Questions to Ministers
1. Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) to the
Minister for ACC: What reports has she received on changes to ACC levy rates?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the
Minister for ACC: I have seen reports that under the current system, levy rates are “rising rapidly” and “going through the roof”, and that “Levy rates are now substantially lower …”. I have also seen reports that under an alternative scenario of privatisation, “I think premiums will go down.”, “I’m not convinced there’ll be a huge reduction in levies.”, and “Some are currently paying too little.” All of these reports come from Mr John Key.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has he seen any other reports concerning ongoing commitments to keeping accident compensation as a 24-hour no-faults scheme?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have seen a report that describes the principles developed at great length by the Woodhouse commission and accepted over many, many years, on which this accident compensation system is founded, as “Yeah, no-fault, 24-hour no-fault, blah, blah, blah.” This statement, made by Mr Key on radio, was further followed by a statement that privatising accident compensation, if a National Government were elected, was—and this is a real beauty, when we get to the substance of it—“almost certainly likely”.
Hon Mark Gosche: Has the Minister seen any reports from experts welcoming the privatisation of accident compensation?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, after an extensive search we have not. We have seen a number of reports from experts opposing the privatisation of accident compensation; for example, Mr Don Rennie on behalf of the New Zealand Law Society pointing out that the insurance industry will want to have a slice of the pie so that it can make a profit. A compensation lawyer said there will be hundreds of thousands of demarcation disputes coming out. The physiotherapists were very strongly opposing it, given their previous experience of the failed privatisation of accident compensation. Clearly, given this policy and the opposition from all those who know something about the system, there is an even greater need for National members to come clean about who made what donations to them at the last election.
Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister confirm that the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is not a State-owned enterprise, and has he seen reports that a future Government, no matter how far in the future, would not sell State-owned enterprises; if so, do those reports mean that it is possible that that future Government could sell assets that are not State-owned enterprises, including ACC, TVNZ, Air New Zealand, the roads, the schools, and the hospitals of New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is absolutely correct. But even if it were, members need to remind themselves that we have heard this all before. In a written question in 1993 in a response to that, the Rt Hon Bill Birch said that it was not Government policy to privatise accident compensation. That seems very strange, because when the Labour Government came into office it had to undo privatisation of accident compensation.
Foreign Affairs, Minister—Confidence
JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Foreign Affairs; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister)
: Yes; because he is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.
John Key: Is it acceptable for a member of her executive to accept a $100,000 gift, and then fail to declare that gift both to the registrar of pecuniary interests and to her as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, Mr Peters has said he was not aware of who contributed to the fund for his legal fighting costs, just as I note that Nick Smith has not disclosed who contributes to his.
Hon Jim Anderton: Has the Prime Minister seen the report on Fairfax’s Stuff website today, which says that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Key, would not rule out dealing with the New Zealand First leader after the election; if so, what does she make of a party that calls for the resignation of Mr Peters from this Government, but says it would have him in its Government?
Madam SPEAKER: I just remind the Prime Minister that she is not responsible for the decisions of another party, but she may address the question as long as she does not address the other parties’ attitude on it.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I note that Mr Peters’ behaviour seems in Mr Key’s mind to raise an issue of integrity when Mr Peters is working with a Labour Government, but, apparently, it would not disqualify him from being on Mr Key’s team.
Peter Brown: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Minister being referred to in the principal question is the same Minister of Foreign Affairs who has worked hard to improve our relationship with the USA, so much so that its Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has accepted a personal invitation from the Minister to visit New Zealand and has also accepted his invitation that she return home via Samoa in order to
meet with Pacific Foreign Ministers; and is that the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is being referred to?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, it is. I know that Mr Peters has formed a strong working relationship with the United States Secretary of State, and, further, that he has been working for some time to ensure that he could facilitate a meeting with her and other Pacific Foreign Ministers. That meeting, of course, will take place next Sunday in Samoa.
John Key: Will the Prime Minister be giving Winston Peters her express permission, as required by paragraph 2.79 of the
Cabinet Manual, to retain the $100,000 he received from Owen Glenn; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would need to take advice on what the issue is where a donation has been made anonymously, and then is later declared publicly because Mr Peters’ lawyer has advised him of the facts. I would note that the word of an honourable member is always accepted in this House. Further, Mr Peters’ lawyer, Mr Henry, has entirely backed what Mr Peters has said. Mr Henry, of course, has professional obligations to the Law Society.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the Prime Minister’s answer, Mr David Carter said: “Oh, but you are talking about Winston Peters.” He implied to the House that Mr Peters is not an honourable man, and that his word should not be taken. That is the implication that Mr Carter gave the House, and I ask you, Madam Speaker, to rule on whether he was out of order in making such an interjection and such an implication.
Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection, but I think it is useful at this stage to remind members that interjections will always occasion a response, and that that response is likely to lead to disorder. If that disorder continued, I might have to rule that the member withdraw from the House.
Ron Mark: Can the Prime Minister confirm that in 2007 the Minister of Foreign Affairs brokered a deal with the Minister of Finance to boost New Zealand’s level of overseas aid by $70 million—an increase of over 20 percent, and the biggest such increase in decades—and is that not the Foreign Minister that she continues to have total confidence in?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I can confirm that Mr Peters has been a very successful advocate for the foreign affairs portfolio, and that has included advocating successfully for quantum leaps in the amount of support that New Zealand gives to developing countries. He has ensured that significant increases have been going to the South Pacific. From the outset of his term as the Minister of Foreign Affairs he has expressed his strong desire to see New Zealand do more to help lift its neighbours from poverty.
John Key: Is the Prime Minister saying that the various Ministers she has sacked previously were not doing a good job in their portfolios, and is the test now whether they have done a bad job in their portfolios, not whether they have necessarily done something wrong?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As Prime Minister I must make judgments on all sorts of things, based on the evidence. What I see at the moment is a range of allegations, all of which have processes that they could be pursued through. I see, for example, that Mr Hide is pursing a parliamentary privileges route. People can pursue other routes through the pecuniary interests registrar or the Auditor-General. Those routes should be followed, and people should get some substance behind allegations if they want to take them further.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Prime Minister confirm that this year the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the Pacific Development Strategy, which will deliver $2
billion in aid over 8 years, allowing New Zealand to make a sustainable impact on improving health and education in the Pacific, addressing infrastructure gaps, promoting economic growth, and improving governance and leadership?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can confirm that, and I repeat that Mr Peters has been particularly passionate about ensuring that New Zealand pulls its full weight in lifting living standards and the ability to develop among our South Pacific neighbours.
