Questions to Ministers
Water Services, Council—Privatisation
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Prime Minister: Will he guarantee that sections 130(3) and 136(2) of the Local Government Act 2002, which prohibit the privatisation of council water services, will remain in force as long as he is Prime Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister)
on behalf of the
Prime Minister: Privatisation of council water services is not being considered by the Government, in Auckland or anywhere else. I cannot give a guarantee on the sections of the Act, because they do not do exactly what the member describes. Officials will be considering those sections, along with many other legislative provisions, in the light of whether they assist or inhibit investment in infrastructure.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister therefore confirm that his promise not to privatise publicly owned assets during this term of Parliament is going to be broken, or is it going to be kept—that is, will he ensure, in respect of the restructuring of Auckland local governance, that water assets cannot be privatised as a result of that restructuring?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can confirm the Government’s view that those assets will not be privatised as a result of the restructuring.
Hon George Hawkins: Has any decision been made on who will be given the responsibility for dealing with Auckland’s regional stormwater, and is it likely that it will end up as an additional responsibility for Watercare Services Ltd and will not be privatised?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The royal commission made some comments on that issue, and there have been a number of studies over the years about how Auckland water should be organised. The Government is taking both of those into account. In the end, the disposition of water assets in Auckland will be decided by Auckland.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister give the same commitment that he has given in relation to New Zealand Superannuation, that if there are any changes—any privatisation of water assets—he will resign as Prime Minister; that is, a complete promise from the Prime Minister that water assets in Auckland will not be privatised while he is Prime Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only confirm what I said in answer to an earlier question. Water assets will not be privatised as a result of the restructuring. In the end, as with every other local body in New Zealand, the decisions about local body assets are made by the elected representatives of the people who live in that local body area.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker; kia ora tātou. What responsibilities do councils have to work with iwi Māori, particularly where iwi believe that they have an ownership right over land that was confiscated under the Public Works Act and from which water is taken to serve communities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Councils have a general responsibility to take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral land, water, significant sites, wahi tapu, or valued flora and fauna, and we expect councils to take that responsibility seriously.
Hon George Hawkins: How confident is the Prime Minister that Watercare Services Ltd, a publicly owned entity that will be responsible for Auckland’s water and waste water under the new Auckland Council, will not be involved in any price gouging?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That would be a matter for the owners of Watercare Services, who are the elected representatives of the people of Auckland. There has been some argument that various water providers in Auckland are involved in price gouging now, and I am sure it will be discussed extensively as to whether the restructuring will improve things.
Dr Russel Norman: How can the Prime Minister say that it is up to Aucklanders to decide whether the privatisation of water services will proceed, when it would be possible for such privatisation to proceed only if his Government were to change the law around the Local Government Act, removing the protection that currently exists in the Act to stop the privatisation of water services; that is, it is not up to just the people of Auckland; it is up to this Parliament and his Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not exactly sure what the member means by the privatisation of water services, or of the way the section of the Act to which he is referring protects it. Some councils already have water services delivered under concession. The section he is referring to simply puts a limit on the length of the concession at 15 years. So it is not saying that councils should not have concessions; it
is just saying that they cannot be longer than 15 years. If that is the way the law is, then Auckland local bodies will have to work with it unless it changes.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is difficult to raise this, and I certainly do not want to accuse the Minister in any way of misleading the House, but I think he may have misread the Act in terms of what those—
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Whether a Minister’s answer is to the member’s satisfaction is not a point of order. She can ask further supplementary questions to elucidate that matter, but she cannot use the point of order process in that way.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Has the Prime Minister received any reports on the views of iwi Māori about the privatisation of water that have emerged from the ongoing dialogue between the Crown and Māori leaders in relation to water management?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is an ongoing dialogue between the Government and the iwi leaders’ group, and also through Government officials and iwi officials, but there has been no discussion about water privatisation between politicians and iwi leaders, or among officials.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Minister implement the royal commission’s recommendations for block tariffs for water, which guarantee that even large families have enough truly cheap water to live on, while making sure that those who waste water—with very large swimming pools, for example—pay for the privilege; that is, we guarantee water to those who need it, while having a steep price tariff for those who waste it, so there is an incentive to use water wisely?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not the Government’s intention to become involved with the pricing of water. That will be carried out by whatever entity is in charge of water in Auckland, and that entity will be accountable to the elected representatives of the Auckland people.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister disagree with the interpretation that section 133 of the Local Government Act requires councils to retain their water services and not sell them; and that section 136(2) even limits the matters that can be contracted out to purely engineering operational matters?
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that question strays into the problem of asking for a legal opinion, which one certainly cannot do by way of question in the House. The way that question was phrased was exactly asking for a legal opinion of the Prime Minister.
Dr Russel Norman: I think the question was referring to the Minister’s earlier answer. The Minister himself moved into this field of interpreting what these sections might mean; it seems to me that if the Minister’s answers are engaged in interpreting those situations, it is reasonable for the questions to also engage into asking for the Minister’s understanding of those sections.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It could well be that the Minister has had advice in this area, and there might be a way of rephrasing the question to get it completely within the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to do that. This is not the loss of a supplementary question; just repeat the question.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister received any advice as to whether section 133 of the Local Government Act requires councils to retain their water services and not sell them, and any advice as to whether section 136(2) limits the matters that can be contracted out, to purely operational engineering matters?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has not received any detailed advice on that matter. The relevant sections do not prevent the use of concession agreements. They simply set out some of the limitations on what those agreements might be.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Prime Minister: Is he satisfied that all his Ministers are consulting appropriately with the community; if so, why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: The Prime Minister is satisfied that Ministers are consulting communities where appropriate.
Hon Annette King: Did the Prime Minister give an undertaking to Grey Power that if the organisation had problems meeting with Ministers, he or his deputy would arrange the meetings; if so, why was such an assurance necessary?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Not being party to the discussion, even on behalf of the Prime Minister, I cannot give that answer, but I can tell the member that both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have met with that organisation a number of times already.
