that the police were following appropriate procedures when grieving families from Hamilton, who were travelling to Waiōhau for a tangihanga, were pulled over twice by the police for no apparent reason other than that their vehicle had stickers on the back saying “Tūhoe Legends”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I could not possibly comment on that particular incident. I am happy to ask the police for a report on it, should the member give me the particulars of that case. I have no knowledge of it.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What trauma counselling does the Government provide to communities as a result of police actions such as those that were reported as having occurred on what some refer to as “Black Monday”?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Counselling and assistance are available through Victim Support. I gather that counselling is also available through the education system, should people wish to access it. I do not know whether people have made approaches for such assistance, but I am sure that if they did, people would look sympathetically at such approaches. However, I say to members that people experience many violent and vicious things in our society, often in what they see on television, and that not everybody requires counselling. For genuine cases I believe that counselling is available, and people should take up the opportunities that are there.
Electoral Finance Bill—Review of Parliamentary Expenditure
4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the previous Minister of Justice that “The Electoral Finance Bill needs to align with the review of parliamentary expenditure.”; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): My understanding is that that comment was made at a time when it was hoped that cross-party agreement could be reached on permanent rules with respect to parliamentary expenditure, and that has not been possible. National has been happy to take the money and spend it, but does not want to take any responsibility for the rules that enable it to do so.
Hon Bill English: How can the Government’s attempts to reform parliamentary spending be credible, when the bill introduced yesterday allows parliamentary parties to spend taxpayers’ money on things that would be election advertising if they were done by any other person or organisation, having the effect of creating a virtually uncapped taxpayer slush fund for Labour Party advertising?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the member well knows, the spending is not uncapped. Indeed, assuming an election after 1 July next year, that spending will be very heavily capped.
Gerry Brownlee: The Government can spend all it wants on its own programme.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is capped expenditure that the member receives and his leader receives. Secondly, the National Party receives the largest portion of that expenditure. Thirdly, the rules in the bill are exactly the same as the current rules. Finally, it was the National Party that this year put out these documents, which I am holding up, that are on exactly that vote and going out to New Zealanders explaining National Party policy. Which word starting with “h” does that not describe?
R Doug Woolerton: Does the Minister agree that the purpose of the Electoral Finance Bill is to create an even playing field for all participants in the 2008 election; we are no longer a two-party Parliament: as well as an expanded number of political parties, we have to formally accommodate other participants, now known as third parties?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The reason I am taking this question is the reference to the parliamentary expenditure rules. I am, of course, not the Minister responsible for the Electoral Finance Bill.
Madam SPEAKER: That is true. Even though the Electoral Finance Bill is mentioned in the question, the Minister is not responsible. A point of order?
Hon Peter Dunne: A supplementary question.
Madam SPEAKER: If members do not please be quiet, it will be impossible to be able to get through.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked my colleague whether I could take this point of order before his question. As Mr Woolerton put it that way, being misled by the reference to the Electoral Finance Bill in the original question, can he rephrase his question along the same lines, but with respect to the appropriation bill soon to be considered by Parliament? In all other respects I think it is inside the Standing Orders.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I think that is perfectly acceptable. I have, however, in the meantime called the Hon Peter Dunne. [Interruption] Has the member got his question?
R Doug Woolerton: Yes, I have got my question.
Madam SPEAKER: I call Doug Woolerton.
R Doug Woolerton: It is a little bit dog-eared, Madam Speaker, but I still have the question. Does the Minister agree that the purpose of the other bill is to create an even playing field for all participants in the 2008 election; we are no longer a two-party Parliament: as well as an expanded number of political parties, we have to formally accommodate other participants, now known as third parties?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is absolutely correct. The allocation of money in that budget, which is a capped parliamentary vote, is based on fair principles. The party that gets the largest amount is the National Party.
Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any reports or advice that on grounds of principle some of those who stand to benefit from the provisions of this legislation will be declining to take up the funding provided to them by it, if it is passed by this House?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Sadly, no. The party that gets the most is happy to take the money and use the money, even if that is opposed to fair and transparent rules. Of course, if it does not spend it on communications, it will do what it did last time; it will spend it on staff who were engaged in election activity in 2005, and never investigated by the Auditor-General, who in fact declined to look into those items of spending.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that it is National’s position that all parliamentary spending should be subject to the rules of the Electoral Act, as it was in the past, where in the 3 months before the election all spending can count as electoral spending if it solicits votes, but his Government will try to pass a bill to exempt all parliamentary spending from the electoral spending rules?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The bill does not exempt Parliament in that respect. It makes it clear—as in the current Act, and it merely repeats that—that electioneering is strictly defined. If the member cares to think why that is so, members of Parliament are continuously engaged in promoting their party’s policies—even Mr Key tries to, on occasions, promote his party’s policies. It cannot be separated from the role of a member of Parliament.
Hon Bill English: Why has the Labour Government changed the rules whereby in the past money spent by MPs in the 3 months before the election period, such as the pledge card, could be caught as an election expense and therefore subject to quite tight rules, whereas under the Government’s proposals, MPs will be able to spend in a much broader way than any other member of the public in the period before the election?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The current Act of Parliament merely repeats what was the understanding of everybody in this House before the last election, and privately National Party members supported the bill we introduced but made it clear for political reasons they would have to oppose it in public. That is what took place in the private discussions they were part of.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table an email from Wayne Eagleson on 27 September to Heather Simpson making it quite clear that National will not be supporting the proposed extension of the existing legislation.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Bill English: If a publication of a similar nature to the 2005 pledge card produced by the Labour leader’s office were to be released in the final 6 weeks of the election campaign next year by the parliamentary Labour leader’s office, provided it did not state: “vote for me”, would it be legal under the bill tabled by him yesterday?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it would be treated almost exactly the same way as this public advertisement put out by Mr English in 2002 on parliamentary spending, which subsequently he tells us was completely inappropriate and immoral. I might further note that Mr Eagleson was the person who told us that what National sought was to extend the current bill.
Gerry Brownlee: I have in my possession a document that sets out the fact that National was happy for a rollover, provided it would lead to a much shorter election period. I seek leave to table that document, along with the document of Mr Eagleson.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that the effect of the Labour Party’s policy now on electoral reform, for the first time ever done on a purely partisan basis, is this: private citizens and organisations will be heavily restricted and tightly restricted on what they can spend rebutting Labour’s propaganda, but the Labour Government will have at its disposal millions for Government advertising, and all MPs’ expenditure has been exempted from tight electoral spending rules, meaning that taxpayers’ dollars will be sprayed around everywhere in Labour’s cause, and privately raised money will have to be very carefully restricted?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I can confirm, thanks to the very helpful intervention by Mr Gerry Brownlee, is that Labour’s position is exactly the same as National’s on the parliamentary spending bill, except that National members want a shorter period of time for electoral spending because they have so much money in their pockets they cannot spend it if the limitations in that regard start on 1 January. They have been caught out by their own front bench on this question.
Madam SPEAKER: If there are any further interruptions, members will leave the Chamber.
Hon Bill English: Is there any measure in either the Appropriation Bill or the Electoral Finance Bill that will make the pledge card illegal?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the Prime Minister would indicate that we would be most unlikely to be using such a pledge card. It would be nice to get a pledge from National that it will not use any of its parliamentary funding for next year for anything that looks like the promoting of the National Party. I bet we will not get that pledge from National.
Education System—Government Direction
5. Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to set the direction for teaching, learning, and assessment for our 21st century education system?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education): Today the Prime Minister and I launched the new New Zealand curriculum for New Zealand schools, accompanied by the member and Steve Maharey, who, as previous Ministers of Education, have shepherded its development since 2002. The new curriculum is designed to support students to develop the values, competencies, and knowledge to achieve their full potential in the 21st century. I thank the 15,000 New Zealanders who have been involved in the development of the new curriculum, which will be mandatory for all State schools and State integrated schools from 2010.