John Key: When will the Prime Minister decide whether Mr Peters can keep the $100,000 he received from Owen Glenn, given that it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative to decide whether a sum in excess of $500 is a gift?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I said earlier to the member that I would take advice on what the situation is in respect of a donation to a legal fighting fund that was previously anonymous but is now public. But I caution the member from going down that line, because I am well aware that Mr Nick Smith is seeking considerable money for legal costs. He said in March that his legal bills had reached $300,000. I looked at Nick Smith’s return to the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, and I saw no declaration of either debts or gifts.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was last year afforded an invitation to visit North Korea; that later that year he visited that country to explain our longstanding wish to see denuclearisation, peace, and security on the Korean peninsula, and to convey our strong support for the six-party talks process; and that at the conclusion of that visit he travelled to the United States for talks with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, at her request?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yes, I can confirm that Mr Peters has been particularly active on the issue of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. He was invited by the Secretary of State, I understand, to take part in talks that went beyond just the involvement of the six parties in the six-party talks. I believe that, on behalf of New Zealand, he has played a constructive role in this issue. It has to be remembered that New Zealand can speak on nuclear disarmament issues with a credibility that, I suggest, no other country has.
John Key: Does the Prime Minister accept that New Zealanders who heard Mr Peters categorically deny receiving any money from Mr Glenn are now entitled to feel, in light of recent disclosures, they were totally misled by him; if so, has she required Mr Peters to apologise to the public?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: From, particularly, the time two Saturdays ago when emails emerged that suggested that a donation had been made by Mr Glenn to Mr Peters, Mr Peters was adamant that no donation had been made to him personally or to the party, and I accepted his word as an honourable member. He then, on Friday, was informed by his lawyer that there was a third avenue for donation, and that was to a legal fighting fund. On receiving that information—and Mr Peters’ lawyer, who, I point out, has professional obligations to his society, absolutely backs this up—Mr Peters immediately issued a press statement clarifying the matter.
Pita Paraone: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Minister of Foreign Affairs this year brokered a deal with the Minister of Finance to boost the operating funding of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade by $523 million, and to provide a capital injection of $98 million over 5 years, which will allow an increase in ministry staff of around 50 percent?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said earlier, Mr Peters has been a very successful advocate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade—a ministry, I might say, whose capability was very much run down under the previous Government. It is a ministry whose capability has been rebuilt by the Labour-led Government; I am happy to say that that has continued, with bells on, under Mr Peters as Foreign Minister.
John Key: When Mr Peters rang the Prime Minister on Friday to tell her that indeed he had received a donation, and that he had been advised of that by his lawyer, Mr Henry, did the Prime Minister ask Mr Peters the obvious question, which was whether he had asked Mr Henry why he had not informed him that he had received a donation, when in February he had conducted a press conference that was intended to lead every New Zealander to believe that he had not received a donation; or is the test that his lawyer will tell him things—or, indeed, Mr Peters will say things—only when they are in the public domain, in an email, and he can no longer reconcile those two statements?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: When Mr Peters phoned me on Friday night, he informed me of the situation. I accepted his word. I also offered him my condolences on the death of his mother, which had occurred earlier that day. I have since seen a statement by Mr Henry, Mr Peters’ lawyer, that says that the way that he handled donations in support of the electoral petition was exactly the same way that he handled donations for the National Party when Mr Wyatt Creech took a petition. I repeat Mr Henry’s exact words: “I was taught the way I am doing it by the National Party in 1987.”
Dail Jones: Has she received any recent reports from the media, from officials from other nations, or from Opposition political parties that suggest in any way that the Rt Hon Winston Peters is performing poorly in his duties as our Minister of Foreign Affairs—or in any of his other portfolios, for that matter?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As Prime Minister, and as someone who has a very longstanding interest in foreign affairs matters, I follow with great interest what our Minister of Foreign Affairs does on behalf of New Zealand, and I can say that I see very substantial reports about the work that he is doing, and I am entirely satisfied with that work.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister tell us whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs was involved in negotiating the very substantial tax breaks that this Government has delivered to the racing industry; if so, in those negotiations did he declare the very substantial donations that New Zealand First had received from the racing industry?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The matters the member refers to are, of course, deduced from the front page of the
this morning, and I note that New Zealand First has issued a press statement that describes the article as “a smear campaign of unsubstantiated allegations.” I would further note that, on racing matters, the National Party in its 2005 election policy announced very big tax breaks for the racing industry, and I challenge the National Party, and Mr Key as its chief fund-raiser, to say how much they received from racing interests.
John Key: Will the Prime Minister confirm media reports that she and her Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, had discussed the appointment of Monaco-based billionaire businessman Owen Glenn to the role of honorary consul in Monaco; if so, when?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have made it clear in the past, when this issue has arisen, that I was aware of Mr Peters’ consideration of that matter. I have also seen Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefing papers on it. There is nothing secret about it.
Peter Brown: With such achievements as outlined by my colleagues, can she now understand why National is so keen to have the Rt Hon Winston Peters as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, should it regain the Treasury benches?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think it is summed up in a very few words: desperation for power.
John Key: Does the Prime Minister stand by the statement she made this morning, when she said in relation to Mr Peters: “Until I think it’s seriously affecting the job he is
doing, … I don’t have a concern.”; if so, can the Prime Minister confirm that the new standard and test for her Ministers is whether she thinks something is seriously affecting their job, not whether they might have done something wrong?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have consistently said that what is in the public arena is allegations. If the member can substantiate the allegations, let him do so. But I have a duty to be fair to people and not just to follow a bandwagon generated by the Opposition.
