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Volume 674, Week 79 - Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Questions to Ministers
State-owned Assets, Sales—Ownership of Shares
1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Did his Minister of Finance refer to him a Treasury report dated 4 March 2011 and entitled Extending the Mixed Ownership Model which says with respect to privatising shares in publicly-owned assets that “significant participation by foreign investors will be essential to achieve the Government’s overall objectives”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes, I did receive that report. However, the Government has a slightly different balance of objectives than Treasury might have presumed in that report. Treasury placed a bit more emphasis on the proceeds to be gained from the sale, but the Government actually places more emphasis on widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership. We think it is achievable, given the likely strong demand for shares from the likes of KiwiSaver funds, Crown financial institutions, and Kiwi mums and dads. By holding a stake of more than 50 percent, the Government will ensure there is always majority New Zealand ownership.
Hon Phil Goff: What explanation has Mr English given to the Prime Minister for Mr English telling the House last Thursday, that he, Mr English, had never received that advice from Treasury that significant investment by foreign investors was essential to the Government’s overall objectives?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: He told me the same thing that I am sure he would have told that member if he had asked. The question was phrased by Mr Mallard in relation to Mr English’s plans. His plans are to ensure that there is widespread New Zealand ownership, not to maximise the share price by flogging shares off to foreigners, as Phil Goff did when he was running the show.
Hon Phil Goff: When Mr English was heading into talks with the China Investment Corporation, did the Prime Minister advise Mr English that he should not promote the sale of State asset shares to sovereign wealth funds, notwithstanding Treasury advice that this would push up the value and price of those shares?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I did not. The reason I did not is that we would not want to disappoint the China Investment Corporation. It would know, like we know, that New Zealanders will be snapping up those shares, not Chinese people.
Hon Phil Goff: Will he be ignoring Treasury advice that selling privatised shares to foreign investors will increase their value, and therefore prevent the sale or onsale to foreign investors, including sovereign wealth funds, of New Zealand shares in those assets?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I will be ignoring its advice, in just the same way as the leader of the Labour Party obviously followed advice when it came to election publications and what was the appropriate use of parliamentary funds.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Prime Minister insists on making extraneous comments, you will get disorder.
Mr SPEAKER: The member raises a perfectly fair point that the information given in an answer should relate to the question.
Hon Phil Goff: If he sells shares in State assets to local investors at a lower price, what action will he take to stop those local investors flicking on those shares at a higher price to foreign investors, which is exactly what happened when Contact Energy shares were sold?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member raises an interesting question, which we have also raised with Treasury. A number of options might be available to the Government to ensure that that is not the case.
Hon Phil Goff: Can the Prime Minister explain what those options are?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not today.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister really saying to the House that he has no idea at all, and that, actually, he intends those shares to end up in the hands of foreign investors?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, it means that the Government is considering advice from Treasury. If we want to start talking about things, why does Phil Goff not talk about his capital gains tax today?
Rahui Katene: To the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Before I go to the question, I will deal with the interjection on my left. The member should go to the transcript and look at the question. If he thinks the answer was outrageous, he should look at the question.
Rahui Katene: Does he agree with Ngāi Tahu leader Mark Solomon that anyone who wants our assets to stay under New Zealand control should be encouraging the Government to set up partnerships with Māori as the perfect partner; if so, why is it necessary to look offshore when we have multigenerational and credible investment options right here at home?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I agree with Mark Solomon that Māori have proven, as they have gained assets through the Treaty settlements process, that they are very keen investors in New Zealand and are actually very long-term investors in New Zealand.
Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister gave Contact Energy as an example in this House of how to sell shares to local investors, was he aware that nearly two-thirds of the shares sold to those small investors are now in the hands of foreign and corporate investors; if so, how will he stop that happening if he is given the chance to privatise further shares in State power companies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me deal with the first part of the question. I am not sure whether the member has ever heard this before, but there is a very interesting article by Pattrick Smellie, called “A Loyal Bunch”, and if members will allow me to read it for just a few moments: “One of the less defensible criticisms of the Key Gov’s partial privatisation”—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is all very interesting to hear what Pattrick Smellie might have to say, but there is a specific question: was he aware that two-thirds of those shares ended up in the hands of foreign and corporate investors; if so, how would he stop that happening? Mr Smellie’s quote has nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s intentions.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order is being considered. The question is a reasonable question. It asked whether the Prime Minister was aware of that. The Prime Minister can certainly dispute the assertion that two-thirds are in the hands of foreign owners, but that should be done reasonably succinctly.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do dispute that, and I do that on the basis of a report by Pattrick Smellie, which goes on to say: “One of the less defensible criticisms of the Key Gov’s partial privatisation plans has been regular reference to Contact Energy as an example of a privatised company which lost control to foreigners. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. … The reality of Contact’s share register is it remains possibly the most widely held share by domestic NZ investors, 11 years on from the float. In fact, Contact’s shareholders have shown a high degree of loyalty to the Company, to the extent that EME’s attempts to take 100% were roundly rebuffed”—
Hon Jim Anderton: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —“in the … 2000s. … What it shows is many small scale investors”—
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called.
Hon Jim Anderton: It has been a longstanding decision of yours that we are not allowed to table in this House journalistic reports and all the rest of it, let alone listen to them being read out by the Prime Minister in answer to a question.
