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Question and Answers - 12 March 2009


1. Economy—Recent Developments

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

1. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What recent developments have occurred that may boost the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : This morning the Reserve Bank reduced the official cash rate by 50 basis points, to now 3 percent. Two major banks have already reduced their lending rates by a similar amount. This is the lowest level since the official cash rate was introduced 10 years ago. Along with tax cuts on 1 April, this move will provide significant stimulus to the economy and assist in protecting people from the sharpest edge of recession.

Craig Foss: What previous reports on the outlook for the economy has he seen?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Prior to the Reserve Bank forecasts today, which confirm that the economic outlook is consistent with the pessimistic views of Treasury before Christmas, I saw one comment from Dr Cullen in September. He was quoted as saying that the worst was over now and he was very confident the economy would start to pick up in December.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall your ruling previously, that Ministers are not responsible for any comments they made before the election. It is hard to see, therefore, how they can be responsible for comments that I made before the election—even less so.

Hon Rodney Hide: I am certain it is obvious, and I am certain the Minister of Finance would not want to be responsible for those comments. He was not claiming responsibility for the comment. What he was asked was whether there were any reports that he had seen. This is a report that he has seen. It is a particularly nonsensical one, but he has seen it, none the less.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I have a feeling that we must make sure we have very even approaches to some of these matters, after your recent ruling. If we were to ask whether the Minister of Finance has seen comments that “New Zealand does not have a debt problem.”, made by him and Mr Key before the election; and, if so, whether he agrees with that comment, you would not rule that question out of order?

Mr SPEAKER: I am very happy to rule on this matter because I think the matter is quite clear and I do not want to take more time in the House. The Minister has responsibility in that area, there is no question about that, and therefore he is able to comment on reports relating to that area. That is the crucial issue: it relates to his area of responsibility. I invite the Minister to continue his reply.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am aware that Dr Cullen does not want to take responsibility for comments he made, but in September he was quoted as saying, in respect of the outlook for the economy: “The worst is over now.” and that he was “very confident” that the economy would start to pick up in the December quarter. Sadly, those predictions were premature at best. However, Dr Cullen was correct in one important respect: we have had the election since then and, in that respect, the worst is over.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with the New Zealand Herald and the Wall Street Journal that his Prime Minister, John Key, is taking a unique approach to this recession that is “cavalier”, and “at odds with the rescue policies being carried out in Washington, Tokyo and Canberra.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the Wall Street Journal has misunderstood the Government’s strategy. In fact, I am told its journalists decided what the story was before they got here. The fact is that the Government is following a two-pronged strategy. The first is to provide stimulus to the economy in the short term—to protect people from the sharp edge of recession. The second is to deal with New Zealand’s chronic longer-term economic problems so that we can get this economy in top gear as it comes out of the recession.

Hon David Cunliffe: To that end, has the Minister read on page 10 of the Reserve Bank’s report today that the aggregate stimulus in the G20 is around 10 percent of GDP? How does that compare with the Government’s 5 percent of GDP, of which 4.5 percent, by the Minister’s earlier admission, came from the previous Labour Government, and 0.5 percent from this National Government, just like the Wall Street Journal said, when 10 percent is the average around the world?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The use of an aggregate stimulus measure is misleading. New Zealand is not in the position—

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification through you of the Minister. Is he accusing me of misleading the House—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. The member knows that is not a point of order.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, the use of an aggregate stimulus measure is not appropriate for New Zealand, because that includes countries that are spending trillions on rescuing their banks. On a normal measure of stimulus, New Zealand is similar to other countries, and along with dropping interest rates the tax cuts will put cash in people’s pockets, which will help protect this economy from the worst edges of recession.

2. Job Support Scheme—Wage Replacement

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

2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “It’s more likely that we would fund training than wage replacement,”; if so, why did the 9-day fortnight package announced yesterday not include a training element and instead included a $60 wage replacement?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The member is mistaken. The Job Support Scheme does not include a $60 wage replacement; the Government is providing an allowance of up to $62.50 a fortnight.

Hon Annette King: Has she seen the Prime Minister’s comments that he hopes that firms will top up the difference in wages; if so, is she aware that a firm paying employees $20 an hour that wants to lay off 10 workers would have to spend an additional $10,000 a fortnight to take up her scheme and provide the top-up? If so, why would any employer provide such a top-up?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am aware that there is choice in this scheme. It is about employers and employees coming to an agreement to help save jobs in their workplace, and this Government is supporting that choice.

Jo Goodhew: What can employees do on the 10th day, when they are not in work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: On the 10th day employees can have an extra day for their own purposes, which is a benefit to many people, according to Alistair Thompson of the Employers and Manufacturers Association. Training will be a feature of the scheme in some workplaces, and we encourage that. The entire scheme is voluntary, and it is for businesses and employees to find an arrangement that works for them. Our focus is on keeping people in jobs.

Hon Annette King: Will the flow-through from employers to employees be treated as taxable income for employees; if so, could an employee receive as little as $4.57 net an hour for an 8-hour day?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The scheme is voluntary, so businesses and employees will come up with what suits them. The Government will pay a top-up allowance of $12.50 for up to 5 hours per fortnight. What happens for the other 5 hours is up to businesses and their employees. The 5-hour subsidy from the Government is taxed.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The first part of that question was extremely simple: will the payment that flows through from the employer to the employee be taxable in the hands of the employee? That is a very simple question, and all that fluff about choice has no relevance, because tax is not a matter of choice—at least for workers.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: What happened there was the member was so interested in jumping up to raise his point of order that he did not hear the end of it.

Mr SPEAKER: The member may not use that kind of language in a point of order or make any reflection on another member in a point of order. I think there is a public interest issue here about whether certain payments are taxable. As the member making his point of order pointed out, tax is not a matter that is voluntary. I invite the Minister to respond and to reply to the question, which was whether the payments will be taxable in the hands of the recipient.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She did respond and—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. Clearly, those asking the question did not hear that answer, and I have to confess neither did I. I invite the Minister to clarify it.


Hon Annette King: Is the Minister aware that the Tai Rāwhiti District Health Board is cutting the number of its employees by 3 percent in response to the effects of the global recession? How does she reconcile that with her comments made on Morning Report this morning about the exclusion of the public sector from the Job Support Scheme because the sector was not affected by the global economic situation?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: What is quite clear is that this scheme is for businesses that are having a drop in productivity. That is where this focus is. That is the area where this scheme has been introduced, and that is what it will introduce.

