Questions and Answers - 22 Oct 2009
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
THURSDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2009
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Ministers—Compliance with Cabinet Manual
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he expect all his Ministers to comply with paragraphs 2.50 to 2.96 of the Cabinet Manual; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Annette King: Does he expect all his Ministers to comply with paragraph 2.54 of the Cabinet Manual, which states: “accepting additional payment for doing anything that could be regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible” and “accepting payment for any other activities requires the prior approval of the Prime Minister”; if so, in what cases has he approved Ministers accepting payment for such activities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The answer to the first question is yes, and the answer to the second one is that I cannot tell the member, as I do not have that advice here.
Hon Annette King: Does he believe that the Minister of Local Government upheld the highest standards as required by section 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual when he invited local government councillors to a breakfast called “The Future of Local Government Breakfast” in his capacity as Minister of Local Government, with all cheques, at $45 a head, to be made out to the ACT Party?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: My understanding is that the Cabinet Office does not have concerns about this situation but any questions of detail should be directed to the Minister, who, I understand, has explained the circumstances.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the Minister of Local Government said on Checkpoint last night that the Christchurch breakfast is the only time he has used his title as Minister to attract paying customers to hear him speak in his capacity as Minister, but contradicted that statement when he spoke to Susan Wood on Newstalk ZB and said that he had had meetings like this all around the country before, and is he aware of any such other meetings being held?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will be aware that whether MPs are Ministers or not they take part in fundraising activities. In respect of this particular activity, which I understand has not actually occurred yet, the Cabinet Office has no concerns.
Carol Beaumont: Is he aware his Minister of Consumer Affairs, Heather Roy, is holding a similar breakfast in her ministerial capacity to talk about her plan to review consumer legislation, with all cheques going into the same bank account that Mr Hide is using to build the ACT Party campaign fund; if so, what is he going to do about this Minister’s behaviour?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, all Ministers are expected to comply with the Cabinet Manual and there has been no suggestion that they have not.
Hon Annette King: When the Prime Minister said that he would be operating a “one strike and you’re out” policy for his Ministers, did he establish the standard of ethical performance he expected from his Ministers, and did it exclude arranging private financial affairs to get as much
money out of the taxpayers as possible, using their positions as Ministers to raise money for political campaigns, leaking commercially sensitive information to competitors in a bidding process, and releasing private information about people who question Government policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is just a bit rich, coming from Labour. That member knows that politicians attend fund-raisers all the time, and that is fine as long as everyone is clear about the basis on which they are attending.
Hon Annette King: Would he expect a Minister to stand aside if the Auditor-General announced a formal inquiry into his or her behaviour, and will he require the Minister of Finance to stand down if such an inquiry is instigated against him?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is purely hypothetical.
Carol Beaumont: I seek leave to table a breakfast invitation from the Minister of Consumer Affairs to raise funds for the ACT Party, and, at $35 a head, it is a real bargain, compared with—
Mr SPEAKER: I will seek leave for that course of action in a moment, but I stress to the member that she must not add that kind of comment when she is seeking leave. That is not allowed.
However, leave has been sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Rodney Hide: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have called the Hon Rodney Hide.
Hon Rodney Hide: I have to say to Mr Twyford that the whole country is paying for the Labour—
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet and all members will cease interjecting. I accept that the honourable member was provoked while he stood to ask his supplementary question, but he must not do that, either. I will not allow it again.
Hon Rodney Hide: Could the Prime Minister confirm that when Ministers in this Government attend public meetings, they need to ensure that more than four people will turn up, so that they do not end up in the very embarrassing situation that Labour leader Phil Goff had in Rotorua when the local chamber of commerce could sell only four tickets, with one of those being sold to Steve Chadwick, and, not surprisingly, the event had to be cancelled?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is quite possible that Steve Chadwick bought all the tickets, because she takes her job as a whip seriously. But I can advise the member—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the House has heard enough of that. The question was of marginal acceptability, and I think that the Minister has gone on long enough.
Financial Position, Government—Challenges
2. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What are the financial challenges currently facing this Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): One of the more significant challenges that the Government has to deal with is the deep-seated financial problems of accident compensation. Vote ACC reflects the way that the Labour Government dealt with wider public expenditure. Expenditure has been rising rapidly, and now that New Zealand has had a recession, New Zealanders are having to pay, through greater accident compensation levies, for the mistakes made by the previous Government. However, we are focused on fixing this mess and taking a balanced approach to ensure that accident compensation is both sustainable and affordable.
