Hansard and Journals
Questions for Oral Answer — Questions to Ministers
Questions to Ministers
Palm Kernel Imports—Biosecurity Risks
1. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Can he give the public a 100 percent guarantee that imports of palm kernel do not pose biosecurity risks to New Zealand’s farms and environment, particularly in light of the fact that one in 10 shipments have been found to contain insects and animals despite having been fumigated before arriving in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Biosecurity: The Minister can no more give a 100 percent guarantee for the importation of palm kernel than he can for the importation of other animal feeds into New Zealand such as soya or tapioca. The Minister is assured through Biosecurity New Zealand that any biosecurity risks associated with the importation of palm kernel are well managed and dealt with appropriately. I think it is worth noting that all of the insects found in palm kernel shipments are deemed most likely to have entered the shipment post its arrival in New Zealand.
Kevin Hague: Is the Minister aware of reports from dairy farmers of discovering unusual weeds in places where palm kernel has been fed out, and wood, soil, and pieces of metal in imported palm kernel?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, I am not aware of that, but I am aware that there are considerable urban myths surrounding the importation of palm kernel. It has been a practice in New Zealand for over a decade. There has even been a suggestion that in one particular shipment, a monkey was found amongst the palm kernels.
Hon Parekura Horomia: What were you doing there, Gerry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: They are simply untrue, and there is a bit of self identification on the other side of the House there. Believe me, if they found Parekura Horomia in there, they would not have thought he was a monkey. This is a serious issue. The New Zealand Government has always taken this seriously, and palm kernel is fumigated prior to departure and quite often during shipment. If there is any suggestion of incursion when it arrives, it is further fumigated.
Kevin Hague: Is the Minister aware that foot-and-mouth disease is endemic to some of the areas from which palm kernel is imported into New Zealand, that the Canadian authorities have found foot-and-mouth disease to be viable in soil for many days, and that the fumigation process to which shipments are exposed has no effect whatsoever on foot-and-mouth disease?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not have that advice, but I am assured that Biosecurity New Zealand does a good job. I say to the member that perhaps he should refer to the Hansard of 26 March 2003, where the Hon Marian Hobbs said to the House: “Given that there is the potential of over 100 new pests a day for every day of the year, I think that finding only six in the last fortnight shows that we really are very good at surveillance.” That was in answer to a question about concerns at the time, and the Minister gave a proper answer indicating how seriously New Zealand takes it biosecurity obligations.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s assessment of foot-and-mouth disease as being of insignificant risk in palm kernel shipments is based on a 2002 assessment that did not even mention palm kernel and occurred at a time when imports of palm kernel to this country were of a very substantially lower quantity than they are today?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to confirm that.
Kevin Hague: Why does New Zealand continue to import palm kernel when the Minister cannot give a 100 percent guarantee that it will not risk our farming, horticulture, forestry, or even our “100% Pure New Zealand” brand, especially when sufficient supplementary feed is readily available in New Zealand that carries no biosecurity risk at all?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I again quote from Hansard, from 29 March 2006 when the Hon Jim Anderton said, and I think it is right and it serves as a very good answer to this question: “I point out to the member that if New Zealand were to try to fund biosecurity systems that would prevent [all possible] incursions into New Zealand, there would not be enough wealth generated in the whole GDP to guarantee that.” New Zealand has a very good record for biosecurity, prevention of incursions, and attack upon any organisms that invade our territory where they are a problem. I think we should be recognising Biosecurity New Zealand for the fine work it does.
Accident Compensation—Proposed Increase in Motor Vehicle Levy
2. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What is the proposed increase in ACC levy fees for a car, and how much would it have been if the date for full funding of the motor vehicle account is not extended?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) board has recommended an increase in the average motor vehicle levy of $130.28, based on the current law and full funding date of 2014. The changes announced yesterday include deferring the full funding date to 2019, and that reduces that increase to $30.28. The option remains for this to be funded by an increase in the petrol levy or in the registration fee. The board is consulting New Zealanders on those options.
Hon David Parker: Why did the Minister encourage the media to report the prospect of accident compensation levy increases to car registration and petrol costs of $130—four times the actual $30 increase—and is this not another example of his scaremongering to justify cuts to accident compensation entitlements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The board of ACC is actually required to follow the law. If the law is followed, that is the figure. If the member was at the press conference, he would have noted that I repeatedly said, and the media has rightly reported, that the highest figure that the Government thinks is realistic is the $30 figure. That is why it is making legislative and other changes. I say to the member opposite that it has been necessary for the Government to communicate with New Zealanders the true financial position of the accident compensation scheme, because the previous Government hid it and breached the Public Finance Act.
Sue Bradford: Which parties have guaranteed their support to the Minister for the accident compensation legislation, which will give effect to the announcements on the future of accident compensation that he has made this week?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: On Monday Cabinet approved the bill that has been drafted by the Parliamentary Council Office. I am having discussions with a number of parties to get the necessary support for this legislation to be passed, so that we might be able to limit the increase in levies on New Zealanders.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister stand by his comment: “If my doctor told me that I was terminally ill and I had 30 days to live, with the ACC rules the way they are, I’d be finding myself a train to throw myself under on the 29th day because my family would be treated so much more generously” than under the current law; and has he any evidence that New Zealanders have been committing suicide to get accident compensation cover for their surviving children?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That was never the inference. What I was attempting—[Interruption]—to do was to point out—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. The Labour Opposition asked a question; they might like to hear the answer. I cannot hear it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The same question was put to me by the media when I came into the House. I said that I am happy to apologise. Suicide is an absolute tragedy, and I would not wish it on anyone. Having said that, I do think it is important to point out that if a family suffers the tragedy of a loved one being lost through heart disease, cancer, or a brain tumour, they are not, in my view, different from those families that suffer it from suicide; I believe it was a mistake and wrong of the previous Government to extend the accident compensation scheme to include suicide, and that was the point that I was attempting to make.