Hon Annette King: Has the Prime Minister seen the latest Grey Power lobby report, which outlines its members’ impromptu meeting with Dr Nick Smith after unsuccessfully trying to get an official meeting with him, and which describes Dr Smith’s reaction to seeing them as: “His face reddened and, with his head down … he took to his heals and was last seen hurrying away in the distance.”; and does this behaviour meet the standard he expects from his Ministers?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Do members wish to hear the answer?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Knowing a number of the members of the Grey Power executive, including one who is a constituent of mine, I can say that they are sometimes prone to colourful descriptions of their interactions with politicians. But I can assure the member that Grey Power has ready access to the Government, and that it has used that access influentially.
Hon Annette King: Is Paula Bennett an example of a Minister who needs the Deputy Prime Minister’s assistance to arrange a meeting with Grey Power after it had contacted her twice by email, only for her to break her promise to follow up its request for a meeting; if so, did the Prime Minister’s deputy give Ms Bennett a tutorial on how to meaningfully consult important lobby groups?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most enjoyable part of the Grey Power discussions is its references to the previous Government. I understand that Ms Bennett, like many Ministers, has met with Grey Power, which found the meeting quite satisfactory.
Hon Annette King: Will the Prime Minister ask his deputy to provide Ms Bennett with a quick lesson on how to treat members of the public with respect and courtesy, after her dismissive behaviour towards Grey Power at a recent meeting, which it described as leaving “a sour taste in our mouths as we … had received the old-fashioned ‘brush off’ and had wasted our time meeting with her.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister asks his deputy to carry out a number of tasks, but Grey Power, like other groups, will find that National Ministers will be straightforward with it about what can and cannot be done—unlike former Labour Ministers, who always agreed with Grey Power in the room but never did anything once they had left.
Hon Annette King: Has the Prime Minister seen the most recent Grey Power report of its meeting with Paula Bennett, where it states that “she was either not interested in the elderly or did not know what we were talking about”, and that “she should shape up to her obligations rather than be so dismissive.”; if so, what action will he take to ensure that she does not behave like that in the future?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply do not agree with that report. I advise the member that National Ministers, in a time of fiscal constraint, are straightforward with lobby groups—unlike former Labour Ministers, who promised the world, always agreed with lobby groups, and did nothing.
Hon Annette King: Does the following quote from the Grey Power report, describing its meeting with Paula Bennett, meet the Prime Minister’s expectations of appropriate ministerial behaviour—[Interruption] Gerry Brownlee should listen to this: “It appears she thinks that a loud laugh will solve all questions put to her and this meeting was a complete waste of her time. Well, it certainly was a waste of ours.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government and its Ministers have met with Grey Power on a number of occasions in the short time since National became the Government. I expect we will continue our open and robust relationship with lobby groups—unlike former Labour Ministers, who either agreed with everything Grey Power said or threatened to take its money away if it disagreed with the Government.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the Grey Power lobby report, which contains every comment I have read in this House today, and which does not match up—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat right now. That last bit was unnecessary to the description of the document to be tabled. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Crown Accounts—9 Months Ended 31 March 2009
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the
Minister of Finance: What did the Crown accounts for the 9 months to 31 March 2009, issued yesterday by Treasury, show?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: The Crown’s operating balance before gains and losses for the 9 months to 31 March 2009 was a deficit of $233 million. This compares with a forecast surplus of $1.9 billion in the pre-election update last October, which is a turn-round of minus $2.1 billion. Including losses from Government investment funds, the operating deficit for those 9 months was $7.7 billion. That is $11.2 billion worse than the pre-election forecast released by the previous Government.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What were the main factors in this deterioration?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The turn-round in the Government’s operating balance, including losses from Government funds, in the last 6 months has been $11 billion. The main factors were that tax revenue is around $2 billion lower than the forecast made before the election, and $700 million lower than the forecast made in December. Investment losses from the superannuation fund, the Earthquake Commission, and the Accident Compensation Corporation have totalled $5.7 billion in those 9 months, and increases in liabilities of the accident compensation scheme and the Government Superannuation Fund add up to $4.4 billion. This is why the Government needs to take decisive action to get its books in order.
Hon David Cunliffe: With net debt at only 3 percent of GDP and gross debt levelling off after the last 3 months, is it not true that he is trying to scare New Zealanders into accepting his “black banker’s Budget”, rather than putting Kiwi jobs first? Is he aware that the latest UMR Insight poll says that a majority of decent hard-working New Zealanders are most concerned about their job security, and why is he not doing more to protect it, given that unemployment has such a serious impact on the Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Opposition finance spokesman might be the only person in New Zealand who believes the recession is over, but it is not. He might pay some attention to the unemployment figures released today, which show that far too many New Zealanders are losing their jobs, but it is a bit better than expected and that is partly because of the Government’s stimulus package.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Has the Minister seen reports claiming that the state of the Government’s books is deteriorating, while at the same time claiming that the Government’s overall debt position seems to be stabilising?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have seen one report from the Opposition finance spokesman making those claims yesterday. In fact, if the Government’s books are deteriorating, the Government’s overall debt position cannot be stabilising, because we are out borrowing money all the time to fill the gap between expenditure and revenue.
Hon David Cunliffe: One element that proves the Minister wrong is a recent report that shows the New Zealand Superannuation Fund value has increased—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. I am not insisting on members starting questions with a question word. This is not
W3. But I think we do need to hear a question reasonably soon after a member starts asking one.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has the Minister seen reports that the value of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund increased by $1.75 billion between March and April this year, and does he agree with New Zealand Superannuation Fund chief executive Adrian Orr that now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be buying; if so, why would he consider suspending contributions at precisely the worst possible time?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This Government takes a long-term view about the sustainability of New Zealand’s financial position. As I have pointed out many times, the Government has to weigh up the benefits of contributing to the superannuation fund with the reality of the fact that it would have to borrow the money. We know that borrowing does not bother Opposition members, because they want us to borrow to do everything that they want. But we want to be responsible about it.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: What reports has he received about the impact of his Government’s policies on unemployment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Statistics New Zealand reported this morning that New Zealand’s unemployment rate for the March quarter, as measured by the household labour force survey, was 5 percent, up from 4.7 percent in December. This rate is somewhat below market forecasts of around 5.3 percent, and puts New Zealand’s unemployment rate in the bottom third of the OECD. Of course, the Government is concerned about anyone losing their jobs; that is why we will do anything we can to help people to keep secure the jobs they have or to get new ones if they lose them.
