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Volume 666, Week 53 - Thursday, 9 September 2010
Thursday, 9 September 2010
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Leader of the House: When the House resumes next week, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill will receive its first reading. Priority will also be given to a number of other first readings.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Senior Whip—Labour) : Firstly, I thank the Attorney-General for that very thorough report. There is an entire bill to look forward to next week, and there will be other things, I am sure. I ask the Attorney-General whether he can advise the House as to whether, in the remaining 2 weeks of this particular sitting, the Government expects that any legislation might be required following the events in Canterbury at the weekend. I make the offer to the Government that if temporary or urgent legislation is required, the Opposition is more than willing to work with the Government to ensure the speedy passage of such legislation through Parliament, even if it requires sunset provisions in it, in order to give some certainty to events that may be unfolding in that province.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Leader of the House: Those issues are being looked at now, but I thank the chief Opposition whip for his very generous comments. I am sure that either Mr Brownlee or Mr Power will be in touch with him should that need eventuate.
Questions to Ministers
Beneficiaries—Number Compared with July 2010
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: How many working-age people are currently receiving a main benefit and how does this compare to July 2010?
Hon Annette King: Why did she not give New Zealanders the full picture of the August benefit numbers in her press release on Monday, when she claimed that over 6,000 beneficiaries came off a main benefit in August because they had found a job, but failed to mention that over 8,800 went on to a main benefit in that month, with over 4,000 of them going on a benefit for the first time?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As the member has that information it is fairly evident that the information is transparent and it is out there. If the member had read the press release further, she would see that. It is pretty evident, because the member is reading it out in Parliament, as to why it is there. The numbers have been transparent. They are what they are, and that is where it sits.
Hon Annette King: Because she chooses the date to release the benefit figures, why did she release the figures on Monday at the height of the turmoil following the Christchurch earthquake—was it because the main benefit figure went up by another 2,233 in just 1 month, in contrast to the Australian unemployment rate, which has just dropped from 5.3 percent to 5.1 percent?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: A week ago I had a criticism from the Opposition that I was not releasing the figures soon enough, and now it seems I have released them too soon. That is the criticism that is coming from the other side of the House. Yes, as the press release said, the numbers did go up for August, but actually this is the lowest increase for 3 years, and we have also seen people going into work, as well as those who are unfortunately not able to.
Tim Macindoe: How many people cancelled their benefits in August 2010 because they found work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: In August 2010, 6,596 people cancelled their benefits because they found work. This was up 19 percent from August 2009, and up 22 percent from the time when the member herself was in Government—22 percent from August 2007, which was before the start of the recession.
Hon Annette King: Does the Minister continue to use online job advertisements as an indicator of an improving economy; if so, has she seen the news story today quoting SEEK New Zealand, one of the companies she often uses in her press releases, which states that both job applications and job ads have gone down by 3.8 percent, indicating a further bump in the long road to recovery?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes I do. We do look at that, and actually SEEK today advised that it had 33 percent more jobs for August this year than it did last year. I think, though, as the member quite rightly points out, we can slice and dice it however we like, but it is about people, it is about them trying to get jobs, and it is about offering them the right assistance.
Hon Annette King: In light of the Prime Minister’s answer in the House yesterday, is the Minister prepared to advise the Government to insert provisions in any urgent legislation relating to reconstruction in Canterbury that requires construction companies to undertake training of the 1,000 beneficiaries she has identified in the region who have some skills in construction and building, and who could be used in the earthquake clean-up, thereby giving them a chance for long-term future employment?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Policy work about that is ongoing and still under consideration.
Hon Annette King: Will she waive any of the new requirements brought in by her recent social security amendment Act for Cantabrians facing severe hardship arising from the earthquake—for example, the requirement to complete a budgeting course if they need a hardship grant more than three times in the year—if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member misrepresents what was said to be a budgeting activity after beneficiaries have received three hardship grants. Yes, there are special circumstances relating to victims of this earthquake, and we have made changes with those. Some of the changes are about civil defence payments and some are about special-needs grants—and, yes, I think that is appropriate.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Cost of Damage
2. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the cost of damage from the Canterbury earthquake?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Preliminary advice from Treasury estimates that the total bill for earthquake damage could be about $4 billion. This figure incorporates the damage to residential buildings and property largely covered by the Earthquake Commission; the damage to commercial buildings largely covered by private insurers; the damage to local government infrastructure, some of which will be covered by insurance carried by local government; and the cost of damage to central government assets. I would caution that this is still a very early estimate, and as more information becomes available we will have a better capacity to focus on the total cost. I must say, though, that right now the Government is not focused on getting the total cost right; that may take years, perhaps. It is focused on restoring to people their homes, businesses, jobs, and schools.
Amy Adams: Who will pick up the bill for the damage?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first instance, insurance companies will pick up a large proportion of these costs. The Earthquake Commission has significant reserves, significant enough to cover the larger estimates of its costs, including reinsurance. Private insurers have reassured us that their own reserves and reinsurance arrangements will be adequate. So far the Earthquake Commission has received 36,000 claims, and it expects this to rise to around 100,000 claims in coming weeks. It is receiving great cooperation from telephone companies and from the Accident Compensation Corporation and others who have helped to augment the Earthquake Commission’s call centre capacity, and therefore its ability to take and process claims.
Amy Adams: What advice has he received on how the earthquake will affect economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, any advice on economic growth cannot and does not capture the cost to individuals of the severe disruption and concern that they have. Treasury advises that the earthquake is likely to lower GDP growth over the next 2 or 3 months. However, it expects that in the 12 months beyond that, the earthquake will have a net benefit on GDP. If members can imagine the large amounts of cash that have been held in reserve by insurance companies, then they will understand that. The Earthquake Commission will be saved by, for instance, the sale of shares owned overseas, and that money will be injected into the Canterbury economy. So we would expect there to be a positive effect over the next 12 months or so.
Amy Adams: What are some of the other costs that people may face as a result of the earthquake?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Obviously businesses and employees face a loss of potential income because of, for instance, damage to stock held by a business, or simply because the workplace has closed. That is why the Government has set aside initially $15 million for a wage subsidy for quake-affected businesses and workers. In the first day and a half since the subsidy was announced, Work and Income has received about 342 calls from employers, 36 formal applications, and, in fact, the first few applications have already been approved. We expect this to grow quickly over coming days. I have also spoken to the chief executives of the main banks, who have confirmed that they will do what they can to accommodate the special needs of their personal and business customers in Canterbury.
South Canterbury Finance—Inquiry into Collapse
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Will he agree to a full public and independent commission of inquiry into the collapse of South Canterbury Finance?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : No. We do not see anything to be gained by such an inquiry at this time. In the first place, the Government needs to focus what is actually a very small resource of people and expertise on getting value for the taxpayer, who has paid out $1.6 billion, and now we need to recover somewhere between $1 billion and $1.2 billion, which is a high priority for us. Secondly, should any issues arise around fault, or cause, or responsibility for what has gone on with South Canterbury Finance, there are any number of regulatory agencies that could investigate those questions. Finally, the Government will be shortly releasing proactively all the relevant papers that can be released, subject to commercial confidentiality, which will allow the member to scrutinise in detail all judgments and processes followed by the Government.
Hon David Cunliffe: Was the process used to place Allan Hubbard and Aorangi Securities into statutory management fully sound and transparent, including in respect of all potential conflicts of interest?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I actually do not have ministerial responsibility for that decision.
Hon David Cunliffe: What reports from KordaMentha did Treasury receive on South Canterbury Finance using its acceptance into the guarantee scheme to attract more investment and to increase its loans, and when were those reports received?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot answer the question in detail, but I can point out to the member, as I stated yesterday in the House, that the evidence shows that most of the concerning lending activity of South Canterbury Finance occurred before October 2008. There was some small growth in lending after that. Finance companies had to pay a fee for any growth in lending, and both the previous Labour Government, which put the guarantee in place, and the National Party, which supported it, did so partly with the intent that lending could continue, because if lending stopped the whole country would have stopped.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that, in fact, it was he and his Cabinet that decided to admit South Canterbury Finance to the scheme; if so, did his Government ever consider using its powers to appoint a statutory manager in respect of South Canterbury Finance, either prior to April 2010 or before placing it into receivership?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will know that the way that the delegation of the guarantee worked meant that, in fact, Cabinet did not make decisions about what went into it. As set up by Dr Cullen, the delegation was given to Treasury, and Treasury made the decision. We supported that process of making decisions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why was the eventual recapitalisation deal for South Canterbury Finance not agreed, given reports that a multi-hundred-million-dollar private equity injection was available to reduce taxpayer liabilities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply reporting, as he did yesterday, on some market speculation. There have been many versions of market speculation. I advised the House yesterday that no proposition was put before the Government that Treasury and its advisers would have supported that allowed the recapitalisation of South Canterbury Finance prior to its receivership.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What lessons can usefully be learnt from the crisis and the use of the Crown guarantee in response?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the lesson that can be learnt is that the guarantee was effective, as it was in a number of other countries, such as Australia and Canada—that is, the guarantee was put in place in order to ensure that the financial system did not tip over, with the very substantial costs that would go with that. As I pointed out yesterday, New Zealand may get through the guarantee with a net cost of somewhere between $200 million and $400 million; in other countries where such guarantees were put in place—for instance, Ireland—the costs have been tens of billions of dollars. In New Zealand’s case, we should be pleased that there has been a relatively low cost so far, enabling us to maintain a financial system through the global financial crisis.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the Minister was quoting from an official document in citing the numbers of $200 million to $400 million, I seek that he table it.
Mr SPEAKER: I will check with the Minister. Was the Minister quoting from any official document? No, he was not.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a Treasury estimate that indicates that the residual cost to the taxpayer is $800 million, not $200 million.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Attorney General’s Statement
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Attorney-General: Does he stand by his statement that the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill “treats all New Zealanders including Māori without discrimination”?
Metiria Turei: Does he agree with the then Acting Attorney-General that this bill creates discrimination on the basis of race because Māori customary title is weakened by a range of conditions, but freehold title is not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I acknowledge the Acting Attorney-General’s report. He said that such limitations as existed on customary title in comparison with other forms of title were reasonable, and he referred to issues relating to access and alienability, which are the very points that I have been discussing with iwi and hapū around the country. Iwi and hapū do not want customary title to be alienated, and they accept the need for public access.
Metiria Turei: How is treating title differently on the basis of race not discrimination on the basis of race?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Customary title is different from freehold title, but the fact that it is different does not mean there is discrimination. It is a very valuable form of statutory title, which has been developed. As the member would know, in the Ngāti Apa case, the Court of Appeal held that the scope of customary title could range from what it called usufructuary rights to something approaching fee simple. We have looked at the incidence of ownership and we have brought together various incidents in this new form of customary title. That is not discriminatory, and it reflects what iwi and hapū have been asking for.
Metiria Turei: Does he think it is fair that Māori customary rights can be overruled by mining concessions, but the 12,500 private titles in the foreshore and seabed cannot?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: With mining interests we are trying to deal with transitional arrangements as we transition from a form of Crown absolute ownership to a no-ownership regime, and one has to have transitional arrangements in those circumstances. As to the 12,500 private titles, I remind the member of what I said yesterday, which was that two wrongs do not make a right and that removing the rights of landowners, including Māori and Pākehā who have freehold title, simply creates another injustice.
Metiria Turei: Will there be any restrictions on those 12,500 private titles in the foreshore and seabed being sold into foreign ownership?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: There will be restrictions so that if, for example, there is a proposal to sell a farm, then presumably that will have to go through the approval processes and appropriate channels. What we are dealing with is the proposition that there will be no new freehold title in the area we are talking about.
David Garrett: Would it be an offence for iwi holders of customary title to charge, or attempt to charge, for access to the beach; if so, which specific clause in the bill would that offend against, or does he not know?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yesterday I took the member through the various parts of the bill that make it clear that it is not possible to charge for access to the common marine and coastal area. I said to the member yesterday that if someone tried to do that, there are regulation-making powers that will enable the Minister of Conservation to deal with the issue. I do not know what more I can say.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am listening to the member most carefully, and I think it is very interesting to hear what he said yesterday. But the question specifically asked whether it was an offence, and nowhere did the Attorney-General address that.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has got me a bit there. The member’s party has one more supplementary question, and I will listen carefully if it is used on this question. I believe that the Attorney-General has pointed out where it is contrary to the bill and, assuming the bill becomes law, then I presume that it would be against the law to do so. I presume that is what the Minister was saying. But if the member believes that greater specificity is needed, I will listen very carefully to any further supplementary question.
David Garrett: Would it be an offence for iwi holders of customary title to charge, or attempt to charge, for access to the beach; if so, which specific clause in the bill would that offend against, or does he not know?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I have said, yesterday I pointed out to the member the provisions that make it quite impossible for iwi or hapū to charge. I also referred the member, and I can point out the various parts, to clauses 118, 119, and 120, which enable regulations to be made, and regulations could be made to deal with those issues as well.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You gave us the opportunity to ask a second supplementary question in order to have the issue addressed. We have used two supplementary questions. The question asked whether it would be an offence to charge for access to the beach. The Attorney-General has gone on to say that there are clauses that set out the rights. The question asked whether it would be an offence to charge. I think we can take it from the Attorney-General’s answer that it would not be an offence, but it is very hard to know because he did not address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: With respect to the honourable member—it may be that the honourable member has a deeper knowledge than I do, and I apologise for my deficiencies if that is the case—the dilemma I perceive is one of debate around the answer given. The question was commendably direct; I absolutely agree. The Minister has answered it in so far as he interpreted it, and I do not perceive the Minister is trying to dodge the question, but I might be wrong. It seems to me that it is more a matter of debate around the meaning of the Minister’s answer. I am not sure that that can be seen as refusing to answer the question. With some of these issues, maybe the answer is not quite as clear as the member would like, but it seemed to me that the Minister established which clauses make it illegal to block access to the beach. He established which clauses provide for regulations to be made that could cover matters relating to charging for beach access. As Speaker, I do not have sufficient knowledge to know whether that is an absolutely perfect answer to the member’s question, but it seems to me that it is not an attempt to evade the question. I am happy to hear the member if he feels that I have totally misunderstood this.
David Garrett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, in my view it is an attempt to avoid the question, and for this reason: the question has been very carefully worded, as you have noted, and it refers to an offence. You have said, correctly, that you cannot know because you have not looked at clause 64, but we have. I can assure the House that nothing in the clauses cited by the Minister yesterday refers to an offence. That is the first point.
Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma now is that the member is debating the answer that the Minister has given, and I cannot allow that. I am not a lawyer and I accept my deficiencies, but I recognise the honourable member is a lawyer, as is the Attorney-General. I think the Attorney-General has listened carefully to the question asked, and I think he believes that he has answered it. I cannot judge the quality of his answer. It would be a big call for me to disagree with the Attorney-General. It does not seem to me that he tried to dodge the question. Whether or not that satisfies the member, this matter will be around for a while. If the Minister’s answer is deficient, then it will be possible to devise a question in the future to test it still further.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to delay question time, but this is quite important. The ACT Party has only two supplementary questions a day. The issue is not what a particular clause states or whether a particular clause allows charging for access to the beach, which is the Attorney-General’s point. The issue is whether it is an offence to charge. That was the question. Does this legislation set out that it is an offence to charge? There is no way that the Attorney-General addressed that point.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the honourable member and I fully accept the inadequacy of my knowledge. This is a serious issue where there is a genuine public interest. The question asked whether it was an offence to charge for use of the beach; certainly if access to the beach goes over private land, then people can charge for that. I presume, in fact, the question was deficient in that regard, but the Attorney-General chose not to use that as an out. The Attorney-General has listened to the question and I ask him in the interest of good faith whether he could help the House. My dilemma is that I am not a lawyer and I cannot judge the adequacy of the Attorney-General’s answer. There is a public interest in this. The question was very direct as to whether it was an offence. I invite the Attorney-General to assist the House.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am pleased to; I am here to help. I referred to Subpart 3 of the bill, which relates to regulations that may be made. The Governor-General may, by Order in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of Conservation make regulations, for example, for the safety and protection of members of the public who exercise rights of access, or for prescribing offences. So it could be an offence. It depends on the circumstances and whether the regulations are made.
Mr SPEAKER: This time we have had an answer.
Metiria Turei: Does the Attorney-General understand that if approved by the Overseas Investment Office, foreshore and seabed held in private title can be sold into foreign ownership?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, I do.