Dr Jackie Blue: What advice has the Minister received in response to the claim that the levy increases would be less if the Government had pushed out the full funding date to 2019 earlier?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This claim is ridiculous, as it makes absolutely no difference to the levies whether the legislation to extend the full funding date is passed in 2008, in 2009, or in 2010. The key decision is about which date it is extended to. This Government wanted to get a full grasp of the accident compensation scheme’s financial position before making policy decisions, and it has taken the board some time to develop a plan to address that. I find it rich that members opposite criticise the fact that we have not pushed out the full funding date, when they had 9 years in which to do so and did not.
Sue Bradford: Is the Minister telling the House that he indeed does not have the numbers to get the new accident compensation legislation through, and that that is why the bill is not coming up in the House under urgency today?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am in consultation with parties to try to get support for the accident compensation reform bill, because I think it is important that we make these changes to the accident compensation scheme in order to make it fair, affordable, and sustainable. I will be having ongoing discussions with other parties to try to get support in this Parliament for sensible change.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister accept statements by motorcyclists that they are now paying for accidents caused by cars, and, given Mr Judge’s comments on the radio today that the setting of levies is a political decision, does he accept that his Government has got it wrong?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The interesting thing about motorcycle accidents is that even if we assume that every single accident between a motorcycle and a car is the car’s fault, the levies would still have to be over $750. The actual cost for large motorcycles is $2,700. I think that the increase the board has proposed in respect of motorcycles is a big ask, but this country needs to have an honest discussion about the cost of motorcycle accidents and where responsibility for that should rest. It is a final decision for the Government to make and I look forward to the discussion about it. I make the point that if motorcyclists are not to pay for the cost of those accidents, then someone else has to.
Dr Jackie Blue: What reports has the Minister received on the claim that accident compensation collected more in levies in 2008-09 than the lifetime costs of claims incurred in 2008-09?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The report I have received from ACC is that this claim is absolute nonsense. The scheme received levies in 2008-09 of $4.2 billion. The lifetime costs of claims incurred in that year, based on the latest valuation, is $7.1 billion. Mr Parker should apologise to the public of New Zealand for misleading them on this important point.
Hon David Parker: How can it be fair for the Government to charge poor people who can afford only older cars higher accident compensation levies than wealthier people with more expensive, safer, new cars?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government has made no decisions about the way in which we can provide better incentives for safety. The legislation we are proposing would, for instance, make provision for no-claim bonuses, which would reward the owner of an old car just as much as the owner of a new car. I think the essential point for this Government is that we need to improve the incentives for safety, for employers, and for motor vehicle owners, and that is why we are progressing with these reforms.
Sandra Goudie: Does the Minister agree that ACC should tighten its procedures in order to limit access to counselling for those injured through serious crimes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am just getting the correct answer—
Mr SPEAKER: I just wonder how well that question relates to the primary question, which relates to the ACC levies for cars and the motor vehicle account.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Maybe I can assist the House. I think the member who asked that question on behalf of the Government has actually read out oral question No. 4, which is a Labour question. Maybe if she checks through her patsy question files, she will find the correct question to ask.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Hon Darren Hughes for his assistance in this matter.
Hon David Parker: Is he aware that falls by the elderly are one of the fastest-growing sources of accident compensation claims and one of the top 10 causes of hospital admissions; if so, why has ACC today advised that its fall prevention programmes, such as the Otago exercise and fall prevention programme, have been cancelled?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is certainly true that falls by older people have been an area of very substantive increase in claims and cost for accident compensation. The point I would make to the member is that ACC’s board is looking at the cost-effectiveness of those programmes. I put it to the member that if those programmes that his Government put in place were so successful, why is it that claims are ballooning at the rate that they are? The board is saying we need to invest in cost-effective programmes for injury prevention and not just in any old programmes.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart—Number of Houses Insulated
3. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: How many houses were insulated in September through the Government’s Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation scheme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : In September of this year we had a third record month for the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, with 5,868 houses being retrofitted. In only 3 months of the scheme, more than 14,000 Kiwi homes have received assistance so that they are warmer, drier, and healthier.
Michael Woodhouse: How many houses lived in by residents with community services cards have been retrofitted under the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am very, very pleased to report to the House that of the 5,868 houses retrofitted in September, 65 percent were houses occupied by people on low incomes. Since the scheme started, over 60 percent of houses receiving insulation under the scheme have been occupied by people on low incomes.
Chris Hipkins: Can the Minister confirm that homes insulated in September will have been insulated to a higher standard than homes insulated from 1 October because he has lowered the standards for approved providers to meet in order to insulate more homes for the same amount of money; does he not agree that subsidising heat pumps for poorly insulated homes could lead to greater energy inefficiency and thus defeat the purpose of the whole programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, because we have not done that and because someone cannot get the heating subsidy unless he or she passes the insulation test. What that member should do is stop listening to his mates, who are a bit grumpy about being booted off because they are hopeless providers, and start looking at the tough criteria laid down by this Government.