Hon Marian Hobbs: Has the Minister seen any reports on alternative approaches to supporting our 21st century education system?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Indeed I have. I have seen two reports in the last week advocating conflicting approaches to education policy. One report pledges a solid commitment to the reintroduction of bulk funding of teachers’ salaries, and the other states that bulk funding is “not currently in our thinking”. Amazingly, both these statements were made by National’s education spokespeople, Allan Peachey and Katherine Rich, last week. Someone should give Mr Peachey another copy of The Hollow Men, because he appears to have missed the caucus strategy on how to hide the party’s true agenda of privatisation, cuts, and old, failed policies like bulk funding.
Allan Peachey: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was the principal of a bulk-funded school for a long period of time, and I take personal exception to the comments the Minister just made about the policy. I ask that he apologise and withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon Brian Donnelly: What support is the Government providing to teachers, schools, school communities, and the broader system, to ensure that the new curriculum is successfully implemented?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Schools will be supported to implement the new New Zealand curriculum over the 3-year period to 2010. This support includes workshops, resource packs, learning communities, school-based professional learning, and a national programme of research. National Certificate of Educational Achievement standards will be reviewed and aligned with the new curriculum by 2010. This morning I also announced that all schools can have a teachers-only day within the next year to enable teachers to discuss the implementation of the new curriculum, and that is welcome news, I am sure, to teachers and pupils.
Katherine Rich: What specifically tagged funding will the Minister offer schools to implement the new curriculum, because launching it today was easy but implementing it across schools is the challenge, and all that he has offered today are a bunch of workshops, a website, and a teachers-only day?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure the member that, given the track record of this Government, which has increased education spending from $5.7 billion in 1999 to $9.6 billion today, schools will be adequately resourced. I am delighted that we have had confirmation in the House today that the National Party is considering bringing back bulk funding.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that negotiation with the Green Party under our cooperation agreement, and numerous well-argued submissions from environmental education leaders and members of the community, have led to increased emphasis on sustainability and the Treaty of Waitangi in the new curriculum, to be funded by the $13 million for environmental education that was secured by the Greens in the 2006 Budget?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That surely cannot be the preliminary to a question—a diatribe about what the party has not done or would like to do, before we even get to the question. Most of us are pulled up within the first seven or eight words of a sentence and asked to concentrate on the question; we are not allowed to read out the supposed track record—doubtful as it is. Surely you should have called the member to order.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. It is a useful reminder to members that it is question time, not statement time. But the party of the member who raised the point of order indulges in that practice quite regularly. A certain tolerance has been given.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. With respect—and I have been here a bit longer than you have—if that was the case, you were bound to say so. Better still, somebody else in this Parliament should have said so, but members did not.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. If all the rules were applied rigidly, we would not be able to do anything in this Chamber, because nobody seems to apply them. A little bit of tolerance and flexibility has to be given from time to time. It has been exercised in this way.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I point out that my question began with a question word: “Can the Minister confirm …”. Should I read the question again, Madam Speaker?
Madam SPEAKER: Please.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that negotiation with the Green Party under our cooperation agreement, and numerous well-argued submissions from environmental education leaders and members of the community, have led to increased emphasis on sustainability and the Treaty of Waitangi in the new curriculum, to be funded by the $13 million that was secured by the Greens in the 2006 Budget?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes. I am aware that Metiria Turei from the Green Party worked closely with my predecessor Steve Maharey on improving the draft curriculum. I thank her and the Green Party for the contribution. It has resulted in a better curriculum, which can only benefit students.
I seek leave from the House to table a copy of The New Zealand Curriculum.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave from the House to table an article from the Christchurch Press outlining the support Mr Allan Peachey—
6. GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) on behalf of SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Minister of Corrections): In general, yes.
Gerry Brownlee: Why was convicted axe murderer John Ericson considered a minimum security prisoner able to work unsupervised in an unsecured plant nursery, and was this an acceptable risk to public safety when he was able to simply walk away from the work, leading to a 26-hour manhunt, police cordons around Wellington suburbs, and raids by the armed offenders squad?