Metiria Turei: So why then does he think it is fair to restrict the customary rights of Māori in the foreshore and seabed, but to continue to allow the possibility for New Zealand’s beaches to be sold into foreign ownership?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I have already said, two wrongs do not make a right. These titles exist now, and unilaterally taking away from Māori and Pākehā who have freehold titles in areas that encompass the foreshore and seabed is discrimination.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. What evidence did the ministerial review panel chaired by Chief Judge Taihākūrei Durie rely on in concluding that the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 failed to balance the interests of all New Zealanders in the foreshore and seabed, and that it was discriminatory and unfair; and how does he think the 2010 bill will fare under the same scrutiny?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The ministerial review panel relied on a wide range of evidence, both national and international, that was submitted to the panel. The submitters included business interests, local government, iwi, hapū, and various other groups. The panel also looked at New Zealand case law, including the Ngāti Apa decision. I cannot predict how the ministerial review panel will necessarily respond to what has been proposed, but I think it will acknowledge that those fundamental rights of access to justice have been restored, and that the ability of iwi and hapū, called applicant groups, to apply to the court to have those rights tested has been restored. Those two things were removed under the 2004 Act.
SuperGold Card—Government Commitment
5. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement that “the Government is totally committed to the SuperGold Card”?
Hon Darren Hughes: Can he tell us when the review of the SuperGold card will actually result in some decisions, given that it has already missed its May and July deadlines, causing real concern amongst the hundreds of thousands of senior citizens who use the SuperGold card, particularly for off-peak public transport travel?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The report will be completed very soon.
Hon Darren Hughes: Is the Government committed to the current definition of off-peak travel services, so that our senior citizens can continue to benefit from free public transport off-peak?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The SuperGold card entitlements that superannuitants receive will not change.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was different from asking about the entitlements that senior citizens receive. It asked whether the Government was committed to the same definition of off-peak travel services, which is one component of the entire SuperGold card. That was the point of my question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister answered that entitlements will not change. That was a pretty clear answer.
Hon Darren Hughes: Can I speak further to the point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the honourable member further, indeed.
Hon Darren Hughes: One of the aspects that has been identified by the Minister, in the review that he has asked the Minister of Transport to do, concerns the issue of the definition of off-peak transport—the definition of those hours—
Mr SPEAKER: What I invite the member to reflect on, though, is that he asked a question, and the Minister gave, on the face of it, a reasonable answer. He said the entitlements would not change. The member has knowledge that suggests that maybe the review was looking at layers below the entitlements, so it is quite obvious what the next supplementary question should be. We do not need to have a point of order to sort that out.
Hon Darren Hughes: In respect of his complaints about the cost of the scheme going from $18 million to $22 million, has he complained to the Minister of Finance that it was possible to find $1.7 billion of taxpayers’ money as a gift to South Canterbury Finance investors, but he could not find $4 million for our senior citizens to continue to travel off-peak for free?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am sure that that member would assume that the operators should not make a profit under the scheme. We want to ensure that we look after superannuitants. As I have just mentioned in the answer to the previous supplementary question, there will be no changes for superannuitants under the existing scheme. There has been wide consultation. We are working through those processes now, and I look forward to receiving the final report.
H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister therefore tell the House how the Government’s objectives for senior-citizen mobility and community participation will be enhanced by forcing transport operators to charge a 20 percent top-up for local bus services in Dunedin?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes, there is some discussion going on about the level of subsidy, and that has been widely consulted on with regional councils and operators and with the likes of Grey Power and Age Concern. So far, from the 14 regional councils that have been consulted through this process, we are getting very, very positive support back.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Government Assistance
6. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to support the Canterbury community through the earthquake recovery?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Today we announced that a special community response round will take place for Canterbury; $7.5 million has been put aside to provide one-off grants. The criteria will be simple: funding will be granted to groups that are facing additional demand for services as a result of need from people who are affected by the earthquake and that are supporting the well-being of Canterbury residents. The applications will open on Monday, and they will be responded to as they come in, instead of waiting for an end date for applications.
Tim Macindoe: How is the Government ensuring that those impacted by the earthquake have access to counselling and trauma support?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yesterday we announced $2.5 million for counselling and trauma support. The demand and the intensity of the support needed is only beginning to emerge for many. It is clear, though, that people are tired, feeling very frazzled, and feeling the effects of the earthquake and the aftershocks that keep coming, as well. We are making sure that help is available to them at all levels. So far we have had more than 40 extra counsellors fly into Christchurch, and that is just the beginning of the need.
Tim Macindoe: Can the Minister update us on the progress of the Government’s helpline?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The 0800 779 997 Government helpline is being run through Work and Income throughout New Zealand. I went and saw one of the call centres here in Wellington this morning. The staff are certainly doing some incredible hours and some incredible work. So far they have had a total of well over 8,500 calls, with more than 700 of them received just today. They have made contact now with over 14,000 outbound calls to senior citizens, beginning with those whom they believed were living alone, to see whether they can help. They are now starting to reach out to those on invalids benefits and those whom they know have illnesses to make sure that they are OK, as well. Of the ones whom they are unable to get hold of, so far they have made over 200 home visits to those people to check that they are all right.
Hon Annette King: What provision has been made by Work and Income to assist Cantabrians who work in the casualised workforce—for example, home-care providers who have been unable to provide their service because of the earthquake, so therefore are not receiving their usual income or getting the employer top-up, but their outgoings remain the same?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Provision has been made for that through the civil defence payment, which is at the same rate as the unemployment benefit, including the married rate, and can be made available to those with a loss of income because they are unable to work because of the earthquake.
Tim Macindoe: What other support has the Government given to those who are supporting the clean-up?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yesterday I visited some of those Canterbury University students who are out shovelling silt and cleaning up the roads around them. Those students were mobilised through Facebook and I believe that today so many turned up that some had to be turned away. The Prime Minister and I were talking the other night in support of those students who are doing such a great job and we thought that just a wee payment of $5,000 would help them with some of their transport costs, to buy the equipment that they need, and to feed them, which is probably the best way to get to students.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Give them all As!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member on the other side of the House is yelling out that we should give them As. We also hear that school students who cannot be at school at the moment because schools are closed are turning up. There are many, many hundreds of New Zealanders fronting up and wanting to help at this time, and we all certainly thank them for that.
Education, National Standards—Support of Trustees
7. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by all of her statements in answer to oral question No. 8 yesterday?
Hon Trevor Mallard: How does she reconcile her statement to the House yesterday that she did not say that applause while she was on stage at the New Zealand School Trustees Association conference was a sign of support for her national standards, with her statement to the House on 24 August 2010 that “… at the annual conference of the New Zealand School Trustees Association, the president of that association, who along with her executive has been extremely supportive of national standards, got a standing ovation.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The second statement is factually correct. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The House could not hear the answer. I apologise to the honourable Minister and ask him to repeat the answer.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The second statement is factually correct.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why, then, did she go on to say on 24 August: “That was a very good sign that the 600 representatives at that conference were supportive of the executive’s stance.”—that is, its stance on national standards?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because she believed that it was. It is interesting to hear that member making much of what might have happened at a conference. I can recall his fronting up to public meetings of a thousand people who opposed his policies—
Mr SPEAKER: That is not necessary to answer the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: How does she reconcile an ovation for Lorraine Kerr’s 21 years of service as a trustee with the Minister’s claim that that ovation was for Anne Tolley’s national standards?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister did not claim that it was an ovation for her national standards. She said that it was an indication of what is factually correct, and that is broad support among boards of trustees for national standards.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Going back to a previous supplementary question, why, then, did she say that that ovation for 21 years’ service was “a very good sign” that the 600 representatives supported her national standards?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I presume it was because the Minister believed that that was the case, and there is plenty of evidence from around the country that it is the case.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When she said yesterday that the 20 letters she has received this year—to June—from boards of trustees were not expressing any discontent with the national standards, had she read the letter of 4 February, which states: “I’m not alone in having other concerns about the proposed changes, the lack of a trial, the threats to school boards, the un-thought-through demands on busy teachers, and who this will benefit.”, or the email of 19 February, which states: “I am now of the belief that there is enough wrong with the new standards that you must take action to correct them. Rolling them out as currently proposed is wrong.”, or the letter of 23 February, which states: “There are ramifications from these”—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the questioner has made his point.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: From what the member read out, there were people who had concerns, questions, and advice for the Government. None of them actually said they were opposed to the national standards in the way that the Labour Party is. I understand that Labour is committed to abolishing national standards.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table the letters to the Minister of Education this year, which she has released to me under the Official Information Act, all bar one of which show opposition to the national standards.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the member had just got up and asked for leave in the normal way everyone does, then we might have granted it. But he used the opportunity to make a speech.
Mr SPEAKER: I am aware that some Speakers have been very strict on this, putting real constraints on what can be said when leave is sought to table a document. Rather than doing that, I have taken the approach of limiting the kinds of documents for which leave to table can be sought, but also of making sure the House is aware of what the documents are. In this case, because of the questions, I guess that members would have been aware of what the documents were. I believe that members do need to be able to describe the documents to the House, and I would rather have it that way; I have put constraints on which documents leave can be sought for, but a reasonable description, when leave is being sought, to enable members to make up their minds is, I think, not unreasonable. That is why I did not intervene at that point.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table letters and emails to the Minister from between 1 January this year and, I think, 13 May this year, being the total of those that were released to me as being from members of boards of trustees or from boards of trustees during that period.
Mr SPEAKER: It seems to me that that is the same leave that was sought a moment ago.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is, but it is in the terms asked for by the Minister who denied it.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. To assist the House not to waste any more time on this, I will put that question. Is there any objection to that leave being granted? There is objection.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Canterbury District Health Board’s Actions
8. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on the Canterbury District Health Board’s actions following the Canterbury earthquake?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) : I have received many reports and seen firsthand the comprehensive and immediate response of Canterbury health professionals, from front-line staff through to management. District health boards from around the country are rallying in support of Canterbury, including extra health protection officers from the Wellington, Nelson, and Southern district health boards, nurses from the West Coast, and as well extra medical officers of heath, and emergency management and water sanitation staff. The primary-care sector too from around New Zealand is supporting general practices, pharmacies, and non-governmental organisations. Supporting the Canterbury District Health Board is the top priority of the public health service.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Has he been advised of any particular priorities for the Canterbury District Health Board in the next few weeks?
Hon TONY RYALL: When visiting Christchurch Hospital a visitor could not fail to be impressed by the professionalism and calm of the over 6,000 staff employed by the Canterbury District Health Board who are delivering critical health services in response to the earthquake. They, like all locals, have their own personal situations to deal with, whether their homes have been lost or damaged, and more particularly the stress and concern that arises as the tremors continue. A critical matter has been to ensure that the stress and anxiety of staff in this challenging time is taken into account, particularly in rosters, and to ensure that they have enough time to deal with their personal situations at home. Every other district health board has prepared a list of staff who are prepared to go to Christchurch at immediate notice in support of the Canterbury District Health Board. I cannot speak highly enough of the contribution of our health professionals there, in both the community and the hospitals, in response to this challenge.
Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Māori Party Support
9. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Attorney-General: Given his answer yesterday that he agreed with the Prime Minister’s statement earlier this year, “in the end if we can’t reach an agreement then the status quo will remain”, what acknowledgment, if any, has he received from the Māori Party that the new legal framework for settling foreshore and seabed claims will be “durable”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) : The Prime Minister’s statement about the status quo referred to what might happen if a replacement regime could not be agreed on. The Government has developed a replacement regime that balances the rights and interests of all New Zealanders. The Māori Party has indicated that it is going to support the bill, so the issue of remaining with the status quo does not arise.
Hon David Parker: Will the Government stay with the status quo under the existing Foreshore and Seabed Act if the Māori Party refuses to accept the new legislation as a full and final settlement of the legal framework to deal with foreshore and seabed claims?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have already said that the Māori Party is supporting the bill—and I am not surprised that it is, because the bill deals with certain fundamental matters. It restores the right of access to justice that was lost under the 2004 Act. It restores uninvestigated customary title, and it recalibrates the tests for determining customary title. These are very good advances and I believe they will be seen to be a durable and lasting solution.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Does the Minister know of any precedents of law seen to be durable in the public eye, coming back to Parliament to be revisited because of a change in time or circumstance?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: There are many examples. For example, the limitation law that was recently passed was a great day for black-letter law. It updated the law of limitation for the first time in 60 years to respond to particular needs. Another example would be the excellent bill that had its first reading last night to repeal the Military Manoeuvres Act 1915 because of changed circumstances. The copyright legislation is another example. It began life as the Statute of Anne in 1714. Since then there have been numerous amendments with the march of technology.
Hon David Parker: How can the Attorney-General claim that the new legal framework for determining foreshore and seabed claims will be “durable”, to use his word, when the Māori Party is saying it will have another go in the future, even before his bill has had a first reading?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It will be durable because it deals with the fundamental issues of access to justice, restoration of uninvestigated customary title, and tests that are more realistic than those set out in the 2004 Act. Political parties may have different views, depending on the passage of time. For example, a Darren Hughes - led Labour Party in 2040 may have a different view—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister claim that he has—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I say to National members on this occasion that the interjection level is so high that I cannot hear the questioner, even though he is right beside me.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister claim that he has reached any meaningful agreement with the Māori Party to settle foreshore and seabed issues, when, as soon as this bill has passed, it will seek to change it?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I doubt whether it will seek the change of the right of access to justice and the restoration of uninvestigated customary title, because those are fundamental matters that that member’s Government took away from a significant section of the New Zealand public—[Interruption] and Mr Jones should be disgusted with that—and this legislation restores it.
Hon David Parker: When the Attorney General said “I don’t think people want to be relitigating this every decade,” was he ruling out National agreeing to any substantial change to his foreshore and seabed legislation in the foreseeable future?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I think the Prime Minister has made that more than tolerably clear—that we are very happy with the package that has been brought together. We believe that it is a significant improvement on the 2004 Act, which was discriminatory in the ways I have endeavoured to outline in answers to questions. It represents a durable and just solution to this problem, which was mucked up in 2004.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Effect on Transport
Mr SPEAKER: Please, both sides of the House now: I have called Dr Jackie Blue and I ask for some courtesy to be shown to her.
10. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Transport: What updates has he received on transport in and around Canterbury following the earthquake and numerous aftershocks?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Minister of Transport: This morning the Minister visited Lyttelton Port of Christchurch, and the port is damaged but operational. The fuel and coal terminal is OK. That is very important for the city, to keep supplies coming in. A small number of points on the State highway network continue to be closed. Repairs are currently progressing well on the State Highway 1 Chaney’s Road on-ramp, and it could be open to traffic by the end of the week. Repairs on the other points are under way, and most will reopen, even if in a limited capacity, in a couple of days.
Dr Jackie Blue: How will the Government contribute to the rebuilding of roading infrastructure?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The New Zealand Transport Agency is prepared to assist with the rebuilding effort following natural disasters. It has done so many times in the past. A dedicated contingency budget is available, and sits at $94 million for the current financial year. The funding assistance rate for the councils is set in proportion to the level of damage and the councils’ ability to contribute. It is too soon to tell how much will need to be spent on Canterbury roads, but, in conjunction with the rebuilding of the water and waste-water systems underneath the roads, we all know that the cost will be considerable.
11. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: Is she currently considering any changes to employment law that were not included in the changes announced at the National Party conference; if so, what are they?
Hon PANSY WONG (Minister for Ethnic Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Labour: Despite the fact that the hard-working Minister is attending to the earthquake devastation in her patch, some issues are being considered to improve the operation of New Zealand’s employment laws. Specifically, a number of issues are under consideration—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the member; I took a second to get up, because I was slightly confused. I think the member is answering on behalf of the Minister of Labour, so I do not think she can get up and say the hard-working Minister is in Christchurch. I mean, that is something that just could not possibly be part—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: —of what she is saying—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will resume his seat.
Hon Annette King: He’s just showing off.
Mr SPEAKER: No—I am on my feet. I listened carefully. The Minister was reasonably brief in the bit that was out of order, and she was going on to answer the question, I think, remarkably well. It would behove the member to listen while a useful answer is on its way, and I congratulate the Minister that at least the first part was mercifully brief. The Minister is answering the question.
Hon PANSY WONG: Mr Speaker, would you like me to take it from the start?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I would like the Minister to pick up from where she left off.
Hon PANSY WONG: Specifically, a number of issues are under consideration, including but not limited to the review of Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act, a review of workplace flexibility laws, and changes to collective bargaining.