Hon David Cunliffe: When the Prime Minister has trumpeted this idea as the most major outcome from the over-hyped Job Summit, why is the Minister being hung out to dry for defending a trivial programme of some $20 million that, at best, will save 2,000 jobs when we are facing 80,000 extra unemployed this year alone?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Unlike that side of the House, we do not think that saving jobs is trivial; we take it really seriously. I can say that with the $20 million that is possibly being spent on this scheme, $30 million is being saved in potential unemployment benefit numbers, which is a positive thing, as well.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with what John Key told the Wall Street Journal, which is that National’s real formula for prosperity is a return to privatisation, liberalisation, supply-side monetarism, and—God forbid—Rogernomics, or is that not just so 1980s?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that says more about the member’s own credibility than this Government’s.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you consider that that answer constitutes addressing the question, which covers a number of core elements of economic policy?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I do.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The deputy leader of the Labour Party used a term that was unparliamentary. I ask that she withdraw the comment.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The term might have been ironic, but it was not unparliamentary.

Mr SPEAKER: Because I did not hear it, I invite the Hon Annette King to indicate whether she did say something that was unparliamentary.

Hon Annette King: I don’t think it was unparliamentary.

Mr SPEAKER: If she says that she did not, I accept her word.

David Garrett: How does the 9-day fortnight package increase productivity or save one job?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: This package gives those employers who are going through a temporarily tough time because of the global economic situation, a bit of breathing space and a reduction in their wage bill so that they can keep more workers on in their jobs.

3. Schools—Property Projects

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

3. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: What steps has the Government taken to fast track school property projects?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : The Government has today announced the names of 81 schools that will be receiving funding to get new or expanded buildings through the first allocation of property funding to schools under the Government’s jobs and growth plan. Many of these schools would normally have waited until the end of the year to receive approval and funding. Because of this announcement, they are getting approval to begin work at least 6 months earlier. Seventy-four schools will receive $30 million to extend existing buildings, and 7 schools will receive $11 million to replace buildings that are no longer economically viable to maintain.

Nikki Kaye: Does today’s announcement deliver on the promises made when the fast tracking of school building projects was announced in February?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, it does; in fact, it more than delivers. In February we promised that the $30 million to have better administration buildings, halls, and libraries would be distributed to 64 schools. The announcement today will see 74 schools given funding for those purposes. That is 10 more schools and communities than we originally promised to help to upgrade their buildings and keep jobs in the community.

Su'a William Sio: Will the Minister confirm that she has frozen $9 million of funding that would have provided nine preschool facilities for 16,000 children under 5 years in Manukau who currently have no access to early childhood education; and how is it that depriving 16,000 children of access to preschool education would not be OK for the leafy suburbs, but is somehow OK for Manukau City?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, I have not frozen it. In fact, there was not $9 million there. This Labour Government promised and hoped. There is $2.6 million available, and instead of coming down to Wellington and building something and hoping that children would come, I have met with the City of Manukau Education Trust, with Manukau City Council, and with principals and asked them what they think will work for their communities. We do not dictate to communities what is good for them; we ask them for the answers.

Chris Hipkins: How can the Minister claim that her Government is fast tracking school property funding projects, when the schools in Upper Hutt have heard nothing from her or her ministry, despite her promise some time ago that they were to receive an extra $30 million in funding, and despite their repeated inquiries about how much they will each receive and when they will get it—or is she just making it up as she goes along, and not doing the hard yards to deliver on her promises?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I share that member’s concern about the Upper Hutt schools and the disgraceful way that his Labour colleagues froze the capital for those schools for 6 or 7 years. Three Labour Ministers of Education froze the capital for those buildings, and I know that that member is concerned about that, because I understand that he was advising those three Ministers at the time. However, I am delighted to assure the member that this Government will be delivering to those schools in the very near future.

4. Accident Compensation—Claims Liability

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

4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Does he agree with actuary Jonathan Eriksen that “All this talk of liabilities being blown out is complete nonsense. It’s ill-founded and smacks of scaremongering, which, given the current economic picture, is the last thing people need to be told.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : No, and nor do other actuaries I have spoken to. I am advised that Mr Eriksen tendered for the actuary work of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) against PricewaterhouseCoopers, and was rejected. I stand by the actuary valuations provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which show that accident compensation liabilities over the last year have increased by $3.9 billion to $22 billion.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree with Brian Fallow that “it is downright irresponsible … to use terms like ‘insolvent’ and ‘going down the gurgler’ … because there are people who depend on [accident compensation] to keep body and soul together and will do for the rest of their days.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Accident compensation has a serious problem, because costs have been rising at a very fast rate. Although the discount rate may go up and down—and it did both over the term of the previous Government—the fact is that those liabilities grew by $16 billion under the term of the previous Government, and that is why this Government has to make changes to get costs under control.

Michael Woodhouse: What did the MartinJenkins report say about the primary reason for the increase in accident compensation liabilities?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The ministerial inquiry showed that although the discount rates had gone up and down, during the mid-years of this decade they had masked the very substantial increase in costs. Now that the discount rate has fallen, as have returns from investments, the underlying problem of cost extension and cover entitlement extensions has been exposed, and that problem now leaves accident compensation in a position where change is required.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree with Vernon Small that this is a “manufactured crisis” and “principally caused by the global recession and its impact on lower interest rates … and falling equity prices.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I did not create the situation where, before I even got my ministerial warrant, Department of Labour officials sought an urgent appointment with me to deal with a $300 million shortfall that we now know was a breach of the Public Finance Act. I did not create that situation; members opposite did.

David Garrett: Does the Minister think it is fair that hard-working New Zealanders have to pay higher levies in order for the accident compensation scheme to subsidise criminals who injure themselves while breaking the law?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member raises a legitimate question about how far accident compensation entitlements should go. ACC has raised with me concerns about the issues the member has raised. In the process of reviewing accident compensation entitlements, that is one of the issues I wish to look at. In my view, we need to get right the balance between ensuring accident victims get proper care and taking into account the costs on levy payers.

Hon David Parker: Why, for the first time in memory, did neither the chair of the ACC board, the former chair—and still a current board member—Mr Wilson, the deputy chair, nor any other member of the board of ACC appear at the select committee’s financial review of ACC this morning?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I advised the chairman of the select committee on Tuesday that there had been a change in the board chair, which I had announced on Monday, and that the new board chair, Mr John Judge, was unavailable this week. Given the change that I am making to the board, the chairman of the select committee agreed that I should come along to the meeting. I have said to—

Hon Member: How ridiculous!

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Usually, members are upset because Ministers will not come along to select committee meetings. Mr John Judge, the chair of the ACC board, is more than happy to come along to the select committee, and I understand that that is the chair’s intent.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member puts me in a difficult position in that he says that the chair of the select committee wants the current chair of the ACC board to come along, yet I am prevented from commenting—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order.

