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Questions And Answers – Thursday, 17 April 2008

Questions And Answers – Thursday, 17 April 2008

1. Budget 2008—Government Spending

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement regarding Government spending and this year’s Budget that “We’ll be trying to keep ... that very much under control because otherwise it starts to squeeze the capacity to do anything that is at all significant around the tax side.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : Yes.

Hon Bill English: Why did Labour decide to spend $600 million to pay for more jobs for diplomats on the day that 430 workers lost their jobs at Fisher and Paykel, when large-sized, low-quality Government spending is one reason why our manufacturers can no longer compete internationally?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think it would be obvious to anybody that this decision was made before anyone in the Government knew of Fisher and Paykel’sintentions in that regard and of the sad loss of jobs at the Mosgiel plant. I say to the member that if he really believes that the small number of staff who serve our country overseas in diplomatic posts are the primary reason for the loss of jobs in Mosgiel then he really is completely away with the fairies.

Hon Mark Gosche: What have been some of the major initiatives funded in recent Budgets?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Recent Budgets have delivered substantial tax relief for families, business, and savers, including the Working for Families package, which will provide comfort for those people who have lost jobs in Mosgiel. We have invested heavily in infrastructure, including roading and public transport, to overcome a decade of neglect. All of these initiatives have been voted against by Mr English and the rest of the National Party.

Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that one reason the Government did not know that these decisions were being made is that while the decisions were being made the leadership of the Labour Party was auditioning Ministers for the silly song contest or penning their next line of vitriol for the House instead of concentrating on the issues that matter to New Zealand, like whether workers can keep their jobs?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That really was an example of fake anger and fake sympathy for the people who have lost their jobs. The people in Mosgiel have been working in a plant where there is only 5 percent tariff protection against international competition from low-wage countries. The National Party once stood for an open and free economy. Manufacturing jobs of this sort have, sadly, been moving to Third World countries around the world for any number of years. Today’s announcement also included the closure of a plant in Brisbane, and the closure of major manufacturing capacity in California with a movement to Mexico, which was clearly driven by the North American Free Trade Agreement. None of that has anything to do with a short period of light-hearted entertainment at a Labour Party conference.

Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen the comments by the chief executive of Fisher and Paykel: “We have been faced for many years with an extremely unhelpful exchange rate fuelled by high interest rates. Increasingly complex and costly compliance costs of manufacturing in our home countries have not assisted.”; and does he agree that the Labour Government has made a major contribution to high interest rates and complex and costly compliance costs for New Zealand manufacturers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I do not. I notice that in fact Mr Bongard also tried to blame the Chinese free-trade agreement. That is extraordinary given that tariffs on Chinese goods entering New Zealand in the whiteware area are already down to 5 percent and are due to be phased out—

Hon Bill English: So he’s wrong and you’re right.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is certainly wrong in that regard, yes. If the member seriously believes that that is the reason for this decision, why did his party welcome the New Zealand – Chine free-trade agreement and why did his party support removing tariffs throughout the 1990s?

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand, far from having high compliance costs, has consistently been recorded by World Bank surveys as being in the top two countries in the world in terms of ease of doing business, which is the opposite of what the member has just tried to allege?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is certainly true. It is also true that every survey I have ever seen shows that the costs of doing business in New Zealand are lower than those in Australia. What is clearly true—[Interruption] Well, in fact I can tell the member that a major business organisation in this country started doing a survey of the sort, and when the results showed that costs were higher in Australia, it ceased doing the survey and did not publish the results. I know that for a fact. The fact is that manufacturing these kinds of goods is cheaper in countries like China and Thailand, and we are not able to compete with them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received reports that in a speech delivered by the leader of the National Party last week, in which National outlined its priorities for foreign affairs, National repeated everything that is happening right now but failed to mention resourcing; and does he not agree that sinking lids and razor gangs are no way for this country to perform internationally if we are to be back in the First World?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If this country is to improve its connections with the rest of the world and improve its trade performance it will need more people carrying out those functions offshore. If the National Party is now saying we should not invest in that, it is simply saying it does not believe in expanding this country’s international economic performance.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister recall telling the Labour Cabinet last year that if it overspent the 2007 Budget it would “lead to an interest rate response from the Reserve Bank, the exchange rate staying higher for longer, and a more pronounced economic slow-down”—that is what he said would happen if it overspent—and that the Cabinet then went ahead and overspent by more than $1 billion, everything he predicted has actually happened, and 430 people lost their jobs because of higher interest rates, a higher exchange rate, and the pronounced economic slow-down that he predicted?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member cares to go down to Mosgiel and fire a few cheap shots in the factory I used to represent, he will find himself booed off the premises.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports suggesting that there are alternative economic policies in respect of helping Fisher and Paykel, and has he read the book The Hollow Men, which, in respect of the National Party’s treatment of these issues, says “you know when you’ve cracked it when you can feign sincerity.”—it was obviously written by Bill English?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister can answer the first part of the question.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen those matters. Clearly what is required here is for New Zealand to continue to move its production upmarket to continue to increase its production of high-value added goods, because it is the only way that we can succeed. I would be happy to talk to people about that, because the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which is part of the Labour Party, in terms of affiliation—as the member likes to point out—has worked for a long-time with Fisher and Paykel at the Mosgiel plant to improve its production. Those workers are highly skilled workers, but the fact is that round the world those kinds of manufacturing plants are moving to third world countries. What Mr English wants, of course, is us to have a low-wage economy so we can compete with Chinese manufacturers.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister think that when the workers at Fisher and Paykel believed what Labour said about the jobs machine and economic transformation, that they thought Labour meant that no wages were better than some?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What they will know is that in 1999, the then Government was planning to phase out completely the tariffs protecting those people, and this Government slowed down the phase out of tariffs protecting their workers at the Mosgiel plant. If the member wants poor worker health and safety conditions, if the member wants low wages, and if the member wants exploitation of workers, that is not the way to compete to become a high-wage, successful economy.