Darien Fenton: Is she considering any of the following options mentioned in her July 2010 Cabinet paper entitled Proposals to Amend the Employment Relations Act 2000 and Related Work, which included the contracting out of personal grievance provisions, reviewing the passing on provisions, reviewing temporary and fixed-term contracts, and the reintroduction of the separate youth minimum wage?
Hon PANSY WONG: Being a very thoughtful and responsible Minister, she is taking time with her decisions. There is a lot on the plate of the Minister of Labour, but all those issues will take time to be considered. Overall rights will be balanced very well between employees and employers, for the benefit of economic growth in New Zealand.
Darien Fenton: Does the option of the contracting out of personal grievance provisions mentioned in her Cabinet paper mean that employers could potentially set different personal grievance terms for different employees; if so, will she rule out such a change?
Hon PANSY WONG: As a very responsible and thoughtful Minister, all considerations are being taken into account. It is important to have a very fair balance between all employees and employers, for the benefit of economic growth.
Darien Fenton: Given that she has previously ruled this out, will she now assure the House that the reintroduction of a separate youth minimum wage, as mentioned in her Cabinet paper of July 2010, is not an option that this Government will ever consider?
Hon PANSY WONG: A responsible and democratic Minister does not rule out anything without due consideration, which would take into account all the issues for the benefit of employees and employers equally.
Darien Fenton: Is she refusing to rule out these options because the Government is actually considering making some of these changes, or has she just learnt from recent experience that any decision that she makes may be overruled by ACT anyway, as was her recommendation to limit the 90-day trial extension to workplaces of fewer than 50 employees?
Hon PANSY WONG: All decisions made by this Government are collective decisions, unlike those of the previous Labour Government, which were dictated to it by the previous Prime Minister.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Department of Building and Housing Advice to Landlords and Tenants
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I think this time it was the Labour front bench. I could not hear Katrina Shanks ask her question, and I must be able to hear it.
12. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister of Housing: How is the Department of Building and Housing working to keep landlords and tenants informed of their rights and responsibilities following the Christchurch earthquake?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing) : Thirty percent of Christchurch’s population lives in rental accommodation, and since the earthquake on Saturday, the Department of Building and Housing contact centre has dealt with 300 calls from landlords and tenants seeking information about their rights and obligations in respect of their rental properties. Questions mainly relate to matters of rent when properties are damaged, ability to exit fixed-term tenancies, and processes for getting repairs completed. The department is ensuring that there are no unnecessary barriers to tenants receiving bond refunds once tenancies have ended, and, when required, the department is proactively contacting landlords to ensure the speedy release of bonds. Canterbury refunds are being prioritised and paid out ahead of other refunds. Christchurch staff are providing on-the-ground information and advice to landlords and tenants through the five emergency contact centres, as well as through the Linwood Community Link centre. Staff from other areas are assisting in providing phone-based mediation services to resolve any disputes, and the Department of Building and Housing has also advised local MPs of landlord and tenant rights and obligations, plus key landlord and tenant organisations. It is also targeting advice and information to those affected, and coordinating with other agencies to deliver advice.
Katrina Shanks: What is the Housing New Zealand Corporation doing to assist those who are currently homeless?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The corporation has been identifying emergency accommodation for State-home tenants, homeowners, and private renters whose houses are deemed unsafe. Accommodation has been found in hotels, motels, camping grounds, and private residences. It is also looking at ensuring that any State houses that are being upgraded and are currently vacant are done up as soon as possible so that those who qualify for State housing can move into them. It is great to see that the officials are now at a point where they can actively explore options on how we can work with the private and community sectors in the wider Canterbury and surrounding regions to identify longer-term housing options for people who are without a home to live in.
Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Are members clear on the leave being sought? Is there any objection? There being none, the Committee stage of the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill will be taken as a single debate. I want some clarity from the Committee as to whether it wants a single question to be put at the end of the debate, or the parts to be put separately. The debate is to be taken as a single question—[Interruption] Yes, I got that bit, but I want clarity from the Committee as to whether it wants a single question at the end or each part to be put separately.
Hon Darren Hughes: Each part.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): OK. Is the Committee clear on that? It is a single debate, and at the end each part will be taken as a separate vote. We are agreed on that.
Parts 1 to 6, schedules 1 to 3, and clauses 1 and 2
Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister of Justice) : I think it is appropriate that I make a couple of introductory remarks about Supplementary Order Paper 162 in my name, which is on the Table this afternoon. In essence, it changes the commencement date of the bill from 1 December 2010 to 1 April 2011, to allow time to implement the bill and time for the industry to prepare for these changes. It broadens the existing power to exempt crowd controllers from the requirement to hold a certificate of approval to include property guards and personal guards. It allows an exemption to be made for the purpose of a major event, or associated event, if the Minister is satisfied that the public interest in ensuring there are sufficient numbers of security personnel at the event outweighs the benefits of those people being regulated. That is in new clause 13G. It also makes several technical amendments throughout Part 2 to provide for online applications, and it amends the regulation-making powers relating to training to allow the flexibility to introduce training requirements during the 5-year term of a licence or certificate of approval. It changes the date by which new categories of security personnel, crowd controllers, and personal guards become subject to the regime from 1 June 2011 to a date to be set by Order in Council.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) : I look forward to future contributions from the Minister in the chair, Associate Minister of Justice Nathan Guy, on the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, and to perhaps a little more enthusiasm from him in his second or third intervention. The Minister is presenting a very significant piece of work to us today, and it will have significant implications for those who work in this sector. As was already indicated in the second reading of this bill, there will be a doubling of the number of people in this sector who will be required, essentially, to be registered, from around 9,000 to 18,000. I know that one of my colleagues will be seeking, later in the Committee stage of this bill, further clarification from the Minister of his expectations regarding the level of discretion that will be exercised in granting some of those licences, given that some of those already operating in the sector may not have been required to be registered and may fall outside some of the expectations that this legislation may create in terms of qualifications, background checks, etc. It will be interesting to have that discussion and to seek further clarification from the Minister about that.
But I wish to go back to the debate that was started in the second reading of this bill about clause 66, because, obviously, this bill was initially drafted by Labour and was introduced in 2008, and for the large part, there is little contention between both Labour and National on this bill, with the exception of clause 66. Just to give the Committee a bit of background, I thought it might be useful to spend some time on what that clause originally said before it was struck out by the Government members at the Justice and Electoral Committee.
Clause 66 set out that a private investigator or employee was to not take photographs or make recordings without consent. That provision was based on the status quo of the current legislation, which I think dates back to the 1950s. It sets out that no person may in the course of, or in connection with, business as a private investigator take or cause to be taken, or use or accept the use of any photograph, any cinematographic picture, or any videotape recording of another person, without the prior consent in writing of that person. That includes recording devices, as well. Essentially, the legislation says that if a private investigator is contracted by someone else to monitor movements, either by video recording or through photographs, the investigator cannot do so unless he or she has the written consent of the person who is being followed. On face value, it may seem to defeat the purpose of following someone covertly if one then has to seek that person’s permission for photos to be taken or used.
We acknowledged in the select committee that there was a difficulty there, and that perhaps this provision was too prescriptive, but we were not satisfied that simply deleting it was a fair middle ground. We heard from some submitters that the restrictions of clause 66 would inhibit private investigators who are investigating criminal activity. Therefore, they said that outweighed any concerns that may exist around privacy, so they advocated that the clause should come out of the bill altogether. But it is important to be mindful that not all of the work that this provision covered would have been investigation around criminal activity. In fact, probably some of the more frequent activity might have simply related to, for instance, marital disputes, perhaps the following of famous individuals, or, even—we have seen and heard examples of this—politicians having their privacy invaded in this way.
The legislation prevented that until now, but clause 66 has now been removed from the bill. The consequence of that is that if an adequate code of conduct is drafted, essentially it will be the case that private investigators will have wider powers than the police, if we compare what we have here with the Search and Surveillance Bill, which the Justice and Electoral Committee is currently considering. One of the concerns raised by the select committee was that at the moment we have two pieces of legislation in the mix. We have this bill and we also have the Search and Surveillance Bill, which the Justice and Electoral Committee is considering. The Law Commission is also doing a report on privacy. We run the risk of having a lack of cohesion and an inconsistent response to the issue of privacy, and some individuals may wind up with greater powers than others. That was a concern for the select committee.
How could we have resolved that concern? I will look at clause 106, which sets out the regulations that will be subsequently drafted, and which will remedy some of the issues that we looked at as a select committee. For the large part, I am happy for a lot of these regulations to be set outside the ambit of the select committee inquiry and to be set in consultation with the sector, because, by and large, they relate to the prescribing of forms, the setting of fees, and the prescribing of the competency, knowledge, and skills required by applicants for licences and certificates, which was perhaps one of the more significant provisions inserted by the select committee. I acknowledge that the sector has a huge role to play in setting out its own expectations and standards for the industry, and I think that is good and proper. Of course, the Regulations Review Committee will also have oversight, particularly of the fees that will then be set.
But I think we have gone a step too far in setting out and allowing a code of conduct to be set outside the ambit of this House—and I have some questions for the Minister in the chair about that. We see that clause 106A, which is, I guess, the counterweight to the removal of clause 66, states that “the Minister must recommend that the Governor-General make regulations … to be in force at all times on and after 1 December 2010,”—I imagine that date is changed on Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Nathan Guy—“prescribing a code of conduct containing matters that the Minister is satisfied are necessary or desirable in relation to the surveillance of individuals by private investigators and private investigator employees.” That is very broad. We do not have a sense at this stage of how comprehensive the code of conduct will be, or of the expectations of the Minister or the Government.
I have a number of questions. I ask the Minister what role he envisages that the Law Commission’s report on privacy will play in developing the code of conduct and whether there will be any interaction, or whether the time lines are simply out of kilter. I ask what the expectations of the Minister are for that code of conduct, or whether we are essentially beginning with a blank canvas. If the Minister has some expectations, then I would be interested to hear them. I ask him who will be involved in the drafting of the code of conduct, because there are a number of various interested parties when it comes to these matters. I also ask what mechanisms the Government is building in to change the code of conduct if compliance becomes an issue. This is obviously what we need to take into account when we look at forms of pseudo - self-regulation. I ask how the Minister will build in the prerogative to change the code of conduct if it is inadequate.
Just to restate Labour’s position on this issue—which, I believe, is shared by the Greens—I say our preference was to retain clause 66, although acknowledging that it needed to be amended. Our view was that it should be retained, and that once the Law Commission’s review had been completed, we should then make an amendment to it. Our intention is to put forward an amendment along those lines. If the Government wishes to then come back with a compromise—for instance, that we retain clause 66 but build in an agreement that when the Law Commission finishes its report, we cooperate in ushering through an amendment, so that we do not have a full, lengthy House procedure on it—I think that would be good. Such a compromise would ensure that we get around all the issues and make a coherent response to the privacy issue, which is certainly what we are advocating for. I know that the Law Commission has already recommended that there be security devices legislation and new offences for recording and tracking. Again, that demonstrates a significant overlap in all of the work that is being done, so it makes sense to slow down when it comes to this particular provision. If we get this wrong, then it will be hard to backtrack and rewrite history, as it were, when we are expecting an entire industry to change the way that it operates as a consequence of the deletion of quite a significant clause from this bill.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : I am happy to take a brief call on the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill. Since I took my first call on this bill the night before last, I have had the opportunity to read the bill in more detail.
Simon Bridges: Good on you, Chris.
CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right; I am a details man, I say to Simon Bridges. It has raised a few more questions for me, which I want to put to the Minister in the chair, the Associate Minister of Justice. But, first of all, I thought that I should perhaps recap the three main changes this bill makes. It changes the regime for private investigators and security guards by introducing licensing requirements, including police checks for criminal convictions. It extends those to cover a wider range of security-related activities—in particular, crowd controllers, including bouncers; bodyguards; private security staff; and people guarding others in custody. I will talk a little more about the definitions of those terms. I was quite interested in understanding a little more about the definitions of exactly who will be covered by this law, and I found that some people whom I perhaps did not necessarily expect to be covered might be covered.
Private security staff will be required, for the first time in New Zealand, to undertake training for their job if their job includes guarding property, guarding persons, or keeping order amongst groups of people. Essentially, training will be required if the nature of the work is such that there is a significant risk of physical violence occurring. The details of the training requirements will be made by an explicit Order in Council. There will be a dedicated enforcement body, the complaints, investigation, and prosecution unit, which will be created to ensure compliance with the new legislation, and there will be heavier penalties for offending. The penalty for unlawfully employing an unlicensed security guard will go up from the present $2,000 to $20,000, which is a significant increase. The penalty for unlawfully operating an unlicensed business will go up from $2,000 to $40,000 for an individual and to $60,000 for a company.
It is useful for everybody to understand exactly who may be covered by this legislation, because when I got into it and read it in more detail I found that it covered a much wider range of people than I might necessarily have thought. It covers security consultants. Under the meaning of security consultant, the bill basically makes it clear—
Simon Bridges: What do they do?
CHRIS HIPKINS: I am about to tell Mr Bridges. If he would just hold himself together for a moment, I will enlighten him as to the details. The private security consultants are people who sell or who attempt to sell a device of any kind—for example, burglar alarms, cameras, and so forth. The people who come around to our houses and give us advice on what sort of security system we may want to have in our homes will now have to be licensed and subject to this regime. I think that is a very positive move. It gives people confidence that when they are purchasing a product from someone, the person who will be selling it to them is properly trained and appropriately qualified to give them advice on what sort of security system they need. That person will also have to be trained, qualified, and licensed if he or she is to be advising the owner or occupier of the premises on the desirability of having security guards looking after their premises. I think that is something that people will be pleased to see.
The bill introduces licensing requirements for people who are involved in the destruction of confidential documents. This is one of those things we probably never think about. We all turf our documents into our green bins at the end of the day, and who picks them up—
Simon Bridges: Before you know it, Nicky Hager’s got them.
CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right. Nicky Hager could get hold of them if we are not careful. I thank Mr Bridges because he has just given me another 5 minutes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Or Roger Foley.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Or Roger Foley. It could well be that all those Don Brash emails came out of a security bin that maybe was not locked or maybe they were not properly—
Hon Darren Hughes: How close to Bill English was it?
CHRIS HIPKINS: If Don Brash had put his emails into the bin in Bill English’s office, it is no wonder Nicky Hager ended up having them in his possession. The licensing regime that this bill will require for those people involved in the destruction of confidential documents will give some more reassurance. However, it will not cover somebody such as Mr English, who we know does a lot of his own cleaning these days because Ministerial Services would not give him those extra hours of cleaning that he wanted for his ministerial home—actually, I do not know whether it is still technically a ministerial home. Members of the public and everybody who works in an office and disposes of confidential documents will be able to have more confidence that their confidential documents will be handled in an appropriate matter, and that someone will not go AWOL with them and give them to Nicky Hager.
This bill will cover property guards. It will cover people who are looking after commercial premises, but it will also presumably cover people who look after private property. Like many members of Parliament, I have a monitored security alarm device. If it goes off when I am not at home, a security guard will be sent out to make sure nobody is breaking into my house. The people who monitor the alarm system and the people who check on the house where the alarm has gone off will have to be licensed and appropriately trained to do that work. Frankly, as a consumer that is not something I had even given any thought to when the security system was installed in my house. New Zealanders can have confidence that the people who are doing this work will be appropriately trained and licensed.
However, this is an area where I have some questions. One of the requirements the bill puts in place is that anybody who monitors, in real time, elsewhere than on the premises owned or occupied by themselves, a camera, a burglar alarm, or a similar device, will have to be licensed. I was not on the Justice and Electoral Committee and I do not have a detailed knowledge of the bill, so I would like some clarification. I have a question about the community patrols. What about the people who volunteer for the police and help out?
Chester Borrows: It’s not a private place.
CHRIS HIPKINS: It is not a private place?
Chester Borrows: Well, they’re not monitoring a private place. They are monitoring a public place.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Some of the cameras are in private places. Some of the cameras monitored by the police and by the community patrols are in private places, so will they have to be licensed under this bill? I would like some clarification from the Minister, rather than an interjection from Chester Borrows, although I place a lot of—
Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s likely to be more informed.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Chester Borrows is likely to be more informed. I will praise him. I think he is an excellent chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee.
Hon Trevor Mallard: He should be a Minister.
CHRIS HIPKINS: He should be a Minister. He would make an outstanding Minister of Police.
