Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections)
: I move,
That the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I intend that this bill pass through all stages before the House rises for the year, to ensure that the use of court cells is one of the measures available to us as we deal with the growth in the prison population in the new year.
This bill amends the Corrections Act 2004 to enable the temporary accommodation of Department of Corrections prisoners in court cells as a last resort where there is insufficient capacity in the prison system. The use of these cells for Department of Corrections prisoners will not be allowed to interfere with the operation of the courts, including the normal function of these cells for detaining people who are appearing before the court.
As the House is aware, the prison population is currently at around the highest level it has ever been, and it is forecast to continue to grow. The Government is taking a variety of steps to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to accommodate forecast prisoner numbers. These statistics include extended double-bunking, the use of modular or container cells, and now, through this bill, the use of court cells as a last resort. In addition to these measures to address capacity issues, the Government is implementing its manifesto pledges aimed to reduce the rate of reoffending. These include boosting the number of prisoners learning industry-based skills through corrections inmate employment by 1,000 prisoners by 2011, introducing three additional drug treatment units by 2011, doubling to 1,000 the number of prisoners able to undertake rehabilitation, and expanding literacy programmes so more prisoners leave prison better able to read, write, and do maths than when they entered.
Of course, there are other measures that have been introduced or are being developed. This Government recognises the need to address the growth in the prison population both by increasing the capacity of the prison system and by ensuring that we reduce the rate of offending. This bill contributes to other measures to address the growing prison population by addressing a problem identified by the previous Government, specifically that despite having been declared to be part of Department of
Corrections prisons by notice in the
Gazette, most court cells cannot be used to temporarily house the department’s prisoners as this use does not comply with the provisions of the applicable district plan.
This situation is not acceptable, as was recognised by the previous administration. However, the approach being taken by this Government differs from the one previously taken in that it avoids undue delay and cost by making changes to the Corrections Act as proposed in this bill. This problem will be addressed with the addition of a new subsection (2A) in section 32 of the Corrections Act and a consequential amendment to section 4 of the Resource Management Act. New subsection (2A) will provide an exemption from section 9 of the Resource Management Act, which deals with environmental requirements including district plans. If used, these cells will operate in accordance with an agreement between the Secretary for Justice and the chief executive of the Department of Corrections. This agreement would specify the cells to be used, the circumstances in which the cells will be made available, and would ensure that the use of these cells does not interfere with the normal operation of court business. Prisoners housed in these cells would continue to be treated in accordance with the provisions of the Corrections Act and subsidiary regulations.
In addition, the proposed changes are consistent with national and international human rights law relating to the treatment of prisoners. In order to ensure that all prisoners receive their statutory minimum entitlements, Cabinet has agreed that the maximum period of detention in court cells will be 96 hours. Consistent with this Government’s focus on value for money, the approach in this bill will save at least $200,000, compared with the approach previously being taken.
This bill corrects an anomaly in that the ability to temporarily house Department of Corrections prisoners in court cells that have been declared to be part of the department’s prisons by notice in the
Gazette depends on the particulars of the local district plan. The bill addresses this, while reducing the cost to the taxpayer by at least $200,000. The bill supports the Government’s objectives of ensuring public safety and providing value for money for the public’s tax dollars. I commend the bill to the House.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: The Labour Party will be supporting the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill, but will take advantage, with a bit of time, to point out to National that over the years it has been very, very critical of this practice. In fact the member who normally sits on the bench next to the Minister of Corrections who introduced the bill—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: You should be congratulated for finally agreeing with us.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think it is a minor miracle, and if the Leader of the House wants to keep that up we can stretch the debate. I can congratulate him until the closure, if that is what he would like.
We have a whole pile of cells around the place. They are not used anywhere near the way they need to be. They are not ideal accommodation for prisoners. They are certainly not good for keeping prisoners on a longer-term basis. But in my opinion, compared with some of the cells in some of the older prisons around the country, they are not the worst cells in the country. My view is that using them where necessary, in emergency situations, is logical and a hell of a lot better an idea than setting up a tent somewhere, especially to hold remand prisoners.
But I want to play back to National the comments of Tony Ryall. He said the use of court cells was a warning of a jail crisis. In 2005, when this measure was being introduced by Labour, he said it was a system in crisis. “Police continually warn about the dangers caused by holding prisoners in court cells … Mainstream New Zealand should be worried by this escalating crisis because it means there will be more prisoner compensation claims,”.
That is what Tony Ryall said in 2005. [Interruption] I am very reluctant to adopt his words and to agree with him, so I will not. In respect of compensation, it was nonsense when he said it then and it is nonsense now. But it is a sign, I think it is fair to say, of a very, very lazy Minister of Corrections, who promised a lot more than she has delivered. She promised, for example, that she would have crates and containers all over the place to keep prisoners in. I expected she would have a line up of those down in Wellington. I expected that she would use Wellington Prison to a much greater extent than she is. But what is she doing? She is bringing in legislation here.
I also think it is interesting that someone on the National front bench who is much more rational and much more reasonable than Tony Ryall was also—
Hon Damien O’Connor: Name one.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is not hard to name people who are more rational than Tony Ryall. The particular member I was thinking of is Simon Power. On 22 November 2005 he said: “With prisoners being housed in vans,”—and I gather that is the next National policy—“showered at rugby clubs, and kept in police and court cells, how can the Minister convince the members of the New Zealand public that they are safer since he became Minister of Corrections?”. And that is the issue here. How can Judith Collins convince people that we are safer since she became Minister of Corrections? I want to know why this legislation has taken a year.
Hon Steve Chadwick: Tent city.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Clearly the tent city has not worked. I would have thought that in any decent emergency situation getting hold of a few tents, going to Stewart Island, Matiu Island, or somewhere like that, putting up the tents, and sticking the prisoners there would not be too much of a problem. That is what Judith Collins promised she would do, but she is such a lazy member, that she cannot even wander down to the Warehouse or Kathmandu and get a few tents to put prisoners in, in the way she promised.
All we have here is evidence of a lot of hot air from Judith Collins. You know, she likes to act tough. How many cars have been crushed? Not one. How many prisoners are being held in containers? Not one. She is beginning to be known as the Minister of the eight-letter word that we are not allowed to use in this House, and it has to do with bovine animals. She is the “Minister for What Comes Out of Bovine Animals”. That Minister is not delivering. She fronts up tough, she puts her chin out, and she lifts her chest. But does she deliver in the portfolio? No, she does not, at all. She is all puffery, and she shows no action whatsoever.
I want to know why, if the Minister was confident about this bill, she did not send it to the select committee. Why did she not have the confidence of her own intelligence to send the bill to a select committee and have it tested?
Hon Judith Collins: Ha, ha!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: She is laughing because she does not have the confidence of her own intelligence to defend the bill at select committee.
The Labour Party is happy to get the Government out of the hole. We do not want prisoners running round because that Government has not acted properly. We do not want prisoners up and down the streets, the way they would be if they were being held in tents, as she was promising. We will support her. But if we were allowed to use the word “hypocrisy” in this House, I would have.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I am delighted to be able to speak in support of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill, and I commend the Minister of Corrections, the Hon Judith Collins, for bringing it to the House to correct the anomaly that she referred to in her address.
The prison system is under pressure, and although we work very, very hard and with a great deal of success under the Minister’s leadership and with the Minister of Justice, the Hon Simon Power, to keep our community safe and deal with the drivers of crime to keep our people out of prisons, we need to make sure that in the interim we have some fall-back positions, and that is exactly what this bill provides. I am delighted to be able to speak in support of it and commend it to the House.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: Labour supports the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill, but, following on from my colleague Trevor Mallard, I will outline a number of ironies that we need to point out with regard to the bill.
First I will go over the purpose of the bill. The bill amends the Corrections Act 2004 to enable the temporary accommodation of corrections prisoners in court cells as a last resort when there is insufficient accommodation in the prison system. The bill provides that the requirements of section 9 of the Resource Management Act do not apply to the detention of prisoners in court cell blocks that are declared by notice in the
Gazette to be parts of a corrections prison. The bill does not contain restrictions on the accommodation of overflow prisoners in court cells. However, administrative safeguards will be put in place to ensure that this will occur only if it is strictly necessary, that the normal functioning of the courts will not be compromised, and that prisoners will continue to receive their statutory entitlements.
Labour supports the bill, but finds it somewhat ironic that National is pushing through a bill to allow prisoners to be housed in court cells even though it criticised us for doing the same thing. I want to point out some of that criticism. On 14 June 2005 Tony Ryall said that the growing use of police and court cells was a warning of a jail in crisis.
Brendon Burns: Who said that?
CARMEL SEPULONI: Tony Ryall—the current Minister of Health—when in Opposition, in 2005 said that the growing use of police and court cells was a warning of a jail in crisis.
We are aware of the fact that there is a crisis going on with regard to crime in New Zealand, and that it has been going on since National took office in 2008. When we refer back to what Tony Ryall said, it just confirms what we already know. It is a message that we need to get out to the public with regard to what this Government is not doing to resolve the problems that we have with crime. Another person from the National Government, Mr Simon Power, said on 22 November 2005: “With prisoners being housed in vans, showered at rugby clubs, and kept in police and court cells, how can the Minister convince the members of the New Zealand public that they are safer since he became the Minister of Corrections?”.
Last night we debated the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill. It was pushed through because the National Government believed that private prisons will be safer, better, and cheaper for New Zealand. Yet here we are now with the Government pushing through a bill that is basically opening up the prison system so that more prisoners can be held in court cells because the Government knows it will not be able to contain them in the prisons we have. There is a certain irony there that I really feel I need to put out.
One thing I really want to highlight is that we are here discussing the need to find accommodation for an excess of prisoners who will not be able to be held in our prisons due to the fact that there will not be enough accommodation for them. Yet one thing the National Government is not discussing in detail is the fact that crime is on the rise. It has been on the rise since National took over in 2008.
The National Government continues to ignore the fact that there is a strong correlation between crime, unemployment, and poverty. Unemployment and poverty are
the two things that this Government is not addressing. It will continue to put through legislation that acts as an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, but it will do nothing to ensure that we reduce the numbers of people committing crimes.
I found an article on The Standard that discusses the leap in crime. Recorded crimes per person leapt 2.8 percent in the June year as unemployment climbed from 4 percent to 6 percent. Obviously, it is not a coincidence. As Mr Ryall pointed out before, crime is a symptom of a society in distress. It shows that there is a crisis, and that is something the National Government has to take full responsibility for.
On a number of occasions Government members have said that the previous Labour Government did nothing with regard to crime, and they have created the perception with the public that crime increased under Labour. I refer to a press release from the University of Auckland—not from the Labour caucus, but from the University of Auckland. It is dated 26 February 2008, and it states: “Contrary to popular perception, according to a recent study, the incidence of crime in New Zealand has steadily decreased over the last decade, says Julia Tolmie, co-editor of … Criminal Justice in New Zealand and associate professor of law at the University of Auckland. What has changed is that the amount of people who are being prosecuted and the sentences that they are getting have both increased.”
Now, that happened under a Labour Government. The prosecutions and sentences increased but the crime decreased. In other words, the numbers we are locking up for committing crimes have rapidly increased in recent years, even though crime is not growing. The perception that crime climbed under a Labour Government was put out by National members, and it was incredibly irresponsible. Now they are in a situation where they are in charge, they are experiencing a crisis, they know they cannot house the number of prisoners who will be coming through the prisons, and they are looking to privatise. But even with the benefits they perceive from that around rehabilitation and reintegration, they know they will have an overcrowding problem in our prisons. Therefore, they have to push through this bill.
I want to touch on the main provisions of this bill. Clause 4 inserts a new subsection that ensures that if a court cell block has been declared by notice in the
Gazette to be a part of a corrections prison, then section 9 of the Resource Management Act 1991 does not prevent that cell block being used to detain prisoners. Clause 5 makes a consequential amendment to the Resource Management Act to signal that section 9 of that Act does not apply to the detention of prisoners in a court cell block that is declared by notice in the
Gazette to be part of a corrections prison.
As I said, Labour members support this bill, but the issue we are discussing is the irony of this measure—and I am not allowed to use the word, which Mr Mallard pointed out, that starts with “h”. But that is the word we are discussing here, and that is the issue we are discussing.
I want to go back to the bill that was discussed previously tonight, and I discuss it in correlation with this one. That bill was the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill, which is known to most people as the “Privatisation of Prisons Bill”. I go back to what we discussed about the Government’s argument that, for some reason or another, private prisons would be better, safer, and cheaper despite the fact that the vast majority of the submissions showed us that that would not be the case.
In recent months we have experienced a major issue with regard to a shortage of court security officers, and we have also experienced some major upheaval with our justice employees with regard to the working conditions they are being forced to work under, under this National Government. Here we are, putting through this legislation, and knowing that a higher number than usual of prisoners will be kept in our court cells.
But do we really have the capacity in terms of staff to ensure that the staff remain safe? Are security measures in place to ensure that the public is also safe? Do the working conditions for the security staff ensure that they will not be on strike every 5 minutes because they are fighting with the Government over what they should be entitled to?
I refer to a
Manukau Courier article that was put out on 16 April this year—that is, under this Government. It states: “Judges are publicly backing a third budget bid by the Justice Ministry to increase the number of court security officers nationwide. Security staff at the court wear stab-proof vests because of the number of knives they seize from people entering court, says the Public Service Association, the union for state sector workers … PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff says there aren’t enough officers to cover the three courts at all times … That shortage is ‘mirrored at courts across the country and threatens the safety of the public’, Mr Wagstaff says.”
This is an issue that the National Government will have to deal with as it brings this legislation through. It is no good saying that prisoners who cannot be accommodated in our prisons can be housed in court cells if it does not have in place the security measures to ensure that not only the staff who are working there but also the public are safe. It is a very real issue that I really thought I needed to bring to the attention of this Government. The other issue I touched on before was with regard to the pay disputes that have been happening across the justice sector.
DAVID CLENDON (Green)
: The Greens will be opposing the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill.
David Garrett: There’s a surprise!
DAVID CLENDON: I say to Mr Garrett that I like to be predictable. This bill allows the Department of Corrections to jail prisoners in court cells. Currently, this can be done by providing notices in the
Gazette, but this would usually require approval under the Resource Management Act. This bill establishes an exception, so the Resource Management Act does not cover the housing of prisoners in court cells. We know that court cells are not designed or suitable for the long-term housing of prisoners. It is flagged in the regulatory impact statement to this bill that the completely inadequate nature of these facilities means that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is potentially contravened, as indeed could some relevant international conventions.
Last night there was mention of innovation and vision in changes to corrections more generally, and specifically in the terms of the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill that was discussed last night. The vision that underpins this current bill seems to be that we will continue to imprison people in large numbers, we will not make any attempt to reduce the number of prisoners, and we will simply use whatever expedient measure we can to put people away, to keep them out of the public view, and to make no effort to rehabilitate them or to reduce or deal with the underlying causes of crime. We have heard of shipping containers being used as cells, and now we have court cells. I can only surmise as to the opinion of the police force when discovering that their holding cells, which are there for a very real and proper purpose, are now to be used to manage the lack of other adequate facilities for maintaining prisoner security and, indeed, public safety.
We know that the prison system is under extraordinary pressure and again I refer to the presentation yesterday to the Law and Order Committee from the head of the Department of Corrections, who indicated quite clearly and frankly that the department is under extraordinary stress and is very close to breaking point. Double-bunking is seen as one mechanism for reducing or managing the pressure on prisons, but we know from prison officers that it puts them in an extremely vulnerable, very dangerous, and potentially very violent situation, which will be dangerous both for them and for inmates.
The option of last resort is this one that seems to have been chosen—the idea of using court cells to accommodate the overflow. It has been used in the past, as I said, for acute accommodation shortages in the very short term. But this bill would embed and normalise the practice of putting prisoners into court cells, which is completely inadequate and is not acceptable in a modern, allegedly developed society.
The objective of the policy, as stated in the regulatory impact statement, is to enable the Department of Corrections to continue to manage the prison population within the available resource and in a manner that is safe, secure, humane, and effective. We argue that this bill fails those tests. It will not enhance safety. Court cells are not secure, in the sense that they are not designed for the long-term custody of prisoners. It certainly is not humane to put people in a situation where there are no facilities for adequate exercise or for access from visitors or, indeed, for proper legal representation, and we do not believe it would be effective.
This bill, in part, is intended to circumvent the requirements of section 9 of the Resource Management Act. The disadvantage of the proposal is that it prevents, or would prevent, neighbouring residents and other affected parties from challenging the overnight accommodation of prisoners in court cells. An understatement in the regulatory impact statement suggests that the legislation could be controversial. To say the least, it will most certainly be controversial; the Resource Management Act is a document that has already been under attack this year and we expect there will be further attacks next year. Specifically, the Greens defend the Resource Management Act on the grounds that it is our primary source of environmental protection and we absolutely will continue to defend the principle of public participation.
This bill endeavours to circumvent the opportunity for members of the public to participate effectively through the sections and provisions of the bill. Granting an exemption from the Resource Management Act requirements also sets a very unhealthy precedent that could be taken up by others who see that there may be advantage in a Government agency seeking to carry out urgent building work, for example, or other activities with an environmental or social impact. The bill could be seen as a precedent to pursue similar exemptions.
The comment has been made that using court cells for overflow might carry a risk of litigation. The prisoners housed in these cells could claim that their treatment does not comply with the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Indeed, one can readily imagine situations where prisoners would be quite right in that assertion, in that their rights would, in fact, be contravened. It is acknowledged that the use of court cells for overflow prisoners is not a new policy. Court cells have been used in the past, and the department was able to meet its obligations under domestic and international law. However that was always in the sense of exceptional circumstance—a temporary, one-off, seldom repeated situation. As I said, this bill would seek to normalise the use of court cells as overflow with all of the accompanying indications that people will continue to offend, we will continue to provide inadequate treatment, rehabilitation services, or even proper and decent accommodation, and therefore we will use this stopgap measure. Except rather than have it as a stopgap measure, it will become a core part of our corrections system.
We need to put our efforts—significant efforts and, indeed, significant resources—into reducing our prison population. We need non-custodial intervention for minor non-violent offending, instead of the default position of throwing young people into the schools of crime that our prisons are. We need a much greater focus on early intervention, rehabilitation, and adult and community education. Such a large number of our prison population have literacy and numeracy problems, and community-based education is a very powerful mechanism for remedying that very real problem. It is very
unfortunate that this Government has chosen to reduce adult and community education funding at a time when it is of critical importance and could make a major, albeit indirect, contribution to reducing our prison population.
There is a need to address the causes of crime such as entrenched poverty, which is becoming endemic in this country despite it being a wealthy—or at least potentially a wealthy—country. The evidence this week that something like one in five children in our country is effectively living in poverty is simply intolerable. The children of those homes, the children of those families, will almost inevitably become a high risk in their time, and that is virtually guaranteeing another generation of offending. I have mentioned in previous speeches the ever-widening income gap in New Zealand. We will have more and more people with very little to lose, and a few with far too much to lose. Again this is not a mechanism for social harmony or well-being. It will increase the risk of offending.
Given that this bill was not available to us until quite recently, these are only very preliminary comments, but I can assure the House that we will continue to oppose this bill throughout its passage. Kia ora.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: It is no surprise that the Greens are opposing the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill just as they have opposed every single law and order bill that has been brought before the House. Comrade David Clendon has learnt very fast to toe the party line along with the rest. I say to Mr Clendon that I do not know what the reality is on Planet Gaia, but people do not actually go to jail in this country for minor offending. He should go and look.
One of the most interesting parts of the debate was what Mr Mallard said. I have heard the suggestion of putting prisoners on an island many times, but I have never ever heard it from the Labour Opposition. So I was very intrigued to hear that Mr Mallard thought that one solution would be tents on Stewart Island as a temporary measure.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What about Hawaii? What about Honolulu?
DAVID GARRETT: As Mr Cosgrove is aware, I have actually seen tent jails over in Arizona, and they seem to work fairly well. I welcome Mr Mallard’s openness of thinking and his willingness to consider what has, in the past, been dismissed as total red-neckery. I congratulate Mr Mallard for that breadth, that openness, and that willingness to consider innovative solutions to problems.
No one will argue, and I certainly will not, that long-term or even regular incarceration in court cells is a good idea. Of course it is not. But everyone over on the other side of the House has seemingly forgotten that—if I recall correctly, not so long ago—prisoners were held in prison vans outside police stations and courts because there was nowhere else to hold them. I would be very surprised to hear anyone argue, even on Planet Gaia, that incarceration in prison vans is a good idea.
This is a sensible measure. It will not normalise the use of court cells. I say to Mr Clendon that the sky will not fall. We will not have every court cell in the country full of prisoners. But in emergency situations it is sensible and, indeed, humane that prisoners be held in court cells with running water rather than in a van outside. We will be supporting the bill.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: I thank the Assistant Speaker because my electorate, Taranaki - King Country, has a very long title. I am proud of the fact that the Assistant Speaker has been able to pronounce it correctly and say it from beginning to end.
I rise in support of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill and there is a very good reason for that. I was reminded of it by the Hon Trevor Mallard, who, like my colleague David Garrett who has just resumed his seat, asked why we are doing this. The Hon Tony Ryall, as the Hon Trevor Mallard pointed out to us, highlighted this
concern in 2005. We had a further 3½ years of Labour from the time that that point was made, and nothing was done. The prison population continued to grow and no new prisons were built. I do not think anybody in the House will argue that it is an ideal situation to use police cells, court cells, or any other cells as prison accommodation on a long-term basis, but this is an emergency situation, there are more prisoners than there are cells, and there are empty cells in these facilities. That is the reason behind the bill.
Many have spoken about what the bill does. It amends a number of Acts, including the Resource Management Act. It allows for this to take place, without having to go through the normal process, once the legislation has been gazetted. As far as National is concerned, this is a short-term fix and help is on its way. Members can be assured of that. It is a very good move in the short-term and that is why we are supporting it.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: That was an astounding speech from Shane Ardern. I generally have a bit of praise for Shane because he is quite a respected member of Parliament around here, but I put that speech down to a sort of temporary amnesia. That member knows that in the life of the previous Labour Government we built four new prisons, despite the current Minister of Police—and now Mr Ardern has caught the same bug—going around telling everybody that nothing was done in terms of correctional facilities. Mr Ardern needs to recast history and know that we built four new prisons. He nods, and he knows that is true and he is probably going to take a point of order and correct his own
Hansard because he knows it is a load of hooey. Milton prison was one; Spring Hill Corrections Facility was another. I must say that the interesting thing about this debate is those members on the opposite side of the Chamber getting up and saying that nothing was done under Labour, and forgetting there were four brand-new prisons built under that Government.
They also have a bout of amnesia in terms of what they said before the election. Their own National Party policy stated that if National were to implement all their election promises on corrections, then the prison population would double. We have the document here, as does every other New Zealander who received it in the letterbox. Firstly, it says that the Labour Government was not locking enough people up—and National members said it repeatedly, we have the quotes here and I am sure Mr Ardern would agree because there was one from him—that Labour was soft on crime and the prisons were bursting. Now that those members are in Government, they say: “Oh, shock, horror!”. The Minister of Corrections lowers the tone of her voice when speaking on the radio and becomes very soft and very benign, almost wanting to be beatified, and says: “Isn’t it terrible”, as she wrings her hands, “that we have so many people in prison.” But not a year ago, almost to the day, it was Judith Collins and her ilk who stood on the other side of the Chamber and said that Labour was not locking up enough criminals.
The second point I make as I return to the policy of the National Party before the election—
Paul Quinn: What about the birthday cake in the caucus room?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: —I think that member might be about to blow—is that National put out a pamphlet that said if all its policies were implemented, the prison population would double. That is what it said, but now it recasts history and the Minister of Corrections says that she did not know this was going to happen. Yet her own party’s policy before the election said that if all the National Party’s law and order commitments were fulfilled, it would double the prison population. So that is the “l” word; it is porky No. 1.
The third point I make is that the Minister forgets she had a briefing as the incoming new Minister that gave her, a 1 year ago almost to the day, the prison forecast. I recall when I was in Cabinet—and I am sure that Mr Assistant Speaker Barker will recall it as
he was there as well—every Monday morning we had a document that showed the prison forecast and the actual numbers. Every time something happened in the community that was outrageous, the National Opposition members stood up and said Labour was not locking up enough criminals. It is a bit like Nick Smith saying that New Zealand must show leadership over the emissions trading system when a year ago he said we should not show leadership at all, because he was in Opposition. I say to those members: “You can’t fudge history.” That is the point.
We will support the bill because there is a requirement for flexibility. Court cells were used from time to time under the last Government, and we have to put those people somewhere. I accept that, but members of the National Government get up and say “Shock, horror! The prison figures are outrageous and it is an outrage that New Zealand has the second-largest incarceration rate, per head of population, in the world.”
David Garrett: No, we don’t.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, that is what they said, except the problem with that view is that not 12 months ago, during a general election, and years before that, those members accused the last Government of not locking up enough people. I say to members opposite that they cannot have it both ways.
The other observation I would make is that I believe we are now perhaps 7 or 8—depending on whether the Leader of the House stuffs it up again—parliamentary days away from the end of the sitting year. The Minister of Corrections has had her forecast for a year, and there has been no plan to address this issue. Here we stand in urgency, ramming another bill through. Most members never saw it until it was tabled because of the Minister’s own disorganisation. She has bleated about this issue for nigh on 12 months, but she has presented no formal strategy or plan. She has a commitment in her election policy to build a new prison, yet no money was allocated in the Budget, no spade went into the ground, and no foundation was laid—nothing. We have no plan from the Government on how to address the prison muster in a formal, logical, and logistical sense.
Yet we have heard: “Let’s fire some bunks in; to hell with the security arrangements for prison officers; and to hell with the potential for prison officers getting done over, because of the stress rising in the prisons.” I am concerned about those prison officers. We have had the great container campaign: bang a few containers—made in China or wherever—in the odd prison and bodgie a strategy together. Now we have court cells being used. As I say, we do not oppose that, but we do feel a duty to point out the obvious to members opposite because when they were in Opposition they railed against the use of police cells and court cells.
We have already heard from Trevor Mallard quoting Simon Power who, in Opposition, said that it was outrageous that we were doing that and that all hell was breaking loose in the prisons because court cells were being used. Tony Ryall, as Opposition spokesperson on corrections, also railed against that practice, yet 12 months into the ether we see members opposite standing up, one after another, led by the nose, reading out National research unit notes and proclaiming that this is a great strategy. Well, as we move through this debate, I would like to know about the logistical arrangements and what provision has been made—for I talked to a senior prison staffer yesterday—for prison officers within our court buildings. Court buildings are used at particular times, as we know, and court cells are required to be used by the judiciary for the administration of alleged criminals from time to time each day. I ask where the security arrangements are, where the extra staff are, and where the basic logistical requirements for the prison officers who have to guard these prisons are—that is, offices if they need them and beds if they need them, or do they share a cell in the court with
the prisoner? None of those issues have been addressed, and I would like to know where the budget and where the resources are coming from in respect of that issue.
I point out to members opposite their scattergun approach to muster management, after 12 months in Government. We hear the groans, on cue—if Mr Quinn is awake—that the Labour Government had 9 years to do it. That is dead right, and we built four prisons. But we were criticised by the then National Opposition.
Carmel Sepuloni: And crime dropped under us.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Crime did drop under us, but we still put in place formal prison systems. We built four prisons. Those folk in their manifesto said they were going to build a prison or a number of them. We have heard nothing, seen nothing, and nothing has been done in that respect. They have been in office for 12 months. I would have thought that at least the concrete would go down, or that the odd bit of iron or steel would go in as the foundations were raised and the construction begun 12 months ago. But there was nothing in the Budget and no mention of it from the Minister.
Yet we have a bit of double-bunking, which I fear. My fear is not for the prisoners in this respect but what will occur to the prison officers if the stress level is ratcheted up in those prisons. OK, prisoners are locked up in the cells, but at some point they have to be unlocked. It will not be members opposite who turn the key and open the door and get punched in the face by the prisoner. It will not be those members, as they are closeted behind the glass upstairs; it will be our prison service folk. It will be no one in this Chamber who gets done over. Then we have the scattergun approach in the use of containers—drop a few out of the sky here, a few there. But we cannot get the cost for those. There are three or four costs for those but no one can tell us what it will cost or how long they will last.
I predict that after the Government has done the containerisation of prisoners and has built—if it does—a new prison, the taxpayer will be up for far more than had the Government done the job properly and fulfilled National’s election promise. Then, at the eleventh hour, we have this logical move, I accept, to utilise court cells, and no one opposes that on our side. But with 8 days to go in the parliamentary year, that is the sort of forethought and foresight exhibited. That is the planning and logistical strategising exhibited by this Minister of Corrections. “Last-minute Louis”, with 8 days to go, says: “Let’s do this”, when I presume that Cabinet, or at least her office, gets the prison forecast every week, if not every couple of days, as we did when we were Ministers. This is forecast to go through.
I would also like to know whether the claims made by the Department of Corrections are true that there are, indeed, around 100 to 150 beds available in our prisons. We support this bill, but we believe that those members should be held to account for their comments last year.
Dr CAM CALDER (National)
: It is a privilege to take a call and speak on this bill, the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. National campaigned on improving safety in our communities, and we are addressing this issue with a raft of measures. This bill is part of keeping that pledge.
The New Zealand prison population has steadily increased over the last 10 years. Why is this? One of the drivers was an increase of over 40 percent in the number of violent offenders. I will say that again. There was an increase of over 40 percent in the number of violent offenders over the last 10 years, and, of course, a concomitant higher proportion of convicted offenders sentenced to imprisonment. Equally, there has been a disproportionately large growth in the remand prison population.
This Government is trying to lift New Zealand’s performance across all sectors. To do this, we are open-minded and we welcome innovation and fresh thinking. We have
said sayonara to the dogma-driven policies of the late, unlamented Labour administration. Those policies led to a 40 percent increase in violent crime and to inadequate accommodation to house the convicted offenders. We have heard from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove about the fact that Labour attempted to address the problem. We accept that, but Labour failed. It became a terminally tired administration that deteriorated to become little more than a loquacious lobby for lassitude, languor, and inaction. This bill is necessary as a result of that legacy of supervised neglect.
The National-led Government has inherited a rising prison muster and a concomitant imminent shortfall in accommodation, owing to inadequate funding by the Labour Government. This bill is necessary to ensure we can provide safe, temporary accommodation for offenders. I commend this bill to the House.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: That last contribution to this debate on the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill added absolutely nothing. The member Dr Cam Calder displayed his ignorance about the causes of crime. The member displayed his ignorance about how little his own Government is achieving in this important area. The member simply believes in some Crosby/Textor - type information. The member knows nothing. He could not give us one example of policies of the last 9 years that had actually caused crime to rise—not one. There was a lot of rhetoric but no substance.
Labour will support this bill, because it provides a response at this particular time to a difficulty. When no options are available, then cell facilities at courts ought to be used, and this is what this bill allows. That is a reasonable thing to do. At the present time court cells can be used only during the day, but they ought to be utilised when there is urgency in terms of demand. This bill amends the Corrections Act 2004 to allow for prisoners to be accommodated in court cells for up to 4 days. That is a reasonable thing to do. Because court cells cannot be used in this way under the Resource Management Act, an amendment also has to be made in the bill to exempt the use of court cells in this way from section 9 of that Act. The Labour Opposition will support that, because overcrowding is a potential problem in the next period. This bill is a way to resolve it, and it is the responsible thing to do.
But the bill does point to some real difficulties that the Government has with regard to provisioning its law and order policies, which, presumably, are policies that National designed several years before the last election campaign. National members had all the figures available to them, and now that they have been in Government for a year, all they have managed to call on is the punitive approach that sections of our community demand and that they have tried to make political capital from. They promised to be tough on crime by locking up more people.