Rodney Hide: Is the Minister aware of any item of extra spending that he has announced in any one of his Budgets that the National Party now opposes as it heads into this year’s election; if so, what is it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I am not. I might note that when Mr English mentioned a $1 billion overrun in the initial Budget allocation, the primary reason for that was a cut in the corporate tax rate designed to help New Zealand businesses be more competitive with international businesses. The National Party voted against that corporate tax rate cut—I presume National members argue that corporate taxes should have been put up so that the Fisher and Paykel plant could remain open.

/NR/rdonlyres/C070BAEA-36A0-4863-B8BA-1C161A392C52/82477/48HansQ_20080417_00000060_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

2. Education Funding—Budget Allocations

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: How much funding did Budget 2007 allocate to education, and how does this compare to funding allocated in Budget 1999?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance) : Overall education funding increased from $5.7 billion in 1999-2000 to an estimated $10.5 billion in 2007-08—an increase of 80 percent.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister received any reports on options for changing the funding mechanisms of New Zealand’s public education system?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I have seen two completely contradictory reports. On Sunday, National leader John Key said that the party had looked pretty carefully at bulk funding and would likely reject it. The next day, Mrs Tolley said on radio that the party had had discussions about “a whole range of things” but that “bulk funding hasn’t really been one of those”.

Charles Chauvel: What further reports has the Minister seen on support for changing the funding mechanism by reintroducing bulk funding?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen reports of continued strong support for bulk funding from National’s deputy education spokesperson, Mr Allan Peachey, who has completely failed to endorse his leader’s statement that National abandon its bulk-funding policy.

/NR/rdonlyres/1CA94B3C-181E-4364-BE38-BE60933C8ECC/82479/48HansQ_20080417_00000166_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

3. Junior Doctors’ Strike—Disruption to Services

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Health: When will hospitals begin advising individual patients that their specialist appointments or elective surgery will have to be rescheduled because of disruption by next week’s junior doctors’ strike?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Health) : I am advised that they already have. I am advised that when the strike notice was issued most patients were told that it was possible their appointments would have to be rescheduled. As yesterday’s mediation did not result in a settlement, final confirmation of the need to defer appointments will be sent to patients today.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that in fact patients will be disrupted not just for the 2 days of the strike but for most of the working week, meaning that the number of patient treatments being delayed is significantly greater than the 6,300 he quoted yesterday?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Yesterday’s discussion illustrated that the member could not add up the estimates that I gave. Of course it stands to reason that when one operation is rescheduled it impacts on others that occur later. But what is essential for me and for this Government is that patient safety is maintained, and that we work to find a win-win solution for a situation that I am afraid I have to say is the responsibility of the Resident Doctors Association.

Lesley Soper: Why was the dispute not settled yesterday?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Because of the unrealistic bargaining position of the Resident Doctors Association. I am advised that the association has not moderated its original claim of 20 percent in 2 years; now it is 30 percent in 3 years. The association wants more than any other health sector group. I have been advised that its members have been offered an increase similar to that offered to their fully qualified senior colleagues, yet they have rejected it. There are 57,000 other employees in the health sector who have ratified agreements in line with what has been offered to the junior doctors. In short, it is hard to see what planet this group is on.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister really telling the House that it is not he who is running the show now but Deborah Powell?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: If that is the best the Opposition can do in the face of 8,000 New Zealanders having their elective surgery disrupted by a person and an organisation that is taking a very short-term approach to this bargaining, then the Opposition is in worse shape than I thought.

Lesley Soper: What is the Government’s view on elective operations being rescheduled as a result of this strike?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: At the end of the day, the people who will suffer from this strike are the patients and public of New Zealand. It is my view that the reason for this suffering is the bargaining tactics of the Resident Doctors Association. I am advised that over 80 percent—nearly 90 percent—of strike action in the health sector between August 2005 and February 2007 was related to negotiations run by Contract Negotiation Services. This company is run by Deborah Powell and represents around 7 percent of health sector employees. I am advised that the average first-year house surgeon earns $88,000 in his or her first year, plus 6 percent superannuation, 6 weeks’ holiday, 2 weeks’ study leave, and free meals. Many workers would consider that a reasonable package for a first-year graduate. In addition to the offer that has been put before the Resident Doctors Association, the Government has, of course, also funded 40 extra places at medical school per annum and has recently funded increases for the Medical Training Board.

Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware that the Auckland District Health Board has advised today that over 1,500 specialist appointments and elective surgeries have been cancelled at that district health board alone, which means that the real number of patients whose care is being disrupted is likely to be over 10,000?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is unlikely that that member will ever be able to run any show if he cannot propose solutions. I can only take from his invective that he would cave to the unrealistic demands of the Resident Doctors Association.

Hon Tony Ryall: How has the health system reached the stage where the Government has put $6 billion extra into it, there are endless staff shortages across the health system, and we are getting strikes affecting many thousands of patients; it is a real mess, is it not?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There are many, many successes in the health sector, and one of them is the Government not folding to give Deborah Powell’s union double what any other union in the health sector has got. It does not matter whether this strikes last 2 days or 2 months; this Government is not going to fold in the face of such unrealistic demands.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would—

Hon Bill English: He would for the senior doctors.

Hon Tony Ryall: Yes, he actually gave $30 million to the senior—

Madam SPEAKER: I have called for a supplementary question.

Hon Tony Ryall: Would the Minister give that same answer to the grandmother who waited in great discomfort for a year to get a hip replacement that has now been cancelled; and how long will she and thousands of other patients have to wait to get back on to another one of the Government’s ever-growing waiting lists?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Quite clearly, the Government’s primary motivation here is to deliver health services to the New Zealand people who need them, and that includes every person whose elective operation or procedure has been disrupted by this unnecessary strike. But I repeat two key points: the public expects more of an Opposition, more of a so-called Government-in-waiting, than carping about problems; it expects solutions—

Hon Tony Ryall: What do you say to her?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: The solution to this issue, I say to Mr Ryall, is not to fold in the face of a union that thinks its members deserve more than double what everybody else gets.