Hon Darren Hughes: If Nathan’s one, why not Chester?
CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right. If Nathan Guy can make the grade, I am not sure why Chester Borrows cannot. I think he would have a very, very good grasp on these issues and would make a stellar Minister of Police. It would not be hard to be better than the current Minister. If the Minister in the chair could clarify that issue for me, I would very much appreciate it.
I will recap. Labour introduced this bill. It is another quality piece of legislation that was introduced by the previous Labour Government. Labour left the National Government very well positioned to look quite good in its first few years. Such a large amount of legislation was introduced by the very diligent and hard-working Ministers in the previous Labour Government that in fact National members have not had to do much in terms of coming up with ideas of their own. They were able to pass the legislation established by the previous Labour Government. I congratulate Clayton Cosgrove, my colleague from Christchurch, who cannot be here today to see this bill continue its passage through the House. I am sure he would like to be here. He is with his constituents in Christchurch and I think everybody would agree that that is where he should be at this time, as I know are many Canterbury members from both sides of the Chamber.
This bill had a significant gestation period because of a review of this legislation, which has been in place since 1974 and was significantly out of date. When laws get to that age, it is time to take a look at them. Technology has changed dramatically in that time. I do not think anybody could have imagined digital cameras, cellular phones, surveillance equipment, closed-circuit television, and all of those things, which would not have been in place or even available in 1974.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What?
CHRIS HIPKINS: They would not have been in place in 1974.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Surveillance cameras?
CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I meant closed-circuit surveillance cameras of the type that we have now, but I will defer to Trevor Mallard’s superior knowledge. I was not born then.
Hon Darren Hughes: Trevor was in his second term in the House.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Trevor was probably already in Parliament. He was probably already well established here. Actually, he had probably had more ejections from the House than any other member at that point.
Paul Quinn: He had nowhere to go. Nobody else would employ him.
CHRIS HIPKINS: I would be careful going down that road, I say to Mr Quinn.
Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s one of the few people fired from KiwiRail.
CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right; Mr Quinn is one of the few people ever fired from New Zealand Rail.
I am very happy to have made this brief contribution to the bill. I am looking forward to hearing the remainder of the Committee stage debate—I think I have 3 seconds left to go. Thank you very much.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) : A number of points have been made about the need for the refurbishment of this legislation, bearing in mind the changes in technology over the last 35 years or so. It is interesting to note that almost every area of core business of policing, for instance, is now replicated in some form by the security industry and done privately. So the need for that vetting process, as the public perceive it, is such that these people need to be certificated. They need to go through a vetting process, and the public need to be reassured that these people are worthy of their trust. A number of those points were made by the previous speaker.
Just how far the need for that certification will extend really relates to its impact on the public and the public going about their private business. There has been some discussion, for instance, about clause 66—which was deleted by the select committee—and in respect of who is able to use video camera surveillance or still photographs. We know that private investigators are currently unable to do that, regardless of the fact they have been through that police-vetting process and that they are certificated personnel. Yet members of the public can do that any time they want.
The point is often made that private investigators have the knowledge, the skills, probably, and the motivation to do things that are on the edge of what is and is not acceptable, because they are doing it for reward, whereas the public are frequently motivated only by their own interest or by some particular hobby horse they may be on at any one time.
I need to point out, though, that unscrupulous members of the security, journalist, and other professions are currently in a position to manipulate members of the public—so they can do things that certificated private investigators cannot do. It seems to me to be ridiculous that the public can be used in an unscrupulous way without any sort of regulation at all. Hence the Government’s preference for a code of conduct to be regulated and for that provision to replace the clause 66 model, and I think that is a valid response, bearing in mind where technology has gone.
I would like to cover a point that was raised by the previous speaker, Chris Hipkins. He asked whether there was a need for community patrol people, who are frequently sitting in police stations monitoring closed-circuit television cameras that are used to monitor the public as they go about their business—for instance, late-night Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. We have to remember that the community patrol people who are sitting in police stations and watching those closed-circuit television cameras at the moment have been through a police-vetting process. Otherwise they would not be allowed to sit inside a police station and have access to, or be in the vicinity of, confidential information.
The second point is that although a number of those closed-circuit television cameras are mounted on private property, they are almost invariably looking into what is public property—if not entirely publicly owned property, public in terms of section 2 of the Summary Offences Act, for instance. That section covers land that is private but accessible by the public whether or not it is right to do so. For instance, the closed-circuit television camera may be looking over car-parks, the backs of hotels, alleyways, or into pieces of land that are frequently the subject of intrusion or trespass by drunken idiots, whom we might want to monitor. The community patrol members who are monitoring those video cameras are not required to be certificated at the moment, but they have been through a vetting process and are generally operating under the fairly close supervision of members of the police who are on duty at the time. I think it was important to point out those few measures.
I commend the bill to the Committee, bearing in mind that it is not only dragging the legislation, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century—it is long overdue—but also taking account of technologies that have come into vogue. Those technologies are now easily accessible to the public, whereas they were not accessible in the past. This bill will provide a greater degree of scrutiny over those people who have some power and authority over us—for instance, private investigators and security personnel. Thank you.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : Labour will be supporting this bill, but some concerns have arisen for me, and I shall put those concerns and some questions to the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nathan Guy. In the Chamber last night Mr Harawira said that a lot of people undertaking the work that is explicitly outlined in this bill are Māori and Pacific, so we are looking after our workforce and making sure that this bill addresses their needs. I feel that the tone of the bill relates largely to the protection of the public, which is definitely an aspect, but it also legislates that training must be put into place to ensure that the people undertaking this work are not only accountable to the public but better equipped to undertake these positions. I just wonder whether there is some scope for change to ensure that that aspect comes across in the bill and that we get to see that it is not just for the protection of the public, because a lot of these people undertaking these roles are good people. The vast majority have had no problems; the vast majority have been safe in their roles, and have done a service to the public. So it is good that the tone of the bill illustrates that fact, and illustrates that the bill will protect them so they can do their job well and safely.
I went through the bill, and I might be wrong and I asked a couple of colleagues, but I could not find a regulatory impact statement. I ask the Minister whether a regulatory impact statement goes along with this bill and, if so, where it is. I could not find it.
The National Government has introduced a Supplementary Order Paper, which will exempt certain groups from the bill, and in reading it I wondered about Pacific wardens and Māori wardens, and whether they would be exempted from the bill, keeping in mind that they are volunteers, I think. Members will let me know if I am wrong. A lot of them take on the roles of crowd controller and property guard. That could be considered to be part of what this legislation is pushing for. So I want to know from the Minister whether those two groups—Pacific and Māori wardens—will be exempted from this legislation, and also what other groups he has in mind that will be exempted from it.
Initially, when we were debating this bill in the House the other night, I had a concern about the level of discretion that the licensing authority would have with regard to granting a licence or certificate to security guards, crowd controllers, bouncers—any people who fall into those categories. I have gone through the bill, and it seems broad, but it seems that there will be a level of discretion. I would also like confirmation about that from the Minister.
One example that was sent through to me was of someone who in his early years committed a very, very serious crime—that being murder—at the age of 16. He then went to jail at 17. But that murder was committed in the early 1990s; he has been out of jail for the last 8 years. He has not committed any crime ever since. He has been practising as a security guard at a bar ever since then. So I wonder whether the authority’s discretion would extend to that sort of situation in terms of allowing him to continue to practise, considering that he has done so for 8 years and despite the fact that that will be on his record for life. I wonder whether in those cases—although I am sure they will be few—the licensing authority will use its discretion to allow those people to continue and also to allow them to gain the qualification necessary in these particular roles.
It needs to keep in mind that some of those people have been working in those jobs for long periods of time. For some of them, as in the example I have just used, that is the only occupation that that person has ever known. So I wonder what level of discretion the licensing authority will have. I discussed with someone earlier the case I am talking about now. It was raised with me that that would be the exception rather than the norm. But I think the licensing authority needs to have the ability to make decisions on a case-by-case basis and to have the discretion to grant an exception for exceptional cases, like the one I am discussing.
I will discuss the provisions in general. Labour supports the bill. It was introduced to the House by Mr Cosgrove in 2008. It is unfortunate that it has taken a while to push through. I understand that the rationale for pushing it through now is to have legislation in place by June 2011, so that all of the provisions can be put into place before the Rugby World Cup. I think that is a good move, but I also think it could have been done earlier, especially when the safety of the public was the initial reason for this bill. It is something that perhaps the Government should have pushed along with a little more quickly. But that is OK; it is going through now.
The other issue raised earlier by my colleague Jacinda Ardern was our concern that National members of the select committee deleted the clause that would make it an offence for private investigators to photograph or to record people without consent. That is a very real concern that we on this side of the House have. We hope that the other side will address that. I think we have a Supplementary Order Paper up to address that—[Interruption]—yes. We hope that the other side of the House will support it. Thank you very much.
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs) : After hearing the contributions from members across the House this afternoon I think it is important that I make some comments. A few questions have been posed this afternoon. One of those questions was from Jacinda Ardern asking whether the removal of clause 66 from the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill meant that private investigators will have more power than the police. That is not the case. The police have specific powers as set out in the Policing Act 2008. Private investigators, like any other licence holder or certificate holder, have no more powers than the general public. I hope that the member can seek some reassurance from that. It is captured in clause 101.
In terms of the code of conduct, there were some questions around drafting and who will be consulted. It is my intention that the Privacy Commissioner, the Law Commission, and the key stakeholders will be consulted through that process. Of course once the Law Commission has done its big piece of work on privacy, which could take 2 years, to be frank, then there is an opportunity for the code to be amended if it is necessary once that piece of work is done. We also need to be aware of the fact that the Privacy Act 1993 cannot be overridden in that process.
There were also some comments on the discretion of licensing. The bill gives the authority some discretion to grant a licence or a certificate even if a disqualification ground applies. I think the important point is that the discretion is used in exceptional circumstances where evidence—and it would have to be strong evidence—is provided to the authority that a person’s background, character, or circumstances means that they are suitable for the role, despite their conviction or disqualification criteria.
There was also a comment, which I thought was interesting, concerning community patrols. If we think about community patrols, as I understand it most of those people—I think all of them—are volunteers. Volunteers are not captured under this regime. If they operate in-house, that is, if they are not employed by a licence holder, then they are not captured unless, of course, they are a crowd controller. The Supplementary Order Paper has been dropped on the Table, so I look forward to hearing some comments from the Hon David Carter—Parker—about that.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) : I thank the Minister in the chair, the Hon Nathan Guy, for those comments. I am not sure that it is a pleasure to be confused with David Carter, but I will not take offence.
I take issue with the Minister on whether private investigators should be able to undertake search and surveillance measures. The general policy that underlies our law is that we give additional powers to the police for search and surveillance and we control the powers of the police and other State agencies for search and surveillance. One would expect the controls that apply to search and surveillance by the police to be at least matched by controls on search and surveillance by non-State agencies like private investigators—
Hon Darren Hughes: More so.
Hon DAVID PARKER:—if not more so.
The problem we have is that there is a lacuna in the law; there is a gap in the law relating to search and surveillance by non-State agencies. The general rule in respect of private investigators is that they should have no further powers than private citizens. They are not arms of the State. They are, effectively, private people who are agents of other private people. They have the ability to be quite invasive with modern surveillance techniques. They have the ability to infringe on the civil liberties of other private citizens to go about their daily business without undue intrusion.
The problem is that because there is a gap in the law relating to non-governmental search and surveillance across the board, there is a lack of control not just for ordinary citizens but also for private investigators. When this bill was originally introduced to the House we were alert to that. The Law Commission was alert to it. It said not to give private investigators the power to take photographs or do other search and surveillance until the underlying law that relates to search and surveillance by non-State agencies, non-governmental agencies, was fixed up. Labour thinks this legislation should do that.
I agree that it is nonsensical that private investigators cannot take photographs when an ordinary citizen can. But the problem is that if we confer this power on private investigators you bet your bottom dollar that when it comes to tidying up legislation relating to search and surveillance by non-State agencies, non-governmental agencies, private investigators will come along and say: “But we’re special. We’ve already got these powers; Government conferred them to us under the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill. We are not private citizens, we are in a different category, and we should be treated differently.” That argument will be harder to rebut if private investigators are given this power now, given that they have been without this power since at least 1974, which has not caused too much of a problem.
Let us wait for Parliament to properly consider the issue of search and surveillance powers of non-governmental agencies and then fix up the law for private investigators. If we do it in the order that this bill suggests, we will create a pressure in the future for private investigators to have wider powers of search and surveillance than would be held in the future by private citizens.
In my opinion, that is wrong. That is why we have promoted an amendment to reinstate into this bill the prohibition on private investigators taking photographs that would be carried forward from prior law. We have enabled that to be tidied up in the future by stating that prohibition can be repealed by Order in Council but not until after Parliament has considered search and surveillance by non-governmental agencies. We know that that consideration is coming because the Law Commission has produced a draft report, we know that it intends to come up with a final report, and we know that there is a gap in the law at the moment.
In my opinion it is nonsense that we have controls on search and surveillance by the police and other State agencies, but we have no protection of our civil liberties against similar intrusions by private people.
Hon David Cunliffe: It’s bizarre.
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is bizarre, it is inconsistent, and it has crept up on Parliament and our country as a consequence of changing technologies.
There was a time when there was very little privatisation of security services—that has changed over time, and, therefore, there is a need for regulation. There was a time when there was very little privatisation of what are, effectively, activities of the State in policing conduct. That has changed over time as there has been more privatisation, and, therefore, there is a need for more regulation. There was also a time where there were very few technologies available to people. People effectively had still cameras. Now people can have directional microphones and cameras tied up to the World Wide Web. As we see, they can be intrusive of the public.
Members of Parliament, including me, have had some experience of private-sector surveillance of our private lives, which I think is inappropriate. I know that the Hon Bill English suffered some intrusions of his private residence by people taking photographs from the street of his children’s bedrooms. That is wrong, irrespective of the rights or wrongs of the underlying dispute. I do not think that Bill English should suffer intrusions into his private home by busybodies taking photographs of his children’s bedrooms. That is wrong, and there is a need for the law to control it.
Hon Tau Henare: So why did you do it then?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, at the moment it will be permissible if we pass this law. It seems to me that we are authorising private investigators to do things similar to it, and I do not think we should let that particular cat out of the bag.
As I said previously, when we in this Parliament try to properly protect the civil liberties of all New Zealanders to live private lives without inappropriate intrusion not just by State agencies, governmental agencies, but by non-governmental agencies like private investigators, when we try to put that cat back in the bag, members should just watch, because private investigators will say that they are special. They will say that they need more powers than ordinary private citizens. For that reason, I think that as a matter of principle we should carry forward the existing law. I know the existing law is imperfect, but let us carry it forward for another few years. Let us continue with the situation we have had since the current legislation was passed in 1974, maybe for only another 1 or 2 years, until this Parliament fixes up the proper control of search and surveillance by non-governmental agencies.
I urge the Minister to consider the amendment to that effect in my name. My amendment reinstates clause 65, which was in the bill when it was referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee. The amendment states that private investigators cannot conduct these search and surveillance operations without consent. It says that the status quo—it is effectively the status quo currently—should prevail until such time as this Parliament has considered legislation that regulates surveillance by non-Government agencies. Until that legislation is considered by this House the status quo should prevail. Thank you.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : This is a very interesting debate on the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, and one where I accept that there probably are some nuances and subtleties. But I would also say that, ultimately, the issue comes down to some classic philosophical dividing lines—and not necessarily between Labour and National. However, I think it would be fair to say that the position I take would be the position other National members would take more often than not, and that David Parker’s position is probably one that Labour members would take more often than not. I would say that in a fight between freedom of information, where people can record information and use it as they like, and privacy—although I know that privacy will, of course, sometimes win—I would go with freedom of information nearly every day. I would much rather live in a freer society where people can say, report, and do what they like than in one where we are cloistered by privacy rules.