Hon David Parker: Why, after gagging the board over recent months then gatecrashing the financial review himself—

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The accusation that I have gagged the board or done anything different is quite inappropriate. That is not the way that Standing Orders require members to ask questions.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member. He is quite right with his point of order. Members cannot make such allegations in supplementary questions. I invite the member to reword his question.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I might be in the difficult position of incriminating myself here, but I have said on many, many occasions—and you have never ruled it out, Mr Speaker—that the Minister of Corrections had gagged her chief executive officer. I have said it in this House, and you have never ruled it out, so how can you rule out that member saying it?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: In his case, no one was listening.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: A further point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will not take any more points of order on this matter. That was not a point of order; I accept that absolutely, and I did not need that kind of assistance from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. I have ruled on the matter in respect of the Hon David Parker. He is not losing a question. I have invited him—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I happen to be on my feet, Dr Cullen. I have invited the member to reword his question. He is not losing a question. I believe that is perfectly fair. If I have missed noticing that members have done this in the past, I apologise for that, but when a Minister takes objection, a member cannot make allegations in a supplementary question. The Standing Orders are absolutely clear on that point.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You did not give a chance for anybody to comment on the first point of order from Dr Smith. Dr Smith, of course, did not deny that he had told the board not to make public comment last year. It is a matter of public record—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have indicated my considerable respect for the member’s knowledge of the Standing Orders, on a number of occasions, but what he is demonstrating here is that he is trying to step beyond the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders are not about debating matters that are considered to be fact; the issue is that the Standing Orders are very clear on what can be included in a supplementary question. Supplementary questions cannot contain allegations; that is totally out of order. There is no discretion about it whatsoever. I have not cost the member who made the allegation a supplementary question; I have invited him just to reword it.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What we are getting to now is what is an allegation as opposed to what is a fact.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and I invite the member to sit down. The Speaker is the sole judge of these matters. Objection was taken, and the Standing Orders are absolutely clear. I have no discretion on the matter. I invite the member to ask his—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet.

Hon Trevor Mallard: You dip sometimes.

Mr SPEAKER: I have not dipped one little bit, and if the member is not careful, he may be dipping himself.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. And that member will resume his seat. The House has been quite noisy today, and that is fine. It has been quite robust today, but members will comply with the Standing Orders. I have ruled on this matter, and I will not tolerate—because the Standing Orders do not allow—any discretion in this matter. I invite the member to be careful.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Without challenging your ruling, I invite your reflection on certain matters in Hansard. If my memory serves me correctly, when I was the Minister of Immigration I faced extended questioning from another member who made extensive use of supplementary questions that contained allegations against another member of this House, Taito Phillip Field.

Mr SPEAKER: I perceive the member to be questioning my ruling. I have made it very clear: an allegation of gagging was made, objection was taken, and I have no discretion in that matter. The Standing Orders are absolutely clear on it.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, Mr Cosgrove. I warn the member that I have ruled on this matter.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To be clear, so that we can frame our questions incredibly precisely and carefully, are you saying that if the member were to ask: “Did the Minister tell the board that it was not to make public comment on certain matters?”, you would not object to that? In common language, it would be the word “gagging”, but am I to assume that it would not be an allegation? I think we have a real problem here.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter. Offence was taken, and the Standing Orders make it very clear that members cannot inject into supplementary questions those kinds of things. I have ruled on the matter, and there has been no penalty to the member who made the allegation. I have invited him simply to reword his supplementary question. I believe that that is totally fair.

Hon David Parker: Why, at the select committee this morning, did the Minister stop the chief executive from answering some of the questions posed by members of the Opposition, and pass notes to the chief executive to intervene in her answers to other questions?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, I did not pass a single note to the chief executive. There were questions from members that related to policy. For instance, there were questions about the setting of the motor vehicle levy. That is done by the Government, not by the chief executive. I say to the member opposite that during the period of questioning at the select committee, I think 90 percent of the answers were given by the chief executive, and I think it was a helpful interchange.

5. Water Quality—Dairying and Clean Streams Accord

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

5. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture:Has the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord achieved its aim of “clean healthy water, including streams, rivers, lakes, ground water, and wetlands, in dairying areas.”; or, does he agree with the Hon Dr Nick Smith’s statement of October 2008 that there has been a “deterioration in water quality,”?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture) : The Dairying and Clean Streams Accord is well down the track of achieving its key aims, and it is ahead of schedule in many areas, although more work is clearly needed. The member needs to understand that the accord is not expected to achieve its full aims until 2012. I agree with the statement from the Hon Dr Nick Smith. In many parts of New Zealand water quality has deteriorated under 9 years of a Labour-Green Government, and that is why National is intent on achieving better outcomes.

Kevin Hague: How can the Minister expect Kiwis to believe that the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord is working when the highest priority target—and the only target with any teeth—which is for all farms to immediately comply with resource consents, is nowhere near being met, with more than one in 10 dairy farms significantly in breach of cowshed effluent disposal rules?

Hon DAVID CARTER: As I mentioned today at the launch of the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord: Snapshot of Progress—2007/08, some farmers are not playing the game, and it is the intention of the Government, in conjunction with local government and Fonterra, to deal with those farmers. The Green member ought to acknowledge what the snapshot clearly shows: the great majority of farmers have done a very credible job. It is time the Green Party acknowledged the work done by the great majority of New Zealand farmers, instead of bagging farmers on every occasion.

Amy Adams: What initiatives are under way in the primary sector to improve water quality?

Hon DAVID CARTER: There are many aside from the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord. Local councils, farmers, industry-good organisations, and Government are actively cooperating on a range of initiatives aimed at lifting the performance of the sector. Some of these initiatives include the Primary Sector Water Partnership, the dairy sustainability assurance scheme, and the Dairy Industry Strategy for Sustainable Environmental Management. There is much work under way, and the vast majority of the sector is demonstrating a clear commitment to being effective guardians of our vital waterways.

Kevin Hague: Does the Minister accept that, even based on the report’s own numbers, at least 750 dairy farms are seriously breaking the law; if so, does he really expect Kiwis to agree that these are small numbers?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my colleague, but that is the first example of an allegation since your recent ruling. That supplementary question contains an allegation. It is also a fact, as reported in a particular report. But it is an allegation of people breaching the law, and I ask you, consistent with your previous rulings about allegations not being allowed in supplementary questions, whether this is an appropriate supplementary question to continue with.

Hon Rodney Hide: This picks up on the point that was made in response to the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. The difference is that it is the Minister’s taking objection that alerts your interest. If no one is particularly offended by it, then I think the position is that we carry on. We do that quite often for the smooth running of Parliament. As you pointed out in your ruling, it was actually once a Minister had taken objection to the question that your hands were tied.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members. I ask the Minister whether he recollects the question and is able to answer it.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Speaking to the general point made in the Hon Trevor Mallard’s point of order, if statements of fact taken directly from a Government report are not to be allowed in supplementary questions if a Minister should take exception to them, I think we are getting into quite dangerous territory.

