Questions to Ministers
1. STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the
Minister for Disability Issues: What significant achievements have recently been made under the New Zealand Disability Strategy?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for Disability Issues)
: I am very pleased to announce that last Friday in New York, on behalf of New Zealand, I signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with 81 other countries. The convention makes it explicit that all signatory States have the obligation to ensure that disabled people enjoy human rights on the same basis as non-disabled people. New Zealand has had extensive involvement in the negotiation of the convention, including chairing the ad hoc committee. I believe that it is something the whole country can be proud of.
Steve Chadwick: What other significant achievements have been made recently under the New Zealand Disability Strategy?
Hon RUTH DYSON: It is quite an extensive list, but just to highlight a few achievements over the last year, I will mention our Government has made New Zealand Sign Language an official language of our country, launched the Sign Language curriculum, and closed the last institution for disabled people, as well as repealing the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act. Despite the last measure having widespread support from the disabled community, the National Party has continually opposed it—a move the Disabled Persons Assembly has called offensive, outdated, and out of touch.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that the promised guidelines for the disability sector from the Department of Labour have not as yet been made available to it, and is she in a position to advise when that will occur; if not, can she assure the House that this matter will be addressed with some urgency?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The guidelines are for the labour inspectorate in terms of its implementation of the Act, rather than being a guide that the sheltered workshop providers need. But I can confirm that that publication will be available shortly.
Question No. 2 to Minister
KATHERINE RICH (National)
: The Minister of Education is obviously on the naughty step for swearing. I am wondering whether I can seek leave to defer my question—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, would the member please withdraw that comment. It is not consistent with the Standing Orders.
KATHERINE RICH: I withdraw.
Madam SPEAKER: What is the point the member wishes to make?
KATHERINE RICH: I seek leave to defer my question until the Minister is able to answer it.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection. Please ask the question.
Education Standards—Botswana Visit
KATHERINE RICH (National) to the
Minister of Education: What, if anything, did he learn about education standards from his visit to Botswana “to progress international education opportunities”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the
Minister of Education: During the Minister’s recent trip to South Africa to attend the 16th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers he responded to an outstanding invitation to the previous Minister to visit Botswana. The main objective of the visit was to discuss the targeting of New Zealand as a study destination for tertiary students. Botswana has a capacity problem currently, with only one university and another under development.
Katherine Rich: How does the Minister think the people of Botswana would feel now that he has implicitly bagged their education system, in particular their exam system, and does he think he might offer to refund the people of Botswana for his hotel costs as he has been such an ungracious guest?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The people of New Zealand paid for his hotel costs in Botswana. On the other matter, actually the Botswana Ministry of Education, like many post-colonial countries, has recently moved to introduce its own examination system, replacing the Cambridge system.
Moana Mackey: Why do students from Botswana want to come and study in New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: They want to come here for the very simple reason that we have a world-class education system. In particular, of course, they want to come here for New Zealand’s university and polytechnic system. I might say that the Minister for Tertiary Education was recently approached by the Ugandan High Commissioner on a similar matter.
Katherine Rich: Is the Minister embarrassed that a spokesman for the President of Botswana was moved to contact Radio New Zealand National to put the record straight about his veiled criticism of Botswana’s education system when Botswana is achieving better literacy rate gains than New Zealand, and, when we look at
Unesco figures of literacy, Botswana has a youth literacy rate of 94 percent and New Zealand has a blank line?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: When I saw a press statement issued referring to Bill English as the leader of the National Party, I did have doubts about our literacy
rates in New Zealand. But on checking I found, in fact, that that was some kind of error, and no doubt was wishful thinking on Mr English’s part. New Zealand has an extremely high literacy rate. Botswana, of course, coming off a lower base, has had bigger gains in literacy—that is not very surprising.
Katherine Rich: When visiting Botswana, did the Minister talk about the nearly 5,000 New Zealand students who were stood down in 2005 for bad language, particularly verbal abuse of staff and students; and does the Minister think that his language in Parliament yesterday makes it any easier for teachers to stop this kind of language being used in schools?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister obviously accepts that the language he used yesterday was inappropriate in the House. I note that if senior secondary school students read D H Lawrence they would certainly come across that word, and if they read
Once Were Warriors, they would have difficulty coming across any other word.
Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain what should happen in a school today if a student swears at a teacher and then says: “If it’s OK for the Minister of Education, it’s OK for me to use that kind of language.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister apologised to the House, once he realised what he had actually said. If the member opposite thinks that no New Zealand schoolchild has used that word, she lives in a very rarefied ivory tower indeed.
Katherine Rich: Does the Minister think it is a diplomatic faux pas for a Minister of Education to be the guest of Botswana and to have his hotel costs paid for by the good people of Botswana, only to bag their education system, so that a spokesman of the President of Botswana was moved to ring Radio New Zealand National to put the record straight; and has the Minister spoken to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, because this could potentially be a diplomatic faux pas?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, but the one thing I can say is that it is good to know that when somebody rings
Morning Report to set the record straight, they do sometimes set it straight!
Water—Tainui Ownership of Waikato River
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the
Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations:
mēnā kei a ia
ētahi ki te
Minitamōngā Take Taiao
ngākōrero a te
kaiwhiriwhirimō Tainui a Tukoroirangi Morgan
tānaikīrā, “ko te rangatiratanga ki te wai te
mea e aukati
neiitētahiwhakataungakerēmemō te awa”
mea, ko te kaupapa here a te
meaana, ko ia
kē te rangatira o te wai?
[What advice, if any, will he be giving to the Minister for the Environment about the impact of the comments from Tainui negotiator Tukoroirangi Morgan that “water ownership was the stumbling block to a settlement of the river claim”, given the Government’s policy on water ownership?]
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations)
: I will not be giving any advice to the Minister for the Environment, as he is already well aware that the Crown is negotiating to settle Waikato-Tainui’s historical river claims in a way that recognises their special relationship with the river and is consistent with New Zealand law, which does not provide for ownership of water in rivers and lakes. My negotiations with Waikato-Tainui negotiators, including Tukoroirangi Morgan, take place face to face, and, fortunately, do not need to rely on the vagaries of second-hand reports.
Te Ururoa Flavell: In negotiations with Tainui, is water above the Waikato River bed a part of the settlement?