John Key: Has the Prime Minister seen the allegations in this morning’s
that, in addition to the $100,000 cash that Mr Peters received from Mr Glenn, it is now rumoured that $150,000 was received from the Vela family by Mr Peters or his party, and that some of those funds did not find their way into his party’s bank account; if so, what steps will she take to protect the integrity of her administration against serious allegations of this nature?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am tempted to suggest that that amount of money might be considered petty cash in comparison with donations the National Party may have received in the past from the racing industry, and the insurance industry, and the booze industry, and the tobacco industry. I do not expect a party leader to know the details of anonymous donors, but perhaps Mr Key is operating a different standard.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree that the funding scandal now enveloping the Minister of Foreign Affairs shows once again that we need to get rid of the anonymous donations regime, so that voters can see who is funding whom and who is getting what?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see New Zealand develop a system like that prevailing in many Western democracies where there is transparent public funding and it is not possible for there to be major corporate and personal donations. I hear the Opposition chirping “Why didn’t you do it?”. Opposition members have never backed such a system, because they are the main bagmen for the big corporate donations.
John Key: Why is the Prime Minister continuing to follow in the House this afternoon the same strategy that she has followed ever since these allegations against Mr Peters emerged, which is that instead of actually trying to find and provide answers to serious allegations levelled against a member of her executive, she seems to be claiming that everybody else can go and make inquiries—from the police to the Auditor-General—as long as she does not have to pull the trigger in asking them to do so?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have made the point before in this House and to the media that I do not run a private police force. If I did, there would be many interesting angles that I could follow up in respect of National Party members’ activities.
John Key: When the Prime Minister, leading the Labour Party, along with Winston Peters, leading New Zealand First, passed the Electoral Finance Act in a bid to provide transparency for big money in politics, did she expect that one day she would be standing in the House defending Mr Peters, who seems to have received $100,000 but did not want to tell anyone about it?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I think that that is a bit rich coming from a party that has had many millions of dollars of anonymous donations. We now have not only a book called
The Hollow Men but also a film called
The Hollow Men, and they clearly finger Mr Key as the main gatherer of anonymous donations, when he knows full well where that money comes from.
Rodney Hide: Is the Prime Minister seriously telling us that in her Government it is OK for a Minister to have a legal bill paid to the tune of $100,000, and to have the Minister not tell her, as long as he does not know who paid the bill; for that same
Minister to consider granting a Government favour to the person who paid that $100,000, even though he did not know who paid it; for that Minister then to attack an article as malicious liars, and to demand the resignation of the editor of the
New Zealand Herald and its political editor; for it then to become—
Madam SPEAKER: The Standing Orders require that at question time questions be asked, not statements or speeches made. Would the member please just ask his question.
Rodney Hide: It is a question, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please just ask his question.
Rodney Hide: Is all of that fact, and is that the standard she has for her Government and for the Ministers of New Zealand?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It would seem obvious to me that if a—
Judith Collins: Yes.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Does Miss Collins have something to say? [Interruption] Down, down! The member still thinks she is at the Casino Control Authority.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You pulled me up during my one supplementary question, to say I had to ask a question. If that is the case, why do you not pull up the Prime Minister and say that she has to answer that question?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: When a small animal is unwise enough to try to interrupt a large animal, the small animal must expect some response.
Madam SPEAKER: I am not sure that was a helpful contribution. [Interruption] Which members would like to remain in the House? I am on my feet; there is to be silence. I listened very carefully both to the question and to the answer. The question was addressed by the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would like to address Mr Hide’s question, which was asked in good faith.
Madam SPEAKER: By all means. You may add to your answer.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My response to Mr Hide is that I have accepted Mr Peters’ word that he did not know that that donation had been made to his lawyer’s fund. Therefore, it stands to reason—in respect of the question that Mr Hide has asked me—that if Mr Peters did not know that that donation had been given, he could not have done a favour in return for it.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Various allegations have been made this afternoon as if the National Party and, probably, the ACT party know differently from what we in New Zealand First know, which is that Mr Peters did not know what he has told everybody he did not know. On behalf of Mr Peters, I would like to say to the National Party what it once extended to him: put up or shut up!
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a point of order; it was a statement.
Gordon Copeland: Can the Prime Minister clarify this matter for the House: did the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell her that he did not know about the donation, or that he did not know who had made the donation; could she please be clear, because those two points are quite different?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: On Friday night Mr Peters phoned me to say that his lawyer had been in touch with him to say that Mr Glenn had made a donation to the legal expenses. End of story.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Speakers’ rulings state that questions must be addressed. I specifically asked the Prime Minister to inform the House of exactly what Mr Peters had said, in terms of whether he knew about the donation as distinct from knowing about who had made the donation. I put it to you that, based on Speakers’ rulings, the question was not addressed.
Madam SPEAKER: I think it was, because the Prime Minister clearly stated what she had been told. She cannot answer what she was not asked.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister have any concerns that her Minister of Foreign Affairs, a Minister charged with representing New Zealand’s best interests off these shores and, presumably, a Minister who should have his wits about him at all times, apparently did not notice, for nearly 6 months, a $100,000 credit on his invoice?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Obviously, I cannot be expected to take any responsibility for the way in which Mr Henry bills Mr Peters or anybody else.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That answer was an obfuscation of the question, not an answer. The Prime Minister was asked whether she was concerned that a Minister of such stature in her Government—and we have heard today from the Prime Minister what a wonderful job this man does and how crucial he is to her Government—apparently had not noticed, for 6 months, that a very, very large bill had a $100,000 credit against it?
Madam SPEAKER: As the member well knows, specific answers cannot be required. All that Ministers are required to do is address the question. That answer was addressing the question.
Māori Language Strategy—Resources and Priorities
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the
Minister of Māori Affairs: Kei te whakaae ia ki te kōrero a te Tumuaki o Te Mana Arotake e mea ana, ko ngā painga kua puta i te Rautaki Reo Māori kua pāngia e te kore rauemi mō ngā tikanga whakahaere me tōna whakatinanatanga, tae atu ki ngā whāinga matua e taupatupatungia ana, ā, ka pēhea e taea ai e te Arotake o te tau 2008-09 te whakatika tēnei?
