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Date:
28 July 2009
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Inquiries Bill — First Reading

[Sitting date: 28 July 2009. Volume:656;Page:5205. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

Inquiries Bill

First Reading

  • Debate resumed from 12 May.

CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : I am very happy to take a call on the Inquiries Bill, another bill that was introduced by the previous Labour Government that now seems to have attracted support from both sides of the House. I suspect that at some stage in the next 2½ years the Government, having been elected at the last election, will work out that it has a responsibility to write some legislation of its own, but there does not appear to be any risk of that happening anytime soon. The House continues to debate bills introduced by the previous Labour Government.

It is probably fair to say that although this is a Labour bill and we support it, it is not something we would be debating in the House had Labour been re-elected. A re-elected Labour Government would have been focusing on the major issues of the day. It would have been focused on what Kiwis are really concerned about, which is jobs. We would have been looking at what the Government could do to create jobs and save jobs. Unfortunately, this Government does not seem at all interested in people’s jobs.

The Inquiries Bill aims to reform and modernise the law relating to inquiries. It is another good example of some of the excellent work the Law Commission is doing to modernise some of our laws. It creates some new forms of inquiry that are less formal than, for example, a royal commission of inquiry. That is a good thing. In the modern era there is more pressure for us to be open and transparent, and to look into a variety of issues. The creation of additional forms of inquiry is very welcome.

I thought about some of the inquiries that have come before the House in the past. Perhaps the most famous and notable inquiry that I am aware of that Parliament was ever involved in was the wine-box inquiry. It was investigated by Winston Peters. I was much younger back then, and I recall watching on TV Winston Peters coming into the House. He was blocked several times from tabling all those documents in Parliament, but finally he managed to table the documents that triggered the wine-box inquiry. Of course, it was not Winston Peters who carried all of those documents into Parliament. He had a very loyal servant following behind him carrying those documents. Who was following Winston Peters with all of the wine-box inquiry documents? It was none other than Tau Henare. I know that was probably three or four political parties ago, and he cannot remember as far back as that, but it was Tau Henare who was carrying the wine-box inquiry documents into Parliament—one of the biggest inquiries we have had.

A more recent inquiry was the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. The commissioners produced a very substantive volume of reports on governance in Auckland. A large number of the recommendations produced after all the hearing of submissions and all the scanning of research—a whole chunk of those recommendations—were simply ignored by the National Government. Rodney Hide, John Key, and Bill English said “No, we will do whatever we like. We will come up with something completely different that bears no resemblance to what the royal commission recommended, because we are the Government and, hey, we can do whatever we like now.” They basically ignored the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance and simply came up with what they had wanted to do in the first place. When one comes to discuss the Inquiries Bill, it begs the question as to what is the point of an inquiry if the Government will just turn round, completely ignore the recommendations, and do whatever it wanted to do in the first place. What is the point of having an inquiry where people can come in, make submissions, and have their voices heard, if they will be completely ignored by the Government? That is what this Government seems very willing to do.

I thought that by way of illustration we might consider some of the things that could be considered by one of the new forms of inquiry: a public inquiry or a Government inquiry. Those are slightly further down the pecking order than a royal commission of inquiry, but none the less they are important.

I think we could have an inquiry into Paula Bennett’s clumsy and vindictive release of the personal information of individual beneficiaries in order to silence her critics. That is the disgraceful behaviour that we have seen in the past few days, and it was appalling to watch the Minister try to justify it in the House today. She admitted at question time that she took no advice before releasing that personal information. She looked at a website. She did not check out the legal ramifications of releasing the information. She did not consider the Privacy Act. That is why we should have an inquiry into why Paula Bennett did that, using the new forms of inquiry in this bill, so that people can have their say on it. They can come along and say to Paula Bennett “Actually, we do not think you should be abusing your position as a Minister to get people’s personal information and release it to the news media.” That was exactly what Paula Bennett did. She should not be using that information without the consent of the individuals involved. That is also why we should be having an inquiry into that matter. It is extremely poor judgment on the part of the Minister to do such a thing, and to completely compromise the individual privacy of the people concerned.

We could have an inquiry into the Government’s lack of action on jobs, because 1,200 extra New Zealanders—that is a net increase of New Zealanders—are joining the dole queue every week. That means the dole queue is growing by 1,200 more people per week, and the Government is not doing anything about it. We should have an inquiry into that, and we could have an inquiry using the new powers provided by the Inquiries Bill. In that inquiry we could ask why the Government’s Job Summit did not come up with anything more than a few very small initiatives, which are creating very few jobs. John Key promised the people of New Zealand that his Job Summit would be a “do-fest”, not a talkfest. In fact, we have seen very little evidence of that, because 1,200 New Zealanders are still signing up for the dole queue each and every week. The Government is doing very little to help those people, or to keep people in jobs. We could have an inquiry into that issue, and I think that would be a very useful thing for this Government to initiate, because it certainly does not to seem to have any ideas of its own about how to deal with that particular problem.

We could have an inquiry into tax. That has happened before. We could start with the National Party’s pre-election promise to give New Zealanders tax cuts, could we not? Did the National Government deliver on that promise? No, it did not. It legislated for the tax cuts, and then took them away again. That is a reason why an inquiry on tax could well be a very useful thing. It would also highlight the fact that the National Government’s tax cuts took tax relief away from the New Zealanders on the lowest incomes, and gave it to those on the highest incomes. It was a disgraceful move by the National Government to do that. We could remind National members of some of the comments they made when they passed tax cut legislation in this House in November. They talked about giving people certainty when it came to personal income. Well, people do not have certainty any more, because increasing numbers of New Zealanders—40,000, I think it is—do not even have jobs now. They had jobs when National became the Government, and now they have lost those jobs. We could have an inquiry into the National Government’s lack of action on jobs, its broken promise on tax, and all of the other broken promises on the National Party’s pledge card. For example, the National Party spread a massive hoax around the country, saying it would cap, not cut the Public Service, yet 1,500 public servants have found themselves out of jobs already. We could have an inquiry into National’s other big hoax at the last election: that people could have all of the things that National was promising them, with no cuts to social services. We know that is not true.

This is a good bill. I commend it to the House, but I would like to see something from the Government that focuses on the things that really matter to Kiwis at the moment.

JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) : We have just heard 10 minutes of drivel. Maybe we could have an inquiry into why it is possible for this Parliament to be held up by such a lot of absolute, arrant nonsense. I point out to the member who has just resumed his seat, Chris Hipkins, the motto of the New York Yacht Club is that youth and enthusiasm will always be outfoxed by old age and treachery.

Let us have some inquiries. Let the first inquiry be into why that member’s Government last year paid $200 million more than it should have for KiwiRail. Let us have an inquiry into why we bought a lease of St James Station for $40 million, when it was valued at less than $15 million. When we buy a lease, we buy only the value of the improvements on the property. The State already owned it. That was outrageous, and there should be an inquiry about it. We could have another inquiry into why we found a black hole of $200 million in the budget of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) following Labour’s stewardship. What about the mum and dad investors who lost heaps of money because of the way you managed Auckland Airport? If you want some inquiries—

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I know what the member is going to say. I just remind members that they cannot bring the Chair into the debate, so “yours”, and “your”, and “you” are out of order.

JOHN HAYES: That member who spoke previously could face quite a number of inquiries.

Let us come back to the purpose of the Inquiries Bill. The intent of this bill is to modernise and reform the law, while providing for flexible, effective, efficient, and fair inquiries. We need to do that because the legislation has been in place since 1908. The previous Government had 9 years to change this legislation, and it did nothing. The current law that governs these inquiries is the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908.

In 2006 the Law Commission—and it always does a good job—was invited to review the law relating to public inquiries. The review focused on commissions of inquiry as well as royal commissions and non-statutory ministerial inquiries. The report that the commission produced, which people listening to this debate can find at www.lawcom.govt.nz, identified quite a number of problems with the 1908 Act.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Come on, spice it up a bit.

JOHN HAYES: First of all, like that member’s hair, it is over 100 years old. Some parts of the Act are seen as antiquated, and some provisions are outdated. The amendments made over time have generally been in response to circumstances of a particular inquiry. This means they may resolve a very specific part of the existing Act without taking the whole context into account.

Other problems identified included the cost and duration of commissions of inquiry and royal commissions, normally assigned to the legalistic process those commissions often adopt. This resulted in very high costs and long delays in getting work completed. There was also a lack of a flexible statutory inquiry for Ministers. For example, a flexible inquiry might have been made into former Labour MP Taito Phillip Field and his actions in the immigration area. Inquiries appointed outside the statutory framework lack the powers of protection of those appointed within the statutory framework.

This bill is designed to replace, for the most part, the 1908 Act. There will be two types of inquiry. We will retain the royal commission, and there will also be public inquiries. These will be appointed by the Governor-General on major issues of concern to the public or the Government, and they will be a substitute for the commissions of inquiry. The reports from public inquiries will be tabled in Parliament. The bill also provides for Government inquiries. These will be appointed by and report directly to Ministers. They will deal with smaller and more immediate issues where a quick and authoritative response is required. The Law Commission also recommended that the ability to appoint royal commissions should be removed, but the previous Government decided to retain them as the public views them as very important where matters of significant public interest are involved. All the provisions of the public inquiry will apply to royal commissions.

Other provisions will include an express power for inquiries to be postponed or suspended where an investigation into circumstances may be undertaken, or where the inquiry may prejudice the investigation of interested parties. It will also provide improved powers for obtaining evidence and information for the inquiry, and it will allow a maximum fine of $10,000 if a document, order, or information is refused to be given to the inquiry. The legislation will also formalise the role of the Department of Internal Affairs in administering all types of inquiries.

With those words, I thoroughly support this legislation and commend the Minister for his actions in promoting it here in this House.

DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Tēnā tātou katoa. I am pleased to take a call in the first reading of the Inquiries Bill. In doing so I note that once again we are debating a Labour bill. This bill was introduced just prior to the election by a Minister in the previous Government who is now an Assistant Speaker, Mr Rick Barker. So Labour did the work on this bill, and it is pleasing that the National Government has had the sense to pick it up. It is fascinating that this bright, shiny new National Government—although it is now starting to look a bit faded after 9 months—appears to have struggled to come up with new legislation of any substance, especially after it had to own up to the inconvenient truth that tax cuts are not the answer to everything. In National’s case tax cuts are the answer to nothing except more money for the better-off.

The bill reforms and modernises the inquiries law and follows a Law Commission review. The new forms of inquiry will replace commissions of inquiry, but royal commissions will be retained under the new law, recognising that the public sees those commissions as having, I suppose, more mana. The Inquiries Bill establishes two types of new inquiry. Public inquiries will be appointed by the Governor-General to inquire into matters of significant public importance. Government inquiries will be appointed by, and report directly to, a Minister and will be used for smaller and more immediate issues. Public and Government inquiries will have the same legal powers and protections. Royal commissions of inquiry are retained as a necessary measure to provide assurance to the public that a matter is being given serious independent consideration. The bill sets out the criteria for public access to inquiries and documentation. It provides for funding for legal representation for those participating in inquiries if this is seen as warranted by an inquiry and its overseeing department. It provides a range of sanctions to improve the ability to control behaviour surrounding inquiries and to avoid abuses of process.

As I said, Labour obviously supports this bill. We support the opportunity to modernise the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908, which is outdated and has been amended many times, thus making it confusing and difficult to administer. We support the chance for the bill to go to a select committee for consideration and have public input, because that process is an important part of our democracy. It makes a nice change from some of the bills we have seen this Government ram through the House under urgency. We support this bill because public inquiries are an important and vital part of our democracy. After all, New Zealand is recognised as one of the most corruption-free nations in the world, and long may that continue. We support the bill because it creates more avenues for official inquiries, particularly into the undemocratic behaviour of this National-ACT Government.

I think the bill is particularly relevant at this time for the people of Auckland. I find it ironic that the Government is seeking to reform and modernise a law relating to inquiries when clearly it has little regard for the process. As my colleague Mr Hipkins has mentioned, the most recent inquiry we have had is the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. The Government might as well have, and probably has, shredded the months and months of work and the millions of dollars spent on careful analysis of what needs to happen to take my city, Auckland, forward. The Auckland governance reform is the biggest change in the history of local government in Auckland, and probably in our country. It is important that we get it right, but, as Labour has said on other occasions, it is equally important that the people of Auckland have a say on their future. I do not think the select committee process substitutes for that. The process the Government has followed is undemocratic, especially when the people of New Zealand were led to believe by the National Party in its manifesto at the last election that National would consult with Aucklanders once the royal commission’s findings were known. I ask again, as we have time and time again in the debate over Auckland governance, what the rush is. Why could the people of Auckland not have a say? We were only 3 months into the term of this Government when the report of the royal commission came out but National ignored what it promised in its manifesto. I find that incredible only 3 months into the Government.

