Questions to Ministers
Rt Hon Winston Peters—Ministerial Warrant
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the
Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement today that she has “no basis” to remove the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ ministerial warrant; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: What the Prime Minister actually said earlier today was that the proceedings of Parliament’s Privileges Committee last night provided no basis for her to remove Mr Peters’ ministerial warrant today.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that one of her roles is to supervise the application of the
Cabinet Manual to her Ministers, which says that at all times Ministers are expected to behave in a way that upholds and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards; and, by refusing to sack Mr Peters, is she telling the New Zealand public that she believes that he has, at all times over the last 6 months, behaved in a way that upholds and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: One of the very highest ethical standards that any Prime Minister should seek to uphold is the rule of law. That means going through proper process.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that at the heart of this controversy is a donation of $100,000 to a senior Cabinet Minister or his party, that over a period of 6 months that donation has not been adequately explained, and—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. One would expect parliamentarians to understand the importance of words. The claim made in that question is patently and absurdly false. Mr Glenn has now made it very clear—although his emails at the time said otherwise—that he did not pay any money to New Zealand First. So that is the first count. The second one is that he admits that he has never paid any money to me, either. That is the second point. The third point is that the issue is about whether he paid it to a lawyer’s account.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. These are matters of debate.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That exchange raises an issue that has been troubling me for some days. It relates to the exchange of information in this House about matters that are material to the deliberations that the Privileges Committee is now embarking upon. I would be grateful for your advice, Madam Speaker, as to the extent to which the general debate in this House about the broad swell of allegation is limited by, or influenced by, the proceedings in the Privileges Committee. Members of this House who sit on the Privileges Committee are hearing all of this, and at the same time are hearing the evidence and trying to reach a fair and balanced decision.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, Madam Speaker, I do have great sympathy with what the member says, but the reality is that evidence that is given to a select committee in an open meeting is able to be referred to. The House has never in the past constrained its ability to refer to that kind of evidence. What cannot be referred to are the proceedings that are going on within the committee—the deliberations of the committee on matters where the committee has not been in open session.
Madam SPEAKER: It is my understanding that these matters have actually been raised in open session, so therefore it is acceptable for the House to refer to them.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that one constraint on her ability to act to enforce the
Cabinet Manual, which requires Ministers to behave in a way that upholds and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards, is that her own behaviour has not upheld or been seen to uphold the highest ethical standards?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No.
Hon Bill English: Did the Prime Minister, in the course of her phone call with Mr Peters in February after the meeting with Mr Glenn, mention her conversation with Mr Glenn in which he told her that he had made a donation; and if she did not tell Mr Peters that Mr Glenn had told her he had made a donation, why did she not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Prime Minister certainly recollects raising with Mr Peters the issue of whether a donation had been made; whether that donation was to New Zealand First or for any other purpose was not clear at the time. Mr Glenn would make certain allegations. The Prime Minister certainly does not recollect whether she mentioned to Mr Peters whether Mr Glenn was responsible for raising that matter in that form, but she accepts Mr Glenn’s assertion in that respect.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister now telling us that, having been advised by Mr Glenn that he had written out a cheque for $100,000, she did not mention that particular fact when she spoke to Mr Peters?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I just said the Prime Minister accepts Mr Glenn’s statement in that regard—unlike Dr Nick Smith, who apparently has a perfect memory of everything that has happened in his life, except during the 2 weeks that he was deputy leader of the National Party. What has been completely forgotten in this debate so far, time after time, is the context in which this occurred: the story, both on television the previous night and in the
New Zealand Herald
that morning, that Mr Jones had indicated that an anonymous donation of “somewhere close to $110,000”—I think that was the phrase—had perhaps been given in relation to the Auditor-General’s requirement for New Zealand First to repay $158,000. The context was not in any sense or form any kind of payment made to Mr Peters’ lawyer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister, having seen the 21 February public relations firm email, confirm that Mr Glenn distinctly refers to the words “New Zealand First” and that that is most likely what he told her—an allegation or claim that was easily rebutted?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That indeed is what that email says, although, of course, Mr Glenn tried to claim to the Privileges Committee that he had no recollection of the context around the Auditor-General’s requirement of a $158,000 repayment—a claim about as credible as his statement that he paid Mike Williams large sums of money, apparently to buy KFC for hundreds of Pacific Island people in Māngere.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the record of evidence shows that Mr Peters has a clear recollection of the account of their conversation in February—
Taito Phillip Field: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given that we are so focused on being accurate and truthful in everything that we say, I tell members that I distinctly recall, from listening to the news last night, that the KFC story referred to Manurewa, not Māngere.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, I am sure that is a point of information.
Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Peters’ account of their conversation in February, when he said: “The PM checked with me after the Glenn business school opening, and I told her the newspaper claims were not true. She did not mention any conversation with Mr Glenn, as I recall.”; and, if she does not agree with that account of the conversation, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have discussed that matter with the Prime Minister. She does not agree with that particular part of Mr Peters’ statement, but that does not change the general thrust of the discussion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it important whether one actually recalls that, given that one’s own party had presented the person who was being phoned in Africa with the statement of the allegations being made, so that whether Mr Glenn was referred to is not a matter of great moment—I already knew that from the newspapers?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Quite so. Indeed, I can say further that if Mr Glenn’s claim that he told the Prime Minister that a $100,000 donation had been paid into Mr Henry’s account is correct, the Prime Minister, I can assure the House, follows up on such specificity with very specific questions to Ministers.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister now telling us that having heard startling information from Mr Glenn, namely that a $100,000 donation had been made, our supposedly forthright and brave Prime Minister then rang Mr Peters but did not mention to him that the person who wrote out the cheque had just told her he had written it out?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the member had listened to either of the answers I gave him on that matter, he would know that I was not making that claim at all. The member is always reading his prepared questions and does not listen to the answers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister not think that words are important and need to be accurate, and that Mr Glenn’s statement in 21 February’s email that the money was being paid to New Zealand First was surely something that could be easily checked, as could the statement, made today on
Nine to Noon by Mr Bill English, that I am being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the police—a demonstrable falsehood?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Words are important and also the context. For example, Mr Glenn’s claim that the donation to the Labour Party was made because he was concerned about the activities of the Exclusive Brethren clearly is demonstrably false, because the donation was made before anybody, other than those in the National Party, knew about the Exclusive Brethren’s support for the National Party.