Does he agree with the Controller and Auditor-General that the success of the Māori Language Strategy has been affected by the lack of designated resources for planning and implementation, and by conflicting priorities; and how will the 2008-09 review address this?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: Ki ōku whakaaro kua tino angitū pai rawa atu te Rautaki Reo Māori i ngā tau tata ki muri nei, ahakoa te pono me te haurite a te pūrongo Arotake Mahinga i taua wā, kua ahu whakamua kē ngā mahinga. I consider that the Māori Language Strategy has been very successful over the last few years, and that although the performance audit provided a fair and balanced view of the implementation at the time—2007—work has progressed since then.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
He aha tāna ki te whakaaro ko te kaupapa nui e aukati ana i te tūtukinga o te Rautaki Reo Māori, ko te noho mana kore o Te Puni Kōkiri ki te whakahau i ērā atu rōpū kāwanatanga ki te whakatinana i taua rautaki?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What response will he make to the finding that one of the key issues confronting the success of the Māori Language Strategy is the lack of powers on the part of Te Puni Kōkiri to compel the lead agencies to implement the strategy?]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA:
Ahakoa te puta pērā, e puta ana ngā kōrero pēnei tonu mō Te Puni Kōkiri: ngā whakaritenga me ngā tautoko kua tukuna atu ki ngā tari, kua hāngai ai ake, he ngāwari ake te tirohanga a Te Puni Kōkiri me pēwhea a Te Puni Kōkiri te whakatūtuki i ngā here rautaki whakamahere.
Along with that, the audit also said the coordination and support offered to agencies is now better targeted. Te Puni Kōkiri has a more flexible approach to how each agency can meet the strategy planning requirements.
He aha ngā mahinga a tēnei Kāwanatanga Reipa arā hei tautoko i te reo Māori?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What has this Labour-led Government done to support the Māori language?]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: He nui rawa atu ngā haumitanga tautoko a tēnei Kāwanatanga, e whai ake nei ētahi: te whakatūtanga i te Rātonga Pouaka Whakaata Reo Māori, te whakapikinga i te pūtea mō ngā reo irirangi Māori, te whakaurunga i te reo Māori ki roto i te marautanga me te whakamānutanga o Ka Hikitia, me tōna arotahi ki te ako i te reo Māori, te tautoko kia haere tonu ngā hōtaka ake, pērā i a Mā te Reo. This Labour-led Government has invested significantly in supporting the Māori language, including establishing the Māori Television Service; providing increased funding for Māori iwi radio stations; including Māori in the core curriculum; releasing Ka Hikitia, which has a particular focus on Māori language education; and continuing other programmes such as Mā Te Reo.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
Kia ora rā. Kei te whakaae ia kei te whakapā te reo Māori ki te whakaaetanga a te Karauna ki ngā rangatira ki ngā hapū te tino rangatiratanga o ō rātou taonga katoa i raro i te Tiriti o Waitangi, nā, he aha tāna ki te whakaaro, he kore mana tō te Tiriti mēnā, kāore a Te Puni Kōkiri, a tari kawanatanga kē rānei i whakarite i tētahi huarahi whakamua, ki te whakatutuki i ngā here o te Rautaki Reo Māori, i mua i te 30 o Pipiri 2004, te rā i whakatauria e te Rūnanga o Te Kāwanatanga?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Does he agree that the Treaty obligation of the Crown to guarantee to Māori the undisturbed possession of their taonga includes their language; and what can he conclude about the status of the Treaty when no agency, including Te Puni Kōkiri, had completed and finalised a plan that fully met the requirements of the Māori Language Strategy by the 30 June 2004 deadline set by Cabinet?]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA:
Tautoko ana ngā kōrero i puta ā-waha a tērā tangata o Te Rōpū Māori mō te pai haere te hopu a ngā iwi katoa mō tō rātou reo me tō rātou mita. E tuku ake anō tēnei kāwanatanga i te nui o ngā pūtea a muri a tērā mahi a Te Taura Whiri
i te Reo Māori
rāua ko Te Mangai Pāho e mau pai mō tātou o te kāwanatanga me rātou o te iwi.
I certainly agree with those issues brought up by that member, which are relevant, but, certainly, this Government has been committed to progressing the Māori Language Strategy, along with those two agencies that work between the Government and the iwi: Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori and Te Māngai Pāho.
Te Ururoa Flavell:
He aha tā te Arotake o te tau 2008 e pā ana ki te whakatinanatanga o te Rautaki Reo Māori, mai i tōna tīmatanga ki nāianei, ā, he aha te take o te arotake nei mēnā e ai ki tā te Auditor General “ko ngā mahi i oti i Te Puni Kōkiri ki tēnei wā, ehara i te arotaketanga tika mō te tōtika o ngā mahi whakatairanga reo Māori a ngā pokapū Kāwanatanga.”?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What has the 2008 review concluded about the effectiveness of the implementation of the Māori Language Strategy to date, and what confidence can New Zealanders have in this review, knowing that the Auditor General identified, and I quote: “the activities carried out so far by TPK do not constitute systematic evaluations of the effectiveness of the Māori language activities carried out by the government agencies.”?]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Kei te tū tonu te kaha o te reo mō tātou katoa mai i Aotearoa.
[The language continues to be strong for all of us from New Zealand.]
Ko tēnei anō te Wiki o Te Reo Māori, Madam Speaker, Te Kaiwhakahaere. Ko te whakamānutanga o te Taura Whiri i te I-Papakupu, te tuhinga ipurangi o te Papakupu Reo Māori, reo kotahi. I tae tahi tātou inapō tata nei ki te tīmata ake anō tērā āhua.Hei
āpopo, i te rohe o te tangata rā, ka rere te Google Reo Māori. He papakupu rorohiko kore utu tēnei, e rua tekau mā rima mano ngā tuhinga kei roto i te reo Māori.
I have much to say in celebrating that this is Māori Language Week. Some excellent things are being supported by this Government, by iwi, and by corporates such as Air New Zealand. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori last night launched I-Papakupu, the Internet version of the monolingual Māori language dictionary. This is a free electronic dictionary that has 25,000 entries completely described in the Māori language. Tomorrow, in Rotorua, Google Maori will go live. This is an exciting initiative that provides Māori language to all people in this great nation and in all corners of the world.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. He rawe te kōrero engari kāre i hāngai ki te kaupapa, ki te pātai. Ko taku pātai kē, kei wāhi kē, ko te whakautu kei wāhi kē. Ko tāku, māu ia e kōrero kia hoki mai ki te pātai.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Although that was a wonderful speech, it was not relevant to the topic and question. My question was in another direction and so was the response. Madam Speaker, I would like you to ask him to answer the question.]