Mr SPEAKER: The member does not need to be concerned. I was about to call the Minister to answer the question. I do not consider there is a problem with the question. I invite the honourable Minister to answer the question.

Hon DAVID CARTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The report certainly identifies some farmers who are not complying. Some of the non-compliance is of a technical nature; some is quite serious non-compliance. If the member had been at the launch today, he would have heard both the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister for the Environment being critical of that small number of farmers who continually fail to comply and who wilfully pollute. Those farmers risk bringing the whole of the New Zealand industry into disrepute.

Kevin Hague: Does the Minister agree with Bryce Johnson, the chief executive of the Fish and Game Council, that “The Accord has always been a stop-gap programme and fundamentally incomplete, is voluntary not mandatory, … has no riparian buffer zone requirements, doesn’t deal to small streams, only includes Fonterra suppliers, and never focused on measurable improvements in water quality.”; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I agree with Mr Bryce Johnson to the extent that the accord is voluntary. I note that three press releases have been put out today criticising the progress: one by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, one by the Fish and Game Council, and one by the Green Party. It looks to me as though all three press releases were written by one and the same person.

Kevin Hague: Is the Minister aware—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I apologise for interrupting, but I think a very serious allegation has been inferred in that reply—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard enough from the member. The member will resume his seat. Thank you.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Opposition notes that earlier, when the Hon Dr Nick Smith took a point of order and when the Leader of the House took a point of order—

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Hon Darren Hughes: I am on a point of order.

Metiria Turei: Sorry; I was called.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise. It appears that MetiriaTurei called a point of order first, and I did not hear it. I apologise to the honourable member. Out of courtesy I should take the member who called first.

Metiria Turei: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I raise the issue that an allegation like that being made in a reply to a question is none the less still an allegation that would, according to your ruling, be out of order under the Standing Orders. The rules in the Standing Orders—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. I am on my feet. I think that this issue is getting quite ridiculous, because what the Minister said in his reply was hardly an offensive allegation, whatsoever. I invite the House to come back to the business. I believe that Kevin Hague was asking a supplementary question.

Hon DAVID CARTER: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If my comment upset some people in the House, then I am only too happy to withdraw it.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception to the Minister’s comment, and I ask that the Minister be required to withdraw and apologise for it.

Mr SPEAKER: Would the Minister please withdraw and apologise.

Hon DAVID CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point I was going to raise was that it seems that when Government members have taken points of order this afternoon they have been allowed to complete their point of order before you comment or rule on it, but on several occasions when Opposition members have taken points of order, before they have been able to get to the point they are trying to make you have stood up and shut them down. In the case of the Hon Trevor Mallard, you did not even comment on the point he was making; you just said that you had heard enough and then proceeded to the next item of business. We want to be able to make our points of order and take them to a complete end before you then give your ruling to us and—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I hear what he is saying; I hear his point of order. It is the Speaker’s judgment as to how he deals with points of order. Where I assess that the point of order is not genuine, I will tend to sit members down, because otherwise the House would get into endless disorder. I have taken on board the point the member made, and if I have created that impression, then I apologise, because I do not want to create that impression.

But the business of the House is important, and where points of order become trifling, it is not in the interests of the business of this Parliament and it is not in the public interest. I think that we should just think today about the issues. It all stemmed from an allegation in a question that was objected to and was found offensive by the Minister being asked it. I think that it was reasonable to require the question to be reframed so that it did not cause offence, and where offence was taken from the Minister’s answer, again the Minister withdrew and apologised for that. I think the House should move on with its business. But I note the point the member made, and I certainly do not want to create that impression.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I just alert the member to the fact that I have not even sat down yet.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. You have a tendency to stop and look as though you are sitting down, which is why people then rise to a point of order. We are not trying to be discourteous; we are actually just trying to keep things flowing along.

I want to pause for a second, if we possibly can. I think we are getting into trouble here, and I do not like being in the situation where there are endless points of order. I remind you of a conversation we had. I offered the advice that playing the advantage rule is the best move for a Speaker, rather than continued involvement in rulings. When a Minister takes objection, then in general terms the appropriate thing is for you to seek a withdrawal and apology or ask the member to rephrase the question, as you did. It is not an absolute requirement upon you. Sometimes people take objection when there are no particular grounds for that objection. We cannot rule everything out just because we take objection to it. But when you proceed with a statement that any allegation is out of order, you are inviting us to be very, very pernickety from there on about every question and every answer, because, I am afraid, the same comments apply to answers. Either we are to have a reasonably free-flowing question time, or we will revert to the worst period of my parliamentary career in terms of question time—from 1985 to 1987—when on one famous occasion we ended up at the end of question time with only one supplementary question having been in order. I do not think that that contributes to the good flow of parliamentary business.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I support the comments made by Dr Cullen. I think they are very, very useful. If you look at the clocks, Mr Speaker, you will see that we are only on question No. 5 after 55 minutes. For many people watching this process, and for those who—God love them—may even read the Hansard of this process, it will look as though we have wasted an enormous amount of time on relatively pedantic points. I think that as we progressively put ourselves in a straitjacket, the tendency is to try to break out of it. That is largely what I think has happened with some of the frustration expressed by the Hon David Parker, and, similarly, responded to by the Hon Nick Smith and various others. So perhaps we should take on board the comments of Dr Cullen and look to that advantage rule, which, by and large, serves this House reasonably well.

Mr SPEAKER: I take on board the honourable members’ points. It is worth viewing the replay of question time. I do so every day to try to ensure fairness.

Kevin Hague: Is the Minister aware that one cow defecating in a river is equivalent to 14 humans defecating in a river and that therefore—as in this picture I am holding—nine cattle in the Manawatū River is equivalent to all the members of this House going down to the local stream and defecating simultaneously; and would that be acceptable to the Minister?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I was not aware of that amazing statistic. I thank the member for that information today, but I say to the member that when I read his press release, when I read the press release from the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, and when I read the press release from Fish and Game New Zealand, I see that too much time is spent criticising the farmers who are not complying. The great majority of farmers are doing a very good job, and instead of criticising our primary industries and our image, that member would do a lot better to appreciate the good work that is occurring in this regard.

Kevin Hague: Will the Minister’s Government commit to cleaning up our rivers and lakes so that they are safe for our kids to swim in; if so, by when?

Hon DAVID CARTER: This Government is committed to cleaning up our waterways. I note for the member that the previous Government, the Labour-Green Government, had a programme of action that became known by the bureaucrats as the programme of inaction. This Government is intent on doing something, not ignoring the issue as was the case for the last 9 years.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at the previous Government being called a Labour-Green Government. The Greens have never been a part of the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Is the member asking for that comment to be withdrawn and apologised for?