Mr SPEAKER: Members are perfectly entitled to quote documents. They quote them in questions, and they can quote them in answers. But I am concerned that the answer has gone on more than long enough.
Hon Phil Goff: Are most of the shares in Contact Energy that were sold to local investors now in the hands of foreign and corporate investors?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot confirm that fact, but I can confirm that that is not the belief of Pattrick Smellie. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: That will be sufficient. The Prime Minister answered the question and that was sufficient. He could not confirm that fact. That was the answer to the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, that’s a breach of privilege—
Mr SPEAKER: If the shadow Leader of the House expects me to keep Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to answers like that, the shadow Leader of the House will show some respect to the House and not bellow out unnecessarily after a question has been dealt with.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I might have a slightly louder voice than the Prime Minister. I was responding to his interjection.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. It may have escaped the member’s attention, but I was assisting the honourable Leader of the Opposition, who happened to ask this question. I stopped the Prime Minister from going any further than just answering the question. He was asked whether he could confirm something, he said he could not, and I sat him down. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister saying that he is unaware of the fact that most of the shares sold to small local investors are now corporate and foreign owned?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot confirm that fact, and I do not actually think Phil Goff can, either.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This House is, as you know, about accountability. There is an answer to the question of whether he is aware of that fact, and the answer is yes or no. Either he is aware or he is not aware. I am not asking whether he can confirm it.
Mr SPEAKER: Clearly, his answer indicated that he was not aware of that fact. But if that is the way—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to challenge that. He very clearly dodged that—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will not challenge that by way of a point of order, at all. The honourable Leader of the Opposition asked whether the Prime Minister was aware that a majority of shares were held by foreign owners, if I recollect correctly; I might not have that exactly right. The Prime Minister, in his answer, indicated that he was not aware of that. He could not confirm whether that was the case. He added a bit at the end of that answer that, in my view, was totally unnecessary. My problem was that there was no way I could get to my feet in time to stop it.
The primary question today was very carefully worded. It was a fair question, and questions like that should be treated with respect. It is very difficult at times to stop Ministers. When they start to flick the odd punch around, it is sometimes difficult to respond quickly enough, because I cannot predict what is in their minds; I cannot predict what they will say. But I point out to Ministers that that question was an absolutely fair question. There was no political statement in that question, at all, and I expect such questions to be treated with respect. At one stage I felt that the supplementary questions were not being treated with sufficient respect—mind you, one supplementary question was not as carefully worded as the primary question, but others were. That is why I stopped the right honourable Prime Minister at one stage during those answers, because I believe that respect was not being shown to the question. [Interruption] I have dealt with that matter.
2. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What lessons are there for the New Zealand economy on how sovereign governments around the world are managing their finances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Many developed countries are working very hard to rein in their deficits that were created by a set of unusual economic conditions over the past decade and by different degrees of unwise spending increases. The European financial markets face possible disruption from the fact that Greece and Portugal have defaulted on debts in all but name, and other much larger economies such as Italy appear to be increasingly at risk. This is reflected by the fact that European sharemarkets fell 3 percent last night alone. The lesson for New Zealand is that very good, tight management of Government spending and Government deficits is important. The other lesson for New Zealand is that New Zealanders need to be encouraged to save so that our banks are less reliant on these overseas financial markets to finance economic activity in New Zealand.
Amy Adams: What was the outlook when this Government took office in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The updated forecasts that the Government received in December 2008 were alarming. They showed a fiscal mess. Treasury projected perpetual deficits into the future, and Crown debt would have been about 50 percent of GDP in a decade’s time and climbing. The Government has worked very hard over the last three Budgets to get on top of the alarming deficits and ever-rising debt that we inherited, and over the next 6 months it may well matter if international financial markets are disrupted.
Amy Adams: What steps has this Government taken to improve Government finances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has struck a reasonable balance between on the one hand continuing to fund activity in the economy during a recession, so that we can support jobs and public services, and protecting the most vulnerable from the sharp edges of the recession, but on the other hand vastly improving the quality of much wasteful Government expenditure. Now that the recession has receded, we are in a position to show a credible track back to surplus in 2014-15.
Amy Adams: What dangers still lurk around the fiscal position?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is fair to say that the Government faces two risks. One is the ongoing risk of financial contagion in Europe, which could be disruptive in the financial markets from where the New Zealand Government and banks borrow money. The other risk would be a slow-down in China. I hope the country will not face the risk of a Labour Government because of the wreckage it left behind when it was kicked out of office in 2008.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Forecast Cost to Crown of Forgone Dividends and Sale Costs
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What is the forecast cost to the Crown of forgone dividends and sale costs as a result of his privatisation plan, according to the final A3 page in the Treasury report Extending the Mixed Ownership Model?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The basic numbers outlined on that page are as follows. According to the Budget 2011 projections, combined dividends from the four State-owned enterprises in question are expected to average $380 million over the next 4 years. This represents a yield of 2.5 percent on the commercial valuations provided by the State-owned enterprise boards last year. By contrast, interest rates are expected to average 5.3 percent, implying a holding cost of $800 million a year, or about twice the dividend returned. So the expected dividends are going to be about half of the holding cost of the value of those State-owned enterprises.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm whether those numbers include or exclude capital distributions, and say why he has not therefore provided the public with a full costing of his asset sales policy; does he not think the public deserves to have such information in front of them before they go to the polls?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member cannot have it both ways and say the dividends are large because of the capital distributions. Well, the capital distributions come from asset sales; that is what—[Interruption] The main capital distributions have come from the large asset sale by Meridian Energy, overseen by the last Labour Government. We would rather pay dividends to Kiwis than interest to foreigners.