It is important to go back to the website of the Department of Corrections to really see the things that the department is telling us it has known about for some time. Clearly, the prison system is under pressure, and clearly the department would have been telling the Government that for some time. The Government also knows that the future of the policy of double-bunking is uncertain. There are difficulties with the processes, as we have seen in the Employment Court. So the Government does know.
Hon Member: Well, it’s a nonsense.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: It is a nonsense, I agree. So the Government does know—[Interruption] it is a nonsense, I agree—there will be insufficient accommodation from 2010 onwards. The Department of Corrections is telling us about its problems via its website.
Although the Government talks about this measure being a temporary provision, the member from the Greens raised an important point. The Government’s own website says it is thinking about this facility being made available on an ongoing basis. It is not
as though the issue of prison numbers will just go away; it will be there for some time. This measure will be used for some time, and I would like to hear from the Minister as to how she intends to resolve that. For how long does the Minster intend to use this provision? What are the plans for ensuring that it will not be necessary in the future?
There is some good news, and I commend the Department of Corrections for this. It has actually thought matters through, and it does say—both in notes that we have and on its website—that it will do some more work to make sure there is a good understanding of how the use of court cells overnight will work, and to make sure that provisions are made so that prisoners are treated in a humane and effective manner and their rights are protected.
The Department of Corrections’ website also raises—and we have not talked about this a great deal—the fact that there will be difficulties with regard to getting this type of exemption from the Resource Management Act. We should think about that for a moment. If the cells are in neighbourhoods, the people who live in the area will now have no opportunity at all to object to this measure. I am not saying everybody should object, but the facility to object has been taken away. The department’s website also says there are some risks of litigation from the people who are being held in this type of facility.
The Government has promised to look at a whole range of other facilities for prisoners. It does know that we cannot keep on putting more people in prisons. We have an awful performance rate in this area; it is one of the worst rates in the world, after the US.
Todd McClay: It’s been pretty appalling over 9 years—you’re right.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I will come to that. The member talks about the last 9 years. Members sit there talking about the last 9 years, but that is intellectual dishonesty. When will the Government really address the drivers of crime? Government members have had the meetings and have had the information put before them, but we have seen nothing. We would like Government members to get up and tell us what their crime prevention strategies are. When should we expect to see them, or is it that Government members have found a sore in our society—the view of those who want to be punitive? Is it the case that the Government has utilised that and that it intends to utilise this issue in that particular way? If the Government was really sincere about addressing the drivers of crime and about getting into early intervention, we would have seen that by now. The Government is a third of the way through its term, and we have not seen any really significant proposals. There is the opportunity to change the performance of this country in this particular area, but we have not seen anything. We would like to hear from members opposite about when we can expect to see their proposals. They have had meetings and there has been plenty of input. Or is the issue becoming too hard? Does the Government intend to keep the proposals for the last 6 months of its term and to take them up from there?
Perhaps the biggest irony—and I liken this to a form of intellectual dishonesty—is the fact that we are here, pushing this bill through under urgency and agreeing to these provisions, when National members, day after day, pilloried this very provision when they were in Opposition. Previous speakers have already referred to that. Where is the intellectual honesty of the members opposite, who ought to say, yes, they were wrong to raise this issue in the kind of way that they did. They ought to say they now realise the difficulties and that this provision is needed to overcome them. Some acknowledgment of what Ministers from the previous Labour Government were trying to do in order to use the cell facilities at courts during times of crisis would not be unreasonable.
It would be useful to gain that kind of acknowledgment from members on the Government side of the House, because there is a pattern here: they stand up, use their
Crosby/Textor lines—the same thing, time and time again—and simply say nothing has been done in the last 9 years.
Dr Cam Calder: A lot of damage has been done in the last 9 years.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: The member for Rotorua repeated that earlier. Mr Calder is also making some noises over there. Mr Calder has shown his ignorance of this field already by not even knowing what the research says, and by not being able to give us any example of what he was talking about. The Minister for Social Development and Employment goes on day after day, in an intellectually dishonest manner, saying Labour did nothing for 9 years, but we should look at what the National Government is doing. I advise that Minister to go and talk to her own advisers in the Ministry of Social Development. They will tell her chapter and verse about the actions that were taken to address our society’s social issues, in a manner that she would be impressed by.
Perhaps one day the National members will come to the House and acknowledge what they are having, by default, to acknowledge. They criticised this very provision, yet they are slipping it in before the Christmas break, under urgency, to enable court cells to be used. We are ready to support that, but I look forward to seeing intellectual honesty on the part of members on the other side of the House, so that we can actually work on that basis in the future.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman)
: I wish to reflect just momentarily on a comment made in an earlier speech by the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. In his speech, and I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, for we all know him to be an honourable man, he spoke in tender terms—one could only say in tender terms and in fond terms—of the Hon Judith Collins. He spoke of her soft dulcet tones on the radio, her femininity, and her compassionate qualities. I agree with all the things he said except—[Interruption]—I am sorry? No, he spoke eloquently. He always speaks eloquently, but it was nice to hear him speak in such a favourable manner of the Minister. Everybody recognises those qualities in her, but he gave them voice this morning. He also said that he thought she should experience beatification. I have just a small point of correction: I think he meant to say canonisation, that is, to the level of sainthood. I would have thought that he would understand these things, not that he is striving for the same achievement himself. I thank him on behalf of the Minister for the kind compliments that he made. Indeed, I think he has a sneaking respect for the Minister; it was reflected, I thought, on
Morning Report this morning when I heard them speaking together.
It is gratifying to know that Labour is in fact supporting the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: This is a speech of substance.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I think it is, yes; we can put a little bit of substance into it. Here is a lovely quote from Oscar Wilde:
I never saw a man
Who looked with such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
We have heard a lot this morning about the mechanics, the economies—
Dr Cam Calder: That was moving.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: It was. Well, it is! I used to visit a young Kiwi prisoner in New Caledonia. He was there for some years. I visited him regularly. I have talked to chaplains. I have talked to people who have spent a long time in prison. It ain’t a nice place. Defence lawyers tell me to never let anyone get away with the idea that people like going to prison. They said people never, ever want to go.
Hon Maryan Street: For the last 9 years you’ve been saying what luxury palaces they are.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Well, yes, they can be, and that can happen. That does not mean to say people like being there. The worst aspect of facing prison, as those who have had that experience tell me, is the uncertainty. Over the 9 awful years of the last Labour Government, all of those vulnerable people in the corrections system have had a rotten time. It has been a dreadful period, and the Opposition knows it. I will not start to list the dreadful series of events that occurred in corrections during the period of governance of the previous Labour Government. Thank goodness for National, thank goodness for Minister Collins, and thank goodness for the common sense that is now being applied to the use of court cells. Thank you.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 9.
|Bill read a first time.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the
Minister of Corrections: I move,
That the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill be now read a second time. I begin by thanking the various officials who have worked on this issue and on the bill that is now before the House. They have provided valuable support in ensuring that the Government’s priorities of ensuring public safety and providing value for money are reflected in the approach that is being taken. Those priorities are reflected also in the commitment the Government has shown to improving the provision of drug and alcohol treatment in prisons, and to improving the provision of education in prisons, particularly in literacy and numeracy.
In the long term, those measures—coupled with the various other initiatives in the justice sector being promoted, particularly, by the Minister of Justice—will reduce the growth of the prison population. Reducing the rate of growth of the prison population is the Government’s preferred long-term approach to the corrections portfolio. However, in the short term, measures to increase capacity in the prison system and the flexibility of the prison system, such as those in the bill currently before the House, are necessary to ensure that public safety is preserved.
This bill allows the use of court cells that have been gazetted as parts of corrections prisons, notwithstanding the provisions of local district plans. It addresses an anomaly that was identified by the previous Government, and provides increased flexibility in managing the increasing prison population. I commend the bill to the House.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: I want to make a couple of observations about the nature of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. As I have said, Labour will support it. I thank the acting Minister for what has been the only semblance of a speech of substance and logic to come out of the Government thus far in the process. We had a rendition from somebody akin to a cross between Uncle Fester and Captain Mainwaring in the form of Mr Auchinvole talking about all manner of things, but he did not provide any justification, substance, or even any logic—
Hon Steve Chadwick: Or any meaning.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: —or any meaning to support his own case.
I will turn to the regulatory impact statement. I have taken some advice, having read the very brief six or seven lines that it appears to be. In that regulatory impact statement, there is no regulatory impact statement. There is a reference to a website, which is a very long-winded website; in fact it takes up 3½, nearly 4, lines. I am advised that that is quite unusual. Normally in a piece of legislation, even a short piece of legislation, one would expect a summary of the regulatory impact statement. One would expect some sort of summary of the facts around the regulatory impact statement. This bill is printed on one A3 piece of paper. I know we are trying to conserve trees in this environment, but there is a little bit of space at the bottom, actually, where I would have thought the Government could have put some words in. When one goes to the website, one sees an exhaustive three or four pages of regulatory impact statement hidden away. One has to ask why that is the case. I am advised that not 24 hours ago the URL link had not been inserted into the bill. That is how rushed this process has been.
I raise that issue because it is more evidence that this Minister does not have a plan or a logical strategy to deal with the prison muster numbers. As I said in the first reading, she has had the reports for 12 months. Prior to the election her party said that if it implemented all its law and order policies it would double the then prison muster—double it. So even before the election—over 12 months ago—this Minister and her party were planning for a doubling of the prison population, yet there was no plan as to where to house them. There was—and still is, I believe—a commitment to build at least one new prison, though we have heard and seen nothing about it. This just provides further evidence, with 7 or 8 parliamentary days to go, of how rushed and unplanned, with a lack of management, a lack of foresight and thinking—
Carmel Sepuloni: A shambles.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: It is a shambles, my colleague says, a bit like the emissions trading scheme.
Hon Member: You’re voting for it!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Yes, we are voting for it to get the Government out of a hole. It could have put up these proposals 12 months ago, put in place a prison muster plan and a prison build plan—a proper prison—
Hon Steve Chadwick: Integrated strategy.
Dr Cam Calder: With respect, you could have done that yourself.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: My colleague is right. That is a big word for Mr Calder. He says we could have done that ourselves. Well, I tell Mr Calder that the problem is that we did. We built four prisons. We were criticised by Mr Calder, who I think was doorknocking for Judith Collins or something way back then. We were criticised by Judith Collins because Mr Calder’s party said we were not locking enough people up. Does he care to rebut that? No, he will not rebut it, because it is a fact. That is what he said as he doorknocked for Judith Collins: we were not locking enough people up.
Dr Cam Calder: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I submit that the honourable member has no knowledge of what I said when I was doorknocking.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; that is interrupting a debate. It is unnecessary.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: That is OK, Mr Deputy Speaker. It proves what a plonker he is, so it is OK. What his party said before the election and what it says today are two different things. I love the Toastmasters. I have helped Toastmasters a number of times to set up little branches around my electorate. It is a fantastic organisation. I mean no denigration by what I am about to say, but I have to say to Mr Calder that this
ain’t stage 101; this is a debate of substance about a critical issue. Going through the dictionary late at night, as Mr Calder did, looking for words that start with the same letter and stringing them together does not actually add to the substance of this debate.
I will raise a couple of questions about the shambles that we have and the lack of planning we have around this. I suspect that the member does not know where the regulatory impact statement is; he might be running away to ask his staff to get on the web and look it up. I am happy to give him a copy of the regulatory impact statement, because he probably does not know what it means and he probably does not know where to find it, but it is on the web. In that statement it says: “Cabinet has agreed that the maximum period of detention in court cells would be four days (96 hours).”
As I said, I was talking with a senior person in corrections. I will not name the person, because Judith Collins will bring a machete down on that person if I do. The issues raised are ones of logistics for prison staff, with regard to 4 evenings, 4 days, and 96 hours. I would like to know from the Government—and hopefully we will get to it in the Committee stage—what budget has been put aside for logistics of prison officers. How will they be fed through the court system, for instance? How will prisoners themselves be administered to? What will the accommodations be like for prison officers if they require administrative support while they are there for their shift? What will happen in terms of the day to day interaction between court processes, court staff, and prisoners who are housed for 96 hours? I think those are quite important and germane issues to this debate because, of course, these provisions will effectively take away the right of people who may be living in that area to object. I am sure that they would like some assurance from the Minister as to just how those day-to-day logistical matters will be addressed.
It is not a political point; it is a fair point that communities will want to know. I think it is also a fair point in relation to the security staff—that is, the prison officers who will be charged with dealing with these prisoners and managing them day to day, often in what can be described as very confined circumstances where they do not have the logistical support they would have had if this Government decided to start building a new prison as it promised to do.
So there are some issues in here. As I say, I find it very strange—in fact, I am told it is unheard of—that the regulatory impact statement is not contained within the bill, but is ferreted away and buried on a website. The URL was not even inserted in the draft that I have of the bill, which I received, somewhat prematurely, before it came before the House. I just wonder why. Is there any devil in the detail? Of course, when one finds the paper, one sees that it notes and acknowledges that there are a number of risks in respect of use of prison cells. So I just raise those issues as a matter of course.
Sandra Goudie: Mr Speaker—
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Talking of premature! I just raise those issues as a matter of course, and I seek some assurance from the Minister. She or Mr Finlayson may be able to get some advice from the staff and explain to us without breaching security how in metropolitan areas, without the logistical support of a prison itself, these individuals will be managed day to day, and what protections are in place for the staff.
I hope as we progress through the second reading that we might actually get a speech or two of substance from the opposite side of the House. I would be very interested in some of them; I think Mrs Goudie is in the starting blocks ready to go. I wonder whether Mrs Goudie will address some of the points I have made, like what she said before the election, instead of getting up and saying that the Government of the day did nothing. No, we built four prisons. Those members say that the Government of the day did not lock enough people up—well, we did, and now they say there are too many in there. I wonder whether they will address what the plan is going forward, and why this
bill, which is pretty simple and has the support of most of the House, is brought to us 7 or 8 parliamentary sitting days before the election, incomplete though it is.
Dr Cam Calder: Before what?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Sorry, before Christmas, I should say. God willing, there would be an election! After we have had the emissions trading scheme and the shonky deal with the Māori Party and others, I think it would be a cracker to get on the stump and debate some of these issues. I can only live in hope. I hope we actually get some of those answers from the members, especially the member who purports to be the chair of the Law and Order Committee.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: Is it any wonder that I tried to take a premature call after Clayton Cosgrove’s address? The previous Government never did do anything about the drivers of crime. This legislation is a new initiative from this new National Government, which will make—and is currently making—a difference, just by the fact that we have started that whole process of addressing the drivers of crime. While we are looking at the drivers of crime, we are also making sure that New Zealanders feel safe in their beds and in their homes.
This Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill is a sensible solution. You know, Opposition members think it is a sensible solution, because they are supporting it, so we have to wonder what on earth they are rabbiting on about in the House. They are raving on in the House when it is quite a simple, straightforward bill, and when they are supporting it.
I will cover a couple of matters in regard to the bill. Clause 3 states: “This Act amends the Corrections Act 2004.” Clause 4 amends section 32 by inserting new subsection (2A), which ensures that if a cell block is declared by notice in the
to be part of a corrections prison, then section 9 of the Resource Management Act will not prevent that cell block being used to detain prisoners. That provision is pretty sensible, and the Opposition must think it is pretty sensible, otherwise it would not be supporting it. So that is great; everybody is in accord.
Clause 5(2) makes a consequential amendment to section 4 of the Resource Management Act, to signal that “Section 9 does not apply to the detention of prisoners in a court cell block that is declared by notice in the
to be part of a corrections prison.’ ”. So I can see no reason why there is so much kerfuffle by the Opposition when it is supporting this bill. That kerfuffle is just bombast on its part.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I will respond to a few of the claims that have been made by Mr Calder and Sandra Goudie with regards to increases in crime. The perception has been put out there by this National Government that under the Labour Government crime increased. Let us look at the facts. A report from the University of Auckland states that crime decreased under the Labour Government. A
New Zealand Herald
article in April 2008 stated: “The New Zealand crime rate remained flat in 2007, while police resolved almost 10,000 more offences than the previous year.” That article stated: “New Zealand recorded its lowest murder rate for a decade at 45, with 41 resolved before the end of the year.” It also stated—I touch on this because Mr Calder brought it up—that “Overall the picture was less rosy” with regards to violent crimes, but “This is not surprising when we take into account that there has been a huge focus on family violence with publicity and media campaigns designed to reduce tolerance for such offending,”.
It cannot be held against the Labour Government that we did something with regards to family violence and domestic violence. It cannot be held against the Labour Government that women all of a sudden decided that it was OK to come out and report to the police that they were getting beaten by their husbands. We cannot be accused of doing anything wrong when we did that over the last 9 years. Perhaps violent offences
increased in terms of reporting, but it is not due to anything done wrong by the Labour Government; it is because of the work that we put into ensuring that women felt safe coming out and reporting against family violence.
I will touch on just how safe this bill is with regards to our courts. “Just how safe is it in court?” is an article that came out in the
Manukau Courier in April 2009. It discussed the fact that “PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff says there aren’t enough officers to cover the three courts at all times.” He discussed the fact that the shortage is “mirrored at courts across the country and threatens the safety of the public”. He said: “They need an extra three security staff to enable them to cover the three courts at all times.” The article goes on: “Mr Wagstaff says public demand is increasing yet the government has put a cap on staff, which is ‘a recipe for disaster, and in the case of our courts and our probation service, threatens the safety of the public’.” This is an issue.
We support the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill because the Government is in crisis and crime is on the increase. We know that a big part of that increase is due to poverty. Due to the high unemployment rates under this Government, we are seeing an increase in the number of people committing crimes. Prisons do not have the capacity to deal with them. We support this bill, but only because this Government is in crisis. Therefore, there is no other option with regards to the safety of the public. However, that does not mean that this will be smooth sailing for the Government. There are huge issues here with regards to the numbers of security officers in our courts, and also with regards to the unrest that has arisen in recent months amongst the justice staff members about their working conditions. If the Government does not address those things then we will be in serious trouble when this legislation goes through. We will see an increased number of prisoners pushed to the cells in the courts because they cannot be held in our actual prisons.
I pointed out earlier, and I point out again, that last night what we may just as well call the “Privatisation of Prisons Bill” went through. The National Government was saying that the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill would result in safer, better, and cheaper prisons. How can they be safer and better when anticipation of a huge overflow results in the need for this Government to push this legislation through quickly so that it has cells to house the prisoners because the prisons will not be able to hold them? I cannot see how the private prisons that it says will be the remedy to what it perceives as all its problems will be any sort of remedy when we are seeing more legislation to deal with the overflow. The prisons that the Government is talking about improving will not be able to cope with the sheer numbers.
I will go back to the issue of our court staff and our justice staff. There was a
New Zealand Herald
article. Again, it was not long ago, at all—it was only Tuesday, 17 November 2009. Our court staff were out on strike arguing for better pay. They were pointing out the fact that they would no longer “continue to accept the ministry’s unjust pay system that’s responsible for their underpayment.”, and the fact that they are working in very poor working conditions. It is this Government’s responsibility to ensure that our public servants are taken care of so that chaos does not erupt in places like our courts. It will be our public whose safety is put at risk, and also that of the security officers who are working these courts.
My colleague Mr Cosgrove brought up the fact that there was an absence of a regulatory impact statement in the bill that we were handed. He also pointed out that this is highly unusual, given the fact that usually it is in the bill. He was advised that it was unusual for a bill not to have it. We looked it up on the website and got a copy. We thought that perhaps there was something there that the Government was a little bit worried about. When we went through what is reported in the regulatory impact statement we found that a couple of things should be brought to the attention of the
public. No one would deny that holding prisoners in court cells is not a new thing; there was a way in which that could be done in the past. Now the Government is going to extreme measures to introduce this legislation because it is in crisis.
One of the things pointed out in the regulatory impact statement is that “The preferred option”—this option—“carries litigation risks, in that prisoners housed in court cells may claim that their treatment does not comply with provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act or other legislative requirements. It is also possible that New Zealand’s compliance with international conventions could be challenged. In this regard, the Chief Ombudsman has indicated that the Ombudsmen may issue adverse reports under Part 2 of the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 if their concerns are not addressed.” Putting prisoners in court cells was done sparingly under the previous Labour Government; it was not done on a regular basis. We did not feel we needed to legislate for it.
When we were in Government—for the past 9 years—we were not in crisis. This Government is in crisis, so it is forced to legislate for it, and we have to support it in that, but this Government will have to face that issue. With the increasing number of prisoners whom they are planning to push into courts cells, there will be a much higher risk that their rights as prisoners and their treatment do not comply with the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. This is especially so given the fact, as I pointed out before, that there is a shortage of security staff at the moment. There is unrest amongst the justice staff because of poor working conditions imposed by this Government. It needs to be highlighted that there are concerns about this that have been pointed out in the regulatory impact statement.
To end, I want to say that last night we saw a bill pushed through stating that private prisons will apparently be better, safer, and cheaper, yet here we are today—and this is ironic—pushing through a bill that will legislate to allow for prisoners to be held in court cells because the Government is anticipating an overflow. It is anticipating that its prisons will not be able to hold the sheer numbers. This is an issue. It is ironic. It contradicts what the National Government discussed last night. Mr Mallard discussed the “h” word before; I will not bring it up. We support this bill because the Government is in crisis, but we have a few concerns that the Government will have to address.
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT)
: I had not been intending to take a call in this debate. I will be very brief. I will make three points. First, I have never heard such a load of rubbish in my life. Carmel Sepuloni has just said that the Labour Party is voting for the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill because the Government is in crisis. Well, I invite Labour members to vote against the bill. Because the ACT Party supports the bill, it will be passed into law whether or not the Labour Party supports it. The Government does not need Labour’s support. It is welcome to give it. It is a good bill. But I have never heard such a load of rubbish in my life. Thank you.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: Following on from the comments made by my ACT colleague John Boscawen, I am reminded very much of how awful it is in Opposition when one is voting for something but one is required to give a 10-minute speech putting forward the reasons why it is not a good idea. That is the reason we fight so hard to get into Government; it is so much better to be on this side of the House.
I say to my colleagues on the other side of the House who have debated the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill so far—the Hon Trevor Mallard and the Hon Clayton Cosgrove, who have come up with all the reasons why this bill is not a good idea, but who are supporting it—that they have missed one point. This Government has now been in power for 1 year. They were in power for 9 years. They
talked of the prisons that they opened during the 9 years they were in power, but they forgot to mention that they also closed some prisons.
The question that has not been raised so far, given the importance of this bill because of the overflow from our prisons and the crisis that has been created as a result, is why they closed Ōhura Prison in the King Country during their time in Government. When we drill into the reasons they gave for doing that, we find that they argued that they could not get prison officers to live out there. Well, in the end, that was true, but why was that? It was because a decision was made 12 to 18 months prior to the closure of that prison to sell off the prison houses. Of course, when prison officers apply for a job they look at the whole package. They have to consider where they would live, how they would get there, and what the salary was. They found they would have to go out to Ōhura and try to find suitable accommodation for their wives and families, and, of course, it was not available. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy! The selling of prison houses, making them unavailable, was a nationwide decision, and in Ōhura the one-size-fits-all approach did not work.
And it was a tragedy. When I look back at it, I realise that the kind of people who generally make themselves available as medium-security or low-security prison officers are the kind of people who like a recreational sort of life. They might be hunters, fishers, foresters, or have other, similar hobbies that they do outside of their hours of work, and Ōhura was perfectly located for that type of person and that type of lifestyle. However, the decision was made, the prison was closed, and now we are here debating a bill under urgency to allow court cells and other temporary facilities to be used to accommodate the overflow of prisoners.
I would be interested in comments from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove, or from anybody else who wishes to take a call, to explain the merits of that decision. When Tony Ryall was the Opposition police spokesperson he identified a looming problem in terms of the growing prison numbers and a lack of construction of new prison facilities. So after 9 years of Labour we are now debating under urgency the need to allow the temporary accommodation of prisoners in facilities that could arguably be described as unsuitable for long-term corrections activity. The Government is aware of that, and it is moving to look at all options as quickly as possible. I am sure that the National Government will find a solution to it.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: Mr Boscawen might not have read the regulatory impact statement, but Carmel Sepuloni was referring to the fact that managing the prison muster is in crisis, hence the necessity to pass legislation to enable this to happen. Therefore, there is nothing disingenuous about that; it is a fact. Why would we not support something when it is a reasonable thing to do and when it is something that we also find necessary to do? What is disingenuous is what members opposite used to do when this matter came up under the Labour Government. They would pillory this very kind of provision. What we do not see is a little bit of humility from them. Maybe they could apologise and say they can see why it was necessary. I know that Mr Ardern has had more experience of being in Opposition than we have. It is something he ought to think about. We do not intend to become as experienced at that as members opposite are.
Members opposite have taken this opportunity to legislate a simple provision under urgency. It would have been easy to get through this without too much complication. Members opposite have taken this as an opportunity to say, time and time again, that in the 9 years of the previous Government it did nothing about violence and crime. I do not know where those members were when day after day, year after year, and term after term, the Labour Government did bring forward many pieces of legislation and significantly resourced the addressing of crime. Mr Calder talked a lot about the
increase in violent crime. As I said in my first reading speech, he displays his own ignorance about the figures for violent crime. I want to spend a few minutes educating members opposite about the figures for violent crime.
We indeed know that the majority of violent crime shown in those statistics emerged out of domestic violence; we know that to be the case. How did that happen? Did it happen because of 9 years of inactivity by the last Government, or did it happen because year in and year out Ministers and their ministries were working very, very hard to try to understand what some of the drivers were, what needed to be done, and how to bring everybody together and start a programme that in perhaps the next 10 years—because that is how long it would take—would achieve the necessary changes?
Mr Ardern and Mr Calder might not know about the family violence task force and the work that it did to try to find out what New Zealand society should do about violence. It brought all of the information together. It joined up all the agencies possible. I know, because I led the Families Commission at that time. We were key players, and the member’s party exempted itself from the multiparty group. So I say to members opposite that they did nothing to assist in solving the problem when they were in Opposition. In fact, they obfuscated it. They stood on the sidelines and criticised very, very reasonable efforts.
The task force started in December 2004 and it went through for a period after that. That task force, comprising all of the Government’s social agencies, plus the non-governmental organisation sector, has spent a lot of energy, effort, intellectual ability, and resources to begin to address those issues. I say to Mr Ardern that one of the major messages was that one must not live with violence in one’s domestic situation, that one must report it and find assistance. That has caused the major rise in the reporting of domestic violence. The member might want to talk to Mr Calder and explain it to him, so that members opposite can understand and stop this nonsense. It is intellectually dishonest. Ministers and members opposite ought not to do that, because it does them no justice and it does this Parliament no justice. It is a form of dishonesty that is just incredible to behold in this age.
I will go further and say that this Government has changed not one aspect of that programme. In fact, the Government’s programme to address domestic violence is exactly the same programme that the Hon Ruth Dyson led as a Minister, and other Ministers supported it at the time. At one point half the Cabinet Ministers were members of the ministerial group to which the task force was responsible. Maybe the next Government speaker can clarify for us whether that is still the case and whether the member’s Cabinet puts that much emphasis on it, because nothing has changed. The task force works on the same programme. The It’s Not OK campaign works in exactly the same way. The community-led initiatives work in exactly the same way. The member’s Government has added nothing to it, except for on-the-spot protection orders, I think. Labour members supported that measure as well. It was a slight tweaking of something that was already there.
Time and time again ethnic members in National—Mr Bakshi, Melissa Lee, and the Hon Pansy Wong are in the Chamber—
Hon Pansy Wong: Good morning.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Greetings, ni hao. Those members speak to ethnic audiences, and what do they do? They tout their achievements in reducing violence in our society, even though it is inappropriate to do so in many, many situations, where members of the audiences do not want to hear about the Government’s work on violence. They want to hear Government members celebrating those cultures.
Hon Pansy Wong: They love the Government.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: But time and time again, I say to the Hon Pansy Wong and her colleague, that is what those members do, and their audiences are just bored with it. It is time to stop doing that.
Members opposite have also been criticising this provision, which we used and which they now want to use. Of course, members opposite want it for a purpose. We would like to hear for how long the Government intends to use this provision. Is it for the summer, because by that time the Government will have solved the problem? Is it for another 6 months, because by then it will have found the answers? Is it for only 1 year, because by then all of the Government’s new systems will be in place and it will have resolved the violence issues in our society? Or will it be for all of the Government’s term? I ask whether members opposite intend that this will be their policy for the rest of their Government’s term—because it will be their last one—and if it is not, then I ask what else they are putting in place. Members opposite have made this a violence issue. Members opposite have turned this into something that the Government is now guaranteeing. Members opposite are guaranteeing to New Zealand society that in your term you will have resolved this—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: My apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker. Will the Government members opposite have resolved this issue in this period of time? I would put money on there being no guarantee that they can give that this provision will still be there.
Todd McClay: How much?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Mr McClay can take me on; I will see him in the lobby afterwards. I would put money on it that this measure will not improve the situation. This is a generational shift we are talking about. Our society is violent, and there is much that we need to do about that. It is inappropriate for members opposite to promise that they can do much better. This will come to haunt their policies.
Sandra Goudie: Ha, ha!
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Sandra Goudie may smile, but what the Government is doing is explosive. It is appealing to the negative side of life.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I will speak briefly on the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. The Green Party will be opposing it. It is an extraordinary bill. We have court cells to house the people who are being taken to court, and suddenly these cells are to be used to house prisoners.
Hon Member: Shock, horror!
SUE KEDGLEY: Well, it is an indictment on the prison situation in New Zealand. I believe we have the second-highest number proportionally of prisoners locked up in jail of any nation in the world. We are second only to America. My understanding is that for every prisoner locked up for a year, it costs $70,000. We are all fretting about budgets, but no one is worrying about that cost. We just keep pouring people into jails and it costs $70,000 a year per prisoner.
But the problem, or the crisis, facing the Government is where to put the endless number of prisoners who are going into our jails. Now we will take court cells, which are normally used for people who are being taken to court, for this purpose. The first question I have to ask is what will happen once they are all filled with our prisoners—and, mark my words, they will be. The bill talks about occasional use, but this bill being rammed through under urgency will allow court cells to become de facto prisons. When our court cells are filled with prisoners, where will the people who would be in those cells because they are being taken to court go?
Hon Mita Ririnui: Caravans.
SUE KEDGLEY: Will we now have caravans outside our courts in an attempt to house those people because all the court cells will be overflowing with prisoners?
This bill is an absolute indictment on where we are in New Zealand with regard to this issue. Our prisons are overflowing but all we are doing is treating the symptoms and pouring more and more prisoners into jail, when we should be looking at early intervention, rehabilitation, finding non-custodial interventions for minor non-violent offending, and so on. We should be looking at rehabilitation and at the roots of crime. We know very well that the more unequal a society is, the wider the gap between the rich and the poor. The more that we have entrenched poverty, as we do in New Zealand, the more violence will occur and the more we will have prisoners. So why do we not deal with the root causes of why we have the second-highest number of prisoners in jail in the world, instead of resorting to these ludicrous situations such as turning our court cells into new jails? We will now have courts that are effectively jails. This is completely absurd.
The bill also breaches the Resource Management Act. Normally we cannot just turn a court building into a prison because that would breach that Act. There would have to be a specific amendment or an allocation of land for the purpose of a prison. This bill will grant a Resource Management Act exemption so that nobody can challenge or even be consulted when a court building is to be effectively converted into a prison in his or her neighbourhood. People will wake up and find that the courthouse they have been living near will now effectively become a dual-purpose building—a prison and a court—and they will not be able to offer any objection because of the exemption in this bill.