It may be—and I reserve my position on this because there will be a Law Commission report—that David Parker is right and there is a gap in the law whereby private individuals can pretty much do what they like in terms of taking recordings and the like, and we may need to address that as a Parliament in the future. There will be, as we know, a Law Commission report looking at non-State actors and their roles and powers, but the solution in the interim most certainly is not to ban private investigators from doing what any other Joe Bloggs can do right now. The solution is not to restrict private investigators—particularly when what we are doing in this law is making them adhere to high standards and a code of conduct—from doing what others can do, because, as I said in the reading earlier this week, we get this ridiculous situation where journalists, for example, can do some of the most remarkable things with their surveillance and recording. By and large, that does not happen in this country, thank goodness, with maybe one or two exceptions. But in the United Kingdom there have been some flagrant examples of journalists using surveillance in very unethical ways to entrap people. I give an example I have used already—that of News of the World and Fergie, and the situation she was tricked into. It was entirely manufactured by journalists. There may be something I am unaware of, but I do not think there is anything to stop that from happening legally in New Zealand. So, as I say, it may be that David Parker has a point and we need to address that down the track. But the answer today is not to take his amendment on board and restrict what private investigators can do, because they will be held to a strict code of conduct that will be put in place prior to the enactment of this legislation.
I come back to some other examples that give a very real face as to why private investigators should be able to use surveillance. Outside of the police, most Government agencies use private investigators in the public interest. Work and Income does, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) does, and the Inland Revenue Department does. In the public interest those agencies use private investigators in most of their civil fraud cases. It is a silly situation—and I accept that it is one we have had for a long time—when those private investigators cannot take photographs and video recordings to prove a case of fraud. I give the example of ACC and the person with the bad back who, in fact, plays a mean game of golf every day of the week. What would be wrong or unethical about recording that for evidential purposes in court? That cannot happen now, so we are changing the law.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : This is a fascinating debate, at a number of levels. I will take a very brief call. The right of politics often makes the fundamental philosophical error that the absence of regulation is the same thing as human freedom. If ever that mistake was proven, it is in the context of this bill. The absence of restriction on private investigators means that the freedom of every New Zealander is curtailed, not enhanced, and that is proven partly by the relentless march of technology.
Let me give a couple of easy examples. Firstly, directional microphones can pick up a conversation at hundreds of yards of distance. Keystroke mapping can copy the entry of typing into a computer remotely, or via a camera, at great distance. Even a humble Google search, web search, or Facebook search will, because people have larger digital footprints, produce a wealth of information about ordinary individuals. It is not necessarily wrong if they have chosen to put it in the public domain, but it cannot be contested that technology means that there is more information about people able to be searched than ever before, and that is before the private spooks come in. We have wire taps, bugging, directional mikes, malware, and spyware on computers, not to mention code crackers. One can buy for 100 bucks at Dick Smith Electronics code cracking technology that the National Security Agency did not have a decade ago. What is a 1,000 digit combo lock now, when for 100 bucks one could crack anything? The point is that without some regulatory framework around private spies, the freedoms of every New Zealand citizen are under unprecedented threat.
I want to give a couple of little personal examples. They are historic; they are already in the public domain. My electorate office was burgled. Quite precise incisions were made in the windows. Nothing was stolen except the hard drive on the computer—the back-up hard drive. That was a couple of years ago. I am absolutely confident, and I did a routine search just to prove it, that my office is run squeaky clean. I have no concern about anything that might have been on that computer. I make the point that if somebody has done a precise, no fingerprints, surgical entry into a parliamentary electorate office through a window then there are people in our country who would stop at nothing to do wiretaps, computer hacks, or a whole bunch of other techno-savvy invasions on the very freedoms that Mr Bridges says he holds dear.
If it is absolutely accepted and bipartisan that the Crown’s own secret service agents must have a judge’s warrant to tap a phone, why do we not require a similar standard of probity from a private spy? Corporates that have large budgets can procure those services, often from ex-Crown personnel like police or members of the security services, on the free market, using their deep pockets, and that is a threat to the liberties that generations of New Zealanders fought and died to protect.
I am not blaming the Government for not having fixed this before. This is an issue that has grown over time, and the threat to private liberty is directly proportional to the reach of technology—that is, as we become more sophisticated in our computing and our potential to invade privacy, then, equally, the need for the protection of fundamental human rights and dignities around privacy rose with it. It is high time that this House addressed itself to these growing issues in a more comprehensive way than is included in this bill. However, I will commend the Government—I think this is bipartisan because it transcends the change of Government—for the work of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner under Marie Shroff. For two terms—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I’m sorry but I see that Mr Quinn is going to seek the call. I just can’t stand it. I’m going to leave the Chamber.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I fully understand that, but I will round off so that my colleague does not miss too much.
Paul Quinn: He’s always run from competition. Look at him run!
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Although I can draw attention to my leaving the Chamber, no other member can, especially one whom I have offered $500 to run—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Thank you, that will do. It is one all.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: We look forward to the contest in Hutt South that we have been denied in this Chamber. I wish my colleague all the very best, although I am sure that he does not need it against that member.
Hon Tau Henare: Ask Trevor to give the diary back.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Mr Henare should hang on. I am going to say something nice about his Government. He will not hear it too often, so if he would just button up he might get this one.
I think that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner is doing a good job on these issues. It has a large proportion of its staff looking at digital privacy issues, and that is where the action is all around the world. Our privacy is under threat as never before because of the reach of digital technology, and who is leading that invasion? It is the private spies, often private corporate spies, who engage in industrial espionage and in the invasion of private rights that is pushing the boundary of—
Simon Bridges: They can do that, anyway.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Oh, they can do it anyway! The member, being a well-read member, will know that a bloke called Voltaire once wrote a book called Candide in which he asserted that we must, because of the greatness and goodness of God, live in the best of all possible worlds—that is, the way things are has to be the way things will always be. That went out with the ark.
We need to protect New Zealanders’ privacy. We need to protect them from sophisticated private individuals not covered by the restraints that apply to the State who have access to advanced technology and can access information about other individuals in unprecedented ways. It is a great shame that this bill falls far short of what is required to achieve that standard—far short indeed. I call upon the Government to listen to its own Privacy Commissioner and to take this threat seriously, because it is going to grow.
In conclusion, I want to end as I began by emphasising again that the right wing of New Zealand politics, as in the right wing globally, needs to understand that the absence of regulation is not the same thing as promoting freedom. We live in a free society when we are protected from those who would take away our freedom, and it is a shame that this bill does not go far enough in that regard.
KEITH LOCKE (Green) : I rise to support David Parker’s amendment, and also to commend the previous speaker, David Cunliffe, for a very good, wide-ranging speech on the privacy problems we face. I thought the speaker before him, Simon Bridges, gave a somewhat contradictory speech, in that he admitted the problems of the intrusion into people’s privacy, using the example of Fergie in Great Britain, and the intrusions of the media like News of the World andthe like. Recently in Britain we have had the scandal of journalists hacking the voicemails of different politicians. I do not think we have had that scandal here yet, but, as David Cunliffe indicated, technology advances are such that we might find it happening to us.
Hon David Cunliffe: How would we know?
KEITH LOCKE: Yes. If the intrusion on people’s privacy is a serious problem, and if the Law Commission is devoting its attention to that issue, surely we should go with that rather than say that we should loosen up in another area of society and in terms of the controls over private investigators. There may be a contradiction between what the public can do at the present time and what private investigators could do before this legislation, but I think the way to level that playing field is to increase the restraints on general members of the public, and journalists as well, with regard to intrusions on people’s privacy. That is the way to resolve the contradiction.
I think the difference between ordinary members of the public on the one side, and private investigators or the police on the other, is that private investigators and the police engage in activities that are quite intrusive into people’s privacy—for good reasons, in the case of the police. For that reason, we have controls on the police. Those controls are being extended under the Search and Surveillance Bill currently before the Justice and Electoral Committee, and that is a good thing. A private investigator’s job is to intrude as much as he or she can, to find out certain things in people’s private lives. When investigators use audio and video recording and photographs, that is overly intrusive, and, as David Cunliffe has pointed out, if they just want basic information about people for the Ministry of Social Development, or whatever, there is plenty of other data around on people that they can check, without using audio or video recording devices or photographs.
There is a serious problem; we saw that problem when the Sunday Star-Times ran an article on the putting of a tracking device by a private investigator, Thompson and Clark Investigations, under the car of Rochelle Rees. She is a very fine animal welfare activist living in Auckland, currently running in the elections for a local board, and likely to be elected.
Hon David Cunliffe: What about Solid Energy?
KEITH LOCKE: Thompson and Clark also put an infiltrator into the Happy Valley Coalition and disrupted the workings and solidarity in that particular group. That is a problem. So why do we give these people more power to intrude on people’s privacy, particularly with tracking technology? The tracking technology is quite intrusive. It is very simple. A little device like a magnet is put under the car. I have seen the device that was put under Rochelle Rees’ car. Wherever she went, her car could be tracked by Thompson and Clark Investigations. This was done—as I understand, in this case—for the interests of the Pork Industry Board, because she was very strongly campaigning with others against sow crates and cages for chickens. So I think it is important to support the amendment of David Parker to reinsert the prohibition on audio and video surveillance devices, and the photographing of their targets. Thank you.
PAUL QUINN (National) : It gives me pleasure to take a short call on the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Bill, because I have listened intently as the debate has progressed. It seems to me that this is a classic argument. Let us be clear that the real issue here is what was clause 66 and the Supplementary Order Paper that has been submitted by the Opposition. In respect of that particular clause, which all the previous speakers in the Opposition have referred to, it seems to me that it is a matter of looking at two sides of a mirror, and of deciding, in fact, which side of that mirror we want to be on. On one side of the mirror we talk about the police having certain powers, but the Opposition—I think it was pointed out by Mr Parker—has claimed that a group of private investigators has more capability for doing surveillance than the police. On the other side of the mirror is the general public, who in fact are able to do, carte blanche, what they like.
Simon Bridges: Journalists, perverts.
PAUL QUINN: My colleague Mr Bridges has proposed that journalists and perverts are part of that group. So they can, like “Joe Public”, take any surveillance device that Mr Cunliffe covered, and he gave a pretty broad and full description of the types of technology. I agree with him on the fact that technology is always advancing. But the fact of the matter is that “Joe Public” can actually do it. So the view we have taken is that if, in fact, we want to restrict freedoms, then we need to be able to do it from a principled approach, and until we have an effective mechanism that actually can provide the sorts of safeties that one might want, then we are not prepared to restrict a group of people who in wearing their “Joe Public” hat are still able to do what they want to do.
The arguments are thoroughly canvassed in the Justice and Electoral report. If honourable members would turn to page 13 of the select committee report, this particular clause is talked about for two pages, which in my experience is a very long description and shows how carefully the select committee considered this. We went through the options, and, yes, we noted that the Law Commission was doing something. But in the end, we came down to the fact that unless we could have a better system, then it was not for Parliament to restrict people’s general freedoms. So that is why from this side of the Chamber we went for a code of conduct. We believe that a code of conduct properly worked through by the industry, under the direction of the Minister, will come up with something sufficiently robust. Members on this side have had positive experiences of self-regulation, which is why we are on this side of the argument.
The amendment submitted by the Opposition in the name of David Parker for all intents and purposes actually puts back into the bill the old clause 66. So in terms of my contribution to this debate, I say that we have canvassed those arguments. They are well documented and well argued in the select committee report. I refer the members on the opposite side to the select committee report to understand why the select committee came to its very good decision. Thank you.
- The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Nathan Guy to Part 1 be agreed to.
- Amendment agreed to.
- Part 1 as amended agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Nathan Guy to Part 2 be agreed to.
- Part 2 as amended agreed to.
- The question was put that the following amendment in the name of the Hon David Parker to Part 3 be agreed to:
to insert new clause 65:
65Private investigator or employee not to take photographs or make recordings without consent
(1)No person may, in the course of or in connection with the business of a private investigator,—
(a)take or cause to be taken, or use or accept for use, any photograph, cinematographic picture, or videotape recording of another person without the prior consent in writing of that person; or
(b)by any mechanical device record or cause to be recorded the voice or speech of another person without the prior consent in writing of that person.
(2)Nothing in subsection (1) applies to the taking or using by any person of any photograph for the purposes of identifying any other person on whom any legal process is to be or has been served.
(3)A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000.
(4)No photograph or cinematographic picture, or videotape recording taken, or other recording made, in contravention of subsection (1) is admissible as evidence in any civil proceedings.
(5)This section my be repealed by Order in Council provided that no such Order in Council may be promulgated before legislation regulating surveillance by non-Government agencies has been considered by this House.
|Ayes 52||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.|
|Noes 67||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 3; United Future 1.|
|Amendment not agreed to.|
- Part 3 agreed to.
- Part 4 agreed to.
- Part 5 agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Nathan Guy to Part 6 be agreed to.
- Amendments agreed to.
- The question was put that the following amendment in the name of the Hon David Parker to clause 106A be agreed to:
to omit subclause (3).
|Ayes 52||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.|
|Noes 67||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 3; United Future 1.|
|Amendment not agreed to.|
- Part 6 as amended agreed to.
- Schedule 1 agreed to.
- Schedule 2 agreed to.
- Schedule 3 agreed to.
- Clause 1 agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 162 in the name of the Hon Nathan Guy to clause 2 be agreed to.
- Amendment agreed to.
- Clause 2 as amended agreed to.
- Bill reported with amendment.
- Report adopted.
Child and Family Protection Bill
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: I move, That the Child and Family Protection Bill be now read a second time. I would like to thank the Justice and Electoral Committee for its consideration of the bill. The committee received 23 submissions from interested groups and individuals and heard eight submissions, with the majority of submitters generally in support of the bill. I consider the committee’s recommended amendments increase the protection of children in domestic violence situations and clarify the intent of the bill. This Government acted swiftly to protect victims of domestic violence and ensure perpetrators are made accountable for their behaviour. The legislation arising from the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill, and which we passed within our first year in office, strengthens the police response to domestic violence with the introduction of on-the-spot police safety orders. I am both pleased and saddened to report that between 1 July and 8 September approximately 700 police safety orders were issued.
The Child and Family Protection Bill is the next step in delivering on the Government’s ongoing commitment to strengthen the domestic violence legislation and enhance the protection of victims, particularly child victims. First, the bill makes changes to the Domestic Violence Act 1995 to better provide protection for child victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill increases the existing protection order cover available for children who remain living with the applicant by allowing young people who have reached the age of 17 to apply to the court for continued cover. The select committee recommended that this provision be amended to provide automatic continuation of protection order cover for young people who remain living with the applicant after they turn 17. The Government agrees with this amendment, as it reduces the burden on the young person by removing the requirement to apply to the court for continued protection. I understand that the Labour and Green members of the committee suggested that children should continue to benefit from the protection orders when they no longer live with the applicant. The majority of the committee disagreed because it would deny young people leaving home permanently an active choice about the protection they require. There would also be a number of complex legislative and operational implications.
The bill also provides the court with a new discretion to offer an early opportunity to review care and contact arrangements where a temporary protection order is made. Some submitters raised concerns about the provision, stating that it would be unfair to expect an applicant to attend a review with the respondent so soon after a temporary protection order was made. The Government is confident these concerns are mitigated by the provision that neither the applicant nor the respondent has to be present at the review; they can be represented by their lawyer. The clause expressly states that the judge may make an order only if both the applicant and respondent attend or are represented at the review. In response to suggestions from submitters, the committee has recommended that the lawyer for a child appointed under the Care of Children Act, along with any other person the Family Court judge permits, such as a support person, can be expressly enabled to attend such a review.
Second, the bill makes changes to the Care of Children Act 2004 to provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the protection of children. The bill amends the Act to adopt the definition of “violence” that is in the Domestic Violence Act, clarifying that “violence” means physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, and includes both direct and indirect abuse. I note the strong support for this amendment from submitters, and, more broadly, their support for the increased consistency between the two Acts. The bill also extends the existing provision for deciding parenting order applications where physical or sexual abuse is alleged against a party by incorporating the concept of psychological abuse. The bill ensures that where a protection order has been made against a party, including on the grounds of psychological abuse, the court will not grant the violent party care of, or contact with, a child unless the court is satisfied the child will be safe. I note there was also widespread support for this amendment, and I welcome the committee’s recommended amendments to the drafting to make the clause clearer.
Finally, the bill creates a new offence in the Adoption Act 1955 of improperly inducing consent for the adoption of a child, which is punishable by up to 7 years’ imprisonment. This is the last legislative amendment required for New Zealand to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. I support the committee’s recommendation to widen the offence to apply to agencies as well as to individuals. The Child and Family Protection Bill demonstrates this Government’s continuing commitment to improving the responsiveness of the courts to domestic violence and to enhancing the protection of children and families. It is with some pleasure and a huge amount of pride that I commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) : It is my pleasure to rise and speak to the Child and Family Protection Bill, as a member of the Justice and Electoral Committee, which considered the bill. I will say up front that Labour will support the bill, as we support any measures that are aimed at preventing and mitigating the harm done by domestic violence.