Hon David Cunliffe: Did he read the passage in this report to him that states that “a range of issues would make the complexity of the programme substantial.”, and does he consider that some policies are worth pursuing, even if they are supposedly complex?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This policy is worth pursuing because it will give the opportunity for New Zealanders to invest in New Zealand assets at a time when their savings are reaching record levels. It is good news that New Zealanders understand what needs to happen in this economy, and the Government is going to help by giving them the opportunity to invest their savings soundly.
Hon David Cunliffe: Did he read the passage in the report that states his privatisation plan would take 3 to 5 years for the sales to be complete and would entail ongoing costs in lost dividends, and does he therefore agree that Governments should undertake policies that take time to build and do not necessarily release their full revenue potential in the first year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member is trying to conjure up an excuse for why his capital gains tax will not raise the revenue he is claiming, and therefore he will have large deficits and more debt, then the answer is no.
Hon Rick Barker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not responsible for speculation about Labour’s possible policy. His answer was all about that. He should answer the question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called. It is a difficult one for the Speaker to rule on, because the question asked the Minister his view of policies that take time to implement, and ramp up over time. The Minister in expressing his view, as he was asked to do, used the example of a capital gains tax as the way to respond to that question. I cannot rule that that is unreasonable or unfair, given the nature of the question asked. I think the member asking the question knew the risks in framing the question in that way.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is there any evidence his privatisation policy would “boost [the] domestic capital markets”, as suggested in the report, and would not a better policy address what he has called the distortion that leads to Kiwis favouring unproductive property speculation, and starving productive enterprises of capital?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government, of course, plans to achieve both of those objectives. We have made significant changes that have increased the effective taxation of property and do not tax the gains of hard-working New Zealanders who have increased the value of their business—unlike what he is planning.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Which groups of New Zealand investors does he expect to be at the front of the queue when portions of the State-owned enterprises are offered for community ownership under the mixed-ownership model?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course, the controlling owner will be the New Zealand Government, with at least 51 percent, but we expect other groups that have expressed, I have to say, enthusiasm for the proposal to be there: KiwiSaver funds, which of course represent 1.7 million New Zealanders and their savings; mum and dad retail investors; Crown financial institutions, such as the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and ACC; and iwi, who appear to be the most enthusiastic group and who, of course, are long-term holders of New Zealand assets, and would continue to be so.
Accident Compensation—Claims Costs Management and Reduction in Levies
4. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What progress has the Government made in better managing ACC claim costs after they increased from $2.1 billion in 2005/06 to $3.1 billion in 2008/09, and how will these help families and businesses?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : The 50 percent increase in claim costs during the last term of Government was not sustainable. We have since reduced costs by 15 percent, effectively reversing the extravagant end of those increases. A good example is the cost of physiotherapy, which more than doubled when the previous Government made it free. Reintroducing a part charge has saved $60 million per year. We have got ACC back into surplus, enabling levy reductions. For households the saving is $250 a year, or $5 per week; for businesses, it is a 22 percent reduction in costs, or $1,100 for the average small business. Reducing the burden of ACC levies by $587 million per year will help the New Zealand economy recover.
Dr Jackie Blue: What success has the Government had in improving ACC rehabilitation rates, and how much has this contributed to the turn-round in ACC finances?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Income compensation is ACC’s largest cost. Rehabilitation rates declined significantly between 2005 and 2008, leaving thousands more people dependent on ACC. This Government has put a real focus on improving rehabilitation, with programmes such as Better at Work. We have 2,000 fewer people receiving income compensation as a consequence, and that is one of the reasons we have been able to give households and businesses some relief.
Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister tell the House which made the larger contribution to the ACC deficit: the 2008 financial crisis or the move by ACC from partial pay-as-you-go to full funding, and, given that these problems have evened out as they tend to do with long-term investment programmes, will he now apologise for using them as an excuse for ACC cutting access to elective surgery for many vulnerable New Zealanders by 200 percent between 2008 and 2010?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I make two points in response. The first is that ACC’s audited accounts showed a loss of $2.4 billion in 2007-08 and $4.8 billion in 2008-09. The member asserts that that loss was as a consequence of investments. Not one dollar of the $4.8 billion loss was as a consequence of loss on investments. On elective surgery, I say that the costs of elective surgery went from $120 million to $240 million. We have just pulled it back by quite a small amount—[Interruption] Can members opposite please explain to me whether there was a more than doubling of accidents that resulted in that more than doubling of costs? Of course there was not; there was simply slack financial management.