This is an indictment and the Green Party is horrified. I am certain that this bill will breach not just our human rights legislation but also international legislation. I would be grateful if the Minister of Corrections could confirm what human rights legislation the bill breaches and could tell members how the Government is planning to circumvent breaching that legislation. I ask where the Government will find room to accommodate the people who should be in the court cells, and I ask what impact turning our courts into jails will have. What will we do when the court cells are all filled up? This is completely ludicrous. We have double-bunking and we have containers to house prisoners being erected around New Zealand. As some of the earlier speakers have said, we have an absolute crisis that shows the absolute failure of our approach to reducing prison numbers. The number of prisoners is escalating. It shows the failure to deal with the root causes of the issue. It shows that this is the inevitable consequence of the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor in New Zealand, and the entrenched poverty we have.
There is one other point that I keep mentioning, and it is completely ignored. It is well established that if violence is screened continually on television, as it is here, it legitimises violence and encourages young boys in particular to think that the way to solve problems is through violence. The Green Party secured funding to do some research on this issue. Thousands of studies have confirmed the findings that prolonged exposure to incidents of violence on television normalises violence. Violence is shown in cartoons. There are up to 16 episodes of violence in an hour of cartoons. Violence is saturating our television and it is encouraging the normalisation of violence in our society. We are bringing up young men to think that violence is a legitimate way to solve conflict. Is this Parliament trying to do anything about that? Is it doing anything to reduce the amount of violence that pervades our television sets? It is one of the root causes of violence. Are we trying to do anything about that? No, no; the two main political parties thump the anti-crime drum. Their members rush up and down the country. National and ACT in particular join with the Sensible Sentencing Trust in beating the anti-crime drum, but they do absolutely nothing to reduce the causes of violence. A very simple cause of violence is the amount of violence shown on
television. There are many ways we could be reducing the amount of violence shown on television. We could require that programmes that are filled with violence are screened only after 10 o’clock at night. We could be doing many things like that. But no, we are not doing anything to address the root causes of violence.
We are creating a society that is ever more unequal. We are entrenching poverty, as the report yesterday pointed out. Then we worry, and wonder why our prison population is out of control. It is one of the fastest-growing in the world—the second highest. What will we do next? We have turned the courts into prisons, we have double-bunking in prisons, and we have containers around the nation for prisoners. When will this Government and this Parliament address the root causes and look at the whole issue of rehabilitation, early intervention, and finding other ways to reduce the number of prisoners and the amount of crime in New Zealand?
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: I stand in support of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. First of all, I would like to tell Dr Rajen Prasad that Indians do love this Government and really welcomed us. They were really disappointed that the last Government did not do anything about violence or anything about crime. This bill provides for the Department of Corrections to imprison prisoners temporarily in court cells. Court cell blocks have basic facilities, and an extended period of detention in such conditions would compromise prisoners’ rights to humane treatment. In order to ensure that all prisoners are treated humanely and receive the statutory minimum entitlement, it is proposed that an amendment to the Corrections Act limit to 4 days the length of detention in a court cell. Prisoners under the age of 18 years and disabled prisoners will not be accommodated in court cells. I commend this bill to the House.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 9.
|Bill read a second time.
JO GOODHEW (Junior Whip—National)
: I seek leave for the Committee on the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill to take the bill as one question.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought to take the bill as a single question. Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is no objection. We will take the bill as a single question.
Clauses 1 to 5
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: I have a couple of questions for the Minister of Corrections, Judith Collins. I think that the Minister in the chair, the Associate Minister of Justice, Nathan Guy, will be able to answer them. The first question is with regard to the points that I made in respect of the regulatory impact statement. The Minister will know, presumably, even though he is a new Minister, that it is normal in a Government bill to have a reasonably robust regulatory impact statement. In fact, his colleague Rodney Hide, who holds the portfolio as regulatory tsar, pledged to the nation that he would cut through all the red tape and ensure that the
bills that came into this House had been tested for their efficiency, that they were needed, and that the regulatory impact statements stacked up. The purpose of a regulatory impact statement is to test the strictures around bills like this. I would be grateful to know whether this bill got through Rodney Hide’s detailed gaze—whether he actually did his job and looked at it.
The problem we have with this bill is that it may well have made history in that there is no regulatory impact statement in it. There are a couple of lines that point to a regulatory impact statement, and there is the heading “Regulatory impact statement”. But until less than 24 hours ago—I know this, because a copy of the bill was given to me earlier—there was not even a URL included in the bill to link it to the actual regulatory impact statement that I have in my hand and that appears on a website. I would like to know why. I am sure the Minister will give us a long dissertation in this respect, because it seems to me that this proves the bill was rushed through.
The other issues I will raise with regard to the regulatory impact statement relate to some of the points I made earlier. Cabinet has agreed, on page 3 of the regulatory impact statement, that the period of detention in court cells would be for 4 days, or 96 hours. This legislation takes away the right of people to object to the use of court cells for the 96-hour period. It streamlines the process, and we will support that, for obvious reasons. But I think it is incumbent upon the Government to explain to this House and, through it, to the people in those communities that have courthouses that will be used—I think there are some 100-plus cells, if I am correct—how the logistical arrangements will be put together.
How will these folk be fed? Will prisoners be shipped out during the day when the court sits? How will prison officers’ logistical and security needs be dealt with? Where will the extra staff come from and who will pay for them? Where will the money come from? Who will administer to these prisoners whilst they are on additional sites in our courts? Will they be shipped out and back to prison during the day, and then shipped back to the court cells in the evening? How will they be fed, watered, and showered? Those are basic issues. I do not think that any of our courts have those logistical provisions. Court cells have very basic sanitation, but they are holding cells for people appearing before court, not accommodation for an overnight stay, let alone for 4 days. I would be interested to know how that will occur.
I ask whether there will be extra security, given the classification. Presumably these are low-classification inmates, but I ask whether there will be extra security for the 4 days that they are housed in court cells. I think that the Minister of Corrections does not know, even though this bill has been rushed through in urgency, because the Minister had no foresight to forecast and to look at the forecast that she is handed every day, if not every week.
We are in the last 8 sitting days of Parliament, dealing with what is a pretty simple issue but one that has risks, as noted in the regulatory impact statement. Those risks are acknowledged by the Department of Corrections, so I would be grateful if we could know where the extra budget allocation is coming from for staff, because there will have to be one. Presumably, it comes out of baseline funding, so I ask what else will slip. I ask what other sorts of costs there are, because there is no reference at all to costs in the regulatory impact statement. What sorts of costs will be put upon the taxpayer for the transfer of prisoners and for the other logistical arrangements that are required? The Minister should answer these fundamental questions.
Clauses 4 and 5 are pretty self-explanatory—we know what they are about—as are clauses 1, 2, and 3. But we need to know about the detail and the processes contained around this bill and the day-to-day logistics and requirements of security arrangements if this legislation is to be implemented. I am particularly concerned about the safety of
prison officers. I ask how those issues will be dealt with where prison officers do not have the logistical or security support that they would have in a prison. These are not prisons, these are court cells. I ask how that matter will be dealt with, and what the added security for prison officers is. What arrangements will be put in place to assist the people who are at the front line?
If the Minister of Corrections does not respond to those questions, then we have to assume that the questions are unanswered, that there is no planning in place, that this is just part of the rushed process of this bill, and that those planning arrangements will be cobbled together in the same sort of shambolic way that this legislation has been as we move through to Christmas. We know generally that the prison release policy takes place pre-Christmas, and normally a little bit of space is created. The regulatory impact statement also points to this legislation being used in the early part of next year.
I would be grateful if the Minister could give members and the communities those assurances, because we know that these court cells are just basic holding cells. There are security issues for staff and basic transport and security issues for prisoners, and the welfare of staff and prisoners has not been addressed. Will we ship prisoners off to the local football club to be showered? Will they be transferred back to a prison nearby during daytime hours so that the court can function, and then shipped back in the evening? I ask what the cost of that will be. Where are the extra personnel who will have to do that task, and where are the extra vehicles and all the other ancillary services that we will need? I would be grateful if the Minister would answer those basic questions. I am sure she has a huge knowledge of this bill, and I am sure it will not be taxing, given that it is only five clauses long and fits on one A3 page.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: There are quite a number of questions that the Committee deserves an answer to in addressing the clauses of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. I would really appreciate if we could have some answers from the Government to the following questions.
First of all, does the bill breach the Human Rights Act in New Zealand? I suspect it does. If it does, the Government should explain that. Secondly, does the bill breach any international human rights legislation? Thirdly, now that we are converting our courts into jails, some very practical issues arise. I presume that prisoners in jails have to be fed. I presume that they have to have showers and so forth. Will we have cooking facilities in our courts now? Will we have showers in the courts, so that prisoners can be showered? Where will they have their exercise? Where will the prison guards, who monitor them in these cells, be located? In my second reading speech I asked where the people who normally would be in the court cells—people who have been taken to court—would go. Will they sit on the steps outside, or will there be caravans outside New Zealand courts? We should be given answers to all those questions. This bill is being raced through this House with extreme urgency. Ordinary New Zealanders have no idea that this is about to happen. The debate has been shallow, to say the least, and why would it not be, because we know hardly anything about the issue. The bill is 2 pages in length but, nevertheless, far-reaching in its consequences. So I believe we are owed an explanation of these issues before the bill goes through the House.
How many courts in New Zealand are in residential areas? In many small towns the court is right next to residences, homes, and so forth. How many people will suddenly find that there is a jail next to their homes, in their suburbs, without their consent or without their even being informed? The extraordinary thing is that this bill acknowledges that in most cases it will breach the Resource Management Act, because we cannot turn a court into a jail without breaching most district plans. There are rules about the location of jails. Suddenly, we will breach all of the rules in district plans about setting aside specific areas for jails. Suddenly, we will allow our courts to be
turned into jails, and we will grant an exemption so that nobody has a right to be consulted when a court in his or her neighbourhood is to be turned into a prison, and so that nobody can challenge it. Does that sound reasonable? We have a whole resource management process, we have district plans, and we have a very clear process to go through for the establishment of a new prison. We have to go through lengthy consultation, we have to abide by the Resource Management Act, and we have to abide by the local district plan. But, suddenly, we can sweep all that aside with one little 2-page bill and allow courts all over New Zealand to be turned into jails that house prisoners, and we will not inform New Zealanders in advance of that and we will not consult them.
Has a select committee looked at this bill? Have we called for submissions?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: No, they messed up the plan. It is rushed.
SUE KEDGLEY: Will there be submissions on this? [Interruption] There are not going to be any submissions. This is extraordinary. This bill will significantly affect hundreds, possibly thousands, of New Zealanders. They will wake up and discover that their local court down the road is now a jail, and they will not be consulted or informed about that. This reminds me of the national environment standard on telecommunications that was rammed through Parliament last year. It allows cell antennae, masts, and so on to be erected on any telephone pole anywhere in New Zealand. Mr Mallard rammed that one through. The Greens predicted in this House that it would cause outrage round New Zealand when it went through, when people discovered that cell antennae and masts could be erected anywhere in New Zealand without their knowledge or consent, even though they could affect their health and well-being and their property prices—their property prices could plunge by up to 20 percent. Have we been proven to be correct? Yes. All around New Zealand, groups are outraged. Every week someone else contacts me. Last week a guy in Invercargill discovered that a 15-metre high cell tower was about to be erected across the road. It is a 6-storey tower and no one had bothered to inform or consult him. I was speaking to a woman from Christchurch yesterday. When she took her daughter to school there was no cell tower; when she came home at 3 o’clock to pick her daughter up, there was a cell tower across the road from the school. Is this the sort of New Zealand that we think is acceptable? There is growing literature about the health effects of cell towers. In fact, places like France are taking down cell towers near schools, and here we are putting them up without anyone’s knowledge or consent.
This bill does exactly the same thing. New Zealanders will be gazumped by this measure. They will ask: “How did this happen? How come we have prisoners in our courthouse? Nobody told us about it?”.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Bad planning.
SUE KEDGLEY: It is not bad planning. The Government has rammed it through deliberately. Do not put it down to bad planning! How can such a bill not have gone to a select committee? It is about an issue of vital importance to New Zealand. We are converting our court cells into jails, and nobody is allowed to make a submission. Nobody will be consulted on it. Nobody will even be told of this measure. Someone will wake up, go to a courthouse somewhere in a suburb, and suddenly discover that it is a jail.
Would someone please explain how this measure will work? I see that we now have a Minister in the chair, the Acting Minister of Corrections. I ask the Minister to please explain to the Committee where the prison guards who guard these court cells will be. Where will food be prepared for the prisoners? Where will they take their showers? Where will they have their exercise? What about the people who should be in the court cells; where will they be held? Will there be caravans outside our courthouses around
New Zealand to serve as court cells? And why will the Government not deal with the root causes of crime, instead of allowing more and more prisoners, overflowing jails, and the second-highest prisoner population in the world? How much is this measure going to cost us? It costs $70,000 every year for every single prisoner that we lock up in jails or, now, court cells.
This bill is an absolute travesty. The Green Party will be opposing it. We expect answers to every single question that I asked.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I stand to take a call because I think the timing is probably convenient, if not perfect. As Labour speakers have made it clear, we will be supporting the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. However, some issues need to be addressed. I want to acknowledge the issues raised by the Hon Clayton Cosgrove and Sue Kedgley in relation to the impact that safety issues will have on court staff, on the police, and on the general public. As you know, Mr Chair, having been a former Minister for Courts, and having visited courts, court cells are not the most secure places in our communities. They are not intended to hold prisoners for long periods. I know that this bill will require those prisoners awaiting sentence to be held for 4 days only. But there are still issues surrounding holding an inmate awaiting sentence for that period of time. I will not call them prisoners, because they are basically on remand. However, issues need to be addressed.
Certainly the House is aware of the reasons for which the Labour Opposition supports this bill. There were issues that we had to deal with in our time in Government, and they meant that some inmates awaiting sentence had to be held in court cells for a limited period of time. But I wonder why the Māori Party supports this bill, because there has been no clear explanation from them. I take this opportunity, while the Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, is in the Chamber; I know that he is a strong advocate for community justice. I take this call because the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Georgina Te Heuheu, is in the chair, and I do not really know what her views are in terms of retention of inmates in court cells. I hope that both Ministers will take a call.
I know that the Māori Party supported the bill that was debated previously in the House, the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill, and I wonder why that is the case, as well, given that the member for Waiariki totally opposes the establishment of the youth justice facility in the electorate of Waiariki, for ideological reasons. He claims that Māori do not support the prison system and therefore should not support the building of those facilities in communities, yet when it came to voting on the previous bill, there was overwhelming support from the Māori Party. It is the same old story. It is the same story with National, which says one thing when it is in Opposition and does another thing in Government. The Māori Party members say one thing in the community, but in the House they say and do things that are completely the opposite of what they claim they believe in. I hope that the Minister of Māori Affairs will take a call and explain the reasons why he thinks that Māori should be owners of the prison system. That ideology clashes with the traditional Māori cultural view. He is aware of that, as is the Minister in the chair. I wonder why they would not take the opportunity now to take a call and explain why they supported the previous bill that was in the House, and why they support this bill.
Labour members are very straight, up front, and honest about our views about why the Labour Opposition supports the bill that was debated previously in the House, and why we support this bill. We are straight, up front, and honest about why we support that position. We are here to help the Government, because it does not have a clue about what it is doing. It needs help. One year in Government and what has happened? It is scavenging for ideas. This legislation is the best it could come up with. National
opposed this type of legislation when it was in Opposition; now it does not have to oppose the legislation, because it is making it law. Well, how about that! What does the member for Rotorua think? Will he walk down the streets of Rotorua and say to the community: “Don’t worry, bros. We will hold you in holding cells for 4 days, but the law says we can do it now.” How will he explain that to the Māori rangatira who supported him in some of the work he has done?
Carmel Sepuloni: I don’t think they supported him.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: They were at his meetings. They ate his food. They drank his coffee. I think we can accept the usual flip-flop behaviour by the National-led Government, but, once again, I really, really wonder why the Māori Party has come here today to be present in the Chamber. I am sure that its constituents are waiting with bated breath to hear why the Māori Party supported not only the previous bill but also this bill.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I have a few issues with the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill that are highlighted more effectively in the regulatory impact statement. I have one issue with regard to this point in the regulatory impact statement: “To ensure that all prisoners would receive their statutory minimum entitlements, Cabinet has agreed that the maximum period of detention in court cells would be four days …”. My question to the Minister in the chair, the Minister for Courts, is what happens if there is still not a bed in a prison for them. What happens to them then? Is the period extended in which they are allowed to be housed in the court cells? Where do they go? Will they just be released? Will they be told: “Go home, and we will come and get you when we have a bed.”? What will the Minister for Courts do? That is one question.
My other question is with regards to resourcing and the ability to cater to the needs of these prisoners in the court cells. Four days is quite a long time. In my head I have this visual picture of about 20 prisoners crammed into one cell, holding on to the bars, like we see in American movies. I am just wondering whether that will be the case. Will all these prisoners have their own cells in the courts? Will it be one per cell, or will there be double-bunking or triple-bunking in the court cells? I ask the Minister whether there will be one big cell where we put the prisoners all together for 4 days and just leave them to it. I wonder what will happen there. My colleague brought up the question of shower facilities, washing facilities, and food. How will we feed these prisoners? Will the courts be given a budget in order to feed these 30 prisoners that will be kept in a court cell for 4 days? What will happen, and how do we go about that? Will the security guards leave their post and go out to Pak ’N Save to buy some food to feed the prisoners? I ask the Minister how this will all work. That is what I would like to know.
One of the issues raised was that people who live in neighbouring areas will not be able to make a complaint about this legislation. They will not be able to ring up and say: “Actually, I do not agree with the fact that there are prisoners held in the court cells next door to where I live.” What will happen if—or when—something goes wrong that affects the neighbouring community, and the public’s safety is put at risk because of court cells being in an area where there people around. What will happen then? Will the Government respond to public safety concerns about any incidents that happen? Will it respond to those, how will it react, and what action will it take? I am not sure whether any of these things have been thought through, given that we were presented with this bill only last night and it has not had time to go up for any public scrutiny whatsoever. I think the people who really would have liked to have made a submission on this bill are those who are situated close to a court cell. Those who are living in such an area would probably have some concerns and would have liked to express those concerns in the form of a submission to the select committee. But, unfortunately, the Minister and this Government has taken away the right of the public to have a say on this bill. It is not the
first time this has happened; it is something we have experienced on an ongoing basis since this Government got in a year ago.
Chris Hipkins: Standard practice!
CARMEL SEPULONI: It is standard practice. The Government refers to the country when it was under Labour as the nanny State, yet it has pushed through a number of bills that have had no public scrutiny whatsoever because it thinks it knows what is right for all New Zealanders. It thinks New Zealanders do not need to have a say on anything. That is what we call a real nanny State.
Some of the issues that have arisen across the course of the debate have been with regards to security officer numbers and their shortage in our prisons. That has been pointed out in a number of different articles in the
New Zealand Herald and in various other sources. I ask what the Minister will do with regard to recruiting a higher level of security officers. Has she increased the budget for security officers in courts so they can cater to the needs of these prisoners; if so, how much did she increase the budget to? We would like to know how much the Government is anticipating it will need.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Acting Minister of Corrections)
: I rise, not necessarily to answer all the myriad issues that have been raised, some of which I missed the argument on anyway, but to comment on one or two things. As the members on the Opposition side know, this proposal is about enabling temporary accommodation of corrections prisoners in court cells as a last resort where there is insufficient capacity in the prison system. Part of the reason I took this call was to acknowledge the Chairperson, the Hon Rick Barker, who, of course, did quite a lot of work previously in his role as the Minister for Courts to address this very issue of rising prisoner numbers and where and how to accommodate them. That is my first point, and it is an important one.
Sue Kedgley: Where are they going to be fed and showered?
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: I tell the member I am coming to that. It is not new that we have people in these cells. It is not something new or different that we have never before catered for. As is done anyway with prisoners on remand, accommodation is made to have them showered. They are taken to nearby prisons. Part of the implementation of this is that they do need to be showered and fed, but those things are done anyway.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Soft on crims!
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: No, we are not soft on crims—not at all. But we do want to make sure that we can house the prison population properly. Issues such as how they will be housed and how they will be fed are interesting to raise but if that member thinks about it, we have to do that anyway. People already use those cells, just not in relation to using them as prisons. The issue about—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Cost?
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: —no, no—double-bunking and triple-bunking is, I think, a red herring. There is no intention for that to occur in the cells. For a minute one could let the imagination run wild with this; I do not know where triple-bunking came from and I do not know how it would arise, anyway. I do not think it is worth spending much more time on.
As I said, corrections brings food into cells because the people who are locked in those cells have to be fed. Exercise will be on site if possible, but more likely they will be returned to the prison for that and for showering. During the day, court proceedings will take precedence, and prisoners will be returned, depending on whether there is enough room in the cells, either to the cells or to the prison.
The real reason I wanted to stand up was to address the issue that I believe was raised by the member Sue Kedgley regarding human rights implications. It is proper that that
is raised. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights affirm the right of every person deprived of liberty to be treated with humanity and respect. The Act and the Corrections Regulations 2005 provide for prisoners held in New Zealand prisons to be treated in a manner that complies with these international instruments, and it is consistent with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Among other things, this legislation sets out prisoners’ minimum entitlements, requires certain categories of prisoners to be separated—for example youth or unconvicted remand prisoners—and provides access to inspectors of corrections and other complaint mechanisms. All requirements of the Act and regulations will apply to prisoners who are detained in court cells, and these requirements will be met. The proposal to limit the period of detention in court cells to a maximum of 4 days will assist in that regard. Depending on their implementation, because everything is in the implementation, the proposals in this bill appear to be consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. We have not ignored it, and I believe that goes some way to addressing the concerns raised in particular by the honourable member Sue Kedgley.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: I thank the Minister in the chair for addressing some of the questions, as Minister for Courts. I was interested in a couple of the comments she made. She said triple-bunking does not exist. Firstly, if she goes up the road to a place called Mount Crawford prison she will see that it does exist in some of the cells there. Secondly, the Minister might want to get advice in respect of the Employment Court case—and I will not go into it, because it is a current live court case—that is occurring with the prison service, where I am advised that there are arguments for triple-bunking now.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: In the cells?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, we do not have triple-bunking outside the cells; we have triple-bunking inside the cells in our prisons. Also, if we can make that leap of faith and if there is an overflow, because there is no reference to it in here, there is no guarantee in the legislation to say there will be one prisoner per cell or two prisoners per cell in a court holding cell. If the Minister is giving us that commitment, I would be grateful if she could reiterate that it is one prisoner per cell. The reason I raise this is that it raises security issues for prison officers. There are a whole series of issues—food, transportation, staff security, and sanitation—that the Minister did not address. The questions we raised were where, how much, where the money was coming from, how many staff would be needed, would it be the case that in order to access sanitation facilities—
Sandra Goudie: This is repetitive!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am sorry?
Sandra Goudie: I said this is repetitive, incredibly repetitive.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: It is repetitive for those who are sharing the family brain cell. They are legitimate questions that we should ask. I know that that member, who is the chair of the Law and Order Committee, has not taken a call and did not advocate to have this legislation before a select committee, and now she does not want any questions raised.
The reason why it is repetitive, I say to Ms Goudie, is that we have not had the answers. The Minister has been generous enough, I admit, to address a number of points but the reason we are raising questions is that we cannot do it in a select committee. We can do it only in this forum. If we want to earn our pay, our job here is to ask the questions and to test the validity of the legislation. That might be a bit beyond that genius over there, as she squawks away and has a go at us for doing our job.
Hon Trevor Mallard: She’s one of their brighter members!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I make no comment on that. I ask the Minister—
Hon Trevor Mallard: She’s one of their more intelligent members!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: My colleague says that she is one of National’s brighter members—well, God help us!
I asked the Minister a serious question: if there has to be food, water—and obviously there does—and sanitation, and prisoners will be shipped out, how far will it be? Will it be 50 kilometres, or 100 kilometres to the nearest prison? I suspect it could be. The Minister’s department will require extra salaried staff, extra transportation, and there will be a cost in the downtime of moving people in and out of the courts, day and night. They will have to do that; the courts operate during the day, so prisoners will have to be shipped out during the day, as the Minister said.
This is my question. Nowhere in the Minister’s statement did she address the issue of cost. I assume that the extra costs for staff, security, sanitation, and transportation will be addressed out of the baseline, because there is no new Budget allocation. Of course, the Department of Corrections is before the court at the moment over the whole double-bunking issue. We know from the chief executive, Barry Matthews, that there are military, logistical plans in place if there is a strike and a lockout—he has told us that. These costs are up in the air. I would like the Minister to tell us whether she will give us a guarantee about “one person, one cell” as the issue of the safety of the prison officers then arises.
Will the Minister also address another issue that I think one of my colleagues raised? If something goes wrong, who will be accountable? We know that the Minister of Corrections is very fond of taking credit for anything that is good news, but when something goes wrong it is an operational matter—“go and see those people in the department.” This bill has not had any consultation; Ms Goudie does not like consultation. There has not been any time to look through it and pick apart the logistics. The bill has just five clauses, but it is the implementation that is more important. What will occur in the circumstances I have mentioned? Will this Minister guarantee that her colleague Judith Collins will stand up and be accountable?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I take a short call to raise three matters. Before I do so I refer to something my colleague Sue Kedgley said. She is absolutely right that there are many drivers of crime. Government members have made the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill a crime issue as well, so it would be useful if Government members could address this when they are looking at the drivers of crime. Ms Kedgley is right that the notion of television violence ought to be looked at again, because a precautionary risk management approach was recommended some time ago. It ought to be put alongside a host of other factors that result in the rise in crime and criminality. I hope Government members will do that, but I rather suspect they will not, because it is far sexier to take one driver as if it will answer everything. It will not, but that might be what members of the public want to hear in the “get tough on crime” rhetoric that we often hear from Government members.
Clause 4 of the bill seeks an exemption from the Resource Management Act; the regulatory impact statement says that this prevents residents and others affected from challenging overnight accommodation of prisoners in court cells. That is pretty clear. I am not familiar with all of the cells that are associated with our courts around the country, but perhaps the Minister in the chair, the Hon Georgina Te Heuheu, could clarify for us whether this provision applies to all of them or whether some are in such a position that they would be precluded from being accessed through this particular provision. If so, how does the Minister intend to go about regulating for that or making it clear? That might assist those who are losing their rights to take the matter further through the Resource Management Act, and it might satisfy them that their concerns
will be addressed if there are good reasons why particular courts with cells in them should not be used for this purpose. I would like to hear the Minister talk a little about that so that those listening can be satisfied.
There is also a reference in the regulatory impact statement to an agreement between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections. I would like to hear a little more about what is to be in that agreement. It simply says that there will be an agreement, but what kinds of things will be in that agreement? Other members of the Opposition have identified some elements, but there are others as well. What has been the experience of using this facility in the last few years and how will that impact on this particular agreement? What risks are there, and how will those risks be managed?
People have also raised the question of guards and how their needs are to be met. We would like to hear a little more about that agreement between the ministry and the department—
Sandra Goudie: I think we’ve heard enough.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I say to Ms Goudie that we have heard nothing about those agreements. Perhaps Ms Goudie has been sleeping. I know she is bored by this discussion, but if she had been following the discussion she also would have raised this question. Perhaps she will raise it in her caucus; perhaps she ought to. Certainly we are not bored by this; it affects people and it affects many in the communities in which we live.
The third point I raise is reasonably serious. The regulatory impact statement states: “it is considered that the option of using court cells for over-flow prisoners needs to be available on an ongoing basis,”. In much of what members opposite have talked about they said that this provision was a temporary thing. But the regulatory impact statement states that it is an ongoing provision; there is nothing short-term about it. We would like it to be clarified whether it will be used for ever or whether it will be used for the short term. We would like the Minister in the chair to address that. Thank you.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Associate Minister of Corrections)
: I would like to take a short call on the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. We agree with most of the speakers—there are a lot of dangers in this legislation. Although we will support it, we think there are a lot of things that have to be taken care of before it proceeds. I am not worried about the food, I am not worried about the latrines, and I am not worried about the showers. I think those issues can be dealt with. But I am worried about safety. Safety is a major issue. There have been several break-outs from court cells—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I think we had better check. I think Sir Roger is asleep, but I just want to make sure it is not something more serious.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I say to the member that that is not a point of order, and the member should reflect upon that and what it does for the Committee.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I would like to carry on after being interrupted by the observant member Trevor Mallard. As I said, those safety issues need to be taken care of. There have been several break-outs from court cells. One was through a window and another was through the ceiling. In fact, I think one of my nephews got away from the Waipukurau prison in that way. I think it is important that 18-year-olds continue to be kept separate from older prisoners, even when in a holding period and not in a semi-permanent period.
This measure has to be temporary; it cannot be any longer than that. Given that those things are taken care of, the Māori Party will support this bill but only as a temporary measure. The reality is that by June next year more cells will be needed to incarcerate
the many people who are in there now. We are in this situation because prison numbers swelled under the previous Labour Government. Numbers went from about 5,000 in 1996 to 8,400 now. So I am not saying that Labour is at fault for all of that increase, but, quite clearly, that is what happened over that period.
We need to do something about it, and to me the solution is the work that we do in our society. We have to create stable families. We have to put our effort into the community. It is through education and well families that people will turn away from a life of crime. I think we all have to work on that across parties, as well.
I will humour the member Mita Ririnui as to why I supported the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill last night. I gave two speeches—[Interruption] I guess he must have been asleep at that time, but never mind. I supported the bill for a number of reasons. One of them is that a lot of groups want to go into partnership with iwi and have a joint venture, if you like. Now, the number of Māori in the population has not dropped as a percentage, but Māori make up more than 50 percent of the people in jail. What is there now has not worked, so we should try something different, and that measure is an option.
In terms of recidivism, we have some buildings in the pipeline called Whare Oranga Ake, which is basically a rehabilitation institution. It is still a prison; it caters for the last part of an inmate’s lag. Prisoners will put into a programme of therapeutic analysis so they can analyse their own situation. They will be reconnected with the community and with family. They will be trained in an occupation, and so on. They will live in self-care units for four persons. But they will have to earn their way to get into these units.
The good thing about this whare is that if we have a whare for 32 or 36 people, then the majority of the people will not reoffend. So we are actually creating 32 more beds each time there is a roll-over, whereas right now in prisons we are just refilling the beds, sending the inmates out, and then getting them back in again. To me the first emphasis has to be on the rehabilitation of those inmates in jail now and on attacking the recidivism rate. The second emphasis is to look at alternatives to deal with the prisoners in jail now. Over the years the job of prisons has been to just incarcerate, not to rehabilitate at all. Despite brilliant attempts by a lot of people to do a lot of things, the reality is that the prison system as it is now is a “good guy, bad guy” place where they learn a lot of stuff that is not helpful when they get out.
It is very important to me that we break the cycle of recidivism, but it is also important that we do more than just incarcerate people and then send them out. If prisoners cannot make it when they get out and if the support is not there, they re-associate with the former inmates they have known, and sooner or later it is easier for them to go back to jail. A lot of recidivism is deliberate. They find it difficult to make it out there so they commit a crime, knowing that they will ultimately be caught, and they go back into prison. I have been there when prisoners have been readmitted. I have seen them walking down the corridor.
I remember going to the annex, which is where inmates go for the last part of their sentence before they leave Pāremoremo prison. I remember some guys who were going to go flatting. They were going to do this and that—they were full of ideas and hope. I visited them a month later and there were no light bulbs in the flat, there was no money, and there was no food. They were down in their boots, and they had no jobs. Two months later they were back inside.