Hon ANNETTE KING: John Ericson was considered a minimum risk, having gone through the classification process that exists in the corrections system whereby a person goes in with a classification. In this case, he went in with a classification of high-medium in 2000. By May 2005 his classification had been reduced to minimum. Under a minimum classification he was able to work outside the prison. This time he was working in the prison nursery, about 30 metres from the prison, when he escaped.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister satisfied that the Department of Corrections has got its assessment procedures right when this man John Ericson hacked his wife to death by beating her 22 times with an axe, when he has been described by the police as dangerous, and when there has been a further police assessment of him stating: “No crime is more violent than murder. The very nature of his crime makes him a risk.”; and how then does the Minister reconcile the department’s assessment of Mr Ericson with the police’s understanding of Mr Ericson?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The classification system may well need to be looked at. All I can say is that it was put in place in 1991 as a pilot and was then put in permanently in 1992. This classification system has been used for, I would say, hundreds of prisoners who have been reclassified during their time in prison—including murderers, under a National Government—and it has been seen to work for those prisoners. It has worked for many years under this Government. Errors will at times be made. I can say that when Mr Ericson is able to go before the Parole Board in 2009, he now faces a very different future from the one he might have faced.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister agree with two of her department’s spokespeople, who stated: “John Ericson let us down. He breached the trust we placed in him.”; and what would she be saying now if John Ericson had not been apprehended by the police’s cordoning off a Wellington suburb, bringing out the armed offenders squad, and eventually apprehending him, but had taken an axe to another New Zealander?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Department of Corrections would be saying that research shows that people released from a high-security environment are more likely to reoffend and are less likely to be reintegrated back into society. The reason why there is a classification process is to take people down and give them the opportunity to be able to get back into society, because one day they will do that. One day they will go back into society, under a system based on good research—a system that was supported for 9 years by the previous National Government and has since continued to be supported by this Government. That system has worked for many, many prisoners.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that as recently as June of this year a convicted kidnapper and armed robber, Reon Kiwi, also walked away from gardening duty outside Wellington Prison, forcing the lock-down of a local primary school; and as this escape was also the subject of an internal review, why did that internal review not pick up the faults in the assessment system?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot comment on the review, but I can tell this House—and I know that members will be very interested in this—that the rate of all escapes, including break-outs, non-return from temporary release, and other escapes, has significantly declined in the last 10 years. In fact, there has been an 84 percent reduction in the number of escapes in the last 10 years, with most of that reduction being under a Labour Government. I am pleased to see that only a few people do escape, but obviously there are some people who let the system down.
Gerry Brownlee: Why did the Minister’s department tell yesterday’s court hearing that John Ericson was not armed “in any way”, yet he was found with an improvised knife made from a Stanley blade and he admitted possessing other offensive weapons when he was in court; and why is a convicted axe murderer able to access that sort of weaponry in our prisons?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not have that information at hand. I am unable to answer the question.
Inland Revenue Department Tax Policy—United Future Confidence and Supply Agreement
7. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Revenue: Which items on the Inland Revenue Department tax policy work programme over the last 2 years are direct results from United Future’s confidence and supply agreement?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue): A major provision of that confidence and supply agreement was to have a comprehensive business tax review to ensure the system gives New Zealand businesses better incentives for productivity gains and improved competitiveness. As a result of that review the company tax rate has been cut from 33 percent to 30 percent, the tax rate on widely held savings vehicles has been cut to 30 percent, a tax credit for research and development is being introduced, and a tax exemption for the active income of overseas companies controlled by New Zealanders is being introduced. A new tax regime for charities is also being introduced, which will remove the current donation threshold, meaning that all donations to charity will be tax deductible up to the level of a person’s taxable income. A discussion paper setting out how an income-splitting system for couples with dependent children might work will be released in April next year.
Judy Turner: Has the Inland Revenue Department’s work programme on these matters finished?
