Hansard and Journals

Hansard (debates)

Content provider
House of Representatives
Information
Date:
18 June 2008
Related documents

General Debate

[Volume:647;Page:16683]

General Debate

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. It is Gifted Awareness Week, and what I would like to cover today is the misinformation and prejudice we often have, and that I certainly had, about the gifted. I was sad to hear that the Minister of Education himself has this misinformation and prejudice about the difficulties and the facts of gifted education in New Zealand.

Let me just explain that gifted children occur across all races in New Zealand and across all socio-economic groups. Typically, siblings are gifted, so if a parent has a gifted child, he or she often has two or three gifted children. Sadly, these children are not catered for in mainstream education as the Minister says. I heard of one child who will be expelled from preschool this week. These kids are not adequately looked after within our mainstream education. We feel a prejudice against them because we wonder why those parents should be bothered or worried that their child is gifted; we worry about those who are not. Well, I can tell the House that it is heartbreaking to see the parents of gifted children struggling to keep them at school and manage them at home. Oftentimes gifted children also have disabilities, like Asperger’s syndrome, autism, dysgraphia, or dyslexia, so they have that added complication.

Gifted education centres operate within schools in New Zealand, and the Minister said that that was a great thing because we value giftedness. But members should picture this: we make parents pay for the teachers in those centres. Parents who have paid through their taxes for their children’s education cannot get their gifted kids looked after; they themselves have to pay the teachers’ salaries. And the House should get this: the parents have to pay the rental on the classrooms back to the Ministry of Education. Those parents have to pay twice over. The Minister of Education got up in the House yesterday and said “Oh yes, but we gave the centre at the Owairaka District School $78,000.” But that sum was given over 3 years. And, by the way, a good third of that sum was paid for in fees, because the teachers took the trouble to teach other teachers about having a gifted child in the class. So the subsidy was only $26,000.

It is Gifted Awareness Week. It is a challenge for parents, for teachers, and, indeed, for this country to make the most of gifted children. These are our leaders of tomorrow but, sadly, those in mainstream education often run off the rails, are neglected, and, indeed, end up in our borstals—or what we used to call borstals—and jails. They are the future leaders of New Zealand. Here is what we should be doing. We should be fully funding these students, and if parents find that their children are best helped at a gifted education centre, that is where the money should go. We should think of how much it harms the education of these children that their parents, who pay taxes, have to struggle—often they are just working, average parents—to pay to send them to a gifted education centre. Yet the schools that are not providing for such children still get money for them as though they were educating them fully. It is well past the time that we funded students to go to the schools of their parents’ choice, and stopped making parents pay twice. That is particularly devastating to the parents of gifted children.

When I saw the parents of these gifted children, I was amazed. Again, it was a prejudice that I had, because I imagined those parents would be like parents in Epsom, who drive up in their BMWs and their Audis, and are lawyers, etc. But, no, they were hard-working Kiwis who had the challenge of having children who were gifted—the challenge of managing them at home and managing them at school—and who often had a disability. We should do better for these children for their sake, but more particularly for our country’s sake. Thank you.

JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) : Desperate, decaying Governments do desperate, decaying things when they are trying to cover up for failure on their part. Today in question time the Prime Minister produced a letter she had written to my office, pleading with the National Party to support a new piece of legislation that would help with the problems occurring in South Auckland and with regard to gangs, in relation to our criminal justice system. She asked whether I could write back to her by 27 June 2008—just 9 days after the sending of the letter—to confirm whether National would give that support. The fact that the Government could introduce that bill in its own right, without us, makes that unnecessary. Well, the Prime Minister will not have to wait for long, because I tell her the answer is yes, we will be supporting it. Yes, we will be supporting it because it is our policy.

Hon Phil Goff: You don’t have any policy.

JOHN KEY: By the way, I tell Mr Goff, it is a very tiny part of our policy, because it is only a couple of lines long.

But here is the interesting bit. Why is the Labour Government a desperate, decaying Government? It is because the Government passed that measure through Cabinet not yesterday or a few Mondays ago, but on 9 July 2007. The Government has taken a year to drag it out of Cabinet; Mr Goff is very embarrassed by that. And we would have thought the Government would have the decency to get out the twink, because at the top is written: “The Minister of Justice: the Hon Mark Burton”. Well, no, he is not the Minister of Justice, actually; he has gone from Cabinet. You see, the members on that side of the House are in damage control, and they are so desperate to look as though they have answers that they are trolling through the Cabinet papers to find stuff they thought they might possibly do. They have done lots of reviews and had lots of suggestions, but they have put nothing in action—and that is the truth of it. We have a terrible situation out there; we have communities in crisis. They are looking to the Government for action, but the action has not come. It did not come in 2000 or 2001. It has not come for 9 years, and I can tell members of this House that people have given up on Labour. They have given up on Labour.

On 8 June a man was shot dead in his shop—Navtej Singh was shot dead while doing his job. That is what he was doing. And he was not shot dead in the sense of being murdered; he was executed. He was executed for doing his job—because he had given those people what they wanted—in a cold-blooded, gutless act. That is what actually happened to Navtej Singh, and now we have a situation where a community is devastated. But he is just one of three people in 9 days who have died in Counties-Manukau in three separate incidents. Navtej Singh is not a statistic; he was a person. He was a father, he was a husband, he was a son—and he deserved better than to be shot. He deserved to be given protection by a Government that could have done more than just have reviews and interdepartmental working-groups, and that put together action plans without ever putting those actions into place in the community.