I have seen people go back inside, walk down the corridor and say: “Hi, Jim, hi Joe. Still got my guitar? Put me on the list for Christmas.”, and this and that. They are back home again. That is what we are dealing with and that is what we have to break. That is the reason that I supported the legislation last night. Let us try something different, something innovative. Kia ora tātou.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I thank the Minister of Māori Affairs, who is also the Associate Minister of Corrections, for his contribution to the Committee stage of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill, although I am flabbergasted at some of his comments. He stands up in the Chamber and says that questions about this bill need to be asked and answered. But he is the Associate Minister of Corrections, so he should have all the answers. He should come here and provide the answers. There should be no issues with this bill. The problem is that, as usual, the Minister is not in the loop.
Sandra Goudie: Well, the Opposition is thwarting it.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I am not surprised that the chair of the Law and Order Committee does not want this bill to go to the select committee. She does not want to hear about the problems that it will create. She wants it to pass through the House uninhibited, without any problem whatsoever. Well, life should not be like that. Any bill that passes through this Parliament without proper and full scrutiny will be flawed.
I take it from the contribution of the Associate Minister of Corrections that the major flaw in this bill is that he did not know anything about it. He may have stood up in the Chamber last night and made some grand statements about Māori owning the corrections facilities, but he has made that statement on a purely commercial platform. He also has this ideology that if we change the nature and the way that prisons are managed, then Māori will not reoffend. Well, life is not like that. We have to deal with the social circumstances that affect these people if we are to reduce recidivism. The Associate Minister of Corrections may have made two speeches in the Chamber last night, but I did not hear them. He thought I was asleep in the Chamber, but actually I was in his electorate listening to the concerns about his performance in the Chamber on the emissions trading legislation, on the two corrections bills, and on a whole lot of other issues that he has failed to deal with. However, he is learning the realities of politics on the front line.
I turn now to the Minister in the chair, the Hon Georgina Te Heuheu. Some very practical issues are involved with this proposal. The Minister raised the first one, and I thank her for responding to the queries raised by the Green member and by my colleague Carmel Sepuloni about the safety issues and logistic issues with the bill. I take it that the Minister probably has not been into a courtroom holding cell, because if she had she would have a better understanding of the way they are constructed. They are far different from prison cells. They are far different from police cells. They are not staffed by trained security people or police officers; they are staffed by court staff. They are staffed by people who are administrators of court procedures and the like. These people are not trained to deal with inmates who are held on remand, awaiting sentence by the courts.
The problem is that the Minister and the Government have not given this proposal a lot of thought. One thing the Minister is very good at is exalting your good work, Mr Chairperson, as the previous Minister for Courts. The Minister certainly seems to know everything about that. I endorse everything she said, and I say well done for that period of time.
I wonder whether the Minister, apart from answering the questions raised by my colleague Rajen Prasad—and there were only three so she should not have any trouble doing that—can take a call on this scenario. She said that inmates will be taken to the nearest prison for showers and other facilities. I suppose she would dial a pizza, and the inmates would be fed. Take, for example, the district courts at Whakatāne and Tauranga, which have holding cells. The nearest prison is something like 3½ hours’ drive away, right next to her electorate office in Taupō and further south in Tūrangi. It seems to be a huge drain on resources to get a security vehicle, staffed by two members,
to take prisoners 3½ hours down the road for a shower and then bring them back—and I suppose they will want to go to the toilet while they are there. They might even want to be fed on the way there and on the way back. I know that the Minister’s portfolio is not resourced to handle those sorts of contingencies, because the Minister of Finance is cutting back.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I would like to make a number of points about the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. The first is that we have been told by the Associate Minister of Corrections—and I thank him for responding to some of those questions—that we should not worry, because prisoners will be held in court cells for only 4 days at a time. I thought that that was interesting, so I looked through the bill, and I found nothing in it that says they are to be used for only 4 days at a time. There is nothing about that in this bill. There is no regulation and no legislation to require that prisoners will be held for 4 days only in court cells. Let us be absolutely clear about that. The regulatory impact statement says that Cabinet has agreed that prisoners will be there for 4 days only. But what will happen if it has another meeting and agrees to extend that time? Cabinet can extend it without regulation, without legislation, without even having to go through the charade of ramming another bill through Parliament under urgency, and without allowing any submissions to be made. It can just quietly agree to extend the time period way beyond 4 days. Let people be absolutely clear that nothing in this bill states that this measure is for 4 days only.
The second point, which my colleague pointed out very well, is that the Government has said that this measure is just temporary. We are told we should not worry, because it is just temporary. But the regulatory impact statement says this option needs to be available on an ongoing basis, so let us at least have a little honesty in this debate. This measure is a permanent one that will be used to convert courts into prisons. It is permanent—it will be used on an ongoing basis. The spin says it is temporary; the spin is that the time period will be 4 days only. But nothing in the bill limits the practice to 4 days, and the issue of prison overcrowding will be ongoing.
One cannot help but wonder what the Government will do next. Once it has converted court cells into prisons, where will it go next? Will prisoners come to Parliament? There are some spare select committee rooms here. Perhaps we could convert those into cells. At least we have some facilities here; at least prisoners could have showers here. At least they would not have to travel for 3 hours to have a shower, as we have been told would be the case with many of the court cells, and at least they could get their food from Bellamy’s. I think that would be a much more cost-effective option than the use of court cells. Furthermore, we have security here, so we could even double up on security. So my suggestion is that we start by looking at using Parliament before we look at using court cells.
One of the things that astonished me is that the Associate Minister himself—in fact, both the Ministers who have spoken—acknowledged that there are huge issues here. There are huge unanswered questions. Nobody knows—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Someone talked to the Associate Minister.
SUE KEDGLEY: Yes, the Associate Minister says he does not know the answers to these questions. We have been told that prisoners will travel to the nearest prison to have their shower, but, as some of my colleagues said, that could mean travelling for 3 hours. There is a world of difference between a prisoner going to a court cell for a few hours and a prisoner being kept in a court cell for 4 days and 4 nights. My prediction is that it will be for 4 months—it will be ongoing. Nothing in the bill restricts the length of stay to 4 days.
We have all those unanswered questions. The Associate Minister himself says there are serious security issues here. The court cells are not built as prison cells, so there are
huge security issues. The court cells are staffed by court staff. Will we suddenly have prison guards coming in from Rimutaka Prison and so on to patrol and to look after prisoners who are holed up in the court cells? We do not have answers to any of these questions. This is astonishing. A bill is being rammed through Parliament in the dead of night—actually, during the day, I must admit—and the Government has allowed not one New Zealander to be consulted on it.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: I want to pick up on something that Mita Ririnui said. It is a serious issue and it raises questions about management inside the Government and inside Cabinet. Dr Sharples got to his feet, said that he was supporting the bill, and that the Māori Party was supporting it—we are not quite sure whether that includes Hone, but I put that aside.
Hon Member: He’s in limbo.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: That is right. Here is the serious issue: Dr Sharples is the Associate Minister of Corrections. He got to his feet, and I concede that he raised some very legitimate questions. He asked for answers. I have a question, through the Chair, to that Minister. He shares an office somewhere down the corridor from the Minister of Corrections. He shares a portfolio called “corrections” with the Minister of Corrections, and, as Sue Kedgley and others pointed out, that Minister, who is a member of the executive, has raised serious questions about a bill that comes under his portfolio. He does not know the answers.
That raises a serious issue. It could mean a number of things. It could mean that he has not read his briefing papers—and we know, from the financial review, that the Minister of Corrections received in the order of, I think, a couple of hundred briefing papers. The Associate Minister of Corrections received 17 in a year. So either he does not read his briefing papers, or—and I suspect that this is closer to the truth—the Minister of Corrections does not communicate with her associate. I would have thought that the Associate Minister would, when he was in the Chamber, be the Minister in the chair, not Georgina te Heuheu, the Minister for Courts. This issue is not within her portfolio brief. I would have thought that the Minister of Corrections would be in the chair, because she knows this bill—all five clauses, one A3 piece of paper, and 3½ pages of the regulatory impact statement on a website—backwards, and she would have been able to rattle off in a microsecond the answers to the legitimate questions around security, transportation, sanitation, and budgetary costs.
Here is the point: the Associate Minister gets up and makes history by questioning his own bill. He worries about the consequences of the actions in terms of implementation in a bill that is under his partial control as the Associate Minister of Corrections. I ask to members opposite what show they are running in a Government, an executive. What is the management around this issue? The bill has been brought in with 8 parliamentary days to go, and the Associate Minister of Corrections has questions. I used to be the Associate Minister of Justice. When the Minister of Justice was not here I often took the chair in the Committee stage of bills. I was expected to be able to answer questions about justice bills. Why? Because the Minister of Justice and I talked to each other, we read our briefing papers, and we took an interest in bills as we had shared responsibility for them.
But today we have made history. The Associate Minister of Corrections gets up, laments, worries, and raises legitimate questions about a bill that he is partially responsible for as the Associate Minister, and he cannot or will not answer those questions himself, because either he was not briefed or he was not treated in a mana-enhancing way. I mean that in all seriousness.
So there is a management issue within this Government. Surely Dr Sharples could take a call and answer his own questions. And I do mean it; I say that to “The Maestro”, Dr Coleman, over there. He has an Associate Minister of Immigration. I wonder whether they talk to each other. I wonder, if there were an immigration bill, whether Kate Wilkinson could take the chair, or whether she would have another folic-acid moment. There is a serious management issue within the executive of this Government. I am astounded that an Associate Minister could not get to his feet and say that he would put up his hand and answer those questions, rather than raising questions himself and saying that those issues have to be satisfied and dealt with.
I ask him where he was when the bill went through Cabinet. Where was he when the bill was drafted? Why did he not raise those issues with his own Minister? Or, if he did, why did she not listen to him? She cannot have listened to him, because he has raised those same issues on the floor of Parliament. He is looking quite legitimately for some parliamentary support, which he has not received from his own Government.
CHRIS TREMAIN (Senior Whip—National)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I have to take a call, because my colleague Mita Ririnui did not get to finish the scenario he was putting to the Minister of Corrections. I really need to finish explaining that scenario, because it is a scenario that could happen, and the Minister needs to take it seriously. The Government has not had enough time to consider these types of scenarios, because it has not put the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill through the appropriate select committee process.
I shall carry on from where my colleague Mita Ririnui was when he finished. The issue relates to courts and their distance from prisons. He talked about courts like those of Whakātane, Tauranga, and Ōpōtiki, which do not have a prison in the near vicinity, and which are quite a distance away from the nearest prison. In fact, to get from the Whakatāne court to the Tūrangi prison, which is the closest prison, takes about 3 hours.
Hon Mita Ririnui: Plus.
CARMEL SEPULONI: It takes 3½ hours. I have an issue in regard to what the Minister said earlier in terms of sanitation and the health of the prisoners. She said that the prisoners will be driven to the nearest prison so that they can shower. We thought about that, and we thought that it would be difficult for the security officers driving the vans to provide the prisoners with food and everything else. Perhaps along the way, on their 3½ hours’ drive in the security van, during which they are listening to Bob Marley and singing, they will drive through Kentucky Fried Chicken and get a feed, and on the way back they will drive through it again so that they can pick up a party pack for the prisoners’ mates back in the court cells in Whakatāne. So on their way there they will get a feed, and then they will get to the prison, where they will have a shower. The security officers will then turn round and drive for another 3½ hours to get those prisoners back to the court cells where they are being held. What if one of the prisoners all of a sudden thinks it would be really funny to soil himself, so that he would have to be driven for another 3½ hours all the way back to Tūrangi to be cleaned up? The security officers would not want to leave him like that; they would not want the other prisoners to feel any discomfort because one of their mates has just soiled himself. I do not know whether the Minister has actually thought that one through, and thought about that sort of scenario. It is the kind of very real scenario that she might be faced with after the Government has brought this legislation through the House.
As I said earlier—and as all the Labour members have said—Labour will support this bill. We are supporting this bill because the National Government is in crisis over this situation. It is in crisis over it. It knows that its prisons will not have the capability to deal with the numbers of prisoners it is expecting due to the rise in crime that is
already happening, and the expected further rise in crime. So Labour has to support this bill. We in Labour know that the Government needs somewhere to put those prisoners, and the only option for it is the court cells. This issue has come up before. It is not a new thing; it is something that has happened before. But the National Government is taking it to the extreme in legislating for it, and it is doing that because it is in crisis. Its prisons will not be able to deal with the sheer number of prisoners coming through because of the amount of crime being committed.
My colleague from the Green Party Sue Kedgley brought up a very, very good point earlier on in relation to the regulatory impact statement, which points out that prisoners can be held in court cells for no longer than 4 days—I think it is 96 hours. That is the longest time they can be held there. She pointed out that although that provision is mentioned in the regulatory impact statement, it is not in the bill itself. Therefore, if that aspect of this bill is not fixed up, the Government will be able to house prisoners in court cells for as long as it wishes—for as long as the need is there, for as long as the prisons are in crisis, and for as long as crime is on the rise. More crimes are being committed, and the Government cannot cope with the numbers of prisoners. The Government now can keep prisoners in court cells. That is a real issue, especially given the fact that the public have not had a chance to make submissions on this bill. The public are at risk—that was pointed out in the regulatory impact statement—in regard to court cells holding prisoners, given the proximity of court cells and courts to people living nearby. That has not been addressed, and we need to address it. The public would have a concern about it. So I thank the Green member for pointing out that issue.
She also pointed out that there is perhaps a secret agenda of the National Government to convert the courts into prisons.
CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That clauses 1 to 5 be agreed to.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 9.
|Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
- Bill reported without amendment.
- Report adopted.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Acting Minister of Corrections): I move,
That the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. This bill makes one amendment to the Corrections Act and a consequential amendment to the Resource Management Act. This bill will provide the Government with increased flexibility in its response to the growing prison population. This bill is part of a range of measures, both short term and long term, that the Government is introducing to help manage the growth of the prison population. Passing the bill before the House rises on 22 December will mean that the changes in this bill can be put in place in time to be used in the new year if necessary. I commend the bill to the House.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: This started off as a pretty mundane sort of debate, with Labour supporting the Corrections (Use of Court
Cells) Amendment Bill because there needs to be some flexibility in the use of court cells. But as the debate moved forward, a number of legitimate questions were raised about how this five-clause bill would be implemented. The Green members raised questions, my colleagues in Labour raised questions, and the Māori Party’s Associate Minister of Corrections himself, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, raised questions on his own bill. We will get to that in a minute.
The Minister of Corrections did not take a call in the Committee stage, never sat in the chair, never answered any questions, and now has not taken a call in the third reading. The Associate Minister of Corrections was, presumably, not allowed to sit in the chair to have questions put to him. Rather, he bizarrely raised questions on his own bill. Nor was he, presumably, allowed to read at least his third reading speech as Associate Minister of Corrections. One has to ask why.
As I said in the Committee stage, a number of possibilities present themselves. Dr Sharples says that he and the Māori Party support the bill—presumably Mr Harawira does, wherever he is. We think so, but we do not know. But the most bizarre thing to come out of this debate is something I have not seen in my 10 years in this place, and that was an Associate Minister raising questions on, and expressing dissatisfaction or concerns about, a bill before the House. The question is: why? Either he did not raise those concerns with his Minister or his Cabinet colleagues, or he did raise them and they were completely dismissed, or he did not have his eye on the ball, or he was not shown the respect that an Associate Minister should be shown by his Cabinet colleagues and by the Minister herself. One or a multitude of those possibilities have to be true, because otherwise why would an Associate Minister of Corrections come down to the Chamber and lament, and raise concerns and risks about the implementation of a bill that he is partly responsible for? What is the answer to that? I hope we might have a call from him. Sandra Goudie is over there giving him the benefit of her vast experience and knowledge on those matters, feeding him lines. I think Dr Sharples is not a bad bloke, so I advise him not to take any advice from Sandra Goudie, at all.
Legitimate questions have been raised about this bill. There will be extraordinarily large costs dealing with the logistics of transportation, food, security for staff, and security for the community, especially in relation to transportation. As Mita Ririnui, a former Associate Minister of Corrections, pointed out, it is a 3-hour drive from Whakatāne to the nearest prison. None of those issues have been addressed, and I thought they would be addressed. This bill, in its essence, takes away the right of a community to object. We support that because we have to house these prisoners somewhere, but I would have thought that the Government, or the Associate Minister especially, would use its time in the House to at least address the basic logistical issues of implementation that we and others have raised, to give those communities a level of comfort, especially around the issue of security.
So I just express quite a bit of amazement that the Associate Minister of Corrections has presumably been treated so shabbily by his Minister and his Cabinet colleagues. I cannot see how that sort of treatment being meted out could be considered mana-enhancing according to National and the Māori Party’s coalition relationship. Maybe things are starting to fall apart on the back of the emissions trading scheme, Hone’s comments, and other things. I would have thought that the Associate Minister would at least phone Judith Collins—maybe he has. Maybe between the Committee stage and the third reading he has phoned Judith Collins and said that he has some concerns about this; maybe he asked her to at least listen to those concerns before they tick off the bill. Obviously that has not happened. That says a large amount, and it tells us and the community a lot about the management style and culture inside this Government.
This is a five-clause bill on a piece of A3 paper, bolstered hugely on a website by a regulatory impact statement that was not even included with the bill, because the bill was so rushed. As the Green member and others have pointed out—and I am sure communities will be interested in this—the so-called maximum period of time that we can house a prisoner in a court cell, according to a regulatory impact statement that is on a website but not printed with the legislation, is 96 hours. So the question then is: is it by regulation or Government fiat that those hours and those days can be increased? Maybe the Associate Minister of Corrections might be involved in these future discussions, but I would not bank on it.
I am told by reliable sources whom I trust and who work in the Department of Corrections that, as we speak, some 800 beds are available and free to house prisoners in. I believe those sources because they are in the front line. I will not name them, for obvious reasons: Judith Collins may administer the political version of the crusher. But if that is the case, the question is: why is this bill being rushed through? Why has it taken until there are 8 parliamentary days to go in the year for the Minister to ante up, throw a bill on the Table, and say that we need to do this? It could have had correct parliamentary scrutiny through a select committee.
Carmel Sepuloni: They must need it before Christmas.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, that is interesting. That is the contradiction. Is it required before Christmas? We do not have the prison forecast on this side of the House. If 800 prison beds are indeed—and I believe my sources—available today, then why is the bill being rushed through? Why could it not have been given the parliamentary scrutiny of a select committee? It is a five-clause bill. Ms Goudie reared up and said we were being repetitive. Well, we are. We are raising legitimate concerns that are not rocket science. How will we feed people? How will we make sure prison officers are secure? How will we make sure the community is secure? How long will these folk be incarcerated in a court cell? Where will the money come from to transport them the 3 hours my colleague Mita Ririnui talked about between the Whakatane District Court and the closest prison? Where will the staff come from to do this? What will be cut out of the baseline?
I must give Georgina te Heuheu credit. Even though corrections is not her portfolio—it is Pita Sharples’ portfolio—she attempted to actually answer some of those questions. Given that it is not her portfolio, I extend some goodwill because she made as decent a fist of it as she could. She was not aided or abetted by the Minister of Corrections, and she was not aided or abetted by the Associate Minister, who sat through the whole debate.
This bill is flying through the House, and it will go through with our support, for practical reasons of security, but none of the issues raised by members across this House have been addressed. They are not political issues; they ask how we will transport people, how they will be secured, how prison officers will be looked after, and what logistical arrangements will be put in place for prison officers. They are not political issues; they are practical issues of implementation. None of those issues has really been addressed.
I will talk for a moment, in conclusion, about the nature of this debate. In the earlier speeches in the first reading debate, members got up and said a couple of things. They said it was a disgrace that we have so many people in prison. They were the same members, from the same political party—the National Party—who trumpeted the fact before the election that the then Labour Government was not locking enough people up, and that the Government had done nothing, when it had built four prisons. They were the same people who went to the country at the last election with a party manifesto that said that if they implemented every law and order policy they had, they anticipated a
doubling of the prison population. Then they say that they did not know about this problem. Judith Collins says she did not know about this, even though she was planning, pre-election, for a doubling of the prison population, and even though the day she took up the warrant, the limousine, the salary, and the flat, she got a briefing to incoming Minister giving her the prison forecast, which everybody knew anyway. Most journalists knew—for the last few years, anyway—because the forecasts were made public. But she says she did not know.
Those members try to say, of course, that the Labour Government did nothing to incarcerate prisoners. Well, I invite them to go into the four prisons we built. We did not drop containers from the sky or off the boat; we built four prisons. We selectively double-bunked where we needed to, with the agreement of staff and with resources provided; we did not just cobble together a deal and bully some staff, then end up with staff taking us to court and the department being at war with itself. We did not then rush down to the House with 8 parliamentary days left this year because we did not have a plan, and then try to rush through a five-clause bill. We did have a plan. So I say to the Minister and to the National Party that it would be helpful if they answered some questions.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: I rise in support of the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill and I state that upfront because it would have been fairly difficult for people listening to this debate to know which bill the Opposition is debating. I will run through the list of questions that the Opposition has asked repeatedly over the last few hours: why are we doing it now, where are those prisoners going to be fed, how will they be showered, will they be safe, and is this the most suitable use of legislation to cover that issue? All of those questions have been canvassed in the last few hours.
I say to members on the other side of the House that I have a few questions of my own. Why is this necessary now? After 9 years of the previous Labour Government and all of the forecasts it was presented with, and all the warnings the Opposition gave it as early as 2005, it did not build sufficient accommodation. Those Labour members talk about how they built four prisons. We know about the cost of overruns of those four prisons. We know what a shambles that was. We have not heard why it closed prisons like Ōhura Prison. The Opposition corrections spokesperson—
Hon Trevor Mallard: We closed it down because there was sewerage going right through the town and it was going to cost $12 million to fix it!
SHANE ARDERN: Well, there we go. Finally someone from the Opposition knows why it closed it down. It was going to cost $12 million to fix it. How much did it cost to build the new prisons, which did not meet the standards? That member should take a call.
In his excitement to speak in Opposition for something Labour is voting for—and another question is why it is voting for the bill—Clayton Cosgrove said that he wished there was another election coming. Well, so do we, but I cannot understand it. There is something wrong with the psyche of someone who loves to be thrashed by the amount he would be if there was another election tomorrow.
I say to members over there that there are a few questions they need to answer. Another question—and the Hon Trevor Mallard will no doubt have a crack at answering this—is why are we in this situation where there is a crisis in the accommodation for prisoners after 9 years of the previous Labour Government?
Dr Rajen Prasad: You’re in Government now. What’s your plan?
SHANE ARDERN: I tell that member to go and look at what the plans are going forward. Dr Prasad made a very interesting point when he talked about the good work that he has done in terms of trying to put the ambulance at the top of the cliff, of
identifying problems with families and looking at doing something about that. I acknowledge him for the work he did. But Dr Prasad did not say how this Government has picked up on that work and is putting more resources into it than the party he now represents did for 9 long years. His party picked up work, looked at it, and said: “It is not broken. We’re not going to fix it—we’ll support it.” I say to Dr Prasad that when he stands in the House and starts accusing us of inaction, he should know that when we were in Opposition and we did not support something, we voted against it.
For this whole debate we have heard that Labour is supporting the bill, but its members speak against it. If that is not speaking with a split tongue, then I do not know what is. I think that is probably enough from me. The points have been made. Our whip is giving me the nod, so it is presumably time for me to sit down. Thank you. We support the bill.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I have been stimulated by the member opposite, Shane Ardern, to make a speech, which I was not going to do. The Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill is about the use of court cells. The vast majority of that speech was about prisons, why they are open and why they are not open. I have never heard of a local member so ignorant about the reason for a prison closure in his own electorate. There were complaints from his electorate. There was complaint after complaint about the Ōhura Prison and the effect it was having on the local sewerage system, which was not working. Stuff flowed down the streets whenever the water levels of the Ōhura River came up. Complaints were made to the local member. The previous Labour Government had the choice of putting in a $12 million sewerage scheme, an extra scheme that was unnecessary, or picking up the prison and taking it to Rangipō.
I think I know why that member is complaining. We know that Ōhura Prison was known as the gentlemen’s prison. It was the prison that was out in the country. There was no perimeter fence. It was a holiday camp. It was not locked at night. I think the reason the member did not want it to shift to Rangipō was that it was just too far for him to visit his mates. It was too far for him to go and visit his gentleman mates who had been held in the gentlemen’s prison at Ōhura. It was a very low security prison. What has happened? The logical thing has happened. The buildings have been picked up and shifted across to Rangipō. That means that fewer court cells have to be used.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I am delighted to speak in the third reading debate on the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. It is a very sensible bill, and, of course, one that is supported by Opposition members. One would not think so, though, from all their rhetoric. To give members a little bit of background, 10 blocks of court cells—that is 111 cells—are currently gazetted as being part of Department of Corrections prisons. However, using the cells to house overflow prisoners is subject to section 9 of the Resource Management Act, which includes a requirement to comply with the rules of district plans. How many people would have any idea that the rules of district plans had some jurisdiction in regard to cells? I think this bill is a very sensible move to remedy that anomaly in the legislation. I commend the Minister of Corrections for bringing it before the House. I am delighted that it is done and dusted and will be enacted in due course.
DAVID CLENDON (Green)
: The Greens will continue to oppose the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill. The principle that underpins it seems to be one of passively accepting that the number of people in our prisons will continue to increase. This is deemed to be inevitable, apparently. The prison forecasts suggest that current capacity will be exhausted from June 2010, presumably even with the imposition of the very dangerous and undesirable practice of double-bunking, which has been flagged for some of our prisons. The corrections officers at the sharp end of this debate are resisting
this option, as well they might, given that they will suffer the inevitable negative consequences in terms of the safety and security of both staff and inmates. Given the date of June 2010 as the crisis point, it is surprising and, I have to say, disappointing that our Labour colleagues—who have made some very strong, well-informed, and powerful statements opposing this bill—nevertheless choose to support it. There is still time for a proper process to engage decently and properly with this issue. We have, according to these documents, until June of next year to have a proper process around this matter.
The regulatory impact statement accompanying the bill notes that the option of using court cells to accommodate overflow prisoners has been used during periods of acute accommodation shortage. The word “acute” suggests something unexpected and short term. Here we have, in fact, a long-term and chronic problem that demands a long-term vision, a long-term strategy, and some decent investment in real solutions. The bill is a classic band-aid solution—or an attempt at a solution—and it does not even pretend to address the long-term chronic issues and problems that demand urgent attention.
Court cells are designed to properly house people in custody while they are appearing in court. They are designed for short stays, and as such they have never been designed or constructed to provide the level of basic facility, or to meet the minimum requirements of longer stay prisoners. My colleague Sue Kedgley, who has been supported in a number of the Labour speeches, has identified the very basic issues. How will prisoners’ meals be delivered and prepared? What toilet and bathroom facilities will be available to them? What facilities will there be to provide for family visits or other support? Where will prisoners exercise their right to physical exercise? How will prison staff be provided with adequate facilities as prescribed by their employment conditions? How will rehabilitation programmes—which are invariably highly sensitive to interruption and depend on a carefully staged, managed, and sustained engagement—be sustained or maintained?
We are asked to simply accept that administrative safeguards will be put in place to ensure that this wholly inappropriate treatment of prisoners will occur only if it is strictly necessary, and that prisoners will continue to receive their statutory entitlements. This test of strict necessity is an interesting one, and I wonder what criteria, what indicators, and what standards will be established against which this very vague and amorphous notion of strict necessity will be measured. The statutory entitlements of prisoners that are referred to in section 69 of the Corrections Act include entitlement to physical exercise, to a bed and bedding, to food and drink, to access to private visitors, to access to statutory visitors, to access to legal advisers, to receive medical treatment, to send and receive mail, and to be able to make outgoing phone calls. How will any of these statutory minimums be met in the context of a court cell?
We are assured, but by no means reassured, that the normal functioning of the courts will not be compromised. An interesting experiment could demonstrate the veracity of that assumption. Perhaps we could require the courts and the police at one or two of our larger courts to function for a few days at a time without access to the court cells—let us just assume for the moment that those cells are full of long-term prisoners—and see what effect this has on the proper functioning of the court system, which already works under considerable pressure. That fairly simple experiment would quite readily, at no cost, reveal the shortcomings of the propositions of this bill.
Some reference has been made to the likelihood of transgressing the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. We already have case law.
Taunoa v Attorney-General relates to a situation where it was deemed that the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act had been contravened when a person who had been held in custody did not have a cell with sufficient standards of hygiene, where bedding and clothing fell below standards established by prison regulations, where there was inadequate monitoring of inmate
mental health, and where exercise conditions were inadequate. All of these conditions are likely to apply in court cells. Clearly we now have legal precedent that there will be responses and implications from those conditions.
A rather sneaky mechanism in this bill that is being used to achieve its outcomes is an amendment to the Resource Management Act that overrides the authority of district plans. The Resource Management Act speaks of enabling people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being, and for their health and safety. The processes of preparing and enacting district plans demand a very high level of public engagement. An absolute requirement is placed on territorial local authorities to hear and respond to the public’s views, and incorporate their preferences into the plans. The plans themselves are very powerful and influential documents. They enable and constrain members of our communities in the use and development of natural and physical resource. It is critical to the ongoing success of the Resource Management Act regime that there is a high level of public confidence in the process of plan preparation and enactment. This very brief but pointed bill, being pushed through under considerable urgency, is a very shabby mechanism indeed that will almost certainly undermine people’s confidence in the integrity of the plan preparation and Resource Management Act processes more generally.
Over many years I have been involved in a number of issues and disputes around provisions and processes related to the Resource Management Act, and I know very well that in recognising its central and even unique ability to influence so much of our daily lives, members of the public become highly engaged—and, indeed, passionate—about the content and the application of the legislation. The initial surprise of any community that has worked long and hard to get provisions that meet their needs and ambitions in the plan will very quickly turn to cynicism with the whole process to the extent that Parliament passes a bill such as this that very neatly circumvents the work done to make district plans operational. The complete absence of any consultation on this bill, the lack of a select committee process—all of this signals to the public that this Government is willing and able to jam through legislation that will have negative social and, indeed, economic impacts, and that the Government will provide absolutely no avenue for members of the public who will be affected to participate in the decision making.
We do not actually need to surmise what the practice of putting prisoners into court cells will lead to. We have the benefit of overseas experience. There is a very interesting report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration in the UK, dated 20 August 2007, where inspectors from the inspectorate visited court cells that were being used in the context of significant prison overcrowding. The report “raises serious concerns about the use of such cells.”, which is exactly the practice that this bill is intended to facilitate. It highlights that “it is in the early days of custody that prisoners are most vulnerable:”, and that most self-inflicted deaths occur within the first days, yet none of the support systems to prevent these tragedies existed in court cells. There was a lack of any “proactive reception or healthcare screening”, “Prisoners were being held in bare cells over a weekend, with no activity, no natural light … and with no exercise facilities”, “Prisoners spent long periods travelling in cramped vans … often arriving late and having to leave early the next morning”, “Prisoners could not contact their families”—indeed, families of prisoners did not even know where their family member was—and “Shower facilities were inadequate and there was no opportunity for prisoners to change clothes, so they slept in what they were wearing.” The inspectorate highlights that this was no shortcoming of the prisons or the court staff.
This is an abysmal bill. It is a disgrace, and the Green Party opposes it in its entirety.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: The basic proposal in the Corrections (Use of Court Cells) Amendment Bill is that the Department of Corrections will have access to court cells in order to house overflow prisoners from the first half of 2010, when the court cells may be needed. Once the bill has passed today, the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections will fast track work specifying the cells that may be used for overflow prisoners, the circumstances in which the cells will be made available for this purpose, and how the cells will be operated. So, in many respects, we are already well down the road towards implementation while this debate proceeds. This is not unusual, of course. The Department of Corrections has been forecast to run out of baseline beds early next year, so there is an immediate issue around prisoner accommodation and public safety. We are in this situation because prisoner numbers swelled under the previous Labour Government, from about 5,000 in 1996 to 8,400 now.