Hon MARK BURTON: As I indicated in my primary answer, my negotiations with Tainui negotiators take place face to face, not on the floor of the House, and certainly not through the print media.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I thought that the question was quite specific in respect of asking whether the issue of water was part of the negotiations. I do not believe that I got the answer required, in that response. Could the Minister clarify, please?
Madam SPEAKER: As the member knows, members do not always get the answers they require. Ministers have to address the question, and in that instance the Minister did.
Hon MARK BURTON: Madam Speaker, I am happy to add to my answer if it will help the member.
Madam SPEAKER: By all means.
Hon MARK BURTON: The Crown is negotiating to settle Waikato-Tainui’s historical river claims in a way that recognises Waikato-Tainui’s strong spiritual, cultural, and physical interests in the river, but is at the same time consistent with New Zealand law, which does not provide for ownership of water in rivers and lakes.
Te Ururoa Flavell: In response, then, what would be the difference between the Te Arawa lake bed settlement, which included the notion of a Crown stratum, and the Waikato River settlement under those terms?
Hon MARK BURTON: I simply cannot make a comparison between a settlement that is concluded and a negotiation that is in progress.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Has the Minister received any reports on other comments in relation to Treaty settlements and the ownership of rivers?
Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, I have. I have seen a report stating that the Treaty of Waitangi does not provide for settlements to involve rivers, as only fisheries and forests were mentioned. This is rather strange. It is a statement attributed to Mr John Key—a statement that I find bizarre, given that the
NgāiTahu settlement included statutory acknowledgment over some 18 rivers.
Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. How does the Minister reconcile his statement this week that New Zealand law does not provide for ownership of water in rivers and lakes, with the advice from the 1999 Whanganui River report of the Waitangi Tribunal that stated: “While the popular view was that rivers are ‘public property’, there is no legal basis for that view,”?
Hon MARK BURTON: I reconcile it on the basis of fact. It is the case that New Zealand law does not allow for the ownership of water in rivers and lakes.
Te Ururoa Flavell: How does the Treaty settlement policy recognise the concept that Tainui refer to as te mana o te awa, which the Associate Minister for the Environment, Nanaia
Mahuta, also endorsed on
Marae last Saturday, that the Waikato River is a whole and indivisible entity, and that the water cannot be separated from the river, the bed, or the banks?
Hon MARK BURTON: As the member will understand, working through the different views and concepts is one of the most important and challenging parts of any Treaty negotiation.
Election Funding—Electoral Act
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Leader—National) to the
Minister of Justice: Has he completed the review of the electoral finance regime; if so, what specific changes to the Electoral Act 1993, if any, will he be proposing?
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice)
: No, but work is well advanced. In congratulating the newly reinstated leader of the National Party, I am pleased to advise that the review—
Madam SPEAKER: I remind members once more that both questions and answers should not contain throwaway comments and imputations against other members. We will stick strictly to the question and the answer.
Hon MARK BURTON: I apologise. I relied on what I had read, but never mind. Work is well advanced on the review, and I am pleased to advise that it is progressing well. Final decisions are certainly not far off. I can also advise Mr English that the electoral finance proposals I will be putting forward will involve a clear choice between either an open, a transparent, and a fair system or a continuation of the current system, which, regrettably,
The Hollow Men shows is unduly open to secret trusts and manipulation by hidden and wealthy interest groups.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell the House whether he has discussed the proposal for State funding of up to $1 million for the Labour Party with the leader of the parliamentary Labour Party or the president of the Labour Party; if so, what was the nature of those discussions?
Hon MARK BURTON: I discuss all such major proposals, which anything to do with electoral law reform certainly is, extensively within my own caucus. It would be bizarre if I did not do so. The member will see in due course, when the work is completed—as I indicated, the work is not yet complete on this matter, but when it is—I will introduce a bill to the House, which will then be subjected to the full and normal parliamentary process.
Hon Bill English: Is it just a coincidence that the proposals include a proposition for State funding of the Labour Party of $1 million next year, when Labour has yet to pay back the roughly equivalent amount of $800,000, because of its misuse of taxpayers’ money at the last election?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s outrageous.
Hon MARK BURTON: I find myself, for once, agreeing with Dr Nick Smith that the question was outrageous, and I think it contained many completely inaccurate assertions, the most foolish of which, of course, as I—[Interruption] Had the member paid attention to the answer to his principal question, he would know that I have not yet completed the work; therefore the assumption on which this question is based simply cannot be sustained. The work continues. When a bill is put into the House, then the substance of that bill will be able to be scrutinised and debated by not only the Parliament but any New Zealander with an interest in it, when it is referred to, and goes through, the select committee process.
Hon Bill English: Why should any member of this House or any—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, Mr Peters; I saw and I called Mr Bill English, because I saw him first. I acknowledge you will be called next, but I had already called him.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When I get to my feet to raise a point of order, I will actually be afforded the chance to say what it is without you being a soothsayer and presuming what I am about to say. That is the first thing. The second thing is this is not the first time that has happened, and, with respect, you know what the procedure is. You should look to both sides of the House—in this case, to the other side of the House first—to see whether any member is seeking the call. That procedure has been used here for decades, and I wish you would proceed to use it.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his observation, but it is for the Speaker to determine who is given the call.
Hon Bill English: Why should any party, any member of Parliament, or any member of the public support Labour in using its Government majority to pass a law that compels taxpayers to put their hands in their pockets for $1 million for the Labour Party, to help the Labour Party pay off the $800,000 that it owes taxpayers because of its misuse of public money at the last election?
Hon MARK BURTON: The member is clearly having a bad day with comprehension. The work is not complete. There is therefore no such proposition before this Parliament. I refer the member to the one major document on the subject of State funding, which we all have the advantage of being able to look at historically: the royal commission report. If the member considered the sort of proposal in that report, I think he would work out that if that were to be implemented, for instance, the New Zealand National Party would benefit by precisely the same amount as the New Zealand Labour Party, and the smaller parties in this Parliament would proportionately do somewhat better. But, more important, no such work is complete. There is no bill before the House. When there is, I am sure we will have a full and an interesting debate.