Hon Bill English: Is it not a bit odd that, given the Prime Minister’s responsibilities under the
Cabinet Manuel to make sure that all Ministers are seen to uphold high ethical standards, she had a conversation with Mr Peters just after she had been told by a donor that he had written out a $100,000 cheque and she did not ask Mr Peters about it; and
does that indicate she was more concerned about upsetting Mr Peters than she was about getting anywhere near the truth of the matter?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is very, very clear from the facts—Mr Glenn’s facts, in fact—that the words were “to New Zealand First”. Mr English, an experienced parliamentarian, sits there and just keeps on ignoring them.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. That is a matter of debate.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member continues not to listen to answers and then to ask completely misleading questions. The context on 21 February was in terms of the $158,000 Auditor-General’s determination against New Zealand First, as Mr Glenn himself said in an email on 21 February, that very day, in terms of a donation to New Zealand First. The fact is, therefore, that that was the context of the conversation. And the
Cabinet Manuel does not apply to New Zealand First; it applies to Ministers.
Hon Bill English: On which date did the Prime Minister then first tell Winston Peters that she had been advised that Mr Glenn had told her he had written out a $100,000 cheque; or was she so scared of upsetting Mr Peters that she never quite got around to it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member continues not to listen. I have no knowledge of whether Mr Glenn told the Prime Minister that any kind of cheque was for $100,000. I very much doubt whether Mr Glenn wrote out a cheque. If he did, I do not know why he was asking for the bank account number of Mr Henry; the technology has moved somewhat on from those particular days. That is one particular point we might get right. But more than that, I do not know whether Mr Glenn mentioned a specific amount. He did tell the Prime Minister he had made a donation. That donation on that day was clearly in the context of the Auditor-General’s determination, and that was, according to Mr Glenn, in his own words, a donation to New Zealand First.
Rodney Hide: I ask the Prime Minister whether her deputy, Michael Cullen, advised her that Winston Peters’ performance last night was credible and convincing; if not, is it her intention to keep Winston Peters on as a Minister until election day?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can tell the member that the advice I gave the Prime Minister was indeed the same advice that Mr Power has given the country, and that is that further evidence is being called for, and the conflict of evidence remains unresolved. The Prime Minister, who believes in due process, therefore is not taking any further action until that evidence is heard. The member may believe that he is prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner, but that kind of multitasking is not welcome in a democracy.
Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that today the Reserve Bank has described the outlook for the economy in terms that include slower trading partner growth, further house price falls, falling employment, the ongoing effects of high interest rates, and the reduced availability of credit to household and business sector activity; and can she confirm that her Government, which is mired in scandal—.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether the member has picked up the wrong question here, but this has nothing to do with the primary question.
Madam SPEAKER: I think we will allow the member to complete his question, please.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that because of her own actions in hiding the facts from the public and her own indecision about whether she has a basis to remove the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ ministerial warrant, her Government, which is mired in scandal, has been paying no attention to the serious economic issues that this
country faces, and between now and the election it is unable to do so, because the Prime Minister is ethically compromised?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, not at all. What I can say is that the Opposition has spent weeks asking questions about this issue, and not one of its members has had the guts to stand up and ask the Minister of Finance about the state of the economy at any stage during those weeks.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm the now widespread rumours that the reason she will not sack Winston Peters is that he might go feral on her in the same way that Owen Glenn has done, and he knows where the bodies are buried?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I welcome Mr English’s confirmation that Mr Glenn has gone feral; that does not make him a good witness.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wish to table two documents. One is a statement from Donald Hamish McIlraith, who is the chairman of New Zealand Bloodstock and who was the host to Owen Glenn at Karaka. It confirms entirely my evidence before the select committee.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? No objection.
Hon Member: Yes!
Madam SPEAKER: There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You said “No objection.”, and then the member shouted “Yes!”. He is too late.
Madam SPEAKER: That is true, actually, if we go strictly according to the rules. I called it, then the member said “Yes!”. Members know that is why we are meant to have silence during points of order—so that one can clearly hear about the matter to be tabled. That was done on that occasion.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Rt Hon Winston Peters said he was tabling an affidavit, or a document, that will confirm his entire testimony. I do not believe that to be true.
Madam SPEAKER: Well, then, you should have indicated that immediately.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is that document to be tabled then?
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, it is to be tabled,
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, because there are others coming as well.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second document I seek leave to table is an article by Nick Venter on page A2 of the
today, where it says Rodney Hide asked a young woman to move from her seat so he could sit behind me—his hero.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 2 to Minister
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to know whether all of the House’s papers are actually being printed and distributed to members, for the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee to be questioning the Government over whether any landmark environmental legislation has been passed recently. Where has the chair of the select committee been?
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, the member is saying it is addressed to the chair of the committee?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: My concern, Madam Speaker, is that Moana Mackey is the chair of the Local Government and Environment Committee—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry. I now understand what the member is saying. Let us proceed.
Question No. 1 to Minister
RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
: I seek the leave of the House to make a personal explanation.
Madam SPEAKER: What is it about?
RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
It is about Mr Peters’ outrageous claim.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to make a statement in relation to the matter that was raised by Mr Peters. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the
Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: What landmark environmental legislation has passed recently?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues)
: Legislation for an emissions trading scheme and legislation to introduce biofuels have both been passed by Parliament in the last fortnight. The emissions trading scheme being phased in over the next 5 years is a cornerstone of the Government’s climate change action. It will create incentives to invest in cleaner technology, improve the efficiency of our production, and encourage climate-friendly investment such as forestry. The Biofuel Act will see vehicles start to run on sustainable biofuels, marking a transition away from reliance on imported oil
Moana Mackey: How will these two pieces of legislation affect ordinary New Zealanders?
Hon DAVID PARKER: These initiatives will future-proof our country, cushion the impact of rising oil and electricity prices, and ensure access for our primary exports into high-value markets. The country already faces a cost under the Kyoto Protocol for increases in emissions. The emissions trading scheme will reduce that cost by reducing emissions, and emitters rather than just taxpayers will start to bear the cost of their greenhouse gas pollution. To help New Zealand families, we are instigating the biggest push for household energy efficiency ever seen—$1 billion to help make New Zealand homes warmer, dryer, and cheaper to heat.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will he accept responsibility for errors made in this critical legislation, given that he insisted on introducing and passing 785 amendments on one day, or will he do as Annette King has on the Electoral Finance Act and blame officials, Parliament, and everyone else but Labour for mistakes?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The National Party always resorts to process arguments when it has none of substance. Once again, we see National this week being caught saying one thing to one audience, one thing to another. David Carter was reported in the Gisborne paper this week as saying—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. My question asked whether he will accept responsibility for mistakes in the legislation. We have heard all sorts of other irrelevancies. I think the Minister should address the question.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Of course I take responsibility for the legislation; I took it through the House. The National Party has once again been caught telling audiences what it thinks they want to hear. We had David Carter in Gisborne earlier this week saying that it was an economic folly to bring agriculture into an emissions trading scheme.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, he didn’t.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, that is what is reported in the paper—the member should blame it, not me. Last night he and Lockwood Smith were both saying that, yes, agriculture should be in, and they then spent 10 minutes explaining why it should not be.
Moana Mackey: What credible reasons has the Minister seen for opposing this important legislation?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen none. The National Party pretended to oppose the Biofuel Bill on environmental grounds, despite the sustainability criteria’s meeting the approval of the Greens, who are paragons of environmental integrity. National opposed the emissions trading scheme on the basis of six very weak so-called principles, which crumble under any kind of close analysis. There were no issues of substance to support its opposition. Those were just excuses for delay. It was all politics, not principle, that caused National to flip-flop. National members thought that by pulling their support for the bill, they could embarrass the Government by the legislation’s failing to pass—they were wrong.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that although a price on carbon is a much-needed first step, there is an enormous amount more work to do to reduce New Zealand’s domestic emissions—such as improved investment in public transport and active transport, vehicle fuel efficiency standards, better planning of cities, and zero-energy buildings—and will he gazette a target date at which New Zealand’s net emissions will flatten off and start to head downwards permanently?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I do agree that the emissions trading scheme in itself would not be enough. We are making substantial progress on renewable electricity, and we have related targets there. We have dates by which we are aiming to achieve carbon neutrality in the whole of the energy sector, and we are making great progress on public transport, too.
Hon Tariana Turia: Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Tēnā tātou katoa. Has the Minister seen this statement from Te Ohu Kaimoana: “Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Awa have concerns that there have not been due care of their settlements in developing the ETS, and that should concern us all.”, and what assurance can he give to Te Ohu Kaimoana, Ngāi Tahu, and Ngāti Awa that their concerns are being addressed?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen at least some of those reports. In respect of the Ngāi Tahu issues, I explained the Government’s position on that in the House recently. Essentially quite generous compensation has already been paid; in fact, the value of carbon emission units exceeds the value of the land as at the transfer date. We questioned the claim as to the amount of the loss. But, notwithstanding, we are checking to see whether there was any withholding of information at the time of the settlement. If there was, then the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations has said he will look at the matter further.
Privileges Committee—Owen Glenn Evidence
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the
Prime Minister: Has she been advised of the statement made by Mr Owen Glenn to the Privileges Committee, in regard to a meeting between her and Mr Glenn in February 2008, “I also told her of my conversation with the Labour Party’s President, Mr Williams, before I agreed to make that donation back in 2005.”; and does she agree that Mr Glenn told her that?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: The Prime Minister is aware of the statement and that he mentioned he had had discussions with Mr Williams—a fact that, of course, has been confirmed by Mr Williams.