Changes in New Zealand’s criminal justice policy in the past decade have been extraordinarily rapid and this rapid change is set to continue. But another facet of this increase in the prison muster is of note. From 1997 to 2007, although the number of those sentenced to prison increased by 37 percent, those remanded into custody increased by a staggering 214 percent. This bill is an attempt to do something about housing those prisoners and to do it quickly.
We know that this bill fits into the context of a range of other measures that are being taken to address prison population pressures, including approval for extended double-bunking at five prisons. However, there is some uncertainty about the ability to access the additional double-bunked capacity, which may mean there may be insufficient accommodation for prisoners from June 2010. It is estimated that a further 5,000 beds will be needed by 2018. One of the more controversial operations has been the proposal to establish a 60-bed container unit at Rimutaka Prison. This is the first such project of its kind in New Zealand, and the emphasis has been on the fact that it is cheaper and faster to construct than facilities for a new prison. We in the Māori Party are not convinced as to whether the recycled container solution is an effective solution to the overarching issue of prison numbers, but we will leave that and the double-bunking issue for another time.
Today’s debate is basically the option of last resort. The proposal is that once the regional capacity at police jails is exhausted, court cells will be used to accommodate overflow prisoners. Although there are currently 10 blocks of court cells, some 101 cells that have been gazetted as parts of prisons, the Resource Management Act prevents them from being used for the overnight accommodation of prisoners. The approval sought in this bill is to amend the Corrections Act so that the requirements of section 9 of the Resource Management Act do not apply to the detention of prisoners in court cellblocks. In effect, this means that where there is an acute shortage of prison accommodation, court cells can be used to accommodate overflow prisoners without undue delay or cost. The Māori Party is willing to give begrudging support to this bill, to basically ensure that there is short-gap inmate accommodation in place for prisons to access if there is no other facility available. The last thing we want in prisons is overcrowding, triple-bunking, or for our prisons to be under any more stress than is necessary.
But there is an important rider that we place on our support. The Associate Minister of Corrections, Dr Sharples, raised during the Committee stage the issue of safety and spoke of some break-outs from court cells in the past. He spoke from his wide experience of some 35 years of working in the prisons and courts, but he made it clear that the Māori Party is supporting this bill as a response to the crisis over prison cell shortages. We recall that more than half of the most serious prison escapes in the 2006
financial year were made from court cells. In that year, six of the 11 break-outs took place from courts throughout the country. In one of the more embarrassing cases, two remand prisoners escaped by breaking through the ceiling of their cell. In another case, an inmate was just 20 minutes into a 9-month prison sentence for burglary, when he escaped from a holding cell at Waipukurau District Court. Concern has been raised about prisoner deaths while in custody in court cells, given they are multiple occupancy. There are some real issues around public safety that may fall out of this new proposal, which I trust the Minister will give attention to.
Another key issue is the one around the emotional and physical safety of prisoners located in cells. The investigation of the circumstances surrounding the death of Liam John Ashley reported that Liam, a 17-year-old teenager, had been held in a court cell with adult prisoners for the whole of the day on which he received his fatal injuries. Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, a coalition of non-governmental organisations and individuals interested in children’s rights, drew on this situation to petition the Law and Order Committee about the Department of Corrections. I draw the attention of the House to that recommendation, namely that the department should ensure that when prisoners under 18 years of age are moved to court cells, either the department or the police ensure that they are kept separate from adult prisoners.
There is, however, a much bigger debate that needs to be held in this House, which forms the broader context for this bill on the use of court cells for prisoner accommodation. It is the urgent need to comprehensively review the criminal justice system, and particularly the high levels of incarceration—specifically of Māori.
Many of the speakers before me have referred to the fact that the Vote Corrections budget continues to escalate as a result of prison being the priority response to offending by both the previous and current Governments. The total appropriations for the Department of Corrections have increased by $368.731 million, or 33.54 percent, since last year. The total vote is now over $1.5 billion per year. This is a substantial increase, given the context of the world’s deepest recession in at least 60 years. We are aware that Treasury projections for Vote Corrections 2020 are a massive $2 billion per year.
There are fiscal reasons why we need to review the overpopulation of our prisons. But there is a far greater moral and ethical issue about the rising trends in prison populations. In 2007 the Ombudsman, Mel Smith, carried out an investigation into issues involving the criminal justice sector. His report suggested a royal commission of inquiry should be called to undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. The overrepresentation of Māori should be an area of significant focus of any commission of inquiry. One of the reasons why the Ombudsman made the suggestion for a commission of inquiry is that it will allow an opportunity to stop and reflect on why the punitive treadmill seems to grow and pick up speed. It is hoped to find constructive ways to slow it down.
The Māori Party believes that crime prevention needs to be looked at in a different way—holistically—to try to change contextual factors as well as the outcomes. A kaupapa Māori justice strategy will be a starting point for doing things differently—doing things from a Māori values base of restoring and transforming. The idea is to have a strategy that will address practical things that whānau, hapū, iwi, marae, communities, organisations, and institutions can do to get going with the doing of creating alternatives to police, courts, and the prison system. The Māori Party supports the good work that the Associate Minister of Corrections has been doing to this end. We will, as we said earlier, give begrudging support to this legislation to use court cells as an emergency stopgap measure until the more enduring solution is available.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour)
: I begin by pointing out some of the comments that Mr Ardern made earlier. I think that the noise from his tractor has impaired his hearing in some way, because he has not really been listening during the course of the debate. One thing he continues to say, and a number of National members continue to say, along with a few other members in the House, is with regard to Labour’s track record for law and order over the last 9 years. It is one of their catchcries. They like to say what Labour did in 9 long years. Well, what we did was reduce crime. They point out, however, that there was an increase in violent crime, mostly family crime—domestic violence. I point out that Labour members on this side of the House will not apologise for an increase in reporting family violence during the 9 years that Labour was in Government; we will not apologise for that. The fact that there was an increase in reporting family violence is due, as far as we are concerned, to the fact that we did as much as we could to help women in violent situations. The fact that there was a high level of reporting says a lot about what the previous Labour Government did, and we will not apologise for that.
I point out to Mr Ardern and his colleagues that since the National Government has been in office we have seen a real increase in crime. It has been a real increase, not just a perception that a few members of the House have decided to put out there. This increase has been recorded.
I say to Mr Garrett, who never yells in the House, that for his sake I will look at the
New Zealand Herald
and also at a press release put out by the university that gives information on the fact there has been an increase in crime since the National Government came into power. We all know there is a correlation between poverty, unemployment, and crime. This Government has done nothing to solve the problems around unemployment and poverty. In fact, all it has done is to implement policies that do nothing to help those who are the most vulnerable, and, therefore, we are seeing an increase in crime. The reason this Government is putting this bill through, as we have pointed out on a number of occasions throughout this debate, is that it is in crisis.
Mr Cosgrove pointed out something earlier that is a little bit concerning and would be concerning to the public. Why does National need to push this bill through before Christmas? We know there is something like 800 beds available in prisons at the moment. So why is there such a push to get this bill through—all of a sudden—before we hit Christmas? What is concerning to us is that the Government has access to forecasted numbers; we do not. So is it anticipating an even steeper increase in crime over the Christmas period? Is that the reason for getting this bill through, to cope with the sheer numbers of prisoners whom it will not have the capacity to hold in the actual prisons, and who will need to be held in court cells? If so, the Government needs to take responsibility for that. Crime rises in line with poverty and unemployment, and unfortunately it looks like we will possibly see an increase in crime during what should be our festive season.
An issue that has come up over and over again in this debate concerns the security guards who are in the court cells. It has been pointed out that they are not trained prison officers; they are security guards in the courts.
- Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Questions to Ministers
Emissions Trading Scheme—Emissions Compared with 2008 Scheme
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Minister for Climate Change Issues: Will the passing yesterday of the Climate Change Response
(Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill result in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions going up or down between now and 2050 compared to the original emissions trading scheme passed in 2008?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues)
: The longer we go out, the less certainty there is with the figures. However, I want to go quite specifically through the advice. In the period from 2008 to 2012 the recessionary measures taken to halve the price effect of the scheme on power and petrol increases will reduce the incentive to reduce emissions, so that results in slightly higher projected emissions for New Zealand in 2012. In the period 2012 to 2018 the changes will do more to reduce emissions. This is because there is a significantly lesser allocation to industry and a stronger price signal to reduce emissions. So for the first decade the overall changes in our moderated emissions trading scheme will actually result in lower New Zealand emissions than the existing scheme. Beyond 2018 the key difference between the schemes is in the phase-out rate and the production-based allocations. There is no doubt that beyond that period the amended scheme would result in higher emissions for New Zealand, because it would export emissions from those intensive industries offshore. So, although emissions in New Zealand might be less, all we would simply do is to produce those products elsewhere on the globe, and actually make the global problem worse.
Dr Russel Norman: Will he advise the Prime Minister to go to Copenhagen and explain to Barack Obama and all the other world leaders why New Zealand has just passed a law that, as the Minister has just told the House, will result in New Zealand increasing its emissions, or will he be too ashamed to front up to that meeting?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This scheme will, in the first 10 years, reduce emissions more than the existing scheme. But I would make three further points, in light of the comparison with the United States. Firstly, the target that we are taking to the Copenhagen negotiations is significantly stronger than that offered by the United States. [Interruption] It is a matter of fact. Secondly, I would also note that we now have a settled emissions trading scheme, which will be the first outside of Europe, to be put in place on 1 July next year. Thirdly, the one area of concern in going to Copenhagen is explaining why our emissions have gone up by 24 percent since 1990.
Craig Foss: What official advice has the Minister received on the comparison between the free allocations to industry in the first decade of the scheme supported by the Greens, and in the amended scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am advised that under the scheme supported by the Green Party, the free allocation to industry in the first decade was 135 million units. Under the new scheme industry will receive just 69 million units for the same period. This is because there is a lesser allocation to industry, with some companies getting only 60 percent or none, and because of the phase-out beginning in 2013, 5 years earlier. The Greens should be honest and openly acknowledge that in the first decade of the scheme it is actually more efficient.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, in stating that the Greens should be honest, the Minister was assuming that we were being dishonest—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: That is unacceptable.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. I do not think the Minister needs to go down that track, and I do not believe he was in any way impugning the honesty of the Greens.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister think that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment had it wrong when she said that Parliament should vote against his emissions trading scheme because “In its current form, the bill virtually guarantees that the ETS will not achieve its stated goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I also note that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment advised Parliament not to vote for the previous emissions trading scheme, and I note that the Green Party ignored that advice.
Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister aware that his own ministry could not tell a select committee today when it expects New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions to decrease; and is it not the reality that following the passage of his moderated emissions trading scheme, the only way that New Zealand will be able to meet its 2020 pollution reduction targets is through what we might call a modified Jacqui Dean solution: to buy them from offshore?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is very difficult to project all of the moving parts that affect New Zealand’s future emissions profile. We do not know for sure the price of carbon into the future. We do not know for sure what the international rules are going to be beyond 2013, and I note that despite repeated questioning when Mr David Parker was the Minister, he could not give exact numbers on when New Zealand’s emissions would decline. What I will say is that the advice is that with the emissions trading scheme that the Government has passed, in 2020 New Zealand can expect its emissions to be 10 million tonnes fewer as a consequence of that scheme.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister confirm that even with the advice he has provided today, after 2018, because the phase-out rate is lower, we will see a significant increase in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions over the emissions we would have seen under the old emissions trading scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I make two points in response. The first is that it is this Government’s policy that we do not simply want to reduce emissions by closing down New Zealand Steel or our smelter, sending that industry offshore, and clapping our hands with joy that our emissions have gone down, only for them to occur somewhere else on the globe. That makes no sense. The second point is in respect of the 1.3 percent phase-out rate. This Government has been quite open that that will be regularly reviewed, so that it is in line with the rate of our major trading partners. We would like to phase out more quickly; that will depend on ensuring that other countries also do so, consistent with this Government’s policy of New Zealand doing its fair share.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question specifically addressed the 2018 to 2050 period. It specifically asked whether New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions would increase during that period, as a result of this change in the legislation. The Minister did not answer, or attempt to answer, that part of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: In fairness to the honourable member Nick Smith, as I listened to the Minister’s answer it was perfectly clear to me what he was saying. It is possible that that might be the case, but he was arguing that there was not much sense in saying that is bad if doing the opposite caused more emissions elsewhere. He just gave a different kind of answer from the one the member may have wanted, but it was perfectly clear to me what the Minister’s answer was to the member’s question.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the case that after 2018 we will have a much higher level of free allocation given to industry and agriculture in all sectors, and, as a result of that higher level of free allocation, we will have higher debt on the Government books and increased greenhouse emissions in New Zealand?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, that is not correct and I will explain why. Under the existing Labour scheme, in 2018 a business like the Bluff smelter would receive a 90 percent allocation and would have to pay for 10 percent. Under the changed scheme, in that year the smelter will be required to pay 18 percent; that is, it will get an allocation of 82 percent. Then, in each year after that, there was the notion of that reducing out at a rate of 8 percent per year. None of the commentators believe that is realistic, and even in the discussions I had with Labour during our talks to try to get a consensus, nobody
assumed that that 8 percent phase-out rate in the existing scheme would be able to be sustained 10 years hence. I remind the member that it is hard enough to work out the rules in climate change policy for the next 10 years, let alone to make predictions beyond that.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the case that by taking the three different periods the Minister identified in his very long answer—that is, 2008 to 2012, 2012 to 2018, and 2018 to 2050—and putting them all together, rather than splitting them up, overall New Zealand will have higher greenhouse emissions under his emissions trading scheme than under the old emissions trading scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member seems to ignore the fact that this is a global problem. The atmosphere does not know whether the emissions come from New Zealand or some other country. The Government side of the House makes no apologies for not wanting a policy that would simply export industry offshore, do nothing for the environment, and cost hard-working New Zealanders their jobs.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, the question was quite specific about New Zealand’s emissions. The Minister may have a point about global emissions. That is fine, but I asked specifically about New Zealand’s emissions. The Minister did not answer that question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The questioner started his question by saying “Is it not …”, and then he put a proposition. What he got from the Minister was a response to the proposition, and that is perfectly reasonable.
Dr Russel Norman: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think I need to hear further on this. I hear the point the member is making. It is fair enough; the Minister did not specifically answer that question. Yet in his answer was an implication that yes, that is possible, and I would imagine that any intelligent person who was listening to the answer would have picked that up from the answer. The Minister went on to explain why he and his Government see that as not being the crucial issue. I do not think there is much point in my trying to force him to give a more precise answer along the lines the member wants to hear. The member certainly got an acknowledgment of the point he was making.
Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister know that the independent expert advice received by the Finance and Expenditure Committee, when it considered his moderated emissions trading scheme, was that there is simply no evidence or analysis available to support his contention that the massive subsidies now available to industry under that scheme are actually targeted at industry likely to move offshore; if so, when will he stop repeating the falsehood that his moderated emissions trading scheme will save any Kiwi jobs?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member should read the very comprehensive economic analysis by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Infometrics. That report said that New Zealand suffers very great competitive risk around emissions-intensive industry. The second point I make to the member is that if he wants to call allocations subsidies, it is interesting to note that when Mr Parker was asked a question by Jeanette Fitzsimons about whether allocations were subsidies, he said that they were not subsidies. It seems an odd contradiction that when Labour makes allocations they are not subsidies, but when National makes allocations they are. I would love Labour to explain that.
Hon Rodney Hide: To the Minister—
Hon George Hawkins:
Hon Rodney Hide: Sorry, what was that?
Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the member to please ask his question. [Interruption] That is not acceptable. The member should not worry about those kinds of interjections. I ask him to just ask his question.
Hon Rodney Hide: Is he willing to assist New Zealanders’ understanding of this Government’s emissions trading scheme by asking the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research to explain the adjustments that it has made to the raw data to produce a warming trend for New Zealand for 156 years of our history, when its own raw data in order show New Zealand’s temperature to be stable; if he is not prepared to ask for that explanation, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Only as recently as last Friday, I think, Kevin Hague and I attended a Cawthron Institute lecture by David Wratt about climate change science. What Dr Wratt has consistently said is that because New Zealand is surrounded by oceans, all the modelling indicates that the temperature impacts of climate change are most likely to be less for New Zealand than for other parts of the globe. I would welcome the opportunity, not just for the sake of Mr Hide but for that of all members of the House, to invite the chief climate change scientist from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research to address members, so that we can all be better informed on climate change science.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is very kind, and I will take the member up on that offer.
Mr SPEAKER: Points of order should be terse and to the point.
Hon Rodney Hide: My question asked whether the Minister for Climate Change Issues will assist our understanding by asking the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research to explain why its data have been adjusted to show a different result from what the raw data show—yes or no.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may not have specific responsibility for a scientific organisation in New Zealand. It may be the responsibility of the Minister, and it is up to the Minister to tell us that if it is the case. I ask him, if it is within his responsibility, to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would be happy to have the chief scientist from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research come to the House and answer that technical question directly as a consequence of having a forum with members, and I think the member will find that to be very useful.
Hon Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table a document by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition about the adjustments that the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has made to the raw data to show a warming trend, when, in fact, none is shown. It is dated 25 November 2009.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Social Development and Employment, Minister—Statements
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: Yes, although when you love your job as much as I do, you can occasionally get a little overexcited.
Hon Annette King: Why does she consider the efforts of the Every Child Counts organisation to establish an all-party parliamentary group for children to build awareness of and a commitment to policies for children as “a whole bunch of chit-chat
that gets nowhere”, as she claimed in Parliament yesterday, and has she told that organisation it is wasting its time even trying to get National to work with other political parties here in Parliament on policies that tackle issues like child poverty in New Zealand?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I actually admire the organisation and think that it does a good job in what it is doing. There have been many discussions around this place for quite some time about a cross-party discussion on child abuse and neglect. I notice that the previous Government did not actually get one up and running. As I stated yesterday, and I will state it again, I think it is about the results and the things that are put in place. That is what will make a true difference.
Hon Annette King: Will she dismiss the plan of action developed by the Every Child Counts summit on children held in September, which brought together community leaders, Barnados, Plunket, Save the Children, Unicef, etc., representing about 6,500 supporters and organisations as “chit-chat”—a lot of talk and no action—or will she do what they have requested and work with all parties in this Parliament, who do care about kids, on something that Labour, when in Government, did not walk away from?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think it would be helpful to clarify that the words “chit-chat”—all talk and no action—were actually directed at the Opposition, and not at Every Child Counts.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the Hansard of the Minister’s answer to my question yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is outside the ruling I have made. That is readily available to the House anyway.
Hon Annette King: Has she had any chit-chat with the Prime Minister about his claim that the number of New Zealanders now on the sickness benefit is only slightly higher than it was a year ago; did she point out to him that the number went up by almost 10,000 since he became the Prime Minister, and that the Government’s policies are only shifting people from one benefit to another?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have had many discussions with the Prime Minister on welfare reform, where we are going with it, and how we close some of those tunnels between benefits. We are not hiding the numbers like the previous Government, under which it really was a succession from the unemployment benefit, to the sickness benefit, to the invalids benefit, which we will simply not put up with.
Lynne Pillay: Has she had any conversation with the Prime Minister about the failure of her Restart package, given that it is now helping fewer than 1,000 New Zealanders, even though unemployment numbers are still increasing; if so, is the reason she has failed to make effective changes to the scheme a result of those conversations just being chit-chat that have clearly got her nowhere?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yet again, I want to clarify that it is the Opposition that is prone to chit-chat and no real action. The member does not understand that the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit has gone down for 7 weeks in a row; it has gone down. Those who were eligible for Restart needed to be eligible through the welfare system. That is how it was set up. It was successful. I am certainly not undermining the more than 5,500 people who received access to it.
Carmel Sepuloni: What justification can she give for her decision to make cuts to the training incentive allowance, barring domestic purposes beneficiaries from receiving the allowance to help with tertiary study, and her decision to prevent domestic purposes beneficiaries from being eligible for Community Max; and how can these decisions be reconciled with her statement regarding solo mothers that she “will back those women into work and meaningful employment every time.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Just to clarify, there are women who are on the domestic purposes benefit who are on the Community Max programme. Any women on the domestic purposes benefit can move on to the unemployment benefit and be eligible to go on the Community Max project. It is as simple as that. They would get the same amount of money, and they can make that decision.
Schools—Professional Development in Information and Communication Technology
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the
Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about information and communication technologies professional development in schools?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education)
: More good news. Today the Government announced that we are investing $10.8 million in a 3-year programme to support teachers to use digital technology. From next year 257 schools—members opposite do not like this—will join this major information and communication technology initiative. It will support teachers with the skills, the knowledge, and the confidence they need to get the benefits from information and communication technology and support student learning.
Jo Goodhew: How does the announcement complement other work being done by the Government in the education sector to help schools with digital technology?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This investment supports the Government’s $150 million commitment to make our schools broadband-ready, to ensure that our children are at the centre of the digital world. Earlier in the year, I announced a round of school network upgrades, and I will very shortly announce a further larger round to ensure that our schools’ infrastructure is ready for ultra-fast broadband. The announcement today will ensure that more teachers are ready and able to take advantage of it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does her announcement today indicate that she is now ranking information and communication technology skills as being more important than science, social studies, music, and art in primary schools, because she has totally cut the funding for professional development next year in primary schools for all of those subjects?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have not cut any funding for professional development in primary schools. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member who asked the question has indicated that he could not hear the end of the answer. I invite the Minister to repeat the answer, and I ask members to be a little more reasonable in their interjection; it has been fairly noisy.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have not cut professional development in primary schools.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does cutting the money that goes to universities that pay the advisers who go to primary schools not count as a cut to primary schools, in that Minister’s opinion?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Let me explain in words of one syllable so that the member can understand. We have taken the same amount of money that the Ministry of Education contracts for professional advice and we have refocused it on literary and numeracy in order to support the national standards. The sector asked for support for the introduction of the national standards, and that is what this Government has provided. There are no cuts to what is provided; it is the same amount of money but refocused on literacy and numeracy.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I now have a real problem. I know that you do not like people using a point of order to debate, but this Minister has tabled in the House—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately.
Hon Chris Carter: 25 percent cut.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet! I am not sure what is wrong with that member’s eyes. The member may not have liked the answer but he cannot litigate it by way of a point of order. He can ask further questions. I heard the question he asked and the answer the Minister gave. It was very obvious to me where the difference was arising between the question and the answer. It should not take him much thought to work out which supplementary questions to ask, if he wants to uncover more about it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did the Minister announce or include in her Budget documentation a 25 percent cut in professional development going into contracts for professional development, which go to primary schools?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Some changes were made to professional development around early childhood education.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member’s answer was to do with early childhood education. It was a very specific question about primary education and the 25 percent cut she announced.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the point the member makes and I ask the Minister to answer in respect of primary schools.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Come on, it’s in two Budgets.
Mr SPEAKER: The point raised by the Hon Trevor Mallard is a reasonable one. He asked a question about professional development in primary schools, which is what the primary question was about. The Minister answered in respect of early childhood education, which is not what the primary question was about. I therefore think it is reasonable—and I warn the Leader of the House that I am ruling on this matter—for the Minister to answer that. If she does not have that specific information, that is fair enough, but she avoided the question by commenting in respect of early childhood education. I think the member has a legitimate grievance and I ask the Minister to reply.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It may have been that you did not pick up that the member asked the Minister whether there had been cuts to the tertiary education budget, and then he specified what it was and asserted that it had some relationship with the primary education sector. The Minister gave an answer about what was changed in that Budget, and I think it should stand as perfectly reasonable. The member cannot confuse a whole lot of things together, then somehow expect a Minister to unpick them in a very short answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need any assistance. I have indulged the Leader of the House. The Minister is perfectly capable of answering the question asked. It is directly related to the primary question. From what the Leader of the House has just implied by way of his point of order, he has assumed an answer from what the Minister said. There is no problem, therefore, in the Minister giving the House the answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not have the figures in front of me but I am happy to provide them to the member.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How can she rely on the advice she has received on professional development in schools, in light of her statement yesterday that enrolment schemes in schools neighbouring Aorangi School would have to be redone, something that cannot occur before term 1 next year—or did she just make that up?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The primary question actually related to information and communication technologies professional development in schools.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister is making a fair point. I ask the member to bring her question within the scope of the primary question.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How can she rely on advice that she has received on professional development in schools, in light of statements she made yesterday that have proven to be incorrect?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I did not make incorrect statements yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 4.
Rahui Katene: Mr Speaker, a supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon. If members were a little more reasonable with interjections I would hear when members call. I do apologise to Rahui Katene.
Rahui Katene: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What initiatives are being advanced to develop digital literacy for Māori, to ensure that the flow-on benefits of adopting new technologies are also extended to Māori and whānau?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: If the member looks through the list of schools involved, she will see that a number of schools with Māori pupils are involved in this initiative. But we are very conscious of the importance of broadband to, particularly, small, rural Māori immersion schools, and we are working with the Māori Party to ensure that they are included in the rural broadband roll-out.
Climate Change, Copenhagen Conference—Prime Minister’s Attendance
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the
Prime Minister: Why is he not going to the Copenhagen conference like most other world leaders are?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: The member’s assertion is incorrect. It is not true that most of the world’s leaders are going to the Copenhagen conference. The Prime Minister has previously stated that there is a 95 percent chance that he will not go to Copenhagen for that conference. That is because he is satisfied that the Minister for Climate Change Issues, the Hon Nick Smith, and the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues (International Negotiations), the Hon Tim Groser, are more than capable of representing New Zealand’s position at the conference.
Charles Chauvel: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Secretary-General of the United Nations that President Obama’s attendance at Copenhagen, announced today, will help ensure an agreement; if so, is he not attending because, as he has recently said, he is “quite relaxed” about the threat of climate change?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The United States’ position on climate change and whatever commitments it may be prepared to offer at Copenhagen are, of course, very, very important. I point out to the member, though, that President Obama will be in Copenhagen about 1 week before the conference starts.
Chris Tremain: This is the diary secretary for Mr Obama about to speak.
Charles Chauvel: I thank Mr Tremain for that useful contribution.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. I will not tolerate interjections with microphones open like that; it is simply not acceptable. I ask the member not to do that and I invite him to ask his supplementary question.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept your ruling immediately—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Charles Chauvel: Yes it is.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure what issue of order the member is raising.
Charles Chauvel: I wanted to record that I was responding to an interjection myself when I was referred to as the—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now resume his seat. The member will not argue with the Speaker if he wishes to remain in the Chamber for this sitting day, which may go on for a while. I recommend to the member that if someone interjects while his
microphone is open and he is asking a question, he should just ignore it because no one else can hear it. It is an unfair advantage to the member to use an open microphone in that way. I invite him to ask his supplementary question.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I presume the same rule will apply to members of the Government when they are answering a question and responding to an interjection.
Mr SPEAKER: Members will notice that when Ministers are not provoked by the question being asked, I am pretty tough when they start to climb into the Opposition. Anyone who thinks that I, as Speaker, am favouring the Government is not, I believe, seeing the situation properly, at all. I am sure that plenty of members in the Government are not terribly happy with the way the Speaker insists on some of them answering questions and stops them in mid-flight. So I suggest to the Hon David Parker that a little more discretion and courtesy would be appropriate.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am still on my feet, and it had better be a new point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is, and it is an important one. I would like you to reflect on what you have just told the House. What you have said is that my colleague cannot respond to an interjection through his open microphone but Ministers can if they are provoked. I think that that is unfair and unbalanced.
Mr SPEAKER: What I was actually referring to was when Ministers are provoked in a question. If the member refers back to a supplementary question asked by his own colleague, just a short while ago in this sitting, he will recall that his colleague Charles Chauvel implied that the Minister had not been telling the truth. I let it go—I did not interrupt. But it was a very provocative question. Ministers receiving a provocative question like that are perfectly at liberty to give as good as they get. That has always been the ebb and flow of this House. We will not waste further time on this. I invite Charles Chauvel to ask his supplementary question.
Charles Chauvel: Why is his Minister of Foreign Affairs planning to use the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting merely as an opportunity to “compare notes” on climate change negotiations when the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Danish Prime Minister, and the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth are attending the meeting to seek a “strong political statement” on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen summit?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As the member knows, everything that might be concluded by way of agreement starts with a comparison of one country’s position with another’s. That is an appropriate role for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Charles Chauvel: How can the Minister for Climate Change Issues and the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues (International Negotiations) go to Copenhagen with their heads held high, when his Government voted yesterday against legislating for binding emissions targets and is teaming up, in international climate change negotiations, with major polluters against the small Island States, to whom we generally pretend friendship?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Minister would not accept the assertion that the member implies in his question. He asks how the trade Minister and the climate change negotiations Minister, who is one and the same person, can hold his head up at the conference. What the Minister can say is that New Zealand has set targets. We do have an “all gases, all sectors” emissions trading scheme, and we are doing our bit to solve a worldwide problem.
Legal Aid—Graeme Burton
DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the
Minister of Justice: How much, if anything, did the taxpayer pay in legal aid for Graeme Burton to defend the recent charge of attempted murder, for which he was found guilty?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Justice)
: I am advised by the Legal Services Agency that the amount paid to date in relation to Mr Burton’s legal aid file is $12,342.50. That amount includes lawyers’ fees and other relevant disbursements that have been approved to date. Although the trial has concluded, Mr Burton has yet to be sentenced. The final cost of services is not yet known.
David Garrett: Does the Minister agree that regardless of the outcome of the trial and, indeed, the sentencing, Mr Burton will be in prison for at least the next 25 years in any case?
Mr SPEAKER: I urge caution in this area, because, as I understand the situation, Graeme Burton has not yet been sentenced, and I do not think it is appropriate for this House to be raising issues in respect of that matter. I do not want to take a supplementary question off the member; if he likes he can ask a different supplementary question. I ask him to be very careful about the fact that this particular convicted person has not yet been sentenced.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is true, and that was why the question was so carefully framed. It was making a point about the sentence that Mr Burton is already serving. He is already in prison for 25 years. That was the point that my colleague Mr David Garrett was making. Mr Burton is serving 25 years in prison regardless.
Mr SPEAKER: This is quite important. I will hear the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I, unusually, have to agree with Rodney Hide. It was a carefully worded question, which did have “regardless of” the sentence that is about to be imposed as part of it. I think the question was actually about the old sentence and the likelihood of parole. The Minister of Justice could probably say that he has no responsibility and does not want to comment, but I think the question should not be ruled out.
Mr SPEAKER: I acknowledge the advice offered by colleagues, but what troubles me is that we normally have to be very careful in referring to the past records of people who are before the courts. This case, at least, is beyond the basic conviction. We are at the point of sentencing, though. The dilemma I have is that, obviously, details of the convicted person’s past are relevant to sentencing in respect of the conviction currently before the court. That is the dilemma I face on the matter. I ask the member to ask a supplementary question, being very careful of the fact that if there is undue reference to the past record, convictions, and sentencing of a person currently before the court, there is risk of argument that it may influence the court. I ask him to be very conscious of that.
David Garrett: I will simply ask a different question, to save any potential conflict. Does the Minister agree that every single dollar paid out in criminal legal aid is $1 less available for civil legal aid for such persons as those who are suffering from a leaky home that they cannot afford to fix?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, and I can understand that member’s point of view. But I would say two things in response to it. First, it is the hallmark of a just society that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, regardless of conduct. The legal aid system provides for a fair trial regardless of what sort of person the court is dealing with. The second point is that—and I am sure that the member, as an experienced barrister, would understand this—legal aid quite often prevents defendants from acting
for themselves. I am sure the member is aware of appalling cases where defendants have sought to cross-examine their victims, notwithstanding the restrictions contained in section 95 of the Evidence Act. So there is a very good reason why we have a legal aid system for criminals.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Minister of Finance and the Associate Minister of Finance are away, I seek leave to hold over my question until the next day the Minister of Finance is available.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the
Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “In order for that recovery to be sustainable we need improved competitiveness among our exporters and continued recovery in household savings”?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: Yes.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister of Finance insist that New Zealand has the best monetary policy in the world when currency volatility makes exporting tougher for businesses than it should be?