Hon PETER DUNNE: No; in fact, as a result of the Business Tax Review document, which foreshadowed any consequential adjustments to personal taxes, work is commencing on looking at how personal taxes might be adjusted in the light of that and other developments. A discussion paper on payroll giving to charities is due to be released later this month. Work is also under way on making it possible to claim tax relief on non-monetary donations to charities.
Judy Turner: With regard to income splitting, what would the benefits be to a single-income household earning $60,000 a year?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I just happen to have that figure with me. In fact, a single-income household earning $60,000 a year would benefit to the tune of approximately $123 a fortnight, were income splitting to be introduced.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister received any reports from the charitable sector about the likely impact of the removal of the donation threshold?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Yes, I have. In fact, those reports are extremely positive. A number of charities are reporting that they have been advised, by significant donors, of major donations to be made after 1 April next year. These are donations that would not otherwise have been made but are being made principally as a result of the tax concession that is being introduced. That is good news all round, and a very positive outcome from this policy.
Health, Minister—Key Objectives
8. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: What are his key objectives as Minister of Health over the next 12 months?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health): To listen carefully, and to work with the whole sector to continue the improvements in health and disability support services for all New Zealanders. I will work for accessible, affordable, high-quality, and secure health-care for all Kiwis.
Hon Tony Ryall: What areas of weakness in the health system will he concentrate on fixing?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I will, among other things, do my best to ensure that the National Party’s promise to lift controls on general practitioners’ fees will never come to pass.
Barbara Stewart: Is he aware of the Cancer Society’s view that the Cancer Control Council does a very good job of monitoring the progress that has occurred, but that “we don’t have the people, equipment and medicines to treat it”; if so, what are his objectives in that important area?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: As the member will be aware, I am still getting to know the various aspects of the sector, but what I am convinced of is that a good disease-management practice, such as cancer control, will continue to form an important part of our health strategy.
Hon Tony Ryall: What changes does he expect to make to the priorities set out to district health boards around the country?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The Minister’s priorities for 2007 were released relatively recently, and the district health board sector can have confidence that they remain in place. My priorities are to listen, to read widely, and to meet as many as possible of the stakeholders that matter in the sector. I will be refining my views as time progresses.
Hon Tony Ryall: How long will the thousands of New Zealanders who are on hospital waiting lists or languishing in hospital emergency departments have to wait, until this new Minister actually decides he will do something for those patients?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: A lot less time than they would do if that member’s raggle-taggle bunch were in Government, because it would “rely upon competitive pressures to solve all the problems of the health system”.
Hon Tony Ryall: In telling the House that he does not intend to change the priorities the Government has set and that the Government is doing a great job, in his words, is the Minister saying he is not going to bring any new ideas or fresh directions to health, which would make him nothing short of a caretaker Minister for the next 12 months?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am committed to listening to the sector, and I suggest the member listen to the answers given to earlier supplementary questions.
Real Estate Industry—Reform
9. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What reports has he received on measures to reform the real estate industry?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Associate Minister of Justice): I have received a number of reports seeking reform of the real estate industry. That is why today I have announced decisions to totally overhaul the industry, with new consumer protection measures and an independent complaints body. I note Sue Chetwin, chief executive officer of the Consumers Institute of New Zealand, said today on radio in response to the announcement: “An independent body looking at complaints about real estate agents is long overdue. We think the compensation for consumers is fantastic, and we’ve never really had that before. The public access to decisions in the disciplining and censuring of real estate agents is really good news for consumers as well.”
Dave Hereora: What are the main changes the Minister announced today?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The reforms announced today will deliver on the Government’s promise to bring accountability and transparency to the real estate sector by removing regulatory functions from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand, creating an independent real estate agents authority and a disciplinary tribunal to oversee licensing complaints, disciplinary and enforcement processes, and provide information for consumers. These bodies will have wide-ranging investigative powers and will be able to order a wide range of penalties and remedies, including the suspension and cancellation of licenses, and the ability to render heavy fines and award compensation. In essence, these reforms will restore the confidence of consumers and support good, honest real estate professionals.