Hon Bill English: Is she also aware that in August 2005—just prior to the 2005 election—Mr Glenn asked Mike Williams for his views on his meeting Winston Peters before Mr Glenn’s meeting with Winston Peters, and then, after the meeting was completed, Owen Glenn also contacted Mike Williams, and that this exchange occurred before the discussion about the donation itself?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have those specifics, but, clearly, on a number of occasions Mr Williams and Mr Glenn met, because Mr Glenn was a donor to the Labour Party.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Prime Minister believe Mike Williams’ public statements that he had no role in arranging the Glenn donation, when he discussed with Mr Glenn his first meeting with Winston Peters before the election in 2005, and was also party to the discussion in December 2005, when the matter of a donation arose; and when Mr Glenn said that he made the donation only because Mike Williams approved it?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In relation—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: In it donkey deep.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Oh, dear me! In relation to the August 2005 conversation, clearly—clearly—that conversation could not have been about the donation or the payment of money into Mr Henry’s legal account, because that money was to assist with the legal costs of an electoral petition relating to an election that had not yet been held. On the other matter, of course, Mr Williams states very clearly that the discussion with Mr Glenn on that matter was about whether Mr Peters had a chance of winning his electoral petition. Mr Glenn asserts the opposite. There is a conflict, in the same way that Mr Glenn claimed that Mr Williams had turned up unannounced at his French home, when Mr Williams was able to produce an email showing that he had been invited by Mr Glenn to come to that home.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact from the evidence—because the evidence is somewhat important—that Mr Glenn was interested in seeing me because he found me to be “a very interesting man”, a view widely shared around this country; and that was before the election, and, therefore, nothing to do with party funding was confirmed as being part of the conversation, at all?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is my understanding. Indeed, Mr Glenn, I think, made that particular part of what Mr Peters says quite clear. He obviously takes an interest in New Zealand politics and was particularly concerned to ensure that a National Government was not elected.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the facts are that before the election in 2005 Owen Glenn had asked Mike Williams for his views about Mr Glenn meeting Peters, that after he had that meeting he let Mike Williams know he had had the meeting, and that in December 2005 they were having brunch together in Sydney only minutes before Mr Glenn rang Mr Peters to confirm a donation of $100,000; yet we are expected to believe that Mike Williams, who had expressed strong views about Winston Peters’ winning the Tauranga electoral petition, had no role at all in arranging, or helping, or assisting the donation that Owen Glenn made?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member may continue to write stories if he wishes. For example, to take just one element of that story, he claims now that Mr Williams told Mr Glenn that Mr Peters had a very strong chance of winning the Tauranga electoral petition. Mr Williams has never said that. Mr Glenn has never said that. But Mr English chooses to interpret that, because it joins the dots up better from his perspective. What we do know is that Mr Glenn made a donation to the Labour Party. That was publicly declared at the time, unlike the $2 million for the National Party that was funnelled through the Waitemata Trust.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister not see the incongruity of the last question against the facts, for if it is Mr Williams who is raising the question of money, why am I being accused by the National Party, the ACT party, and every clown in the press gallery of being the one to raise money?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think what is fair to say here is that the National Party is simply trying to repeat a kind of St Valentine’s Day Massacre. It is simply trying to ensure it lines up all its enemies against the wall before opening up the machine-gun.
Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the circumstances may need—well, do need—a full explanation, when the period from August to December 2005 covered the whole period when the Labour-led Government put together its coalition, and the facts are pretty straightforward that the president of the Labour Party was discussing with Labour’s largest donor issues around his meeting Mr Peters and, later on, making a donation to Mr Peters; and when will the Labour Party give a full account of all exchanges regarding party finances between Mike Williams, Winston Peters, and Owen Glenn at a time when Labour was making a coalition agreement?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member is continuing to interpret the facts as he sees them. Those are not the facts demonstrated in the public arena. The only facts that we do know are that Mr Key was acting as a bagman for the National Party, Mr Key had links with the Exclusive Brethren, the National Party got over $2 million of funding in anonymous donations through a trust, and Mr English and Mr Key call for transparency about party political funding.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the light of that last question, is it not a fact that Mr Glenn came before the Privileges Committee, and that for the periodbetween 12 August and 14 December, although he had accurate records in some respects, he had no records whatsoever of the type that would back up the assertions made by Mr English, the ACT party, and certain uninformed members of the press gallery?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is a fact that Mr Glenn failed to produce evidence in support of some of the assertions that he was making. It is also a fact that since he left the company of his lawyers, his tongue has become looser and looser and his claims more and more outrageous.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Minister for the Environment: Is he concerned that dirty dairying in New Zealand is now “gaining international notoriety”, as stated in
Rural News on 29 August; if so, does he agree with comments in
Rural News on 2 September that “the recently outlined National Policy Statement for freshwater management demonstrates an abject failure in leadership”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the Environment)
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister read the Environment Waikato report, out yesterday, that says that water quality has deteriorated over the last decade—the years of this Government—and now more than 75 percent of waterways tested are unsafe even for stock to drink from, and how can a rapidly worsening water quality in the Waikato be anything other than an abject failure in leadership?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Only the summary.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister read the tourism industry election manifesto, also issued yesterday, that lists improving New Zealand’s environmental performance as one of the six Government priorities if we are to protect $8.3 billion of tourist income, and does he believe that the 70 percent of Waikato rivers that are unsafe for humans to swim in, due to faecal contamination, are actually 100 percent pure and tourists are going to flock to swim amongst the cow faeces and urine?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: To the first part of the question, only the summary, and to the second part of the question, if the member had read other media he would have seen that this Government has recently invested over $300 million in that very problem. We would have thought we would have praise for that, rather than running down the tourism industry the way that that member has.
Tim Groser: Is the Minister aware of the long-term consequences for the New Zealand economy of undermining the New Zealand dairy industry, and is he also aware that the carbon footprint of the New Zealand dairy industry is considerably better than in any other major dairying country?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, and yes. But I might also say that some of the people who run the risk of undermining the dairy industry are a very, very small group of farmers—especially the CraFarm Group, one of our largest corporate dairy farm owners, which has four separate convictions for appalling environmental practice. There are maximum penalties under the Resource Management Act of fines up to $200,000 or up to 2 years’ imprisonment, and it is my view that it is time for the Crafar family, who owns now more than $35 million worth of farms, to be prosecuted as individuals, rather than hiding behind their company fronts.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister concerned that the perception in the rural media is that “Fonterra must be sitting smugly on the back of its lobbying against the Government’s threatened hard line for the dairy sector”, as reported in
Rural News; and is the paper not correct when it says that he is scared of Fonterra’s clout and his promise that rivers will be clean enough within a generation has now been sacrificed after the lobbying of big polluters?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, and, yes, it is not correct.