Hon Jim Anderton: Did ACC go too far in rejecting claims that it said resulted from age-related injuries, even for 15-year-olds, and was its excess enthusiasm for significantly declining legitimate claims, as shown by increasing ACC losses on appeal, a result of his and ACC’s misleading statements about the financial viability of ACC?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the last financial year ACC spent $234 million on elective surgery. That is more than every year, bar one, in which Labour was in Government. We will do more surgery last year and this year than the average in the term of the previous Government. There will always be a difficult grey area between health and ACC. This Government is absolutely committed to ensuring that there is elective surgery and other rehabilitation for genuine accident victims. There have been some changes in respect of elective surgery, through working closely with orthopaedic surgeons, and I think that will provide a better service for the public.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Policy
5. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “we have always been clear that if there was to be any change to our policy on State-owned assets in any way, we would seek the support of New Zealanders at an election, and that is exactly what we will do”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes. The Government said it would not sell shares in State-owned companies in this term of Parliament, and we have not. We said if the policy changed, we would tell New Zealanders and campaign on it in the next election. That is what we will do.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: In light of his promise not to change his policy on State-owned enterprises before the election, why has Treasury appointed Deutsche Bank and Craigs Investment Partners to prepare the four State-owned energy companies for sale?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To do exactly that: prepare them for sale in the event that a National Government is re-elected.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Given that Budget 2011 banks $3.6 billion in revenue for asset sales for future spending, does this show that his income tax cuts—42 percent of which went to the top 10 percent—were unaffordable and have left the Government’s books in a very poor state?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. What it shows is that Cabinet made a decision to have a net zero capital allowance over the next 5 years. The way that we intend to do that is to extend the mixed-ownership model as the previous Government did with Air New Zealand.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why is Treasury spending $6 million before the election to begin carrying out his change in policy on State-owned assets, when he promised that “if there was to be any change to our policy on state-owned assets in any way, we would seek the support of New Zealanders at an election,”—if there was to be any change to his policy in any way?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We have made it quite clear to the New Zealand public what we are campaigning on. We will be going to the election with that policy, and not one share will be sold prior to the 26 November election. In the rare event that Labour is elected, it can reverse that policy if it wishes.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Can the Prime Minister then confirm that New Zealanders can stop the sale of State-owned assets only by voting out his Government on 26 November?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I can say is that this Government is absolutely committed to the mixed-ownership model. We believe it is right on a number of fronts, and we look forward to having that debate with the New Zealand public on the campaign trail.
Māori Electorates—Government Policy
6. Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Justice: Does the Government have any plans to disestablish separate Māori electorates; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Justice) : No, because it is not part of the Government’s electoral law programme. This Government’s priority in electoral law has been to put an end to what had become routine abuses of electoral law and public funding by parties whose conduct is repeatedly referred to the police, and to restore freedom of speech by repealing Annette King’s Electoral Finance Act.
Hon John Boscawen: Is it the Government’s intention to abolish the Māori seats once the historical Treaty process has been concluded, as set out in National’s 2008 election policy; if so, what progress has been made toward the goal of abolishing the seats?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have already in the answer to the primary question outlined what the Government’s priorities have been. A constitutional review has been planned and announced by both the co-leader of the Māori Party, the Minister of Māori Affairs, and the Deputy Prime Minister. The issues surrounding Māori seats can be addressed in that context.
Rahui Katene: Is it the Minister’s opinion that disestablishing the Māori seats will do nothing more than create a wedge between Māori and Pākehā at a time when the country is trying to move towards a united Aotearoa; if so, why does he think this debate has been brought back into the public arena?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: There are a number of interesting questions concerning Māori representation. The issue of Māori seats in Parliament, as I said in my answer to Mr Boscawen’s second question, will be the subject of a constitutional review, which has been outlined by Dr Sharples and Mr English. Those issues can be addressed in that context.
Hon John Boscawen: Is it not true that if Māori voters were on the general electoral roll, they would have 70 members of Parliament working on their behalf, not seven?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The member is trying to engage on the question of Māori representation and the other matters I have referred to in answers to these questions. They are part of the review, which has been announced by Dr Sharples and Mr English, and the member will have ample opportunity to make all the points he wishes to make to that review at that time.
Economy, Stimulus—Prime Minister’s Statements
7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “the Government’s been doing what it can practically to stimulate the economy and to create jobs”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes. The Government has been doing what it can to promote a low-inflation environment, make sure the New Zealand economy is internationally competitive, and make sure that there is an efficient use of resources.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he concerned that Australia’s lower unemployment rate of 4.9 percent and forecast growth of 500,000 new jobs over the next 2 years will see the record number of Kiwis who left for Australia, set in May this year, increase in the future?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think that if one was to raise the top personal tax rate, whack on a capital gains tax, and discourage investment, then that would definitely be the case.
Jacinda Ardern: Does Australia have a capital gains tax?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. That is because Australia’s top personal rate is set at 45 percent and the company rate is set at 30 percent, and it has had to buttress a capital gains tax in there to stop people from otherwise organising what are their hideously complex affairs.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he agree with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s analysis that investment in skills training is vital to growing an economy and creating jobs; if so, why has his Government cut skills funding by $140 million in the last 12 months?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The reason funding was cut in certain areas was that there was a very low completion rate of some courses, and this Government, unlike the previous Labour Government, is not the sort of Government that is prepared to throw money at things that are completely, hopelessly failing and are not working.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he stand by his statement in February 2008 that “New Zealand is already struggling under a skills shortage and this exodus”—to Australia—“will add to those worries.”; if so, how deep are his concerns now that this exodus is almost 7 percent higher than when he made that comment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I go to question No. 8, I simply say to Paul Quinn at the back of the House that some of those interjections do not add anything.