Hon David Cunliffe: What does the Minister say to the 35,700 more New Zealanders who in the last quarter either have lost their jobs or could not find work, or to the more than 55,000 others whom the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research predicts will be thrown on the scrap heap this year? Does he agree with the institute and the Manufacturers and Exporters Association that his tax cuts and the 9-day working fortnight scheme are unlikely to make a significant difference, and that the money would be better spent on job-rich investments that boost skills and productivity?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I say to them that the most important thing we can do is take steps that will build the confidence for business to invest and actually create new jobs. The best hope for people who have lost their jobs is the hope of new jobs. I also tell
them that the Government has been borrowing money and injecting it into the economy to protect all of us from the sharpest edges of recession, with one of the more significant fiscal stimulus measures in the OECD.
Amy Adams: What steps has the Government taken to help businesses through the recession and to protect jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has put in place a wide range of measures to assist New Zealand businesses. First of all, we are getting the Government’s own house in order by dumping some of Labour’s silly and expensive ideas, such as the $1 million we saved by canning a programme to teach kids how to pat dogs. We have also implemented a $480 million package to assist small and medium sized businesses, brought forward $500 million of spending on infrastructure projects, and delivered tax cuts on 1 April to 1.5 million New Zealanders.
Hon David Cunliffe: Having signalled the failure of the Minister’s planned tax cuts, and accepted that the 9-day working fortnight has been ridiculously overhyped by his spin machine, what exactly is left of the Government’s recession-fighting jobs stimulus; and does the Minister still claim that that stimulus equals 5 percent of GDP if there are no tax cuts—or was all that stimulus just generated by Labour’s last Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Opposition members need to get their lines sorted out. They have been telling us that we should copy the Australian fiscal stimulus, when Australia’s unemployment rate is close to 6 percent—whereas our fiscal stimulus has kept our unemployment rate down to 5 percent. So which one is it: copy Australia’s plan and force the unemployment rate up, or stick to our plan and keep the unemployment rate lower?
Parole—Proportion of Sentence Served
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the
Minister of Justice: Does he agree that it is desirable to introduce the provision requiring prisoners to serve two-thirds of their sentence before being eligible for parole as opposed to the current one-third; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Justice): It is not desirable in the short term, because the first priority of this Government regarding parole eligibility is to pass the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which targets the worst repeat violent offenders. I am advised that the latest data indicate that prisoners serving determinate sentences are already serving 70 to 75 percent of their sentences, on average.
David Garrett: Has the Minister seen any reports from his colleague the Minister of Corrections or her department on when there will be sufficient resources, in terms of both prison beds and human resources, to allow for the requirement that two-thirds of a sentence be served before a prisoner is eligible for parole?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The two-thirds parole policy has to be seen in the context of the previous administration’s agenda to reduce the prison population. Labour wanted to increase the minimum non-parole period to two-thirds of a sentence only if it were coupled with a Sentencing Council, which through the provision of sentencing guidelines would have reduced average sentences by 25 percent.
Hon Annette King: Not necessarily; it might have made them standard across New Zealand, actually.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: This Government considers that parole policy should put public safety first, and that is our primary consideration—unlike the previous Minister of Justice, who was interjecting; her primary concern was to pass the disgusting Electoral Finance Act in order to snuff out the freedom of expression of New Zealanders.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why does the Minister not implement the provision in the Labour Government’s Parole Amendment Act 2007 that would require offenders to serve at least two-thirds of their sentences before parole, which, as he knows, he could do through Order in Council? Why does he instead continue with the Government’s Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which various experts, including the New Zealand Law Society—and I assume the Minister is still a member of it—slammed in the select committee yesterday, calling it “a blunt instrument, which could be counter-productive, create unintended consequences, and possibly increase serious crime as has happened under similar laws”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, the Minister is still a member of the Law Society, and, yes, there have been a lot of submissions on that bill—over 1,000—and the final shape of the bill will be determined after the select committee process. But I would also say, in answer to the first part of the member’s question, that, as I said in answer to the primary question, the concern of this Government is to deal with the worst violent offenders, and then we will go from there.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why does the Minister not implement the provision in the Parole Amendment Act 2007 for parole on serving two-thirds of a sentence, when he claims to be part of a Government that puts victims first, and when experts such as Victim Support—a venerable organisation—came out strongly in support of Labour’s provision for parole on serving two-thirds of a sentence, saying: “Victim Support welcomes the change of non-parole period to become two-thirds of a long-term sentence. This amendment will provide a greater level of comfort and certainty for victims, and is closer to truth in sentencing.”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Let us try again—it is almost like a litany. The Government’s priority is the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill. The previous Government, of which that member was a Minister, wanted to increase non-parole periods to two-thirds of a sentence only if it was coupled with a Sentencing Council, which by providing sentencing guidelines would have reduced average sentences by 25 percent. It was an unconstitutional Sentencing Council, and it has been dispatched to the trash heap, just like his Government. Labour members spent 9 years being—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will take his seat. The Minister had given quite a lengthy answer, and that last addition was totally gratuitous. I do not appreciate the House being treated in that manner.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You stood up to sit the Minister down, which was completely appropriate. At the same time, there was orchestrated applause from the Government benches at the back, and that was a direct challenge to your authority when you are on your feet. You should not put up with it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That is an extraordinary contribution from the Hon David Parker. The backbench of the Government, as you know, holds you in very high regard, Mr Speaker. It should be no surprise that those members cheered when you got to your feet.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not take it as being insulting, but I think it is something we have to watch. Where an answer is quite long, we do not need a gratuitous attack on the other side of the House. Where a question is highly politically loaded, every member knows that there will be a political answer, but I think the Minister had given quite a lengthy answer and we did not need a gratuitous attack at the end.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems somewhat inconsistent to me that we have a complete prohibition on needless applause from people sitting in the gallery, yet the Speaker is willing to put up with it from members of the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the member’s concern, but I do not think members will carry on doing it. They saw my concern at what happened, and I trust members will respect that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I respectfully submit to you that exactly the opposite happened; it happened on a second occasion, while you were ruling. You say that you now trust members to behave themselves, but you had not made it clear that that behaviour was unacceptable. You are neutral, and members on both sides—especially members in a group like that—cannot comment on your rulings in that way.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member. I made it very clear that I was concerned about the behaviour in the House; members saw that. I do not think we need to take this matter any further.