Schools—Decile Funding Cuts
10. KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Education: Will he be providing transitional funding to help all schools hit by a sudden cut in decile funding?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education): I am aware that as a result of demographic changes recorded in the 2006 census a third of schools will see their decile funding increase, while a further third will have no change, and a third will experience some decline. All schools will, of course, have a 4 percent increase in their operational grant next year. Approximately 80 of the 2,500 schools are significantly affected by the changes to decile funding, which make up just 11 percent of their school operational funding and mostly involve declines of between $7,500 and $14,000. I have asked officials to report to me on how we can provide support on a case by case basis.
Katherine Rich: Does the Minister not understand that while some schools won extra funding as a result of decile changes, this is of no consolation to a school that faces decile cuts with only 3 months to prepare, and how does cutting funding to a cluster of South Auckland schools by some $500,000 help those schools deal with lifting students’ achievements, funding, teacher shortages, and other problems?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member did not listen to my first answer to her question. Approximately 80 schools are affected. There are, of course, many that have increased their funding. As I said in my primary answer, we will look at it on a case by case basis, and if there is a case for transitional funding or, actually, even extra funding, we will look at that.
Dianne Yates: What reports has the Minister seen on school funding?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen a report containing the following comment: “I loved being a principal of a bulk funded school. It worked superbly well. I am personally very solidly committed to it.” Indeed, those comments were repeated in this House today by National’s junior education spokesperson, Allan Peachey, totally contradicting his leader and the education spokesperson, Katherine Rich, both of whom say they oppose bulk funding. What is National’s policy on bulk funding? Teachers and parents around New Zealand must now be wondering about that question.
Katherine Rich: Does the Minister think that cutting $500,000 from the budgets of a group of South Auckland schools makes it easier or harder to cater for the needs of those South Auckland students, when a critical shortage of teachers is hitting South Auckland, and some South Auckland primary schools report having a different relieving teacher in front of students every day?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I remind the member again that we will look at the small number of schools in the total number of New Zealand schools that are affected by this, on a case by case basis. Of course, the National Party has very little credibility on school funding; not only does it seem to want to bring back bulk funding, but also the deputy leader, Mr English, said that decile 1 and 2 schools were awash with cash.
Katherine Rich: Let us try this one again; how will cutting $500,000 from the budgets of a cluster of South Auckland primary schools, without time to prepare for the transition, help those schools in dealing with teacher shortages, lifting student achievements, and other problems those schools face?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: What I can tell those schools is that bringing back bulk funding will not solve that problem, but I will look at their situations on a case by case basis.
11. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with Environment Waikato’s Dr Peter Singleton that the issues of dairying and water quality are “urgent and critical” and the only hope of change is “through regulation, … that they take on board the environmental cost of their business”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment): Yes, certainly in respect of the first quote. This issue is one that is deep and complex; it goes to the heart of the economy and also our identity as New Zealanders. I look forward to working with members on it.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister believe that there are any limits to the extent to which dairy farming can continue to expand; if so, how will the Government ensure that dairy-farming expansion keeps within those limits?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Clearly, there are some limits to the expansion. I think the tools to make sure those limits are enforced and effective are something to be worked on across the House.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister concerned that “think big” irrigation projects such as Canterbury Plains Water and the Waitaki River Hunter Downs project will push dairy- farming expansion beyond sustainable limits, especially as current levels of expansion and intensification mean that, even with best-practice farming methods, our waterways will continue to deteriorate?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not yet know the details of those particular expansions. Clearly, there is a lot of responsibility on the consenting agencies for them, and having in place a proper plan of action will be important to give guidance, especially going forward.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that it is time that farmers began to pay the environmental cost of their businesses, and is it not simply subsidising unsustainable expansion of dairy farming to exempt those farmers from paying for their greenhouse gas emissions, exempt them from paying for the huge quantities of water that they use for irrigation, or exempt them from paying for their contamination of our common waterways by effluent and other runoff?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The method of regulation is, I think, what the discussion is to be about, going forward. Clearly, there is acceptance by the industries involved that individuals should pay more of the cost of their activities. I think that is something that is not limited to farmers.