Amy Adams: What specific financial problems did the Government inherit in respect of accident compensation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: One in particular is worth mentioning. Prior to the last election, the previous Government presented accounts as if the scheme were in good order. Shortly after we became the Government, it became clear that there was a $300 million per year shortfall in the non22 Oct 2009 Questions for Oral Answer Page 3 of 14 earners account. Since then, a full appraisal of that account has made it clear that the shortfall is $420 million per year, which means that over the next 4 years this Government has to find something like $1.6 billion simply to fill the hole in one accident compensation account.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm that an independent inquiry found that the fault in respect of the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update numbers for the accident compensation scheme was entirely that of Treasury, and that Treasury has since apologised; and can he clarify whether he would welcome a similar inquiry into his own affairs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That inquiry confirmed at the time a $300 million shortfall in the nonearners account that was not revealed before the election. Since then, the number has increased to a $420 million per year shortfall in one account. That is $420 million we cannot spend on pay increases where they are warranted, or more services where they are needed.
Amy Adams: What other financial problems did the Government inherit in respect of accident compensation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The problem I have averted to is the problem for the Government as a levy payer—because the Government pays the levies for the non-earners account—but there are much larger problems for the wider group of New Zealanders who pay levies. This month we learnt that the accident compensation scheme made a $4.8 billion loss in the latest year, on top of the $2.4 billion loss the previous year. Under Labour, the scheme’s liabilities ballooned from $9 billion to $24 billion in just the last 4 years.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm that in the last year the accident compensation scheme made a cash surplus of around $2 billion, and that the only reason he is able to make the trumped-up claim of a crisis is, firstly, because the new chairman has marching orders to read every number according to the most conservative assumptions, and, secondly, because it is an ideological agenda of this Government to create a crisis in order to prepare the Accident Compensation Corporation for sale?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Opposition cannot have it both ways. It quotes the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report—on which the Labour Government spent $4 million—as a report that says the accident compensation scheme is fine. The same PricewaterhouseCoopers firm has independently valued the liabilities now at just under $24 billion.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the growing debt being carried by his Government, how is it responsible to make changes to the emissions trading scheme that Treasury says will result in “a cumulative increase in Government debt of around 6 to 8 percent of GDP by 2050”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is taking a balanced view about the need to accumulate some debt while we deal with the problems of a recession and some policy challenges like the emissions trading scheme. We are willing to accumulate some debt, but not to the point where it becomes too big a burden for future workers.
Amy Adams: What is underpinning the Government’s approach to addressing the financial problems of accident compensation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are endeavouring to make sure that all the problems with accident compensation are out on the table. The Accident Compensation Corporation board has proposed some fairly drastic levy increases, which the public will be consulted on, and then the Government will make a practical decision about what accident compensation levies are bearable, given that the economy is just recovering from a recession.
Crown Liabilities—Principle of Full Funding
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he support the principle of full funding of future Crown liabilities as, for example, in ACC?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, in general. As accident compensation is an insurance scheme, then full funding is therefore appropriate.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he support the principle of the full funding of future Crown liabilities in respect of superannuation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member will know, national superannuation is not an insurance scheme. It is a “pay as you go” scheme, so it is treated differently.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he support the full funding of future Crown liabilities in respect of carbon emission units?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has made some practical decisions to put in place a moderated emissions trading system. There are ongoing consequences from that. We are happy to debate those.
Aaron Gilmore: What is the Government’s normal approach to funding its liabilities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government deals with some of its future liabilities on a “pay as you go” system. For instance, people on the invalids benefit are generally regarded as not being able to work in the future, but we deal with them on a “pay as you go” basis because they are on a welfare benefit. However, clear insurance liabilities or well-defined pension liabilities are fully funded, such as most the Government Superannuation Fund is.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why does he think it is necessary to manufacture a crisis in the accident compensation scheme through the principle of full funding, when he has just rejected again the same principle in respect of climate change and superannuation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We did not manufacture the idea of full funding. Labour was in power for 9 years with a full funding deadline of 2014 in the law. It had the opportunity to change that.
Labour never changed it, and it certainly ignored the obligations that that deadline put on it to run the scheme responsibly. Labour behaved recklessly, and now levy payers are paying for that.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can he believe it is consistent, ethical, or fiscally responsible for taxpayers to meet the full cost of funding accident compensation, which runs a cash surplus of nearly $2 billion, but to load the full cost of superannuation and carbon liabilities on to our children?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is displaying the current confusion in Labour over its policy positions. Labour needs to decide whether it thinks that accident compensation should be fully funded or “pay as you go”. In fact, on the issue of superannuation, I say today’s workers pay all the national superannuation liabilities.
4. NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister of Police: What steps has the Government taken to tackle illegal street racing?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Yesterday the legislation arising from the Vehicle Confiscation and Seizure Bill passed its third reading. It closes numerous loopholes in the current law and provides for the ultimate deterrent of crushing the cars of the worst repeat offenders. This legislation comes into force on 1 December this year.
Nicky Wagner: Why was this legislation needed?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It was necessary because illegal street racing had become a major problem in cities around New Zealand. It was necessary to close the loopholes in the existing legislation. The seriousness of this problem was highlighted by the attack on a lone Christchurch police officer by 300 illegal street racers in January. This attack prompted me and the Minister of Transport, Steven Joyce, to do everything that we could with our colleagues to put a stop to these hoons.
Brendon Burns: Why did the Government’s legislation not cut exhaust noise limits, as repeatedly promised by Ms Wagner—and others, including Nick Smith—who launched a second petition by saying a 90-decibel exhaust limit was required because noisy cars are environmental vandalism?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That matter, of course, could be dealt with in another bill—certainly not in this bill. This is a police bill, not a transport bill. I would say, though, that that member’s Government had 9 years to deal with the issue, and it failed appallingly.
Nicky Wagner: How will the new legislation assist in making our streets safer?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It will strengthen the powers of the courts to order the confiscation of motor vehicles, empower the courts to order the destruction of motor vehicles used by repeat illegal street racers, and toughen the provisions regarding seizure of motor vehicles to enforce the collection of unpaid fines.
Transport Projects, Regional—Funding
5. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: Are the regional mayors who have said they will have less money than they had planned for to undertake transport projects wrong; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): No. It is, indeed, true that four mayors have spoken out and said they are getting less than they asked for. It is also true that all four are getting more than they received in the previous 3 years, just not quite as much as they thought they should have got. Overall, across the country, 17 percent more is being spent on local road maintenance and renewal over the next 3 years than in the last 3 years.
Hon Darren Hughes: Why did the Mayor of Napier, Barbara Arnott, say that her council will have to shelve a planned $26 million freight route leading to Napier’s port because funds have been reallocated towards the Minister’s so-called roads of national significance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not know why Mayor Barbara Arnott said that, because a number of projects are proceeding in Hawke’s Bay. In fact, Hawke’s Bay is having a 72 percent increase in State highway expenditure over the next 3 years, including such projects as the Matahōura Gorge realignment, the Hawke’s Bay Expressway southern extension, and the Waipukurau Overbridge realignment. I suppose some regions of the country would say that Hawke’s Bay is doing quite well.
Hon Darren Hughes: Why does the Mayor of Wanganui, Michael Laws, believe that his community will have to cut $6.5 million out of its budget because of Government transport decisions—something that will impact on things like road maintenance and road safety?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I am not quite sure why Mayor Laws thinks he is hard-done-by, because the Wanganui maintenance expenditure is increasing by 4 percent, the Manawatū- Wanganui region is having a growth in renewal and maintenance expenditure of 12 percent, and there are also significant increases in State highway expenditure in the Manawatū-Wanganui region.
David Bennett: What has he said to mayors about their local road maintenance budgets?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I attended the Central / Local Government Forum in Wellington this morning, and I reaffirmed the Government’s commitment, as laid out in the National Land Transport Programme release some 2 months ago—the member Mr Hughes has obviously had time to read it—that across New Zealand councils will receive an average 17 percent increase in road maintenance budgets over the next 3 years compared with the last 3 years. This is a substantial increase, and I would be surprised if councils could not meet their aspirations in an environment of declining input prices and limited private sector competition for contractors.
Hon Darren Hughes: Have any decisions by the Government led to a shortfall of $7 million for local roads that the community in Manukau City was expecting—something that will put pressure on the cost of living for hard-working families, whose rates might have to go up by 3 percent just to cover that gap?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, because the Government is committed to a 17 percent increase across the country in local road budgets. Although Manukau may be disappointed, its budget for local road maintenance is going up 11 percent over the next 3 years compared with the last 3 years.
It seems slightly churlish to say they are being told to cut, because they are not. It is an 11 percent increase.