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister like to say anything more that relates to the Auditor-General’s report, which I think is what the member was talking about? No, the Minister does not wish to add anything further.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Koinei te tikanga o te pātai, ko te ripoata o te Auditor General. Kāre anō a ia kia whakahoki i te pātai, kei te īnoi atu māu ia e kōrero.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[The gist of my question referred to the Auditor-General’s report. The Minister has not answered the question. Madam Speaker, I seek leave for you to ask him to answer it.]
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA:
E tuku ake anō taku whakahoki ki te tangata rā mai i te pātai tuatahi.
I responded to the member’s first question, and he heard the response.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Ko taku pātai tuatahi te pātai tuatahi, ko te pātai tuatoru te pātai tuatoru. Kei te hoki anō ki taua kōrero rā ki te Minita, kia whakahoki mai i te kōrero mō te pātai kātahi anō au ka pātai.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[My first question and my third question were different. I go back to what I stated previously: I would like the Minister to respond to the question that I have just asked.]
Madam SPEAKER: Could the Minister respond in terms of the Auditor-General and perhaps just expand on the first answer that was given. The Minister was perfectly in order to refer to the answer to the earlier question. However, for the information of the House, it would be useful if he perhaps repeated it.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: E puta ana te reo, te kōrero i roto i te ripoata, kei te ora te reo.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[The language is out, and, according to the report, it is alive.]
Budget 2009—Operating and Capital Spending Allowances
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the
Minister of Finance: What is Treasury’s best estimate of how much of the operating and capital spending allowances for Budget 2009 have already been committed or allocated?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance)
: I welcome the National Party’s first question on the Budget, which was delivered 2 months ago today. However, the answer to the member’s question is contained already in the Budget documentation, at pages 125 to 126 of B2 and B3, plus, in addition, $750 million pre-committed for health.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that in papers prepared for the Budget he has received advice from Treasury that $1.2 billion of the $1.75 billion operating allowance for next year’s Budget is either pre-committed or is spending that it says would be difficult to scale down, and is this advice correct?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is the advice from Treasury, and I commend it to the member to think about very carefully.
Charles Chauvel: Has he seen any reports on the impact of changing economic conditions on spending or revenue reduction commitments?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I have seen a report indicating that neither changing economic conditions nor fiscal imperatives should make any difference to plans for major reductions in Government revenue. That came from Mr Key, which perhaps explains why he does not want to hear Mr English’s questions.
Hon Bill English: Did the Minister himself take Treasury advice into account, that most of next year’s spending allocation was already committed, when he sent out the Associate Minister of Finance, Trevor Mallard, to talk about moving progressively towards a universal student allowance, rather than directly to one, when the full cost of that move is $728 million per year?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member needs to check that figure of $728 million per year, and in any case Labour—[Interruption] Yes, it is $728 million over the 4-year forecast period, so again, it has taken 2 months for the member to get a figure fairly substantially incorrect. But, further than that, progressive movement towards a universal allowance I think has been Labour policy for at least the last three manifestos, which is why we have lifted the eligibility—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: 9 years.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member might explain his own lawyer’s trust account at this point, perhaps. This is why we have lifted the parental spending limit very substantially while we have been in office, and increased the proportion of people eligible for a student allowance who meet the other criteria.
Hon Bill English: Did the Minister take into account Treasury advice when his Associate Minister said: “There is … a possibility of assembling locomotives in New Zealand … It’s probably a very logical thing to do from a currency perspective, from a value for money perspective.”, and no doubt from an electoral perspective for that member, and is any funding for Trevor Mallard’s sheltered railway workshop policy included in the $1.75 billion allowance?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I love it when the National Party really lets its trousers down and lets its prejudices show completely to the public. Mr English assumes that New Zealand workers cannot assemble railway locomotives efficiently, yet they can be quite efficient dairy farmers and quite efficient at all kinds of things. Indeed, $200,000 has been set aside, on the recommendation of those with knowledge of the system, to look at whether it is feasible to assemble locos in this country, because they are very large things to import fully built up. That member has no faith in New Zealand workers; I do have faith in New Zealand workers. That explains why National wants to flog everything off to foreigners to own and to run.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister understand why the public has no faith in him when, alongside the pledge to begin manufacturing locomotives in New Zealand, the Government is also talking about a universal student allowance and has to find $200
million next year to honour its agreements made in the teachers’ pay round, when it appears that even Treasury is telling it that there is only about $300 million of money to be spent next year?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Money for the teachers’ pay round is in the Budget already. You see, the problem with National Party members coming to the House with a great stream of pre-prepared, pre-written, and pre-typed questions is that they never listen to the answers. Mr English talks about the pledge to build locomotives, when in fact what is being investigated is the feasibility of assembling locomotives. Mr English does not know the difference between building a locomotive and assembling one. That explains why those members do not know the difference between privatisation and keeping ownership in New Zealand hands.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister confirm that because he has left unallocated spending of a fraction of what Labour is used to spending each year, we are going to see over the next 3 months a parade of 10-year plans, aspirational objectives, and current expenditure cooked up as capital expenditure, so that Labour can promise to spend an awful lot of money and pretend to keep inside its Budget?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What we will see is a parade of massive subterranean spending promises, like “We will borrow whatever is required to pay for all of local government’s infrastructure needs.”, and a massive tax cut programme that cannot be funded except by borrowing, and it will be called the National Party manifesto. We like the National Party releasing policy, because with every policy it releases, the gap between National and Labour goes down by 1 percent.
Early Childhood Education—Free Hours Success
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the
Minister of Education: What reports has he received about the success of the 20 hours’ free early childhood education policy?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Education)
: One year on from the launch of 20 free hours’ early childhood education for all 3 and 4-year-olds there has been a dramatic increase in enrolments, from 65,000 to 85,000. This policy was condemned by the National Party, when 20 free hours was introduced by Labour. The then National Party spokesperson said that we would never reach the level of enrolment we have today. National got it wrong again.