Crown-connected Organisations—Board Appointments
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the
Minister of State Services: What qualities does he think are desirable in appointees to the boards of Crown-connected organisations?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of State Services)
: As section 29 of the Crown Entities Act 2004 records, appointees should have “the appropriate knowledge, skills, and experience to assist the statutory entity to achieve its objectives and performance functions;”.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think that a man who has been described as “an unmitigated falsifier of veracity” and who is “wrestling with the truth” would be a good person to have on the boards of important Crown entities like the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Genesis Power, GNS Science, and ONTRACK; if so, can he explain why the President of the Labour Party, Mr Mike Williams, who has indeed been described as “an unmitigated falsifier of veracity”, has been appointed to all those boards listed?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Although I do not accept for 1 second the assertions in the member’s comments, the appointment of Mr Williams to those boards was not my direct responsibility. It is something I am aware of. I make the point that we do not appoint duffers to the position of president of the Labour Party, and Mike Williams is a very able man. He has extensive business and management experience, and he brings those skills to bear in his roles.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that those claims about Mr Williams were made by a man who claimed he was offered a place in Cabinet and subsequently withdrew that claim; who claimed that he gave money to the Labour Party to head off the Exclusive Brethren, when he gave the money before anybody other than the National Party knew about the Exclusive Brethren’s involvement; who claimed to
have supplied a bribe to have large numbers of people eat at a KFC outlet; who claimed that Mike Williams had asked for a job, when in fact he had offered Mike Williams a job 2 years earlier; and who claimed that Mr Williams had turned up at his house uninvited, when Mr Williams was able to present an email showing that, in fact, he had been invited?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I do not have the Deputy Prime Minister’s grasp of the detail, but I certainly accept his word.
Gerry Brownlee: Maybe the poor old chap made a mistake when he wrote the cheque to the Labour Party. To the Minister—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I take it from that that someone who pays a cheque to the National Party is expected to support the party from thereon.
Madam SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That would be two questions in a row from the Government.
Madam SPEAKER: You know that is not a point of order, Mr Brownlee.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but I am keeping order here. National had the last question. If I give it to National, National would have two questions.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Dr Michael Cullen had the last question.
Madam SPEAKER: My apologies. I was interrupted by the point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister think that an important quality of Crown entity directors is that they should be honest and upfront; if so, does he think that Mike Williams was somewhat unmitigating in falsifying veracity when he earlier this year on the
Agenda programme denied he had told delegates at the Labour Party conference that it would be “a damn good idea to use taxpayer-funded material to get around the Electoral Finance Act”, only to be found out later on Television One via an audio of his saying exactly that?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I repeat that the Government appoints on the basis of capability to do the job.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister think there is some reliance on the word of someone who claimed to give money to the Māori Party in that email, as well, which was demonstrably false, I understand; second, has a Karaka sales memory that four people are prepared by affidavit now to swear did not happen, and that he was not even at the same table; and claimed that he had offered $1 million to Howard Morrison to stand as an Independent, which would mean there would be $980,000 left over? How many times does someone have to say things like that before one starts to come to the conclusion that maybe his memory is not so good?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The
Cabinet Manual makes it very clear that the Minister of State Services is responsible for Crown entities, and has a portfolio responsibility that includes the appointment process and guidelines for appointments to State entities. That question does not go anywhere near those responsibilities, whereas my questions do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With the greatest respect, there was an effort to malign Mr Williams by the use of those words, which I think are demonstrably unfair and not true. Simply, if Mr Brownlee wants to throw that into the arena, it becomes a questionable matter.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the members. Certainly, the supplementary questions were going rather wide of the primary question and the ministerial responsibilities.
Gerry Brownlee: Were the self-proclaimed qualities of being “a good administrator” and “articulate” the main considerations when Mr Williams was appointed to the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Auckland Regional Transport Authority, Genesis Power, GNS Science, and ONTRACK, or was it that he “doesn’t take a breath without Helen’s say-so” or that “he’s a little too subservient”?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I think Mr Williams is a capable man, and I think he has acquitted himself well on those boards. I would note that we also appoint people to senior roles on boards who are clearly aligned to the National Party.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister give the House an assurance that no taxpayer money was spent on or by Mike Williams when he went cap in hand to Monaco to ask Mr Glenn for more money?
Madam SPEAKER: There is no ministerial responsibility for that matter.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have ruled out my supplementary question. Without our losing one of our supplementary questions, can I reword that question?
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, you may reword it.
Gerry Brownlee: Does he recall the repeated calls from Mike Williams on election night 2005 for commentators to wait until the South Auckland booths came in before calling a result, and does he think that that may have been because Mr Williams was confident that sooner or later the “Kentucky Fried Chickens” would all come home to roost?
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry but that is right outside.
RON MARK (NZ First) to the
Minister of Police: Does she agree with the reported comments of former police officer Cam Stokes that gangs are here to stay; if so, what is being done by her Government to combat gangs?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the
Minister of Police: Can I first express the Minister’s and my condolences to the family of Sergeant Don Wilkinson, killed on duty in Mangere this morning. In reply to the question, in New Zealand and other societies the existence of gangs and of organised crime is longstanding, but that is not an argument for complacency about them or their activities. There are two very important pieces of Government legislation currently before Parliament that target gangs and organised crime and are designed to make life harder for them, and new search and surveillance legislation will soon be introduced into Parliament that will also help police efforts to target organised crime. Drug laws have been made tougher, resourcing of police to curb gang activities has been strengthened, and the Organised and Financial Crime Agency set up. Those are just a few of the actions that have been taken by the Government to combat gangs.
Ron Mark: Would she agree, if gangs are here to stay, that we should be making life as difficult as possible for them, firstly by refusing to accept their existence by outlawing them, such as has happened in South Australia, and by establishing a high-level forensic accounting and investigative capability that is able to not only investigate the personal trading activities of individuals, trusts, and accountants, but also of trading banks and their corporate level customers?