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has taken offence.

Hon DAVID CARTER: I withdraw, and apologise to the Greens.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Hon DAVID CARTER: I also withdraw, and apologise to the Labour Party.

Kevin Hague: Is it not blindingly obvious to the Minister that this completely hopeless voluntary and industry-controlled accord was only ever an excuse to avoid regulation; and given its complete failure to date, will he commit to setting quality standards for clean water?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I do not accept that the accord has been a complete failure. We are ahead of the great majority of targets, which were set some time ago, in 2003. We are on track to achieve those targets by 2012.

Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table a document. It is a photograph from March 2008 of cattle in the Manawatū River.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the photograph. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table a document displaying a photograph from a book published in 1999 showing the Mayor of Stockholm, Sweden drinking a glass of water from Lake Malaren, just outside the city hall—a goal that the Mayor of Rotorua could strive to emulate.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a photograph, I believe. Is there any objection? There is objection.

6. Job Support Scheme—Reports

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

6. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she seen that support the introduction of the Government’s Job Support Scheme?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : There has been broad support for the first stage of the Government’s Job Support Scheme. Gareth Morgan, economist, said: “I think it’s quite well-thought-out.” Peter Townsend, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said it is a step in the right direction. Vernon Small, in the Dominion Post this morning, called it a “win-win when most of the economic news is lose, lose, lose.” We promised action from the Job Summit, and we have delivered it.

Katrina Shanks: How is work progressing on developing the new scheme for smaller companies that are having trouble keeping staff?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Just today I have come from a meeting with Workstream 1 from the Job Summit, which is meeting to design a completely new programme for small to medium sized employers, recognising that their needs are far more diverse than those of big employers and it is more complicated to design a programme to suit them. We will be announcing something in weeks, not months.

Katrina Shanks: What initiatives did the previous Labour Government put in place to support small companies?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is a good question. I have been unable to find anything that the previous Government put in place to help to prevent any redundancies and to save those jobs. The previous Government was not able to put together a Job Summit. In fact, when the Hon Lianne Dalziel was Minister for Small Business, she received a report from the Small Business Advisory Group saying the best thing the Government could do to help business would be to introduce a 90-day trial period. I am incredibly proud that this Government delivered on that.

Hon Annette King: Has she also seen reports from the country’s biggest private sector union, describing the Government’s 9-day fortnight as a miserable subsidy that will be rejected by workers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have seen reports from the current Labour Party president complaining about the scheme. But I have also seen a report from Peter Conway, Secretary of the Council of Trade Unions, who says it benefits the workers, the company, and the country as a whole.

Hon Annette King: Has she noted the conflict between finance Minister Bill English, who said that some people are expecting wage subsidies, but that is probably unreal, and the Prime Minister’s comments that he wants employers to provide such a subsidy; if so, whose side is she on?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There is no conflict. What this Government has done over the last 3 months while it has been here has been to discuss the best way forward in terms of saving jobs. Many ideas have been thrown out there. This Government is proud to say some of the good ideas have come from outside Wellington, and we will back the good ones.

7. Police—Public Safety

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

7. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Police: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “National believes protection of the public should be the most important consideration”, and is that her most important consideration as police Minister?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Police: Yes.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What actions will she be taking to assure the public that when an alleged rapist applies for bail, the police do their job properly in that they check whether the proposed address is appropriate, that it is not close to schools and criminals, and, most important, that it is acceptable to the alleged victim—in this case, a 15-year-old—and, further, that this critical information is conveyed to the judge by the police prosecutor, given that these things were not done in the alleged rape case reported in this morning’s Dominion Post?

Hon SIMON POWER: Police prosecutions accept that they did not follow correct procedure, because they did not carry out adequate inquiries prior to the hearing and therefore did not alert the court to the proximity of the alleged offender in that case to the victim. The incident is unacceptable. I have been informed that this morning the police and the alleged offender’s counsel have been working to find an alternative address for the offender to be bailed to by tomorrow. This is when the change in bail conditions would have taken effect from. How and why this occurred will be the subject of a review.

Sandra Goudie: What actions has the Government taken to make protection of the public the most important consideration within its first 100 days?

Hon SIMON POWER: In the first 92 days of the new Government, we passed legislation to make it harder to get bail and make crimes against children an aggravating factor in sentencing, and introduced bills to further protect victims of family violence, target gangs, expand the collection and use of DNA samples, impose a victim’s levy on offenders, and remove parole for the worst repeat offenders. I think that stacks up pretty well against the first 100 days of Clayton Cosgrove’s tenure as Associate Minister of Justice, which our records indicate resulted in one press release.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister also agree with the comments of justice Minister, Simon Power, with regard to the Government’s Bail Amendment Bill, that: “The overriding principle in taking these swift actions is the need to put public safety first.”, and does she think this incident is a good example of the Government’s swift actions in achieving public safety?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, on behalf of the Minister of Police, I agree with the Minister of Justice. I am advised that the problem in this case was not with the law but that the police failed to follow the correct procedure laid down in the law on operational guidelines. I would also like to note that the member’s party voted for the changes in the bail law prior to Christmas—and the Government is grateful for that.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is the Minister not aware that under the watch of the Minister of Police there has been a litany of failures: the stabbing of a teacher at Avondale College, two escapes from police custody, large-scale gang confrontations in Gisborne, the killing of a young man after a tangi at Murupara, a police officer putting public safety at risk by allegedly driving drunk, and now—of course—this latest incident, and I could go on. When is she going to stop simply making excuses, wringing her hands, and start doing her job to ensure that public safety is her first priority?

Hon SIMON POWER: Action has been taken in respect of those sorts of matters. A lengthy list of legislation that has been passed through this House through the first 100 days shapes up pretty well compared with the one press release that the member put out about party pills in his first 100 days as Associate Minister of Justice.

8. Accident Compensation—Cost Increases and Inflation Rate

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

8. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What has been the rate of cost increases at ACC and how does this compare with the rate of inflation?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : Claim and administration costs are this year projected to increase by $451 million on last year—an increase of 15.6 percent. The increase for the 3 preceding years was 12.3 percent, 13.6 percent, and 10.4 percent. The average rate of inflation over that period has been 2.5 percent.

Melissa Lee: Has the cost in administration of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) exceeded the cost paid out in claims?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, administration costs have increased by 148 percent at ACC as compared with claim cost increases of 32 percent and inflation of 33 percent over the same period. This Government wants the focus to be on services to the public at the front line, and addressing the issue of the very large increase in administrative costs will be one of the priorities for the new board.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister accept that labour cost increases in recent years caused by better pay for doctors, nurses, and care workers were a significant part of ACC’s overall cost increases, and that the low inflation environment that we are now in will see those pressures ease?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The advice I have received about the projections of future cost increases is that they will be still very high and considerably above the rate of inflation. I say to this House quite honestly that anybody who thinks that ongoing cost increases in ACC of 15 percent per year in a recession are appropriate are, I really think, on the wrong side of the debate.