Hon Darren Hughes: How can so many people be wrong and the Minister be right, especially when regions and cities have been told to budget and plan road and public transport projects over a multi-year time frame? Does he not accept that his so-called funding increases really are a cut when compared to what communities had properly planned for?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I explain to the member that it cannot be a cut when there is a 17 percent growth in expenditure. Certainly, mayors and the member opposite have aspirations and dreams beyond the increases that have been allocated. But, as we know, it is a national system and across the country there has been a 17 percent increase.
Cellphone Towers, Location—Public Consultation
6. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he think the public should be consulted about the location of cellphone towers in their community before they are put up?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: The Minister is advised that if a proposal does not comply with the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications Facilities, then public consultation is required. It is good practice to consult, and that is encouraged by the Ministry for the Environment’s guidelines.
Sue Kedgley: Does he think it is fair and democratic that cellphone masts, and other equipment, can be put up on telephone poles right next to people’s homes, schools, play schools, and playcentres, as of right, without any consultation or consent, as is happening in Eastbourne, New Plymouth, Manukau, Nelson, Auckland, and elsewhere around New Zealand; if so, why?
Hon TONY RYALL: If a proposal complies with the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications Facilities, then public consultation is not required.
Sue Kedgley: Is he aware that the decision to allow cellphone masts, and other antennae, and so forth, to be constructed on telephone poles in the community, without any consultation, even though they will inevitably lower the property values of nearby homes and may affect people’s health, is causing distress, anger, and protests around New Zealand; and will he therefore urgently review the national environmental standards so that telecommunications companies are required to consult local residents before constructing cellphone masts next to people’s homes, schools, and preschools?
Hon TONY RYALL: As I said earlier, it is good practice to consult, and certainly the Ministry for the Environment’s guidelines indicate that consultation is best practice. The Minister and the Minister of Health are advised that there is an inter-agency committee that reports to them if there is reasonable suspicion of health hazards associated with radio frequencies. To date, the committee has advised that recent research programmes have found no evidence to confirm suggestions that there may be health effects from exposure to levels of radio frequency that are well below those allowed in New Zealand.
Sue Kedgley: Is he and his colleague the Minister of Health aware of recent international research that suggests that electromagnetic radiation may affect people’s health, even at low, chronic levels of exposure, way below that which is permitted by the New Zealand standards, and does he agree that we should therefore be taking a precautionary approach and keeping cellphone towers and masts at a reasonable distance from homes, schools, and playcentres?
Hon TONY RYALL: New Zealand does take a precautionary approach already, and New Zealand cellphone towers emit around 1 percent of what is deemed a safe level.
Sue Kedgley: Is he aware that according to the Howick Times the Prime Minister told the Mayor of Manukau, Len Brown, that he would recommend to Cabinet a review of the National Environmental Standards for Telecommunications Facilities, particularly the lack of consultation; and can he tell me how far the Prime Minister’s review has progressed?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Howick Times is not on my reading list currently, but I have no reason to believe that it is not a timely and suitable—
Hon Maurice Williamson: It’s the Howick and Pakuranga Times.
Hon TONY RYALL: It is the Howick and Pakuranga Times, apparently. Yes, I have actually read the Howick and Pakuranga Times from time to time. What I can say is that it is good practice for telecommunications companies to consult, and that is certainly the indication given by the Ministry for the Environment.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very specific question about how far the Prime Minister’s review had progressed and I would be grateful if he could seek to address that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the honourable member’s point, but had she just asked that, it might have been easier to extract an answer. If the member reflects back, she will find she asked a whole lot more prior to that part of the question, and the Minister focused on the other part of the supplementary question.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a number of documents relating to my question. The first is a transcript of an item on One News last night where an Auckland resident, Rowan Hegley, was blocking access to a power pole outside his house in protest—
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member obviously could not have been in the House during my ruling earlier today. I made it very clear that seeking leave to table recent media articles is not supported. However, if she is seeking such leave, then I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that media article from yesterday. Is there an objection? There is objection.
Sue Kedgley: In this case, I seek leave to table an email, a copy of which was sent to me from Fiona Jeffcoat-Yu, who pointed out that she has eight cellphone antennae next to her home, that she is worried for her child, and that there are plans for an additional three—
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.
Sue Kedgley: This is a copy of the eight cellphone antennae that are next her house. I seek leave to table another email. This one is from Paul Minchin of New Plymouth, pointing out that Vodafone New Zealand is about to erect a tower in his neighbourhood in New Plymouth. It will be right in a residential neighbourhood and surrounded by hundreds of houses.