Capital Gains Tax—Effect on Growth
8. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that a capital gains tax would be a “dagger through the heart of growth”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes. I think that the sort of tax system that has six different personal tax rates; GST on some things and not on others; a capital gains tax on some things and not on others; a big gap between the top personal rate, the trust rate, and the company rate; a tax credit that encourages people to rort the research and development tax system; and a large hole in the revenue base over the next few years, leading to even greater Government debt, would certainly be a big blow to the economy. Those sorts of policies simply encourage people to spend all their time and effort working around the tax rules rather than getting on and being productive.
Dr Russel Norman: When the OECD recommended that we tax capital gains in a consistent and comprehensive way, was it proposing to put a dagger through the heart of the economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It was proposing to put a capital gains tax on the family home. If that is now Green Party policy and Labour Party policy, I cannot wait until Thursday.
Dr Russel Norman: To the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I want to hear Dr Russel Norman’s supplementary question.
Dr Russel Norman: When Treasury—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I had no sooner said I wanted to hear the honourable member’s supplementary question than I got a lot of unnecessary noise from the Hon Tau Henare, among others.
Dr Russel Norman: When Treasury recently recommended that we make our tax system fairer by introducing a comprehensive tax on capital gains, was Treasury proposing to put a dagger through the heart of our economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Treasury was proposing a capital gains tax on the family home—
Hon Member: No, they never.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, it was.
Dr Russel Norman: When the—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Now I want the Labour front-bench members also to cease their interjections. I want to hear Dr Russel Norman’s supplementary question.
Dr Russel Norman: When the Capital Market Development Taskforce recommended implementing a capital gains tax to create a level playing field for savings and investment decisions, was it proposing to put a dagger through the heart of our economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Although I do not know the particulars of the task force’s recommendations, I can say that if one puts a capital gains tax on farms, if one puts a capital gains tax on buildings, if one puts a capital gains tax on investment properties but not on family homes, and if one puts a capital gains tax on businesses and shares and all of those other things, it slows down growth.
Dr Russel Norman: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: This time the Hon Clayton Cosgrove was the last to keep interjecting when I was on my feet.
Dr Russel Norman: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the House that Dr Russel Norman has every right to ask his questions and to be heard.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Prime Minister seen the evidence that the Australian economy has outperformed the New Zealand economy every year since 1985, the same year that Australia first introduced a capital gains tax, which would supposedly put a dagger through the economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are many differences between the New Zealand and Australian economies. If New Zealand wants to have the same mining and exploration activity that Australia has, the Greens might want to support a reversal of their position on schedule 4. But seeing as they are not having that, if we want to adopt Australia’s tax rules, then we will have a top personal rate that is a long way away from the company rate; we will see the need for a capital gains tax, otherwise there is a gaping big hole; we will have a GST system that is not comprehensive; and we will have a top personal rate at 45 percent. I strongly argue that the tax system this Government reformed in 2010 is the envy of many countries around the world. Capital gains tax is applied in New Zealand on intent rules. Personally, I think that with the 33 percent top personal rate aligned with the trust rate, a top savings rate aligned with the company rate, three-quarters of New Zealanders paying a rate of 17.5 percent or less, and half the country virtually not paying tax, in my view that sounds like a recipe for growth. If the—
Mr SPEAKER: The House has its own life and there is no way I can stop it; it wants to live its own life. I let the Prime Minister go on a fair while there, but I was not going to let him go on any further to comment on the Opposition’s policies.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems there may be a new convention in the House. I wonder whether you could review the tape and advise us now on your recommendation—what you feel is appropriate—on the length of answers. You have already berated some of our members for the length of their questions. That was an extraordinarily—it was probably record-breaking—long answer, which you let go. I would like some advice, please.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for his lecture. It may have escaped the notice of the honourable member that the Prime Minister was responding to the question. I accept that the answer was longer than I would have liked to see—I agree with that—but as soon as he started to divert into what I perceived to be criticism of that member’s party I stopped him. I stopped him. It was longer than I would have liked to see, but so long as it was providing information in response to the question it was difficult for me to stop it any sooner. I ask Ministers to not go on too long in answering questions.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not challenging your ruling, but am I right in concluding that it is now a new ruling that a Minister can take any length of time he or she likes in answering a question as long as he or she does not criticise the Opposition? Is that now your ruling?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member is really—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I’m asking you a question.
Mr SPEAKER: And I am on my feet. The member will be quiet while I am on my feet. The member is being unnecessarily silly. It does not take a lot of thought to see that the answer was longer than ideal. I have asked Ministers not to do that. If Ministers persist in doing that, I will wind them up sooner. But where a question comes from the Green Party, and a fair length of time is taken to respond to it, I totally draw the line at extra time then being taken to attack the member’s party. That is not on, and I stopped the Prime Minister immediately when I perceived that he started to do that.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave for the Prime Minister to conclude his answer with the rest of Macbeth, act 2, scene 1—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat and stop trifling with the House.
Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Is it not best that any consideration of a capital gains tax be done not in isolation but in the context of an overall look at business tax, not simply a grab for extra money?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member makes the right point, which is that any tax has to fit into the overall tax system that is in place. Of course one can change the mix of taxes, but if one is simply putting a tax on businesses, which a capital gains tax in this environment would do, and putting up the price of rents, which a capital gains tax in this environment would do, one has to ask whether one is going to deliver economic growth. The fact is that Treasury documents show that rents will rise by 6 percent. We look forward to having that discussion with “Supremo” on Thursday.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree with former Treasury head John Whitehead, who said: “At the risk of being chased down by an angry crowd with pitchforks and flaming torches, we need to tax more capital gains.”; if not, has he now become the leader of this angry mob, and is that the right role for a Prime Minister to play in this very serious policy debate?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I agree with John Whitehead. That is exactly why the Government in 2010 and 2011 made significant moves to tax capital. That is exactly what happened when the Government put in place a number of different changes, including depreciation rules, better administration of the intent rules, etc. In fact, as we know, Labour is trying to put up the case that it is solving a problem that it had when it was in office for 9 years but failed to address. The only reason it is putting up a capital gains tax on Thursday is because it cannot get its numbers to add up—
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister is stretching his luck.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Prime Minister read the latest OECD country report on New Zealand, which states: “New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries with no comprehensive capital gains tax on any asset class”, and does he not believe that a comprehensive and consistent capital gains tax would be much better than the tangle of rules that he just keeps adding to?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I certainly do not believe it would be better. As I say, the OECD is also recommending—to quote the member—a “comprehensive capital gains tax”. It is important that all New Zealanders understand what the word “comprehensive” means. The answer is the family home.
Dr Russel Norman: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately, and the House will come to order. It is my understanding that the Green Party has used its six supplementary questions today.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My apologies if you were not informed, but we will be using seven today. It should have been given to you earlier.
Mr SPEAKER: The Green Party has only six to use. [Interruption] A point of order is being dealt with. The House will come to order. The Green Party can access more than six supplementary questions only if another party has given them supplementary questions. I have had no notice that any other party has given the Green Party any questions today. The Green Party cannot access seven itself, because it has an allocation of only six.
9. BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on the BBC Hardtalk programme, where he said he didn’t share Massey University scientist Mike Joy’s view on the state of our rivers, saying “he’s one academic, and like lawyers, I could provide you with another one to give you a counter view”?
Brendon Burns: Can we presume that the Prime Minister does not share the counter view of Professor David Hamilton, president of the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society, who said that the Yale University research the Prime Minister used to justify his “100% Pure” claim is outdated and has no credibility?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I have the Yale University report with me. It is from 2010, so I do not think it is terribly outdated because it is a year old. Maybe I could quote from one of the other scientists who presented at the same conference that Mike Joy attended, Ken Hughey from Lincoln University. His slide said that the “Perceived state of NZ freshwater is good—a view supported by science;”.
Brendon Burns: Is the Prime Minister aware that Professor Hamilton leads research on the $90 million clean-up of the Rotorua lakes, which the Government is funding, and that although Waikato University has unsuccessfully requested the data used by Yale University, Waikato University’s own independent research suggests that New Zealand is in about the middle of the international water quality scale, not at No. 2 as the Prime Minister would have us believe?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If New Zealand is at the level that the member is proposing, why did he sit around for 9 years and let Labour do absolutely nothing about it other than allow further deterioration?
Brendon Burns: Does the Prime Minister also doubt research by Waikato University PhD student Jonathan Abell, who compared 134 New Zealand lakes with 1,500 internationally and found that our lakes have a water quality score of 66.7 percent, as opposed to the 99.2 percent overall rating the Prime Minister quoted to the House on 10 May?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not seen the research, but the member is backing up my exact point: there are scientists, and some hold one view and some hold another. Just like lawyers and just like economists, they all have a range of views.
Brendon Burns: Is the Prime Minister aware that the Government’s new National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management does not require regional councils to adopt water quality standards until 2030, and can he identify any other water quality scientist who says the Government’s national policy statement is sound environmental policy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and that is what the board recommended.
Electricity—Generation from Renewable Resources
10. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent reports has she received on levels of renewable electricity generation?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources) : The New Zealand Energy Quarterly released by the Ministry of Economic Development last month showed that renewable electricity generation made up 79 percent of all electricity generated in the March 2011 quarter. The last time that New Zealand generated that amount of electricity from renewable resources was in 1996, also under a National Government.
Louise Upston: Why is the Government committed to renewable electricity generation?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The Government is aiming for 90 percent of electricity generation to come from renewable energy sources by 2025. This is because we are blessed with abundant natural resources, and the development of these resources reduces our reliance on thermal electricity generation sources and reduces our electricity generation emissions. The target reflects our commitment to transitioning over time to a low carbon economy.
11. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement of 23 June that the price difference between building flat deck rail wagons in New Zealand and overseas was in the order of 25 percent?
Clare Curran: Will he confirm that it makes economic sense to procure these wagons in New Zealand, given that the Government collects income tax when wages are paid and GST when wages are spent, even if Chinese wagons are a bit cheaper; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: All that the Minister has asked of KiwiRail is that it gets the best price and quality possible for the tender, and he believes that it has done that. It is up to KiwiRail to take those things into account when it awards a tender. It is not for politicians to intervene.