Waterview Connection—Source of Costings
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the
Minister of Transport: Where did he source the figure of $200 million for finance costs from when discussing the costs of the Waterview project on Tuesday?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport)
: I am not sure of the source, but, as I stated earlier this afternoon in the House, I inadvertently used the wrong figure on Tuesday for financing cost during the construction period. The financing cost of completing the Waterview Connection by building the twin two-lane tunnels is projected to be $550 million. The total figure quoted in the business case for the twin two-lane tunnels is $2.77 billion, which is made up of $1.98 billion for construction on State Highway 20, $240 million for additional required work on State Highway 16, and $550 million for financing costs during the construction period. These are real costs, on the basis that the project is to be financed outside of the National Land Transport Fund, which is the basis on which the previous Government was hoping to proceed—hence the business case it ordered.
Hon Darren Hughes: Does the Minister accept that getting the figures right is very important for New Zealand’s biggest roading project, which is what Waterview is; if so, why does he continue to inflate the cost of the project by including the cost of the State Highway 16 work, when those improvements are needed for the western ring route anyway?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Those figures I just mentioned were the exact figures quoted in the business case. I point out that they were included because those works will be required when the State Highway 20 project is completed. There are also the finance costs; if a project is financed outside of the National Land Transport Fund, there will be a real cost to the Government that impacts in real terms on the Government accounts. It is therefore only reality to include those costs in the business case.
Dr Jackie Blue: Why have the financing costs of the Waterview Connection been included in the estimated cost of the project?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The financing costs were included in the business case released last December because of the unprecedented scale of the project and the then Government’s attempt to find a way of funding the project outside of the National Land Transport Fund. What I have not heard from Labour—which members should remember was planning to reduce the overall capital spend on building State highways, anyway—is an explanation as to how it would have paid for its proposed tunnels. Would it have been done by incurring more Crown debt, tolls, a 35-year property tax, or another regional fuel tax of 20c per litre on top of the 9.5c per litre regional fuel tax that it had already agreed to, and on top of the 4.5c per litre national fuel tax for the next 3
years that it had agreed to, which would have led to petrol prices in Auckland being 34c per litre higher?
Hon Darren Hughes: Why is he refusing to meet representatives of the local community board to discuss the costs and viability of the Waterview project?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not refusing to meet members of the community; I have just said to them that I am happy to meet them once the Government has released its view on whether the project as proposed by the previous Government should proceed.
Hon Darren Hughes: Does the Minister agree with Labour that the deep twin-lane tunnels for the Waterview project are the best option for the community and represent value for money because they complete the western ring route?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member needs to understand just how much money he is talking about: $2.77 billion for two twin-lane tunnels that would not be expandable to three lanes at any stage in the future. If we actually proceeded with a three-lane tunnel, which is what is likely to be needed in time, the cost would be $3.16 billion. By way of comparison, the cost of running the Counties Manukau District Health Board annually, I understand, is around $1 billion. So the sums of money, I say to Mr Hughes, are huge and they have to be balanced against some form of reality.
Climate Change Policy—Australian Scheme
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the
Minister for Climate Change Issues: What implications are there for New Zealand’s policy on climate change from the changes announced by Australia this week in respect of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues)
: The National Party campaigned last year on a policy of aligning New Zealand’s response to climate change more closely with Australia’s policy. Monday’s announcements by its Government to delay the entry of its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme by a year to 2011, and to provide for a A$10 cap on carbon prices for the first year, do need to be considered as part of the mix of where New Zealand goes to from here.
Craig Foss: What processes does the Government have to further the discussions initiated by Prime Minister John Key and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to explore harmonising the New Zealand and Australian responses to climate change?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Following the Prime Ministers’ summit in early March, I travelled to Canberra and met with my counterpart, Senator Penny Wong. We set up an officials process and agreed on the terms of reference for exploring harmonisation. That work is progressing well, and this week I have had further discussions by phone with Senator Wong. I want to emphasise that those discussions are at an early stage. Senator Wong and I agreed that it would be useful for the special select committee on climate change in New Zealand to be briefed by Australian officials on the details of the Australian scheme, and that is scheduled to occur by teleconference next Monday.
Craig Foss: What are the implications for New Zealand of the announcement that Australia is prepared to commit to a tougher 2020 target of a 25 percent reduction in emissions if other countries make strong commitments?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government in New Zealand views this as a positive development. We are committed—
Hon Darren Hughes: They talk about my hair!
Hon Trevor Mallard: Where has Mary gone?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is interesting that Opposition members are interested in hairstyles, when we are talking about an important issue like climate change. Quite clearly they do not consider it to be very significant. This Government has agreed to a
global level of 450 parts per million, and that is what we think is going to be required to avoid dangerous climate change. New Zealand’s position on the issue of a 2020 target will be finalised after we get the sensitive data on forestry that will come from the satellite information next month.
Craig Foss: What other developments have occurred internationally on climate change that might influence the success of the United Nations negotiations in Copenhagen?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am encouraged by today’s reports that China is ready to do business with developed countries to reach an agreement on a successor to the Kyoto treaty, in response to the change in the United States’ position that has been outlined by the new Obama administration. That is a positive development, as China and the United States make up more than 40 percent of global emissions, and the engagement by both is critical to nailing a successful successor agreement to Kyoto at Copenhagen at the end of this year.
Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister not embarrassed to be responsible for an emissions trading policy that has created so much uncertainty as to be labelled, this week, as an “investment blight”, costing New Zealanders hundreds of millions of dollars worth of job-rich investment in forestry, home renovation, clean energy, and biotechnology; and is not his policy fiasco further proof that National just does not give a damn about protecting New Zealand jobs?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The only thing that has caused me embarrassment has been, in the last week, furnishing the most recent climate change data, as required under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That data, for 2007, showed that New Zealand had its worst record of deforestation, with a very substantial increase in that. We had the worst year of deforestation since records in New Zealand began in 1945. Further, if members opposite are serious about climate change being addressed and an emissions trading scheme being put together, I invite them to engage constructively in the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee, where we will need to amend the emissions trading scheme. As Mr Parker well knows, mistakes were made in the rush to pass the legislation on it, and amendments are required to make it workable.
Charles Chauvel: Given the fact that the Australian Government made big changes to its own emissions trading scheme on Monday without even telling the Minister or his colleagues that it was going to do so, given the evidence of his own blue-green colleague Guy Salmon at the select committee today that harmonisation with Australia would deliver very few benefits for New Zealand, and given that ACT has stopped going to the select committee that it demanded be set up on this subject, is it not time to just get on and implement the emissions trading scheme without any further delay or excuse?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH:
The first point I would make is that the member is incorrect. The Australian Government did notify my office in advance of the changes it was proposing to make to the emissions trading scheme. What is lacking from members opposite is an understanding of how critical an emissions trading scheme is to the New Zealand economy. Members on this side of the House make no apologies for wanting to have a workable climate change policy that recognises that the economy is in recession. As we know today, unemployment figures are rising. The Government wants to take a balanced approach that ensures that New Zealand addresses both its climate change and economic responsibilities.
Action Plan for New Zealand Women—Review
SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the
Minister of Women’s Affairs: What plans does she have to renew the Action Plan for New Zealand Women when it comes up for review this year?
Hon PANSY WONG (Minister of Women’s Affairs)
: The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is visiting regions around the country seeking women’s input on the progress of New Zealand women. I am waiting to hear the results before I make any decisions.
Sue Moroney: When did the Minister acquire both the wisdom and the arrogance to decide all by herself what the priorities are for New Zealand women, and why will she not consult New Zealand women, as the previous Government did when it established this action plan for women, which she has no intention of renewing?
Hon PANSY WONG: I advise the member not to bring predetermined questions to the House. I have just told the House that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is visiting the regions and seeking women’s input into the progress of women before I make any decisions.
Nikki Kaye: Is the Minister satisfied with the achievement of the milestones set out by the previous Government in its Action Plan for New Zealand Women?
Hon PANSY WONG: In the previous Labour Government’s action plan a target was set of ensuring that 50 percent of State sector board members are women by 2010—that is next year. What has been achieved is closer to 42 percent. Even with the capable Ministry of Women’s Affairs and a very passionate Minister, a miracle will be called for to close the 8 percent gap in 1 year. In fact, what is worse is that for the last 9 years there was no strategy in place to reach the 50 percent target. What happened the last time a strategy—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat immediately. Some of these answers are ridiculously long, and there is no excuse for it whatsoever. [Interruption] And there will be silence while I am on my feet. There is no excuse for ridiculously long answers.
Sue Moroney: Does the Minister know that an official from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs reported to the Business and Professional Women’s annual conference at the weekend that the Government does not favour action plans, and that instead the Minister has decided what the priorities are for New Zealand women? When will the Minister come clean—as New Zealanders prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday—and admit that she is scrapping the Action Plan for New Zealand Women because she knows that the National Government has no intention of improving paid parental leave, addressing the gender pay gap, or reducing violence against women?
Hon PANSY WONG: I doubt very much that that member would have had time to listen to what everybody at that conference said, because I know that she gatecrashed the conference trying to coerce people into signing her petition.
Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whether it is necessary to submit this to you, but I submit that this is a very clear case where the question was not addressed, nor was it attempted to be addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I have to be honest with the honourable member that I did not understand the question myself. It went on far too long, as well; I just pulled the Minister up for her answer being far too long, and the member followed with a question that was far too long and convoluted. I could not understand whether it was answered or not. I apologise to the member, but I had that difficulty. We will not pursue that matter any further.
Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker; I hope I will be careful. Is it in order for you to suggest that the questioner rephrase her question in a more succinct way so that we can attempt to get an answer to it?
Mr SPEAKER: She has the opportunity for further supplementary questions; I hope she will take that opportunity.
Hon Sir Roger Douglas: When will the Minister abolish her department; if not, could she outline what benefits the department delivers?
Hon PANSY WONG: I would have loved to outline the benefits, but the Speaker has just pulled me up for giving long answers, and it would take about a whole day. There is much to do in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and I am all for women and for championing them.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think it is in order to answer a question by saying that it would take too long to answer it. I think mentioning just one benefit would have sufficed for addressing that question. If we can get away with saying a question would take too long to answer, it would be impossible to get a question addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: If I recollect correctly, the honourable member’s question had two parts. One part was answered perfectly appropriately, and that is all the Standing Orders require.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table National’s Mother’s Day gift to New Zealand women. It is its website page detailing its policy on women—there is none.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a web page. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Trade—Hong Kong Negotiations and ASEAN Free-trade Agreement
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the
Minister of Trade: What announcements have recently been made on improving New Zealand’s trade opportunities?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade)
: I recently announced that we have resumed trade negotiations with Hong Kong, and those negotiations are, in fact, taking place right now. Those negotiations, along with the recently signed free-trade agreement with the Association of South-east Asian Nations, are a means to insure ourselves against the growth of protectionism in certain markets, and also, clearly, to create new business opportunities that will give New Zealand exporters a competitive advantage.
Jacqui Dean: What are the potential benefits of a successful free-trade agreement with Hong Kong?
Hon TIM GROSER: The Hong Kong market is a significant market for New Zealand. It is one of our top 20 export markets. It is our fourth-largest source of foreign investment. It is also an important conduit for trade with China, and has been for many years. An agreement would align, if you like, the customs territory of Hong Kong with that of China, though I hope we will be able to go rather further than that in the negotiations, particularly in respect of services.
Hon Maryan Street: How does the Minister propose to mitigate the negative effects his Government’s backward position on climate change is having on our relationships with trading partners, particularly in the European Union, which has placed a very high priority on tackling climate change, and in the United States, where legislation before Congress would authorise trade retaliation against nations refusing to price carbon?