Hon Bill English: Which parties has the Labour Party discussed these proposals with, and which parties support its proposal to pass a law to make taxpayers pay $1 million to the Labour Party, so it can pay back the $800,000 it owes to taxpayers for misusing public money during the last election—which parties support that?
Hon MARK BURTON: The member should first understand—and let us clear away the red herring he keeps introducing into this—that the $800,000 he refers to, which is completely unrelated to any legislation that I have anything to do with, will be paid within this financial year. If the member thinks through the implications of that, he will see there can be no relationship between that and any bill that will still be in the Parliament, being debated, at the end of this financial year. The Government is talking with a number of groups and parties about the shape of a possible bill. As I have already said to the member, that work is still work in progress; no final decisions have been made. When they are made, a bill will be finalised, introduced to the House, and referred to a select committee, where members of Parliament and members of New Zealand society will be able to contribute to the debate.
Hon Bill English: Can the Minister tell the House whether Labour has the support of New Zealand First and United Future to push this bill—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. In my view, the last question was out of order, but this one definitely is. What New Zealand First or United Future think of these proposals is not the business or the responsibility of the Minister—quite the converse, that is the responsibility of the individual parties concerned. Therefore, the question is entirely inappropriate.
Madam SPEAKER: The member is correct. I was waiting to hear the full question, but it was about parties, not the Government, and that is where the responsibility lies. The member may wish to recast his question.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The point of this question is to find out whether there is parliamentary support for the idea of State funding for the Labour Party, and it is clearly within
Cabinet Manual procedures that the Minister is responsible for ensuring that there is support for legislation. That is in the
; it is not just something we made up. It is what the Prime Minister requires of her Ministers. Ministers are regularly asked about the arrangements they have made to get support for legislation, and in this case Labour must have the support of New Zealand First and United Future to put $1 million into Labour Party coffers, or he would not even be proposing the legislation.
Hon MARK BURTON: Yet again, the member started his point of order with a complete misrepresentation of the facts. This question is not about party support; it would not have been allowed, I am sure, if it were. It was simply about whether I have completed the review of the electoral finance regime. I have answered that question thoroughly for the benefit of the member. He now tries to make up a new question.
Hon Bill English: Does the Minister believe he has sufficient votes in the House to push through such legislation before the end of the financial year, so that Labour can use the $1 million of State funding to repay the $800,000 that it has not yet repaid for the misuse of taxpayers’ money at the last election?
Madam SPEAKER: When members are quiet, I will call the member to address the question.
Hon MARK BURTON: As I have told the member in response to virtually every question he has asked, there is not a bill to push anywhere—it is not yet complete. When it is, it will be introduced. I have already said it is my absolute expectation that the point the bill will be at by the end of this current financial year is before a select committee and open to submissions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the review covers the issue of a political party stashing hundreds of thousands of dollars into one account, then transferring it by one transaction to the campaign account and claiming that that abides by the electoral law of this country, which is precisely what the National Party did at the last election, and can the Minister then confirm that the review also covers the statutory responsibility of statutory officers to prosecute that party?
Madam SPEAKER: The Minister is to address the general substance of that question, not specifically the part about the National Party.
Hon MARK BURTON: The underlying cause of this review is that the public should have the highest confidence that the electoral system is transparent, fair, and not open to the undue influence of wealthy interest groups. The changes I am working towards will help to promote participation in this parliamentary democracy. It is the Government’s view that there should be transparency and openness about the sources of private financial support for political parties and candidates, in order to prevent the undue influence of unnamed groups or individuals who are effectively trying to buy an election.
Hon Bill English: Why does the Labour Party want to put its hand into taxpayers’ pockets in order to bail out a broke Labour Party that is desperate for re-election?
Hon MARK BURTON: When the bill is complete, it will be introduced to the House. I fully anticipate the bill dealing with electoral finance reform to be referred to the appropriate select committee, where I am sure it will be subjected to considerable scrutiny and debate. I expect that is where the bill will be at the end of the current financial year.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Labour—Wellington Central) to the
Minister for the Environment: What reports has he received from the OECD on New Zealand’s environmental performance?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for the Environment)
: I am pleased to advise the House and my predecessor in this role that the OECD’s environmental performance review for New Zealand was released—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry; would the member please be seated. Would people please keep their conversations outside in the lobbies, so that the level of chat in the Chamber can be lowered. Again, I am not sure whether the member is talking into his microphone.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am pleased to advise the House and my predecessor in this role that the OECD’s environmental performance review for New Zealand was released today. The report acknowledges that New Zealand has made very good progress since the OECD’s previous New Zealand report. Specifically, the report notes that New Zealand has done particularly well in the areas of keeping environmentally harmful subsidies in the agriculture and fishery sectors among the lowest in the OECD; improving drinking-water quality; improving integration and balancing of environmental and social concerns through the Resource Management Act; and expanding our protected areas, including marine areas and indigenous forests. The report confirms that this Government is making good progress towards protecting and enhancing our clean, green image, which is so important to all New Zealanders.
Hon Marian Hobbs: What is the Government doing to meet the recommendations for further action that are outlined in the OECD’s report?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Although noting the very good progress the Government has made, the report does concur with our view that more needs to be done in particular areas. These include water and waste management and environmental reporting. I am pleased to say that progress is being made in all of these areas. The Sustainable Water Programme of Action is soon to produce a national policy statement on water quality and allocation. The Government is supporting the introduction of a product stewardship framework supported by a waste levy, as set out in the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill currently before the Local Government and Environment Committee. The Ministry for the Environment is currently preparing a second
The State of New Zealand’s Environment report, which will use a core set of agreed national environmental indicators.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How can he and the Prime Minister say with a straight face that this Government is leading the way on sustainability when, after 7-plus years of it being in office, this authoritative report states that there has been a notable decline in water quality in rivers and lakes, that greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster here than in most OECD countries and there is great uncertainty about how New Zealand will meet its Kyoto targets, and that the Government decision to retain forest credits is contributing to the loss of forestry plantations, and when the report highlights policy failures and waste in water, in oceans, in environmental indicators, and in biodiversity; how could it be worse?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Easily.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Standing Orders require that a question be addressed in the public interest. The answer “Easily.” when such important issues are being dealt with cannot possibly be seen as addressing the question. If the answer “Easily.” is going to be acceptable from the Government for any range of questions on environment, health, education, and the like, then we really are going to make a farce of question time and the accountability of the Government.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Answers to questions should be concise. That means they should be as short as possible. A question starting “How” can be answered by an adverb.