Clare Curran: Is the Government saying that when it comes to a choice between a Kiwi build and an overseas build, KiwiRail should always choose the cheapest price, even if the price difference is very small; and what is a tolerable price difference?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I come back to the substantive point that there is a 25 percent price differential. The proposal from the Hillside workshops was third equal out of nine tenders. KiwiRail took into consideration all of the differences in the tenders and made its decision. It is interesting that this Government is just following on from Labour’s policy of August 2007 on Government procurement in New Zealand.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question about not that sale but tolerances and whether the Government would ever approve a tender with a price higher than that of another tender. It was very carefully drafted and very specific. The Minister talked about the old sale, but did not look forward in the way that he was asked to.
Mr SPEAKER: The question actually sought an opinion. It asked the Minister at what point the Government would see this differently, and I think the Minister pointed out in his answer that the Government has required KiwiRail to consider these matters, and therefore he declined to express a view on any price difference. It is difficult for me to pull a Minister back when an opinion has been sought in the question and the Minister chooses to answer it in that way. I accept the point the member is making that the member had tried to get the Minister to express a view, but I cannot get a Minister to express the particular view members might want. When an opinion is sought—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Any view would do.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! When an opinion is sought, it is a bit difficult for me.
Lotteries Funding—Community Grants
12. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What recent announcements has he made regarding lotteries funding for the community?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs) : Last week I was very pleased to announce that the Lottery Grants Board has allocated $154 million to the community, raised from the proceeds of games like Lotto, Instant Kiwi, and Keno. In addition, an allocation of $6 million will go to the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal to help Canterbury get back on its feet. An extra $250,000 has also been given to the Lottery Canterbury / Kaikoura Community Committee. This is on top of the $8.2 million that was raised for the appeal by a special Lotto draw held earlier this year.
Aaron Gilmore: How will lotteries funding be allocated to different community groups?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The $154 million will be divided amongst 11 regional lottery committees, 11 national committees, and four statutory bodies—Creative New Zealand, the New Zealand Film Commission, the New Zealand Film Archive, and Sport and Recreation New Zealand. A huge variety of organisations have benefited from the funding in recent years, including Age Concern, St John Ambulance, Barnardos, etc. This funding helps to build strong and sustainable communities.
Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) : I move, That the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. I have to say this is a very, very exciting day for me as Minister for Building and Construction to be doing the third reading of this legislation, because it is the culmination of a huge amount of work by officials and teams of people working with local bodies, banks, and a whole lot of others to get to, finally, a package that could be agreed on and that would allow people to get out of the traps they had been caught in, having found themselves in a leaky home and unable to do anything about it. I will traverse some of the history of how the leaky homes syndrome came about as I give this speech, but today I will pay tribute to some of the people who were involved. I say to David McLellan and to Adrian Regnault, and to a number of other people in the Department of Building and Housing, a very big thank you for the long, hard work—difficult work, at times—of getting to a resolution.
Just quickly, I will go through some history, because I often hear the history of this thing misquoted. First of all, I often hear people say it was the National Government that put the Building Amendment Bill through in 1991. Well, it would be worthwhile getting on record that that bill was introduced to this Parliament by the Hon Margaret Austin, a Labour Minister in the Labour Government of 1990, and it passed through every one of its phases until the election of 1990 was completed, and then the National Government, with the total support of Labour, finished the third reading. I will make it clear that National was supportive of the legislation, but it was not the National Government that put up that bill and moved to deregulate the industry.
The second big myth—and I must say I actually believed this myth myself—was that it was politicians who had moved to allow untreated timber in the mid-1990s, which is one of the key ingredients of the problem. But, actually, no politician was involved in the decision to go to untreated timber. It was a decision made by a subcommittee of Standards New Zealand. The proposal was put up by a number of the timber companies saying they did not need to keep treating timber. Interestingly, if members were interested in reading the document, they would find that the whole debate at the time was about borer. It is really interesting that no one raised the question about rotting timber if it got wet. The question was whether we needed to keep treating timber because borer no longer really existed in New Zealand. The standards committee decided that untreated timber would become acceptable under the Building Act and the building code, and not a single politician was involved in the decision. What speaks quite loudly that it was not the Government, or Ministers of any flavour, that was involved is that every time someone has tried to join the Crown in litigation, and blame the Crown for this dreadful, dreadful fiasco, the courts have thrown it out and said there was no responsibility on the part of the Crown.
I want to make this clear to everybody in the House, because this is something I have looked at for a long time: there is no one thing to blame here. This was a systemic failure across the entire industry. This was designers, this was builders, this was materials, this was construction methods, this was consenting, this was inspections, this was homeowners not doing relevant maintenance—this was a systemic failure. Monolithic cladding was used with no cavities in the building design, and, actually, non-treated timber was a recipe for a disaster.
Well, when we came to Government in 2008 we came in at the same time as the global financial crisis. I have to say it was a really difficult ask to go to the Minister of Finance, who was struggling, based on what was going on right around the world, with an economy the worst we have seen, and say to him: “I’ve got a new expenditure item that’s bigger than just about anything you’ve ever seen on your books.” I have to say that the Hon Bill English sat down, looked at it, and said “Wow”, and worked through it. The Prime Minister got involved, and finally this Government decided that something had to be done, unlike the previous Labour Government, which had for 9 years said this was not its problem and it was not going to offer up a solution. And they are the facts: Helen Clark said she thought it was media beat-up—I have the quotes. We decided something had to be done, and we began a process of trying to negotiate. The local authorities wanted a settlement of one-third, one-third, and one-third; the superannuitants wanted to have no money borrowed and have it all paid for by the Government. Over time we gradually got to the package we have today.