Hon Tony Ryall: Rather than invective, what would he say to the woman who has waited many months for vitally needed brain surgery, only to be told she will miss out on her operation next week and may have to wait another 2 months to have surgery?

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: There are two words for that woman: Deborah Powell.

/NR/rdonlyres/D0064980-E2FF-431F-85EE-55F5E5176521/82481/48HansQ_20080417_00000200_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

4. Fish Stocks—Depletion

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

4. Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Fisheries: Will he name the Māori commercial fishers who are plundering the fish stocks; if not, why not?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Fisheries) : I do not believe that it is productive to start naming individual companies that are guilty of unsustainable fishing practices. Suffice it to say, advice frequently comes before me as Minister of Fisheries, suggesting that poor environmental performance is an issue right across the fishing industry, involving Māori, Pākehā, and foreign-owned companies. For example, I am advised there have been numerous prosecutions of companies, both of Māori-owned and other companies, for illegal dumping of fish, and there is widespread evidence of other dumping, which has resulted in warnings to a number of commercial fishers. This is a critical issue, because dumped fish cannot be recorded as having been taken—

Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I appreciate that you have made rulings on the answering of questions. However, my question was very specific and asked the Minister to name the Māori commercial fishers that he has been damning in the media.

Madam SPEAKER: And I will say again to the member, as I have said many times in the past, that the Standing Orders do not require a specific answer. If that member raises this issue one more time, then I do suggest that she goes to the Standing Orders Committee to get the rules changed. My ruling will not change, as long as the Minister addresses the question. I think the Minister was somewhat fully addressing the question, so perhaps he would like to bring it to a conclusion.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: This is a crucial issue, because dumped fish cannot be recorded as having been taken and therefore dumping undermines the very system upon which we rely to manage sustainability of the fisheries.

Hon Tariana Turia: Why is the Minister not taking any advice from his Cabinet colleagues: the Associate Minister of Fisheries, the Hon Parekura Horomia; and the Hon Shane Jones who was a member of Te Ohu Kaimoana, the Māori Fisheries Commission, for the last 15 years—the last 8 as chairperson—and who has close relationships with and significant knowledge of the Māori fishing industry?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I take advice from all of my Cabinet colleagues regularly and I meet with the Māori caucus on a regular basis. I have to say that they show more concern for the sustainability of fisheries than the member, or the Māori Party she represents.

Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Does the Minister agree with Peter Douglas that Māori have been fishing sustainably for a thousand years and do not need to be told how to conserve resources?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Europeans have been fishing for well over a thousand years, also. Indeed, just about every New Zealander could claim an ancestry link to fishing. But the bald truth is that fish stocks all over the world have been seriously depleted by overfishing. This is a problem with common-pool resources. One cannot carve up the sea with fences and manage the resource through individual title; the fishery system requires a referee. Five hundred years ago neither Pākehā nor Māori fishers owned large factory trawlers that could scoop up huge tonnages of fish for export to distant markets; today they can. If fisheries of whatever persuasion take opportunities like that to deplete the sustainable resource of our fisheries, then we will have no fish left. And no group who fishes—Māori or Pākehā—will benefit from that.

Hon Georgina te Heuheu: What is the Government’s official position on Māori commercial fishing. given that at the morning session of the Māori Fisheries conference the Minister of Māori Affairs—this Minister’s Associate Minister of Fisheries—was fulsome in his praise of Māori fishing interests, yet later that same day he attacked the same people by accusing them of irresponsibly plundering fishing resources; or was it that the Minister deliberately set out to make his associate look impotent?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No Government has been more supportive of Māori fishing and Māori economic development than this one. I have personally led task forces into areas of large Māori populations and ensured that they got the kind of chance they had never had under previous Governments. But the fact is that although fishing resource is a scarce resource, it has to be monitored and nurtured carefully, and I will say over and over again to any audience that everyone participating in the fishing industry has to take a sustainable approach to that industry or there will be no industry left.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister agree that perhaps one of the best examples of traditional and universal adherence to sustainability practices has not always been followed, given the unknown whereabouts of the moa?

Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that is entirely relevant to ministerial responsibility.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I will bow to the superior knowledge of the Minister on that matter.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister recall the warning issued by the Māori Party on 1 February this year that the key to achieving sustainable fisheries management is in maintaining effective communication between Māori commercial fishers and the Minister and his ministry; and what commitment will he now make to address the grave communication breakdown that currently exists between all parties?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The fishing industry—Māori or Pākehā, and recreational, customary, as well as commercial—knows that my door has been open from day one and still is. I meet regularly with all elements of the fishing industry. Only last Friday I chaired the meeting of the fishery advisory committee that this Government set up early in its term.

Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. In view of the Minister’s recent comments regarding plundering “of fish stocks until there is none left” by Māori commercial fishery interests, can he advise whether the same interests had been consulted about these concerns before making his comments; if so, what was their response?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I do not think the fishing industry will die wondering about my muse on this matter, and the industry has had it represented from me on many occasions.

Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister believe that he can be an effective Minister when the majority of the New Zealand fishing industry has no faith in his ability; and when will he take on board the advice of his Cabinet colleague the Hon Nanaia Mahuta that people should stop taking pot-shots at each other and should work together?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The issue before New Zealand in terms of fisheries is that the wild fisheries resource is a very fragile one and that all elements of the industry concerned in the utilisation of that resource have to take the utmost caution—a precautionary approach to fishing—and that is the approach I have urged on the fishing industry. If the industry does not take that approach, then inevitably all those who rely on the fishing industry for any economic sustenance will be the victims. I wish that the member asking this question would take aboard that message and pass it back to those who are informing her of their views on this matter.