Hon TONY RYALL: There is no doubt that currency volatility is a challenge for many exporters. Export volumes have been stagnating for some time, but the real issue in respect of monetary policy and the effect on the currency is very much a reflection of the legacy that this Government inherited from a Government that made such waste of taxpayers’ money during its years on the Treasury benches. Its spending in a 5-year period increased by over 45 percent, and New Zealanders wondered what they got for it.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister of Finance pretend that he is leading an export-led recovery when he is happy to sit on his hands as our exporters struggle against a volatile dollar, and interest rates driven by debt-fuelled consumption in the non-tradable sector?
Hon TONY RYALL: This Government is not sitting on its hands; this Government is dealing with the issues that really matter to the New Zealand economy. Primary amongst those issues is dealing with the 10 years of economic mismanagement by the previous Government, when it wasted some of the best years of New Zealand’s economic performance.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister of Finance maintain that New Zealand has the best monetary policy in the world when, despite our economy being small, we are one of the top 10 or 11 most traded currencies in the world?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the Minister of Finance would be quite clear that many challenges face the New Zealand economy, but those challenges are made more difficult by the fact that during the 10 years of good economic times—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has been devoting a fair part of his answers to attacking the previous Government, when the member’s questions have not been particularly provocative. He has been asking about the issue of a volatile currency, which is not attacking the Government; it is raising an issue of relevance. My concern about that last answer was that it did not really answer the member’s question, at all. I invite the Hon David Parker to ask his question again, just in case there was confusion.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister of Finance maintain that New Zealand has the best monetary policy in the world when, despite our being a small economy, we are one of the top 10 or 11 most traded currencies in the world?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the Minister can maintain that position extremely well. He can maintain that position because this Government recognises that it has an important role to play in providing balanced economic policy, and ensuring that the Government’s contribution to maintaining stability is a priority.
Question No. 1 to Minister
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues)
: I seek leave to table a formal statement from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and its scientist Dr David Wratt in response to the question from Mr Rodney Hide earlier that I did not have the answer to.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Oil and Gas Exploration—Initiatives
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the
Minister of Energy and Resources: What action is the Government taking to increase oil and gas exploration in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: In Budget 2009, $20 million was appropriated for seismic data acquisition over the next 3 years. This summer, the motor vessel
Bergen Resolution will acquire seismic data in the Pegasus Basin, the Great South Basin, and either the Challenger Plateau and Bellona Trough area, or the outer Taranaki Basin and Northland East Slope Basin area. Petroleum exploration and investment companies will then have free access to the data to assess the considerable oil and gas potential of our frontier basins.
Jonathan Young: What is the level of exploration in New Zealand waters this summer?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This summer will be the largest exploration activity ever seen in New Zealand waters.
Hon Darren Hughes: That’s just the Minister on the beach.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Seven offshore wells are being drilled, and thousands of kilometres of seismic data are being shot. In fact, New Zealand is ranked in the top 10 countries for offshore exploration wells. This year we have put in place a seismic data acquisition programme to continue the success. It is a good programme. I know that you do not like us responding to interjections, Mr Speaker, but I just want to say that in order that no one rushes to the beach to save the whales, I will be publishing the dates that I am on holiday.
Charles Chauvel: What steps, if any, is the Minister taking to ensure that oil extracted in New Zealand territorial waters can be refined in New Zealand, as opposed to the current situation when it has to be sent to Australia for refining, doing nothing to support New Zealand’s energy independence?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Far from not supporting New Zealand’s energy independence, I tell the member that as part of the International Energy Agency we have obligations to maintain a certain amount of oil stock. In the previous period of Government when that member’s party was in office, many millions of dollars would have been spent on oil tickets to ensure that we were in a good position. That was a proper spend; it needed to be done. But as New Zealand recovers more oil and as we export more oil, the need for those tickets to be in place is a great deal less. The New Zealand Government does not have an interest in the refinery. It would be up to the
private sector to look at the resource and decide whether this was the appropriate place to make investments for further oil refining in this country.
Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister familiar with the observations today of Andrew Falloon, the director of his coalition partner ACT’s research unit, that he is “booked for 8 nights in the Abel Tasman National Park before Minister Brownlee rips it up”; and does this accurately reflect his Government’s policy on mineral exploration in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No and no. What is more, I do not even know the guy.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called. I ask the Government backbenchers please to respect that.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table the comments by Andrew Falloon, director of the ACT Party research unit, saying that he is booked for 8 nights in the Abel Tasman—
Mr SPEAKER: Before the member carries on, where are these comments from?
Charles Chauvel: It is from Mr Falloon’s Facebook page. [Interruption] I do seek leave; it is a serious matter.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I think I have ruled out these blog sites, and what have you.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Seeing that Mr Charles Chauvel is Mr Falloon’s Facebook friend—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not see how that is a point of order. The member will resume his seat.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Financial Benefits for Māori Families After 2013
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the
Minister for Climate Change Issues: What are the financial benefits from the changes to the emissions trading scheme for Māori families after 2013?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues)
: There are many benefits to Māori families. Post-2012 there will be thousands of Māori families in well-insulated and heated homes. This will have huge health benefits and will reduce their power bills, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, a large number of Māori families are beneficial owners of fishing quota, forestry, and agricultural assets, all of which will benefit financially from changes to the emissions trading scheme. Thirdly, Māori are disproportionately represented in the workforce of companies such as New Zealand Steel that are in the energy-intensive area, and without these changes those jobs would be at risk.
Hon Shane Jones: Why, given that the Minister has singled out forestry, has he confined the concession to an elite number of tribes, and denied the rest of Māoridom—in fact, the entirety of the pre-1990 forestry sector? Why is he driving a wedge between people?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The legislation that was passed by the previous Labour Government, including that member, put liabilities on all pre-1990 forest owners. Iwi came to me and strongly asked that those deforestation liabilities be removed for all of those forests. Our Government maintained the position that we would not do that. However, separate to that, there was the issue of quite specific Treaty settlements and information disclosure requirements. To avoid court proceedings, we came to a pragmatic and common-sense arrangement to allow those five iwi—just the ones that were affected by that issue—to plant trees on conservation land.
Hon Shane Jones: Why does the Minister refer to potential liability, when his own letter to Mark Solomon said that the Crown does not recognise or accept that there is a liability of any nature?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Anybody who has been involved in legal settlements would know that one says in the base of them that settling the issue is not an acceptance of fault by the Crown. That is well-practised, and any member in this House with legal experience would know that it is a standard provision that is put in such settlements.
Hon Shane Jones: Did he advise the Māori Party before it agreed to support his emissions trading scheme that the Government would face higher fiscal costs as a result of having to cover increased emissions; what social services did he tell the Māori Party would be cut by the Government in order to meet those increased costs, and is that the reason why Hone Harawira sent a letter saying that he could not possibly vote for this measure?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The premise that the member has based his question on is quite false. There is no extra cost; there is lesser income. There is lesser income from the emissions trading scheme, and the key element is that of the $50 billion that his colleague talks of, $40 billion is increased emissions trading scheme charges on farmers, and I am not sure how that helps Māori farming interests.
Hekia Parata: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. What reports has the Minister received criticising the agreement with the Māori Party, and are they consistent?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the mainstream media the Opposition are saying: “Taxpayers are being diddled for billions in a racially”—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question very specifically asked what reports the Minister had received. You have ruled previously that the reports have to be actual reports, not newspaper clippings, which is what the Minister went straight to in his response.
Mr SPEAKER: Forgive me, but I am not sure of the basis of the member’s point of order, at all. As I understand it, this is not about the tabling of a document. The Minister was responding to a question asked. The question asked what reports the Minister had received, and, as I understand it, that has been in order for a lengthy period of time. I do not understand the problem there.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In reports I have received the Opposition has said that “Taxpayers are being diddled for billions in a racially preferenced deal in which the Government gave away everything and anything.” That was in the mainstream media. But in the Māori media I have heard reports that the Māori Party got diddled for a few blankets and beads. These contradictory statements from Labour will cause racial disharmony. This Government is focused on bringing New Zealand together and addressing the issues. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Hon Dr Nick Smith and the Hon Parekura Horomia to please show some respect for the fact that the Speaker has been on his feet for some time.
Rahui Katene: Does he agree with the Hon Shane Jones that the initiatives for Māori announced in the new emissions trading scheme will “protect a narrow, privileged southern elite”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am advised that in respect of the agreement we reached on forestry, there are a total of 178,398 beneficial owners, of which less than one-third are in the South Island. That statement is about as accurate as the claim by Labour that the agreement on forestry was worth $2 billion, when the officials’ advice is that it is worth one-hundredth of that amount.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a statement from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, dated yesterday, in which she states the amendments will pass much of the costs from polluters to taxpayers.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) on behalf of
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the
Minister for Biosecurity: What steps has the Government recently taken to protect New Zealand’s kauri forests?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Biosecurity)
: There is more good news. The Government is delighted to announce that it is injecting an additional $4.7 million of funding into a programme to save kauri trees threatened by kauri dieback disease. This will bring total Government funding for a 5-year programme aimed at containing this soil-borne disease to almost $10 million. It is a true demonstration of this Government’s commitment to protect this treasured species from what is a very serious biosecurity threat.
Shane Ardern: Why has the Government committed funding to fighting the kauri dieback disease?
Hon DAVID CARTER: New Zealand’s ancient kauri forests are an important part of our heritage, they are of huge significance to Māori, and they are vital to our native ecosystem. The kauri dieback disease is relatively unknown, but it poses a major threat to kauri species, especially those in the upper North Island.
Hon Damien O’Connor: If the Minister is so committed to protecting Northland forests, then why does he support the closure of the Ōpua biosecurity office, an action that leaves Northland vulnerable to pests and diseases from the hundreds of foreign yachts and vessels that visit Northland every year?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The Ōpua office will be manned from Whangarei. It will be manned throughout the season. It will not be manned throughout the winter, when not a lot of these vessels come into Ōpua port.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Will the Minister guarantee that his cut-backs to Biosecurity New Zealand will not expose New Zealand to greater risk and an invasion of Australian fruit flies, which would destroy our horticultural industry, given that a live Australian cane toad has just hopped through his current system; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID CARTER: There have been no cuts to Biosecurity New Zealand under this Government, unlike those under the previous Labour Government, and—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. The House is so noisy that I cannot hear when members call. I take it that it is a point of order that the Hon Damien O’Connor is calling for.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is misleading the House—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately. He cannot use a point of order to contest an answer that is being provided by the Minister, especially not by arguing that the Minister is misleading the House. If he wants to ask further supplementary questions that may highlight what he considers to be inaccuracies in the answer, then that is fine, but he cannot do it by way of a point of order.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Continuing with my answer, the member might like to acknowledge to the House that when his Government was in charge, eight cane toads came into New Zealand in 2003, and four came in in 2004. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Some members will get a yellow card if they are not careful. I am on my feet. [Interruption] I am getting serious. The House has let off a little steam; let us put that behind us.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the
Minister for ACC: Does he stand by all his statements in the House on ACC?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC)
Kevin Hague: Why did he claim on 5 March in this House that Treasury had not been involved in the review of the accident compensation scheme, when, in fact, he had received a stream of advice that highlighted Treasury’s involvement in the review?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Treasury had provided advice to me about the accident compensation scheme. I have to say that the advice has been very concerning. It is that the scheme’s financial position is unsustainable and that significant change is required, through having either large levy increases or a pull-back on entitlements. The Government has been working through those difficult issues very responsibly.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to the fact that the Minister claimed to stand by all of his statements. One of his statements was that Treasury had not been involved, and clearly it had.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not clear on what that point of order was.
Kevin Hague: Sorry, Mr Speaker. What I am saying is that the Minister’s answer to my supplementary question is entirely unresponsive to it.
Mr SPEAKER: What I will do—[Interruption] I will ask the House to please be a little more respectful of question time. Because it has been a very noisy day, it has been very difficult for me to hear. I invite the member to repeat his question, and I would like the House to please be reasonably quiet so that I can hear the question and the answer.
Kevin Hague: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Perhaps I should stress the critical words. Why, then, did he claim on 5 March in this House that Treasury had not been involved in the review of the accident compensation scheme, when, in fact, he had received a stream of advice that highlighted Treasury’s involvement in the review?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member set down a written question that is very, very general. There are a number of reviews of ACC. If the member had specific information about a particular review or the like, in order for me to be able to specifically reply on which review and on which statements, the member should have set that information down in his primary question.
Kevin Hague: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need further assistance on this matter. If the Minister answered along those lines, then it would be a perfectly fair answer, because the point he makes is absolutely correct. Where a very general primary question is laid down, members cannot necessarily expect a Minister to have the information required to answer a specific supplementary question. I invite the Hon Dr Nick Smith to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The situation with the accident compensation scheme has been quite serious, such that there have been a number of reviews. Some of those have involved Treasury; some have not. The member will need to be more specific in order for me to be able to provide an answer.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My supplementary question highlights the Minister’s answer to my primary question—
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot litigate an answer in that way, by using a point of order. The member asked a question. I gave him the chance to repeat it. I listened very carefully, and the Minister gave a perfectly reasonable answer, given that very, very imprecise and bland primary question. I think that the member has had a perfectly good answer from the Minister.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table some documents. The first of these is a Department of Labour accident compensation briefing to the Minister of 23 December, which states: “Treasury are still considering the scope of the review.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Kevin Hague: The second document is a briefing on accident compensation of 20 February from the Department of Labour, developed in consultation with Treasury, in which the Minister has noted the involvement of Treasury.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Kevin Hague: Perhaps I should seek your advice on the third document to be tabled. It is the
Hansard of Dr Smith’s—
Mr SPEAKER: I will not be seeking leave for the tabling of a recent
Hansard. I take it it is a reasonably recent
Kevin Hague: It is his answer from 5 March, so it is not very recent. It is the answer in which he states that—
Mr SPEAKER: I take it that it is from
Hansard this year, and the House already has that readily available to it.
Carol Beaumont: Does he stand by his promise of 24/7 cover for all New Zealanders, or will his new legislation leave out some New Zealanders who do not meet a 6 percent hearing loss threshold, which, according to hearing experts, was plucked from thin air?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the assertion from the member is incorrect. The 6 percent hearing loss threshold is standard in Australia and in other parts of the world. There are a number of thresholds in other parts of the accident compensation Act, some of which were put in place by the previous Government. This Government does stand by having a 24/7 no-fault accident insurance scheme.
Carol Beaumont: Does he accept that “operational improvements” to the accident compensation scheme, like the voluntary accord with the hearing industry that has saved $10 million in the last 18 months, are threatened by the complete lack of consultation on proposed changes to the work-related hearing loss provisions?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister to answer the question, did that supplementary question relate to a statement the Minister had made?
Carol Beaumont: Yes, it did.
Mr SPEAKER: Could I ask the member to repeat her question, so that she makes the statement very clear to me. The primary question is about statements the Minister has made in this House. It asks: “Does he stand by all his statements in the House on ACC?”, so the supplementary question must relate to any statements he has made in this House. I invite the member to repeat her question.
Carol Beaumont: Does he accept that “operational improvements” to the accident compensation scheme, like the voluntary accord with the hearing industry that has saved $10 million in the last 18 months, are threatened by the complete lack of consultation on proposed changes to the work-related hearing loss provisions?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I can confirm to the member that the cost of the hearing loss compensation part of the scheme’s cover has grown very substantially each and every single year, such that it is one of the areas where, if we are to ensure accident compensation is sustainable into the long term, we cannot sustain the level of increase
in expenses, which has been way over the rate of inflation. The corporation ran a deficit of $4.8 billion this year, and that means we need to make changes.
Darien Fenton: Will he listen to the select committee, as he promised in the House yesterday, and will he listen to the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, which appeared before the select committee today, and which says its injured workers, who may be forced to work in non-related jobs for 40 hours a week without adequate rehabilitation, will call for the right to sue employers who have caused their injuries?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, the Government, and particularly Government members, who are very capable, are listening carefully to the submissions. But I do say that the status quo for accident compensation is not sustainable. Most of the changes are reversals of unfunded changes made by the previous Government. If that Government had actually budgeted for some of the extra entitlements that it offered and promised, we would not be in this situation.
Industrial Action—Advice to Minister
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the
Minister of Labour: What advice, if any, has she received on the reason that thousands of workers all around New Zealand will be taking industrial action and attending rallies tomorrow?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour)
: I have been advised of the rally and understand that the workers involved are seeking better pay.
Darien Fenton: Will she or any other member of the National Government be fronting up tomorrow to the 2,700 hospital and service workers, the many thousands of publicly funded disability support carers, school support staff, hospital administrative staff, and public service workers who will be attending rallies up and down the country to protest about this Government’s wage freeze, which is hurting low-paid workers like them; if not, why not?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I can tell the member that tomorrow I intend spending the day in Taranaki, with a day full of appointments. I could possibly catch a glimpse of the rally up there.
Darien Fenton: Does she think it is fair that low-paid workers, like the thousands who will protest tomorrow, have to accept a zero wage increase, at the same time that the cost of living is going up, the richest chief executive officers in the country are getting massive pay increases, and the Government is planning to make workers pay more for accident compensation and receive less; and is this what the Government calls “taking the sharpest edges off the recession.”?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I say to that member that if the previous Labour Government had not wasted 9 years of golden economic weather, we would not even be having this conversation. But the harsh reality is that we are in difficult economic times, in which many people have lost their jobs. This Government is borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars a week to maintain service levels, and we want to invest in a smarter, more productive Public Service.
Grant Robertson: How will a wage freeze for low-paid workers in the State sector, such as the ones who protest tomorrow, help to close the wage gap with Australia?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: As that member well knows, this Government is intent on balancing the economy, on taking the sharp edges off the economy. We have opted, as we have said, for a balanced policy that does protect people in the short term from the sharp edges of the recession. The policy lays the foundation for increased economic growth and more jobs, on the road to recovery for our country.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have encouraged us to ask very specific questions, and I asked a very specific question about how a wage
freeze such as the Minister is proposing will narrow the wage gap with Australia; she did not address that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I absolutely accept the point the member makes that he asked a very commendably to-the-point question—very commendable. The only dilemma I have is the Minister’s actual responsibility for the wage round in the public sector. That is my dilemma in asking for a more specific answer, because the Minister of State Services is actually responsible for the wage round in the State sector. That is my difficulty in asking the Minister to be more precise in her answer. So I apologise to the member, because I do commend him for an absolutely succinct question, but, sadly, it is really outside the Minister’s responsibility.
Government Data Accessibility—Launch of Website
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the
Minister of Internal Affairs: What is the Government doing to make government data more easily accessible to New Zealanders?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs)
: Earlier this month the Government launched a new website administered by the Department of Internal Affairs called data.govt.nz. The website is a catalogue of publicly available Government data and is a great resource for the public. This is part of a drive to make non-personal Government data more discoverable, usable, and relevant to all New Zealanders.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What feedback has the Minister had on this new initiative?
Hon NATHAN GUY: There has been a great deal of positive feedback about this new website, in particular from the
National Business Review
and from people in the UK, USA, and Australia. I understand that Opposition MP Chris Hipkins is also a big fan. He has publicly commented: “I think it would be hugely useful for researchers, journalists, analysts, businesses, in fact just about anyone! Keep up the good work DIA …”.
Mr SPEAKER: It is coming close to the end of a sitting period, so I guess a bit more noise is to be expected.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: During question No. 3 Ms Tolley indicated that she would provide information to me. I ask whether the rule that applies to the tabling of information, which is that it is to be done by the end of the sitting day, applies here, or is that not the case?
Mr SPEAKER: No, it is not—nice try. I am sure the member knows that it is not. It is up to the Minister to follow up on that matter.
Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill
- Debate resumed from 17 November.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: Thank you for the opportunity to continue speaking in the second reading of this important bill, the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. It is important that we consign the provocation defence to history. It is anachronistic, and, as I was saying as the House concluded its business the other night when we were dealing with this matter, this particular defence allows the charge of murder to be reduced to a finding of manslaughter. The word “manslaughter” was reported in some of the feminist literature of the time as being made up of two words: “man’s laughter”. That is because, in the days when I knew about this defence when I was a law student, there had been a very high-profile case where a husband, Dr Minnett, had killed his wife, Leigh Minnett, not actually very far from Parliament. The claim that he had made was that he had been so outraged and incensed, a rational response to an attack on his masculinity that his wife’s affair had brought about within him, that he was compelled to go and get his gun out of the wardrobe to shoot and kill her. As a young law student I, of course, found it utterly reprehensible that he was essentially able to get away with murder.
The interesting thing is that I found one of the old
Broadsheet articles on the killing of Leigh Minnett, and I thought I would just read into the record the last little bit of that particular article, because I though that it really did sum up what was so wrong with the defence of provocation. It states: “The worst that can be said of a woman is that she sleeps around. Leigh was publicly tarred with this brush. The worst insult to a man is just the opposite: that he can’t get it up and it’s not worth getting up anyway. This is such a dreadful thing to say that it excuses even killing the speaker. The double standard
has never been more clearly demonstrated than it was in the shooting of Leigh Minnett.” That is a really compelling statement, and it is why the defence must go.
Since that time, though, we have found the defence used in other circumstances. At this point I want to refer to the killing of Ronald Brown. I referred to him in the first reading debate on this bill, but want to mention him again, because his case will be—now we know this—the last case where the defence of provocation was successfully pleaded. His case sums up everything that is wrong with the defence, but from a different perspective from that applying to Leigh Minnett, where her husband was given a lawful excuse, as it were, to take her life and evade a conviction for murder, which really should have been applied in that case. In this case the defence was that an individual’s sexuality was threatened. The person who took Ronald Brown’s life was fearful that he was going to be the subject of a homosexual advance. Again, I say there is nothing that justifies the taking of another life, and, certainly, to plead that in these circumstances is reprehensible in the extreme.
I would have liked to say that the reason that the Ronald Brown case did not attract the media attention that Sophie Elliott’s murderer attracted was that the accused person in the Ronald Brown case did not give evidence at the trial. But deep down, I do not believe that was the reason. I believe that the media should reflect on what they have done in terms of the coverage they gave to Sophie Elliott’s murderer. These two cases stand in stark contrast to each other. I think that people need to look into themselves, and to ask themselves the question of whether the public interest was served by dishing up the narcissistic, personality-disordered individual whom we had presented to us night after night on our television screens, and by almost no mention being made of the individual who took Ronald Brown’s life. I think that that did not serve the public interest. I believe that what occurred was disrespectful to the family of Sophie Elliott and to her memory. I also think it was disrespectful to the family of Ronald Brown and to his memory, as well.
Nothing will reverse what happened in any of the cases where this defence has been pleaded. But I do think it is important for people to say there may be something that this Parliament can offer up to the victims’ families, and that is the knowledge that their experience in the courts will now galvanise the response of this Parliament into what, I hope, will be a unanimous vote of support for repeal. The facts that we are now up to the second reading, and that we will shortly move on to the Committee stage and the third reading tonight, means that this day, 24 November, will go down—it is technically 24 November; though we know that it is really 26 November, the date will be shown on our record, because we are in urgency, as being 24 November—as the day before the day that we acknowledge internationally violence against women. I think that tying this fact to the campaign that we have all been involved in, on both sides of the House, in the It’s Not OK campaign means it is really special that we are able to take this defence off our law books at such a time.
I believe that we will have plenty more opportunity to debate this bill as we go through the Committee stage, and then on to the third reading. I think the Law Commission’s report on this matter contained a very powerful statement when it referred to whether we should have a generic partial defence to murder. My very strong view is that we should not. The report said this: “This has the potential to reduce homicide to a lottery: it is an invitation to jurors to dress up their prejudices as law”. We must remove the reality that our jurors had been given an invitation to dress up their prejudices as law with this defence, and I welcome its removal from our law books.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: I am pleased to be able to take a call in respect of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill, because it is the timely removal of a partial defence of provocation, which no longer really has any
applicability in our law. The reason it was initially installed within the law was that there was a death penalty, so it was a way that somebody who might have brought about what some would say was a justifiable or excusable homicide, to some degree, was able to be accommodated within the sentence, i.e. manslaughter, for killing another human being. Some years ago the Crown moved to take away, firstly, the death penalty, later on, mandatory life imprisonment for someone convicted of murder, and then the presumption of a 10-year sentence. This is the time for the defence of provocation to go.
We can imagine a scenario where a person we can all relate to—for instance, a parent coming on to a scene where his or her child has been assaulted or abused in some way—loses his or her rag, as some would say colloquially, and kills the offender. Some would argue that that should be excused in some way. I think that in this country we need to acknowledge homicide for what it is, the killing of one person by another, and murder as the intentional killing of one person by another. If someone kills somebody and intended to kill somebody, regardless of the circumstances there is a name for that offence, and it is called murder.
Allowing the sentencing judge to take account of provocation at the time of sentencing is the most appropriate course for the courts to be able to take in respect of that. We have seen, for instance, in the last couple of years a failed suicide pact. An elderly gentleman who had brought about the death of his wife, and had then failed in his attempt to kill himself, survived, was charged with murder, pleaded guilty because he quite rightly said to the court that he did intend to bring about the death of his wife, and was sentenced to a community-based sentence of home detention, because he was not seen as a threat to anybody else in the community, and nobody could argue that that was not the correct penalty and did not correctly fit the crime.
It is a shame that the legislation has taken so long to get here. The barriers to provocation, having been removed as a partial defence to murder, have been lifted for about 4 years now. It is unfortunate that the previous Government was distracted with a different agenda, but I am pleased to see that we have wide support from across the House for this legislation. I commend it to the House. It is timely that this now passes into law.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: On the evening of 20 July 2003, 24-year-old Phillip Edwards was walking down K Road in central Auckland. A convertible driven by David McNee, aged 55, approached Edwards. After a discussion, Edwards agreed to perform a sexual act in front of Mr McNee for a fee. Edwards had just been released from prison and was in need of cash. Edwards then agreed to return with McNee to McNee’s home for a shower. While he was there, there was further low-level sexual activity. At some point during that activity, Edwards reacted violently towards Mr McNee and began beating him around the head and the face. He stated at the trial that he had become very angry, and that after the initial assault, everything became a blur. Edwards then covered McNee’s body with a blanket, robbed his home, and took his money, his alcohol, and his convertible. Pathologists reported to the court that McNee was struck between 30 and 40 times. The assault was so severe that McNee could have survived for only 15 minutes after Edwards had stopped.
I raised that story at the beginning of my speech to indicate that that is the kind of crime committed by somebody who is able to successfully invoke the partial defence of provocation. I raised the case in that detail to indicate the strength of feeling that reverberated around the gay community immediately after that case and immediately after other cases that have been discussed in earlier readings of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. I raise that case today to give a real-life example as to why what Parliament will do today is a very important step and a very, very necessary step.
People like David McNee, Ronald Brown, and Jim Curtis, who have been subject to successful defences by those who have committed assault or murder against them, need our respect and our thoughts today, as do their families.
I also pay some respect to everybody who has supported this bill’s passage through the House, particularly my colleague Lianne Dalziel, who spoke shortly before me. Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel brought forward a private member’s bill to remove the partial defence of provocation. The Government has stepped up as well, and I congratulate Simon Power on having led that move. I also congratulate the select committee on bringing the bill back to the House today.
I will make one thing very clear. I have had a lot of contact with members of the public about this bill, and for the most part there has been widespread support for what Parliament is doing today. However, there are some people who feel that passing this bill is in some way a knee-jerk reaction to two very recent cases, those involving Sophie Elliott and Ronald Brown. I think it is very important to put on the record the fact that this issue has been discussed for some time. I do not want to put it on the record in a political way, as perhaps the previous speaker, Chester Borrows, did. The partial defence of provocation was considered by the Law Commission in 2001 and again in 2007. The move to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations is timely, but it is not a knee-jerk reaction. In my view, this defence is something that has been a stain on our law books for some time, and I think that reacting as a Parliament, as we are now, is quite considered in the circumstances.
I also make it absolutely clear that we need to consider the notion of a gay panic defence, and the fact that it somehow or other has been able to last on our statute book for some time, in the wider context in terms of society’s view about sexuality. I do not want to spend too much time on this topic, except to say that, particularly in the recent case of Ronald Brown, it is important that we think about the kind of defence that was mounted by the defence counsel. The defence counsel sought to portray Mr Brown’s lifestyle as a gay man as being somehow or other a “dark thing”. That was the phrase used—that it was a dark part of his life. I think that kind of rhetoric and language does not speak well for the views of some people in our community, and I hope that our being able to take the defence of provocation off the statute book and away from even being able to be considered in terms of a defence will start to address those sorts of views and issues. I think this is a very timely thing for us to do.
I will make reference to a couple of things that the Justice and Electoral Committee discussed when it was dealing with this bill. The first is the question around whether there should be any amendment to the Sentencing Act to explicitly allow for the consideration of the defence of provocation. The committee decided that that was not necessary at this stage, because these issues can be considered by judges under their existing statutory discretion. I certainly accept that people far more learned in the law than I am are able to bring forward that idea and that we should accept it.
I think we also should remember that the Law Commission had a second recommendation when it came to issues around this defence, within the concept of establishing the Sentencing Council to draft sentencing guidelines. Labour was looking into implementing the Sentencing Council towards the end of its term in Government, and I urge the National Government to consider it again. I think it would help to ensure consistency in sentencing whilst leaving flexibility for judges to depart from the guidelines where they believe that should be the case. I think that the National Government should look at having another investigation into that option.
When we look at community attitudes towards this matter, we see it is quite clear that the community supports this bill. We have seen a number of commentators come forward and make sure that we are all aware that essentially, as my colleague Charles
Chauvel put it, we have to let people know that they simply cannot get away with murder. I think that is vitally important. As earlier speakers have already said, this is murder. As my colleague Lianne Dalziel said, we can look at situations in recent times, such as the trial for the murder of Sophie Elliot. The accused took the stand, and the abhorrence of the community grew as the victim was simply not able to defend herself. To see night after night on the news the pictures of somebody sitting in the dock and conveying that kind of attitude was something that the public of New Zealand found repugnant. I think it is important that the public was able to come to that decision by seeing that happen. But, equally, if we take ourselves back to the case of Ronald Brown, as Lianne Dalziel mentioned, we did not see the same reaction. Perhaps that was because Mr Ambach did not take the stand, but I also believe it speaks of some attitudes in our society that perhaps we, as a society, need to further address.
I am very pleased to stand in the second reading debate and support this bill. I believe that it marks a real advance for us in terms of attitudes towards victims and towards the families of victims, in making sure that we lift, in a sense, the debate we have in our community around how we treat people who are murdered and how we treat their families. As I come towards the end of my speech, it is probably timely to note the names of the people I mentioned before, and I will add a couple of other to them: Roy Jackson, Charles Aberhart, Ronald Anderson, Jim Curtis, Barry Hart, David McNee, and Ronald Brown. These people did not have the dignity of the law that should have surrounded them. They did not have the support of the law that should have surrounded them, and today this Parliament goes some way towards addressing the hurt and concern that they and their families felt. Thank you.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: I stand to support the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the bill is to repeal the partial defence of provocation. At a time when the Government is sending a strong message that people must find a way other than violence to manage their anger, it is inappropriate that anger be singled out as an overriding factor justifying conviction for manslaughter rather than murder.
Historically, the sole reason for the provocation defence was to avoid the mandatory murder penalty, effectively rewarding the person for his or her lack of self-control. Section 102 of the Sentencing Act 2002 now allows the presumption of life imprisonment to not be adopted on the grounds of manifest injustice. The historical rationale of section 169 of the Crimes Act 1961 has, therefore, been abolished. Juries have encountered difficulties in determining how an ordinary person would have acted when confronted with provocation at that level of gravity. The defence assumes that ordinary, reasonable people who are confronted with severe provocation will react with a homicidal loss of self-control, when, in fact, ordinary people do not.