Rahui Katene: What relationships has the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority developed with iwi in terms of their participation in the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme, and what actions will the authority take to increase the uptake of energy efficiency measures by Māori?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has developed partnerships with a number of iwi—
Hon Darren Hughes: How come you’re reading out this answer?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because people like you and Mr Hipkins—
Mr SPEAKER: There will not be a reference to the Speaker, from either party.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Speaker is an intelligent man. I certainly did not confuse him with Darren Hughes. However, Darren Hughes often confuses himself with the Speaker. I will start again. This is an important question.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on the way the Leader of the House is treating question time. If there is a bit of banter on a Thursday, that is fair enough. But this continual denigration of Parliament—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There will not be interjections.
Hon Darren Hughes: You often give us your observations about the standards and dignity of Parliament. You are very tough on Labour, naming Labour members and naming the Labour Party. But it seems that the Leader of the House is able to perform in this way when answering questions and there is no sanction on him at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the intention of the point the member makes. I remind him, though, that he was the member who introduced the Speaker into the debate, through interjecting “you”. The honourable member was the very first person to do that, and the Minister answering the question responded with “you”. In fact, it was the member’s own interjection that initiated the disorder, and that is the difficulty.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has developed a number of partnerships with iwi and is continuing to do so. An example is Ngaruru in South Taranaki, where some 240 houses will be insulated and iwi members will be trained and employed as insulators. Waikato-Tainui and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority have signed an agreement that will see 700 kaumātua homes retrofitted, and over the next short while the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority will be working with iwi and Māori groups to bring them onboard as service providers, as installers, and as third-party funders in the scheme. The House can look forward to a much larger announcement on this matter from the Minister of Māori Affairs in the next short while.
Chris Hipkins: Will the Minister admit that the Government has lowered insulation standards by, among other things, requiring that homes previously fitted with foil underfloor insulation, which has been proven to be ineffective, will have the foil repaired rather than replaced with a more effective form of home insulation, and how does he square that with his answer just now that the standards have not been lowered?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, they have not been lowered, and if the member has examples of providers engaging in that practice—
Hon Ruth Dyson: He’s just given you one.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, with all due respect, he did not give me an example. He made an allegation. I am saying that if the member has examples of providers who are installing a level of insulation that is inferior to the one demanded by the Government, he should tell me, and they will no longer be providers.
4. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Does he agree ACC should tighten procedures to limit access to counselling for those injured through serious crime?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : The Government is not making any changes to the accident compensation legislation in respect of when people get counselling for sensitive claims arising from crime. The issue here is best practice. A substantive research project initiated and concluded during the last Government by Massey University recommended new guidelines to ensure better service for clients. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is implementing those changes, and I am very reluctant to interfere in decisions on clinical best practice in this area, or, frankly, any other.
Lynne Pillay: Why, then, did two young boys from Taranaki, who were sodomised and thrown out of a window, and whose case for counselling was supported by their counsellor and the police, have to resort to their stories being told in the media because ACC had declined the counselling they so clearly needed, in order to have someone from the Government listen?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member for New Plymouth raised that specific and sensitive case with me—
Hon Annette King: Belatedly.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —actually, before the Opposition did, and raised it publicly. I have asked ACC officials to look into the specifics of the case. I ask the member and others in the House not to substitute themselves for clinical psychologists who appropriately make the judgment of whether people are eligible for accident compensation, and judge the appropriateness of the particular counselling or other care that is provided.
Lynne Pillay: Does this Taranaki example show that victims of horrendous sexual crimes now have to tell their terrible and personal stories publicly in order for them to get the help they need, and will he now guarantee that ACC will fund the counselling?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I think it is important for the House to note that there has been no change in the clinical guidelines, to date.
Hon Annette King: Oh yes, there has.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, there has not. I have just answered a large number of written questions on this matter, and the answers show that the number of cases that have been turned down in recent months is no different from what it was a year ago—no different, according to those statistics. So I say to the member opposite that this case, tragic as it is, cannot be a consequence of any changes in practice, because those changes have not yet been made.
Sandra Goudie: Has the Minister or his associate Minister at any time since his appointment asked ACC to make savings in the area of counselling?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I have not. The changes regarding counselling for sensitive claims were well under way before my appointment. My only direction to ACC is to be cautious in this sensitive area, because I do recognise how vulnerable victims of sexual abuse are.
I seek leave of the House to table Sexual Abuse and Mental Injury: Practice Guidelines for Aotearoa New Zealand, dated March 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. [Interruption] Order! The seeking of leave is being dealt with. Members need only reflect on who was interjecting while that was happening. Leave is sought. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Lynne Pillay: Why has the Minister claimed that decisions to limit counselling are clinical decisions, when the decision to cancel and decline counselling for people who have been raped and molested is being made by people in Wellington who have never met, or even spoken with, these victims and who are simply rubber-stamping cost-cutting initiatives being put in place by this Government?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first thing I would point out, for the member, is that in the example she has given, and arising from the representations that have been made by the member for New Plymouth, Child, Youth and Family has appropriately decided to fund counselling for the boys who are affected. In respect of the member’s claims that people in Wellington are making decisions about such counselling, I assure the member that those decisions are being made by properly qualified psychiatrists and others who have the clinical skills to make them.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Government does not have numbers for the reduction in scope—
Mr SPEAKER: I am listening for the point of order and there is nothing—
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table—
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. There is nothing that I can perceive to do with the order of the House that has anything to do with Government numbers for anything. I ask the member to come to his point of order.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave for my member’s bill, the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Change of Date for Full Funding) Amendment Bill, which extends by 5 years the deadline for funding of the accident compensation tail, to be put on the Order Paper.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that member’s bill to be put on the Order Paper. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the document that ACC prepared showing its new guidelines for victims of sexual violence, which do not bear resemblance—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a further ACC document on guidelines. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the Minister’s reply to the last supplementary question—that Child, Youth and Family is funding counselling for young boys—what is the system now for counselling older, female rape victims?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: A member asked a specific question about a case in New Plymouth that had been drawn to my attention by the member for New Plymouth, and I appropriately drew to the House’s attention the fact that counselling has been provided by Child, Youth and Family. In respect of ACC’s support for victims of sexual abuse, ACC will continue to provide support as per the clinical guidelines that were developed during the time of the previous Government, of which that member was part—and they were launched by the Hon Steve Maharey, I would note.