Everybody in this House knows that for consultation to be meaningful and genuine it must happen before the key decisions are made. But what happened? The Government came out with a very speedy response to the royal commission. It was not prepared to honour its promise to go back to the people across Auckland and acknowledge to them that it is their city, that they need to be involved in the decisions about the restructuring of local government, and that they would be given the opportunity to have a genuine say. That is the most recent example of a royal commission. I hope that in supporting this bill today the Government does not intend to treat other inquiries with the same contempt.

Like my colleague Mr Hipkins, I can think of many inquiries that we could be conducting under this bill. We have talked today about the extraordinary events when the Minister for Social Development and Employment breached the privacy of beneficiaries because they dared to comment on Government policy. I am absolutely gobsmacked by that breach. It is scary, because it says to New Zealanders that if they criticise this Government they will be punished.

Chris Hipkins: Who’s next?

DARIEN FENTON: Exactly. Who is next? There has been an extraordinary turn of events today. A Minister cannot take public criticism of her decisions, so she vindictively sets out to intimidate those who dare cross her path.

Despite all of this, the public are conducting their own inquiries into, for example, the adult and community education funding cuts that are taking place across New Zealand. More than 100 angry people gathered in North Shore City last week—a traditional National stronghold—to oppose these cuts; likewise, 500 people gathered in Christchurch last night, where National MPs at least turned up but embarrassed themselves in the process. Up and down the country the opposition to these stupid cuts is gathering steam.

We could have many other inquiries under this bill. I would like to see an inquiry into the appointment of Dr Don Brash to lead the so-called high-level advisory committee into productivity and closing the income gap with Australia. In fact, I would like Don Brash to be on permanent notice of a public inquiry so that we can keep his radical right-wing agenda under permanent supervision. We do not want a Dr Don Brash prescription. We do not want it. We have had it all before: removing the rights of workers, privatising assets, and slashing the public sector. Did it close the trans-Tasman gap? No, it widened it. It led to wage decline, high unemployment, and social dysfunction. I would like to see an inquiry into the secret privatisation agenda of this Government and the Trojan Horses that have been set up to achieve it: Don Brash, John Whitehead, Mark Weldon, and the Business Roundtable. They are all chiming in and chorusing loudly together about the need to sell off New Zealand.

I would like to see an inquiry into other things, like the cuts to workplace health and safety training under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. How many lives will be lost as a consequence of those cuts? I would like to know that that will not happen. I would like to see an inquiry into the State Sector Act and whether John Whitehead crossed the line last week when he made a speech in which he made threats to the State sector and State sector workers. I would like to see an inquiry into the Maritime Transport Act and the potential consequences of the decisions of this Government to cut funding for safety courses for recreational boaties. Will the Government guarantee that there will not be any more accidents? I do not think so. One can think of so many inquiries that could be held under this bill. How about an inquiry into why so many hundreds of jobs are lost every day while this Government sits on its hands?

Labour supports this bill. It is a good bill; it is a Labour bill. The question in the next months will be whether the National-ACT Government will act on the recommendations of John Whitehead, Mark Weldon, Don Brash, and the Business Roundtable.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) : The Green Party will be supporting the Inquiries Bill; it is important that we update the procedures. The royal commission legislation is about 100 years old and it is good that we are modernising it. The Greens are a little bit concerned that the legislation might not sufficiently guide the public inquiries that are set up under this new legislation. Just going through the bill briefly, clause 3, stating the purpose, is very general regarding what the public inquiry can be about. It basically just says that the bill provides for “the establishment of both public and government inquiries to inquire into matters of public importance;”, which is obviously very broad ranging.There can be two quite different types of inquiry that inform this legislation, and perhaps the select committee will go into this in a bit of detail. One is an inquiry into a more specific incident, where there are clear parties to the incident, such as the inquiry into the sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov a few years back, where we were trying to get at the essence of what exactly happened and who might be responsible. Then there are other inquiries on matters of broad public interest. The 1976 royal commission of inquiry into nuclear power was a case in point, and about 5 years ago there was a royal commission of inquiry into genetic engineering. Those are quite different because they are matters of very broad public interest.

Let us look at the powers of a public inquiry commission under this bill. It has very broad powers to decide whether to conduct interviews; whether to call witnesses, and, if so, whom to call; whether to receive oral or written evidence; and whether to allow restricted cross-examination of witnesses, and, presumably, to decide who does that cross-examination—whether it is the commission or whether other people are allowed to do it. So it has very broad powers, and there should be a bit more guidance in the bill in terms of whom the commission might hear from and whom it might allow to do this cross-examination. Clause 18 of the bill provides for the concept of core participants, who are defined as those who have “played, or may have played, a direct and significant role in relation to the matters to which the inquiry relates:”. Clause 18(2)(b) states that consideration must be given to whether that person “has a significant interest in a substantial aspect of the matters to which the inquiry relates:”. I suppose the first one, about a person having played a direct or significant role, relates more to inquiries that are on a specific thing, like, as I said before, the sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov. Paragraph (b) might relate to a more general inquiry like the one on genetic engineering—that is, parties that have “a significant interest in a substantial aspect of the matters to which the inquiry relates:”.

Possibly that definition needs to be specified a bit more, because it may be that, if it is a bit too loose, certain people who have a genuine interest in a topic like genetic engineering or nuclear power, to use those two previous examples, might not be fully recognised in terms of their role. In fact, there was a lot of contention on the royal commission on genetic engineering about who had standing—I think the term used at the inquiry was “standing”; they could be there permanently. Some of those who were recognised as having standing had certain rights of cross-examination. There was quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing on who had that standing. So possibly the select committee could give some more specific guidance in respect of these public inquiries so that no one gets left out. Because a position taken by an interested party may not really be an establishment one, for some on the commission it could be a case of: “Oh well, you’re just fringe protesters.”, or whatever. But often these people represent a significant amount of public opinion and should be given full rights, not only to give written and oral submissions and to be subject to cross-examination themselves but it is often very useful for them to be participants in the cross-examination of others—perhaps others with different views. With those few comments I say that the Greens will be supporting this legislation, and we look forward to the select committee consideration.