The Government considers that the partial defence of provocation is fundamentally flawed. It effectively provides a defence for lashing out in anger—not just any anger but violent, homicidal rage. It rewards a lack of self-control by enabling an intentional killing to be categorised as something other than murder. The trial process, including the sentence, is often deeply traumatic for the families and friends of the victim. The distress caused to those close to the victim will generally reduce any defence argument, as the provocation issue is confined to sentencing. We believe that the risk that a jury will acquit altogether when confronted with an intentional but provoked killing is very low. Juries will still sometimes convict for manslaughter if an alternative defence such as lack of intent has been run, but they are not likely to let an offender walk free on the ground of sympathy alone.
The repeal of the partial defence of provocation for murder from the statute book is the preferred option. It is not proposed that provocation be considered as an express
mitigating factor at sentencing. Rather, the sentencing judge will be able to use his or her discretion under the Sentencing Act 2002 to consider whether life imprisonment would be manifestly unjust, given the particular circumstances of the case. If the sentencing judge determines that the life sentence is justified, he or she can take into account the existence and degree of provocation, together with all other relevant aggravating and mitigating factors, in fixing the length of the minimum non-parole period. The repeal of partial defence would make factors such as the alleged sexual behaviour of the victim and the nature of the relationship with the defendant less relevant in the crime. The emphasis upon such factors in evidence results in significant amounts of distress for the families and friends of the victim.
In conclusion, I make the point that this is not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent Weatherston case. The matter has been on the Minster of Justice’s work programme for some time.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI: Although recent cases have certainly drawn the partial defence of provocation into the public eye, the Law Commission first recommended its repeal in 2001, and the defence was the subject of a stand-alone report in 2007. I commend this bill to the House.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: The Justice and Electoral Committee has recommended that the partial defence of provocation should be repealed, and that is a sentiment that has been echoed by the vast majority of the submitters on the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. It is also a position I have campaigned for since before my entry into this Parliament.
There was a handful of submitters who raised some concerns about repeal and supported the retention of the defence. I would just like to use some time in this call on the second reading debate as an opportunity to respond to those concerns, particularly as I understand that one party in this Parliament, the ACT Party, has decided to adopt the position of opposing repeal. No doubt, judging by Mr Hide’s presence in the House tonight, we will hear from him as to why—
Hon Rodney Hide: Maybe or maybe not.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: As he says, maybe not. Maybe the issue is just not important enough for him to speak on.
Some submitters were concerned that certain marginalised groups of people would be unfairly disadvantaged by the removal of the defence, and those concerns were echoed back in 2000 when the Law Commission first began work on the reform of criminal defences. Attention was specifically drawn to battered defendants—victims of family violence who kill their partners because they perceive that if they do not, they or their children will be seriously harmed—and also mentally ill or impaired defendants. In the case of battered defendants, it was said by some submitters that there needed to be some acknowledgment of lesser culpability for what would otherwise be labelled as “murder”. Some submitters at the select committee felt that the defence of provocation was, if not the best way to do this, at least one way through which the law currently recognises that there are different degrees of blameworthiness that can be attached to a killing. I agree that it is inappropriate to label the victims of family violence, who truly are left with no alternative but killing, as “murderers” and that some law reform is needed in this area. But retaining provocation is not the appropriate way to deal with this issue, because the evidence, in fact, is that in many cases it works against, rather than for, actual or potential battered victims.
Similarly, concerns were raised that defendants who are mentally ill or impaired could be unfairly disadvantaged by the repeal of the partial defence. But, as the Law
Commission’s excellent report on this matter, dating from late 2007, demonstrates, the use of the defence relies on the defendant’s ability to display the self-control of an ordinary person before the defendant is able to show that he or she lost that control. That, at least, is the legal or jurisprudential theory behind the defence. This means that defendants of reduced capacity simply do not fall within the criteria of those who are able to make use of the defence. So if a group of people simply cannot use a defence, it is obvious that its repeal will not cause them undue harm or disadvantage.
Another submitter, the New Zealand Law Society—ordinarily a body entitled to great respect in law reform matters, but, sadly, I think on this occasion acting as a trade union—opposed the repeal until such time as it is accompanied by the introduction of a “degrees of murder for diminished responsibility” measure. As I indicated, I understand that that is now the position of one party in this Parliament. Before I briefly address the argument that was put forward by the society, I would like to record my thanks to Simon Power and the Government for sticking with the form of the bill that Labour’s spokesperson on justice, Lianne Dalziel, originally introduced. It repeals the partial defence of provocation without such a modification. In a decent society, “diminished responsibility” is not justifiable. Murder by lashing out is just as abhorrent as murder in cold blood. Murder conducted in self-defence or excused due to mental incapacity, automatism, or insanity is already covered by legitimate defences that recognise the differing levels of culpability that are manifestly evident in those particular situations.
Furthermore, even if we were to replace provocation with some sort of “diminished responsibility” defence, we would still face the problems that we face now: confusing jury direction, confusing legal tests that plague the defence, and complications that inevitably lead to appeal. So to argue for the replacement of one confusing area of the law with an even more confusing one is an omission on behalf of the New Zealand Law Society. As I said earlier, I think it is a manifestation more of that organisation acting as the union for the criminal defence Bar than proposing sensible legal reform.
I hope that, for all the reasons outlined by all those who will speak in support of this bill tonight, it will continue on its speedy passage through the House. I believe that it is an important step towards a society where violence is condemned. Circumstances where unremorseful killers are given the opportunity to publicly impugn their victims and where the victims of crime are made to feel unsafe are hallmarks of a society that we need to move away from. I want to thank those who have worked to make this bill a reality. The members of the select committee deserve thanks, as does the chair, Chester Borrows, for his work. I also acknowledge Margaret Wilson, who I understand was the Minister of Justice who sent the reference to the Law Commission that led to its report on which this reform is based. In thanking the Law Commission, I acknowledge law commissioner Dr Warren Young and the researchers at the Law Commission who were either employed or contracted to contribute to the report: Elizabeth McDonald, Claire Browning, Peter Williams, and David Walsh.
Lastly, I remember those for whom this repeal comes too late. May they be the last to have their ordeals impugned in a court of law. Not one of their deaths has been tolerable, and each of the victims whose killer has used the partial defence of provocation, successfully or not, stands as a silent witness to the reform that we are enacting tonight. In closing, I pay tribute to their families and loved ones, who will know that those lives were not lost in vain.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: I stand to support the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill, but in doing so I register a note of caution in terms of comments that the previous speaker, Charles Chauvel, made about submissions from the Law Society and other law-associated organisations. He cast them off as mere contributions from a trade union, which, in itself, I find ironic.
I note that my two esteemed lawyer colleagues Simon Bridges and Chester Borrows sympathise with those comments, but I, as an ordinary, simple man, think that some caution has to be registered. In my view we cannot lightly dismiss the cautions and expressions of concern that the Law Society and various law-associated groups have expressed.
The commentary on the bill shows that the select committee members agreed that sufficient flexibility is provided by section 9 of the Sentencing Act. In reality that places a very heavy burden on a judge, and our system of justice is actually based on 12 ordinary people. I want those comments to be registered, and on that basis I am very happy, as part of this Government, to support the bill.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call and follow on from the very useful contributions of my colleagues. I will be taking only a reasonably short call at this stage, and perhaps during the Committee stage I will make more detailed comments on some of the discussions that took place at the Justice and Electoral Committee. As has already been pointed out, Labour is obviously supporting this bill, particularly given that it mirrors the bill that was put forward in the ballot by the Hon Lianne Dalziel.
I reiterate and concur with the comments made earlier by the chair of the select committee, Chester Borrows, about the historical justification for the defence of provocation and about that justification being one of the reasons why repeal can, in fact, be justified. But there are a couple of additional reasons, which I want to add into the debate. An additional reason for the removal of the provocation defence, which was discussed at the select committee, is that the evidence as to what allegedly incited a homicidal loss of control, which in effect is what the defence of provocation must demonstrate, is entirely in the hands of the victim, and in almost all the examples in which provocation has been used as a partial defence in past years, that witness—the victim—has, of course, been silenced for ever.
The second point, which I think is another very valid reason for the removal of the defence of provocation, is that there is already a place for provocation to be taken into consideration in the weighing of aggravating and mitigating factors as part of the sentencing exercise. Having said that, I note that there were suggestions during the select committee process as to whether there needed to be more explicit reference to that in the Sentencing Act 2002. The decision was made by the committee that that was not necessary, and that that discretion already existed in the Sentencing Act, although it was perhaps not set out quite as explicitly.
In fact, it was noted by the select committee that that discretion exists under section 102 of the Sentencing Act. It allows a judge to take into account the existence and degree of provocation-related considerations, together with any other relevant aggravating or mitigating factors, to determine whether a sentence of life imprisonment would be manifestly unjust. So we can see that discretion already exists at the point of sentencing, which is the appropriate point for it to be taken into consideration—at the point when it is considered by the judge.
There is, though, another issue that the committee spent a bit of time on, and that is the term “manifestly unjust” in relation to a term of life imprisonment. The term “manifestly unjust” is a high threshold, and I think in this case it is warranted, particularly given the message that we are sending today in this House about the kinds of defences that can be used when a murder charge is being heard. But “manifestly unjust” is a high threshold, and the select committee considered the way that cases and guidelines would develop around this threshold following the repeal of the defence of provocation. The select committee also reported back that “Following the abolition of the partial defence, we would expect the courts, over time, to develop judicial guidance
as to how such factors should be taken into account when determining whether a sentence of life imprisonment would be manifestly unjust for an offender convicted of murder.”
That leads me on to the two final points I want to make. The idea of a Sentencing Council was raised many time by Labour members. It was established, and provision was made for it, by the previous Labour Government, but it has since been abolished by the National Government. I think that is a shame, because this debate has again demonstrated the very valid role that a sentencing guidelines council could play in the future. That is something I want to come back to later on in this debate.
One final view that I wish to share is a sentiment I share with my colleague Grant Robertson. We are very pleased that we are here today to remove this partial defence, and we all acknowledge that it is not a knee-jerk reaction to the Clayton Weatherston case. I believe that today we have been given plenty of examples with plentiful justifications as to why the House should have reacted in past years to some manifestly unjust cases that have involved members of the gay community. Two cases that have been raised are those of Ronald Brown and David McNee. I am glad that we as a House are making this decision to repeal this defence today. I am disappointed that it has taken us as long as this to get to this point, and I look forward to debating this further throughout the evening.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT)
: The ACT Party opposes this Parliament’s removing the defence of provocation with the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. When Parliament moves after a particular case to remove elements of our jurisprudence in our criminal code that have been there for many, many years and have stood the test of time, we should give it careful thought. Looking at just one or two cases where the provocation defence was attempted, and then from that drawing the general principle, seems to us in the ACT Party to be an unhelpful way of thinking about this issue.
The question Parliament is considering is whether a reasonable person could be provoked sufficiently to commit a murder or to kill someone in a way that we would not normally regard as a murder. I am a simple person, and that seems to me to be entirely reasonable. I can imagine—and I do not think Labour members can appreciate this—being provoked to do some truly terrible things. The case of poor Sophie Elliott has been spoken of. She was killed by Clayton Weatherston in a premeditated way with a knife. She was stabbed 216 times, cut with scissors, and disfigured. It was premeditated and she was brutally murdered. The country was rightfully horrified by this vicious and brutal attack on a young woman. We were mortified that Clayton Weatherston would attempt the defence of provocation. But does it follow that we should get rid of the defence, particularly when that defence was not successful?
I ask members to turn the situation on its head and to think of themselves as, maybe, a brother of Sophie. I ask members to think of themselves going into that room; hearing the murder of their loved sister, her screams, and her cries; getting into the room; and seeing her cut to bits on the floor and Clayton Weatherston standing there with a dripping knife. What would members of this Parliament do? We do not know, actually, what we would do.
Chester Borrows: Kill the bastard.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Chester Borrows calls out that he would kill the bastard, and I think that I might too. I see Michael Woodhouse nodding his head. We do not know what we would do. I cannot imagine what it would do to someone’s mind to see his or her sister, daughter, or loved one at that moment so brutally and terribly butchered on the floor. It seems to me that a reasonable man might, in a fit of rage, as Chester Borrows of National quite rightly says, “kill the bastard”. And then that man is on a
murder charge. But does he not have the defence that he was provoked to commit the murder by the actions of that terrible man, and that he did as a reasonable man would do? He responded, not necessarily in a wise way, and not necessarily in a sensible way, but in a truly understandable and, perhaps, human way. It seems to us in the ACT Party that in such a circumstance that man can surely say that he was provoked. But this Parliament is saying no. Parliament is saying that if I was in that situation, I murdered the man, I must be charged with murder, and then I must defend the murder charge without the obvious and long-held defence of provocation. That seems to the ACT Party to be wrong.
By my taking that extreme example, I think we can understand that a reasonable person can be provoked to do some very unreasonable things, and that there may be some wisdom in the law as it stands in the defence of provocation and in a jury considering that defence—and it is only a partial defence. I ask members speaking here tonight to stand up and say what their reaction would be as a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend, or a loved one as they walked in on that room. If they committed the heinous act of killing that butcher, what would they say to the court?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: They’d probably get off completely with self-defence, actually.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Lianne Dalziel says they would get off with self-defence. Actually, they would not. They would get off with self-defence only if that man attacked them. If he is standing there, having butchered the sister, there is no self-defence.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Protecting the sister is self-defence.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I say to Lianne Dalziel that she is dead already—that is the point. The person does not have the defence of self-defence, because the horrible deed has been done.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Who’s going to prove that? Good grief, man!
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Lianne Dalziel adopts the Labour Party position, which is to ask who will prove it. Because Lianne Dalziel does not like the defence of provocation, the person has to go to the court and lie. He or she has to say: “I thought he was going to attack me.”, rather than say what truly was the case.
The actual defence that that person needs is simple to the ACT Party—it is a defence of provocation. That is what it is. I say that National, Labour, the Green Party, and the Māori Party are making a mistake in removing that defence. I think we can quite easily understand, as human beings—maybe Lianne Dalziel has trouble with it—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: He would get a light sentence, as well you know.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: He would get a light sentence, but he would not have the defence of what genuinely and truly happened—that man was provoked.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga)
: I want to address the concerns of the Hon Rodney Hide. Before I do that, I want to talk about the practice of this. I want to make some practical points. I will not take my full time, but I want to make a practical point and then—
H V Ross Robertson: We can all say that, Simon.
SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, I will not take a long time until I really get into it. I want to take a practical standpoint and then get on to the principle that Rodney Hide has talked about.
I have prosecuted murder cases, and in 2007, with another prosecutor in the Bay of Plenty, I prosecuted in a murder trial involving a man who, over a period of a week—the Crown case stated—resolved to kill his ex-partner. He was really a man with intense jealousy. She had a new partner. The accused man and his ex-partner had two children. They had moved, and they had separated. He texted her telling her, I think from memory, that he was going to kill her. Indeed, on a Sunday night, I think it was, he
came over to her place, a couple of hours away from where he lived. He broke down the door. He knifed her and her partner in bed. They tried to escape out of the window. Their flesh, I remember graphically, was still all over the window, and their blood ran down from the window to the ground, which was two storeys. They crawled away. He followed them and he kept stabbing them, and both bled to death.
I can tell members that that was not provocation. It was never going to be provocation. Nevertheless, that was indeed what he pleaded. That is what he argued in court, and we went through the charade of a trial—because there was no other defence for that man. We went through the charade of a trial, and he was found guilty after an hour or two, and he received one of the longest sentences in New Zealand history. The reality is that nearly always—I do not have the figures before me—a defence of provocation fails. We go through the charade sometimes because there really is no other defence. I resolved in my own mind, at that trial, that practically it was a very, very flawed partial defence and it should go. But I did so also for the principled reason that a murderous intent that results in a death is murder. It is nothing else. In our country and in all countries around the world, labelling actually does matter. If, with murderous intent, a person kills someone, then that person is a murderer—not a “manslaughterer”. That person is, as I say, a murderer. Labelling does matter.
The defence of provocation, it seems to me, is entirely unprincipled. It says, effectively, that an accused person has been so offended that it was in some sense OK to do what he or she did. Well, it was not, and it was murder. I can tell members that for no other crime in this country does one today have the defence of provocation—in nothing else. It is very, very common in courts in this county to have the situation where—I can think of two cases like this I have been involved with—a person has stabbed someone or beaten someone up badly, and the reason for doing it was effectively that the person who was beaten up was a paedophile. Maybe he had done something to a cousin or a child. I can tell members something about the practicalities: the accused person nearly always gets off—that is the reality of it. But that person is not, in principle, entitled to the defence of provocation. Nor should someone be who murders someone with murderous intent. That person is a murderer. I think we are doing exactly the right thing today, for practical as well as principled reasons.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||ACT New Zealand 5.
|Bill read a second time.
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade)
: I seek leave for the Committee on the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill to take the bill as one question.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Is there any objection to that course of action? There is none.
Clauses 1 to 5
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: The Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill is a very important measure that the Committee
is debating tonight, and I think it is a shame that members do not have a unanimous position on it. I think that that would be respectful to those who suffered throughout the trial of the Sophie Elliott case. I find it incredible that the one example that has been brought to the House as a reason for voting against the passage of this bill is a case that did not occur. It is the “case” of a close relative of Sophie Elliott coming into the room as she was being killed and expecting that a particular response—seeking to defend the life of a sister, in that particular case—would not fall within the definition of self-defence. In that entire contribution no mention was made of Ronald Brown. Ronald Brown died at the hands of somebody who said that Ronald Brown had approached him in a manner that was a homosexual advance, and that he was so affected by this approach he felt that it was within his right to claim the defence of provocation against a charge of murder, and he claimed that defence for himself. Mr Ambach was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder. I find it incredible that anyone can stand in this Chamber and put a hypothetical story ahead of the real case we have had played out in our courts. It was not on our television screens in the way that the Clayton Weatherston case was played out, but it was a case that happened pretty much at the same time. We saw the provocation defence being used.
I think what members—perhaps only a few—have overlooked is that provocation is only a partial defence. The partial defence existed when murder attracted either the death penalty or, subsequently, a life sentence, as the only mechanism for showing society’s abhorrence for the action that had been undertaken. For a person’s intentional taking of someone else’s life, society said that that person’s life would be taken—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or whatever the expression might be. The death sentence was the original sentence for murder. That was replaced in this country—and I cannot recall the exact date off the top of my head—with a life sentence for murder. [Interruption] I cannot remember when the death penalty was replaced with a life sentence, but I believe it was in the 1960s. In 2002 a further step was taken, and that was to remove the obligation on the court to impose a life sentence if a murder conviction was entered. That was to recognise that there would be circumstances where the intentional taking of life would be proved, but the imposition of a life sentence would not produce a just result.
I heard the chairman of the Justice and Electoral Committee, Chester Borrows, use the example of the individual who entered into a suicide pact with his wife. That was a tragic, tragic case. The suicide pact was a two-way thing. It was effective for the taking of his wife’s life but was not effective in his own case. He survived his suicide attempt even though he had assisted his wife’s suicide. In that case he pleaded guilty to the charge of murder. He had intentionally taken the life of his wife. There is not a Court in this land that would have felt comfortable with imposing a life sentence on somebody in the tragic circumstances that played out in that particular case. So the court exercised the discretion that it now has under the Sentencing Act and imposed a sentence of 18 months, with leave to apply for home detention. That was an acceptable way of saying that there was a difference in such cases.
My deep and abiding concern about leaving this issue to a jury is that we invite jury members to put themselves in the place of the person who has been accused. We invite them to apply every prejudice that they might hold against the person who has provoked the individual. Nothing justifies the acceptance of provocation. I have felt very angry with people on occasions, but not so angry that I would want to take their lives. I cannot imagine a circumstance where I would be so angry. I have noted before that, when a lot of the feminist literature about the subject of the provocation defence was written back in the 1980s as a response to Dr Minnett killing his wife Leigh Minnett, many headlines changed the word manslaughter to “mans laughter”. The two words of course join to
form the word manslaughter. The point was that it seemed that the characteristics of the reasonable expectation around self-control, and what would breach that self-control, applied only to men in those circumstances; they certainly did not apply to women.
In fact, women were far more likely than men to end up in front of the courts accused of the murder of their spouse or partner than men were. They would be far more likely to do so in what the court might consider to be a far more considered and cold, calculating fashion, because obviously the respective strengths of a man and a woman are different. Often, the woman’s response took the circumstances a little more into account. For example, in the case of the woman who took her husband’s life while he lay sleeping, the court accepted fully in that case that she was the victim of domestic violence, that she had been subject to severe threats, and that those threats had been made not only to her but also to her wider family. There are other instances where women have not been able to rely on the defence, because of the method of responding to the fear that they have felt. Nothing excuses the level of provocation that has been claimed in the cases that have been played out in the media over recent times, either.
Historically, this defence has had its time. Those who say that we are debating this legislation in Parliament now because of the two cases that we had in front of the courts over recent times actually have not bothered with the history of this defence. The Law Commission came down very, very clearly on two occasions for the repeal of the defence. The issue went back to the Law Commission for the second report because there was a concern about battered women’s syndrome and about people with mental impairment. There was a concern that, in actual fact, in the kind of defence where we would expect provocation to play a role, the defence had not been able to be used by the very people whom the Law Commission was concerned about. The Law Commission took a lot of time to do the research. I know that we have the figures in front of us somewhere that detail the number of successful uses of the provocation defence over the 5-year period that the Law Commission looked at. In 2007 it found that provocation was successfully relied upon by very few defendants. Crown prosecution files showed that during the 5-year period provocation was successfully relied upon in only four out of 81 murder cases.
So the defence really is an anachronism now, and it is time for it to go. I think it is unfair to use a hypothetical example arising out of a tragedy, when we know that the effect of having that defence there led to that particular family having to listen to things about their daughter that, in fact, nobody could get up and refute, because the only person telling the story was the one who had silenced for ever the other witness to the events in that room that tragic day. So I believe that we owe it to the families—not just of the recent cases, but also of the ones that have gone before—to them to act in unison in this Parliament and remove the defence. The reason for the defence has gone—it went with the death penalty and it went with the automatic life sentence—and it is time that we leave this matter to the judges. We are inviting juries to substitute their prejudices for law. That is what the Law Commission said, and I believe that it is absolutely vital that we take this opportunity to act as one and remove the defence that should no longer be on our law books.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: I want to go back to the hypothetical situation that was set out by the Hon Rodney Hide, then followed up by my colleague Lianne Dalziel. I feel that Rodney Hide gave a disingenuous presentation of the way that a situation like that would currently be dealt with in our criminal justice system. I would be loath to leave the public or anyone else believing that when the Justice and Electoral Committee reviewed this repeal we felt that it would in any circumstances give rise to situations such as the scenario painted by Rodney Hide, where a family member who retaliated on seeing a family member murdered would be landed with a 17-year prison sentence. That
is not the kind of scenario we would see, given the way that the Sentencing Act 2002 is currently drafted.
The reason I find his presentation disingenuous is that l would be very surprised—I do not know for sure; I would like some clarity from Rodney Hide as to the way ACT voted on the Sentencing Act 2002—if, in fact, ACT supported the level of flexibility that was purposely drafted into the law to allow for the very scenarios that he is painting. I would be very pleased to hear Rodney Hide speak again during the Committee stage to clarify his party’s position on the Sentencing Act 2002, which I think deals with the very issue and the very concerns that he has raised as a consequence of the repeal of the partial defence of provocation.
I will go over the parts of the Sentencing Act that would deal with this situation. Section 102 sits under Subpart 4 of Part 2. I referred to it in my previous speech. It sets out that although there is a presumption in favour of life imprisonment for murder, “An offender who is convicted of murder must be sentenced to imprisonment for life unless, given the circumstances of the offence and the offender, a sentence of imprisonment for life would be manifestly unjust.” I think the situation and the circumstance that Rodney Hide set out would, by any layperson’s reading, fit the criterion of being “manifestly unjust”. Indeed, further on in the Sentencing Act a number of explicit criteria are set out; when the imposition of a minimum period of imprisonment of 17 years or more would be required, there are a series of mitigating factors that, again, explicitly exclude the kind of scenario that Rodney Hide has set out for the Committee. So I think it is misleading to claim that this repeal could give rise to that kind of scenario. Chester Borrows, the chair of the committee, set out the case of someone involved in a suicide pact. At the time of the Sentencing Act discussion and debate, examples were frequently used of elderly couples and euthanasia. Again, those are situations where that threshold of “manifestly unjust” is very likely to be reached. I invite Mr Hide to explain to the Committee whether ACT supported the Sentencing Act 2002, and, if it did not, to explain how he reconciles his two differing positions on those provisions.
I will also dwell briefly on another point, which also was touched on by my colleague, and it is around the idea of battered defendants who are mentally ill or impaired. Some submitters presented to the committee in defence of use of the partial defence of provocation by defendants who are considered to be battered. The phrase “battered wife syndrome” was raised a lot in the select committee. My colleague has already pointed out that in cases where this partial defence has been used, it has been highly unsuccessful. So the argument could be raised that even if a defence is necessary for those particular circumstances, this defence is not it, because it has not worked for those groups of defendants.
The majority of the select committee concluded that it would be more appropriate for most of those defendants to rely on the defence of self-defence. I would add one qualification to that. There was quite considerable discussion in the select committee as to whether self-defence was a useful or successful defence for those particular defendants. A lot of people working in that particular sector—domestic violence, in particular—pointed to a number of scenarios and examples of battered women for whom we might consider it would be appropriate to argue self-defence, but the minds of a jury may perceive self-defence as the kind of defence that would be used if a woman retaliated after an immediate act of violence or felt herself under an immediate threat. They made the point to the committee that that does not fit with the psychology of battered women, and that there perhaps is a disconnect between what we see as the characteristics and behaviour of battered women and a jury’s perception of what constitutes self-defence. We did not reach a conclusion as a committee as to how we would appropriately deal with that particular problem and that disconnect. The only
conclusion that we came to—on Labour’s side of the table, in particular—was that it was the exact kind of situation where we would be inclined to ask a Sentencing Council to consider where it would be most appropriate for these kinds of women to look in terms of their defence, given their situation. That is another reason why it is disappointing that the Government has removed the idea of a Sentencing Council, and has used all of the funding for it for the administration of a costly and potentially unsatisfactory offender levy.
I am pleased, though, that we are finally repealing the defence of provocation. The scenarios that have been painted by other members of the Committee are adequately covered, I think, by existing law. Again I invite Mr Hide to explain to the Committee his position on the Sentencing Act 2002.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: I will take a very brief call in support of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill because Kevin Hague is not here to do so and I know that he was very, very passionate in support of this bill. Without being a lawyer, I appreciate the comments of the lawyers in the Chamber who have spoken about this bill from the point of view of evolving law. I highly support the comments of Lianne Dalziel about the use of discretion being maybe a heavy burden on judges, but it is preferable to an outdated mechanism such as the provocation defence.
When talking about the evolution of law I am thinking back to my earliest memory of kneeling in front of the radio the night that Parliament voted out capital punishment. My father was standing there virtually crying with joy because he campaigned against hanging in this country. One of my earliest memories of political participation was seeing what he went through and how happy he was that the law had evolved. I am thinking also about when I was travelling through Ireland and it was described to me that a gypsy was found stealing something from a farm in Ireland and was killed by the farmer with a fork. The defence was provocation, not because the gypsy had attacked the farmer but because the Roma—the travellers—are regarded as less than human. Therefore, the Irish judicial system had accepted that provocation was acceptable. The farmer was able to get away with killing somebody, simply because of who that person was.
I think about homophobia in this country and how it is still alive and well. I still hear young people, particularly young males, speaking in a homophobic way constantly about the idea that if anyone should approach them, that would easily provoke violence in them. I think we have a long way to go when it comes to addressing these things, which is why this bill is really important. We are removing a risk that that can be used against a person such as the victim of a homophobic murder.
We have come a long way. We have only to think about the Ku Klux Klan and how they have justified ethnic cleansing, and all the other stereotyping and violence that has been used to justify the murder of innocent people right across the planet. Battered woman’s syndrome is another example of how the law has evolved.
That is what we are here to do—to help the law evolve in a way that will be fair and just, and allow the courts to exercise due discretion and wisdom. I am sorry that Kevin Hague is not here to speak more eloquently. I know he did at the first reading. But the Green Party is pleased to support this bill and pleased to see so much unanimity around the House about it. We will be delighted to see this bill progress into law, for the sake of all the people who have been unjustly killed simply because they were different from the violent offenders who took their lives. Kia ora.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: I start by acknowledging my colleague Catherine Delahunty, and more particularly my colleague Kevin Hague, who spoke to me about the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill some weeks ago. I have thought about it, and our caucus has thought about it. I have just walked into the Chamber, as
you know, so I am not entirely aware of what has gone before me; members will forgive me if I am repeating what has already been said.
Nobody could be comfortable with the success of provocation defences in the case of Mr Ambach and in the case of—to cite the victim’s name—David McNee. I will start with him. That case was an example of a rent boy who was hired by Mr McNee to perform a service. His defence was that the terms of the contract, if you like, went way outside the boundaries, so he panicked and killed Mr McNee. I cannot remember the name of the offender; somebody will remind me, no doubt.
Charles Chauvel: Edwards.
DAVID GARRETT: Edwards, yes. If I had been on the jury—and I never have been and never will be, because I am a lawyer—I would have found a great deal of difficulty accepting that an experienced rent boy who had agreed to do x could suddenly become beset by panic when he was asked to do y back at the contractee’s flat. However, 12 ordinary people selected at random from the community accepted that defence.
Before I came down to the Chamber, I heard the Hon Lianne Dalziel speaking. She said, and I have the same information, that of 81 murder cases over the last 5-year period, the defence was offered in 15 and was successful only four times. Lianne Dalziel said that that was evidence that the defence had done its dash. I am sorry, but by my logic it is evidence of exactly the opposite. It is evidence of the fact that the defence will be rarely argued and even more rarely successful. I am sure that other speakers—including, probably, my leader—have noted the Weatherston case that everyone is talking about. I am afraid I do not accept that it is merely coincidence that we are debating this bill 6 months after the Weatherston case. Everyone seems to have forgotten that in the Weatherston case the defence was offered and it was unsuccessful. Twelve ordinary people listened to that swine of a man offer as a defence for mutilating and killing that young woman that he had been tormented beyond belief, beyond endurance, and had killed her.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: They didn’t believe it.
DAVID GARRETT: That is right. They rejected it.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: So what about Ronald Brown? Mention him.
DAVID GARRETT: Ronald Brown was the victim of Mr Ambach. Is that right?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: That’s right.
DAVID GARRETT: I say to Ms Dalziel that if I was on that jury, I would have had a great deal of trouble with that verdict. From what I know, and you were not there either, as you very well know—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Order!
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I know what the member is going to say. I ask the member to sit. The Chair cannot be brought into the debate.
DAVID GARRETT: I am well aware of what Ms Dalziel is going to say. The only people who heard all the evidence of that case were the 12 people of the jury who sat through the entire trial. We stand to one side, read the newspaper, and listen to the television, and I have the same reaction as Ms Dalziel. I wonder how this could be. This does not read well. This was a younger man with a much older man—stronger, one would think—but those 12 ordinary people sat there and they accepted that defence.