Building and Housing, Department—Quality Regulation Review
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister for Building and Construction: How has the Department of Building and Housing lived up to the statement by the Minister of Commerce that the Government’s Quality Regulation Review was “the most effective review of red tape that this country has ever seen.”?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Building and Construction): The Quality Regulation Review was completed in August and set out a range of projects to address issues raised by business. Those projects are under way and going well.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister say the review of red tape is going well, when Wellington City Council has noted “A typical house plan four years ago was three A3 size plans and 30 supporting pages. Developers are now required to file 12 A3 pages and up to 300 pages of … documentation.”; if that is a review going well, can he tell me what it would look like if it was going badly?
Hon SHANE JONES: This may come as a surprise to the member, but I have a report—by the World Bank, no less—showing that New Zealand is second-best in the world in terms of dealing with building permits for projects on the scale of a warehouse. In cases where regional or local government is seeking some assistance, my department has up to 11 projects under way, and they are going swimmingly well.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can—
Hon Member: How’s the case going?
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please ask his question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Government members would shut their gobs.
Madam SPEAKER: Please be seated. That is what causes disorder. Considerable comment has also been made when other members have asked questions, but it was not at such a level that the members could not be heard.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Who does the Minister think would be more credible on the issue of compliance costs in the building sector: the World Bank on the other side of the world, or master builders, who have said of the Government’s new Building Act that “About $30,000 of the cost of the average new home is unnecessary regulatory red tape”?
Hon SHANE JONES: The World Bank report covered a whole host of OECD and other jurisdictions. I am happy to provide that report to the member. In relation to the amounts of money he refers to, I say a lot of those so-called costs relate to energy efficiency and other very sensible things where there is a short period of time before the householder gets a handsome return.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Minister read the study on housing costs before the Commerce Committee that noted that the single-biggest difference in housing costs between New Zealand and Australia is the cost of consent fees and levies, which have increased by 900 percent under this Government, and given those figures is it any wonder that a record 40,000 New Zealanders are leaving for Australia, where housing is so much more affordable?
Hon SHANE JONES: I would like see those references to affordable housing in Australia at some dim point in the future. In respect of costs, etc., I repeat that there are 11 projects flowing from work carried out by my colleague. There are up to 11 projects, and they cover the points that the member has referred to.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister received any reports that the member who asked the question complaining about excessive regulation of the building industry is the same person who complained about a lack of regulation of tanalising timber agents and who, as a consequence of that, is being sued for $15 million?
Hon SHANE JONES: The member’s questions and answers are, in their various ways, a matter of great amusement to the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister think it is amusing to the House and to the people of New Zealand that $93 million has been spent on leaky homes and, after 5 years, only one in seven claims has been resolved, and that the cost of bureaucracy to the taxpayer for each home is $126,000 when the average settlement is only $84,000; and does he think that that is value for money?
Hon SHANE JONES: There is a jumble of questions in there. In relation to his initial question—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the Minister is having trouble understanding a pretty straightforward question, perhaps you could invite the member who asked the question to ask it again.
Madam SPEAKER: As the member who raised the point of order knows, Ministers need address only one of the questions contained in supplementary questions.
Hon SHANE JONES: The establishment of the weathertight remedy represents our desire to see all of the homeowners who were afflicted by poor regulation save what investment they can out of a shoddy experience—one that is attributable to those members who are now on the other side of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question asked the Minister whether New Zealand taxpayers had got value for money for the $94 million spent. I do not think that the Minister’s answer addressed that question.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister, in responding, pointed out that in fact this expensive process is a result of very poor regulation by the previous Government, and the questions have been about the expense of regulation in the building industry.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the Hansard from 1991 that shows that Dr Cullen supported the—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Questions to Members
Electoral Finance Bill—Select Committee Timetable
1. HEATHER ROY (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee: What is the committee’s timetable in relation to the Electoral Finance Bill?