Financial Position, Government—Borrowing
5. JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Does he consider borrowing $40 billion to be “no trouble”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: In the past month overseas investors have told the Minister that they agree with the Government’s responsible management of the New Zealand economy. Therefore, yes, the Minister is confident that the Government will be able to borrow the extra $40 billion required over the next 4 years. That is a significant undertaking. We are, in effect, doubling Crown debt in the next 4 years to maintain entitlements and keep the economy running, while simultaneously working to repair the damage inflicted by the previous approximately 9 years of economic mismanagement.
John Boscawen: Does the Minister accept that massive losses in the accident compensation scheme and KiwiRail and the write-down in the student loan book are all a consequence of the poor economic policy that the Government inherited from Labour, and why does he not reverse the structural problems that are causing it?
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder how this Minister can be responsible for the policies of the previous Government.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no need for further assistance on that. The member asked the Minister whether the problem that the Government is coping with at the moment by borrowing $40 billion has something to do with the economic policies that were in place when this Government came to power. That is a perfectly legitimate question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes; the Government is focusing on working very hard to control the debt by taking responsible control of Crown expenditure while maintaining entitlements, and by instituting policies that improve productivity and growth for this country.
John Boscawen: Can the Minister explain to the House exactly how hard-working New Zealanders are better off having the Minister of Finance borrow $40 billion to manage Michael Cullen’s economic policies compared with having Michael Cullen do the job himself?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, the country will be better off, because this Government is about sensible, balanced, and responsible economic management. We have rejected the idea of slashing and burning public spending during a recession. We have pledged to maintain entitlements, but in all ways to act responsibly, to control Crown expenditure, and to ensure that it is being spent properly and well.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that Cabinet papers released this week to Radio New Zealand signalled more savage cuts to come that will impact on the life of every working New Zealander?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, and I would also say that there have not been savage cuts to date. The Government is trying to be sure to act responsibly in a sensible and balanced manner. The member’s characterisation of the Government’s actions to date goes to show how little grasp he has of financial and economic matters.
Question No. 4 to Minister
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) : I seek leave to table a paper relating to question No. 4. It is Sensitive Claims, a newsletter from the Accident Compensation Corporation, which states that the corporation is currently undertaking a comprehensive, value-for-money review in which it is scrutinising the accident compensation scheme costs.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member Nick Smith has just accused my colleague of misrepresenting a paper. The clear implication is that my colleague did not tell the truth when she sought leave to table a document. He accused her of a breach of privilege from across the Chamber, and I take offence at that.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : That is utter rubbish. There are all sorts of interjections across the Chamber. Dr Nick Smith said that the paper had been misrepresented. Considering the number of times that people have said in debate that someone has misrepresented something, that someone has been reckless with the truth, or some other such thing, the member knows darned well that it is not in any way malicious. It is part of the normal banter in the House. I know that Labour members are very upset; they are not on their game—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member was perfectly on course with the point of order until that point. I think that the point has been made fairly that if the Minister had interjected that the member had been lying, I would have most certainly required him to withdraw and apologise for that. If, though, he interjected that the member had misrepresented the nature of the document that she was seeking to table, then I think that is hardly in the same category as accusing her—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I tell the Hon Darren Hughes to hang on. I am not sure what is wrong with the member’s vision today, but I am on my feet—
Hon Darren Hughes: I thought you were sitting down.
Mr SPEAKER: —and the member will not interject on—
Hon Trevor Mallard: You dipped.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and I am standing perfectly steadily. But I will now sit, and I invite the Hon Darren Hughes to make his point of order.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Senior Whip—Labour) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point that Mr Brownlee made to you would be perfectly fine if it were not for the fact that you yourself have ejected a member of Parliament because he made a reference to “nose growing”, or something or other. You said that the logic meant that that member was accusing somebody of telling a “mistruth”. Dr Smith sat there—
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the senior Labour Party whip to take his seat. I did not evict a member for making that comment. It was what happened subsequently that caused the eviction of the member. I ask the member when making points of order to reflect correctly on what has occurred in the House. This matter does not require the time of the House to be taken up. If the member had accused another member of lying, I would have required the member to withdraw and apologise. My understanding is that he did not do that. I did not hear the interjection, because there was so much noise. Therefore, I intend to move on.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Senior Whip—Labour) : I apologise to you, Mr Speaker. My recollection was incorrect. That is right: the member was ejected after refusing to withdraw and apologise. The point I should have made is that you forced the member to withdraw and apologise because of a comment he made. You said that the logical conclusion of it was that he had accused another member of telling a “mistruth”, even though he had not used those words. Mr Mallard’s point of order is that Dr Smith accused the member of misrepresenting something. Surely you must see the same conclusion, logically, in the two rulings you have made.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on this matter. I am not sure how many times the senior Labour Party whip expects me to listen to him on a point of order. I warn him that I have listened to him all I intend to listen.
Broadcasting, Minister—Management of Portfolio
6. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is he satisfied with his management of his portfolio?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting) : Although there is never any room for complacency in these matters, I am satisfied that a lot of hard work is going into meeting the challenges of the portfolio.