/NR/rdonlyres/8E4AFFFC-4175-4357-AD70-59DF28554171/82483/48HansQ_20080417_00000297_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

5. Election Spending—Parliamentary Funding

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by the statement to the House given on her behalf, “Matters that are properly authorised as being for parliamentary purposes do not count as election advertising for the returns of expenses.”; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: As the member is aware, the Electoral Commission is currently doing some work to provide guidance to parties on the interpretation of the words “member of Parliament in his or her capacity as a member of Parliament.” The Minister has already said, in relation to the particular matter that the statement referred to, that the secretary of the Labour Party has decided that material that was published last year, if attributable, “will be apportioned against Labour Party expenses.”

Hon Bill English: Is the Minister aware that the Electoral Commission is doing more than some work on it; it has actually said that Minister of Justice is wrong, and in her statement yesterday she directly contradicted that position by saying that whether an MP’s newsletter counted as an election advertisement would depend on what the member puts in that newsletter; and how can MPs have any confidence in a Minister who appears to have no idea what the rules are and what is going on?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am very reluctant to get involved in rulings, and I am sure the Minister of Justice would not, but when one calls for a change of Government in a newsletter it could well end up being attributable.

Hon Bill English: Does she realise that if it is possible for an MP’s newsletter to be an election advertisement because of its content, then it is also possible for an MP’s press release to be an election advertisement because of its content, and is it the Government’s intention, in putting forward this legislation, that MPs’ press releases may have to be authorised by the financial agents of political parties because they constitute an election advertisement?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that is taking it to ridiculous extremes.

Hon Bill English: Does the Minister accept that if a press release, such as a newsletter, can be judged an election advertisement—and the Electoral Commission has already stated that one MP’s newsletter is an election advertisement—then can she confirm that any Government department or Crown entity that publishes press releases that constitute election advertisements on their websites are guilty of an illegal act under section 67 of the Electoral Finance Act?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In a word, no. Read the Act, Bill.

Hon Bill English: Well, actually I have and the Minister has not—that is the problem. He was too busy songwriting. Can the Minister tell us why it would constitute an election advertisement to put highly political statements into an MP’s newsletter, but if the same sorts of statements are in, for instance, a Minister’s media statement published on a district health board website, then that would not also be an election advertisement—for instance, the statement where Pete Hodgson stated: “From the gutted health system we inherited from National, Labour has invested $2.2 billion in primary healthcare”, which is on the Waikato District Health Board website?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the member cannot tell the difference between a statement of fact and electioneering.

Hon Bill English: When will the Minister explain why statements that are made in an MP’s newsletter have already been determined by the Electoral Commission to be election advertisements, but the Minister maintains the ridiculous position that the statement made in an MP’s press release will somehow be exempt from the law?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am not differentiating between whether that sort of release is done by email, whether or not it is printed, and who leaked it.

Hon Bill English: Will the Minister instruct Government departments to ensure that they cannot be seen to be breaking the law when they publish highly political Labour-led Government press statements on their websites, such as this statement on the Ministry of Economic Development website: “The Labour-led government is taking its economic transformation agenda to a new level”, which is presumably a comment on the closure of Fisher and Paykel?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would not presume to do the work of the Auditor-General, who has responsibility in this area, or the work of the State Services Commissioner, who also works in this area. Frankly, I think the public are getting a bit sick of the sooky baby approach taken by that member.

/NR/rdonlyres/00A68AF3-009E-4B33-8E6A-AC8263B274FB/82485/48HansQ_20080417_00000401_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

6. Crimes—Resolution Rates

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

6. MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Police: What do the latest statistics show regarding the rates of resolution of crimes by the New Zealand Police?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the Minister of Police: Police statistics released earlier this month show a continuing improvement in the rate of police resolution of crimes. Resolution rates have steadily improved across key categories of offending, such as violence, sexual offences, drugs, and dishonesty. Last year the police resolved close to 10,000 more offences than in the previous year. This reflects the much stronger resourcing the New Zealand Police has received under this Government.

Martin Gallagher: What reports has he seen regarding the resolution of offending involving the theft of emails?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have seen a report released by the police yesterday into the theft of National Party emails that concluded that no unauthorised or unlawful breach of computer security within Parliament took place. That means that, contrary to the National Party’s claims of computer hacking, it seems the theft of these emails was an inside job. That would be consistent with Nicky Hager’s claim that the leaked emails came to him from a group of disgruntled National Party people who were concerned about a secret ideological agenda, and about the dishonesty around what National was saying as opposed to what it was planning to do.

Martin Gallagher: What else does the police report on their investigation into the leaked emails show?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The police report says that there are strong indications that the emails were in printed form at the time of the theft, rather than being hacked. It appears that this was not some grand theft from outside, but, rather, an inside job, and that National’s complaint to the police was more of an attempt to divert attention from the substance of the leaks that were so damaging to the credibility of the National Party. Although the police say that there is no firm evidence as to who leaked the emails, the question may well be asked as to who stood to benefit most from discrediting Dr Brash and Mr Key. Perhaps the person stabbed in the back by both of those individuals, Mr English, could offer an answer to that question.

Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by Labour’s 1999 pledge card promise to “crack down on burglary”, when the latest crime statistics show that the actual number of burglaries resolved in 2007 was 1,000 fewer than in 2000, and when a recent study showed that New Zealand has the second-highest rate of burglary amongst 30 countries?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I most certainly stand by the claim that I made. If the member looks back to a decade ago he will find that burglaries in New Zealand in absolute terms are down by about a third. Given that this is the most common form of crime, a drop of a third in burglaries is a remarkable achievement by this Government. Further, these statistics released on 1 April show that the rate of resolution of property offences has continued to improve because the police are now resourced to do the job they need to do, unlike under the Government that that member was a part of a decade ago.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table police statistics showing that the number of burglaries resolved in 2007 was 1,000 fewer than in 2000.

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

Simon Power: I seek leave to table page 65 of the International Crime Victim Survey showing that New Zealand has the second-highest rate of burglaries amongst 30 countries.