Madam SPEAKER: I know that it is the last day of school, so to speak, but would the Minister please—[Interruption] Would members who wish to stay in the Chamber please be quiet when I am speaking. Would the Minister please address the question.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question began with the words “How can the Prime Minister say”, then went on to a number of statements that are a partial representation of what is in the report. My answer was completely accurate.
Madam SPEAKER: Your answer may well have been accurate but it was not full. Would you please add to your answer.
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: It is important, first of all, to note that, in the words of the director of the environmental directorate of the OECD in Paris, this report is a review of New Zealand as a whole, taking into account the combined efforts of Government, business, non-governmental organisations, and civil society over a 10-year period. It will not have escaped Dr Smith that his party was in Government for part of that period. None the less, the performance is satisfactory. I can, however, assure Dr Smith that the next review from the OECD, in 10 years’ time, will refer to a period when there was only a Labour Government in New Zealand.
Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister concerned about comments in the report that the greenhouse gas intensity of the New Zealand economy is the fourth-highest in the OECD, that dropping the proposal for a carbon charge has created great uncertainty about how New Zealand will meet its Kyoto targets, and that little progress has been made in applying the “polluter pays” principle; when will the Government take action to stop the taxpayer subsidy of high greenhouse gas emitters and other polluters?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I am concerned, as I believe we all should be, about the criticism and suggestions—positive ones—that are made in the report. I am also very encouraged about the development of climate change policy, as is, I know, my colleague. In this House, we know only too well why that policy development was stalled, and we should all welcome the fact that Opposition members—some of them, it would appear—have finally acknowledged that climate change and global warming are realities. The member will be aware of the extensive consultation documents—there are five of them, I believe; discussion on them closed recently—that will lead to the development of policy that makes great progress in these areas.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Government review its decision, as recommended in the report, to allocate carbon sink credits and liabilities to forest owners, noting that the report says that the Government decision to retain those forest credits is contributing to record rates of deforestation?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I am aware that proposals presented in the consultation documents I referred to, which the Government has spent the last 3 months discussing with the public, propose devolving sinks and liabilities. If New Zealand does that, it will be the only country in the world to do so. This Government is, however, not about to give a windfall for past actions of forest owners. We want new actions to be undertaken, and proposals such as the afforestation grant scheme proposed in the consultation documents provide such incentives. I must say that no one in this House has escaped the irony of National members supporting the devolution of windfall gains but not the liabilities that might be commensurate with it, and that has been reflected in their extraordinary myopia about the rural sector’s methane emissions.
I seek leave of the House to table the OECD environmental performance reviews of New Zealand.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations)
: I apologise that I did not do this at the end of question No. 3, but I seek leave to table, for the assistance of members opposite, a copy of
Case Study 1
NgāiTahu Statutory Acknowledgment for the Clutha River.
District Health Board, Auckland—Leave of Absence
Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) to the
Minister of Health: When did the Ministry of Health or his office first become aware that Dr
Bierre was taking leave of absence or standing down temporarily from the Auckland District Health Board, in light of his answer yesterday that: “I have no recollection of being told that Dr
Bierre had been stood down, but I may have been.”, and how?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I became aware of the matter when Dr Paul Hutchison, the then National Party health spokesperson, asked me a parliamentary question on 16 July 2006 about conflicts of interest.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I was very careful in the wording of this question because that information has previously been given in the House several times. This refers to the Ministry of Health or his office, so I would ask the Minister to address that question. It is not him personally being advised; it is his office or his ministry.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As to either/or, I have no information indicating that at all, but the office would have been informed before the Minister was.
Hon Tony Ryall: When did the Ministry of Health first become aware that Dr
Bierre was taking leave of absence or standing down temporarily from the Auckland District Health Board, and how?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am now informed that as part of discussions in late 2005 about the Auckland service reviews, Auckland District Health Board staff indicated to the ministry that Dr
Bierre may be standing aside. This was in the context of his being nominated by the board as an assessor for haematology. The Minister was not informed by the ministry about that fact at that time.
Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister aware that the Auckland District Health Board chairman and deputy chairman consider that they have done a good job and have saved taxpayers’ money, and would he agree that this sort of claim will do nothing to assure taxpayers that their interests are best served by health bureaucrats negotiating supply contracts?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, district health boards need to be looking for savings to improve productivity in the health system. I have no better authority for that than the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Key, who referred only a short while ago to introducing more competition into the health system.
Hon Tony Ryall: Will the Minister confirm that the Ministry of Health in fact receives and monitors the minutes of the Auckland District Health Board and that it received the minutes of the February 2006 meeting of the Auckland District Health Board, which clearly set out that Dr
Bierre stood down from the board because of the lab testing contract; and is the Minister saying that, despite his officials knowing that Dr
Bierre was standing down because he was bidding for the contract, no one in the Minister’s ministry informed him of this fact?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The information I have is, as I said, that there was a stand-down in late 2005 in respect of assessment. The reference in the March Auckland District Health Board papers noted that Dr
Bierre had stood down. This was not noted by the ministry at the time, and as the member will be aware, there is an incorrect reference in the financial review papers to money being received contributing to “laboratory services”, which should have stated “for service reviews”. So I do not have information on that matter; I would be happy for the member to table that paper.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the ministry learnt anything from this very sorry district health board lab saga, which involves a lab contract that proposed to save
millions by using an untested and uncertain provider; if so, why is the ministry pursuing through Pharmac an unproven 9-week treatment regimen being proposed in respect of the drug
Herceptin on the basis to oncologists and others that they get either 9 weeks or nothing—what has the ministry learnt, in respect of this drug, from the district health board lab saga in Auckland?
Madam SPEAKER: That is a long bow, but I call the Hon Dr Michael Cullen.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have a specific briefing on the matter that the member refers to. My understanding is that that matter is resting with the district health boards at the present time, and that 9 weeks’ treatment is quite standard treatment for a range of cancer drugs.