Brendon Burns: Which Minister of Broadcasting should the House believe: the acting Minister, who stated yesterday that the Government had not determined to provide financial support to a Television New Zealand - led bid for Rugby World Cup rights, or today’s Minister of Broadcasting, who on Tuesday was widely reported and criticised for having said exactly the opposite, leading to a U-turn by the Prime Minister?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: If the member looks at those statements carefully and does not try to misrepresent them, he will find that they are totally consistent with each other.
Hon Pete Hodgson: We all know he said—
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Pete Hodgson will resume his seat immediately. I am on my feet; the House will be silent. I have had enough. The House started in good humour today, and it has deteriorated into totally unacceptable behaviour. When the member is called to ask a question, he will ask his question. He will not interject like that. Today I have had to put up with innuendo and interjection on my left, with accusations of bias by the Speaker. I have tolerated that, from the Hon Darren Hughes in particular. I will not tolerate that kind of nonsense any more. When the member is called to ask his supplementary question, he will do that without further interjection.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Minister agree that the Prime Minister’s less than complimentary remarks about him this morning were a wee bit rough, given that the Prime Minister has known about the Māori Television Service’s bid for many, many weeks?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Those remarks were absolutely fine.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Minister not feel just a little bit annoyed about being door stopped by Campbell Live at Wellington Airport yesterday afternoon, when Campbell Live knew that the Prime Minister had done a U-turn and so did almost everyone else, but no one had thought to tell the Minister of Broadcasting?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: To be honest, I found the whole interview experience quite surreal.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Minister agree with the chief executive of the Māori Television Service, Jim Mather, who said he believed that the International Rugby Board, even given its vast global experience of broadcasting rights, had never encountered anything quite like the events of the past few days?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Mr Mather has expressed a range of beliefs, and that is just one of them.
7. HEKIA PARATA (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Tēnā koe, Te Mana Whakawa—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the House to please show some courtesy to a member who has been called to ask her question. She has every right to do so.
HEKIA PARATA: What progress has the Government’s Community Max initiative made?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : I am pleased to announce that over 830 opportunities have been created for our young people. I have been impressed to see communities stepping up. In fact, over 172 groups so far have already stepped up. They are showing real innovation. That is what happens when we trust communities to know what works for them and let them get on with it.
Hekia Parata: How has the Community Max initiative given opportunities to young people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Streets Ahead 237 is a group that does incredible work with youth gangs in Porirua, which I know the member knows. These former youth gang members are now working with other young people, thanks to Community Max, to mentor them through the same journey and to more positive outcomes. I have also had the pleasure of meeting young people and working on three Community Max projects in Māngere, thanks to the Tamaki Ki Raro Trust. They quite genuinely now have a renewed sense of pride in themselves because they are getting a wage and doing good.
Amy Adams: What further examples can the Minister give where Community Max is making a difference?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: In Canterbury, the Ngāi Tahu Community Max project is enabling 16 young Māori to help restore historic wāhi tapu sites of significance to the iwi. In the far north, the community group Street Maytz is making a real difference, getting young people to help with crime prevention, graffiti, and community patrolling.
Rahui Katene: Does the Minister believe that good progress has been made for Māori and Pasifika youth in the uptake of the Community Max initiative, and are there any specific issues for these groups that have emerged during the recruitment process?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I believe excellent progress has been made for Māori and Pacific youth. Of the Community Max participants, over two-thirds are Māori and Pasifika youth. I have not been aware of any specific issues. Everyone is giving me positive feedback on how it is working. If the member knows anything that we can tweak, then please would she let me know.
Crime, Violent—Government Actions
8. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement that “the Government has taken prompt action to crack down on violent crime”?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: When the Minister said on Tuesday that half of the 7 percent increase in violent crime occurred under the previous Labour Government, was she aware that the increase in the 6 months to December was 2 percent, whereas the increase in the 6 months to June, entirely under the National Government, was more than double that at 4.9 percent?
Hon SIMON POWER: Any increase in crime is unacceptable, as the Minister said earlier this week. I can report to the House that the Government will be progressing five measures later this afternoon to deal with these issues, as well as making sure that an announcement tomorrow morning about the victims of crime should have some relevance to the matter.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member, I note that he asked specifically whether the Minister was aware that there had been an increase in 6 months of 2 percent and a further increase in the next 6 months of 4 percent. The Minister may, in fact, have information that refutes that, but it would be helpful to hear an answer that relates to that.
Hon SIMON POWER: The Minister is well aware of the make-up of the figures.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: When the Minister said on Tuesday that half of the more than 62 murders so far this calendar year occurred under the Labour Government, was she aware that the calendar year started in January?
Hon SIMON POWER: The Minister has a very good grasp of when these crime figures start and finish. As she explained earlier this week, any murder is unacceptable. That is why the Government has moved swiftly through a range of measures to deal with these types of matters, and, frankly, we are not prone to flimflam.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How does the Minister reconcile her statement on Tuesday that “The Police has told that member time and time again that there was not a $21 million cut to its budget”, with a document I have, authored by the Canterbury district commander, Dave Cliff, who notes that the police have been asked to make savings and that the $21 million figure is inclusive of the $5.5 million found from the line by line savings; and how does she reconcile her statement with the transcript I have from the Vote Police estimates hearing, where the Commissioner of Police talks at length about what makes up the $21 million cut?
Hon SIMON POWER: It is difficult to reconcile how a $20 million cut could come at a time when in the last Budget the Government has delivered about $200 million of extra funding over a 4-year period.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Will the Minister finally, in light of the information provided to her today, take some responsibility for the demands that she and her Government have put on the New Zealand Police in respect of the $21 million cut outlined by district commander Cliff and noted at length by Commissioner of Police Broad at the estimates hearing, and will she tell the New Zealand Police to reverse the cut in the vehicle fleet to the tune of 10 percent that she has forced on it and to reverse the rationing of firearms training?