I understand that my leader has already offered one hypothetical example based on the Weatherston case, so I will offer another one. Late in life, I have become a father. It has been the most wondrous experience of my life. Looking around the Chamber, I do not know on that side or this side who are parents and who are not. But certainly speaking for myself, it has been an incredible change in attitude. It might sound a bit
soft, and I do not really care if it does, but I would die for my children. I hesitated whether to even raise this in the Chamber, but every father has the fear of coming upon their child either in the process of being molested or having been killed. Let us hope and pray to God that that never happens to any of us here. I would like every member in the Chamber tonight to think about how they would feel and react if they came upon such a scene. If I came across my little Charlie, aged 4, being interfered with or worse, I do not know how I would react.
I suspect that I share the feeling of most, if not all, parents in this Chamber that we do not know how we would react. We may literally go off our nuts, to use the vernacular. Should it not be the case that the defence of provocation is decided—is adjudicated upon—by 12 ordinary people taken from, let us say, this Committee? We range in age, in sex, in profession, and in education. This Committee is as good as any as a sample. I would rather my fate be decided that way—in fact, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I probably would not offer the defence. So let us talk about a hypothetical father.
Chester Borrows: You’d happily do the time.
DAVID GARRETT: I would probably happily do the time. But some parents would not. I say to this Committee that I would rather have 12 ordinary people with the attributes of ordinary people judging me, and that is what the defence is about. Would an ordinary person with the normal powers of self-control react in this way? That is the decision in nutshell. I would like to think that that decision is made by 12 jurors and not by a judge.
Hon Rodney Hide: Not by Parliament.
DAVID GARRETT: And not by Parliament. We could talk about the Weatherston case. I will be careful because I have got in trouble before. Weatherston is appealing his verdict so I will need to be very careful. Suffice it to say that senior prosecutors of my acquaintance were astounded that Weatherston received an 18-year non-parole period. If I had been a betting man I would have won because they all said it would be 25 years at least. That decision was made by a judge; we are talking now about verdicts, because that is the province of a jury.
I suspect that before I came down to the Chamber there was great quotation about the Law Commission and supposedly learned persons who are in favour of this move. Well, the Law Society, of which I am no champion, is not in favour of the removal of this defence. I took the trouble of ringing two senior prosecutors who made submissions to the Law Commission 2 years ago and asked them what they thought now. Both of them were of the view—I have to be fair and say that one was more strongly of the view than the other—that the defence should remain.
Professor Bill Hodge, a constitutional law expert at the University of Auckland and not a noted right-wing maniac, has noted that the sentences for manslaughter range from nothing through to life imprisonment. He said that the defence should not be repealed in the absence of alternative defences such as diminished responsibility—what the Americans call temporary insanity, and the French used to call crime passionnel. We do not have any of those alternatives. We are being asked to rely on the wisdom of judges to use section 102 of the Sentencing Act to depart from the presumption of a mandatory life sentence. It is true that that section of the Sentencing Act allows for a less than life sentence to be handed down, but I believe this decision should remain with a jury of the person’s peers.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why?
DAVID GARRETT: For the very reasons I have outlined, I say to Ms Dalziel. I do not know whether she is a parent, but it has certainly changed my attitude to life in many, many ways, and it changes my attitude to this matter.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour—Te Atatū)
: I stand to support the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. After listening to the previous speaker, David Garrett, I say that I am a parent and I am a gay man, and I could hear the dog whistle in that speech. It was all about molestation; all that emotive stuff that has been used all too often as an excuse for bigotry and prejudice.
Mr Garrett did not say it, although I did sense that it was there in the background, but all too often people have stood up in the New Zealand courts and said: “I killed that guy because he hit on me.” I would like to ask the women in this Chamber how many times they have been hit on in their lives when they did not want it. It is probably lots of times. It was offensive, degrading, and it made them angry, but it did not give them the excuse to kill someone. They did not have that excuse, but that excuse has been used so often in the defence of people who killed gay men. They said they were so offended that a guy hit on them. I say again that the women in this Chamber know what that means. They know how offensive it is, but it does not give someone an excuse or a reason to kill another person. Saying no is enough, and if that does not work, there are other strategies and mechanisms that can be used, but we do not kill someone.
I do not think there is any excuse to give someone a licence to exhibit their prejudice. After all, where would end? It still sits there with gay men. It used to sit there with race. I suspect in some cases it probably still does, and that is totally unacceptable. Once it sat there with religion. My ancestors came from Ireland, which is a nation that was divided on religion. Religion was used as an excuse to kill people. No one would accept that today, and no one should accept sexual orientation as a basis to kill someone or to excuse their actions in murder or violence.
I say to Mr Garrett and to those who are opposed to this legislation that our law is robust. It is designed to keep people safe, and it has processes that are tried and true. There should be no loophole for a person to use prejudice to excuse actions that are illegal. Thank you.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That clauses 1 to 5 be agreed to.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||ACT New Zealand 5;
|Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
- The result corrected after originally being announced as Ayes 117, Noes 5.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Did the Māori Party just cast 5 votes in favour?
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Yes, the Māori Party cast 5 votes in favour.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: I seek leave of the Committee to change the vote. I have just checked with our people. I would like to change the Māori Party’s vote.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Leave is sought to change the Māori Party’s vote to 4 votes in favour. Is there any objection? There is no objection. I will declare the result again. The result now is that the Ayes are 116 and the Noes 5, and the motion is agreed to.
- Bill reported without amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRPERSON (Charles Chauvel): I move,
That the report be adopted.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the report be adopted.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||ACT New Zealand 5.
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
on behalf of the
Minister of Justice: I move,
That the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. The purpose of this bill is to repeal the partial defence of provocation. Provocation is included in section 169 of the Crimes Act and states that a verdict of murder can be reduced to manslaughter if the offender can show that the crime was committed under provocation. Recent examples have illustrated the significant issues posed by this defence. Extensive consideration by the Law Commission and other bodies has emphasised the need for the defence to be abolished. It is with pride that I stand in support of the bill, on behalf of my party. I will defer to the chair of the Justice and Electoral Committee, Chester Borrows, who will contribute more fully to this debate on our behalf.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: It is said that hard cases make bad law. Tonight we had a new maxim from the ACT Party—hypothetical stories spun for electoral rhetoric make for rotten politics. Let me recall three of the hard cases that illustrate the bad law that we have now. And unlike what we heard in the second reading from Mr Hide, and in the Committee stage from Mr Garrett, these are facts—not hypotheticals. These are the most recent cases in which the defence of provocation has succeeded.
In the case of the Crown and Ambach earlier this year, Ambach beat Mr Brown to death with a banjo and then with the weight from a dumbbell. Ambach ransacked the downstairs of Mr Brown’s home, whether before or after the beating is not clear. The police arrived and found Mr Brown unconscious on the stairs with very serious head injuries, including the bridge of the banjo rammed down his throat. While detained in a police cell, Ambach manipulated a cut to his finger and heavily smeared the walls of the cell and his face with the blood. Police officers in attendance thought his injuries to be serious, owing to the amount of blood, and took him to hospital. There, no injuries other than a cut to his finger were found.
In an interview the next day Ambach was calm and through an interpreter gave an account of the previous evening. Ambach said Mr Brown touched him on the thigh after he had been drinking with Mr Brown for a time. Ambach said that he indicated he was not interested in Mr Brown in that way and said he pushed Mr Brown’s hand away. Ambach said he then had another drink and that at some point Mr Brown went upstairs, turning the downstairs lights off. Ambach says that Mr Brown called him to come upstairs. He claimed that he wanted to leave but said he could not find the way out. Ambach claimed not to be able to remember anything after that. But later in his police interview he said he thought he went upstairs. In no clear sequence he remembered flashes, including Mr Brown chasing him round a table and Mr Brown throwing things at him. Ambach claims to have barricaded himself in and claimed to have no memory of how he hurt Mr Brown.
At trial Justice Winkelmann allowed the partial defence of provocation to be put to the jury. The partial defence succeeded. Ambach was convicted not of murder, but of manslaughter, and sentenced to 8 years in prison. The sentence but not the verdict is under appeal, but as with the comments made by Lianne Dalziel and I throughout this debate, nothing I have said bears on the sentencing appeal.
The case of the Crown and Ali was one I mentioned in my first reading speech on this issue, so I will not repeat its revolting facts here. I will record, though, that on the facts that were similar to those I have just recited in respect of Ambach, at that trial Justice Williams allowed the partial defence of provocation to be put to the jury. The partial defence succeeded. Ali was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment.
In the case of the Crown and Edwards, on the evening of 20 July 2003 Mr McNee was driving his car along Karangahape Road in Auckland. Edwards, in the company of two friends, noticed Mr McNee’s car. Edwards concluded that Mr McNee was looking for somebody to pick up. Having been released from prison 10 days earlier—he had some 50 previous convictions—he had no money so he jumped into the car when it stopped at the nearest traffic lights. Edwards said he concluded a bargain with Mr McNee to perform sexually in his presence for $120. Mr McNee said that his home was nearby and as Edwards needed a shower they went there. Following the shower, Edwards went into the main bedroom. According to him, after some sexual contact he got to his feet and started hitting Mr McNee with his fists. In court he admitted to striking Mr McNee between 30 and 40 times.
Edwards said he felt very angry and that everything afterwards became a blur, after the first few blows. When Edwards stopped beating Mr McNee, Mr McNee was on the floor and there was blood everywhere. Edwards then made off with items of Mr McNee’s property.
At trial Justice Frater allowed the partial defence of provocation to be put to the jury. The partial defence succeeded. Edwards was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment.
Each of the three cases over the past 6 years that I have outlined shares four very disturbing features. First, the account we are left with of the events in question is inevitably that of the killer. The killer goes out of his way to besmirch the character of the victim, portraying him as sexually predatory and therefore somehow deserving of the agonising death meted out to him. Grotesquely, the voice of the victim is silenced, and substituted for by the only surviving witness, the person who stabbed, beat, or otherwise brutalised him to death.
Secondly, aspects of the evidence indicate dishonesty on the part of the killer. Ambach’s and Edwards’ alleged blackouts, Ambach’s smearing of blood from a flesh wound to make it look as if he were wounded more severely, Ali and Edwards’ theft of their victims’ property after killing them, and Ali’s wiping of fingerprints from the crime scene and the selling of his victim’s property, are not the actions of people with a propensity to tell the truth. Their claims of blackouts during which they experienced uncontrolled rage, the essence of the provocation defence, just do not ring true.
Thirdly, horrific violence was inflicted in the killing. In Ambach’s case a banjo bridge was found rammed down the neck of his victim; in Ali’s case there was a stabbing five times; and in Edwards’ case there were 30 or 40 blows.
Fourthly, a High Court judge in each instance instructed a jury, letting each killer get away with murder by allowing a manslaughter verdict, in each case to a man who claimed to be the unwitting victim of sexual advance from another. Uncontrolled rage led to a reward: a lesser verdict, in circumstances where more controlled anger or violence would have seen the killer penalised with a more severe verdict.
The overwhelming majority of submitters to the Justice and Electoral Committee supported the abolition of this outdated and discredited defence. The Law Commission rightfully recommended its repeal. My colleague Lianne Dalziel rightly introduced a member’s bill to effect that repeal. I was glad to draft it for her. She rightly and graciously withdrew that appeal so that Simon Power could advance the Government’s decision to progress repeal, and I commend that decision in the House today.
It is wrong for the ACT Party, which masquerades as the liberal party and as a champion of victims’ rights, to be the only group in this House to oppose repeal. That is an insult to the victims of violent crime, but it shows that party’s true colours. It votes today to continue to sanction a defence that legitimises violence against gay men and against women. I say shame on it. Having heard David Garrett’s contribution during the Committee stage, I think Chris Carter is right. We understand the coded message being sent about which New Zealanders’ lives and votes are worth more than others in the ACT Party’s estimation. I congratulate the rest of the House on moving to take this Dickensian defence off the statute book by the end of this evening.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: The Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill amends the Crimes Act 1961 to abolish the partial defence of provocation. Section 169 of the Crimes Act provides that “Culpable homicide that would otherwise be murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the person who caused the death did so under provocation.” Section 170, an adjunct to section 169, would also be repealed by this bill.
It is fair to say that society has high expectations of the criminal law. We expect it to be efficient and effective, and, most important, to be fair: not just fair for defendants but fair for all participants, including the victims of crime and their families. There are times when we must look at the system with fresh eyes and ask whether the law is still serving the interests of those it was designed to protect. In this case, I think we all agree that the answer is no. The partial defence is notorious for allowing the defendant to tarnish the character of the victim at trial. In particular, it allows irrelevant factors such as the sexuality of the victim to be raised by defence counsel. This causes unnecessary distress to victims’ families and friends. Limiting any defence argument about provocation to the sentencing stage will greatly reduce the media scrutiny of a victim’s conduct.
Recently, the Government announced eight new initiatives to support the victims of serious crime. Four of those initiatives will provide further assistance to the families of homicide victims. I am pleased to add the repeal of the partial defence of provocation to the list of steps taken by this Government to improve the responsiveness of the criminal justice system to the needs of victims of crime and their families.
I am also confident that the repeal of provocation will strengthen, rather than dilute, the protection offered by the law to the victims of domestic violence. The defence is rarely relied upon by battered defendants and is more often used by the perpetrators of domestic violence to excuse their homicidal violence against a partner. In one example that I have been told of, provocation was successfully relied upon by a man who killed his partner after she broke a promise to him to not report a beating he had given her on the previous day. I can think of no clearer evidence that the partial defence of provocation allows the law to be used against those most in need of its protection.
The labelling of an intentional killing as something other than murder is inconsistent with the State’s obligation to protect the value of all human life. This is where I have a significant problem with the position of the ACT Party, because essentially it wants to have a different class of offender and a different class of victim. This comes from the party that protests that it is the party that argues for victims’ rights most of all. It says in one situation there is an excusable murder, and in another situation there is a murder
that is not excusable, depending on the role or the circumstances of the victim. I find that to be completely abhorrent. I also find it to be inconsistent that the earlier speaker on this bill from the ACT Party, David Garrett, said that if provoked, for example, by a situation where he came across someone offending against his own child and he went on to take that person’s life, the member would be prepared to do the time for that. In fact, he said in his opening remarks that he would be prepared to kill for the sake of his child.
I say murder is murder. The intentional killing of one human being by another is murder. It is not manslaughter; it is nothing less than murder. We should be honest enough, in this fair and democratic society, to understand that and to expect to stand up and pay an account for doing exactly that. At a time when the Government is working to send the message that people must find ways to manage their anger other than through the use of violence, it is inappropriate that a defence that effectively rewards a homicidal loss of self-control should remain on our statute book. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: I will begin my contribution to this debate by congratulating my colleague Charles Chauvel. He came to this Parliament already an advocate for repeal of the partial defence of provocation, and I know that he has worked tirelessly to see that law removed from our statute book. I pay tribute to him. He drafted the member’s bill that I had the privilege to have in my name for a short period of time, and I thank him and congratulate him on all that he has done.
I also acknowledge the Minister of Justice, the Hon Simon Power. He introduced the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill at the point where we were able to have such a bill introduced. I think it is important to say that, because various members of this House have made the point that we are having this debate now because of the Sophie Elliot case and the Ronald Brown case. That is not the case. In fact, the member’s bill that Charles Chauvel drafted for me was ready for the ballot some weeks before those cases hit the headlines. The reason that we deferred putting it in the ballot was to ensure that our participating in a public debate on the defence of provocation could not potentially give a lawyer grounds for appeal. As soon as we knew that those two cases would be dealt with, we felt that it was important that the bill not be submitted to the ballot until an appropriate time. I felt that the Minister introduced this bill in a very timely fashion as soon as he was in a position to do so. I pay tribute to him as well.
I also pay tribute to the chairman of the Justice and Electoral Committee, Chester Borrows. I think he has presented an extremely compelling argument to this House throughout the whole of the debate on this bill. With his experience in the police force and in the legal profession, I think he has brought a very useful contribution to the debate, but I also think he should be congratulated on his personal knowledge and his understanding of the issues.
I do not normally do this—this sounds terrible—but I want to thank Simon Bridges as well. I thought he gave an incredibly sensitive and thoughtful speech, and Jacinda Ardern and I gave him big ups before. I want him to know that it was very moving. I thank him on behalf of all of those whose memories of their loved ones have been ruined, in may respects, by the people who murdered them claiming this defence. I thought he added a very, very powerful message tonight.
I will follow on from some of my colleagues and say that I regret that we could not speak with one voice in Parliament tonight. I think that would have been the best way that we could have offered something to the families of Sophie Elliot and Ronald Brown. I was asked during the Committee stage of this bill whether I had children. No, I
do not have children. The reason I was asked whether I had children was not to question whether I would be prepared to die for my child; it was to question whether I would be prepared to kill for my child. Even though I do not have children, there are people whom I would die for, but, no, there is no one whom I would kill for, because I do not believe that it is my right to kill another, to intentionally take a person’s life from him or her.
As my colleague Chris Carter pointed out, the ACT Party has disgracefully employed a dog whistle technique in this House tonight. Those members use the hypothetical example of a father responding to a direct threat to a child—to a child being abused or attacked. That was the example we had given to us—a hypothetical case. Not one case in the litany of cases presented by two Law Commission reports—not one case—mirrors the hypothetical example. Why? Because not one such case would see a lawyer recommending pleading provocation; he or she would go for complete acquittal. That is the point I am making. The lawyer would argue that the father was incapable of forming intent. I ask members to tell me if they could find a jury that would convict a father in those circumstances.
This defence is not about those cases. This defence is about men who determine that the anger they feel about being approached by somebody of a different sexual orientation is grounds for them to take that person’s life, or that the subsequent behaviour of a former partner, former wife, or former girlfriend, even—their former partners’ choosing to be with somebody else, or not considering that their sexual prowess is up to it, as it were—somehow justifies their taking their former partners’ lives, and, often, the lives of the new men in their lives, as well. That was the example we had from Simon Bridges. That is what this defence has been used for, and no amount of sophistry from the ACT Party will change that.
The law change is not happening because of the Sophie Elliot case or the Ronald Brown case, but we would pay tribute to their memories by passing it unanimously. I believe that in this House we have a responsibility to keep our statute book up to date. This defence is past its use-by date. I commend this bill to the House.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa. I thank all of those who have contributed their kōrero tonight. I find it a bit strange to come back to the House today. I have been away all day at a tangi for a young man, Hāwea Vercoe, who was taken just a couple of days ago in Whakatāne. We are talking about provocation, and I do not know what provocation caused that young man’s death, but he lost his life at a very young age and leaves behind a young family. A couple of hundred people were at his marae today. It is a bit difficult to come back to the House and to think of him, and to also think of the stories that other members have provided as background information this afternoon and this evening. Nō reira, kia ora tātou katoa.
As others have said tonight, the aim of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill is to amend the Crimes Act in order to abolish the partial defence of provocation. I was thinking of how we would describe this concept in te reo rangatira, in te reo Māori. “Whakakārangirangi” is to provoke. Or we might refer to “te mura o te ahi”, the heat of passion. There are concepts that refer to an out-of-control state of being, like wairangi, which is the losing of all self-discipline—a state of mental disorder and chaos that leads to an offence.
In the language of the street, though, provocation is a term that is associated with the myth most commonly associated with the attitude that he or she asked for it. In other words, possibly the way that a woman looks, the clothes that she is wearing, the location that she is visiting, the activity that she is involved with, the time of the day when she is out, and the look in her eye are all, apparently, sometimes valid reasons for
taking advantage of her. The Māori Party states categorically that no one asks to be raped, no one asks to be abused, and no one asks to be killed. Nothing—I repeat, nothing—that a victim does, says, or wears is any justification at all for an offence.
It is absolutely appropriate to be debating this bill on the day after White Ribbon Day, an international day of action on which we wear white ribbons to show that we do not condone violence towards women. In celebration of our families and our universal hope for their peace and safekeeping, we will today take out the partial defence that has been used for the ultimate violence, the violence of murder.
As other speakers have noted, provocation is a partial defence that, when successful, can reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter. In effect, that means in practice that the charge laid against an offender can be reduced from murder to manslaughter if the offender can prove that the circumstances were enough to deprive him or her of self-control, and that this induced the offender to commit murder.
We were particularly persuaded by the logic of the Human Rights Commission, which acknowledged that at the heart of the defence of provocation is the need to balance conflicting sets of human rights: the rights to life, to justice, and to a fair trial. The Human Rights Commission considers that the interests of victims’ families are of particular relevance, and that this bill protects and respects their dignity. We were also interested in the views of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges. The collective stated unequivocally that it is unacceptable for this defence to be used by people who have struck out in anger. All that it does is to reward a lack of self-control by enabling an intentional killing to be characterised as something other than murder.
In the experience of the victims of family violence, they have not benefited from this defence, at all. Indeed, perversely, the defence has been used more often and more successfully by the perpetrators of family violence against their victims. We all know that reality, having observed the highly televised ordeal of the family, the whānau, who had to suffer the indignity of witnessing their loved one being subjected to a horrific trial in which the one who had incurred the greatest injustice was unable to take the stand in defence. Her voice had been silenced and her truth was unheard, while the offender had the luxury of the court of public opinion in which to put forward his version of events. I agree with Lianne Dalziel, who said that the media fascination cum obsession with recent trials was certainly bordering on disrespectfulness towards the families who have suffered the humiliation of hearing their loved ones being insulted and degraded by an offender’s defence.
In our consultation with Māori working in the law profession, we found that there was support for repealing the defence of provocation, provided that something is written into the Sentencing Act for judges to take account of provocation in sentencing and, in doing so, to have regard to an offender’s special characteristics when assessing whether that person was likely to have been provoked. We sought advice about the process by which we might make an amendment to the Sentencing Act 2002 to add the statement “and any special characteristics” when judges are considering circumstances such as provocation for sentencing after a conviction for murder has been given. It appears, however, that such an amendment is outside of the scope of this bill, and is, therefore, out of order and unable to be tabled. In effect, the bill is very narrowly focused; it simply repeals the provocation defence. To amend the Sentencing Act is to extend the scope of the bill, which is not possible under the Standing Orders.
Notwithstanding that advice, we suggest that the cultural characteristics of a person should be brought into account when making the assessment for a sentence. We are aware that some things that are not hugely offensive for the average person might be highly offensive for a particular offender because of their particular Māori, Islamic, or other cultural background. We recall that section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 1985
allowed an offender’s supporter to present information at sentencing about an offender’s ethnic or cultural background, and about the way that it may have related to the offending and the way that it may help to avoid future offending, as well. It may well be useful to look again at the application of that provision.
I acknowledge the initiative taken by Lianne Dalziel—tēnā koe—Charles Chauvel, and Simon Power working together across the House on such an important change to the legislation. We in the Māori Party are proud to stand with the other parties and say that there is no excuse for violence. Whether it be the questioning of sexual performance, homosexual advances, the lifestyle, the clothes, or the way of being, there is no excuse for violence, and provocation most certainly is no excuse, not even as a partial defence for murder. The Māori Party is pleased to support this bill. Kia ora tātou.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: I stand as the representative of the only party opposing this bill, and I am happy to so.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Shame!
DAVID GARRETT: Well, that party is shameful for attacking me personally and questioning my motives and my commitment to victims. I will leave others to judge that.
The irony of today is that I was a great believer in majoritarian democracy, which basically means that the majority, and certainly the vast majority, knows best. In deciding what ACT members were going to do with regard to this bill, I read widely. I looked at a quote from Benjamin Franklin. He said this about democracy: “Democracy is a vote between a two wolves and a lamb about what to have for dinner.” I am quite happy to be the contrarian here and say that what the majority might think on this occasion, or any other, might not necessarily be correct. We have seen in recent days, amusingly for ACT members, that the contrarian mentality—some would say the denier mentality—about global warming might just be right. So we will see.
As I said in my first reading speech and in my speech during the Committee stage, it is easy to hold up Clayton Weatherston’s case as an example of all that is bad in the justice system. As I said a few minutes ago, the central point is that the defence failed. The jury saw him for the scumbag that he is. This bill does not entirely remove the power to determine provocation. There have been some disingenuous statements about that. What the bill does is shift the consideration of the argument for provocation from juries, as arbiters of fact, to judges. It makes provocation a potential factor to be considered by a judge under section 102 of the Sentencing Act in deciding whether to depart from the presumption and impose a term less than life imprisonment because to do otherwise would be manifestly unjust.
That Sentencing Act is the same Act that that automatically, in a Kafkaesque or Orwellian way, reduces sentences to just one-third of what is handed down by the judge. The Sentencing Act itself is manifestly unjust. It lets persons who are given 10 years in jail serve 3½. The bill before us suggests that we do not trust the community to judge its peers, when, on the evidence quoted by Ms Dalziel and confirmed by me, juries have shown themselves on the whole to be more than capable of fulfilling that role and deciding whether the partial defence is justified.
Members on the other side of the House have tried to portray this defence—and I am sad to say that Chester Borrows, whom I respect greatly, has done this also—as synonymous with a gay panic defence. Well, that is simply not true. One successful case involved a female victim of long-term domestic violence. Another involved the son of a terminally ill woman. No one has mentioned tonight—and I am not surprised, sadly—the case of Epifania Suluape, a Samoan woman who killed her husband after years of physical and emotional abuse. She had been cheated on countless times, mocked, and taunted by her former partner, who was a noted artist, while she stayed at home in
Māngere and looked after the kids. She had been cut with a machete, and even infected with a venereal disease.
Finally, the partner said he was going off with his latest floozie, and she asked him whether that was the case. He laughed at her, and she hit him with a hammer and killed him. The jury decided that she was provoked. The judge disagreed and said there were no significant mitigating factors and that the offence bordered on murder. [Interruption] No—no Labour members mentioned Epifania Suluape. Her sentence of 7½ years for manslaughter was reduced to 5 years on appeal. But had the trial judge listened to the jury in the first place, there would have been no need for an appeal. To me and the ACT party, it makes sense to trust a jury of one’s peers rather than a judge in terms of a decision about whether provocation is an acceptable factor or defence.
All of us in the House want to avoid a repeat of the Clayton Weatherston trial. What a terrible spectacle it was! But a law change would not and will not avoid that. All it will do is move provocation from a defence to be put to the jury to a factor to be put before the judge at sentencing. Why would any offender now, even if it is fancifully imaginable, not put the factor of provocation? We will not be sparing the families of this country. We will still be subjecting them to the kind of thing that the Elliott family had to put up with—it will just be in front of a judge rather than a jury.
The Law Society and I—we are somewhat unusual bedfellows—would be more inclined to support a law change if we replaced it something else, such as a diminished responsibility defence. Other common law countries that have abolished this defence have done so only when it has been replaced by an alternate defence like that of diminished responsibility, battered woman’s syndrome, or temporary insanity. The Law Society says—and, as I have said, I have checked with the submitters—that its position remains the same—before we tamper and remove a defence that has been a part of our law for centuries, we must replace it with something else, such as diminished responsibility.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Oh God!
DAVID GARRETT: I am quoting the Law Society, I say to Ms Dalziel, so she should not groan. That member is normally a big fan of the Law Society. Well, I am agreeing with it on this occasion.
One of those submitters said that if the provocation defence was to be abolished “juries might convict on the alternative charge of manslaughter based on their sympathy for the defendant rather than on rational grounds.” Another learned prosecutor said that there is a real possibility of the number of hung juries increasing as they become split over whether those who would argue provocation should be found guilty of the offence of murder.
Finally, I noted in my first reading speech that this bill needed to be considered by a select committee. That is why ACT members voted for it at first reading. I said in my first reading speech that I hoped it would receive at least as many submissions as the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which had more than 1,000. I ask members to guess how many submissions were received on this bill. Mr Chauvel loosely talked about a majority of submissions. Well, there were 14 submissions—14 submissions on a defence that has been part of the common law for centuries.
I urged the House to calm down, take a breath, and think things through. Well, that will clearly not happen. I believe that if we abolish the defence of provocation as we are about to, we will create a whole host of other problems instead. I am happy to be the representative of the contrarian party in the House and vote against this bill.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: I thank the National whip for allowing me to take a short call on the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill, because I want to say a few words. I want to record that at the start of the process, notwithstanding that I was always
going to support this bill simply on the basis that it is a Government bill, I had some personal reservations about it. Those reservations were particularly captured in the contribution of the leader of the ACT Party.
When I entered into the select committee process, I did so with some trepidation about my personal views and the fact that this was a Government bill. I am pleased to be able to stand here tonight and say that through the Justice and Electoral Committee and particularly because of the contribution and guidance of the chairman of that committee, Chester Borrows, and also David Parker, I was able to be persuaded, in a personal sense, to support this bill in its totality. A lot of my change of mind has been captured in this debate, but particularly in the poignant contribution of Chris Carter and also Lianne Dalziel’s final contribution. On that basis, I just wanted to say those few words. It gives me great personal pleasure to support this bill.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green)
: One of the vagaries of urgency is that sometimes one is not in precisely the place one would like to be. It is with regret that I missed the second reading and Committee stage of the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill. It was a huge privilege and pleasure for me to be able to stand in the first reading debate to make a contribution. I want to thank my colleague Paul Quinn for giving me the opportunity to collect my thoughts before standing here tonight.
Te Ururoa Flavell spoke in the third reading debate of the fact that this third reading comes just one day after White Ribbon Day. One of the things we do on White Ribbon Day is comment on, and take a stand against, a culture of violence in our society. Today we have an opportunity to do just that again. A culture of violence is one that we should oppose and we must do just that in this House today. I know also that my colleague Catherine Delahunty has spoken about a culture of homophobia. Members may recall that my first reading speech referred in the strongest possible terms to that culture and the requirement and duty upon all of us to take a stand against homophobia also. It is a great pleasure for me to note that this House chooses to do so on this day.
It sounds as if I have missed some great speeches, and to my colleagues who have made those I am sorry about that; I will read the
Hansard and watch the tape with the greatest of interest. One of the interesting things for me about this issue is the culture change that has occurred. I spoke about that culture of violence and culture of homophobia, but I well recall that it was not so long ago that raising this issue would have met with the fiercest resistance. In listening to what I have heard of the debate tonight and the discussion around this law change in our wider community over the past few months, I draw a clear conclusion that there has been a sea change in culture on this issue. That is not only a sign of hope on this issue and in our capacity to challenge homophobia and violence, but it is also a wider sign of hope for other changes and for the possibility of holding out for important change even when it appears hopeless.
I started my first reading speech with a toll of those gay men who have lost their lives and whose assailants have been found not guilty of murder because of the reprehensible defence of provocation. Tonight I again pay tribute to the memory of those men. I also want to thank some members of the select committee and some other members of this House who have campaigned on this issue. In particular, I think of my colleagues and friends Lianne Dalziel and Charles Chauvel, who have led the way on this issue.
I also pay tribute and give thanks to other members of the select committee, in particular Chester Borrows. It was kind of him to allow me to participate in the select committee proceedings, and I found him to be an excellent and fair-minded chair, one who has justice in his heart. I also want to say thanks to the other members of the select committee, from all parties. I note in particular Simon Bridges’ contribution on the select committee, which I found to be really helpful, and I acknowledge Paul Quinn’s
comments just now. I think the stories of those of us who have listened to arguments and changed our minds are great stories, and they are stories that should give hope to this House and to our nation. I also make what may seem a surprising acknowledgment of David Garrett. In the first reading debate I particularly appreciated the comments and the spirit that David showed in supporting the move to allow this to go to the select committee. I know that, even though he has spoke passionately in this debate about his opposition to the passage of this bill, he holds that view sincerely. I respect him for that, albeit I profoundly disagree with that view.
This bill removes one of the most loathsome provisions that stand in all of New Zealand law. It is a provision that provides for a charade in which the lives of gay men—and I unashamedly speak again about this one particular aspect of the law—are considered second-class and not worthy of the full protection of the law. It is a shameful law, and it is a credit to this House that we stand tonight in its repeal. Thank you.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill be now read a third time.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
||ACT New Zealand 5.
|Bill read a third time.
- The result corrected after originally being announced as Ayes 116, Noes 4.