It is fair that I also state up front that we continue to urge the Government to take up some of the other opportunities in respect of existing legislation in this incredibly important area. At this stage, I do not believe we have had an adequate response from the Government as to why it is unwilling to progress some of the legislation on the Order Paper. I will briefly highlight some of those bills. The Domestic Violence Reform Bill has not yet been progressed. When the Minister of Justice appeared before the select committee, we asked him why that bill has not been progressed. He stated that there are insufficient resources within the Ministry of Justice to pursue that particular bill. In fact, he gave that same reason for why provisions in legislation relating to the Family Court, which has already been passed by this House under Labour, have not yet been enacted. That legislation would give the Family Court the power to use registrars as mediators in order to reduce the caseload in the Family Court. Again, I would have thought that particular scenario would ultimately save time and money for the ministry, so I do not understand why the Government has not progressed that legislation.
I am also concerned that the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6) is still languishing on the Order Paper, but I might come back to that one because it bears some relevance to this legislation.
I will talk briefly about some of the differences between the Child and Family Protection Bill and the Domestic Violence Act, because they demonstrate where there are still some obvious differences between where Labour and National would like to see us go. The Child and Family Protection Bill omits five important clauses that were included in the original legislation. One clause related to the definition of the age of a young person within domestic violence legislation, which is set out under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this bill, a child is anyone under the age of 17. Labour has continued to push for that age to be lifted to 18 in line with our responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. That definition applies not just to domestic violence legislation but also to matters before the Youth Court. We continue to push for that age to be lifted, and we may see some amendments in that regard.
The Child and Family Protection Bill does not provide the court with the power to direct respondents to an addiction treatment programme. That provision may have been more fitting in respect of domestic violence legislation that we dealt with earlier in the year, but the issue was not addressed then, so I wish to raise it now, as it is the Opposition’s prerogative to do so.
Labour’s original domestic violence legislation introduced a provision requiring any judge who declined a without notice application for a protection order to at least provide a written reason for declining that application, and that would enable the applicant to decide whether to proceed on notice. I am interested to hear why the Government continues to cite resourcing as the reason for not pursuing that provision when the work has already been done—the bill exists.
Labour has also proposed to make provision for applicants to be able to attend information sessions that would provide advice on making effective use of protection orders and any social assistance that may be available. This issue is raised almost every time that we deal with domestic violence legislation. It was raised with regard to police safety orders. There is ongoing concern from the National Council of Women and Women’s Refuge that when we use tools of the law, we need to provide women with adequate information and support to navigate their way through the criminal justice system, because they undertake an incredibly difficult process to pursue forms of protection. Unfortunately, I have heard reports, in Auckland, in particular, that with regard to police safety orders, wraparound services are not being provided. Women fear taking out police safety orders because they are temporary. That concern was always discussed by the select committee, but our view was that we could mitigate that factor if women were provided with support to pursue a longer-term protection order during the 5 days that they were covered by the police safety order. Unfortunately, it seems, anecdotally, that that is not happening, and perhaps we, as members of this House, should be investigating that in our electorates.
As the Minister has pointed out, we are dealing with an incredibly large number of incidents through legislation like this. In 2008, police responded to over 82,000 incidents of domestic violence. Although I express my reservation that the Government is not going far enough with bills that have already been drafted, I am still pleased that we have this bill before us at this time.
I thought that it might be useful to talk in a little more detail about one of the clauses that has caused some disagreement between Government members and Opposition members. In some ways, this provision is not the most significant part of the bill, but it happens to be the provision on which there were divergent views. Clause 6 extends the protection of children under the Domestic Violence Act, amending section 16 of the Act to clarify how protection orders work for an applicant’s child who is under the age of 17.
The bill in its original form covered a child up until only the age of 17, not 18, and then the order immediately expired, regardless of where that child resided. Even if the child was still living at home under the care of the individual who took out the protection order, the protection order would expire because of the child’s age.
The committee decided that it would be useful to ensure that the protection order goes beyond that age if the child ordinarily or periodically continues to reside with the applicant. I think that was a good decision. However, Labour, and, I believe, the Greens, advocated that the provision go further. It was our view that if a child who ordinarily is covered by a protection order chooses to leave home and live independently, in many ways that child becomes more vulnerable, not less vulnerable. We agreed with a number of submitters who suggested that protection orders should continue to apply to a young person after he or she turned 17, whether or not he or she resides with the applicant. We also agreed that protection should be maintained until the young person decides that a protection order is no longer required. Opting out of a protection order is much simpler and much less bureaucratic than having a young person pursue a protection order in his or her own right. We will be putting forward a Supplementary Order Paper on that matter. We will also be putting forward a Supplementary Order Paper proposing that this provision should apply to children up to the age of 18 years, not just 17 years, in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I want to very briefly mention the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6), which was introduced in December 2007. It goes to the heart of some of the issues of the care and protection of children. It is timely because today the Children’s Commissioner released a report of an interview of over 5,200 children who are in the care of Child, Youth and Family Services. The report highlights the inadequacies in the way that we deal with children in foster care. I acknowledge the work that the Minister has done in terms of continuity for children, but more work can be done if we progress the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6), which addresses several of the recommendations made by the Children’s Commissioner, especially around the transition into independent living. I have seen damning cases where 17-year-olds have come out foster care and have moved into prostitution or have committed suicide because they have no longer had any support from anyone. Their biological families are not in their lives, their foster parents no longer have any obligation to them, nor does Child, Youth and Family Services, and they have simply dropped out of the system, to their detriment.
The issue of children’s participation in planning and decision making, which is a recommendation from the Children’s Commissioner, is also in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6). If this Government is serious about children and young people who are in the care of Child, Youth and Family Services, it would do well to bring that bill before the House so that we can incorporate those further recommendations.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) : The Child and Family Protection Bill enjoyed good and wide discussion and debate, and no small degree of consensus, when it came before the Justice and Electoral Committee.
H V Ross Robertson: I would hope so, Chester.
CHESTER BORROWS: The senior member of the House calls out that he would hope so. It is no real surprise, because a large number of the clauses within the bill had initially been raised under the previous Government in previous legislation.
The discrepancy between the views of the Government and Opposition parties in respect of this bill remains around the age cut-off of 17 and whether the default position should be that any protection order that is in vogue at the time should continue, even if the person concerned moves away from home. The arguments that ran against it see it in a slightly polarised position. The Government’s position remains that when the person over the age of 17 who, as a child, was the subject of a protection order moves away from home on a permanent basis, that order will lapse. But while the person is living at home, either permanently or semi-permanently, it remains valid. This means that a young person who is covered by a protection order and at the age of 17 goes away to university, but lives in the family home during the holidays, continues to be covered. Similarly, a young person who works away from home but spends the weekends in the home would continue to be covered. The young person would be covered indefinitely, as long as he or she continues to live in the home.
The problem we have when we consider the other side of these sorts of disputes is that although a protection order may well be taken out legitimately and obtained through the normal course of proceedings through the Family Court, frequently the children of the household have no say on whether the protection order is taken out and gradually, over time, the need for the protection order may dissipate somewhat. If the young person leaves home at 18 or 19 years of age and sets up in another relationship, goes away for educational purposes and lives permanently somewhere else, or goes away for work purposes, if the protection order could not lapse then the estranged parent would be prevented from ever making any contact by way of email, telephone, letter, visiting, or any other means. It prevents the possibility of a relationship occurring, because any contact is a breach of that order and can be the subject of a complaint. When a young person leaves home and establishes himself or herself independently from the family—sets up his or her own home—that young person may well want to explore that relationship again. If the protection order continues to be in force, the law would prevent that from happening.
We should remember that under the Opposition’s suggestion a young person would be able to withdraw from the protection order. That is quite right, but at the same time we also know that young persons frequently do not pay attention to those sorts of things that impact on their lives. For instance, if protection orders were taken out when children were 7 or 8, then 10 or 15 years later those young persons may well be in a different space. They may want to have some contact with a parent, but their naivety in not withdrawing from that protection order may well mean that any contact that is made—by, say, a father who wants to regain the relationship—means the committing of an offence.
Younger people in their early 20s are probably in a much better position to access protection if they need it. They could access the protection of the authorities if they felt threatened or they needed it. The Government believes that a person of that age is in the right sort of position in terms of maturity to pull away from that protection order, or to reinstate that protection order should he or she desire to do so.
In respect of other matters raised by the previous speaker, Jacinda Ardern, it is important to remember that bills in this area were introduced by the previous Labour Government very, very late in the proceedings. The report back of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6), for instance, was tabled in the House about 2 weeks before the last Parliament rose for the election. The bill had sat on the Order Paper for a number of months without any implementation. We have to remember too that in the run-up to the last election, the previous Government was involved in a number of other bills that, in hindsight, do not appear to have been urgent. If child protection had been at the forefront of its mind, it could have done a lot more about invoking that legislation at that time.
Members opposite can take heart from the fact that the Minister of Justice has taken on a number of Labour’s recommendations and has put them into legislation. This bill, for instance, was the subject of some debate when the short-term protection orders—or police safety orders, as they are now known—were being discussed under the legislation that came out of the Government’s 100-day plan in our first year in office. At that time, when the Justice and Electoral Committee raised with the Minister its concerns around the need for this bill, the Minister undertook that it would be introduced within a year and would come before the select committee.
I am pleased to commend this bill to the House, and I am pleased that it receives wide support from all parties. The Government looks forward to further introductions of more child protection measures in due course, and no doubt they will come from this Government. Thank you.
SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) : Labour supports the Child and Family Protection Bill. Labour supports any measure that aims to mitigate and prevent the harm of domestic violence. However, Labour would say to this Government that this bill is not ambitious enough for our children. Labour believes that this bill is not ambitious enough about protecting children who are the victims of domestic violence. So although Labour supports this legislation, we believe that the Government can, and should, be doing more to mitigate and prevent domestic violence.
I would like to share some statistics on domestic violence in New Zealand that highlight the point we are making—that the Government can, and should, be doing more to prevent domestic violence. In 2008 the police responded to about 83,000 incidents involving some form of domestic violence. Four to 10 percent of New Zealand children experience physical abuse; 24 percent of girls and 11 percent of boys experience sexual abuse. In 2007, 6,400 children were involved in applications for protection orders. Most of those children had witnessed violence. Some had been subjected to violence directly themselves. So New Zealand’s domestic violence rates do not compare well with other OECD countries, and we have the worst rate in the world of child death by maltreatment. A recent report commissioned by Every Child Counts found that child abuse and neglect in New Zealand costs around $2 billion per year.
These statistics would probably mean more to members of the House if one were to sit down and talk to the children who are the victims of domestic violence. Yesterday the Social Services Committee visited a local organisation that provides support, encouragement, counselling, and, indeed, love to a group of young men who range in age from 12 to 19 years. Members of the committee heard, firsthand, the horrific stories of young children. One as young as 4 years old was left to look after younger siblings. They had been abandoned by their parents who were out on a drinking spree, and left to fend for themselves with no food in the cupboards. We heard terrible stories and graphic detail of how children were beaten up, sexually abused, or witnessed the degrading of their mother.
I apologise to the House in advance, but I would like to share some of the stories of the lives of some of these children who are victims of domestic violence, just to make the point. One young man revealed how, at night, a wahine, as he described it, would enter his bedroom and sexually abuse him. He prays to God for help. God does not answer him, and the abuse continues. This young man now hates God. Another said that whenever his dad was drunk, the son would have to sit on the laps of his dad’s friends and he would massage each of his father’s friends. He was 6 years old. He hates his father, but he also needs him. Another young boy, at 9 years old, was raped by his mother’s boyfriend. The boyfriend pushed his head into the mattress and said: “I’m doing this to teach you to respect me.” His mum does not want to know what happened. The boy wishes his dad were alive so he could do something about this guy.
There were also stories of how these young children witnessed the degrading of their mothers. One boy described how his dad tried to kill his mum by pouring gasoline on her while they watched. Their mum is depressed and shuts them out now. Another boy described how his dad gave his mum a beating and she was bleeding all over. This was when he was only 4 years old. His father made him clean up all the blood. Another terrible story I heard yesterday was about a father who likes getting drunk and who beats up his wife and forces her to prostitute. Whenever she finishes taking men, the father insists on knowing all the graphic details of what they did. One time the father forced the mother to have sex with a dog, while he watched. The young daughter who witnessed all this, later in life became a prostitute herself and would beat up the men she was with. She ended up going too far and killed a man, and now she is in prison. Yet another story, just as horrible, is that of a 6-year-old who was beaten by her mother because she could not read. When she played with matches, she was threatened with burning by having her hand held over a lit stove. At 7 years old her father sold her so he could buy alcohol, and she was raped 40 times.
I have recited these stories to underscore how important it is to be ambitious about protecting children from domestic violence and abuse. These stories come from Māori, Pākehā, and Pacific kids. I highlight that fact, as there are many myths about domestic violence. When we read letters in newspapers or blogs on the Internet, or listen to radio talkback shows, we hear a host of myths about domestic violence being regularly promoted. They include suggestions that only drunk or mentally ill men are violent. Others blame women for staying in abusive relationships or provoking the violence against them. The reality is that although some who perpetuate domestic violence are drunks, many are not; some abusers are mentally ill, but many are not. But, most of all, responsibility for abuse must lie with the person who is abusing others. No one ever deserves to be abused, struck, or beaten.
One myth that has proved particularly stubborn to shift has been the suggestion that domestic violence occurs in certain sectors of society and not in others. It is often suggested that domestic violence is something that occurs only in poor neighbourhoods or in Māori and Pacific families. However, as at least one high-profile domestic violence case in recent times has shown, men who physically abuse their partners and children come from all occupations, classes, religions, and ethnicities. Although domestic violence occurs in Māori, Pākehā, Asian, and Pacific families, that does not mean that any one-size-fits-all approach is called for. Domestic violence, whether one is Pākehā or Pasifika, Māori or Asian, is never right. At a Pacific Champions of Change: National Fono on Stopping Violence earlier this year the Governor-General made these remarks: “Cultural norms can never be used as an excuse for violence, whether that be within the family or elsewhere. To those who would argue otherwise, I would respond that the ‘tradition’—and I place the words in quotes—has either been twisted and misinterpreted or simply has no place in New Zealand society. Using a supposed cultural norm as what can be described as a kind of ‘fig leaf’ for domestic violence does more than just disempower victims. It attempts to co-opt the wider cultural and ethnic group into condoning violence and debases that culture’s proud history and traditions and, as such, it brings shame on everyone.”
I come back to my former point and where I began. What I have attempted to highlight is that we have a problem. It is a national problem. It needs to be a collective problem. That is why Labour is supporting this bill. But I say to members on that side of the House that they need to reconsider and look further into the bill that the honourable senior Labour members introduced. That will give some indication to the Minister and the Government of how we can better improve this bill, and be ambitious about protecting our kids. That is what we strongly recommend to this Parliament.
Finally—and I note that my time is up—YouthLaw Tino Rangatiratanga Taitamariki made a submission, which I simply want to highlight because it is significant and we support it. The bill needs to amend the definition of child within the Domestic Violence Act to include young people under the age of 18. That brings us into line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : The Green Party—like, I believe, every other party in this Chamber—is very pleased to be supporting the Child and Family Protection Bill, but we agree with previous speakers that it does not go nearly far enough in protecting children who are victims of domestic violence. Su’a William Sio has really grounded this debate by telling us those horrific stories. We need to hear them to realise the horror of what we are dealing with and the need for this Parliament to do everything that it possibly can to help protect victims of domestic violence.
We agree, obviously, that protection orders should continue to apply to children when they turn 17, but also we think that they should continue beyond when children turn 17, whether or not they reside with an applicant. Really, it should be up to young people themselves to decide that a protection order is no longer required. We will strongly support amendments to extend the age limit—certainly to the age of 18—because surely the threshold should be in keeping with New Zealand’s responsibilities under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would be to set it at 18.
We very much support the idea of extending the definition of violence to include psychological abuse. We have just heard stories of psychological abuse. It is absolutely critical that that provision goes through. We also agree that it is important to make the amendments that are proposed in this bill to the Adoption Act so that New Zealand can ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
We will be supporting this bill, and we will be supporting amendments to strengthen it. We agree that it is just a first step, a baby step, for Parliament in terms of extending protection to children who are the victims of domestic violence, and that a great deal is still left for this Parliament to do.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : That was a powerful speech indeed from the Labour member Su’a William Sio, and I agree with much—almost all—of what he said. We do have a national problem and we should be ambitious about it. He graphically, but necessarily, gave us some powerful examples of the kind of abuse children in this country face, see, and have perpetrated against them.