The tragedy for Navtej Singh is that he was a man in this regard. He believed in everything the National Party believes in. He used to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning to go and work in his first job. He worked till late at night in the liquor store he owned. He was a family man and a father of three. He was a loving man. He cared about his parents. He believed in New Zealand. He came to New Zealand to make a better life for himself and to play a part in this country. He was honest, he was law-abiding, he was hard-working, and he did not get protection.

Today I asked the Prime Minister a pretty simple question about whether she was prepared to back some other parts of National’s policy that she will, no doubt, be writing to me about next week. That was in relation to army-style camps for young people, because we are right when we say those camps are needed. The Chief Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, describes the sorts of people who could go on those camps as being “unexploded human time bombs”, and he says there are 1,000 of them out there. Well, the Prime Minister told us today—with a straight face, I might add—that things are not getting worse when it comes to youth crime in South Auckland. That is rubbish. The statistics do not back that up; neither do the people in the community, who say that this is just business as normal. People are hanging around. People are terrified. The situation is a disgrace.

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Defence) : When I attended the Sikh temple in Takanini with John Key on Sunday, I thought that it was an exercise of bipartisan concern by members across the floor of the House for the family of—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am reluctant to do this, but I seek leave to table what the Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, did say, which is the complete reverse of what was said by Mr Key. I have the document right here and I want to table it now.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I thought that visit was a genuine effort by members across the House to show our sympathy for a family that had been deprived of a son, a husband, and a father. I spoke in that light, and I thought that Mr Key also attempted to do that. It was what the National Party did subsequently that absolutely outraged members of the Sikh community. I have their statement here. They said that National members in their haste to make a political issue out of this tragedy seemed, right from the first day, to be more interested in having their views aired in the media than in consoling the grieving family at yesterday’s meeting. I resent that sort of mean-minded, narrow, political capital - making, and so did the 2,000 people who were at the Sikh temple on Sunday.

There is an old saying that the first casualty of war is the truth. Well, it seems from Mr Key’s speech that the first casualty of law and order debates is the truth, as well. Let us look at some of the truth of this situation. When I first became the Minister of Justice, in 1999, I got papers from the previous National Government that showed that it was going to cut police numbers by 500. In three consecutive Budgets the National Government cut police funding. National Party members opposite were responsible for $100 million of wasted funding on the INCIS computer system; $100 million went down the drain. And National’s answer to protecting our society was to cut police numbers by 500.

Well, I am proud of the fact that this Government has increased police numbers by nearly 2,000 since that time—1,000 in this parliamentary term. I am proud of the fact that it was this Government, after the National Government had spent 9 years doing nothing to toughen the laws on violent crime, that brought in the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act, and that said to people who commit aggravated robbery and murder—like the murder of Navtej Singh—that the starting point for their sentences would now be 17 years, not 10 years, which was where it had been left by National over the preceding decade. So we have tougher laws, and we know we have tougher laws because the number of people in our prisons today is 71 percent higher than the number when we took office—71 percent. There are four new prisons—2,300 more prison beds have been added—because the laws of this country are tougher on serious offenders today than they ever were under the National Government. Those members opposite pretend to be lions in Opposition, and are lambs in Government. They did nothing.

When I look at the statistics I find that the Parole Board is now knocking back 72 percent of those who come before it. I ask Mr Brownlee what the figure was under National. It was 52 percent. The enforcement of parole is much tougher now. When I came in I took over from Tony Ryall, who did not have the strength to put tougher provisions into the bail law. We toughened the bail law, and that bail law now results in at-risk people being put in prison. That is why the number of people on remand in our prisons has increased faster than the number of sentenced inmates; that is why the number is so high today.

So I do not want Mr Key to come in here and say things that are not true in relation to who toughened the laws in this country. We did it. We put the police on the ground. We put the laws in place. I make no apology for the tougher stand that we took. But being tough by itself is not enough. We know that we have to address the causes of that crime. We have the strong suspicion that the man who pulled the trigger and committed that senseless act in that liquor store must have been on methamphetamine. That behaviour is a classic symptom of a person on that drug. That is why we made that drug a class A drug. The manufacture of a class A drug, as Chester Borrows knows, now attracts a sentence of life imprisonment. It was this Government that took the hard steps that the National Government had failed to take in its 9 years in office.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) : That was an incredibly insensitive speech to give on the day that the coroner’s report on the death of Karl Kuchenbecker was released to the public. If anyone has glanced at that report, then he or she would know that the claims just made by the Hon Phil Goff are utterly unsustainable. They are utterly unsustainable. There have been four murders—four violent, execution-style murders—in 2 weeks, yet he stands in here and says that everything is great under Labour. Well, if it is all so good under Labour, then why has it all gone so bad? Why do we have communities up and down this country living in siege and in fear of going out into the very streets that are their neighbourhood?