Melissa Lee: What advice has the Minister received on the impact of reduced rehabilitation rates and an increasing pool of long-term claims on ACC costs?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Rehabilitation rates have, as measured at the 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month rate, all declined over the last 3 years and this is adding significantly to ACC’s costs. The latest 3-month rate of rehabilitation is the lowest that has ever been recorded. The long-term weekly compensation claims have also been increasing since 2005 and these too are having an adverse impact on ACC’s finances.

Hon David Parker: How can the Minister complain that the accident compensation scheme is unaffordable when it is so much cheaper than the Australian equivalent, and to quote Brian Fallow of the New Zealand Herald again, it is a “civilised and cost-effective approach to dealing with the injured. Why undermine confidence in the scheme, unless you plan to undermine the scheme itself?”.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have made it absolutely plain that I am committed to the Woodhouse principles of accident compensation. When the member makes comparisons with Australia, for instance in the work account, he needs to note that motor vehicle costs are not included in New Zealand’s work account but are in Australia. Those significant differences need to be noted when making comparisons but the member can be reassured that this Government is about securing the future of the accident compensation scheme and managing costs better.

9. Resource Management Act, Reforms—Consultation with Māori Party

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

9. Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Conservation: Did he discuss the proposed removal of the Minister of Conservation’s powers to make the final decision on applications for restricted coastal activities under section 119 with the Māori Party before agreeing to remove this power from the Resource Management Act?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: No, the Minister did not have any direct discussions with the Māori Party, but he was advised by the Minister for the Environment that there were extensive discussions with the Māori Party on all aspects of the resource management reform bill.

Hon Steve Chadwick: Did the Minister raise any of the concerns raised in the Department of Conservation’s submission to him on the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill with the Minister for the Environment; if not, why not?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Minister of Conservation had an extensive discussion with the Minister for the Environment about the issue of the veto on restricted coastal activities that was provided by the Minister. It is my view that the veto used by the previous Government completely discredited the process, and I think most New Zealanders welcome the fact that future decisions will be made by the Environment Court, and not by Ministers of the Crown, on individual consents.

Hon Steve Chadwick: Does that confirm that the Minister made no effort to protect his statutory responsibilities as the final decision-maker on restricted coastal activities, which enable him to fulfil his role as an advocate for the preservation and protection of New Zealand’s natural and historical resources, because discussion between Ministers went in a different direction?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note that the member, who is previous Minister of Conservation, did not change one single decision on restricted coastal activities.

Hon Ruth Dyson: What’s that got to do with the answer?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, it is very important. Let me tell members why it is important. Why would we want to hold up consents for months and months when the court has decided that the powers that the Minister holds, which the member is making such a big deal of, are very, very narrow and it would be only in extreme circumstances that a Minister could overturn a decision of the Environment Court?

Hon Steve Chadwick: I seek leave to table a paper to the Cabinet economic growth and infrastructure committee on 16 February on the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill, with the comment “Discussion amongst Ministers went in a different direction.”

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

10. Water Supply—Funding

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

10. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Local Government: What funding is available from central government for small communities to upgrade their water supply?

Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : I am advised by my department that the Ministry of Health runs a drinking-water assistance programme, which was started in 2006, with approximately $136 million available over 10 years. The programme provides technical and capital assistance for communities of fewer than 5,000 people to enable them to get safe drinking-water. I am advised that factors that affect the level of the subsidy provided are the size of the community and its assessed level of deprivation.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that some residents of Bridge Pā have been out of water since December 2008—

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have an interesting question here, given our previous discussions about the responsibilities of the Minister of Māori Affairs. We learnt from the Minister that a funding programme is available through the Ministry of Health, and that it was put in place by the previous Labour Government. If that is so, then, consistent with your previous rulings, this question can scarcely be answered by the Minister of Local Government. He is dealing with it because it is a general policy matter relating to local government, you have ruled that general policy matters relating to Māori cannot be dealt with by the Minister of Māori Affairs, and it seems to me these are now on all fours. Are we to assume that there is one rule for the Pākehā Minister of Local Government and another rule for the Māori Minister of Māori Affairs?

Mr SPEAKER: No, there is not. I invite the member to continue his question. [Interruption] If members want me to get trifling and pedantic, I can, but it will not be in the Opposition’s interests. I consider that the point made by the Hon Dr Michael Cullen was not a well-made point, because the Minister of Local Government has responsibility for matters to do with local government, and that is the determining factor. I invite the member to carry on with his question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do we take it from that ruling that the Minister of Māori Affairs does not have responsibility for matters to do with Māori?

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the senior member—the shadow Leader of the House—to be careful. He knows that the Minister of Māori Affairs has responsibility for Māori affairs—that portfolio. It is not my role as Speaker to judge what should fall within it. Te Ururoa Flavell is asking a supplementary question.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not wish to detain the House, but we all share an interest in ensuring that our questions are within the Standing Orders and within your rulings. I believe that the point of order made by the Hon Dr Michael Cullen was a fair and serious point of order. No, I am not challenging your ruling, but I am seeking your guidance on how we should deal with the issue of Ministers who have direct portfolio responsibilities for programmes—and both the Minister of Māori Affairs and the Minister of Local Government do; that is all agreed—and also have statutory responsibilities for general issues that fall within their bailiwick. The problem is that you have ruled out a question to the Minister of Māori Affairs that fell within one but not the other, and you have ruled in a question to the Minister of Local Government that specifically related to a programme funded by the Ministry of Health.

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard the member’s point sufficiently. I invite members to have a look at the statement I made at the commencement of today’s sitting. In fact, I was acknowledging in that statement that the points made by Dr Michael Cullen yesterday were actually very valid points, and that when I reflected on my rulings on them and looked at them very carefully, I was troubled by some of them. That was why I apologised to the House. And I pointed out that it was not Dr Cullen’s supplementary questions that I should have ruled out; in fact, in my view—when I listened to the tape and looked at Hansard—the questions of Te Ururoa Flavell and the Hon Chris Finlayson were out of order yesterday. I invite the member to read the statement I made, because in many ways it was consistent with the points that Dr Michael Cullen was making. For the good order of the House, I invite Te Ururoa Flavell to continue with his supplementary question.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate very much your clarification of your earlier ruling, and we will give it careful consideration to ensure that we comply with it. But can we take that your point, as confirmed now, that the questions from several Government members and Ministers were out of order implies that you wish to be consistent about the narrow construction—which is perfectly in order, it would seem—that only those matters within the direct portfolio responsibility are relevant. If that is true, then I am afraid we come back to the question to the Minister of Local Government; it was about a Ministry of Health programme, and that Minister sought to answer it as Minister of Local Government. How does that fit within your considered ruling?