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.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table an email from Sarah Wild, inviting me to a public meeting in Point Chevalier to protest the erection of a cellphone tower right outside several homes in Point Chevalier.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table an invitation to the member to attend a protest meeting.
Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is objection.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table another document. It is from Jeremy Lovell-Smith of Eastbourne. He is protesting the fact that Vodafone New Zealand is about to construct a cellphone tower across the road from his family’s house without their consent.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Sue Kedgley: Finally, I seek leave to table the BioInitiative Report by a working-group of international scientists, who conclude that the existing standards for public safety around electromagnetic radiation are inadequate to protect public health.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table to that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Broadband Roll-out—Progress on Urban Initiative
7. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister for Communications and Information
Technology: What progress has the Government made on its initiative to roll out ultra-fast broadband in urban areas?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): What a fine question. Yesterday the Government released the invitation to participate in our $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband investment initiative. This allows companies to submit their bids to co-invest with the Government and local fibre companies, which will roll out the fibre to schools, hospitals, businesses, and homes. The invitation to participate, or ITP, is based upon an innovative commercial model that will see the Government largely fund the deployment of fibre into communities, and the Crown’s local fibre company partner gradually taking a greater share in the local fibre company as it connects customers. This risk-sharing model reduces the risk around demand uptake, and will further encourage investors to participate.
Hon Tau Henare: Why is the Government investing in broadband infrastructure?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Access to broadband is part of the essential infrastructure of a productive and growing economy, and will be crucial to New Zealand improving its competitive advantage in the global market. The Government understands that private sector companies have made a commercial decision not to invest in fibre to the home themselves, and so wishes to improve the business case for broadband because of the public benefit to be gained from such a network. In addition, the benefits to New Zealand of improving rural broadband will be significant, and that is why we are spending an additional $300 million to improve rural broadband services.
Clare Curran: Does he believe that structural separation of Telecom New Zealand prior to the roll-out of the Government’s broadband reforms is necessary to achieve truer competition at the wholesale and access levels, and can he confirm that he met with Telecom New Zealand’s chief executive officer, Paul Reynolds, last Friday to discuss structural separation?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I cannot confirm that structural separation would be necessary. I can confirm that I met with Paul Reynolds last Friday, in preparation for a meeting between the Prime Minister, me, Mr Reynolds, and his chairman yesterday, and structural separation was not on the agenda.
Schools, Primary—Professional Advice for Science Education
8. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: What will be the change in the Government’s support for professional advice for science in primary schools between 2009 and 2010?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Education: In 2009 approximately $908,000 was used to support professional development in science in primary and secondary schools. I am advised that this figure cannot be broken down into separate primary and secondary school figures until hours are reported at the end of the year. The primary schools’ 2010 professional support will be focused on literacy and numeracy, because students need to be able to read, write, and do maths in order to be able to achieve in science.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is she aware that as we speak, New Zealand’s soon to be made redundant world-leading science advisers are being approached by international recruiters, and are likely to be lost for ever to New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government and the Minister have made clear decisions about the priorities, which are to focus on numeracy and literacy.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of her reply on Government priorities, did she suggest to the Minister of Finance that at least three, and possibly six, science advisers could be employed for
another year if he repaid the money he received as a result of his declarations that Dipton is his primary place of residence?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, as the member will know, I did repay the money.
David Shearer: Did she consult with Dr Peter Gluckman before deciding to cut the funding for primary schools’ science advice and professional development; if so, did he support her proposal; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not aware of the answer to that question, but I can tell members that the Government is unashamed about its priorities to teach all our children to read, write, and do maths. That is why we are implementing a national standards policy, and that policy is strongly supported throughout the country.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she suggest to the Minister of Finance that at least three, and possibly six, science advisers could be employed for another year if he repaid the money he received as a result of his declarations—over 10 years—that Dipton is his primary place of residence?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister of Education has spoken to me often about the priorities and pressures in education. She has the unfortunate job of cleaning up a mess left by the previous Government, which left a large number of unfunded commitments and uncontrolled expenditure.