The sad thing is that the Government, knowing that it has been caught short, has tried all sorts of things in the last few days to justify its position. First, there was the disgraceful comment from the Hon David Cunliffe that poor old Navtej Singh, who had to lie there shot for quite some time before he got any assistance, would have died anyway. We would like to know on what basis Mr Cunliffe made that statement. It typifies the attitude of this Government—it has happened, so it pretends there are no consequences whatsoever. Then the Government started the argument that perhaps the police should be armed. But we know that the Government has not even been able to get a simple Taser trial to the point where the police are comfortable about introducing that weapon, which is much less effective than a hand-held gun or rifle.

Then the Prime Minister said that maybe the problem was the alcohol laws. She said that maybe we have all become far too liberal, that there are too many outlets and too many 24-hour sale places, and that perhaps that is the problem. Well, this Government has been in place for 9 years, so why has it not done something about that situation, if that is a genuine belief held by those members? Why did they continue to block for month after month the initiative from their own member George Hawkins? Suddenly this week, when it all blows up, it is all fine. They tell George to get his legislation in there on the Order Paper, so that they can point to it as they go around the countryside pleading their pathetic case to the voters, who, frankly, are not listening. Mr Goff’s speech was a disgrace. To say after 9 years that it is much better now than it was before almost denies the fact that Labour has been in Government for all that period of time.

I congratulate John Key on taking the strong stances he has taken. I think New Zealanders recognise that he has taken these strong stances. When he spoke about the underclass and the consequences of having an underclass 18 months ago, there was a resonance. When he spoke earlier this year about the need for a change to the way in which we deal with youth crime and youth justice, there was a resonance. Throughout the country very, very few people would argue that the military-style boot camps we intend making available as a sentencing option for the Youth Court are not of great value. I ask anyone in this House whether they saw the 20/20 programme last Sunday night, which showed some young kids who had decided to put themselves through that particular course. It struck me then that those young people were giving up some of their liberty voluntarily in order to instil in their lives the opportunity and the discipline that will give them the greatest liberty of all—individual self-reliance. We want more young people who are in danger to be given that opportunity.

John Key has gone out and said that the next National Government will fight a war against drugs and against drug dealers, drug peddlers, and anyone else who wants to associate themselves with that culture. I do not understand why, after 9 years of understanding that this was a growing problem, the Government has done nothing until today, when the Prime Minister decided, with some desperation, to dust off legislation that was clearly rejected 12 months ago, flick it across to the Leader of the Opposition, and ask him to please finally support it. Well, I tell members to think about this. Firstly, it was armed police, then it was alcohol, prior to that it was said that nothing could be done because the guy was going to die anyway, and now it is the Government getting in a law in a hurry that deals more quickly with criminal association. This is an utterly pathetic response from a Government that is totally washed up.

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts) : As a start, I will pick up on a point made by Gerry Brownlee and talk about the boot camps he referred to. This House and the public deserve the very best that we can provide in debate. They deserve analysis, and they deserve strong arguments backed up by facts, sense, and logic. I want to start with boot camps. I think that the Opposition, in the form of its policy on boot camps, falls well, well short.

Phil Goff mentioned earlier that when he looked at the research and analysis on boot camps he found that, instead of being the great panacea they are held up to be by the National Party, they had the highest reoffending rate of all—95 percent. If the members opposite shake their heads at that, I want those who are old enough to remember to go back and think about borstals. We had borstals in this country, and borstals were found to be simply training schools for young people to go on in the university of crime. At the time, we had compulsory military training. I asked some friends who were in the police force, and they said they were very pleased that CMT had been finished, because when the bad people went away they came back not changed in personality but certainly changed in their physical strength and discipline. CMT made the criminals harder, tougher, faster, and vastly more difficult for the police to deal with.

The National Party seems to have the grandiose idea, as one or two other people do, that because people who are in the military are generally good people—well organised, disciplined, and admirable citizens—we just have to put people into the army and that will happen to them too. Well, I say there is a fault in that logic. It does not automatically follow that that is the case.

The second thing I say about this debate is that people have been misquoted, such as when referring to Judge Becroft. I have here a report that mentions Judge Becroft. As Principal Youth Court Judge, Judge Becroft said in 2008 that the literature notes that all interventions that focus on getting tough with offenders almost always fail. That is what Judge Becroft said. Those are his words. Members of Parliament come into this House and claim he said something different. Well, they do no service to this Parliament by saying things that are not true, and they do a great disservice to the judiciary by saying that things a judge says are not true. The National Party’s record on this debate is very poor, to say the least.

The other point I would like to pick up on is the point made by Phil Goff. Phil Goff said the National Party talks tough now, but he asked what its record is. The record of the National Party is that it cut money to the police and it cut police numbers. That is the truth of it. In the 9 years the National Government was in office, did it do anything to toughen sentences? No, it did not. Did it do anything to look after victims of crime? No, it did not. Did it do anything about parole? No, it did not. On each of those things, Labour took action. Let us look at the facts. The facts are that under Labour an offender will get a minimum of 17 years for a crime he or she would have got 10 years for under a National regime. That is the truth of it.