Hon SIMON POWER: The Minister of Police takes full responsibility for the extra $200 million that was found for the New Zealand Police over a period of 4 years in the last Budget. In fact, Budget 2009 provided $200 million in capital funding to support the extra police, and it provides for 43 extra police cars.
9. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Labour: What progress has been made on the review of adventure tourism?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour) : Today I have released the terms of reference for the review. A governance group has been formed to ensure that industry is closely engaged in the review. I expect that the review will be completed by March 2010.
Louise Upston: What has been the industry reaction to the review?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The industry has been very positive and is already contributing to the review. The director of white-water rafting company Ultimate Descents, Tim Marshall, says: “I see this as a good thing, to make sure we are all up to standard,”. The industry understands that ensuring the highest safety standards across the whole sector is critical to protecting New Zealand’s international reputation.
Financial Crisis—Strength of Government Finances
10. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement on Radio New Zealand this morning “New Zealand weathered the global financial crisis partly because of the strength of the Government’s finances”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, and, as the member notes, the key word in that statement is “partly”. Although our debt position was low by historic standards, we inherited a range of problems that increased our exposure to the global financial crisis. They included an economy that had already gone into recession ahead of almost every other advanced economy; a forecast—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will resume his seat. He may have noted that the question just asked whether the Minister stood by a statement. The Hon David Cunliffe may have a supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that when he took office net debt had already been reduced by Labour to zero percent of GDP, for the first time in New Zealand’s history?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In theory, net debt was close to zero, but concentrating on that indicator reveals a range of other problems that the previous Government left behind, including over a billion dollars in unfunded rail commitments, a $1 billion insulation fund for which no money had been set aside, a $2 billion hole in accident compensation funding that had been hidden before the election, a $320 million write-down of KiwiRail, plans for an unaffordable $3 billion Waterview tunnel, and a range of other unfunded commitments, the cost of which stretches to several billion dollars.
Mr SPEAKER: Amy Adams.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are other supplementary questions to come, but first let me traverse a matter that I have previously raised with you in a point of order. I simply seek a reiteration of your earlier ruling. In response to similar questions, Mr English has employed the similar tactic of deliberately confusing and terming unfunded liabilities matters—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member must resume his seat now. The member is seeking to litigate an answer. He cannot do that by way of a point of order. He can ask further supplementary questions; if he disputes the information that the Minister has just given the House, he can ask further supplementary questions about that information, but he cannot litigate it by way of a point of order.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I confess to some degree of confusion in light of your most recent ruling, because I was simply referring to an earlier ruling that you had given. My new point of order is whether I am to take it that you have overridden your earlier ruling and are saying that it is now permissible for a Minister to deliberately confuse something that is bound by statute—that is, the difference between a quantified or unquantified fiscal risk and an unfunded liability?
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now getting into the detail of the matter. I can absolutely assure the honourable member that I have been consistent right the way through in these matters. Points of order cannot be used to litigate an answer, or even to question the quality of an answer. The Minister gave certain information to the House that was perfectly fair given the supplementary question that he had been asked. If the member disagrees with that information, he is perfectly at liberty to question the Minister more closely on some aspects of it. But I have called Amy Adams to ask her supplementary question.
Amy Adams: What other challenges did the Government face after the election?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government inherited many problems after the election, including an economy that had already gone into recession ahead of almost every other advanced economy, a forecast decade of deficits, out-of-control Government spending that grew 50 percent in the 5 years to 2009—twice as fast as the economy or revenue—and very low productivity growth over the previous 9 years.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister therefore confirm that upon taking office his Government inherited an economic environment where unemployment had dropped to the lowest rate—3.4 percent—in 21 years, and that GDP growth was well above the OECD average of 2.6 percent?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can confirm that GDP growth was negative when the Government took office, as the result of a recession that had begun at the start of the year.
Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Minister confirm that the cost of his 1 April tax cut was $1.2 billion per annum, which is the same amount as the deterioration recorded in the Crown accounts released yesterday; and does he now think that it was premature to introduce a tax cut predominantly for high-income earners while delivering very little to hard-working Kiwi families and blowing out Crown debt?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The blowout in Crown debt was caused by unsustainable growths in Government expenditure, and this Government is very clearly focused on creating jobs and growth. In order to do so, we have to do a number of things, including providing incentives through our tax system to reward hard work across the tax range. The tax changes this year helped to achieve that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with the statement by John Key that he would pay for tax cuts by running “lower surpluses and increasing debt”, and will he confirm that had a tax cut been given then, in 2005, it would have added an additional $10 billion to the Government’s debt today?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, and I think this illustrates the fundamental difference between this Government, and Mr Cunliffe and the Labour Party. This Government strongly believes that the best people to spend their money and help grow the economy are the people who themselves make the income, whereas those members believe that it is all about increasing Government expenditure at the expense of everybody else.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I submit that the Minister has not addressed the question, which asked whether he agreed with the statement of his Prime Minister. Instead, we got a homily on Philosophy 101 from the neo-conservative—
Mr SPEAKER: I have been very patient with the member’s points of order, but he abused the point of order system then by seeking to abuse the Minister. He cannot do that under a point of order, and I will not put up with it. The member has claimed that the Minister did not address his question, but if the member looks at the various components of the question he asked, he will see that the Minister was disagreeing with one of the parts of his question. One of the parts of his question related to tax cuts that had been talked about in 2005, if I recollect correctly, and the impact they might have had on the deficit announced the other day. The Minister was disagreeing totally with the assertion the member had made. That is a perfectly acceptable answer to the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a transcript of an interview with the Minister of Finance, Mr English, this morning, and also with BNZ economist Craig Ebert, who notes the significant impact on the Government’s fiscal balance of the big tax cuts—
Mr SPEAKER: What is it?