Lynne Pillay: What other reports has he seen about the 20 hours’ free early childhood education policy?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have seen a report, slipped out with no fanfare in the middle of the last parliamentary adjournment, where National’s spokesperson on early childhood education, Paula Bennett, reversed 18 months of sour criticism of free early childhood education and now says that National will offer the same policy as well. Of course, as always, National qualifies its support for one of our popular policies by withdrawing the word “free” from its policy. The only message that parents and the public can draw is that National has no intention of continuing free 20 hours’ early childhood education for all 3 and 4-year-olds.
SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the
Minister of Corrections: Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Minister of Corrections): In general, yes; because in the last 10 years serious assaults on staff have fallen by 90 percent, the escape rate has fallen by 78 percent, positive random drug tests have fallen from 30 percent in 1998 to 14 percent, and more prisoners are employed in work or training.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that last June the former Minister announced that the use of waist restraints would be the default for prisoners being transported, following the death of Liam Ashley at the hands of George Baker in the back of a prison van in 2006; if so, why was a waist restraint not applied to Baker while he was being transported recently, when he was reportedly able to stab a guard with a makeshift knife and when he was the very offender that caused the restraints to be introduced in the first place?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Waist restraints have been implemented in all New Zealand prisons since May. Prisoner Baker was returning from hospital following treatment for a serious arm injury. He could not wear a waist restraint because it required both wrists to be handcuffed. A doctor recommended that he be exempt from using a waist restraint for medical reasons. Staff used standard policy in handcuffing Baker to an officer in the prison van for the return journey. Three other officers were involved in the escort of Baker, and Baker was the only prisoner in the van. There are three exemptions to the waist restraint: if a person is pregnant, if a person has a medical exemption, or if a person is the only prisoner in the compartment.
Simon Power: Does the Minister stand by the statement of the former Minister, who did not tender his resignation over Liam Ashley’s death because: “I have a clear responsibility to oversee changes to the Correction’s system to prevent such a tragedy from occurring ever again in the future.”; and how does Labour’s standard of ministerial responsibility stack up now that waist restraints have been introduced but failed to be used properly, including on at least six occasions when inmates have slipped out of them in transit?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In the case that the member has raised today—that of prisoner Baker—the procedures, which provide for a medical exemption and for him to be the only prisoner in the van, were correctly followed as I have outlined them. So the proper procedures were carried out. In relation to waist restraints and prisoners slipping out of them, six occasions out of 20,000 prisoner movements have occurred when prisoners have slipped out of their restraints. These instances were caused by incorrect application of the restraint on the prisoners, not on any failure of the equipment. Those staff required further training and that has been carried out.
Simon Power: Is the Minister’s department’s failure to make proper use of waist restraints not just another example of the poor culture that exists in Corrections regarding prisoner transportation—beginning with these documents a year before Liam Ashley’s death, which show that the department was warned three times about issues like a prisoner’s inability to communicate with staff in vans in a medical emergency or assault, but on that occasion those concerns went unanswered?
Hon ANNETTE KING: No. In fact, two important points that I made in my primary answer were that serious assaults on staff have fallen by 90 percent and the escape rate has fallen by 78 percent. Rather than saying that the Department of Corrections has deteriorated, its staff are making great efforts to improve their performance. I commend them for that, but there always needs to be improvement in operations. But let us never forget that these officers deal with the most unpleasant people in our society, who are by their very nature—because they are in prison—people who we would regard as difficult problems and as being dangerous.
Simon Power: Why should the public have confidence in the Minister’s department when it lost a 30-page file containing details of high-risk inmates on an Auckland street and no one noticed it was missing until the media got hold of it; and can he confirm reports that six of those offenders are now claiming compensation for “distress and humiliation”, adding to the $118,000 that has already been paid out under Labour’s law that was supposed to stop those payouts?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Clearly, the loss of documents is not acceptable, and the department is taking steps to deal with it.
Citizens Initiated Referenda—Organisation
JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the
Minister of Justice: What advice has she received about holding a citizens initiated referendum alongside a general election?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Justice)
: I have received advice from the Chief Electoral Officer that holding a citizens initiated referendum alongside a general election would cause significant problems. The referendum held at the same time as the 1999 general election caused voter confusion, congestion in polling places, and significantly delayed the preliminary results. His advice to me was to hold a postal ballot should a referendum be required. At this stage no petition has been certified as reaching the standard to trigger such a referendum.
Judy Turner: Can we take from that answer that the Government is ruling out holding a citizens initiated referendum on election day later this year?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government has taken the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer not to hold a citizens initiated referendum alongside a general election. If there was a need for one—and we have no decision as to whether we need one—it would done by postal ballot.
Louisa Wall: Tēnā koutou katoa. What led to the introduction of the option to hold referenda by postal ballot?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The Referenda (Postal Voting) Act 2000 was enacted to provide a simple and cost-effective alternative to holding referenda at the ballot box. This legislation was introduced by a National Government in October 1999, and it was dealt with in a bipartisan manner. The processes in the legislation are modelled on the successful referendum on compulsory superannuation, which was held by post in 1997. The experience of the 1997 referendum was that voters found the process simple and that there was a high rate of participation with an 80.3 percent turn-out.