LYNNE PILLAY (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): The House has referred the bill to the committee for report back by 25 January 2008. Further detail of the possible progress is committee proceedings, and is confidential until the committee reports back to the House.
Heather Roy: Does she believe that the Crown Law Office was correct in telling the High Court yesterday that this bill would not be reported back to the House until 25 January 2008, well after the bill is due to become law, and, in effect, by 1 January?
Madam SPEAKER: No, the member has no responsibility.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the member who chairs the committee as to whether she understands the constitutional propriety of a claimant down town using a political party in this House to tell a parliamentary select committee what its timetable should be.
Madam SPEAKER: That is not appropriate, either.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That is entirely what is going on here. It is appropriate when this House is being called into question or is being challenged from outside that we should know the grounds on which it is being challenged. We know why this case is being brought. We know who is behind the complainant and who the plaintiff is, and we know what the plaintiff wants to know. But to use a member of Parliament to challenge a select committee to set its timetable is entirely constitutionally wrong.
Gerry Brownlee: The issue here is that there is an action currently before the courts. There is a matter that the court will have to hear and, presumably, rule on. Where the difficulty arises is that the courts have gone to Parliament’s programme—to the book that is published quite frequently—and have looked at the report-back date for this particular bill, and it says 15 January. So the courts have said that if this matter is to be heard on 25 November, then there is plenty of time for whatever judgment may arise from that to be considered before the matter is reported back to the House. The problem arises from the fact that the time in which a select committee reports back is pretty much in the hands of the committee and, in fact, in the hands of the chair of that committee. So the simple question is whether the select committee will be reporting this bill back to the House before the court can hear the submission by those who are putting the issue before the court, or whether the select committee will respect the process that the court has to go through. I do not think it is unreasonable that the chair of the select committee should be able to outline exactly what her thinking is on the role that the select committee has when there is this sort of action before a court.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I do not remember the exact wording in the question, but it seems to me that the question asked for the select committee chairperson to comment on what Crown Law told the court. She bears no responsibility for that, at all.
Madam SPEAKER: The difficulty we have here, I think, is that this is a matter for the committee and not for the chair alone. It was on that ground that I felt it was inappropriate.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think there is just a bit more to it than the issues you have considered. I mean, it is legitimate enough, but we often do have contention about process between Parliament and the courts. Sometimes it is Parliament’s correct role to ignore what the courts are doing, but this seems to me to be a time when Parliament could cooperate with the legal system. This is simply because the judge has made a decision on the basis of wrong information published by Parliament. Parliament has published a date for the report back. The court and the parties to those proceedings have relied on that information. The judge has published a decision. It seems to me to be somewhat churlish if Parliament says: “Well, it’s nothing to do with us. We have published information that’s misleading, and the court has made decisions on the hearings based on it, but it is nothing to do with us.” It is a simple matter for the select committee chairperson to state correctly when she, or the Government, intends that report back to happen, and then the legal process in New Zealand can follow through in the way that the judge and, I am sure, all the participants in the case intend. It seems odd that because Parliament will decide, on the basis of a very narrow technical definition, what a select committee chairperson is responsible for, we are going to frustrate the proceedings of the High Court, when Parliament was responsible for misleading it in the first place.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: First of all, let me come back to the simple point: a question was asked of a select committee chairperson, a question for which she is not responsible. She is not responsible for what the High Court was told by Crown Law. If anybody is responsible, it is me, as Attorney-General. Secondly, of course, the only report-back date that can be in the public arena is that date by which the committee has to report. The committee at this point cannot say that it is reporting back on such-and-such a date. The committee may or may not do that; that is within its own competence at the present time. I also say that one of the issues in this case is whether the High Court can consider a matter that is a proceeding before Parliament, and I would hope that colleagues might support Parliament over politics of a party matter in that sort.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the members, but the matter is not as simple as it has been put. This is a matter for the select committee. It is not a matter for the chair of the select committee—or of any select committee—to prejudge what a select committee will do. That ruling is according to the Standing Orders.