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

Hon PHIL GOFF: I seek leave to table a release from the New Zealand Police that shows that dishonesty offences, which make up 53 percent of all offences, reduced by 5.1 percent last year—

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The House knows that you are not responsible for Ministers’ answers, but you are, to some extent, required to decide whether a Minister has appropriately addressed a question. I just notice that today, unlike on many other occasions, the Minister answering on behalf of the Minister of Police was more than happy to stray into what would previously have been described as operational matters. I wonder whether you might consider how a Speaker may work out the bounds between operational matters and plain political opportunity.

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister had responsibility for a matter that related to a police investigation that is now public. It was within ministerial responsibility. In terms of questions and answers having a political edge, I say that if we banned those we would probably have none. I will take note of what the member has said.

/NR/rdonlyres/A5DE9AD1-33DC-4869-874F-265C2A98D2C0/82487/48HansQ_20080417_00000472_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

7. Economic Development, Ministry—Grant Programmes

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

7. CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier) to the Minister for Economic Development: Is he confident that all current grant programmes offered by the Ministry of Economic Development are good value for the taxpayers’ dollar; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: I am confident that the Ministry of Economic Development is doing its best to help New Zealand businesses to grow.

Chris Tremain: How does awarding $90,000 from the Buy Kiwi Made Sector and Regional Initiatives Fund to the National Distribution Union in an election year, so that it can advertise the Government’s message to its own members, provide good value for taxpayer dollars?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Believe it or not, a number of workers make purchases. That is the basis of that campaign, in the same way that the same fund has allocated $149,870 in one grant and $53,688 in another grant to Business New Zealand. This is a tripartite approach, something members opposite would not know a damn about.

Chris Tremain: Why is it credible that the Government rejected 30 out of 33 proposed Buy Kiwi Made projects in the first round of applications because they lacked demonstrable economic merits, but then turned round and found $90,000 in the second funding round so that the National Distribution Union could advertise the Government’s own advertising to National Distribution Union members, their non-union colleagues, and their families?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The answer to the first part of the question is because my predecessor was tough and did not want to waste Government money.

Sue Bradford: Can the Minister confirm that all the independent evaluations that have been carried out through the Ministry of Economic Development of the efficacy of the Buy Kiwi Made campaign have shown that so far it has outstripped all expectations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It certainly outstripped my predecessor’s expectations.

Chris Tremain: Why has the $3,000,000 Buy Kiwi Made Sector and Regional Initiatives Fund been closed down, after three rounds of funding, with only $975,000 granted or allocated for grants; and why is the Government planning to transfer the remaining $2,000,000 of the fund towards yet more Government-funded advertising in election year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I just do not understand why members opposite hate Kiwi-owned businesses.

Chris Tremain: Can we expect the final Buy Kiwi Made funding round of $400,000 to include more funding for Labour’s union mates and more funding for Government advertising, and can we expect the National Distribution Union’s promotion of Government messages to be completed before this year’s election?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Given the fact that Phil O’Reilly has had twice as much funding as the National Distribution Union, I think the member should just have a little look at the facts that he received and that are there. That member should know that there has been a campaign, as part of the arrangement with the Greens, to develop New Zealand business through Buy Kiwi Made, something that is strongly supported by New Zealand First. I do not see why those members opposite think that services and goods should all be imported.

Chris Tremain: Where is the evidence of good value for the taxpayer from the Government’s multimillion-dollar Buy Kiwi Made Sector and Regional Initiatives Fund advertising campaign, when 430 workers are out of a job today because Fisher and Paykel has been forced to relocate manufacturing offshore?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Let us try to get consistency from that member. Does he want New Zealand - made stuff or not? The Government has made a real effort, in concert with New Zealand First, the Green Party, and Business New Zealand, to focus on buying New Zealand - made products. Members opposite do not want that. I think that on a day like today having a question like that just shows a lack of taste.

Chris Tremain: I seek leave to table the paper obtained under the Official Information Act that shows that it was the farmers’ market and Buy New Zealand Made online shopping mall, not Phil O’Reilly, that made applications.

 Leave granted.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I notice that the Government did not actually put down a question about Fisher and Paykel. Perhaps it would like to put down a question about the next announcement from Dunedin that the Tamāhine Apparel Solutions knitwear factory is also going to close today, with the lost of 50 jobs.

Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, that is not a point of order. That is exactly the sort of matter I was referring to in my ruling. I hope this is a point of order.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you did indicate that you would deal with disorderly behaviour, rather than just refer to it in your ruling.

Madam SPEAKER: We will move on to question No. 8.

/NR/rdonlyres/0933F81A-A4AA-45E1-90D1-FCC76D66B23F/82489/48HansQ_20080417_00000518_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

8. Refugee Status Appeals Authority—Conversion to Christianity

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

8. GORDON COPELAND (Independent) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have confidence in the ability of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority to make accurate judgments concerning the genuineness or otherwise of an applicant’s conversion to Christianity; if so, why?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister of Immigration) : I have confidence in the Refugee Status Appeals Authority to make sound, balanced, and fact-based decisions on all facets of the appeals it considers, because it is an internationally respected body, independent of officials, politicians, and interest groups.