Mr SPEAKER: The issue I clarified today was the issue relating to the situation where a Minister has made it clear that he or she does not have responsibility. In that case, supplementary questions should not ask about reports in relation to that area. That was, in my view, where I erred yesterday. So I am acknowledging to the House that in my view I erred yesterday. We should not be petty about this. I have also made it clear today that I will take a wide view of ministerial responsibilities, as has been the practice, and that the approach I plan to take is similar to that taken by Speaker Burke in the 1980s. I think he handled this area very well. It has got rather more difficult since then, because of the great number of parties in the House. It is more difficult, but I still think we can deal with it sensibly. I put it to the member that we need to deal with this matter sensibly. I was not happy with some of the rulings yesterday, and that was why I sought to clarify them this morning. I pointed out that it was not the Opposition’s questions that I was most concerned about, on reviewing the tapes and Hansard; it was some other supplementary questions that I think actually complicated the situation very significantly. The Minister of Local Government is being questioned on local government matters. I will listen very carefully to the question, to make sure he is being questioned on local government matters.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that some residents of Bridge Pā have been out of water since December 2008, and could he give assistance, by way of advice or otherwise, to the local bodies, so that a reticulated water system can be installed to support the Bridge Pā community?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I thank the member for raising this question with the Minister of Local Government. I note that the future supply of water to this community is the responsibility of the community and, indeed, the local council. I am aware that, like many New Zealand communities, the residents of Bridge Pā rely on individual household bores for their water supply. I understand that during the very dry conditions experienced in the area, some bores have run dry. Decisions about the future water supply of this community rest with the community and with the local council. I understand that on 8 March 2009 three proposals to address the issue were presented to the community. These were two proposals to connect Bridge Pā to the Hastings town supply, and one proposal to put in a stand-alone supply. I also understand that the Bridge Pā community is considering seeking funding for the local marae trust to operate a reticulated supply. Ministry of Health officials will be presenting information on the Drinking-water Assistance Programme to an inter-agency hui of representatives from all interested parties tomorrow. I understand that the Hon Tariana Turia is also going to Bridge Pā tomorrow to discuss this matter.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister aware that a recent Hastings District Council door-to-door survey revealed that 35 houses in the village are without water, and that some have been without it for as long as 6 weeks; and how can such a dire water shortage exist when just down the road plans are being made to install a 50,000 cubic metre lake?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Rodney Hide—rather more briefly.

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I am advised that the Hastings District Council first found out about the problem only on 11 February 2009.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: You’re remarkably well briefed for a question you didn’t write.

Hon RODNEY HIDE: It is great to be criticised by the Opposition for being well briefed. Those members are not used to Ministers who know how to do their job, are they. I understand that the Hastings District Council has been providing emergency relief to the community. As I have previously advised, decisions about the future water supply of this community are for the council or the community to make, and I am very pleased that our colleague Tariana Turia will be at Bridge Pā tomorrow.

Hon Shane Jones: When will the Minister share with the Māori Party that his agenda is to privatise the delivery of water to residents as he is currently doing by secretly trying to privatise the port of Northland, aided and abetted by Mr John Carter?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: Interestingly, the residents of Bridge Pā—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I am very reluctant to do this when it is one of my own team asking the question, but how can it be possible that “gagged” is ruled out, but “aided and abetted” is allowed?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister does not appear to have taken any objection to it. I invite the Minister to answer the question.

Hon RODNEY HIDE: Interestingly, the water supply for Bridge Pā is currently privatised. That was the point, and if the member had listened to the supplementary question, he would have realised that the people of Bridge Pā had their own bores. This Minister of Local Government is working with the Māori Party to assist Bridge Pā to get water. I would have thought that was something the Labour Opposition would be interested in doing.

Brendon Burns: Can the Minister advise what the impact on improving the quality of the water of communities like Bridge Pā would be if the advice from the Job Summit to impose a moratorium on meeting water-quality standards was taken?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: None whatsoever. The advice I have received is that the drinking-water standards put in place by the previous Government would put tens of millions of dollars on some communities to meet standards that those communities do not want or need.

11. Copyright Act 1994—Section 92A

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

11. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Commerce: Will the Government support the policy of amending section 92A of the Copyright Act 1994 as set out in my Copyright (Internet Service Provider Account Termination Policy) Bill; if not, why not?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Commerce) : No, not as set out in the member’s bill. The Government’s policy is to give Internet providers and right-holders 1 month to come up with a code of practice. That time frame has yet to expire, and although there are some challenges I am not prepared to prejudge the outcome.

Clare Curran: How does the Government expect section 92A of the Copyright Act to be able to come into force given that TelstraClear has vetoed the code of practice being developed by the significant stakeholders?

Hon SIMON POWER: I am advised that the rest of the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, and other right-holders are making real progress on the code of practice. If TelstraClear wants to be excluded from the arrangement, that is its choice. I met with right-holders as recently as 7 o’clock this morning, and according to the member’s press release yesterday, her bill requires ministerial approval of any code before section 92A comes into force, meaning that it still relies on the parties coming to an agreement first.

Clare Curran: Will the Government establish an independent adjudicator to resolve copyright disputes; if so, who; and if not, why not?

Hon SIMON POWER: I am not prepared to prejudge the outcome of the negotiations that are continuing at the moment. I find the Labour Party’s position on this issue rather confusing. The member wants to keep section 92A but amend it; the former Minister, Judith Tizard, said that it should come into force as it is, explaining that it was left deliberately vague as “at no stage did I think … I had the answer to the process”; and the Labour candidate for Hunua, Mr Jordan Carter, is the contact for yesterday’s press release from InternetNZ that said that section 92A should be dumped. Maybe Labour needs its own code of practice.

12. Foreshore and Seabed Act—Review

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

12. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Attorney-General: Why is the Government reviewing the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) : It is doing that for a number of reasons. First, it fulfils a term of the supply and confidence agreement between the National Party and the Māori Party; it is an example of the constructive engagement that characterises our relationship. The Act has been controversial since it was passed in 2004, and that leads on to the second reason—the review will consider, among other things, whether the Act effectively recognises and provides for customary and public interests in the coastal marine area, and allows for the enhancement of mana whenua.

Paul Quinn: How does this Government’s approach differ from that of the previous Government?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Government will engage constructively and in good faith with interested parties. The review panel will hold a series of hui and meetings for all New Zealanders, Māori and non-Māori, throughout the country.

Hon Darren Hughes: Before they get sacked.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: If I may say this to Mr Hughes, that stands in contrast to the previous Government, which ignored a 40,000-strong delegation of New Zealanders who marched on Parliament, preferring instead to meet with a sheep, and which described Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has dedicated his life to empowering Māori through education, as a “hater” and a “wrecker”.