Ministerial Inquiry—Death of Debbie Marie Ashton
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the
Minister of State Services: Does he agree with the failures identified by Kristy McDonald QC in the report he released on 9 July 2008?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services)
: No, but I agree that failures occurred, as identified by Kristy McDonald QC.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why should New Zealanders have confidence in the Government’s State services, when one of those services placed a dangerous criminal on parole in Nelson just 6 months after he had been sentenced to 2½ years imprisonment, when he seriously reoffended just 8 days after being placed in Nelson under the witness protection programme—and neither the Department of Corrections nor the police took any action—and when he offended again just a week after appearing before the court, but the Department of Corrections and the police did not advise the judge that he was the same offender and was on parole, so he was able to go on and kill 20-year-old Debbie Ashton; and does this ministerial inquiry not show a reckless disregard by State agencies for the safety of the public?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The report does show that some bad mistakes were made by different Government agencies. The Government has accepted and responded to those recommendations in an effort to make sure that they do not reoccur. If I ask myself what went wrong here, I think the answer is that the Government officials handling the matter got it wrong when they thought that the need to protect this person,
who was on the witness protection programme, meant that they could not tell the court that he had another identity. That was the mistake that was made.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the Ashton family for his decision to delay the publication of the ministerial inquiry report into Debbie Ashton’s death, when Justice France’s ruling on 8 July makes it plain that there was no good reason for the delay, which added to this family’s trauma in that it had to fight for 8 months to get this report out in the open?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Minister of Police went to see the Ashton family the day following the release of the report from Kristy McDonald QC to the Government. The reason that the application was made to the court to vary the suppression orders was that Crown Law, the State Services Commissioner, the police, the Department of Corrections, Fairfax, and even the member who asked the question, who did not publicly make the link between the named defender and the witness protection programme, were all of the view that the suppression orders prevented the publication of the report, including those details. That is why we went to the court.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise and withdraw his complaint to the Privileges Committee over his claim that Heather Roy had breached court suppression orders, when Justice France refused to change any of the suppression orders, and stated that he had not placed any restriction on naming the offender, Jonathan Barclay, saying that he was on the witness protection programme, or stating that he had killed Debbie Ashton; and is the Minister not continuing the same error that was made by the police and the Department of Corrections, which continue to put the rights of the offender ahead of the rights of the family and the victim in respect of this tragedy?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We have not put the interests of the offender ahead of the interests of the Ashton family. Indeed, we have been transparent in our efforts to put as much information out there as is possible. I also make it clear that I still take care not to name the offender concerned in this arena. There is a difference between what one might be allowed to say and what one should say. Some members in this House do not judge very well the exercise of their privileges. I maintain what I said: it was irresponsible of Heather Roy to name the offender, and to make links through to the witness protection programme. It undermined the viability of the witness protection programme and also increased the risk to that offender.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does it not speak volumes about what is wrong with this Government that it is far more concerned about protecting Jonathan Barclay, a criminal with a very long record who was given a second chance, who was placed in Nelson, who repeatedly offended, and who went on and killed an innocent 20-year-old woman; and is it not time that this Parliament started putting the protection of the public and victims before the protection of criminals?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That chest-beating exercise by the member should be analysed. He is effectively saying that, in terms of people who have assisted in the imprisonment of some seriously bad people by turning Crown’s evidence against them—and who have been put on the witness protection programme because, by turning Crown’s evidence, their own safety is at risk—members of Parliament should take it into their own hands to ignore those safety risks and to use the absolute privileges that we have in this Parliament to undermine what are important institutions.
Hon Annette King: Can the Minister confirm that there was a commission of inquiry and a report that set out the errors that had been made, because the Minister of State Services at the time sought an inquiry, worked with the family and the local member of Parliament on the terms of reference for that inquiry, had the inquiry undertaken by an independent Queen’s Counsel, and ensured that the family got as much information as possible?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Indeed I can. And I would contrast the position that we take, which is to respect the rule of law, to respect the different interests of different people, and to ignore the rights of no one. We have not covered up what happened here; we have made it transparently obvious that errors were made, and taken steps to prevent the repetition of those errors. But that does not mean that it is right for members of this House to stand up as if they have no responsibilities to other people.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the ruling of Justice Simon France, who had to give consideration to the issues of the man’s name—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table an edited version of a letter from—
Madam SPEAKER: There was objection—I am sorry; if members would please just listen, it would make things easier.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to serve an edited copy of a letter sent to me by the family of some of the people involved here, worrying for the safety of the life of their family member—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection?
Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. He sought leave to serve a document and I do not know what that means.
Madam SPEAKER: I did not hear that.
Hon Maurice Williamson: He sought leave to serve it.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, all I heard was that leave was sought. The document was identified. Was there objection?
Hon DAVID PARKER: If I said “serve”, I meant to say “table”.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I did not hear that. Leave was sought. Members could have objected; they did not.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the ministerial inquiry into the death of Debbie Ashton that showed such gross failings—
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.
Electricity—Hydro Lake Levels
DAVE HEREORA (Labour) to the
Minister of Energy: How has the country’s electricity system coped with record low inflows into New Zealand’s hydro lakes?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy)
: I am pleased to say that all those involved have managed the situation very well, even though inflows into our hydro lakes by early June were the lowest since 1947. By comparison, hydro inflows were higher in the 1992 dry year, when National was in Government, yet lake levels ended up much lower and drastic power savings were needed to get through the winter. We are better off this year, thanks to the Electricity Commission, better industry coordination, and improving supply margins. That is why there was no crisis, despite Mr Brownlee’s most fervent prayers.
Dave Hereora: How much did the public savings campaign assist?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I would like once again to thank the public of New Zealand for their efforts. As many have quite rightly noted, long-term prudent use of electricity is good for the back pocket as well as for the environment and the country. The campaign led to 4 percent savings in electricity use overall, with State sector savings achieving as much as 7 percent.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm the following things: that this winter is the fourth under the Labour Government where New Zealanders have been asked to seriously save power, that forced power savings this winter have knocked $3 billion out of the economy, that spot prices have hit record levels, and that the power savings campaign started far too late; if so, why is the Minister now crowing in this House when security of electrical supply is not something his Government has anything, at all, to be proud of?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that notwithstanding the lowest inflow recorded since 1947 for the 3 months to June, we have managed very well. In terms of spot prices, of course, that is the intention of an electricity market: there are increases in the spot market when there is a shortage of the goods that are being sold.
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs—Safety
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the
Minister of Energy: How confident is he that compact fluorescent lamp light bulbs are safe for New Zealanders to use in their homes?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy)
: Very. Fluorescent lights are used in all countries, and can be safely used in New Zealand homes. The small amount of mercury is about one-twentieth of the amount in old fluorescent lights used in schools for decades, and is also substantially less than that in current tube fittings. Indeed, when I walked around the Beehive today I noted that just about all of the light fittings were fluorescent ones. Is the member suggesting we should ban them?
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister agree with the Government’s spokesperson for energy efficiency, Jeanette Fitzsimons, who said yesterday that an
Investigate magazine article about compact fluorescent light bulbs “raises some concerns”, and that “New Zealanders need to know that using CFL light bulbs will not pose a health risk to themselves and their families.”; if he does, will he be commissioning the review that his colleague Jeanette Fitzsimons has called for?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, her statement was correct, in that Mr Wishart’s article does raise those views. It is based on one study; I can advise the member that the Ministry of Health is reviewing that study and other related research, and will no doubt present a more balanced view than Mr Wishart did.