We have to make decisions about priorities.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is a relatively simple point of order. I think that right from the beginning of the answer, when the Minister said “The Minister of Education has spoken to me”, he did the entire answer as the Minister of Finance, and did not answer the question of whether the Minister of Education approached him on a particular subject.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member’s point, and it is an interesting point that the Minister is answering on behalf of the Minister of Education. Could he reword his answer to make sure it complies with the fact that he is answering of behalf of the Minister? Would it be possible to reword that answer?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: OK, I will put it the other way around. The Minister of Education talks to the Minister of Finance all the time about the mess that she has to clean up, which was left by the previous Government. It left layers of programmes that were uncoordinated and had unfocused priorities, and it had a whole lot of unfunded commitments in education.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, it is a very simple point of order. It was a very simple question, and it asked whether a particular matter had been raised with the Minister of Finance by the Minister of Education. That was not addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: If the Minister is keen to answer further, I am happy for him to respond to that point of order.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, because the Minister spends her time talking with the Minister of Finance about the mess left by the previous Labour Government in education, with unfunded commitments, layers of programmes that do not work, and no focus on getting children to learn properly and every child having that right.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know this has been a very political area, but we have a Minister of Finance who continues to declare that Dipton is his primary place of residence.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat right now. [Interruption] I am on my feet, and there will be no further interjections from the Hon Tau Henare. That is not a point of order.
Debating that matter has nothing to do with order in this House, and it is not a point of order. It will cease.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does she agree with the British Conservative Party’s education spokesperson that “A broad and demanding curriculum—far from undermining reading, writing and arithmetic—reinforces attainment in these core skills.”, or is it the case that under her watch the three Rs really stand for “reduce, regiment, and ruin” the curriculum?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The answer to that is no. Of course New Zealand does maintain a broad and demanding curriculum, and the tens of thousands of teachers who are out there teaching it will continue to do so.
Climate Change—Australian Deforestation Ban
9. DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by his statement in the House yesterday: “in respect of Australia, there is a complete ban on any deforestation of pre-1990 forests.”; if so, why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Climate
Change Issues: In a general sense, yes. In Australia each state requires by law that the deforestation of pre-1990 forests be notified, and there are heavy penalties for failing to do so. In addition, pre- 1990 forests in Australia are, in the main, State-owned. A combination of both of these factors was sufficient for the Federal Government to exclude pre-1990 forests from its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
David Garrett: Why should New Zealand include our pre-1990 forests in our emissions trading scheme when no other countries are doing so, and especially when the Prime Minister promised the country we would be fast followers rather than world leaders on climate change?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I pointed out, one of the significant differences between New Zealand and Australia is that in Australia most of the pre-1990 forests are State-owned. That is no longer the case here. The member should consult Sir Roger Douglas, who sold them all off. We have to make a different set of rules.
Hon David Parker: Why does it make sense for his Government’s emissions trading scheme to cap deforestation emissions, but not to cap industrial and agricultural emissions? Why will he not accept the obvious: a “cap and trade” scheme without a cap on agriculture and industry shifts billions of dollars of costs to the environment, to taxpayers, and to future generations?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has made a series of decisions to moderate the comprehensive scheme that the Labour Government had put in place, and we have decided to moderate it in order to ensure that the costs are spread more fairly and people can retain their jobs, and not have them exported to other countries.
David Garrett: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: The ACT Party, as I have recorded matters today, has had its two questions.
The Hon Rodney Hide asked a supplementary question earlier.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Often when smaller parties have used up their allocation of supplementary questions, their partner party—that is, the bigger party—might give them one. Labour often does that for the Greens, and maybe National could give a supplementary question to the ACT Party.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a nice try, but it is not a point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave for the number of supplementary questions to be extended by one, on the basis that no one from this side of the House will take that supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I guess leave can be sought for any manner of matters. Leave is sought to extend the number of supplementary questions today by one. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.
David Garrett: What action is the Minister taking to ensure that the climate change response legislation now before the select committee receives an adequate regulatory impact statement, or does he not care?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably no legislation before the House has had more years of scrutiny, more submissions, and more hours of select committee consideration, and I think it is now important that we get the legislation through so that people know what the rules are going to be.
Disability Issues, Minister—Statements on Q+A Programme
10. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues: Does she stand by all her statements as Minister for Disability Issues on the Q+A programme?
Hon PANSY WONG (Associate Minister for Disability Issues) on behalf of the Minister for
Disability Issues: Yes.
Lynne Pillay: Does she stand by her statement that disabled people do not get enough now, and that she would be very opposed to slashing spending on modifying vehicles and homes for disabled New Zealanders, and will she ensure that this Government does not slash 20 percent of the funding for those modifications as it plans to do?