DAVID GARRETT (ACT) : The ACT Party will also be supporting the nuts-and-bolts, non-controversial Inquiries Bill, arising as it does from a Law Commission report entitled A New Inquiries Act. I will not repeat what others have said; that is a waste of time. The members on the Labour benches, especially Mr Hipkins and Ms Fenton, have come up with a number of mythical, or theoretical, inquiries we could have, but we have actually had a very good example of a non-inquiry that illustrates very neatly the need for a review of this area of the law. That non-inquiry is the Taito Phillip Field inquiry, conducted by Noel Ingram QC, at the behest of the previous Prime Minister, Ms Clark. It was a ministerial inquiry—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind the member that that matter is currently before the court, and what the member says must be taken very, very seriously with that in mind.

DAVID GARRETT: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I am aware of that. The Taito Phillip Field inquiry highlights the many faults of a ministerial inquiry, as opposed to a more formal inquiry. Ministerial inquiries have narrow terms of reference, and, most crucially, no power to compel testimony. What can result in inquiries of that kind is something stage-managed for political purpose, whereby the motions are gone through to obtain a result.

The bill before us allows for public and Government inquiries. Government inquiries are not ministerial inquiries. Government inquiries will be inquiries in which witnesses can be compelled and can be offered immunity, and, in contrast with non-statutory ministerial inquiries, Government inquiries will be inquiries with real meat.

The changes the Law Commission has recommended are largely contained in the bill. I am a little bit surprised by Mr Hipkins, in the language of his generation, dissing his own party’s bill. It is as if anything that has any sense is supposed to be abandoned the day there is an election. The other implication in his speech was that the only thing that can create jobs and solve economic problems is more laws. We saw that approach in the 1970s with job creation laws of varying kinds, which led to railways being staffed by 90,000 people when 6,000 would have done, at the expense of the rest of us. It is not just laws that create jobs or solve problems.

It is heartening, for me anyway, to see this bill, which is not anything magic or high profile, and probably will not be reported in the newspapers tomorrow. It is a sensible measure, but it is overdue, as my colleague Keith Locke has just said, by 100 years. It is sensible. Yes, it was started by the other side, but so what. I am quite happy to support the bill on behalf of the ACT Party.

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātau katoa. E Te Manatū o te Whare ki te āta titiro ki te Kōmihana Karauna o te tau 1988, kātahi ka kitea atu te hōhonutanga o nga Komihana Pakirehua. Nā tēnei kōmihana i para te ara i ngā tau e rua tekau mā tahi kua taha ake.Nā taua kōmihana i kī me aro ake te Karauna ki ngā kaupapa o te Tiriti o Waitangi. I puta ngā whakatau e toru kaupapa e toru arā , te mahi ngātahi, te kaupapa tiaki, te kaupapa kia whai wāhi te katoa—i reira i whakatūria ai kia noho te Tiriti hei pūtake kōrero mā rua tekau tau neke atu.

Engari, i puta mai tētahi kōrero whakahirahira i taua Kōmihana. Nā te ahorangi nei nā Meihana Durie i whakaputa. E tika ana kia āta tirohia taua kōrero me tāna pānga ki tēnei pire, hei ara putanga, e whai ake nei ngā kōrero rā:

  • [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Greetings to you, Mr Assistant Speaker, and to us all.If the 1988 Royal Commission on Social Policy were examined, the significance of commissions of inquiry would be understood better. It was this ground-breaking commission, 21 years ago, that declared that the provisions of the Treaty require that the Crown must respect the principles of the Treaty.

The enunciation of these principles—partnership, protection, and participation—helped set the foundation for the Treaty discourse for the next two decades and more.

But there was a particular statement reported back from the Royal Commission on Social Policy by Professor Mason Durie that is so remarkable that it must be considered in this Inquiries Bill as a model of the quality of outcomes we can expect, and I quote: ]

“The Commission believes that the Treaty is always speaking and that it has relevance to all economic and social policies. Not only must the past be reviewed in light of its principles, but the Treaty’s promise must also be seen as fundamental to those principles which will underline social well-being in years to come.”

He motuhake te noho a te kōmihana mō ngā take ā-iwi a te Karauna nā te whanui me te whāroa o tōna titiro. Mai i taua wā tae noa ki ēnei rā, ka kitea ōna tapuwae i te whānuitanga o ngā kaupapa āhuatanga ā-iwi. Ko te mea mīharo i whakairia ai e taua kōmihana i hāngai tonu te Tiriti o Waitangi ki ngā kaupapa āhuatanga ā-iwi ki ngā kaupapa ohaoha anō hoki. Koia nei tētahi kaupapa kua whakahaerehia, arā, ki te whakarongo ki te whānuitanga o ngā tūmanako o te Māori, ā, kia whakakohatia ki runga pepa.

Engari, ehara i te mea he tauira motuhake taua Komihana Karauna. Arā anō te Royal Commission on the Electoral Systemi whakatūria e te Karauna nāna tonu i whakatakoto i te kōrero kia whai a Aotearoa i te MMP i te tau 1986 i te 11 o Tīhema, arā, o Hakihea. Nō te tau 2001 i puta te pūrongo a te Royal Commission on Genetic Modificationmē wā rātou kupu āwhina, ko tā rātau, me tūpato wā tātau rāweke haere i te whakapapa o te tangata, me āta tātari i ngā raruraru ka puta. Ā ka mutu, e kore e taea e te tangata kotahi i tēnei Whare te āro kore ki te Komihana a te Karauna mō te whakahaeretanga o Tāmaki-makau-rau. Mēnā e pōkaikaha ana koutou e te minenga, e te Whare koutou mā mō ngā kōrero kua whakaputaina e au me hoki pea ngā whakaaro ki te hīkoi i Takaparawhā i te 25 o Haratua i tēnei tau. Ki reira ka kitea te whānui o te whakaoreoretanga o te hinengaro o te tangata whenua.