Hon PHIL GOFF: In response to the two questions there, I say, firstly, that I have looked at the Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act of 2008, which has just come into effect in Australia. It has been operational for about a month. We will be following that closely to see how effective it is in controlling the activities of outlaw motorcycle gangs. Secondly, in relation to the financial matters that the member has mentioned, I say probably the greatest concern we should have—and I know this is how the police
feel about it—is not the gangs who are wearing patches on the streets and who are very visible in committing street crime but, rather, the gangs who we do not see and who are heavily involved in drug trafficking and money-laundering, etc. That is why our money-laundering legislation has been considerably strengthened in recent reforms, and that is why the Organised and Financial Crime Agency has been set up, with enhanced powers and greater resources. I agree with the member that it is incumbent on all sections of society, not just the Government, to show zero tolerance towards those organised criminal activities.
Jill Pettis: How effective have the police been in bringing charges against offenders with gang connections?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Because we know that gangs are closely associated with an enormous amount of crime, police operations have targeted gang members. Last year, for example, the police made 6,134 arrests of persons with identified gang connections and brought over 26,000 charges against them. The growing number of inmates with gang connections in our prisons is also testament to the effective action taken by the police in prosecuting and convicting gang members and leaders.
Ron Mark: Would the Minister care to give the Government’s view on the contents of the following email, part of which I shall quote: “I used to be a corporate banker. It is not common knowledge, but most of the major gangs are corporate customers—the biggest and best—of the trading banks, with their own managers, exchange and money market dealers enjoying risk grade A (the best) interest rates, and their key staff enjoy preferential services and interest rates too. Even in the late 1980s and early 1990s when only a few major companies like the Dairy Board could afford their own Reuters and Telerate screens for foreign exchange, shares, etc., the Mongrel Mob was so equipped.”; and what would the Government’s response be to such advice?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I would be very concerned if the information contained in that email were correct and corporate people were facilitating the laundering and banking of money by gang members. That is the sort of issue that the member might like to take up directly with the Banking Ombudsman—or, for that matter, with me—for further investigation. What I can say is that the new anti - money-laundering legislation makes it much more difficult for criminal gangs to launder the proceeds of crime, and it imposes stricter requirements about customer identification, record-keeping, reporting, and transaction-monitoring on financial institutions. If that email comes from a reputable source, it is the sort of thing I would be interested in following up.
Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the
Minister of Health: Has he seen today’s media reports of further serious failures in the health system, including Auckland cancer patients waiting 12 weeks for radiation therapy, rising deficits at another district health board, and a man’s tragic death after being left alone by staff at Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department; and what action has he taken to deal with the crisis in the country’s hospitals?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the
Minister of Health: Yes, and, like all New Zealanders, our thoughts are with the family of the man who died in Christchurch. It is important that hospitals undertake thorough clinical case reviews following any such tragic event, and I will be making sure that that happens. I would not use one tragic case to suggest there is crisis in our entire health service.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not yet another sign of crisis in the public health system that an Auckland woman has been told by her specialist she will now have to wait 15 weeks—15 weeks, I say to the Minister—to begin her radiation treatment, when the
Ministry of Health says the best practice is that such treatments should begin within 4 weeks?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I do not believe it is appropriate to raise individual cases in the House when all the facts of this case are not clear. I understand that the husband of that patient contacted the Minister’s office several times yesterday, and the situation has been resolved. However, if the member has more information on the case, and he wants to pass it on, I am very happy to ensure that it will be followed up.
Louisa Wall: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Tēna tātou katoa. Has the Minister seen any reports suggesting that New Zealand’s access to world-class health facilities has improved under the current Labour-led Government?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Yes. This Government has built seven new hospitals, completed eight major upgrades, and built 10 new specialist facilities. We have three new hospital redevelopments almost complete, and five more under way. This Labour-led Government is committed to public investment in health care, not to creating profit-making opportunities for the National Party’s big-business backers.
Hon Tariana Turia: Tēna tātou katoa. Has the Minister seen the comments of Dr Juliet Rumball-Smith that suggest Māori may not be receiving the same quality of hospital care as non-Māori, and what will the Minister be doing to address this crisis, apart from building new hospitals?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: No, I have not seen those comments, but I will analyse those comments and I will be quite happy to report back accordingly.
Hon Tariana Turia: Has the Minister seen the study that shows that even though there is a great prevalence of cardiac disease in Māori, paradoxically they do not receive the same level of cardiac interventions as European patients, and that, similarly, Māori with chronic diseases may not receive the same medical management as non-Māori, and what could be the reason for such discrepancy in health status between Māori and non-Māori?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am aware of those inequalities. I believe it is about access to primary health services, and we have invested heavily in making sure it is much cheaper to go to the general practitioner, and to then get on a clinical pathway.
Hon Tony Ryall: Why are women in Auckland being told that radiation treatment delays are now between 12 and 15 weeks, when the Government says they should be 4 weeks?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I am aware that there is pressure on radiotherapy treatment, but it is caused by a number of factors, including higher than normal demand, unexpected breakdowns in linear accelerators, and the resignation of some staff to go and work in the private sector. However, it is very important to note that Auckland District Health Board has achieved 97 percent of its cancer treatment target in the year to June.
Hon Tony Ryall: Has the state of the health system in New Zealand come to this—when a woman is told by her specialist that her treatment will take 15 weeks to arrive, the husband has to ring the office of the Minister of Health to plead for care?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: I have already answered that question. That case has been resolved. I am also advised by the Auckland District Health Board that it is looking at a variety of options to ensure that patients do get the treatment they need, including transfers to other treatment centres—
Hon Tony Ryall: And? And?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: —I say to Mr Ryall that I am getting there—and the urgent recruitment of additional radiologists.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is the Minister saying that this Government has spent millions and millions of dollars building new hospitals, doubled the health budget, and apparently
invested in the health workforce, yet the husbands of women facing 15-week delays for radiation treatment have to ring the office of the Minister of Health to plead for treatment, and is that the shameful, shameful state of affairs in health in New Zealand today?