Can we believe the National members’ comments today about any of their policies? Their leader is slippery on almost every subject. The public should have no more confidence in John Key’s promises in this area than they should have in his words on Iraq, for example. Did he say we would go to Iraq? Yes, he did. What happened when it became unpopular? He was opposed to it. He saw climate change as a hoax, then, suddenly, he became a climate change believer. On every subject one can name—the Springbok Tour, or whatever—John Key changes. He is slippery. He has been identified as being as slippery as a snake in wet grass.

Not only does National have slippery policy statements but it also has policies that have no foundation at all. If National members think it would be an advancement for New Zealand if they brought in a policy that will ensure that 95 percent of all those who go through it will reoffend, I say they are mistaken, and the public would be mistaken to believe them. Under the National Party the clearance rates for crime very rarely got anywhere near 40 percent. Under Labour, which has increased the number of police—approximately 2,000 extra police have been put on the beat by Labour, rather than cut, as was the case with National—the clearance rates have risen to well over 40 percent. As Kate Wilkinson knows, this means there has been a huge increase in the amount of information and the number of prosecutions being laid before our courts. Labour is tough on crime. It does more than use tough words.

JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) : I wish to talk today primarily about the good people of South Auckland. The vast majority of people who live and work in South Auckland—and that includes me—do our very best to be good, law-abiding New Zealanders. In fact, the good people of Manurewa and Randwick Park, who have been absolutely assaulted by the events in the last few days, are crying out for people to remember that they are human, they go to work, they take their children to school, and they have to live in an area where most people are fantastic New Zealanders, or people who are wishing to be New Zealanders. But those good people have been held hostage by groups of street gangs who have been allowed to run riot. And who is to blame?

David Cunliffe told people assembled at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre on 14 June that Pacific and Māori youth were the problem. He labelled all Pacific and Māori youth as the problem, and that is not something he should be proud of. There are Pacific and Māori people living in Randwick Park who are as frightened as every other person who lives in Randwick Park and who is not part of a street gang. It is all very well for Labour members to make those sorts of observations—which David Cunliffe made to an audience he thought would think was the answer—but that is not the answer. There are multiple answers.

For a start, I heard one of the previous speakers talk about tougher laws. We know we need tougher laws but we also need tougher police. I have seen the police hierarchy become politically correct, and I wonder why. I take it back to the time when Helen Clark became the Prime Minister and there was a shooting in Waitara. Steven Wallace was killed by a police officer defending himself and others, and what happened? The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, came out and abused the police. She called them racist. She attacked them. Senior Constable Abbott’s name was right through the newspapers. He was prosecuted, he was absolutely denigrated out there, and he incurred costs. What happened? Where was the Government? Was it supporting him? No, it was not; it was blaming the police. Since then we have seen a hierarchy in the police working absolutely towards keeping this Government happy.

Jill Pettis: Provide the evidence of what you’ve just said.

JUDITH COLLINS: I say to Labour members over there, who scream and shout as they always do when they do not like what they hear, that we need things like Tasers. Give the police Tasers! I am so sick of hearing the Minister of Police and Howard Broad say they are waiting to see what happens. I will tell them what happens: people are dying.

Hon Steve Chadwick: Is that your policy? Tell us what is the policy.

JUDITH COLLINS: I say to Mrs Chadwick that people are dying while she is sitting around and waiting for a review. We have had so many reviews from this Government. We have had review after review after review. I went to see Mrs Singh. I sat on the floor in the garage with her family. I can tell Mrs Chadwick that those people are hurting. They are hurting. They live right behind where the attack happened and they are so hurting. And what did the taggers do—the people this Government wants to make excuses for? They went and retagged the place to show how proud they were. They are the sort of scum that this Government has let out on the streets and has kept there.

What National wants to do there is get them while they are young. We need to get them into a Fresh Start camp where they see there is a life other than the one they have now, and where they learn some self respect, because how can we possibly expect these people to respect others if they have no respect for themselves?

The good people of South Auckland are sick of being told that they live in a bad area. They do not. They have good people there; they live in a good area. They have some bad people who have been allowed to stay there—bad people who should never have been allowed there and who should be locked up. Those are the people they have there. But in every instance that people try to do something about the situation, that sort of member over there always wants to talk about civil liberties.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) : I would like to take a few minutes today to talk about jobs. Yesterday I was horrified to read in the newspaper that, just a couple of weeks after Sealord’s in Nelson—the mussel factory there—announced that it was going to axe over 300 jobs, two South Island seafood companies may be granted permits to bring in migrant workers. I would like to call on the Government to seriously consider ensuring that the Immigration Service does not grant those permits. It is unthinkable that at a time when over 300 jobs have been lost in exactly the same industry—seafood processing—the Government should consider allowing permits to be granted to bring in workers from, apparently, Asia and South America to do the same jobs in the same district.

The two factories that have applied for the permits are Talley’s Fisheries in Motueka and Aotearoa Seafoods in Kaikōura. This is the same “top of the south” district where the mussel processing jobs have been lost. On top of that, I understand that Talley’s Fisheries intends to pay those migrant workers the minimum wage of $12 an hour, or just above that—a princely sum—whereas the workers at the Sealord’s plant who are going to lose their jobs, or have lost them already, are actually paid, thank goodness, a lot more than that. They have been loyal workers, they are skilled workers, and they have been paid properly for the work they do. The jobs that are being lost are apparently to be replaced elsewhere, if Talley’s Fisheries gets its way, by workers from overseas who will be working for the minimum wage. I believe and fear that this is simply a tactic to force down wages and keep unionised workers out of certain workplaces. Labour must not allow its immigration schemes to be used in this way.