Hon TIM GROSER: I think the member is getting rather ahead of the facts here. Not a single Minister or official that I am aware of has raised that possibility with either me or any senior New Zealand officials. The member is simply speculating on what might happen in the future. I will again be meeting with Mariann Fischer Boel, the
European Union Agriculture Commissioner, in Austria next week. I would be astonished if she raises that with me. I will also be going to Washington, DC to meet with the new US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and I would be simply flabbergasted should he raise that issue with me. I think the member needs to obtain a rather clearer understanding of the facts.
SAS—Deployment to Afghanistan
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will he, as part of the Government’s review of the potential future role of the New Zealand Special Air Service in Afghanistan, seek a legal opinion from relevant Government departments on whether any such deployment would be consistent with international law, and in particular the Charter of the United Nations; if so, will he seek leave to table any such advice before the House in advance of any Government decision?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the
Minister of Foreign Affairs: There is no such review as the member described.
Dr Kennedy Graham: How can the Minister then assure this House and the country that our defence forces are acting lawfully overseas, if he does not have the assurance of such a legal opinion?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The New Zealand Government always ensures that its New Zealand Defence Force deployments are made pursuant to the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the New Zealand Defence Force always acts in accordance with the requirements of international law.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm the Prime Minister’s statement that any deployment by the SAS into Afghanistan would occur only if New Zealand were confident there was an exit strategy for the coalition forces; if so, does the Minister have that confidence?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would not seek to confirm, or otherwise, that member’s representation of the Prime Minister’s comments. The Government does not discuss SAS deployments in detail, for security reasons, and that is exactly the response that that party gave when it was in Government.
Local Government Reform—Costings
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the
Minister of Local Government: How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: The Government is proposing one mayor and 20 councillors. At present there are seven mayors, one chair, and 108 councillors. That alone will be a considerable saving. Implementation costs will be minuscule compared with the present costs of running the various Auckland councils, whose combined operating budgets are $2,000 million for the financial year. The future operating costs of the council will be up to Auckland. As Minister, I am committed to making the operating costs of councils transparent and giving Aucklanders—and, indeed, all New Zealanders—a real say about the cost of local government.
Phil Twyford: How can the Minister reconcile his statement in the House yesterday that the Government has costed its super-city proposals with the statement in the
New Zealand Herald today that a spokesperson for Mr Hide said that the cost of creating the Auckland council and 20 to 30 local boards under it was unknown?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Because I answered the member’s question yesterday accurately. The member asked me yesterday whether I had “costed the Government’s super-city proposal outlined in
Making Auckland Greater: The Government’s decisions
on Auckland Governance; if not, why not?” My answer was that we had costed it. The member did not ask me what the cost was.
Phil Twyford: Is the reason the Minister will not release the costing that he is worried that if Aucklanders really knew how much it will cost, his plan would lose the little support that it has?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: No, not at all. In fact, I am interested that the member is so concerned about the costs, because I would have much preferred it if the previous Government had set out in the terms of reference the member’s concerns about the cost of the transition and concerns about the cost of running Auckland after the change. That was never set out in the terms of reference that the previous Government set up and spent $4 million on researching.
Phil Twyford: What is the cost of the Government’s super-city proposal to implement and run annually?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I am sorry; I did not actually hear the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question, because there was a lot of noise. I ask members to please show a little more respect to the member who is asking the question.
Phil Twyford: How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and run annually?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: The first thing is that this is a different question from the one that the member asked yesterday. I think he wants to be very clear about saying that I did not answer a question in a particular way when he keeps shifting the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: You’re running scared! Come on!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Is that not great—running scared from that member’s party, when Mr Phil Twyford was not even allowed to put his name forward in Mt Albert.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have just witnessed a little show there, where a member very simply put a question: “What is the cost …”—that is all that the question was. The Minister started to waste a lot of time by explaining how he was going to answer it and how it would be different from yesterday’s answer, then, once he was asked to answer the question, he started to bring extraneous material in. All that we want is an answer to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The senior Labour whip was sitting very close by. The Hon David Cunliffe, by interjection across the House, accused the Minister of running scared. Naturally, the Minister responded to such an interjection. I could have risen to my feet and told the Hon David Cunliffe to withdraw, but I let the House run on for a moment to let off a bit of steam. But that is what provoked the answer from the Minister. If members do not want that kind of reaction from Ministers, then they should not make that kind of interjection.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your recollection of my comments was indeed correct. Let me rephrase, if I may, the point of order made by my colleague the chief Labour whip. The Minister did not respond to yesterday’s question, other than to say that he had a costing. That was later contradicted by a staff member. The member could not have put it more simply in his final supplementary question: “What was that costing?”. The Minister made no attempt to address that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I believe that the Minister was on his way to answering the question. I invite him to do so.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Let me make quite clear why we have this difficulty. The member asked me a question yesterday, and let me read it out, because I think it is important: “Has he costed the Government’s super-city proposal outlined in
Making Auckland Greater: The Government’s decisions on Auckland Governance; if not, why not?”. I answered that we had. I had a great deal of
trouble understanding what the question was; I said that at the time. I am happy to answer that question, because it seems to be about the cost of the proposal. What the member has asked today is—
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member has made in good faith. To sort this matter out, I invite the member Phil Twyford to repeat his question. I believe that it was a reasonably straightforward question. Let us have it answered.
Phil Twyford: How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement, to establish, and to run annually?
Mr SPEAKER: Let us have just one question, please.
Phil Twyford: How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: The implementation costs will be miniscule compared with the Auckland Council’s combined operating costs of about $2 billion a year. This is about getting good governance, and I wish that Mr Phil Twyford could deliver proper questions in the House—
Mr SPEAKER: That is unnecessary. The question on notice today was “How much will the Government’s super-city proposal cost to implement and to run annually?”. The Minister pointed out why the cost of running it annually is not a matter the Minister can answer. But the fundamental question has been repeated. It is how much the proposal will cost to implement. If there is no estimate of that, that is a fair answer, but I believe that the House deserves an answer to the question.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: And I have given an answer, Mr Speaker; I will repeat it if you like.