Hon Tony Ryall: Would it be satisfactory for the Ministry of Health to have been aware that Dr
Bierre was standing down as a member of the Auckland District Health Board because he was bidding on a half-billion-dollar contract involving that district health board, and not to have informed its Minister of this?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If the ministry had been aware of that fact and did not inform its Minister, I would be most surprised. That would seem to me to be a serious lack of duty on the part of the ministry. I am advised, as I have told the member, that the ministry was aware he was standing aside, but that it was over a much lesser matter—it was in relation to being an assessor for haematology, and obviously that was an appropriate action to take.
Hon Tony Ryall: What is happening here, now that the Minister has accepted that it would be serious negligence on the part of the ministry, which monitors these minutes, if it did not inform its Minister, and what is happening here when the Ministry of Health had the minutes, and the Minister’s appointed board monitor, Graham Aitken, was at the meetings where it became aware that
Bierre had stood down, and where the Minister’s appointed chairman, Wayne Brown, knew that
Bierre was standing down because of this bid—but no one told the Minister; and were these people not responsible under the no-surprises policy to tell the Minister of these events?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am a little surprised by the member’s statement regarding February, because the person concerned, Dr
Bierre, had already stood down from the board at that point in relation to being an assessor for haematology. So the action following that case was perfectly appropriate, and not of the level of seriousness or involvement that would necessarily have required it to be brought to the attention of the Minister. It is quite a different matter from the issue of the very large contract that the member refers to. I give him an assurance that if those minutes show that that was the case, I will take that up with the Minister, and I am sure the Minister would want to talk to the Director-General of Health about that matter.
Hon Tony Ryall: Should Wayne Brown, the Minister’s appointee as chairman, have told the Minister that Dr
Bierre had stood down in a bid for a half-billion-dollar laboratory contract under the no-surprises policy, and does the Minister realise that he wrote to Mr Brown reminding him of the importance of the no-surprises policy only one day after Dr
Bierre had stood down?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said before, Dr
Bierre was taking leave from the board from mid-January 2006 in relation to the other matter. I am not clear, therefore, how he could have stood down again in February 2006.
Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister agree with the chairman, Wayne Brown, who said: “It’s not a fiasco. This is a great result.”, and what is so great about Mr Brown failing in his basic duty under the no-surprises policy to advise the Minister of Health that one of his board members had been stood down because he was bidding on a half-billion-dollar contract involving that board?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have said now on a number of occasions that Dr
Bierre, who is greatly associated with the National Party, stood down at the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is very close to the National Party. He stood down in late 2005 and the beginning—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Just answer the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is very close to the National Party. He stood down in late—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He doesn’t want to answer the question.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is very, very close to the National Party, and particularly Dr Jackie Blue. He stood down in late 2005 and early 2006 in relation to being an assessor for haematology. As I say, if the member cares to provide the evidence he has, I will follow up on it. I do not have that advice or information, at all.
Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. At the invitation of the Minister of Health I would like to table advice from 2 February that the chair advised that Tony
Bierre had taken leave of absence, which had been granted by the chair for the period of the request for proposal being issued for the community laboratory contract.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill—Enactment
7. JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) on behalf of
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the
Minister of State Services: Does she have confidence that the Government has the necessary support to pass the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the Minister of State Services: The Minister has confidence that there will be the necessary support if members listen carefully and rationally to the information provided to the select committee on why the bill is needed and what it actually does.
Judy Turner: Does she hold to the advice she gave United Future last year that she would be prepared to advance the proposal for pharmaceutical and medical devices but leave complementary medicines outside the regime; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That was explored as an option, but, as it has turned out, it would not be acceptable to have such a treaty if complementary medicines were left out. Additionally, as the member knows, complementary medicines are subject to no regulation at the moment, and most people in this House would believe that they are something that is required to be regulated for public safety purposes.
Judy Turner: If support for the bill is not forthcoming, what regulatory regime for New Zealand does she then envisage for pharmaceutical medical devices and complementary products, given the winding down of
Medsafe’s regulatory capabilities?
Hon PHIL GOFF: If this were not to proceed, then New Zealand’s ability to regulate on its own in a way that would be recognised internationally would be much more difficult and much more expensive. Clearly, there is a need to regulate complementary medicines. There have been something like 257 cases where complementary medicines have been reported to the centre for adverse reactions monitoring, where compounds as disparate as heavy metal and Viagra have been found, and in three cases people actually died. Regulation is clearly needed. In regard to the other side of the regulation, the current regulatory regime is out of date and does need
upgrading. The most effective and the cheapest way, and the way that we will be recognised internationally, is to do that through the joint therapeutic authority.
Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister saying she went to the Australian Government, sought to negotiate to remove the complementary health sector from the legislation, and was vetoed by the Australians, and does this not suggest that this proposed regime, if it went forward, would be a completely one-sided regime and that we would have to meekly capitulate to the Australians as the Minister presumably did over that negotiation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Absolutely not. That is a very silly statement. What the member knows about the joint therapeutic authority is that New Zealand has absolutely equal rights with Australia. Neither country can move without the concurrence of the other country. I compare that with the Food Safety Authority that National was quite happy with—we have one vote out of 10. In this authority we have one vote out of two. And this bill, and this authority, are subject to judicial review, subject to the Ombudsmen Act, and subject to the Official Information Act, with all those other safeguards so implied.
Hon Tony Ryall: Is it not a fact that this Government is facing a huge international embarrassment because of the appallingly incompetent handling of this issue by Annette King and Phil Goff, and that the Government has introduced this bill and lost its majority in this House for that takeover?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, the fact is that the National Government, in which Tony Ryall was a Cabinet Minister, supported this legislation when it was in Government. It moved forward with that, and again it has flip-flopped.
Madam SPEAKER: Would the House please hear the Minister’s reply in silence.
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, the—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Immediately after your comments someone—I think it was Wayne Mapp—interjected. I ask that the rules be—
Madam SPEAKER: I did hear someone interject. Would the member please leave the Chamber.
- Dr Wayne Mapp withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Quite to the contrary of what Tony Ryall has said, unlike the National Government, which never consulted anybody on anything when it was trying to force legislation through, the National Party has been thoroughly consulted on this issue all the way through. I have sat in on a number of the meetings where Mr Ryall has received absolute opportunities to ask questions and to have input. [Interruption] I have sat in on meetings where—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, but both members will please leave the Chamber.