The Green Party is more than happy to support schemes that bring in migrant labour where there is genuinely no local workforce available for those jobs. But it is simply not acceptable to see a Government scheme propping up employers who are using migrant workers’ wages and conditions to undercut those of other workers in this country who are doing the same work. This is a case of companies attempting to exploit foreign workers and use them as a blunt tool to bring down wages in the top of the South Island. I sincerely hope that the Minister will take this situation seriously and not allow that to go through.

We also have a lot of other lay-offs in the news; the list is getting longer and longer by the week, I am sorry to say. The Press on 12 June stated it was expecting 50,000 more unemployed people by 2011. When the Reserve Bank recently decided to keep the official cash rate at its current level, it made predictions of unemployment rising to 6 percent over the next few years. Of course, like everyone else in this House I hope these predictions do not come true, but it is a reality we have to face at a time of overseas conditions that we cannot control, including the growing impacts of climate change and peak oil, and an incipient global recession. We cannot ignore how that is impacting, and will continue to impact, on our economy.

Our regions are suffering from the Government’s failure to promote a diverse economy. For example, Dannevirke alone has suffered job losses at the Ōringi meatworks, the Norsewear clothing plant, and back in 2006, the Feltex Carpets plant. Now, as industrial dairy moves in and a drought hits the region, the number of sheep on our southern Hawke’s Bay farms has actually gone down. That results in a flow-through to the local economy, which does not have the diversity it once had with a manufacturing base that enabled it to survive bad news from the agricultural side. In this country we need to promote more diverse local economies rather than to have each town put its hope entirely on one industry. The current bubble is industrial dairy. Do we have any economic plan for what happens when that particular bubble pops after dairy has steamrolled over and irrigated under all our farms and forests?

Laila Harré from the National Distribution Union, formerly a member of this House, says of the Government’s apparent belief that the only manufacturing worth nurturing is innovative, high-end, and technologically cutting edge, that Labour has lost the plot. “Who says that New Zealanders are brainier than the rest of the world? In order to keep the brainy jobs going we need the brawny jobs.”, she says. We cannot afford to lose our manufacturing base in this country. It is not enough to believe in the knowledge economy; we need to preserve and expand our ability to make what we need here.

Finally, I would just like to mention the National Party. I was at a breakfast forum a few weeks ago where Kate Wilkinson spoke on behalf of her party about KiwiSaver and other matters. I would like to say that workers and ordinary people around this country are desperate to know what, in fact, National’s industrial relations policy is, not just those of us who are here in this House.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : This Labour-led Government took office in 1999, in the wake of a referendum that said that National had failed the people of New Zealand. The referendum calling for tougher sentences was passed against a backdrop of 9 long years of a National Government, and I think that people ought to remember the fact that that referendum was the direct result of National’s record, not of this Government’s record. We were the ones who listened to the referendum because we were in Government when it was received, and we acted on it. It was no wonder that the people of New Zealand voted so overwhelmingly against National’s record on law and order, because when we got the briefing papers coming into Parliament we found out that National was going to cut the police numbers. That was what it was planning to do. It was going to reduce the number of police in this country as a direct result of its policies. I want to know why it is that National members have not been up front with the people of New Zealand and explained to them why they were going to cut police numbers. National was going to make the situation in New Zealand far worse than it had ever been in the past, and it already had a bad track record of 9 long years in Government.

Labour listened to the underlying message of that referendum, which basically said to get tough on the worst crimes. That is what the people of New Zealand said about those crimes that offend in an aggravated way. These are crimes such as home invasion, or the offending in the Norm Withers story. His mother was in a desperate situation, which was the result of her being attacked in his shop. There was a dreadful picture of her face on the front page of the newspaper, and that stayed with a lot of people over a long period of time. Norm was the face behind that petition, with his mother, as he traipsed from one end of the country to the other, looking for support for the referendum, which, as we all know, was supported overwhelmingly.

Under a Labour Government the minimum parole period was lifted to 17 years for aggravated offences. When it is a home invasion, with people going into someone’s home to offend, then the clock starts ticking at 17 years, not 10 years, as it had been previously. Nobody can look at this side of the House and say that we have not honoured the intention of that referendum, which was to ensure that the worst crimes were punished appropriately, and we have certainly moved on that issue. But we said that work had to be done at the other end as well, because if we focus just on the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff instead of building a really strong fence at the top, then we are prepared to accept that this level of crime is acceptable. We are not prepared to accept that. We said that we would be tough on crime but also that we would be equally tough on the causes of crime. The work needs to be put in at the front end.