Gordon Copeland: Why, then, in a number of recent decisions has the Refugee Status Appeals Authority expressed doubts about the genuineness of the conversion to Christianity of Iranians seeking asylum in New Zealand, in spite of detailed evidence to the contrary from clergy and pastoral workers from the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal Churches that authenticates those conversions?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Refugee status does not depend on the genuineness of a religious conversion. A refugee is a person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of, for instance, race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and who is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to a country. We are reliant on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for advice. We are reliant on the members of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority as independent individuals to make those judgments. They assess all the facts. They receive representations from qualified and unqualified stakeholders, and they make decisions in an independent way.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister’s Government, in light of the Iranian Government’s decision in February to proceed with legislation to mandate the death penalty for apostates from Islam—the bill was tabled in this House last Thursday—and New Zealand’s commitment to freedom of religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion, prepared to follow the lead of the Dutch, British, Canadian, and Australian Governments and consider a moratorium on the deportation to Iran of Christian converts; will the Minister consider that?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: We are governed by the advice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, not vested interest groups, and not representations from others, though they are taken into account. To date, despite what the member says, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees does not support the contention that Christians face these dangers if returned to Iran. However, if it was to be the case that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees changed its view—it has a view, for instance, that it is inappropriate to return folk to certain countries, like Somalia, Iraq, and other places, unless there are exceptional circumstances—then of course New Zealand, being governed by its international obligations, would indeed consider that change. I note, though, that the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, and other countries have faced similar issues of repatriating Iranians who have hindered their departure. These countries have found that Iranians who are returned to Iran are unlikely, despite their alleged conversion to Christianity, or other claims, to be subjected to persecution.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How genuine would a refugee’s conversion be if it was discovered that, for example, she had converted within an airport in Thailand on her way through to New Zealand, then had come directly here, then had claimed that her conversion would prejudice her future or endanger her, and when her brother did the same thing and has since been back to Iran five times by aircraft; can the Minister confirm whether Dr Coleman or Mr Copeland has supported this woman called BaharehMoradi, whose name was raised in the House last week, and who is an alleged bigamist?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: In general terms I can say that there have indeed been cases where migrants en route to a destination, including New Zealand, have miraculously converted in airport grounds to a particular religion—and I speak as an old Irish Catholic, like Mr Copeland—allegedly in order to gain refugee status here. I say also, in respect of the previous supplementary question, that although I have deep respect for pastors, ministers of religion, and priests, they are not immigration officers, nor refugee status officers, nor appeal authority members. I find it somewhat difficult, even though I have respect for those ministers of religion, to accept that they could make some miraculous judgment as to the legitimacy of a person’s conversion if that person had converted en route, at an airport. As to the second part of the latest question, I can only state that I do not have responsibility for the representations that members make, but I repeat what I said, I think, last week: if members such as Mr Coleman can assist, then we would welcome that. We expect that of all members. As I say—

Ron Mark: Smoke ‘em out.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Yes, he does have some expertise in smoking people out.

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from an international justice advocate, Brian Johnson, setting out the reasons why Christian converts from Iran cannot safely return to that country.

 Leave granted.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table the detailed exposition in the North Shore Times by Ms BaharehMoradi’s pastor of how, over 3 years, she has had a genuine conversion to Christianity.

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/E359CCF9-382D-466F-A69D-5BD3AF53137E/82491/48HansQ_20080417_00000589_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

9. Biofuels—Mandatory Obligation

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy: Why is the Government proceeding with a mandatory biofuels obligation in fuels from 1 July 2008, when the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment said that importing biofuels risks damaging our clean green image and that the Biofuel Bill should not proceed?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy) : The biofuels obligation is for a modest one half of 1 percent of land transport fuel in the first year. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is, of course, right to be concerned about sustainability issues, but, like the Greens, I believe we can avoid importing unsustainable biofuels.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does this make any environmental sense, when the Minister has agreed with oil companies that ethanol is likely to be imported from Brazil to meet that biofuels obligation, and when the lead story in Time magazine this week details how the very importation of that ethanol is leading to the mass destruction of the Amazon forest, to which the story concludes: “biofuels aren’t part of the solution at all. They're part of the problem.”?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I disagree that some biofuels are not part of the solution—they are and will be. In respect of the economics of different biofuel sources in New Zealand, bio-diesel is cheaper than bio-ethanol in general.

Su’a William Sio: What evidence does the Minister have of support for the mandatory biofuels obligation from New Zealand companies?

Hon DAVID PARKER: BioDiesel Oils (NZ) Ltd has been making bio-diesel since 1999. That company is currently building a second multi-billion dollar tallow to bio-diesel factory with a capacity of 60 million litres per annum. Additionally, a Solid Energy subsidiary has oilseed rape planted, which it expects will produce more than 10 million litres of bio-diesel after the 2009 harvest. Both of these are more than enough to meet the obligation. These are two examples of companies investing on the basis of this Government’s sound sustainability policies, and although National claims to be in favour of both innovative business and sustainability, Dr Smith’s comments again reveal that National is all talk and opposes all meaningful steps.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Government agree with the United Nations food agency, which said in February that biofuels are a “crime against humanity”, and with the UK’s chief scientist, who said last month that biofuels obligations are a threat to the lives of hundreds of millions of people?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Both the Greens and the Labour-led Government have always been aware that some biofuels are not sustainable, but that does not mean that all biofuels are not sustainable.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by his statement to this House that “most biofuels are likely to come from South America to meet the obligation”, and his further statement to the New Zealand Herald that we are likely to have unsustainable biofuels in the short term; and can he explain to the House how that might help the environment?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I repeat what I said in my answer to the primary question, which was a repetition of prior answers in this House. I believe we can avoid importing unsustainable biofuels. Further, I read a press release from BioDiesel Oils (NZ) Ltd, which states: “Dr Nick Smith has stated publicly that New Zealand is not ready to meet the July 1 target with a local sustainable product, such as tallow. This is clearly not correct.”

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I asked the Minister whether he stood by his statement to the House that “most biofuels are likely to come from South America to meet the biofuels obligation.” He did not address that in his answer.

Madam SPEAKER: He did not address it in a way the member found to his satisfaction, but he did actually address the question by referring to a previous answer he had given—in effect the same answer. [Interruption] I can see that my ruling has had absolutely no notice taken of it by members.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: He did not address the question.