Hon STEVE CHADWICK: Unduly dramatic really, is it not. I have already answered the question that the Auckland District Health Board is actively pursuing alternative treatment options to ensure that waiting times are down for access to radiotherapy, and has reached its target of 97 percent.
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment: What reports has she received regarding policy priorities for children?
Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am slightly perplexed. I would like an assurance from the Government that that is the real Russell Fairbrother. He does not normally sit there, and that voice was not the voice of Russell Fairbrother. It may have been—
Madam SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I have seen the call from Every Child Counts to make children’s issues central to political considerations. Our Government agrees that children must be at the heart of good policy. That is why we have implemented policies such as 20 free hours’ early childhood education and the introduction of paid parental leave provisions, and policies to reduce child poverty—all policies that National voted against.
Russell Fairbrother: To the Minister—[Interruption]
Madam SPEAKER: I know it is Thursday. Holidays are next week.
Russell Fairbrother: What reports has the Minister received on the outcomes of the Labour-led Government’s policies for children?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Earlier in the year I welcomed research that indicated that 130,000 children have been lifted out of poverty since 2001. A further report will be released shortly, confirming that the position of New Zealand children has improved across a wide range of indicators: infant mortality has halved, immunisation levels have significantly improved, and early childhood education participation has increased.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that any children’s policy that does not prioritise improved support for the 10 percent of children with disabilities, who currently attract only 1 percent of the funding for compulsory education towards their support, lacks credibility; and can she advise us of the priorities of her Government in regard to those children?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I would not leap to the assumption that the member has: that disabled children are not able to access the curriculum without support.
Work and Income—Individual Case Management
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment: Is she satisfied with Work and Income’s approach to individual case management; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I believe that more can be done to ensure that every person receives the support and services that meet their individual circumstances. That is why I have announced even further steps towards the core benefit to modernise the benefit system.
Judith Collins: Is the Minister satisfied with how Work and Income behaved towards cancer sufferer Richard Burr, as detailed by her ministry in evidence before the Social Services Committee?
Hon RUTH DYSON: It is my understanding that the areas where there were shortcomings in addressing Mr Burr’s needs were made clear to the select committee and that the ministry took responsibility for those shortcomings.
Lynne Pillay: What reports has she received regarding alternative approaches to case management?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have seen an extraordinary report advocating the return to the failed policies of the 1990s—punitive work testing of sole parents and of sickness and invalid beneficiaries—and I have seen a response that says “This policy does more to stroke the shibboleths of party supporters than meet any pressing social need.”
Judith Collins: Does the Minister accept the evidence of Mr Burr’s widow that Work and Income staff “were insensitive to their situation, displayed a lack of empathy, were poor communicators, and gave inconsistent advice.”; and why did Work and Income not send a case manager to Mr Burr in hospital rather than summoning him out of his hospital bed to attend a Work and Income office? This was a terminally ill cancer patient.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I certainly accept Mrs Burr’s perception of how she was treated by Work and Income, and my understanding is that the shortcomings in the service delivery have been acknowledged by Work and Income to the select committee the member sits on. My understanding is that Work and Income has made efforts to ensure that that does not happen again. I dispute the assertion that the member makes that, knowing that Mr Burr was terminally ill and in hospital, Work and Income staff required him to attend a Work and Income office. I dispute that assertion.
Judith Collins: Since the Minister now wants to talk about Mrs Burr’s perception, does she now accept the findings of the Social Services Committee, tabled today in this Parliament, that Mr Burr’s treatment is not an isolated case, and that the issues raised by Mr Burr’s widow and by others are serious and need addressing; if so, what after 9 long years is she going to do about it?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am certainly happy to accept any recommendations that the Social Services Committee has to make.
Education Amendment Bill (No 3)—Passage
ANNE TOLLEY (National—East Coast) to the
Minister of Education: When does he expect that the Education Amendment Bill (No 3) will be passed?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Acting Minister of Education): It is the Government’s intention that the Education Amendment Bill (No 3) will go through a normal parliamentary process, including full consideration by a select committee. The Government would like to see the bill enacted in 2009.
Anne Tolley: Why has the Minister brought important legislation to the House just 2 weeks before it is about to dissolve that is intended to make sure that our schoolchildren are taught by registered teachers by allowing information matching between the Teachers Council and the Ministry of Education; and is he not embarrassed that this legislation was promised well over a year ago, and now cannot be delivered?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Education Amendment Bill (No 3) moves to improve safety and accountability. It is something that this Government takes very, very seriously, it has taken a period of time over it, and it has the support of communities outside of this building.
Sue Moroney: What are the main elements of the Education Amendment Bill (No 3)?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The bill contains a number of provisions to improve school administration, student safety, and achievement, including simplifying board of trustee processes, abolishing early school leaving exemptions for 15-year-olds, and reducing the compliance costs of the police vetting requirements imposed by the Education Standards Act.
Anne Tolley: Why is Labour completely abolishing early school leaving exemptions, saying that all students should be locked into schooling, when it is clear that for some students alternative non-school options are better, both for the individuals concerned and for the students and teachers they share classrooms with; and what response does he have to the principals and teacher associations, which are appalled at becoming political pawns in a desperate campaign by the Minister of Education to look as though he is finally doing something?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The bill has two broad areas of policy focus: to improve accountability for student attendance and engagement in the compulsory sector; and to enhance student safety in both the early childhood and compulsory sectors. The issues relevant to Schools Plus are an addition to, and an improvement on, all of those great things that this Labour-led Government has done to make sure that our people get an education at all stages of their lives.
Anne Tolley: Why have he and his predecessor presided over a 41 percent increase in truancy rates, talked about getting tough, and openly mused about increasing the fines for truancy over the last 2 years, yet the Education Amendment Bill (No 3) that he has brought to the House as a last gasp says absolutely nothing about increasing truancy fines?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Truancy has been around for a long time. This Government has been committed to ensuring that the social service support is there. The progress, the attainment, and the achievement of those students is nearly 10 times better than it was when National was in Government.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) to the
Minister of Immigration: Has he received any reports proposing new immigration categories?