When I was a prosecutor, I prosecuted a large number of sexual cases like the ones that the member opposite talked about. I remember cases of daughters being raped from pre-pubescence to their late teens, and those rapes were enforced by regular beatings from the start. It was tempting to think then—and I do not have the facts and the figures before me now—that we had an epidemic of abuse in this country. That is a national shame.
As I said, I accept that we should be ambitious about this problem, but I will also pose another challenge. I hope this does not sound like a cop-out, because it is not meant to be; Parliament should face up to the problem fair and square and do what it can about it. But it should be put on record how deeply complex abuse is and how deeply it runs in parts of our society. Just as law change may be required, and we are doing some of that today, there is also very much a need for deep cultural and societal changes.
Let me give members an example from when I prosecuted these kinds of cases that I thought of as I was sitting here—and I am talking about serious cases. One I recall resulted in a 17-year imprisonment for rape charges, which is right up there with the longest sentences for rape in the country. There were two or three in that category because the rapes had occurred over a period of years. Newspapers and other media in this country were not interested in covering those cases. They were too real, they were too graphic, and they were too nasty. Maybe they said something about our society and what is happening in this country that we do not want to know.
I accept much of what my Labour colleague said about how this is an area of shame for our country, but I say as well that while law reform is called for, there is a wider societal issue that people other than politicians can show leadership on, whether they are from the media or from organisations that already show a leadership role in relation to this area, such as the organisations involved in the Every Child Counts campaign.
I will not say that the Child and Family Protection Bill will solve all the problems that we have in this area, but it is a quality bill that amends a number of Acts: the Domestic Violence Act, the Care of Children Act, and the Adoption Act. It does that, as I think it says in the purpose clause, to provide for the welfare of children. Those changes will make some difference. As we talk about the welfare of children and families, I will give a thought to the trauma that children and families are facing after the Christchurch earthquake. The biggest eye-opener to me about that earthquake has been the toll on children and families, the trauma that has come from lack of sleep because of the aftershocks, and the fear that children face. We heard from Amy Adams about that yesterday and about how it leads to parents being tired, emotional, and traumatised themselves. It was in the newspapers earlier this week that the pressures from this earthquake—and I in no way excuse it—have led to much higher levels of domestic violence in Christchurch. That is in no way excusable, but it perhaps gives us some understanding of the pressures in families that lead to understandable—but not right—outbreaks of violence.
In response to Su’a William Sio’s speech I have departed from some of the things I wanted to say in this speech. I will finish with this related topic: the changes to the Adoption Act. I spoke about them in the first reading of this bill. I have felt for some time that child trafficking is a problem on the rise in the world we live in. It is a very serious and growing problem, and we are—again—not doing everything that could be done about that in this bill. But we are making some changes that bring our laws in this country into greater rationalisation with other countries, and that is a good thing.
I suppose this may seem like a strange or random thought, but I thought about the Prime Minister’s comments some time ago about boat people and the inevitability of boat people reaching these shores. There is a global trend towards boat refugees and the like, and it is inevitable that at some point they will come to our country. We could say the same thing about the child trafficking that we see around the world. In poor countries in Africa and in other continents, parents are being tricked, and children are being tricked into child slavery, sexual slavery, and all sorts of hideous forms of bondage. We could see that happening in this country and we should not be complacent about it.
On another tangent, I note George Hawkins’ Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill. Although his bill has lots of practical issues to be sorted through during the select committee process—and I have not decided how I will vote finally—it relates to this issue in a funny sort of way. We cannot be complacent in terms of child trafficking and other such issues in this country.
The Child and Family Protection Bill does not solve everything, but at least it puts forward some steps and makes some good changes that I hope will enhance child welfare in this nation.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Roy. Kia ora tātou katoa. I have been listening to the stories that Su’a William Sio—talofa lava—presented to the House today. I recognise that people like Simon Bridges have had to prosecute people involved in some of the incidents that have been described. It is pretty hard to sit and listen to some of those issues. It pretty much turns me off; I do not want to hear any more. I want to get rid of it and get it out of sight and out of mind.
Having said that, I have been involved with and seen some of these issues amongst my own whānau—not to the degree that has been presented today, thank goodness, but bad enough—such as cases of husbands hitting wives. I am not talking about very close family, but about being in a household where it happened. Those stories bring it all home. In that regard, I am sure it will come as no surprise across the House when we all say that the protection and the best interests of our tamariki and their families is of the utmost importance to us all. That is the declared position of the Māori Party.
During the last couple of days we have talked about section 59 of the Crimes Act—we heard from Mr Garrett and others last night—and about the importance of our tamariki, and in particular our wāhine, and looking after them as te whare tangata. I suppose today I am reiterating many of those discussion points. As I have said in the past—actually, at the start of the week—it is inspiring to know that within our waiata, our haka, and our kōrero in Te Ao Māori there are stories that tell us about the world we have now. Indeed, we have not just the stories but also wharenui. In wharenui we have tukutuku, the coloured panels one might see. There are patterns like kaokao, which are stylised armpit designs that for many represent a parent’s comfort and protection of their children. All the stories are there, whether they are able to be seen in wharenui or in terms of haka, waiata, and poi. As I say, there has to be a real commitment to move back to those concepts while recognising, of course, the statistics in respect of Māori.
I hear from Su’a William Sio that this issue is not solely the preserve of the Māori people but reaches across the country. I will talk for my own people, simply because we have those stories and we need to move back to regaining our tikanga, our own kōrero, and our mātauranga. We are certainly trying to promote that through Parliament but also in terms of a presentation of kaupapa to our people.
We support the intention of this bill: to provide more protection for children who are the victims of domestic violence, to ensure that family courts can manage concurrent proceedings involving children appropriately, and to reduce administrative barriers to court processes. As other speakers have alluded to, the bill gives significance to addressing the needs of children and young people once there has been an incident. Everybody has been talking about the fact that we need to look at that, and in particular at the instances of domestic violence. The Māori Party totally supports the focus on recognising the interests and rights of children exposed to all forms of family violence, including psychological abuse, and we welcome the move to increase consistency between the Domestic Violence Act and the Care of Children Act regarding the day-to-day care of children and contact arrangements for children when violence is present or where an allegation of violence is made. For far too long children have been huddled in fear in a corner, watching on as a violent incident has gone unchecked. Any moves to address that are important.
All we do in failing to address the protection of children is breed another generation of what the justice sector likes to call victims and perpetrators. We prefer to focus on a pathway forward, te ara tikanga, and that is a vision that focuses on whānau ora and the well-being of whānau members. But we must not forget the need for preventive mechanisms, which ought to be put in place to ensure as far as possible that violence does not occur in the first place. We would like to see a greater investment in preventive measures to avoid incidents of violence against children.
I would be interested to hear from the Minister of Justice about the progress of the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, which has remained on the Order Paper since its introduction in September 2008. The Domestic Violence Reform Bill includes examples of provisions for preventive measures that could be considered. In particular, the scope of eligibility for people to attend State-funded domestic violence programmes and parenting courses ought to be broadened to ensure that the widest whānau circle can be involved.
I note today that a person in my electorate, Grace Dorset, has been working amongst the community for a very long time asking for more resources to assist in dealing with domestic violence issues, in particular for programmes that are focused on the men themselves. I note that there was a press statement of that nature today in the Daily Post back in Rotorua in respect of the work that Grace is doing, and we fully endorse that work.
For Māori it is essential to understand that violence occurs within a broader whānau and social context, and it is complicated by a range of factors and influences. It is time to open up the curtains on violence and expose it to the light of day. The Māori Party is currently working on some initiatives that we hope we might be able to advance either through Minister Paula Bennett, through the Minister of Māori Affairs, or through Minister Turia. We are interested in empowering whānau to determine their own solutions, which is, of course, at the heart of Whānau Ora, giving the whānau time to put things in order and have a life without violence before the State enters into the whole scenario.
I wanted to raise another issue, and that is the relevance of the 1955 Adoption Act. I have been interested in the recommendation from the Children’s Commissioner, John Angus, that a comprehensive review of the Adoption Act itself is long overdue. I note that although this bill proposes a specific amendment to the Adoption Act that will increase penalties for those offering or accepting financial gain for adoption, it neglects to take up the opportunity to look at the bigger picture around adoption.
Māori have frequently raised the view that adoption is a legal fiction, meaning that one can never, and should never, artificially separate a child from knowledge of its birth parents or its whakapapa—its family tree. We would be interested in further discussion around the options of shared guardianship or enduring guardianship where birth parents and whakapapa are valued, and, indeed, around the uniquely Māori concept of whāngai. We would welcome the Minister’s views on the concept of adoption within this discussion of child protection, because protection of whakapapa and the value of whanaungatanga is clearly important to us.
Other aspects to this bill include the mechanism to strengthen the legal framework against international trafficking of children and their commercial exploitation. We, of course, wholeheartedly support that provision. The bill also reduces the risk of children being wrongfully removed from New Zealand, which is another feature that we strongly support. But I refer one further anomaly to the Minister. The amendments to the Immigration Act enacted in November 2009 have effectively cancelled the rights afforded to New Zealand citizen children whose parents are overstayers. The number of New Zealand citizen children affected by these amendments is believed to be more than 1,000, so it is an important issue. Basically, the removal of overstayer parents has resulted in the de facto removal of citizen children by the State, in doing so sacrificing their citizenship right. I would like the Minister’s assurance that that issue could be looked at.
To conclude, despite the issues before us, we definitely support the bill and we look forward to further debate.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : I have listened to the speeches on the Child and Family Protection Bill and I think we all agree that this is an important issue. It is an issue that we take seriously across all sides of the House. There are very few things that we can agree on, but we can agree that there is a great need to still do a lot to address the domestic violence that is occurring in our country. Labour has a strong track record on domestic violence prevention. However, we acknowledge that despite what we have done in this area, domestic violence remains a problem for many New Zealanders and more needs to be done. We will support this bill, but we do so with some reservations because we do not believe that it goes far enough.
Before I get into the detail of the bill, I acknowledge all the organisations out there that work collaboratively and tirelessly to resolve issues around domestic violence and that work with and alongside the victims of domestic or family violence. A number of them could be mentioned, but I make special mention of the collaborative efforts being undertaken by the Waitakere Taskforce on Family Violence. This task force includes Waitakere Anti Violence Essential Services, Waitakere Abuse and Trauma Counselling Services, Man Alive, Viviana, and Violence Free Waitakere. The Waitakere police are part of this task force, as is the Waitakere City Council Mayor, Bob Harvey. In fact, I think it was with his leadership that this task force began, which the Deputy Mayor, Penny Hulse, is also part of. It really is impressive because it is a collaborative group working together to ensure that the way in which this issue is addressed and is resolved in the long term is through collaborative efforts. Everyone knows what everyone is doing, and everyone is working together to address this. I took Annette King to meet with the task force last week and she was equally impressed. She saw the impressive collaborative efforts going on amongst the group and the commitment on this issue that it demonstrated to the families and children of Waitakere and to the community overall, so I really do acknowledge those people before I get into the detail of my speech.
I will talk about some of the background to domestic violence. It is incredibly shocking. I will give the House some of the statistics on domestic violence in New Zealand. In 2008, the police responded to 82,692 incidents involving some form of domestic violence. Four to 10 percent of New Zealand children experience physical abuse. Twenty-four percent of girls and 11 percent of boys experience sexual abuse. In 2007, 6,400 children were involved in applications for protection orders. Most of these children had witnessed violence and some had been subjected to violence directly. New Zealand’s domestic violence rates do not compare well with those of other OECD countries and we have the worst rate in the world of child death by maltreatment. A recent report commissioned by Every Child Counts found that child abuse and neglect in New Zealand costs about $2 billion per year. Those are just some of the statistics in relation to this issue.
Labour, of course, supports any measures to prevent and mitigate the harm of domestic violence. However, in our minds this bill is not ambitious enough and will fail to achieve its aim. We suggest that the Government progress Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill, which is languishing at the bottom of the Order Paper. The National-led Government prides itself on its record in this area, claiming that this is another bill to protect victims of domestic violence. When questioned about why Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill has not been progressed yet, Simon Power claimed that the Ministry of Justice has insufficient resources. In 2008, the Labour Government introduced the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, and this legislation, as I said, is still on the Order Paper. In the build-up to that bill, whilst it was being pulled together, extensive consultation and research took place. As far as we are concerned on this side of the House, because it is an issue that we all take seriously, National really does need to put aside politics and ensure that the bill is pushed through. National should have put aside politics to ensure that the bill was speedily progressed through Parliament, and it is unfortunate that that did not happen.
The reality is that this bill was languishing at the bottom of the Order Paper when the National Government thought measures like the 90-day trial, fire-at-will bill was something that urgently needed to be put into place in the Government’s first 100 days. That is the reality, when really something like Labour’s domestic violence bill should have been given priority. The Government has progressed other domestic violence legislation, but as I said before it does not go far enough. National members claim not to have the resources to progress the other provisions, yet they have the resources to give tax cuts to the wealthiest chunk of New Zealanders out there. It makes us question what the Government’s priorities are.
The Child and Family Protection Bill omits five important changes included in Labour’s domestic violence legislation. Labour’s bill changes the definition of “child” in the Domestic Violence Act 1995 to that of someone under the age of 18. In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, currently a child is anyone under 17. This bill does not provide the court with the power to direct attendance to an addiction treatment programme, whereas Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill does give the Family Court this power. Labour’s bill introduces a provision requiring any judge who declines without notice an application for a protection order to provide written reasons for declining the application, enabling the applicant to decide whether to proceed on notice. National’s bill does not include a similar provision. Labour’s proposals make provision for applicants to be able to attend information sessions, which would provide advice on making effective use of protection orders and advice on any social assistance that may be available. Labour’s bill contains better protections and provisions to applicants for discharge of protection orders, and it allows the court to order reports if necessary.
Simon Power says he intends to progress the remaining provisions of the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, but Labour would really like to know when that will happen and why there is a hold-up. If in theory Simon Power supports the provisions that are in Labour’s bill, then there should be no reason to delay it, particularly given the statistics I opened with when I started this speech. Judith Collins issued a media release on 1 October 2009 saying that National’s two new bills would tackle the evil of family violence, but neither she nor Simon Power have explained how the omission of those five changes will improve things.
Labour members on the Justice and Electoral Committee believe that young people who are over 17, and who were protected by an order when they were children, should continue to be protected as long as they want to be. But National members believe that protection orders should protect children only while they live with an applicant.
Labour will be supporting the bill, but I have stated very clearly what our reservations are regarding it. We are concerned that our domestic violence bill is still languishing at the bottom of the Order Paper, and we plead with the Government to take it seriously. We know that Government members are concerned about the levels of domestic violence and the well-being of families and children, just as we are. We know that they are concerned, so we hope, therefore, that they will find a way of pushing through our Domestic Violence Reform Bill in a speedy manner.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) : I stand to support the second reading of the Child and Family Protection Bill. Since this National-led Government, under the leadership of the Rt Hon John Key, was established, it has made a commitment to strengthen the ability of the courts to act to protect children and families from all forms of violence. The Government has sought amendments to the Domestic Violence Act 1995 to provide greater protection for children and victims of domestic violence, with the introduction of programmes that are more responsive to their needs. This is met by the introduction of a protection order that applies for the benefit of a child, often applicable until the age of 17 years. It is important to recognise that young people are still children when 17 years old and still require the protection of the law contained in this bill.
This bill also allows registrars to require offenders to attend a Stopping Violence Services programme. Previously only a judge could do that. A change in the Adoption Act has also been initiated. It creates a new offence of improperly inducing consent for the adoption of a child, and that is to be punishable by a term of imprisonment up to 7 years. We have to ensure that the law is thoroughly effective to prevent the illegal trafficking of children, which is a worldwide dilemma. This bill also enhances the protection of children who are at risk from being wrongfully removed from New Zealand. It delivers on the Government’s commitment to protect the welfare and best interests of children internationally. This Government is committed to looking after the welfare of children. The amendments proposed by this bill will improve the safety of children in New Zealand.