Madam SPEAKER: The member will not be in the House much longer.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister see any difference between biofuels made in New Zealand from largely waste materials or low-value bi-products and biofuels such as those from the US corn-to-ethanol programme, or from soya beans, or from palm oil, which is destroying rain forests; if so, can he confirm that all the examples that Nick Smith has referred to will be illegal under New Zealand’s legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Indeed, that is the very purpose of sustainability standards around bio-diesel. I return to the somewhat simplistic proposition that the member Dr Smith is making that suggests that all biofuels are unsustainable just because some are.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister guarantee it to the House that New Zealand will not be importing biofuels from Brazil; if so, how is that consistent with his statement that “most biofuels are likely to come from South America”, which he told the House 2 weeks ago?

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I will not give that guarantee, because I have got absolutely no doubt that some of the biofuels that are produced in Brazil are from sustainable sources.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister agree with New Zealand’s longest-serving Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, who said that “the road to hell is paved with biofuels.”, and the report that he co-authored with the OECD, which concludes that the cure of biofuels—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He wasn’t the longest serving Minister for the Environment.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I will ask the question again for the benefit of the member.

Madam SPEAKER: We could all hear it. Just continue with the question.

Gerry Brownlee: It is a reasonable interjection.

Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, I didn’t hear the interjection, but I could quite clearly hear. If the member took offence then the answer is to take offence, not to start reading the question again. This is the purpose of having the rules.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: My question to the Minister is whether he agrees with New Zealand’s longest serving former Minister for the Environment, Simon Upton, that “the road to hell is paved with biofuels”, and the report he co-authored with the OECD, which concluded that the cure of biofuels is actually worse than the disease?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I agree that a range of technologies will be needed as we make the transition over the decades to come from oil to other sources of fuel for transport. I think that I have been one of those first on record to say that it is more likely that a substantial proportion of that substitution will come from electricity rather than from biodiesel, and that is why the Government is leading on that front. Nevertheless, part of the answer lies in sustainable biofuels.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the OECD Round Table report on sustainability saying that biofuels are a cure worse than the disease.

 Leave granted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table “The Clean Energy Myth” lead story in Time magazine showing the unsustainability of biofuels—

Madam SPEAKER: Any objection? There is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that it is the same Simon Upton who signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, despite Mr Key now saying that global warming does not exist, and who supported Max Bradford’s electricity reforms to plateau out costs, only to see them go straight through the roof—is that the same Simon Upton that that member was talking about?

Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes it is, and I would also note that Simon Upton has been consistent in his support of the need to take meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He supports the emissions trading scheme and is not as slippery on these issues as National.

Madam SPEAKER: We did not need that last comment. That’s what causes disorder.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the piece written by Simon Upton saying “the road to hell is paved with biofuels”.

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

Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table the press release from BioDiesel Oils (NZ) showing that they have got sustainable biofuels—

 Leave granted.

/NR/rdonlyres/0EAF6F47-C9F1-44FA-BE1D-CD5F8D703AB7/82493/48HansQ_20080417_00000639_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

10. Food Security—Strategy

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Civil Defence: Can he confirm that the only food security strategy the Government has is to ensure that the National Crisis Management Centre, set up under the Beehive, has a cafeteria that can cater for up to 100 people at a time, and carries basic emergency food supplies?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Agriculture) on behalf of the Minister of Civil Defence: I can confirm that the Labour-Progressive Government does not have a food security strategy because New Zealand is a nation that produces many times more the quantity of food that is required to sustain our own domestic needs, and there is, therefore, demonstrably no food security risk for New Zealand. I actually thought there was an obesity problem. However, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management has a work programme under way to provide support and coordination for the food sector in maintaining essential food supplies to communities during emergencies.

Sue Kedgley: Who are the lucky 100 who will be catered for in the Beehive bunker; and how high do food prices need to go before the Minister’s Government thinks it is worth developing a food security strategy to ensure that all New Zealanders have access to healthy, affordable food, even if food prices continue to escalate and there are global food shortages?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I do not think that providing food for 100 people in the bunker in an emergency would risk the food supply to the rest of New Zealand, and I do not think it would be helped if we started growing rice in Southland.

Darien Fenton: Has the Minister seen any reports regarding the need for a national food security strategy?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have. Last week I saw a press release from the Green Party that stated: “New Zealand urgently needs a food security strategy, to put in place mechanisms to ensure we have sufficient food to survive interruptions in basic food commodities like wheat, corn, and rice,”. Last year New Zealand’s wheat crop was the largest since 1976, at more than 340,000 tonnes, which is over 80 kilograms for every person in the country. Sweetcorn production has been steadily climbing in recent years and is currently around 97,000 tonnes per annum, or 20 kilograms per person, of which about 25 percent is exported. New Zealand does not produce rice for obvious climatic reasons. To suggest there is even the remotest risk that New Zealand could face food shortages is simply not credible.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that food security is about more than how much food we grow in New Zealand, and that it is also about whether low-income families can afford to put healthy meals on the table; and why does his Government not have a strategy to protect all New Zealanders from escalating world food prices, not just the 100 people with a place in the Beehive bunker?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I just pointed out to the member that more of the food items she quoted in her press release are being produced in New Zealand than at practically any other time in our history. The last thing in the world we are likely to prevent food shortages by doing is growing rice.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that we imported 29,000 tonnes of cereals in 2006 and 2007 alone, and that food security, no matter how much food we may grow—such as Fonterra with its dairy products—is a matter of affordability; and can we expect to see strategies in the coming Budget to ensure that all Kiwi kids can get access to healthy food even as prices escalate, such as, perhaps, through the roll-out of a free fruit programme in schools so that every New Zealand child is guaranteed at least some fresh fruit every day, and other initiatives to make food more affordable for New Zealanders?

Madam SPEAKER: I just note that this question is straying a long way from ministerial responsibility for civil defence. But perhaps the Minister would like to address it as it relates to that narrow issue.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: In terms of New Zealand’s security, it is critical for us to be able to trade with the rest of the world. We import some cereals from around the world, but I have to remind the member that almost 90-95 percent of all of our agriculture production is exported to the rest of the world. If that did not happen, we would end up eating possums and the people in Greenland would end up eating polar bears. I do not think that the Green Party would be in favour of that, either.