Mr SPEAKER: I have made it clear that to say the cost is miniscule is not a satisfactory answer to a question that was on notice. The Minister has had 2 hours for the officials to advise what the estimated cost of implementation is. It may be that it is not possible to have an accurate estimate, and that would be a perfectly reasonable answer. But the question was on notice. It was not just a supplementary question—it was on notice. Officials have had time to provide the Minister with information. The matter is of public interest, and I believe that the House deserves an answer.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to look at the question that was set down. There is an increasing problem. Given that you are being very strict about the sort of answer you want, I think it is only reasonable that the questions should be quite precise. This question asks how much the Government’s super-city proposal will cost. Firstly, where does the term “super-city” come from? Secondly—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: —it relates to a “proposal cost to implement”; to implement something is a one-off cost. Then the member wants to know the cost with regard to it being “run annually”—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need this help. I invite the—
Hon Members: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need more help. I explained in my ruling a moment ago that the second part of the question on notice, as the Minister explained in his original answer, was not something the Minister can estimate. That was absolutely fair and reasonable. I accept that “super-city” may not be the preferred terminology of the Government, but authentication of the Minister’s having used that language himself was provided as part of the authentication process. So that matter was dealt with as part of the authentication process. All I am asking the Minister to do, because the question was on notice and because the matter is a matter of public interest, is to answer the question. If there is no estimate, then that is a perfectly fair answer, but to simply say the cost is
minuscule compared with something else means that the Minister must have some information on the estimated cost, and I believe that the House deserves to hear it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there are two other factors—and they are partially in support of your request, but I think they also work somewhat against it. The Minister indicated both yesterday and again today that the proposal had been costed, so I think that for you to say that he could answer by saying that it had not been costed or that the costings were not available is not an option, because he would be breaching what he told the House less than 5 minutes ago and yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: I have invited the honourable Minister to answer the question.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: The Government actually does not have the cost of implementation, but it is minuscule compared with the cost of $2 billion—
Hon Members: How do you know if you haven’t got it?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Of course, it is going to be—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is answering a question. I have insisted on an answer and it is—
Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s on his way to the Privileges Committee.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Ha, ha!
Mr SPEAKER: We will hear the answer.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: It is minuscule compared with the $2 billion operating costs, compared with the more than $1 billion that is spent on capital in a year, and also, in particular, compared with the royal commission’s concern about the cost of not reforming Auckland governance. I invite members opposite, before they get overly excited, to refer to the question on notice that Mr Phil Twyford asked yesterday.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had, I think, three times today the deliberate mispronunciation of a member’s name by that Minister. He knows how to pronounce the member’s name, and he should do it properly.
Mr SPEAKER: We all make mistakes from time to time with each others’ names, including me as Speaker, and I apologise for that when I have done it. The member is indicating it was a mistake. If it was a mistake, then I just ask the member to try to get Phil Twyford’s name correct in the future.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to return to the point the Minister of Local Government made to the House before, when he said he had costed the proposal. He then criticised—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. The member will sit down. The member has been a Minister; he is an experienced member of this House. Matters to do with the quality of an answer are not matters that the Speaker can deal with as a point of order. I required the Minister to provide an answer, which the Minister did. It is rather unusual for a Speaker to do that; I think the honourable member will acknowledge that. But I cannot get involved in debate about the quality of an answer. Whether or not the Minister’s answer was accurate is not a matter of order in this House. It is not a matter that can be dealt with through points of order, and the shadow Leader of the House should know that.
Phil Twyford: Why did the Minister tell the House yesterday that the Government had costed its super-city proposal, when it has not?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: The answer yesterday was accurate. What the member failed to do yesterday was to—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What about today? Costings are changing overnight.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: With the greatest respect to the Hon Trevor Mallard, the question today is a different question. The question yesterday was about what the proposal cost. The answer, if the member had gone on to ask what the cost was, would
have been that the proposal cost $4 million for the royal commission, and that the proposal the Government provided in response cost nothing, because the proposal was provided for within existing departmental baselines.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am loath to raise another point of order, but I believe that the Minister is crossing a very dangerous boundary here in trifling with your earlier rulings.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. As Speaker, I am perfectly capable of making that assessment myself. The Minister gave a perfectly proper answer to that final question. He pointed out that the wording of the question yesterday was different from today’s question, and he answered it accordingly. If members want to get the answers they expect, they need to be more careful about the wording of questions.
Broadcasting, Digital—Regulatory Review
KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the
Minister of Broadcasting: What advice has he received from officials on the regulatory review of digital broadcasting?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting)
: After the election the Government asked officials to prepare a report that outlined the competition issues in broadcasting, based on work done up to that point on the regulatory review. Officials concluded that the current broadcasting environment appears workably competitive and that there are no compelling indications of future issues. It also noted that there is currently no strong case for the introduction of specific new regulations for the broadcasting sector.
Katrina Shanks: What action has the Minister taken in light of that advice?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The Government subsequently stopped further work on the regulatory review, saving up to $300,000 of public money in the process. We are now focusing our efforts on a forward-thinking programme of action in broadcasting. This includes an emphasis on contestable funding for public broadcasting, achieving the transition to digital switchover, and incorporating elements of the digital broadcasting review that align with this Government’s priorities. These include progressing work on post-digital switchover spectrum allocation, regional television broadcasting, and options for sensory-impaired viewers.
Brendon Burns: Can the Minister confirm that, in fact, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, as part of that review, favoured amending the Telecommunications Act to include broadcasting, so as to “proactively manage risks relating to anti-competitive behaviour by Sky.”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I note that that member has now been the Opposition spokesman on broadcasting for 6 months, and that is the very first question he has asked.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will resume his seat. There was not even the slightest attempt to address the question asked; it was simply a direct attack on the questioner. That is not acceptable under the Standing Orders of this Parliament, and the Minister should know that. I now ask the Minister to at least address the question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I was just getting round to that. Basically, there was a range of advice there. We looked at it, and he is taking that—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: —advice out of context.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to resume his seat. I say to the Minister that he may not be a senior Minister, but he will obey the Standing Orders. When I call a point of order, for him to carry on is totally intolerable. I will not tolerate that. I have called a point of order here.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The point of order is a relatively simple one. The Minister commented on your ruling in his reply. That is forbidden, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: It is, and I noted it. I invite the Minister to answer the question succinctly.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I would just like to say that I could not actually hear your call for a point of order. I apologise, but I could not hear it with the acoustics, quite honestly.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the apology.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: A range of advice was given in that briefing. The member knows there is a context to that advice. He has picked out one small bit, but the broad thrust of the report is that there is no need to continue with the review, and that member knows it.