As most of us are probably aware, police are called to about 80,000 domestic violence incidents each year. With over 200 women and children killed from domestic violence over the last 12 years, it is clear that New Zealand is facing an epidemic of domestic violence. One woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner every 5 weeks, and annually the Women’s Refuge helps about 20,000 women. It is tragic that about 10 children per year are killed in domestic violence incidents, and more are injured. The Child and Family Protection Bill is a continuation of this Government’s ongoing commitment to dealing effectively with family violence. This Government has not stopped working on addressing the issue of domestic violence. Children are harmed by seeing, hearing, or living with violence in the home. Exposure to psychological abuse can be just as damaging as any other form of violence. The number of children suffering from psychological abuse is increasing in New Zealand, or perhaps it is just that now we are taking it more seriously. This change in the legislation will ensure that those children are taken into account, and it allows the courts to look at psychological abuse in as serious a light as they do physical and sexual abuse.
In conclusion, the ultimate aim of the legislation, along with the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill 2008, is to ensure that the victims are placed at the heart of the justice system. This Government intends on sending a clear message that offences against children are not acceptable. We are working hard to reduce violence in our community, and with this bill we are a step closer.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) : I do not think there is any argument in this House that we have a problem in New Zealand with family violence. We have one of the lowest ratings in the OECD, and we have the highest rate for child death by maltreatment in the world. I was in the Solomon Islands recently and I spent some time with New Zealand police who are serving up there with Operation RAMSI, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands. They go out on patrol with the local Solomon Islands police. The problem of violence against women and children is particularly acute in the Pacific Islands.
Typically, the New Zealand police would be called out to a domestic violence incident in the suburbs of Honiara, and they say the situation is very much like New Zealand’s situation 30 to 35 years ago. The courts and the police force do not take domestic violence very seriously. The issue of women getting beaten up in the home is considered to be a domestic issue and therefore not appropriate for legal intervention. The police were shocked by the situation there.
We can all reflect on how far New Zealand has come on this issue in the space of a generation. We have come a long way. In our lifetimes there has been a massive change, but the statistics that colleagues this afternoon have read out in the House and the stories that Su’a William Sio recounted are a reminder of just how shocking the problem is in New Zealand and how far we have to go. That is why Labour will support the Child and Family Protection Bill. This bill takes us further ahead. It gives more tools to the courts to reduce the harm of family violence, but it does not go far enough, and that is the shame of this bill. Labour wishes the bill were more ambitious, but it is not, sadly.
I remind members of the object of the Domestic Violence Act 1995, which is one of the Acts this bill seeks to amend. Section 5(1) of the Act states: “The object of this Act is to reduce and prevent violence in domestic relationships by—(a) recognising that domestic violence, in all its forms, is unacceptable behaviour; and (b) ensuring that, where domestic violence occurs, there is effective legal protection for its victims.” Amongst submitters to the Justice and Electoral Committee, and amongst agencies, non-governmental organisations, Government agencies all around New Zealand, and the general public there is an extraordinary degree of consensus behind the object of the Act. We should be trying to strengthen the legislation, and it is a shame that this bill does not go far enough.
I want to talk about clause 6, which is problematic, and I will respond to some of the comments that were made by Chester Borrows earlier in this debate. The bill extends protection under the Domestic Violence Act 1995, and it amends section 16 of that Act, making it clear that a protection order applies for the benefit of a child of an applicant until the child reaches the age of 17, unless that order is discharged sooner. The select committee recommended amending clause 6 to provide that the child of the applicant’s family would not be required to apply to the court for a direction, and that the protection order should continue for the child’s benefit after he or she turns 17 while he or she continues to ordinarily or periodically reside with the applicant. The select committee was agreed on that point, and it has been reflected in the bill that has come back before the House.
However, there is disagreement over whether the provisions should apply after the young person leaves the home of the applicant. It is the view of the Labour and Green members of the committee that there should not be a time limit; that if a young person leaves home, goes to university or wherever, the protection order as it applies to that young person should not automatically expire; and that it should be up to that young person to make their own decision about whether they wish to continue to be covered by a protection order.
We heard Chester Borrows say that, typically, when young people turn 17 they move away and the need for the protection order dissipates. I do not know how the member could know that the need for a protection order dissipates. Should young people not be allowed to make that decision for themselves? Mr Borrows said that 17-year-olds are mature enough to make a decision about reinstating a protection order. I challenge that view, and I ask members to put themselves in the shoes of a young man or woman who has grown up with a violent and controlling father. Turning 17 or 18 does not make someone less scared of that person or less vulnerable to control. I think young people would be put in an extremely difficult situation if they were required by law, if they want to continue that protection after their 17th birthday, to actively make the decision to go to the court, go through the legal process, and seek another protection order. In that case, the law would potentially be putting that young person in grave danger.
If we are serious about the intent of this legislation, which is to give people proper, substantial legal protection and give young people, in this case, the chance to live a life free of fear and violence, then I challenge the Government’s judgment on this provision.
There are a number of provisions in Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill—which, as my colleague Carmel Sepuloni noted, has been left at the bottom of the Order Paper—that we believe could have, and should have, been included in this bill, but the opportunity has been missed. This bill is weaker than it could have been. As far as we can tell, there is no good reason for those provisions to be omitted. Let me touch on them. One concerns the definition of “child” in the Domestic Violence Act. Under our current law a child is a person under the age of 17. Labour’s bill would raise the age from 17 to 18, and that would be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
One of the other provisions we think should have been included in this bill is one that would require any judge who declines a so-called application without notice for a protection order to provide written reasons for declining that application. An order without notice is commonly used. This means that a protection order is given against someone who allegedly has been committing acts of violence against the applicant, and it relates to situations where the evidence is sufficiently strong and the risk is sufficiently great that the order is given without any prior notice or warning to the alleged perpetrator.
The problem with that kind of provision is that judges who are not required to give a written reason for declining an application can then set in train a sequence of events that would put the applicant, who is usually a woman, at risk again. If the judge was required to give a reason, the applicant would be able to engage and bring more information in order to make the case again. Without that, the risk is that sometimes a sequence of events is set in train that would result in notice being given, and that can put the woman at risk. We think that that would have been a sound provision, and there is no good reason that I can think of, or that I have heard of, for it to be omitted.
Labour members support this bill. We think it will strengthen the law in some key areas, but it is just a shame that the Government has not gone further and been more ambitious.
PAUL QUINN (National) : It does not give me pleasure to speak on the Child and Family Protection Bill, and the reason is that it is a sad indictment on society that we have to deal with this sort of stuff. I do not disagree with the examples we heard earlier from Su’a William Sio and the personal experiences of Te Ururoa Flavell. They are sad; there is no question about that. But the sadder situation is the fact that we have to try to legislate for them. In my view, although legislation may do something, the bottom line is that ultimately we cannot legislate against evil.
Phil Twyford: We can do good.
PAUL QUINN: I say to Phil that we cannot. We cannot legislate against evil. In the same way, we cannot legislate against stupidity. We can provide some tools, and that is what this bill does.
The reason I say that in terms of legislating against evil and against stupidity is that I have been disappointed to hear from the Opposition what I believe to be political point-scoring on a very serious matter. The Opposition members said that this bill is OK, but asked why the Domestic Violence Reform Bill is not further up the Order Paper.
Hon Steve Chadwick: There’s another bill on the statute book, that’s all.
PAUL QUINN: I ask the junior Opposition whip, when she was the constituent member for her former electorate, what the date was of the Nia Glassie occurrence. I will let her know: it was August 2007. When was the brilliant legislation that that member claims is so wonderful brought into this House? It was September 2008. It was more than a year later. Yet that member sits there and lectures us about not doing a good enough job.
Chris Hipkins: What a disgraceful speech.
PAUL QUINN: It is not a disgraceful speech; it is facing some of the realities of the politicisation of this matter that members on that side of the House have brought to this debate. I have no qualms—
Chris Hipkins: Grow up.
PAUL QUINN: The boy tells me to grow up. The boy from Upper Hutt tells me to grow up. I suggest that that member gets out of his little shorts and goes out and earns in a proper job for the first time, instead of sitting at the trough of the taxpayer for the whole of his life—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): I remind the member that all members in this House are honourable members. He should proceed with his speech. [Interruption]
PAUL QUINN: Thank you for your direction, Mr Assistant Speaker—
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. An interjection like that cannot be allowed to stand. You have just made a ruling. A member cannot comment on your ruling, regardless of whether it is by way of interjection.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): I am sorry, but I did not hear the interjection. I ask whether the member said something that was inappropriate.
Hon Rodney Hide: No.
Chris Hipkins: Yes, he did.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): The member has taken offence, so the member who made the interjection will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Rodney Hide: I withdraw and apologise to the boy.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Eric Roy): The member will withdraw and apologise without qualification, or he will find himself in serious trouble.
Hon Rodney Hide: I apologise and withdraw.
PAUL QUINN: In any event, it is sad that legislation like this comes before the House. I accept that society, as represented by this House, has a responsibility to provide some protections. But sadly it cannot protect against evil, and in most of these cases it is evil when this sort of situation occurs.
I do not have much more to say on this bill. We have had some discussion on the difference between the ages of 17 and 18 with regard to defining who is a child, but, in my view, that is not a fundamental issue. I ask what the difference is between the ages of 18 and 19, or 19 and 20. The age is a line in the sand. The simple fact of the matter is that the Justice and Electoral Committee has provided its report, it has given reasons for its recommendations, and I am very happy to support those recommendations. Thank you.
- Bill read a second time.
Identity Information Confirmation Bill
- Debate resumed from 7 September.
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs) : I will make a brief contribution to conclude what I was saying when I last spoke on the Identity Information Confirmation Bill. It is a very, very important bill; it will reduce compliance costs. It will allow private and public sector agencies to verify a person’s identity. That has to be done with an individual’s consent. The Privacy Commissioner has looked very closely at this legislation and will continue to monitor it once it comes back from the Government Administration Committee and is passed into law. It is vitally important to get this bill moving through the select committee process. I commend this bill to the House.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : I am very happy to take a call on the Identity Information Confirmation Bill, and I congratulate the Minister of Internal Affairs on bringing it to the House. The Labour Party will be supporting this bill at its first reading. We do so not completely without reservations. I will be interested in hearing some of the evidence on this bill when it comes before the Government Administration Committee, because making more information available on people’s personal identities is a pretty sensitive issue. One of the things that I am anxious about is that in making more information about people’s personal identities available in order to combat identity fraud, we do not want to inadvertently increase the opportunities for identity fraud. The information that we are making available could well do that. I will be looking quite carefully at what controls are in place.
This bill has never been more important. Personal information, like date of birth, address, mother’s maiden name, passwords, and so on, is now as valuable as money. Those things I have just mentioned provide enough information to enable someone to open a bank account, apply for a credit card, get a loan, and do a whole lot of other things. When we think about how difficult it would be to track down that type of information about somebody, it probably would not be hard at all. I think identity fraud will potentially become an increasing issue, as 42 percent of New Zealand businesses were impacted or affected by identity fraud in the past year and the New Zealand Police identified 900 cases of identity fraud last year. The police believe, and I am sure it is true, that that is only a fraction of the identity fraud that is taking place.
Of course, the highest-profile case of identity fraud that we saw was the one that the Minister alluded to in his first reading speech in the House on Tuesday night. This was the high-profile identity fraud case of Wayne Thomas Patterson, who was sentenced to 8 years in prison after being convicted of using over 123 different identities to steal $3.4 million in benefits in 2007. That is a heck of a lot of money—$3.4 million, spread across 123 identities. As the Minister pointed out, having this kind of identity verification service in place would have helped to prevent something like that from taking place. I think Work and Income could have done a number of other things to prevent that fraud from taking place, as 123 separate identities is an awful lot of identities for one person to get away with presenting. I would have thought Work and Income could have done some other things that might have picked up that fraud a little before then, but, either way, this bill seems to be a step in the right direction.
I want to run through some of the comments the Minister made in his speech and respond to them. I understand from his speech that it will be a web-based system, run by the Department of Internal Affairs. It will allow organisations to check whether information presented to them is consistent with the information held by the department. The three major sources of that information are citizens’ registers, the passport database, and Births, Deaths and Marriages. As a result, this will allow businesses and other organisations to increase the level of confidence they have in the identity information that is presented to them. I think, by and large, that is a good thing. There will always be some anxiety when it comes to opening up personal records that Government departments hold on individual citizens, and that is one of the reasons why I think it is very important that the person whose information is being released must consent to having the information released. I understand from the Minister’s speech, and from my reading of the legislation as it now stands, that that is a requirement. Someone has to consent to his or her information being released, and that is good. That is one positive step, and there will be others that we will want to look at.
The other interesting point put forward by the Minister was that an organisation must maintain another process for dealing with a person who does not provide a consent to the check. An organisation cannot withhold a service, a product, or whatever simply because a person has refused to sign a form saying that the organisation could get the identity information from the department. I think that is an important safeguard. Whatever the business, the agency, or whoever involved, it could not say to someone: “You either sign this, or you’re out.” The organisation still has to have an alternative system for tracking somebody’s identity. I imagine that 99 percent of New Zealanders will not have a problem, if the information they are presenting is true and accurate, with signing something and saying that this is their identity and the organisation is welcome to check it with the Department of Internal Affairs. Having that safeguard in place is very important.
I will be interested in what liability this may create for the department if the information it ends up giving out is potentially incorrect. One of the things about data matching is that it is not 100 percent reliable. As a constituent member of Parliament, I dealt with an immigration and citizenship case of somebody whom the Immigration Service claimed had been out of the country for such a long period that it could not give that person residency. It was a challenge. The guy had payslips to demonstrate that he had been in the country and working during all that time, but somebody else with the same name had left the country during that period. That fact had been recorded by the Immigration Service as this man having left, not that other person. This person was being told that he could not apply for residency because he had not been here for the required period. When we think about these things, we find it is really important that we have a system in place to make sure that the data being is given out is very reliable.
We need to think carefully about what liabilities there may be for the department. For example, if somebody did not get a job on suspicion that there was some identity fraud going on, or the person was denied a service on the basis that there may have been some identity fraud going on and it turned out that that was not true, then what would the potential liabilities be? I will be particularly interested in that issue when the bill comes before the select committee.
I will also be particularly interested in the comments of the Privacy Commissioner, because obviously when we are dealing with people’s personal information there are some really significant issues around privacy. What the Privacy Commissioner has to say will be really important for the select committee and for Parliament. One of the things the Minister suggested in his first reading speech was that this bill has safeguards in place to ensure that individuals retain the control over their own information and how it is being used. Again, that is really important from a privacy perspective. Organisations that enter into agreements with the Department of Internal Affairs to access this information will have to sign contracts on processes in place, how it will use the information, and so on. That is another safeguard that the bill puts in place, which is very good.
The bill establishes for a generic agreement—or template, if you like—to be set up by the department. That can then be used with different organisations and for the Privacy Commissioner to have a role in checking and reviewing that. The Privacy Commissioner will be able to order that it be reviewed if she sees that that is necessary. That is a welcome safeguard, and one that Labour will certainly be supporting. The Privacy Commissioner, at her request, can request a report on the operation of the service, which would include statistics on how many people present information that is inconsistent with the records of the departments. Once again, I think that will help pick up on cases where there may be an error or bug in the system, and so on. When we are dealing with people’s individual identities, it is really, really important that we get it right and that someone is not accused of stealing someone else’s identity if, in fact, the person has not done so.
Overall, at this point in the proceedings the Labour Party is happy to support the bill to the select committee. We look forward to hearing what the Privacy Commissioner has to say. I imagine there will be a number of civil libertarian groups around the country that will want to have a say. I will be interested to hear what groups like the Law Commission and Law Society may want to contribute, if anything, on this bill. It is an interesting bill. Anything that helps us to crack down on what I think will be an emerging issue—that of identity fraud—is something we should welcome. With those conditions in mind, the Labour Party is happy to vote for this bill to go to the select committee.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) : The Identity Information Confirmation Bill, which at first glance is seemingly pretty dry legislation, is going to the Government Administration Committee. But it is actually—
Chris Hipkins: Do we get any other kind?
JACQUI DEAN: Yes. My colleague across the House queries whether we get any other kind. This bill is actually quite important because it will help ensure compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.
These are important issues. Identity fraud is an emerging international concern for many agencies. This bill will enhance and make easier identity checks, in line with the provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act. The bill will help prevent the use of fake identities that somebody else has created. That is an incredibly important issue for us in New Zealand.
- Debate interrupted.
- The House adjourned at 6 p.m.