Hon PANSY WONG: The Minister has received no specific information about the 20 percent cut to the accident compensation Budget spend on modifying homes or vehicles. She is, however, advised that in the last 8 years the cost to the accident compensation scheme of adapting houses has increased by 500 percent, and the cost of adapting vehicles has increased by 400 percent. We need to scrutinise individual cases, such as claims for modifying secondary or holiday homes, or for modifying newly constructed two-storey houses for wheelchair-bound clients, to ensure value for money.
Lynne Pillay: How can she claim any effectiveness for her ministerial committee when it has met only once under her watch, and disabled people have ended up with less, not more?
Hon PANSY WONG: On this side of the House, we understand quality, not quantity. The 9 long years of Labour Government did little for the disability sector.
Kelvin Davis: Why is she supporting legislation that will cut entitlements for disabled Māori, given her concerns that many cannot even take part in their own culture due to a lack of disability facilities on marae?
Hon PANSY WONG: Indeed, the Minister is concerned about the low number of Māori claimants, and their not understanding their entitlement to accident compensation after 9 long years of Labour Government. The previous Government did little to ensure that Māori claimants know their rights.
Kelvin Davis: How does she reconcile her concern that disabled Māori do not get the accident compensation support they are entitled to with her decision to support legislation that will reduce entitlements and will see disabled Māori get less, not more?
Hon PANSY WONG: It would pay for that member to listen, and not repeat the same question.
The Minister’s concern is that after 9 long years—
Mr SPEAKER: When asked a question—and it was a reasonable question about reconciling what the questioner perceived to be two conflicting positions—I think the Minister should attempt to answer it, rather than launching into an attack on the questioner.
Hon PANSY WONG: The Minister remains very concerned about Māori claimants’ low level of understanding of their rights and the lack of promotion of their understanding after 9 long years of the previous Labour Government, which did little to reverse that situation.
Carmel Sepuloni: Given that she is the Minister for Disability Issues for all New Zealanders, has she secured any additional funding for Pacific people, who are overrepresented in workplace injuries and who will suffer more under these cuts?
Hon PANSY WONG: The disability portfolio is one of advocacy and the funding is spread over many portfolios. That is why the Government set up the ministerial committee for the disability sector to better coordinate efforts—unlike the Labour Government, which wasted 9 long years—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked whether she had secured more funding for a particular purpose, and some attempt to respond to that question would have been helpful. If she had not launched into a further attack on the Opposition, I might have been able to forget the fact, but if she is going to launch into an attack on the Opposition she should at least answer the question.
Hon PANSY WONG: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the additional opportunity. The portfolio of the Minister for Disability Issues is to make sure that advocacy is being championed, and that is
why the ministerial committee has been set up. The funding for the disability sector is vested in each individual portfolio.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite Carmel Sepuloni to repeat her question. There will not be any loss of questions.
Carmel Sepuloni: Given that she is the Minister for Disability Issues for all New Zealanders, has she secured any additional funding for Pacific people, who are overrepresented in workplace injuries and who will suffer more under these cuts?
Hon PANSY WONG: Indeed, the Minister is concerned that all New Zealanders get their entitlement and are well looked after. The ministerial committee for the disability sector will look after all New Zealanders.
Carmel Sepuloni: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think my question was very clear and I feel the Minister has not addressed it. I need a yes or no with regard to whether the Minister has secured any additional funding—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the Government benches that they must not interject like that during a point of order. The member asked her question very clearly, and although tradition has it that we cannot necessarily extract a yes or no from a Minister, to simply say in response to that question that the Minister is concerned for all New Zealanders does not even come close, in my view, to providing an answer to the question. Rather than having further opportunity to comment, it would be helpful if the Minister would give some kind of answer to the question.
Hon PANSY WONG: We are championing issues for all New Zealanders, including Pacific New Zealanders, and all good efforts are being championed by the ministerial committee.
Aspire Scholarship—Māori Boarding School Students
11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Associate Minister of
Education: Kua whakawhiwhia anōtia ki tetahi tauira Māori e kuraina ana i ngā kura nōhanga Māori he karahipi Aspire; ki te kore, he aha ai?
[Has any Māori student who attends a Māori boarding school received an Aspire Scholarship; if not, why not?]
Hon HEATHER ROY (Associate Minister of Education): No Aspire Scholarships have been allocated yet. The first round of applications for the 2010 academic year closed on 14 October, with a ballot to select recipients scheduled for 30 October. A second ballot will be held on 4 November.