- Hon Tony Ryall withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I accept that you have made a decision about the member leaving the Chamber, but you can see the problem. It is impractical in the House to say that answers are heard in silence, when the member is wilfully and provocatively misrepresenting the facts. How can the member sit there and be expected to be quiet when he was at the meetings Phil Goff refers to and they were not of the nature he is referring to? I just say to you, for the next time you ask that questions and answers be heard in silence, that we can accept that, provided the answers are not provocative.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. The member, Mr English, is to leave the Chamber too because he also intervened during the answer to the question. The question itself also involved assertions that were made. There was a response to those assertions.
The question in which those assertions were made was heard. The answer was not. That is the basis upon which I have made my ruling. Members of the House are getting tired of being unable to hear answers to questions. Would the Minister please respond.
Hon PHIL GOFF: This Government has set out to try to win the understanding and support of as many parties as possible for this legislation. It is not essentially partisan legislation. It is about the protection of public safety. Everybody acknowledges that and acknowledges the need for change. It is about the creation of a world-class organisation of international standing, effectiveness, and credibility, which we do not have at the moment. It is about protecting New Zealand’s sovereignty, which it does, and it is about enhancing our closer economic relationship with the Australians, which I understood the National Party was strongly in favour of.
Gerry Brownlee: Surely the second part of the answer given by the Hon Phil Goff lends a lot of weight to the argument advanced by Mr Bill English. If he had given an answer like that right from the start—a factual, clear answer articulating Labour’s political position—it would not have brought the sort of response that came from, firstly, Dr Mapp, then the Hon Tony Ryall. I do not think it will escape the attention of the public that a Minister could sit in the House yesterday using all sorts of profanities, then simply stand up and withdraw and still be allowed to remain in the House. We take deep exception to the fact that Ministers can use the opportunity when answering a question to have a good old across-the-board slap at the Opposition, while at the same time doing so with your favour. That seems to me, Madam Speaker, to be most unfair.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: What is really being stated here is that if National members do not like what is going on, they reserve the right to behave extraordinarily badly. For a party that seems to regard smacking as the answer to any kind of behavioural problem, it seems to me that they are inviting us to come across and engage in some kind of physical correction at that point. It is simply unacceptable to tell you that if people do not like what is going on with your rulings, they will behave badly.
Hon Rick Barker: Madam Speaker, I heard you clearly ask two members of the House to leave. I heard you ask Mr Ryall to leave, and I clearly heard you ask Mr English to leave. He is still in the Chamber, in defiance of your request.
Madam SPEAKER: No, Mr English is preparing himself to leave—because I did hear him; he was gathering his papers at the time.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I will leave as instructed. I intervened in an earlier answer of Mr Goff’s but not in the case for which you are ejecting me from the House.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I am ejecting you for the earlier intervention when the answer was to be heard in silence. I have given you the courtesy of remaining for the point of order while it was being heard.
- Hon Bill English withdrew from the Chamber.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am seeking some clarification from you in response to Gerry Brownlee’s point of order. My understanding of the situation was that when Mr Goff gave his first answer the barracking, from back here, was so loud that members such as myself were entirely unable to hear any part of the answer, and that is why you asked that the House hear his reply in silence, rather than as a result of a couple of interjections that Mr Brownlee mentioned. From that point of view, I point out that there are members who are getting extremely fed up with not being able to hear answers because of unprovoked barracking from the back.
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for that, because it is very difficult to hear what is being said. Members up here might be able to hear, but the member makes a
very valid point—they are not the only members in this House. Everyone has an equal right to be heard. It is very difficult for the Speaker to judge the quality of answers or whether an answer is within the Standing Orders, when they cannot be heard. We will now move on.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When my colleague Mr Brownlee raised a point of order just a brief minute ago, a Minister on the Government’s front bench twice interjected, quite loudly. It was clearly audible on this side of the Chamber. I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that since you have asked two of my colleagues to leave the Chamber, we can reasonably expect you to enforce rigidly the Standing Order that says members cannot interject during a point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: If that is the case, then those also who intervened elsewhere should leave the Chamber. It was not only one intervention. There were several interventions, and that is why I did not raise it at the time. But I am quite happy for all those members who interjected at that time to leave.
Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table—
Madam SPEAKER: I am sorry, there were other interventions on this side of the House during that.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I actually have a very clear recollection of what occurred when Mr Brownlee was raising the point of order. I have to beg to differ with you. When I heard the Minister, who has now left the Chamber, there were no other interjections. It was very clear; I heard that Minister, and that Minister alone, on two separate occasions during Mr Brownlee’s point of order.
Madam SPEAKER: That may well be true, but I heard encouraging support for the point of order of Mr Brownlee. That also counts as an intervention. We have to get some clarity of the rules here. So will those who intervened please leave. The member on the Government side has. I ask the members on the Opposition side who were making an intervention when Mr Brownlee was making his point of order to also leave the Chamber. Members do not seem to be aware of what they are doing. That is part of the problem. I am waiting. I want those members who gave encouragement verbally to Mr Brownlee during his point of order to leave. If we are going to apply the rules strictly—on that occasion there were several interventions around the Chamber, which is why I let it go, so he could finish his point of order, which was obviously an important one.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have asked any members on this side of the Chamber who feel they were guilty to leave, and obviously they have an obligation to do so. But I want to ask for an opportunity for us to hear the tapes, because I have a clear recollection of what happened, which, with respect, is different from yours. I suggest to you that it is possible that members on this side of the Chamber are behaving quite honourably by not leaving at your invitation. I would like to verify that by listening to the tapes that are available, because I seek the opportunity to verify my recollection of events.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: We do not operate a third umpire in Parliament. I think it would be very, very dangerous if we got into that position. The flow of business would be slowed down very dramatically indeed. I suggest to you, Madam Speaker, that you may well be right in that people were not aware they were making various kinds of noises. If that is so, then it is clear, at least, that it was not a guilty intent on their part. If they were not aware, they cannot be aware that they should leave the Chamber either.