Moana Mackey: Are people being forced to use compact fluorescent lamps?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Again, I repeat “No”. This seems to be a common misconception on Mr Brownlee’s part. A growing range of energy-saving lamps are now available—
Jacqui Dean: They hate them!
Hon DAVID PARKER:—for example, there are new generation halogen incandescent lamps that look exactly the same. I hear we have another person saying they hate them. It is based on what the bulbs look like. We actually have lamps that look exactly the same as the old-style incandescent lamps but they use 30 percent less energy and they last twice as long. These are not fluorescents—they have no mercury—but, unfortunately, compared with fluorescents the savings are not quite as high.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister telling the House that the Government spokesperson for energy efficiency did not know that this work was to be done to verify the claims made in the
Investigate magazine; and, in any event, would it not have been simply a matter for the Government spokesperson on energy efficiency to commission the inquiry herself—or in fact is the relationship between the Greens and the Government now so bad that such activity cannot take place?
Hon DAVID PARKER: In contrast, I have a very open relationship with Jeanette Fitzsimons, and she has phoned me to express her views on these things in the last day.
Cellphone Towers—Health Risk
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the
Minister of Health: Is he confident that a cellphone tower, built next to a playcentre or kindergarten, would pose no risk to the health of the children who spend time at that centre; if so, why?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the
Minister of Health: Yes; I am advised that there is a current scientific consensus that exposure to cellphone towers would not constitute any quantifiable risk from radio frequency fields.
Sue Kedgley: Is it not actually the case that he cannot be confident, because there are, in fact, significant concerns about the health risks of long-term exposure to radio frequency fields, especially for children and including serious clusters of health effects for people living near cellphone towers, and, given this uncertainty, why will he not recommend a precautionary approach that does not compromise the safety of our children and prohibit the location of telecommunications towers near schools and preschools?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The evidence is not conclusive at all. I am not a scientist, but the Ministry of Health monitors all the research and convenes an expert advisory group to comment on findings of any research and on whether the ministry’s policies need to be reviewed. We are doing everything that we need to in this area, and we take on board any new evidence as it comes to us.
Lesley Soper: Has the Minister received any reports on exposure levels from New Zealand cell sites?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: Yes. The Ministry of Health’s measurements show that radio frequency fields from cell sites are normally one-hundredth of the limit recommended in the standard. The limits and the standard are consistent with international best practice and are at least 50 times lower than the level at which health effects might occur.
Sue Kedgley: Is it not the case that our standard is hundreds of times higher than many countries, including China, Austria, and Switzerland; is it not also the case that any New Zealander could wake up and discover that a 22-metre telecommunications tower had been erected next door, overnight, and that ordinary New Zealanders have absolutely no say or any rights to object to a structure being built next to their homes or their preschools; and what will the Government’s response be tomorrow to a group of Nelson parents who are bringing to the Prime Minister their video message entitled “Dear Helen Clark”, in which they express their concerns about their children’s safety in the light of a proposal by Telecom to build a telecommunications tower next to two preschools in Nelson?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I am aware of the Nelson situation. I think that the tower is next to one preschool. I understand that Telecom has decided not to proceed with that in the short term. Telecom is talking with people. There is normally, through the Resource Management Act, an extensive process of local consultation. There are many views on these proposals. Although there are other standards in other countries, we are using the best independent international advice in this area, and I am aware that although the other countries have slightly different standards, it, in fact, makes no practical difference in any way to the way cell sites operate or to the potential health effects of any exposure.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just wondering whether the Minister would like to think about his answer, because he made a very inaccurate statement. He said that normally extensive consultation takes place in erecting these 22-metre cellphone towers, when in fact there is no requirement for any consultation whatsoever, so I think the Minister—
Madam SPEAKER: I think the Minister did address the question.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table details of two examples of 22-metre cellphone towers.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Immigration Service—Mary Anne Thompson
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the
Minister of Immigration: Did the former head of the Immigration Service, Mary Anne Thompson, seek visa waivers for family members in April 2005?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Minister of Immigration)
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it correct that Mary Anne Thompson’s effort to secure visa waivers for family members in April 2005 was the second such time she had sought visa waivers for family members, and that in December 2004 she wrote to staff seeking visa waivers for family members and guaranteeing that they would return to Kiribati, saying: “We would like them to stay with us for three months for a significant family function, and then return to their families”?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am advised that in April 2005 the deputy secretary approached branch managers by email and acted in a way to, shall we say, facilitate, if you will, and that those and the other matters the member raises are, and will be, I assume, the subject of a number of inquiries that he is aware of.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm that the visa waivers granted to family members of Mary Anne Thompson in December 2004 were granted as exceptions to policy because they did not meet policy requirements—namely, either being British citizens, United Nations personnel, or from a listed visa-free country—and the visa waivers, therefore, were granted only because of Ms Thompson’s guarantee that she would ensure they would return home at the end of the 3-month period?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I do not have the detail directly pertaining to those matters to confirm that, but they will be matters, as the member has described, that are the subject of a number of inquiries.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: On what basis were family members of Mary Anne Thompson issued work permits if they came to New Zealand on visa waivers granted as an exception to policy on a guarantee from Mary Anne Thompson that they would be returning to Kiribati after a significant family function had been held?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: As the member has alluded to, visa waivers are granted to people who require a visa. For instance, to board a plane to travel to New Zealand, visa waivers will be granted from time to time to allow persons to travel without a visa being held. Once a person has been granted such a waiver and arrives at the airport in New Zealand, he or she will be granted a permit upon application. Upon completion of an arrival card the waiver basically turns a visa-required person into a visa-free person. Visas are usually given only in special circumstances—a number of which the member alluded to—including emergency, humanitarian, travel, health, etc. Waivers cannot be extended, and once the person arrives at the border, the waiver ceases. Again, the issues the member raises—and I will not pre-empt the three or four inquiries that are currently under way—will be dealt with, and the appropriateness or lack of it will be dealt with by those inquiries.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Did those family members all return home as guaranteed by Mary Anne Thompson; if not, under what policy did any of them acquire work permits?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The advice I have about the two members in respect of the 2005 issue are that they remained in New Zealand. As to the appropriateness and the detail surrounding the actions of Ms Thompson in relation to that, those will be the subject of the inquiries.