Brendon Burns: I seek leave to table the report of officials, entitled
Television Broadcasting Competition Issues.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Brendon Burns: I seek leave to table a paper by Peter Thompson from Unitec’s department of communications studies, entitled
National’s Broadcasting Policy: Expedient Fictions, Inconvenient Truths.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Katrina Shanks: What other work is the Government progressing in broadcasting?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The Government plans to introduce legislation to enact the revised Radio New Zealand charter and will shortly introduce legislation to repeal the
Television New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ) charter, which will release TVNZ from the unworkable dual mandate the previous Government shackled it with. Recently, publicly funded TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 were released to the Sky platform, opening up that content to a further 700,000 households. This Government believes in value for money, and it makes sense that if the public is paying for content, then the pool of viewers should be as large as possible.
Question No. 7 to Minister
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I seek leave to make a personal explanation under Standing Order 349 arising out of an answer that was given earlier by the Minister for Climate Change Issues.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the House need a little more guidance?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A personal explanation is about a matter pertaining to a member. Giving a personal explanation about a Minister’s answer is right outside the scope. On the basis of what we have heard, we could not grant leave for that.
Mr SPEAKER: I agree with the Hon Gerry Brownlee. The member would need to be a little clearer as to the personal explanation he seeks to make.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: One of the answers given by the Minister related to the position of Opposition members on the select committee and I believe it has the potential to mislead the House concerning their conduct, and particularly in my own case I would like to be able to clarify it for the House.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat for a moment. It is a difficult one, because members can seek to make a personal explanation only on their own behalf, not on behalf of other members. I guess it is up to the House whether the House is prepared
to allow leave for such a personal explanation. I put it to the House. Leave is sought for that personal explanation. Is there any objection? There is no objection, but I do ask the member to make sure it is a personal explanation.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: In answer to questions today, the Minister for Climate Change Issues responded on one point that he hoped that Opposition members would be constructive in assisting to confront the very complex questions arising out of the climate change legislation, because of the importance that they had for the country. My concern is that I wrote to the Minister some 6 weeks ago—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is quite evident that this is not an explanation about a matter that is of particular concern or relevance to that member, from everything he is prefacing it with. I think it would be quite appropriate for the privilege that the House has extended to be terminated by you in this case.
Hon Trevor Mallard: That is a discretion that you have, Mr Speaker, but you cannot do it on the basis of a point of order. A personal explanation cannot be interrupted by a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: With all due respect to the efforts of the Hon Trevor Mallard to cast himself as some sort of kaumātua to the House, the Speaker has absolute discretion as to how the Standing Orders are implemented in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to hear any more on this. I believe I did have the authority to hear the point of order raised by the Hon Gerry Brownlee. I do have a concern. Leave to make personal explanations is a very important privilege conferred by the House, and it should be used only where the matter is one that impacts on the member personally and he or she needs to give an explanation because the matter is causing very significant issues for the member concerned. So far, from what the member has said to the House, we have not heard anything that makes this statement come close to being a personal explanation. I will allow the member to make it clear, very quickly, how this is a personal explanation, otherwise I will terminate it.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: My concern is that the impression given by the Minister was that perhaps that cooperation had not been forthcoming. I wrote to the Minister some 6 weeks ago—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat, and so will the Hon Dr Nick Smith. There is no need to take this matter further. This is not, in my view, a personal explanation and I terminate it.
Question No. 8 to Minister
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: I seek leave to make a personal explanation on the answer from the Minister of Women’s Affairs that made the accusation that I had gatecrashed a conference.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to make a personal explanation on that matter. Is there any objection? [Interruption] There will be silence in the House. I am on my feet. All members will be quiet. I have sought leave on behalf of the member for her to make a personal explanation on that matter, but I could not determine whether the House was granting leave. Is the House prepared to grant leave for the personal explanation that has been sought? No, the House has not granted leave for that purpose. That is the privilege of the House.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
SUE MORONEY: Yes, it is a point of order. It is highly unusual, when a Minister has made an accusation—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat immediately. She cannot do that. The matter has been dealt with by the House. When the House deals with a matter, that is it. I will not have the time of the House wasted. The matter has been dealt with. I warn both members that I will not tolerate that. I have ruled in the case of Mr Chauvel, and in the case of—[Interruption] The member will sit down.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think he was.
Mr SPEAKER: And there will be silence. I warn the honourable member Sue Moroney that the House has dealt with her point of order, and that is the end of the matter.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask you whether, according to past practice, the fact that a member has been denied leave to make a personal explanation is a factor that you would take into account when a question of privilege is being considered by you for reference to the Privileges Committee?
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot make such a comment. Every matter of privilege is dealt with absolutely on its own merits and according to the Standing Orders of the House. I will remind members that it is not something that makes me particularly pleased when leave is sought to make a personal explanation and it is denied. But the honourable member will recollect that he himself has denied members the opportunity to make personal explanations. The matter has been dealt with.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: I seek leave to table evidence of my registration at the Business and Professional Women’s Conference held in Masterton during the past weekend.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that evidence. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 7 to Minister
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I seek leave to table my letter to the Minister for Climate Change Issues, offering to extend cooperation in order to get the emissions trading scheme legislation passed on an expeditious basis.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 8 to Minister
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ministers must take the first available opportunity to correct answers that are incorrect. It is now clear, from the evidence that I understand has been tabled, that Pansy Wong was incorrect in her answer, and she must take this opportunity to correct it.
Mr SPEAKER: Whether Ministers take opportunities to correct answers is a matter for Ministers.