Paul Quinn: What support has the Minister seen for constructive engagements in the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have seen a press release from the Hon David Parker, saying that “Labour will constructively engage with the Government over the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.”, and that “The last thing New Zealanders need is for this issue to be used to incite disharmony again and we won’t go there.” This contrasts with the disappointing comments of the Leader of the Opposition, who called the review “extremely divisive”, and publicly called for the review not to proceed—echoes of Winston Peters.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Minister, in the light of that last answer, recall seeing billboards in relation to the foreshore and seabed that said “Iwi/Kiwi”; and which side is he on now?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The member does recall seeing those signs; times have moved on. We are attempting to deal with an issue for the benefit of all New Zealanders. I must say that I am increasingly disappointed in that member’s petty and tatty comments, because I think he is better than that. What we are trying to do is constructively deal with this issue for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Paul Quinn: How has the Government engaged with its support parties in undertaking the review?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Very constructively. As the Minister responsible for the review, I am very pleased to report to the House that there has been a great deal of constructive engagement and consultation with the co-leaders of the Māori Party and the new member for Te Tai Tonga, RahuiKatene. The Māori Party has made an important and valuable contribution—

Hon Shane Jones: Hey—Harawira doesn’t agree.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: —to the review, and I for one am very much looking forward, I tell Mr Jones, to receiving the report of the review, and then moving forward in the interests of all New Zealanders.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister seen a press statement from the Minister of MāoriAffiars, Dr Pita Sharples, yesterday, saying that the Foreshore and Seabed Act “confiscated” the foreshore and seabed from Māori; and does he accept the implication that Māori own all the foreshore and seabed?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I must confess I have not seen that comment; I have seen a number of comments from the Minister. I simply say to the member that we are awaiting the outcome of the review. Let us await the outcome of the review and then deal with the issue in the light of the very statesmanlike qualities of Mr Parker—who stands head and shoulders above other lawyers in his caucus—for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

Sp Ruling 148/3. Actual quote: “incumbent on the Minister to challenge its validity”


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Gordon Campbell: On The Politics Of Using The Word “Fascist”

“Fascist” is one of those labels with the ability to capsize any debate. Call your opponents “fascists” – or “agitators” or “terrorists” or “scum” and you’ve taken the option of mutual respect and compromise off the table. Interesting then to see the ( paywalled) Washington Post seriously debating with itself yesterday over whether… Hmm, is it now finally time to bring out the f-word in connection with the presidency of Donald J. Trump, and with his enablers in the Republican Party..? More>>


RNZ: Covid-19 rules and restrictions on businesses to be lifted under alert level 1

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there will still be strict controls on the border, but all current rules and restrictions on businesses and services will be "essentially lifted" under alert level 1.
She said the lower alert level would also put an end to restrictions for hospitality businesses, and gatherings - including funerals and tangihanga - of any size could take place..... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Twitter Wars, And The Muller Muddles

Whatever the failings of our own politicians, spare a kind thought for the majority of Americans who did not vote for Donald Trump. Sure, it was depressing this week to watch Todd Muller clinging for dear life to his talking points on Q&A, ... More>>


Green Party: Statement On The Death Of George Floyd

“Today and every day we stand in solidarity with George Floyd’s family, friends and community who feel pain and fear about his untimely death at the hands of Minneapolis police”, said Green Party Co-leader and Māori Development spokesperson Marama ... More>>


Government: Freshwater Package Backed By Comprehensive Economic Analysis

Decisions on the Action for Healthy Waterways package are supported by comprehensive environmental and economic impact analysis by leading New Zealand research institutes, universities, and private sector firms. More>>


National: "Todd Muller Announces Shape Of Next Government"

National Party Leader Todd Muller has announced the line-up of the next Government. “New Zealand is facing perhaps the toughest time that almost anyone alive can remember. “We are borrowing tens of billions of dollars to get us through this crisis. There ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On National’s Day Of Reckoning

Congratulations. You are one of the 55 members of the National caucus being called together tomorrow to choose who will lead you to either (a) catastrophic or (b) honourable defeat on September 19, thereby saving some (but not all) of the jobs currently on the line. Good luck. Your decision process starts NOW... More>>


Budget 2020: Jobs Budget To Get Economy Moving Again

Investments to both save and create jobs in Budget 2020 mean unemployment can be back to pre COVID-19 levels within two years and could see the economy growing again as early as next year. More>>


Government: Five New Super Hercules To Join Air Force Fleet

The Coalition Government has confirmed five Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules transport aircraft will be purchased to replace the existing fleet, Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today. More>>


Government: Queen's Birthday Honours List 2020

The New Zealand Order of Merit The Queen has been pleased, on the occasion of the celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday, to make the following appointments to The New Zealand Order of Merit: DNZM To be Dames Companion of the said Order: Distinguished ... More>>

Government: Support For Arts And Music Sector Recovery

A jobseekers programme for the creative sector and four new funds have been set up by the Government to help our arts and music industry recover from the blow of COVID-19. Thousands of jobs will be supported through today’s $175 million package ... More>>


Government: New Zealand Joins Global Search For COVID-19 Vaccine

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, and Health Minister David Clark today announced a COVID-19 vaccine strategy, which will enable New Zealand scientists to contribute to global research efforts ... More>>


The Dig: Steady State Economics: We’ve Got Some (systems) Thinking To Do

In this time of impending economic and ecological crises, we urgently need to aim for a sustainable or ‘steady state’ economy. In order to get there, we will need to adopt a ‘systems-thinking’ outlook taking into account the interconnections of our complex world.

In short, we’ve got some systems thinking to do... More>>


Election 2020: Parties Get Into gear

The Green Party is pleased to reveal its candidate list for the upcoming election. With a mix of familiar faces and fresh new talent, this exceptional group of candidates are ready to lead the Greens back into Government. Using the most democratic list ... More>>


Insight Into Regenerative Agriculture In New Zealand

There is a fast growing movement in New Zealand that has been happening out in paddocks, fields, gardens and hill country across the nation. It is a movement that holds the promise to reshape our productive land use industries towards systems that work with the natural environment to regenerate the land. The movement is that of regenerative agriculture. More>>


Covid-19: Tracer App Released To Support Contact Tracing

The Ministry of Health has today formally released the NZ COVID Tracer app to support contact tracing in New Zealand. Kiwis who download the app will create a digital diary of the places they visit by scanning QR codes displayed at the entrances to ... More>>


Govt: Deep Concern At Hong Kong National Security Legislation
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today reiterated the deep concern of the New Zealand Government following confirmation by China’s National People’s Congress of national security legislation relating to Hong Kong.... More>>






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