Nā i runga i tērā, kei te āhua noho tumeke tonu te ngākau ki tā te Aka Matua a te Ture me tana tono kia whakarerekēngia, kia whakahoungia te āhuatanga o te Kōmihana Pakirehua. Ki taku mōhio, ko tāna hiahia ki te whakakore i ngā Kōmihana katoa. Ko tā rātau, kia rua anake ngā momo pakirehua, ko tētahi he pakirehua ā-iwi, ko tētahi mā te Kāwanatanga—mā ngā minita—ā, me whakakorea ngā Komihana a te Karauna me tōna momo. Hoi anō, ko tā te Kāwanatanga whakatau me noho tonu te Kōmihana Motuhake o te Karauna nā te mea, ki tā te Tari Taiwhenua,Te Tari Ture o te Karauna me te Ratonga Tumu Whakarae, me pupuri tonu nā runga i te mea ki tā te titiro o ngā hapori, he painga i reira.

Ahakoa i whakakorengia taua tono, kei te āro tēnei pire ki ētahi ake o ngā whakataunga a te Aka Matua o te Ture. I kitea e rātau, ko te pūtake o tēnei pire—Te Ture o te tau 1908—he hanga tawhito, he rangirua, karekau he hua ō roto, he rahi rawa te utu, ā, ka kūtia ngā mahi pakirehua. Nā, ko te āhua nei ko ngā Komihana ā-Kawana nei, ahakoa ka oti wawe, he ngāwari te utu ko te raruraru kē, karekau he mea tiaki i ngā tāngata ka tū ki mua o te Kōmihana. Kāre pea rātau e mārama i ngā tikanga me ngā whāinga arotake ki te Official Information Act rānei me te pānga ki a rātau.

Ā nō reira, anei te pire hou hei āwhina. Ka tautoko Te Pāti Māori i te tono mō ngā kaupapa papai kua āta whakaarohia. He whakaaro pai tonu. Ka taea e ngā tari kāwanatanga te āwhina ā-pūtea i ngā tāngata kei te hiahia ki te tū ki mua i ngā Kōmihana Pakirehua. Ā, ka tika hoki kia tū motuhake ngā mema, kia ōrite tā rātau whakawā i tēnā, i tena. He whakaaro pai tērā kua whakatakotohia, arā, me whai te Kōmihana Pakirehua i tōna ake ara engari, me whai i te turee mahi engari me mahia i runga i te pono me te tika. Kāre au i te kite i te tika o te kaupapa kia utaina ngā whaina taumaha ki runga i ngā ture kia hangaia e tēnei Whare. Kāre he painga i roto i tēnei. Ko te whiu a te pire, kia piki ngā whaina mai i tōna taumata o te tahi mano taara ki te taumata hou o te tekau mano taara. Ko ētahi o ngā mahi whaina ko ēnei.Tuatahi, mēnā kāre te tangata e hanake ahakoa te tono, kāre a ia e whakaputa ngā whakaaturanga e mōhiotia ana e ia, ā, he mahi tauwhati whakapōrearea i te hui. Ahakoa ēnā taumahatanga, kei roto i te pire tētahi ake āhua ka taea e te rōpū pakirehua te tono, kia noho nama te tangata mēnā i whakaarohia, nā ngā mahi pōrearea, tinihanga rānei kāre e wawe oti ngā hui ā ēnā, ka nui ake te utu. Engari, kia mōhio mai koutou tērā pea me uru mai tētahi kaupapa ki roto i teWhare Pāremata. Kei konei hoki tētahi kaupapa hei mahi whakaroa i ngā ture.Te kaupapa e kīa nei, ko te filibustering

Ko tā mātau mō tēnei pire, he tāpiri atu he mea whakatikatika ā-ture kia mana ai te Tiriti o Waitangi i te wā e whiriwhiria ana ngā Kōmihana Pakirehua. Anei ētahi whakaaro hei tirohanga kia whai mana te Tiriti o Waitangi: kia whai mana ngā rōpū Māori i runga i tā rātau motuhaketanga.Kaua e tatari kia tukuna te tono ki te tangata kotahi; me whakataungia ngā mema Māori i runga i tō rātau ake mātauranga i roto o te ao ā-iwi nei. Kaua e whakatū i runga i te kaupapa he iti noa iho te toto Māori kei roto i a rātau; me titiro anō ngā whakataunga i raro i ngā kaupapa o te Tiriti; me haere ngā mema o ngā Komihana Pakirehua ki ngā hui a te Māori kia mārama mai rātau ki te ao me ngā whakaaro o tēnā iwi, o tēnā iwi.

Hei tā Moana Jackson i a ia e titiro ana ki tēnei kaupapa, ko tāna ko te titiro ki te āhuatanga o te Tiriti o Waitangi, he āhua rite ki ngā kupu e whai ake an exquisite politeness. Ko enei kupu, nā Simon Upton. Nāna i kī “Māori have been listened to with exquisite politeness and cosmic tact and then basically passed by.”Ā nō reira, tērā pea kua rere te wā mō ngā kupu waha huka hei ārai, hei whai mana te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Me kore e tukuna te Tiriti kia noho ngoikore ki tahaki. He tino tikanga hei whai mō te kaupapa ā-ture kei te whatumanawa e titi ana. He kaupapa ā-tangata, ā-ohaoha rānei. Me rangatira te whanaungatanga i waenganui i te Karauna me tō tātau iwi. Nō reira, ko tēnei pire tētahi wāhanga mō te rārangi take ka wānangahia mō te kaupapa ā-ture. Ka tautoko mātau i tēnei pire i tōna haeranga tuatahi, ā, kei mua tonu ngā kōrero hei whakawā i a ia. Kia ora tātau.

  • [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Social Policy was unique in the breadth of its coverage, and the impact of its scope. The obvious reflection of this is the fact that to this day its conclusions remain of profound influence across the widest social policy settings. In particular, the commission was distinguished by its recognition that Te Tiriti o Waitangi was as relevant to social policy as it is to economic policy. It was also one of the biggest exercises to hear from Maori communities, to listen to the aspirations articulated by Maori, and to have those documented for the record.

Of course that royal commission is not an isolated example. The Royal Commission on the Electoral System, which first recommended New Zealand adopt the mixed-member proportional voting system, was submitted on 11 December 1986. The Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which reported in 2001, recommended that New Zealand should proceed with caution on genetic modification, minimising and managing risks. And of course no one in this House can ignore the interest provoked by the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance .

If there is any doubt about what I am saying, I would suggest that the hīkoi that took place on 25 May, Bastion Point Day, gave a pretty sharp steer as to whether that particular royal commission has generated much interest for the people of the land.