Hon SHANE JONES (Associate Minister of Immigration)
on behalf of the
Minister of Immigration: Yes, I have seen a report from the National Party that shows it would like to make Kiwi citizens returning home a new category of immigrant. National’s immigration policy, one of the few that Labour has not been burdened with having to release, proposes setting up a new layer of bureaucracy under Immigration New Zealand. While the mokopuna leader says no bureaucracy, the rearguard kaumātua say more bureaucracy.
Martin Gallagher: Has the Minister received reports about any other proposed new immigration categories?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, indeed I have. I have seen a report that proposes to establish a new retirement visa for high-net-worth people, possibly some in Kaipara. I have also seen a report entitled
The Feasibility of Introducing Retirement Visas, recommending that retirement visas not be introduced because the potential risks will clearly outweigh the potential benefits. The first of these reports is the National Party’s immigration policy released by Dr Lockwood Smith. The other report is a briefing dated 20 August 1999 for Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith, Associate Minister of Immigration. Dr Smith rejected the idea back then, but is promoting it as a new idea now. That member is not only swallowing after masticating, but regurgitating dead fish.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I seek leave to table a document entitled “Draft Cabinet Paper Immigration Investment Policy” that states the Ministers of Immigration
and Finance have been recommending not bothering with investment criteria, and simply selling residency at a high price.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Māori Dictionary—Cost of Launch
Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the
Minister of Māori Affairs: Can he confirm that the “breakfast bash” where he launched the new Māori dictionary cost taxpayers up to $75,000?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: The final cost for the 2-day symposium has still to be calculated. I am advised that it is well below $75,000. Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission, is contributing $50,000 and Te Puni Kōkiri will contribute the balance.
Hon Tau Henare: How does he explain to Māori who are struggling to make ends meet under his watch, when the number of Māori on the sickness benefit has almost doubled and the number of Māori on the invalids benefit has more than doubled, that the best use he can find for their tax dollars is to pay for large quantities of muttonbirds, oysters, and champagne?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I remind the member that with our growing young demographic and, at the other end, our growing ageing demographic, those things have happened to increase benefits in the sickness area. But I also remind him that the unemployment rate has gone down by nearly 82 percent, that Māori are coming off the benefit four times faster than Pākehā, and that Māori are going into work four times faster than any other ethnic group in this country. That is what he should jump on every breakfast time and think about.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that the member who has asked these questions is only too happy to turn up to free Māori “bashes” in Parliament with free food and drink, but that what upset him about this one was that it was a dictionary launch, and that is beyond his understanding?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am sure that it is certainly beyond his comprehension. The comprehension in this book of 24,000 words is a real feat achieved in this country. The
Oxford Dictionary took 80 years to make; this has taken 8 years. It has all the words in this country. It will be relished by students in this country. Our language will be preserved, and it is certainly worthwhile having a “breakfast bash” over that.
Hon Tau Henare: Given that the Minister has just confirmed that he went to the “breakfast bash” and that the $75,000 came out of his budget, can the Minister confirm that the number of unemployed has gone down, but they have just transferred over to the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit—that the same number of people have transferred over, and that this is all we have got after 9 long years?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is outrageous! That is absolutely wrong. The problem with the National Party is that it has no Māori policy, and it does not understand what has happened under this great Labour-led Government over these last 9 years. Māori are better off than they have ever been. The member knows that what he said is a fib, and he ought to zip up his lips.
Dave Hereora: Can the Minister explain what was involved in the launch of
He Pātaka Kupu?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Several hundred people participated in the activities associated with the launch over 2 days. That member should buy one of the dictionaries for $40. It is worthwhile. Those activities included a series of pre-briefings and meetings on the evening before the breakfast, the pōwhiri, the official launch, the
breakfast, expert panel discussions, and planning sessions for the next component. It is also on the Internet; it is a great document. The other issue is something I will wait to see whether the member asks about.
Hon Tau Henare: That has to be the best answer that the Minister has ever given in his life, but can the Minister confirm that $30,000 was spent, not only on the breakfast but also on flying people in from around the country, putting them up in hotels, and also having a big feed of muttonbirds, oysters, and champagne; and notwithstanding the great dictionary launch, how does the Minister explain that to all those poor people, in fact, up on the East Coast and up in the north, where their basic wage is a measly $16,000 a year?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I could talk to that member about Working for Families, and whatever. I can also remind that member that in the reign of the National Government, it took the minimum wage up once—by 68c an hour—but this Government has taken it up eight or nine times, and ensured that for those families their work will continue. What I can tell that member about the cost and the accommodation is that the organisers did fly in people like Professor Patu Hōhepa, Professor Pou Tēmara, Professor Wharehuia Milroy, Professor Tāmati Reedy, Dr Kāterina Mataira, and Mr Te Ripowai Higgins, and heaps of others, and that this organisation, Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, is chaired and managed well by another Hēnare from up north who does know his business. I am thankful that Ērima Hēnare has done a good job with this dictionary.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave of the House to table the numbers from 1996 to 2008 of those on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister confirm that the member who has been asking the questions has been auditioning not only for his job but also for his suit, and that the reason for his change in shape is that he ate half the food at the breakfast?
Madam SPEAKER: There is no ministerial responsibility for that.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a document showing that for the cost of the breakfast, the Government could have given away 1,845 of the dictionaries.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Tau Henare: I seek leave of the House to make a personal statement with regard to that last comment.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Hon Tau Henare: I just inform the House and Mr Mallard that I did not even go to the slap-up “bash” that cost them $75,000, and I did not have a good feed of muttonbirds, oysters, and champagne.