/NR/rdonlyres/97EF61DF-2157-4B29-BA1B-1303C34AF338/82495/48HansQ_20080417_00000739_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

11. Doha Round—Market Access Offers

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

11. TIM GROSER (National) to the Minister of Trade: Does he agree that the Doha round negotiations are likely to enter a decisive phase in the next month or two, and that all serious participants are likely to be asked to confirm or improve market access offers, or “concessions”, that are currently on the table?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Trade) : The Government regards the conclusion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha round as its key priority in trade negotiations. Progress has been made and is being made through the Geneva process, but there are still areas around which agreement has not been reached in agriculture, and there is still a significant distance between the parties in the non-agriculture market access area. We would hope that negotiations might reach a decisive phase next month with the production of texts from the negotiating committee chairs and also a “green room”, but there is as yet no certainty about that. As in any negotiation, of course, all parties will need to show some flexibility if the round is to be successfully concluded.

Tim Groser: Has the Minister seen the joint letter of 11 April from the Australian Trade Minister, Simon Crean, and his US counterpart, United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, entitled “Doha Dealbreaker”, which states: “It is essential that major decisions on agriculture and industrial goods be accompanied by positive commitments on services.”, and that “Over the next few weeks … we will be looking for key WTO members to signal their commitment to make significant improvements in their services offers.”; and can the Minister confirm that this letter cites transportation services amongst a list of key sectors?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. I have rather anticipated the member by having the Wall Street Journal article in my hand; in fact, I think that is where he drew his question from. Services, very clearly, are important. I have had the opportunity this week to discuss both with Peter Mandelson, European Union commissioner, and Susan Schwab where the round is at. New Zealand has been a positive player in the area of services. For example, we have supported the January 2008 text on services. New Zealand’s role is regarded as being positive, and no country makes the claim that New Zealand has unfair restrictions on services when compared with the much more restrictive processes that exist in almost every other place.

Tim Groser: Can the Minister explain to the House, given the political decision to decline the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board’s foreign investment application in precisely those transportation sectors, how New Zealand can possibly maintain, let alone improve, its offer of complete liberalisation for airport operation services and airport management services, as offered to all WTO members and set out in WTO document TN/S/O/NZLRev1 of 17 June 2005?

Hon PHIL GOFF: What I can confirm is that when John Key was asked a question on television about this he declined to answer no fewer than seven times, and this response was punctuated by “Um … er … ah.” I can confirm that when National members had the opportunity yesterday to call for an urgent debate in this House, they failed in the courage to do so.

Tim Groser: How would the Minister reconcile moving backwards on this important services offer with the likely general requirement that he may be faced with personally if he represents New Zealand in a couple of months at the much-heralded ministerial meeting, when everyone else is moving forward with improved market access and he will essentially be obliged to withdraw one of the key aspects of New Zealand’s offer?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member probably knows, what he has just claimed is utterly inaccurate. New Zealand will move forward on its market services offer, but, as the member will know from the 2003 Cabinet guiding principles, that offer will not require any changes to be made in New Zealand’s existing regulatory settings. We will make a good offer but it will not be at the cost of changing what we regard as necessary to protect this country. That offer will be welcomed. As the member knows, our investment regime is far more liberal than that of almost any other country that will be entering that round.

Hon David Parker: Is implicit in the previous question the assertion by the member asking the question that under a future National Government New Zealand should be required under its WTO obligations to sell off infrastructure assets?

Madam SPEAKER: The Minister cannot speculate on other parties’ policies on that.

Tim Groser: Is the Minister essentially advising the House that this in no way compromises his negotiating position and that once he has found, somewhere in Geneva, a village idiot to sell an airport or two, he is then going to move on to trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge?

Hon PHIL GOFF: To the first question the answer is yes, and it will come as a revelation to some of Mr Groser’s colleagues that he is now promising to sell off the remaining New Zealand infrastructure.

/NR/rdonlyres/15A8B420-D9A3-4B92-B024-8D50B5DAAC14/82497/48HansQ_20080417_00000789_.pdfFull transcript of Questions for Oral Answer for Thursday, 17 April 2008 [PDF 212k]

12. Blue Chip Liquidations—Assistance

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

12. DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce: What action has she taken to assist people who have been affected by the Blue Chip liquidations?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : I have been closely monitoring the Blue Chip situation. One of the recurring themes has been the need to access advice. Thanks to the generous support of the Institute of Chartered Accountants a freephone line has been established by the Companies Office, which enables a matching process to occur whereby Blue Chip victims are matched with a member of the institute who lives in their region. Those members have volunteered to give free advice to worried investors. People have asked why Blue Chip investors are in a different position from investors in other finance companies. Essentially, those who invested their money in other failed finance companies are in the same position, whereas Blue Chip involves over 50 companies and a complex range of arrangements, and therefore investors are experiencing quite different problems. Some own property for which the promised rent has not been received, others paid deposits for apartments that have never been built, and some invested on the basis that Blue Chip would buy back the apartment immediately prior to settlement. It is an enormously complex situation, and I congratulate the Institute of Chartered Accountants for stepping up to the plate on this matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware of a member of Parliament who extensively promoted Blue Chip’s business, switched from a proven financier that has paid back 97c in the dollar on its liquidation—Western Bay Finance; and of course Mr Ryall helped out with that, as well—then that same member of Parliament promoted the company—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Get out of the gutter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: When tens of thousands of people lose all their money, I will not get out of the member’s gutter.

Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please come to the point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —in Tauranga where people lost all their savings, and now wipes his hands of that responsibility; is the Minister aware of that and of that member of Parliament?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I am not aware of that particular situation. But if the situation that the member advises the House of does exist, then I would suggest that contact be made with the liquidator, Jeff Meltzer, who has been very helpful in these matters. I would also suggest, if those allegations are able to be substantiated, that the matter be referred to the Serious Fraud Office.


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