The kind of work we have done as a Government in communities makes a real difference. It is not about sending young kids to boot camps. I will just go back a little in history, because I myself thought that it was quite a good idea a few years ago. The reason I thought it was a good idea was that I had been out to visit the Limited Service Volunteers programme as an Opposition member of Parliament, and I thought that it was a very good idea to go out there and look at this programme. When I went out there I was awestruck by it. It was the most amazing programme. I thought that this would be great for young offenders, because it would really get them on the straight and narrow and would really help them come to grips with their circumstances and change their evil ways. I wrote to the people who were running the Limited Service Volunteers and asked why we could not extend this programme to include people who are offenders, because it was only for people who were volunteers and who had been unemployed for 6 months or more. The message I got back was that we would destroy this programme if we made it compulsory, and that it works because it is voluntary. Those running the programme said that it works because the kids who go there, although they might be going off the rails, have not gone off the deep end, and that the programme was not mixing the wrong people with the wrong people, who then just simply reinforce the problems with each other.

CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) : It is interesting to note that the previous speaker, Lianne Dalziel, started talking about youth justice programmes, because in South Auckland at the moment there is a man called Steve Boxer. He runs a very successful youth justice programme, along the lines of a military-style programme. Only 2 weeks ago he was in the newspaper saying that his programme would fall over because it is underfunded by the Government and that the Government refuses to give it the money it needs—in the very area that we have been learning about this week down in South Auckland.

What has become very plain over the last few days is that violent crime is out of control around the country, and in South Auckland, and the Prime Minister does not know it. Members will recall that yesterday, when John Key asked questions around violent crime statistics for South Auckland, the Prime Minister put it all down to the reporting of family violence. That is it. She said that it all has to do with TV ads; there is no increase in violent crime. What did we hear today from the Prime Minister? When John Key talked about the murder of Navtej Singh, what did she say? She said that one swallow does not make a spring. Well, for goodness’ sake! I ask how abhorrent that is to anybody who has paid any attention to this incident, because Mr Singh is not just one victim; he is the fifth shop owner in the South Auckland area who has been murdered since this Government has been in power—the fifth. And she says that one swallow does not make a spring.

You know, I spent Friday and Saturday in South Auckland. I went to five different meetings with the Indian community, talking about the threat to retailers and about the way they are responding to it. I also went to the Singh family home and I spoke to members of the family. I also spoke to members of another family whose son had been badly beaten. What became abundantly clear was that robberies are occurring in South Auckland on a daily basis, at knifepoint or with baseball bats. People are being beaten, property is being stolen, and it is going unreported. It is going unreported because the victims do not believe that the police have the ability or, in some cases, the willingness to be able to respond.

I would bet anyone that all the South Auckland Labour MPs have had the same message, and I believe that they have the integrity to tell the Prime Minister what they are hearing. What I do not believe the Prime Minister has is the integrity to listen to her own members. Hence the stuff-up that has occurred this week, where we have the Prime Minister saying that there is no complaint going before the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and we have George Hawkins saying that he is assisting the people to put together a complaint that is to go before the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

I want to make another point on the back of what Mrs Collins said, and it is this. The police received a hell of a lot of criticism about the way they went in on the night with regard to the death of Mr Singh, and I ask exactly what happened there. The police have become tentative in respect of their response and tentative on the back of the sort of criticism they received from the Alliance, in league with Labour, at the time of the Steven Wallace shooting. They have had a lack of resources since that time, and they lack an ability to respond. I would put damned good money on it that the reason why the police were tentative last week, if that was the case, was not because they were afraid of being shot—and they have been accused of cowardice; I do not believe it was that—but because they were afraid of shooting somebody because of the criticism they would receive in that situation.

I will finish off with one point that the previous speaker, Lianne Dalziel, has made. She has said in respect of sex crimes that Labour has taken its eye off the ball in putting action into the action plan on sex crimes—and it has. The Minister of Police admitted too that Labour had missed the boat in the battle on P. When she says that, in acknowledging that the pushers, the manufacturers of P, in this country, are the gangs, she says that Labour has taken its foot off this road with regard to the gangs too, and it should have been moving on that. Hence today we had a letter come before our party leader, asking us whether we will support this, and it was signed by the Minister of Justice. Who? It was Mark Burton, signed on 9 July last year. No one in Labour gave a stuff. What happened to the ministerial working group that was supposed to be working on crime? It did not meet for 3 years. Its members were supposed to be working on initiatives to combat crime—they never met for 3 years. Time and time again we hear the rhetoric, and they never ever front up.

LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) : That last speech, from Chester Borrows, was absolutely appalling. We all know that over—

Chester Borrows: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take issue with the previous member for Whanganui, who has asserted across the House that I tell lies. I take offence at that, and I ask that she be asked to withdraw and apologise.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I say to the member on my right that “lie” is a mode of expression that has been ruled out of order on many occasions. There are many other ways of making the point that a member believes something to be incorrect. The member will stand and withdraw.

Jill Pettis: I withdraw and apologise.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Thank you.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It might be better if the member was also asked to resume the seat that she is rightfully allocated in the House, which is at the rear of the House. For her to move forward like this, particularly with her capacity to interject, I think is a rather awkward thing.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I thank the member, but the member is fulfilling the obligations of a whip.

LYNNE PILLAY: As I said before, the previous speech was appalling, and although I would not use the term “telling lies”, I would say that there was gross exaggeration and certainly a lot of confusion in the speech. I think that the member should take some advice from Kate Wilkinson, because Kate Wilkinson is the one person in the National Party who tells it the way it is. She is the one person who talks about National’s policy, and she is the one person who tells it the way it is. If the member took a little leaf out of her book, then things might be a little bit clearer.