Given this background, it is rather surprising to learn that the Law Commission proposed to reform and modernise inquiries law by doing away with royal commissions of inquiry. Its recommendation was that there should be only two types of inquiries: public and Government—ministerial—and do away with the third type, royal commissions, as a distinct form of inquiry. Against this recommendation, the Government has instead decided to maintain the royal commission, concluding upon advice from the Department of Internal Affairs, Crown Law, and the Cabinet Office that they should be retained as they are perceived by the public as having added gravitas.

Notwithstanding the rejection of this key recommendation, the Inquiries Bill does respond to most of the other important findings of the Law Commission. The commission found that the very foundations of this bill—the 1908 Act—was in itself antiquated, confusing, and brought unnecessary and costly constraints to the process of inquiries. It also considered that ministerial inquiries, while they are often quick and cost-effective, have little protection in place for those taking part, or even help in understanding how processes such as judicial review or the Official Information Act apply to them.

So now we have this new bill, to make the difference. The Māori Party supports the commitment to what seem to be common-sense improvements. It makes good sense that relevant departments can grant legal assistance funding for specified persons to appear before an inquiry. It is a thoroughly sensible expectation that members must act independently, impartially, and fairly. And it is a good idea that unless there are particular terms of reference an inquiry can be conducted as an inquiry sees fit—as long as it complies with rules of natural justice.

I do not see any value in the addition of hefty fines in the laws created by this House. There isno benefit in that. The bill recommends that penalties for disobedience in regard to an inquiry’s orders are pushed up from a maximum of $1,000 to a maximum of $10,000. The various offences that earn this fine include failing to attend or give evidence, or disrupting proceedings. If that is not Draconian enough, the bill now provides that an inquiry may make an order awarding costs against a person if it is thought that person has unduly lengthened or obstructed the inquiry or added undue cost to the inquiry. Mind you, the idea of fining members in this House for the practice of filibustering—that peculiarly parliamentary practice of obstructing legislation by a range of delaying tactics—has some appeal!

During the passage of this bill, we intend to support the intention to modernise and reform inquiries laws by tabling an amendment that will require all inquiries to recognise the Treaty of Waitangi in their deliberations. Some of the considerations that might be reviewed in establishing a Treaty framework could be: Māori collectives should be considered part of the inquiry, as of right, rather than waiting for an individualised invitation; Māori members should be appointed on their knowledge base, not merely by virtue of having whakapapa Māori; the findings of the inquiry should be reviewed from a Treaty perspective; members of inquiries should be required to attend public hui or meetings associated with the inquiry, to assist them in refining their understanding on the views relevant to Māori.

In his paper reflecting on the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, renowned Māori academic and lawyer Moana Jackson described the way in which the commission responded to Māori views as the redefining of the Treaty of Waitangi as akin to “an exquisite politeness”. This phrase itself came from a comment from former MP Simon Upton that “Māori have been listened to with exquisite politeness and cosmic tact and then basically passed by.” So perhaps the time for politeness—exquisite, cosmic, or otherwise—when it comes to protecting and honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi has run its course.

The Treaty requires more than being passed by. There are critical constitutional issues at heart, as well as social and economic imperatives, that any issues affecting tangata whenua are dealt with in the context of a meaningful Treaty relationship between our people and the Crown. This bill, then, is another component of the constitutional review agenda. We will support it at this, its first reading, and look forward to the subsequent debates. Greetings to us all. ]

LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) : I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand and speak in support of the Inquiries Bill. It is the third bill that has been before the House today that has been supported across the House. I am sure New Zealanders will be pleased to see that this House works together incredibly well in putting forward bills that will benefit all New Zealanders. It is a bit of a recurring theme today. It feels like there should be a group hug by the end of the day, but I am not sure the members over there will be that way inclined.

Let us have a look at this particular bill. The current law that governs inquiries is the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908. It is a little out of date and needs a bit of work. We all know that public inquiries have always played an important role in New Zealand society for much of our history, but it is interesting that commissions of inquiry have a much earlier history than 1908. Their introduction goes back to the signing of the Domesday Book in the 11th century. The creation of the Domesday Book was the first time the Crown had examined its own workings and modified its powers. The Domesday Book was the result of research and recommendation by agents of the Crown and is referred to as perhaps the first royal commission. That is enough of a history lesson on how commissions of inquiry came about.

In 2006 the Law Commission reviewed the current law regarding public inquiries and published quite a lengthy document in May 2008, which called for and in fact was entitled A New Inquiries Act. It identified some of the issues with the 1908 Act, including its being over 100 years old and antiquated and that many of the provisions are outdated. The need has been to make this legislation come into this century and to look at some of the problems that were identified. One of the issues is the cost and duration of commissions of inquiry and royal commissions. It is important at this time—at any time—that we be looking to be efficient, in terms of both time and money, and commissions of inquiry are not exempt from that. One of the other issues the Law Commission identified was the lack of flexible statutory inquiry for Ministers. Those were a couple of the problems that the report from the Law Commission came out with, with the intention of solving. Many members have spoken on the bill today and given a whole range of examples of inquiries. The one that stood out for me was the Erebus royal commission, which was about Air New Zealand and headed by Justice Mahon. That one stood out for me, of all the list of inquiries I looked into.

The Inquiries Bill will make some important changes so that there is an express power for inquiries to be postponed or suspended where an investigation into the circumstances can be undertaken and where the inquiry may prejudice the investigation or interested parties. There is also the inclusion in the bill of a maximum fine of $10,000 if somebody does not provide the evidence or documentation that he or she is required to by an inquiry. The bill also formalises the role of the Department of Internal Affairs in administering all types of inquiries.

There has been a lot of discussion. There is not a lot more that I will add at this point, but I will just say at the first reading of the Inquiries Bill that I commend it to the House.

CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise to support the Inquiries Bill. As others have said, this bill is about modernising a very important process in our system—the inquiry process. I will start by acknowledging the Hon Rick Barker and by noting that this legislation is yet another piece of work undertaken by the previous Labour Government.

I want to look at some of the aspects of the bill. First of all, the bill establishes two new types of inquiry: public and Government inquiries. Public inquiries would be appointed by the Governor-General to inquire into matters of significant public importance. Government inquiries would be appointed by, and would report directly to, a Minister, and would be used for smaller and more immediate issues. The bill also reforms and modernises the inquiry law, and, as others have mentioned, follows the Law Commission review. That review recommended replacing royal commissions, but the bill ensures that they are retained under the new law. The bill sets out criteria for public access to inquiries and their documentation. It provides for funding for legal representation for those participating in inquiries, if this is warranted, and provides a range of sanctions to improve the ability to control behaviour surrounding inquiries and to avoid abuses of their process.