Sue Kedgley: In reference to the previous question, I seek leave to table a letter from Annette King in which she denies 6 years of requests, under the Official Information Act, for minutes of the interim ministerial council, which contradicts what the Minister said about the body being subject to the Official Information Act.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Radio New Zealand—Complaints Procedure
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the
Minister of Broadcasting: Does he stand by his statement to the House yesterday, “That is what one does by making a formal complaint: one complains right to the board of Radio New Zealand.”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)
: on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: As I explained yesterday, the broadcasters and the Broadcasting Standards Authority have an agreed process in place for complaints. The first step for all complaints, except those relating to a breach of privacy, is that the complaint be lodged with the broadcaster within 20 working days of the incident. If the complainant is unhappy with the broadcaster’s response, he or she can then refer the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: How does the Minister reconcile his statement in the House yesterday with the Radio New Zealand Act 1995, which states that “no responsible Minister … may give a direction to the public radio company … or any director or officer or employee of the company … in respect of … A particular programme or a particular allegation or a particular complaint”; and does the Minister realise he has broken the law—yes or no?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Easily, and no. Making a complaint is not giving a direction.
Shane Jones: Is the Minister aware of examples of how other members deal with broadcasting complaints?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I understand that it is quite typical for media organisations of all types to receive calls from Opposition members if they are concerned about something that has been said about them. All members are able to do so, if they are concerned. The Minister stands by his right to complain when he is as badly misrepresented as he was by Mr Sean Plunket.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Does the Minister understand that under the Broadcasting Standards Authority code, for which he is responsible, if a member of the public wishes to make a formal complaint about something he or she has seen or heard on radio or TV, the correct procedure is to put the complaint in writing to the chief executive officer of the broadcaster concerned and, if the complainant is dissatisfied with the response, to refer it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority; and could the Minister explain why the code would not apply to the Minister?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister would certainly have intended to write to Radio New Zealand; in the end, he has not done so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports that would enable him to give an assurance that no Radio New Zealand staff member, including Sean Plunket, spoke to any National Party MP about this particular issue this week?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I certainly cannot give an assurance that Mr Sean Plunket did not speak to any National Party MP. I am aware that Mr Plunket applied for the job of chief press officer with the National Party.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s statement before the 1999 election, when she said that turning on journalists shows that one is in trouble, and that “100 times out of 100 it backfires. When you end up blaming the media for your problems you have a very big problem.”—or would he say: “I’m fed up with you, Helen. I’m fed up with you.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can certainly understand why the Minister is fed up with that particular member. But the reality is that when one is accused of something by a radio journalist that is totally out of order, totally unacceptable, and totally offensive, anybody has the right to complain. The Minister has the right to complain in that matter.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: Does the Minister understand that rather than breaking the Radio New Zealand Act, the Minister of Broadcasting should be focusing on the digital TV launch; and is he not worried that with the launch of digital TV in less than 4 weeks, there is virtually no public awareness of
FreeView, he still cannot tell us how much a set-top box will cost, and he cannot tell the House how many households will be tuning in to
FreeView on 2 May?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I fail to see the connection of that question to the primary question, but, nevertheless, I am sure that the Minister is on top of that matter. I know that he has been a very strong advocate of digital radio and television for a very long time.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. When listening to Dr Cullen’s answer on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, I heard him assert that any Minister threatened by the media could respond in the way that Mr Maharey did yesterday. Connecting that to a note that the Clerk’s Office has sent round to everybody, telling us that Parliament will be televised very, very shortly—in fact, from July—I ask, is it your intention, Madam Speaker, to have, perhaps, a 7-second delay button so that the nation might not be subjected to outbursts such as Mr Maharey gave in the House, apparently quite justifiably, yesterday?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I suggest that if you were to do that, Madam Speaker, you might have something like a 5-minute delay button, so that you could cancel points of order that were out of order from the National Party.
Madam SPEAKER: That was not a valid point of order.
Commerce Act—Price Control
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the
Minister of Commerce: What responses has she received to the release of the discussion document reviewing the price control provisions of the Commerce Act 1986?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce)
New Zealand Herald
headline today described the document as a plan to give the watchdog bark, not just bite. That is because the proposals include light-handed alternatives to price control. They have been welcomed by a range of interests. The head of the Employers and Manufacturers Association said that it puts more focus on investment and gives certainty for investors, Air New Zealand said that it was pleased the Government had shown leadership in initiating the review, and Vector said that the changes were very much in the right direction. I am very pleased to see such a positive response to this very good review.
Charles Chauvel: What options are included in the discussion document, and what are the objectives of the proposed reform?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The aim of the reform is to improve certainty and predictability while maintaining flexibility and while ensuring, most important, that there is investment in New Zealand’s infrastructure. This is reinforced in the proposed purpose statement for this part of the Act. The discussion document proposes information disclosure and a negotiate-arbitrate regime, proposes to set input methodologies as a stand-alone process, and as well proposes to introduce a limited form of merit review. It is a well-balanced set of options and I look forward to receiving submissions.
Export Year 2007—Progress
Dr RICHARD WORTH (National) to the
Minister for Economic Development: Is he satisfied with the progress made during Export Year 2007 so far; if so, why?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development)
: No, but then I have higher standards in terms of international matters than the camel-riding member.
Madam SPEAKER: Please—I have already asked members not to make those statements. They should just ask the questions and give the answers.
Dr Richard Worth: What evaluative tools does the Minister have to measure the success of Export Year 2007; and, according to these tools, how successful has Export Year 2007 been, so far?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The tools will of course be applied at the end of the year. The reaction of business around New Zealand to, for example, the Market Development Assistance scheme increase has been extraordinary. Applications are overwhelming. There was extensive attendance, including attendance by the deputy leader of the National Party, at New Thinking Week, which was very, very well received. The chief executive officers’ forum was exceptionally successful. Around the country, exporters’ breakfasts have been held. The Path to Market programme for Export Year 2007 is going very, very well. There is widespread business satisfaction with Export Year. I think the member could consult with someone like John Hayes, who is more on top of that matter than the member.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister confirm that Export Year, an initiative advocated by New Zealand First, is to promote and support our exporters—something that previous administrations have failed to do?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Absolutely.