The last 2 weeks have been very sad—they have been tragic. I express my sympathy in this House to the families and friends, and to all the communities affected by these tragedies. For them, life will never ever be the same, and I know that this issue is something that affects all New Zealanders. Any one violent episode in New Zealand is one too many.

Our crime statistics are down and our resolution rates of crime are increasing, but the sad fact is that violent crime is on the rise globally. Every country in the world is grappling with this issue. My relatives have just come back from South Africa. Although I would in no way downplay the tragedy of the recent mindless acts of violence in New Zealand, I just want to take a minute to compare New Zealand with South Africa, where there are gated communities and so much violence at such a high level that it is not even reported. No one walks on the streets alone, and fears in those communities are rife.

Gerry Brownlee: So what? This is New Zealand, not South Africa.

LYNNE PILLAY: I will respond to that member, but I would say first that New Zealand is a small nation. Every senseless act of violence, whether it be against an adult, a business member, or a child, is reported. It is reported, and it is felt by the community and it is felt by all New Zealanders. We feel the tragedy, the anger, and the outrage. It is our problem in New Zealand, because we are a small community.

But what I think is most offensive is the dog-whistle politics that we hear from the National Party—that it thinks to capitalise on this grief and this anxiety, and to wind it up and blame the Government and say it is the Government’s fault. The Government is absolutely prepared to play its role in our communities, with all of our agencies, and with all New Zealanders to do as much as it can to fix this problem. We have already been bringing the police together with other agencies. That has been happening for many, many years. We have many initiatives to bust the P labs, to shut down gangs, and to bring in tougher sentences. We are starting work on initiatives to support families. We have Working for Families, 4 weeks’ holiday, job opportunities, and income-related rents. All of those things give families some support.

I ask this House what our society would be like if the previous National Government were still in power. What would our crime statistics be like with market rents? What would they be like with a minimum wage of $7 an hour? I ask National members what our communities would be like without job opportunities, without apprenticeships, and with rocketing health costs. I ask what our communities would be like then. I would ask National members that question.

The people who create these crimes are scumbags, and what they do is really, really low. They are horrible, horrible people. The one thing that Judith Collins said that I agreed with was that the majority of people in our communities are good people. Yes, we have scumbags—horrible people who do horrible things—but that is a problem of our communities and our nation, and it is a problem we have to solve together.

I know what it would be like under a National Government. When National was last in Government it cut the police budget by $31 million, and it had planned to make cuts of another $24 million in 2001 if it had still been in power.

CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) : I seek leave to table a comment from the Minister of Police, who said: “Current efforts to reduce the availability of methamphetamine and prevent the diversion of pseudoephedrine into the manufacturing of …”—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is. Objection has been taken.

PANSY WONG (National) : Ni hao, Mr Assistant Speaker. Navtej Singh, Madam Yin Ping Yang, and Ms Joanne Wang are all victims of the violent crimes in the last 9 days that have shocked our nation. We must send a message to the killers and criminals out there that their actions will not be tolerated. The New Zealand Indian Central Association challenged parliamentarians to set aside time this week to acknowledge these tragedies and to make a commitment to return safer communities to our people, our country. Our leader John Key has made it clear that community safety is his priority.

Families in the Indian and Chinese communities still have confidence in the police to apprehend criminals. They will continue to look to the police for action, and so they should. The police force is our front line against crime. The police should be empowered and supported to protect our people. However, apprehension of the killers and criminals will not bring back any of the victims to their families. To their families they are more than just names, and nothing can replace their loss. Time will only dull the pain somewhat.

Navtej Singh got up in the morning to go to work from 4 a.m. until 8 a.m. at the post office before returning to the liquor store in which he had a share. He bought into the business only earlier on this year, after working and saving hard for years. This big, handsome guy cared for his family and cried over his girls, who are aged 5 years, 3 years, and 7 months. Now Harjinder Kaur is left with their children and with elderly parents on both sides of the family to care for. Thousands came to Navtej Singh’s funeral and prayer farewell, seeking answers to his senseless killing for a few bottles of beer.

Madam Yang lost her husband some 20 years ago in China. She came to New Zealand 18 years ago to be with her five children. She enjoyed good health. Her exercise included morning walks and growing Chinese vegetables. On the morning of the fatal day she was talking to, and joking with, her daughter and daughter-in-law. They came home to find her in a horrible state. In the short time between her regaining consciousness and death, she spoke constantly of fear. What a way for an 80-year-old elder to finish her life’s journey. Her dying wish was for the killer to be caught.

Ms Joanne Wang was described as caring and hard-working. Bakery shops require hard work. One can imagine her anger as she gave chase when her bag was snatched. Why should the lazy criminals get away with that? She paid with her life, while her 8-year-old son watched.

Asian women are being educated constantly about what we should do, or should not do, to avoid bag snatching. It is time the criminals needed to get the message. It is their conduct that needs to be changed, and not tolerated. Denial of the fact that we have problems with violent crime is a barrier to coming up with solutions.