As a number of people have commented, the Law Commission report A New Inquiries Act identified three broad problems with the existing inquiry structure. First of all, the current Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908 is antiquated, and has been amended many times, sometimes in response to one-off situations. Some provisions in there are quite confusing. The view was that a thorough re-examination was needed. The report also noted that royal commissions and commissions of inquiry are very costly, with legalistic procedures. Thirdly, it was noted that there has been an increasing preference for non-statutory ministerial inquiries, but those currently take place outside of a statutory framework.

The Law Commission proposed a number of new provisions for a new inquiries Act, and I want to talk a little more about them. One of the things noted in this whole process was the importance of inquiries. I think it is worth noting why they are important. Inquiries play a key role in our democratic system. They provide an independent response to matters of public importance that cannot be adequately dealt with by permanent investigatory or statutory bodies. They can be essential tools for reassuring and obtaining public confidence. I think that is really important. They provide a sense of accountability, find out what happened, and develop new policy proposals. The fact that by nature they are one-off means that they can be adapted to suit unique issues by way of the terms of reference, the composition, the budget, and so on.

I think the debate about royal commissions was a very interesting one, because the Law Commission itself felt that royal commissions should go. It concluded that they were adding an unnecessary complexity to the inquiry landscape. The alternative view, and the one that prevailed, was that the new Act should apply to royal commissions in a similar way to the 1908 Act. As has already been mentioned, a royal commission is seen to give added gravitas. One of the purposes of inquiries—as I have just said—is to assure the public that the matter is being given serious and independent consideration. Probably, there are situations where only the appointment of a royal commission will provide that assurance.

Other speakers have mentioned some royal commissions that have taken place, and it was an interesting process looking through them. I thought I might add a few to the debate, as well. The 1966 Royal Commission on Workers’ Compensation undertaken by Justice Woodhouse was a very important one. I hope it will not be undermined over the course of this term of a National Government. We will wait and see.

The 1975 Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion was another very significant inquiry in New Zealand’s history. I think Ms Upston has already mentioned that in 1980 there was the Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Crash on Mount Erebus, Antarctica, which is one that I know many people in this House will remember. They will remember that tragedy. That same year there was the Royal Commission to Inquire into and Report upon the Circumstances of the Convictions of Arthur Allan Thomas for the Murders of David Harvey Crewe and Jeanette Lenore Crewe.

The 1985 Royal Commission on the Electoral System ended up being very important, and it created the system we now have. Most recently, as my colleagues Chris Hipkins and Darien Fenton previously talked about, there was the 2007 Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It is very interesting to look at some of those royal commissions, and I think probably all members in the House can recall how significant those royal commissions have been in our history.

We are in the middle of seeing what happens as a result of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. I would be remiss not to reinforce the fact that, as others have mentioned, that royal commission did a great deal of work over 18 months, and much of it was overturned over a week by the Government. We are now in the process of seeing what the Government will make of the very, very important issue of what governance in Auckland should look like.

My colleagues have talked about areas requiring inquiry, and I thought I might add one, because I feel very strongly that there is an issue that we should be inquiring into immediately. It is the complete and utter disservice that has been done to New Zealand and our people by the Government’s lack of action on lifelong learning and skills development. I will talk about the need for an inquiry in that area.

This afternoon the Prime Minister made various statements in this House about his platform to work with unions and business. He talked about his supposed desire to make New Zealand more productive. Well, that is all very interesting, but there is a complete lack of action to really reinforce that. I am thinking particularly of some very, very sad things going on at the moment in the area of adult education. Let me talk to members about one project called Learning Representatives. It was endorsed by business and supported by Government. It was run by the union movement. It involved the creation of elected worker representatives in an enterprise to play a leadership role in encouraging workplace learning. Those people would be trained in that role that would make sure that their colleagues were aware of training opportunities, looking at possible career paths ahead of them, and dealing with literacy and numeracy problems. They would make sure that the workplace had a lifelong learning culture. That sounds like something that might be in the area of the Prime Minister’s interest in working with unions and business. It might be something in the area of his interest in making us all a bit more productive. It all certainly sounds pretty good. But what did we see in the Budget? We saw that its funding had been slashed. Funding for that programme—a very, very constructive programme—was slashed, so it will not be nearly as successful as it might have been.

Talking about slashing successful initiatives in the learning and skills area, let me mention the issue of adult learning. This surely should be the subject of an inquiry. It seems to me that something as cost-effective as adult and community education, something that makes such a huge difference in people’s lives, and something that gives adults the opportunity to engage with learning in order to develop new skills in areas that are really central to our economy should be the subject of an inquiry.

I have here the programme for the adult learning centre at Onehunga High School and One Tree Hill College. What are the areas we are looking at? Business and careers, computing, English literacy and numeracy, languages, self care and personal development. There are arts and crafts, and various other things, but those are the big-ticket items.

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) : Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am very happy to take a quick call on the Inquiries Bill.

Before I do, I want to just touch on a few things that young Mr Hipkins said at the start of his speech. In typical Labour fashion, he kicked off by saying that this was a Labour bill, and he took credit for it. But he added another dimension to that theme by saying that if Labour was in power, that would be exactly where the bill would stay—languishing on the Order Paper. Why? Because, according to Mr Hipkins, a Labour Government would introduce more important legislation. He tried to stop himself but he actually used those words. He said that Labour would be focusing on the things that matter. Where have we heard that?

What would those things that matter to Labour be? Perhaps last year’s efforts by the last remnants of the previous Labour Government are a guide to what those members would have done this year. Those members rammed through legislation on electoral finance under urgency, which was described by all commentators as an affront to democracy; passed a completely unworkable emissions trading scheme, which had more than 700 amendments that had never gone near a select committee; delivered a Budget that emptied the coffers in a futile attempt to gain the electorate’s favour on—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: We are on the Inquiries Bill.

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Mr Hipkins opened the door. Well, if that is Labour’s idea of focusing on the things that matter, then it is a good thing that the public focused on its members and threw Labour out of office.