Dr Richard Worth: How does the Minister expect to boost New Zealand’s export performance when Export Year 2007 pin-up boy, Ken Stevens, yesterday stated that “we haven’t got any direct mechanisms in place to do that, apart from an awful lot of enthusiasm,”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think Mr Stevens was pointing out that, as anyone who is involved in exporting knows, the Government does not direct exporting. It encourages; it supports. We do not want the approach whereby a Government directs firms to export, even if Tories do.
Chris Tremain: What specific initiatives, going forward from here, does the Minister have planned to kickstart Export Year, given that Export Year advocate Ken Stevens believes there are no direct mechanisms in place to increase exports, 5 months after Export Year was launched at the end of November?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Ken Stevens did not mean that in literal terms. Ken Stevens was one of the people who promoted the increase in funding for the Market Development Assistance scheme from $6 million last year to $40 million this year. That is direct support to exporters—something we are very proud of. As to the first part of the question, the member will know at the appropriate moment and in the fullness of time.
Chris Tremain: Does he think that, given the ongoing increase in the exchange rate, and recent moves to lay off 140 workers by large exporters Click Clack, and G L
Bowron in Christchurch, Export Year 2007 is doomed to be another part of the Government’s economic transformation agenda that promises much but delivers very little?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I see that the former currency-dealing Leader of the Opposition is promoting an “80c Kiwi”—something that I think is stupid and
irresponsible, other than the fact it would be an indication, if it stayed in the longer term, of a very strong economy. I think we are strong, but not as strong as that.
Chris Tremain: Has the Minister considered, in line with his usual practice of disguising inefficient economic development programmes by giving them a new name, the potential of renaming Export Year 2007 as “Export 9 Months 2007”, given the lack of progress made in the first 3 months of this year?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I thought the member was better than that.
Hon Murray McCully: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the Minister please address the question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The answer is no.
Food Labelling—Government Policy
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the
Minister of Consumer Affairs: Does she agree with the editorial of last weekend’s
Sunday Star-Times that the New Zealand Government has “chosen … the route of obfuscation and non-transparency” by not requiring labelling that allows New Zealand consumers to know where their food comes from?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Consumer Affairs: No.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that when the average supermarket shopper picks up a packet of bacon, like the one I have here, showing a Kiwi symbol and labelled “Kiwi” and “taste of New Zealand”, he or she is likely to assume that it is New Zealand pork; if so, can the Minister explain to this House and to the people of New Zealand why it is OK to state on a label like this “taste of New Zealand” when the producer cannot guarantee that it comes from New Zealand, at all?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I understand that the Commerce Commission, which is an independent statutory authority, is considering a complaint on this matter, and it would be inappropriate for the Minister to comment.
Sue Kedgley: Is this not evidence that the present system—and the complete lack of any monitoring—is not working, as is the recent case where two schoolchildren uncovered the deceptive marketing practices of Glaxo Smith Kline; and does consumer protection, under this Government, have to rely on school science projects?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would have thought that the prosecution and heavy fine were evidence that the system is working.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister received any reports about those who appear to be very concerned about what food people eat, yet in respect of complementary medicines want no provision for advice to the consumer, at all?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I have heard comment on that particular matter, but, then again, one does not always expect consistency from all members of Parliament.
Early Childhood Education—Free Hours, Number of Recipients
PAULA BENNETT (National) to the
Minister of Education: How many 3 and 4-year-olds will receive 20 hours’ free early childhood education on 1 July 2007?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Education: From 1 July this year, up to 92,000 3 and 4-year-olds in teacher-led centres will be eligible for Labour’s 20 hours free policy.
Paula Bennett: Can an early childhood provider who has opted in refuse to enrol a child because the parent refuses to pay an optional charge?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Optional charges are not allowed under the policy; otherwise, it stops being 20 free hours for that part of it, of course. A charge is available for other provision outside the 20 hours.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Would the Minister agree that a large proportion of the parents of the 16 percent of children who currently commence their formal education at decile 1 schools without any experience of formal early childhood education actually do watch wrestling programmes on TV, that the decision to programme commercials during such shows is, in fact, inspired, and that criticism of such programming demonstrates the disconnection of the National Party from the real world of a significant portion of New Zealand’s population?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed. I should perhaps clarify something that I indicated by way of interjection yesterday. I myself actually do not watch wrestling. However, if people get Sky Box Office Preview, they will notice that often wrestling is being advertised at that point, and if they look at the audience, they will notice there are a large number of women in the audience.
Paula Bennett: Which is true: the Minister of Education’s answers to written questions that early childhood education services cannot refuse enrolment, or access to free early childhood education, for the reason that a parent refuses to pay an optional charge, or his answer to the House yesterday: “… centres have always had the right to say who they will enrol.”—or is that just another slip of the tongue?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. If I could slightly correct the answer I just previously gave to the member, I understand that the centres can charge for other activities—optional activities—within the 20 free hours.
Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is some confusion about the answer the Minister gave to that supplementary question. With your permission, I will repeat the question, because he has not answered it, and he has now confused the actual question. I want to readdress that question to the Minister
Madam SPEAKER: I thought the Minister was addressing the question. He was attempting to be helpful. But the member may ask a supplementary question.
Paula Bennett: Again?
Madam SPEAKER: No, you have had that supplementary question, and the Minister addressed it. But you have more supplementary questions.
Paula Bennett: Can a service that does not run sessions or an hourly rate, and that is 100 percent teacher-led, simply deduct the $90 for 20 free hours off its weekly fees?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am afraid I do not have the information in front of me to be able to answer that question for the member. Perhaps she might care to put down a written question, given that Parliament is not meeting for another 3 weeks, to get back an answer more quickly.
Moroney: What reports has he seen about how many 3 and 4-year-olds would receive 20 free hours of early childhood education under National Party policy?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The policy is to scrap 20 hours’ free early childhood education, despite Mr Key saying he wants to see these young kids able to have 20 free hours. But then, of course, he has already promised more money for private schools, and that will reduce the amount of money for early childhood education.
Paula Bennett: How fair is it that some centres are saying that they want to play strictly by the rules, and, as such, cannot offer 20 free hours, and some are listening to the Minister of Education fudge his whole line of what the rules are, and will break the rules, knowing that the Minister will not enforce them because he has to make this policy work in order to have any credibility?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure the Minister will ensure that the rules are enforced. We are not going to get into a position where we offer 20 hours’ free early childhood education and it is not free.