Prime Minister Helen Clark is out of touch with communities and her own Ministers. At the prayer farewell for Navtej Singh, the Hon Phil Goff told the family that the Hon George Hawkins would be assisting the members of the Sikh community to lodge a complaint against the police. The Prime Minister’s denial of that in Parliament yesterday is a sign that she is not communicating with her Ministers.

I ask whether the Prime Minister is also aware that at a meeting called by the New Zealand Indian Central Association on 14 June, which Chester Borrows and I attended, the Minister of Health, David Cunliffe, said he had been given a medical briefing that the ambulance staff’s delay in attending to Navtej Singh made no difference to his condition. In the meanwhile, many of us are prepared to wait for a proper inquiry before making any such assertions. Is the Prime Minister also aware that David Cunliffe told the same gathering that Pacific and Māori youth are the problem? Yet in the last 8 years her Government has lectured anyone who has dared to label communities in such a fashion. In fact, one of the Indian Central Association executive members stood up and said that if he had made that statement, then he would be in big trouble.

Can the members of the Prime Minister’s Government really work together to provide leadership in law and order, when they do not even talk to each other any more? After 9 long years of empty words, slogans, promises, and the patronising of ethnic and New Zealand communities, I say it is time for this Government to go, because it cannot do the job.

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) : The previous speaker commented quite appropriately about the tragedies that have happened in South Auckland over the last 9 days, and her speech was going very well until she departed into some sort of rhetoric-based attack on the Prime Minister. It is interesting that 9 days ago the National Party published its law and order policy, and what does it say that would have helped to prevent the tragedies in South Auckland? It says not a thing.

The policy document I have here is dated 9 June 2008, and it is headed: “Enhancing police tools”. It states that National will introduce Tasers, but it adds that it will do so only if the Taser trial is deemed to be a success. So National wants a bob each way on that one, as well.

Chester Borrows: How would you do it?

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: Here is one for Chester Borrows. On 9 June his leader said that National will require DNA samples to be taken from people arrested for crimes that are punishable by imprisonment. What does Chester Borrows say? He says: “We would require DNA from everybody arrested.” So National has not resolved that problem yet, either. What is Chester going to do about that? Will he be speaking to his leader to get this thing sorted out?

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): The member will use the member’s full name.

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: The member’s full name is Chester Borrows. Will he speak to his leader and ask him to sort that dispute out? Two policies were released on 9 June and there is dispute over both of them.

So what is the third policy? It states that National would allow police to issue on-the-spot protection orders to protect families. What are the police able to do now? They can issue on-the-spot protection orders to protect families. That is not a new policy: it is Government policy. So those are three points, in chronological order—two strikes of confusion, and one policy that the Labour Government already has.

National’s policy also states that National will strengthen bail laws by overturning the 2007 amendments to the Bail Act. What did those amendments state? The only significant change in the amendment Act was section 4, which substituted section 8 of the principal Act with a new section. The amendment added new subsection (4), which states: “When considering an application for bail, the court must take into account any views of a victim of an offence of a kind referred to in section 29 of the Victims’ Rights Act 2002,”. So National wants to take out of the Bail Act the reference to the victims’ views at the time a bail application is considered. That is “sitting on the fence”, and it would weaken the Bail Act, which was strengthened in 2007 by this Government.

The policy document goes on to talk about clamping down on gangs and putting victims first. But in this debate we have heard an extensive criticism of the police. One member of the National Party has called them “dispirited and weak”. Chester Borrows made criticism, and I think Pansy Wong made criticism. We know when the police became dispirited, if that is the case. What is the National Party’s policy on the police? It is nothing at all, according to the 9 June statement. There is not a mention—

Dr Wayne Mapp: You wait!

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: Oh, yes, you wait; you wait and copy what we are going to do.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order!

RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: That will be your policy. I am saying “you” in a rhetorical way. I am not referring to you, Mr Assistant Speaker.

So National says to the public: “You wait. We’ll see what Labour does, and we’ll copy that.”, which is what National has done so far in its policy document of 9 June. That occasion was a sad irony.

So why are the police in the condition that the National Party describes? Well, I do not think they are. We have a very efficient and effective police force that we are proud of. In 1998, however, the National Government cut the police budget in the sum of $31 million. In 1999 Bill English, as Treasurer, admitted that National was proposing to cut another $24 million from the 2000-01 Police vote, reducing it to $860 million.

What is the police budget now? Under Labour the budget is $1 billion. We are putting oomph into the police, we are putting pressure where it counts, and we are equipping our police force. That will get our communities into the condition we all want them to be in. We are doing that by increasing police numbers. Not only did the National Government cut the police budget but it slashed the number of police. It wanted to reduce it by up to 540 jobs. [Interruption] The member should read the Martin review.

What has Labour done? We have almost reached our target of 1,000 new cops by 2009. We have got the police numbers up. We have a police force with enlarged numbers. Under Labour the police graph has gone up, as against the decreasing graph of police numbers we would see under National. Police numbers would go down. Why? Because National seeks to cut costs to support its tax cuts argument.

Let us look at the impact this is having on crime. When National was in power from 1990 to 1999 it never got the resolution of crime rate higher than 40 percent—it averaged just 36 percent over that time. Under Labour the resolution rate has always been above 40 percent. Today it is 45 percent.

  • The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.