To date, 350 applications have been received, including some on behalf of Māori children, to allow students from low-income houses to have more choice of school by attending an independent school.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha tāna mō ngā tauira Māori e ngākaunui ana ki te uru atu ki ngā kura nōhanga Māori ēngari e kore e taea nā te mea, kua pau te pūtea o te karahipi Māpihi Poutama kātahi, kua aukatihia hoki te karahipi Aspire ki a rātou, ā, e ai ki tā te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa, “most Māori students are beneficiaries of an iwi or hapū trust and thus appear to be excluded from the scholarship.”?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.] [What choice has she offered Māori students who aspire to attend Māori boarding schools but cannot attend because Mapihi Pounamu Scholarship funding is inadequate and Aspire scholarships are not offered for Māori boarding schools, and, according to the Tertiary Education Union, “most Māori students are beneficiaries of an iwi or hapū trust and thus appear to be excluded from the scholarship.”?]
Hon HEATHER ROY: I advise those wishing to apply for a scholarship that they should seek advice from the Ministry of Education, not from the union. But students are eligible for Aspire Scholarships if they are from households that have an annual income of $65,000 or less and a net worth of $150,000 or less. Students then take their scholarship to enrol at the independent school of
their choice. As currently no Māori boarding schools are independent schools, they are not an option at this time. However, the two independent Māori day schools are able to accept Aspire Scholarships, and Māori students can apply for scholarships to attend any other independent school.
A number of boarding bursaries are also available to students. If students win a boarding bursary and an Aspire Scholarship, then they would indeed be able to attend a boarding school if it was independent.
Te Ururoa Flavell: He aha ngā whakaaro o te Minita mō te whakapaunga o te tekau mā rima mano taara ki te tuku i te tauira kotahi ki te kura whai rawa ahakoa tokorua ngā tauira ka uru ki ngā kura nōhanga Māori mō taua tekau mā rima mano taara?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.] [Does the Minister believe that one student receiving a $15,000 scholarship to attend an elite private school is a better use of the education dollar than two students receiving scholarships to attend Māori boarding schools, the average fees of which are $7,500 per year?]
Hon HEATHER ROY: I am not in a position to say which schools are better. Students have the ability to apply for an Aspire Scholarship and then, should they be awarded one, take it to an independent school of their choice. The intention of these scholarships is to widen the choice for students, and they have been targeted specifically at children from low-income houses to allow them a choice that they otherwise would not have.
12. SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Fisheries: What recent decisions has the Ministry of Fisheries made in regard to marine farming applications?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries): I am pleased to announce the news that the aquaculture management area in Wilsons Bay in the Coromandel has been given the green light. An area of 1,783 hectares has been approved. Of this, 520 hectares will be shellfish farming, and the rest will be used for access. As per our settlement commitments, 20 percent of this area will be allocated to Māori.
Hon Shane Jones: Labour policy.
Sandra Goudie: To the Minister of Fisheries—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have called Sandra Goudie. Please show her some courtesy.
Sandra Goudie: How long had this application been in the works?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I am pleased to talk about Shane Jones’ Labour policies. The application had been in the works for 9 long years, which highlights the barriers in Labour’s legislation. That is why I am delighted to announce that the Government’s Aquaculture Technical Advisory Group has reported back. We will publicly announce the group’s work in early November, and the legislation that Shane Jones put through that meant that this consent took 9 long years will be fixed.
Urgent Question to Minister
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I lodged an urgent question in light of the Government’s announcement today, after question time had commenced, that it will privatise parts of—
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker has dealt with that matter, so that is the end of it. I do not consider it is necessary for that urgent question to be asked today, and that is the end of that matter. There can be no litigation of that. I guess that if the honourable member wishes to, he could seek leave to ask his question.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): Before doing so, could I refer the Speaker to Speaker’s ruling 151/3, which states that a classic circumstance of urgency in the public interest is where
some irrevocable course of events is about to happen—for instance, a building is about to be demolished. The accident compensation scheme is about to be demolished in its current form—
Mr SPEAKER: I was about to give the member the chance to seek leave, but he must not misuse the point of order procedure like that. The particular issue that the member is wishing to ask an urgent question about is nothing like the demolition of a building. The House will have plenty of opportunity to debate the matter, because, obviously, legislation will be required; there will be many opportunities to debate it, so it is not remotely the same circumstance.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I seek leave to ask one question and one supplementary question on the announcement made by the Government during question time that it will privatise parts of the accident compensation scheme.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection to that course of action?
There is objection.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I seek leave to table a copy of the announcement made by the Government at 2.10 p.m. today, after question time had commenced, that the Government and ACT have agreed to privatise parts of the accident compensation scheme.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.