Let us talk about inquiries. We heard Darien Fenton talk about what sorts of inquiries she would have liked. There was a long list of others that we could have had in the last 9 years, such as “Doone-gate”, “paintergate”, “Dover-gate”—

Amy Adams: “Speedgate”.

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: —“speedgate”. There were more gates than on Amy Adams’ farm. But it is important that we focus just for a little bit—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: That was witty.

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member may feel free to laugh. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you are chuckling on the inside.

I will touch on a couple of things that Mr Flavell raised in terms of the gravitas of this and the fact that the royal—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: You wouldn’t know what gravitas is.

MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I did; I learnt a very good word. The Law Commission mentioned that these inquiries did not need the strength of a royal appointment. The legislation as it was introduced by the previous Government did not agree with the Law Commission on that point, and I support that. Also, I think that the fines that are introduced certainly add to the importance of the commission. Commissions are very costly, and it behoves those who participate in them to take them seriously. I think the fines regime is something that the select committee might work on. But I support the bill and I look forward to it going to a select committee. Thanks.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : I will take a brief call in the dead of night, as it were, as we move to close at 10 o’clock. I will touch on the comments of the previous speaker, Michael Woodhouse, when he said that his Government would focus on the things that matter.

This is an Inquiries Bill. Inquiries are very important to the general public, especially when they do not get their say. There are matters of controversy, whether they be political, criminal, or constitutional, that this bill will address in terms of modernising the inquiry function. Let us focus on one of the things that matter.

Tonight I propose an inquiry. The inquiry would be a very good one on one simple matter: the $2.5 million that has been gutted out of the special-needs budget. This affects mostly children. One in particular called Brittany Graham I will speak about a little later on. [Interruption] That $2.5 million, as National members chip away over there, to children—[Interruption] They do not like it, of course. They do not like it now. Let us focus on the things that matter. That is what that pompous individual over there said. The sum of $114,000 has been taken off Addington School, where there is a group of children some of whom who are able to walk for the first time with the aid of a ladder. They cannot control their bodily functions because they suffer from cerebral palsy.

The mother of one of the children, a constituent of mine, said to me that the previous Government kept her daughter alive for the last 9 years. She was a premature birth. The previous Government kept her daughter alive. It has spent a vast amount of taxpayers’ money helping this child. The funding is now being taken away—$114,000, which is a drop in the bucket in a Government’s Budget—and that will probably force that mum to withdraw that child from school. Those are the mum’s words. The mother said a very interesting thing. She said that if her daughter is withdrawn from school, “All the money that the taxpayers generously spent on my daughter will go down the toilet.”, because the costs—

Amy Adams: How’s this about the bill?

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Because we will have an inquiry on that. That learned lawyer did not even have the intestinal fortitude to turn up at Papanui High School last night to face 500 people whose adult and community education funding she had gutted. She did not turn up there.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Inquiries Bill.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: We would have had a great time having an inquiry last night.

I say there should be an inquiry with the stature of a royal commission. That mum said that for the amount of money that would be required to deal with her daughter’s health problems, which were being addressed through conductive education funded by the State every year for 9 years—

Hon Members: Talk about the bill.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am sure that Julie Baker would relish an inquiry as to why the rug has been pulled out from under her 12-year-old daughter’s feet. Her 12-year-old daughter has been able to walk through therapy. Her mother would love an inquiry. Up until now her daughter has not been able to control her bowels, but as a result of the therapy that she has been getting because of the previous Government’s funding, she now has some dignity. I met that girl last week.

As those members chirp on and bleat over there about the things that do not matter, I say to that pompous member who has been here for 5 minutes that he might want to stand up and answer questions at an inquiry, to be called to give evidence to an inquiry, as to why his Government cut $2.5 million for those children. That would be an interesting inquiry, would it not? I think it would. I think, at the very least, yes, those members won; yes, they have the numbers; and, yes, they have a right to govern, but I think it was John McCain who said that elections have consequences. My word, do elections have consequences!

Louise Upston: “Thank goodness”, the public are saying. Thank goodness we have got the ability to do it!

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I invite that genius from Taupō to go back to her electorate, talk to the parents who are involved in conductive education, and find the—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: This is getting out of hand.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Even taking into account “Mini-Mike’s” limitations, this speech is simply too far wide of the mark.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Although members can give examples of inquiries, and I have given some latitude to all speakers tonight, I ask the member to come back to what the bill is about. I want quietness from the Labour side of the House. Interjections are fine, but that last outrage was unacceptable. The member will confine his comments to the bill, please.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Absolutely. I will do what every other member has done tonight, and that is refer to a list of inquiries. I take no offence at “Tinkerbell’s” intervention from over on that side of the House. He can call me names.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: When we are referring to members, we refer to them by their names.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Well, he can do the same to me.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am saying to all members that we refer to members by their names.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Absolutely. You have to be able to take it, I say to Mr Finlayson, if you are going to dish it out.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has been here long enough to know that, as Mr Hipkins would say on a point of order, one cannot say “you”. The member has his limitations, but he really must sharpen up.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The point is taken.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I am indebted to that learned gentleman, who could not even become a Queen’s Counsel, after being a senior partner in a law firm. What a genius that member is.

I really look forward to the passage of this bill. As we go—

Hon Christopher Finlayson: “Mr Comb-over.”

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Oh, there he goes again—old “Tinkerbell”; poor old soul that he is. All he can do is chirp from the sidelines. It would be really nice if Mr Finlayson got up and, as a Cabinet Minister, addressed some of the points I have made about an inquiry into conductive education. It may be that, as a learned lawyer, he in a past life was called upon to represent some of those parents in an inquiry. Maybe he has, perhaps in a court of law, advocated for some of those parents. I doubt it, but maybe he has. If he has, I would be grateful if he would tell us. I would be indebted to him. But it would be very interesting for the Cabinet Minister who made that decision to be on the sharp end of an inquiry—

Hon Member: Go on!

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE:—it would be a sharp end, too—and to be forced to give an explanation to the people of New Zealand for his actions.

I support this bill. It is very interesting to elicit the colourful responses, because they are called guilt, they are called shame, and that is why those people get so upset. These issues are sharp issues, they are the issues that matter, and I invite some of these very gutsy members to get up, front up to an inquiry or otherwise, and explain how they have cut the parents of this country off at the knees.

ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) : I support the Inquiries Bill and I commend it to the House.

  • Bill read a first time.
  • Bill referred to the Government Administration Committee.