Hon David Cunliffe: It is a transcript of a broadcast from Radio New Zealand National.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a transcript from this morning’s Radio New Zealand National broadcast. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Question No. 11 to Minister
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to draw to your attention the wording of this question, and to ask you where in the question there is any indication of ministerial responsibility. This question asks nothing about Government policy; there is nothing about anything that any Minister has done. The Minister is not responsible for any announcement made by third parties. I submit to you that there is nothing in the wording of the question that indicates any Government responsibility at all, and therefore there is no ministerial responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised an interesting point. Obviously the question was scrutinised by the Office of the Clerk when it was accepted, and it has been accepted. My dilemma, as the Speaker, is that it would be pretty rash for the Speaker now to make judgments about the issue about announcements, because it may well be that the Government has made some announcement, and I cannot, as Speaker, make any judgment about that. I really think that I cannot assist the member, because I would be acting quite improperly as Speaker to be making some judgment about whether the Government might have made announcements.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I now regard this as slightly more serious, because you have accepted the question. It might have been done by your staff or on your behalf, but the responsibility for acceptance of the question is yours. That is why I have taken it up with you in, I think, the only way we possibly can, when we think an error has been made on your part, and that is to ask you to rule whether this is in fact a proper question. The only thing that could be done, Mr Speaker, would be to deal with the question after question No. 12, so that you can satisfy yourself that you have acted properly.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I think that is an interesting sort of point, but it falls to one side when we consider that if you applied that logic, then you would be also applying it to question No. 4 on today’s Order Paper, which was accepted, and which talks about “ACC should tighten procedures to limit access”, etc. That is no different from the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage being asked about encouraging philanthropic giving to the arts. That is quite a reasonable sort of step. The Office of the Clerk is very, very experienced in this matter. I know that its staff routinely sends questions back for correction. Quite often when we get the first sheets we see they have been corrected in all sorts of ways. Given that it is normally not the Government that asks most of the questions, we assume that others occasionally make those mistakes. But in this case I do not think there is one. I think it is very, very clear that this is an appropriate question for the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage to answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I believe that I do not need to hear further on this. Interestingly, this question is actually a genuine question. The Speaker cannot know what announcements the Government might have recently made on this matter. It is actually a genuine question. There are other questions on today’s Order Paper that I would say, as the honourable Leader of the House has suggested, are more marginal. We do accept questions that seek opinions now. In fact, as the Leader of the House pointed out, question No. 4 not only seeks an opinion but also is a hypothetical question, and it was not ruled out of order. But this question is a genuine question; it is asking what announcements have recently been made. The answer may be none, for all I know. I applaud the fact that it is a genuine question.
Mr SPEAKER: This will be heard in silence, but I will not take the matter further. I will hear the member—
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Sure, and I think it is a matter, probably, for tightening up in the future rather than the past. But I can differentiate between a question that asks a Minister whether he or she agrees, and that therefore gets right into the area of ministerial responsibility, and question No. 11. If it had said “What announcements, if any, has the Government made …” or “has he made …”, there would be no argument about it. It just seems to me that some words are missing.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point the member has made, but I must confess that I think the “if any” wording is getting a little pedantic. It is very easy for a Minister to get up and say that actually the Government has not made any announcements in that area. So I think that is getting a little pedantic.
11. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What announcements have recently been made about encouraging philanthropic giving to the arts?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage) : I recently announced the appointment of a task force to investigate ways to improve private philanthropic giving to arts and heritage organisations such as the New Zealand Film Archive, which I visited today. The task force seeks to advance the Government’s election promise to turbocharge community and not-for-profit groups. It is chaired by Peter Biggs, who was an outstanding chair of Creative New Zealand, and includes some of New Zealand’s most high-profile supporters of the arts, including Dame Jenny Gibbs and Caroline Henwood. The culture of private giving adds a great deal to the resources of overseas cultural institutions, but is less well developed here.
Jacqui Dean: Where does philanthropy fit in the Government’s vision for the arts?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Although we wish to encourage a culture of greater individual giving, this is in addition to the Government’s funding of the arts. This year’s Budget increased funding to Creative New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Ballet by $10.2 million over 4 years, and, helpfully, an additional one-off payment was also secured through the Lotteries Grants Board for Creative New Zealand, the Film Commission, and the Film Archive. This Government believes that the arts should receive public and private support because they provide real social and economic benefits to this country.
Hon Steve Chadwick: Will he provide an answer assuring that there will be no decrease in Government funding for the arts and culture sector as a result of any increase in charitable giving by private individuals to the arts and cultural institutions?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am seeking to grow the arts budget. I have made it clear on a number of occasions that the Government has very real responsibilities to fund the arts and that, in addition, the increase in funding from private and corporate sources will encourage an explosion in the arts.
12. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her reported statement that—[Interruption] Tinkerbell, can you settle down?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not acceptable. I ask the House to come to order. The member asking the question often interjects when other members are asking questions. I ask him to just ask his question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Does she stand by her reported statement that “We are all on board with this—for the first time since National Standards were first mooted”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : No, because that is not a direct quote from me. However, I do endorse the sentiment, which is that the parties in the primary sector—that is, the New Zealand Educational Institute, the New Zealand Principals Federation, the New Zealand School Trustees Association, and the Ministry of Education—and I as Minister have agreed to work together despite still having substantial differences. [Interruption]
Hon Trevor Mallard: They always clap the weak Ministers.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately. The member has just lost one supplementary question.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not wish in any way to challenge your ruling, but I would like to put something to you and ask your advice. Gerry Brownlee has done exactly the same as Mr Mallard eight times today—I counted. On occasion you have said to him that it was unacceptable. It is your right to determine the level of punishment, if you will—I accept that—but in no way, after eight occasions of doing far worse, at length, than Mr Mallard, did you ever—
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Clayton Cosgrove will now resume his seat, because he is questioning my judgement and suggesting that I am not being impartial. I had already pulled up the Hon Trevor Mallard, when he asked a previous question, for giving a totally inappropriate interjection. Supplementary questions are totally at the discretion of the Speaker. I have given more supplementary questions to members of the Opposition when I have felt that the Ministers have not treated an answer appropriately. Today I am taking one off Labour, and the member will learn that this House is to be treated with respect and not like that.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you would give some very serious and deep reflection to what you are suggesting you want to do with regard to the allocation of supplementary questions. The entire operation of Parliament on a proportional system is a very delicately balanced arrangement among all the parties. At the beginning of a Parliament the number of supplementary questions that parties are allocated for each day is set out and agreed to by all the parties, as is the number of calls that are allocated, and as is the length of debates in a number of cases. I think that to have an arbitrary system whereby that is managed differently by you from day to day is a worrying precedent for you to set. I ask you to deeply reflect on that, because it is a very serious thing that you are doing, and it causes the Opposition to reflect on what arrangements made at the beginning of a Parliament for the rights of the Opposition in Parliament are to be had. Whatever the rights and wrongs—
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard the member’s point and I have listened—
Hon Darren Hughes: The Opposition loses here.
Mr SPEAKER: The Opposition will lose—indeed. Labour will lose today because the member asking the question would not listen to the Speaker’s directions to him to stop interjecting with abuse while he was asking a question. It was not the first time he did it; it was the second time he did it, while having the floor to ask a question. It is totally at the Speaker’s discretion as to what supplementary questions are awarded. The Speaker today has ruled that the member must learn not to do that kind of thing, and rather than go down the path of ordering the member out of the Chamber for that kind of thing, I have simply today taken a supplementary question off the member and his party, and that is the end of that matter. The member may not like it, but he might suggest that his colleagues actually treat the House with a little more respect and not do what the Hon Trevor Mallard did today.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that your invitation to reflect on behaviour will apply right across the Parliament, but the issue that has come up here is that the member responded to disorder from the Government. My question to you is about what penalty you believe is available to the Government when its members are clapping wildly at a very standard—
Mr SPEAKER: I have listened to the member long enough. The Hon Darren Hughes will resume his seat right now. If the member is concerned that I am not treating this House impartially, let him just reflect that in my 25 years in this Parliament I have never heard a Speaker require a Leader of the House to answer a question from the Opposition. Yesterday I required the Leader of the House to answer a question—that is unprecedented in my time in this House. So if the member is suggesting that I am being partial I suggest that he watch today’s replay and listen to the behaviour of his colleagues today. I think he will find it not a very satisfactory process. Here at the front I hear the noise on both sides, and let me assure the senior Labour whip that the behaviour of his colleagues today has not been very good at all.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to provide us, if you will, with a considered ruling on the matter. You have taken the action you deemed appropriate in respect of Mr Mallard. You have taken a question from him after, you say, two indiscretions. You have also advised us that it has been your practice previously in respect of Government Ministers, if they err, that you allow further supplementaries to sanction that. So I ask you to give us a considered ruling in respect of the formula that would be adopted, given that there were eight indiscretions and that no increase in the number of supplementary questions was allowed by you, as is your right. Yet after two indiscretions a supplementary question was docked. I invite you to reflect on the quality of the behaviour from both sides.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is again questioning my judgment. He will resume his seat. I invite the Hon Trevor Mallard to ask a supplementary question, should he wish to do so.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Will she rule out an amendment to the Official Information Act as a method of implementing her newly announced agreement to stop league tables?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have made it very clear in this House that the Government will not tolerate anything that stops the flow of information about student achievement between parents, schools, their communities, and the Ministry of Education.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was a very simple, very specific, and very direct question. It asked the Minister about the Official Information Act. She made a general comment and did not refer to whether she would rule out that amendment.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: It is hypothetical. There is no legislation in front of me to change the Official Information Act.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Trevor Mallard for the last time.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It was a very simple question: will the Minister rule out an amendment to the Official Information Act as a method of implementing her newly announced agreement to stop league tables? It is not a hypothetical question; it is a direct question. There does not have to be something before the Parliament for the Minister to rule it in or out. It is a question about her area of responsibility, and she did not answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he cannot expect to get an exact yes or no answer to that kind of question. It is a hypothetical question—will the Minister do something in the future. There is no way the member can expect a specific answer to that question. I am afraid I cannot assist the member any further on that one.
Aaron Gilmore: Why does the Government believe that the Ministry of Education should provide school level achievement data from national standards?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The Ministry of Education can tell us how many dollars an individual school spends on administration. It can tell us how many students were stood down from that school in the last year. But at present there is very little knowledge of how well a school does in teaching its students basic literacy and numeracy skills on a year-by-year basis. When I tell parents this, they are absolutely astounded that the Government does not know how well those schools are teaching children to read, write, and do maths. We need this information in order to help schools that are struggling and to support them to raise the achievement of their students.