The package sees the Crown paying 25 percent of the cost of the work required. The local authority, if there was one involved—and in some cases there was no local authority involved—will pay a 25 percent share. Then there is an underlying loan, which we call a loss-sharing arrangement with the banks—between the banks and the Government—which will be made to the homeowner to pay for the repairs. This is money that will be paid on receipt of work done, and that is vitally important. We will not hand out large chunks of money to people who own a leaky home who could then take the money and run, and sell the leaky home on to someone else so that the problem has not been fixed at all. This money will be paid on the actual receipt of the work done to fix the leaky homes.
I have to say I found Mr Twyford’s view on this a little bit puzzling. When Labour, for 9 years, said it was not the Government’s right to be involved, and would not be, Mr Twyford then chose to attack me last week for saying the package does not include apartments. You know, Labour would not have included anybody, even those in single dwellings, yet somehow he said that the National Government’s package would not include apartments. Well, he was wrong. This package does allow apartment owners to make an application for financial assistance. The only difference between those in apartments and a single dwelling is that apartment owners have to get the agreement of their bodies corporate. But that is the same for apartment owners even if they want to do just a general renovation. If owners want to paint an apartment block, or put new tiles throughout the common areas, they have to get their body corporate’s agreement. We changed the Unit Titles Act and made it that owners did not have to get 100 percent approval for changes, because one of the worst aspects of unit titles in recent times was that in a 100-unit apartment block, just one absentee landlord who was a stand-out from a collective decision and said he or she was not signing was all that was needed to stop the other 99 owners from making progress. So last June we passed the Unit Titles Act, which means that a 75 percent majority is enough. I make it clear today to anybody out there listening that if they are in an apartment block, the block is entitled to make an application, but it has to be agreed across the block. That is quite sensible. It would be nuts if units 3, 17, and 29 were fixed and made not leaky any more, but all the other units that joined on to them and had common walls were not fixed. Everybody has to be signed up, and if such apartment dwellers do sign up they have just as much right to apply for the package—25 percent from the Crown and 25 percent from the local authority—as anybody else.
The presenter the other night on the television programme called A Rotten Shame said: “I don’t know whether Maurice Williamson has ever looked into the eyes of a leaky home owner.” Well, does he ever know how to get something wrong! I have spent the last 2½ years looking into the eyes of hundreds, if not thousands, of people with leaky homes, and I know that that is one of the most ghastly blights on the landscape of this nation. Someone could not help but feel for people who, through no fault of their own—they have done nothing wrong—have ended up with their biggest asset in life rotting before their eyes and have no way out of it. People cannot have any compassion in them if they say “Well, it’s not for us to be involved. We’ve been found by the courts not to have a responsibility here.” So the Crown is stumping up, with a billion dollars. It will probably be more than that, because 75 percent of these homes are in Auckland—with 4 percent in Christchurch, 4 percent in Tauranga and 9 percent in Wellington; I think those are the numbers—so it is mainly an Auckland-type problem. But it could be as much as a $22 billion issue, based on what PricewaterhouseCoopers has said.
I am proud of a Government, a Prime Minister, and a Minister of Finance who, even in the toughest times economically, have said that we cannot just let these people sit in a rotten home that is going nowhere. This package offers an absolute option. It is voluntary; it is not mandatory, and nobody has to accept this package, although I bet there will be a lot who do. If some people want to pursue the legal aspects, and go through the litigation path, they still can; it has not been closed off to them. But let me just tell them that I have seen so many cases of litigation when, even if the claimants win, they lose, because their legal bills can often be more than the settlement they got. So I advise people to look at this carefully. I believe that this option that people can take from the Government is very fair and balanced. It is a very proud day for me to be in this House, speaking on the financial assistance package for weathertight homes.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : I will take a brief call on this Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. Labour members on the Local Government and Environment Committee participated in the select committee process, heard submissions, and raised a number of questions throughout the passage of the bill. Although we support the bill progressing, we acknowledge that a number of issues have been left still unresolved. Let me comment on the huge challenge of responding to the work required by many of these homes that will need repairs. I have to say at the outset that we remain concerned that the Government is not doing enough to invest in the trade sector, so that we will have enough people to do the work required in the building industry. Labour members have continued to promote greater investment in apprenticeships and trades training. We know there will be significant pressures in both Auckland and Christchurch, and we remain concerned that the Government is not taking a comprehensive approach to ensure that in the construction industry, and certainly in the building sector, we have enough skilled people to meet the growing demand in the years to come.
I will come back to the bill. As I said earlier in my opening remarks, there are a number of issues we want to highlight, because several types of affected homeowners will be excluded by this package. It does not provide any solution, for example, for owners who are not found eligible under the legislation, owners whose homes are more than 10 years old, owners who have already commenced their repairs, owners whose homes were signed off by private certifiers instead of councils—those owners will not be eligible for the 25 percent council contribution—and owners who are unable to raise the remaining sum. That will include many who simply cannot afford to borrow their 50 percent contribution. In the current economic climate that is a significant burden and pressure on a wide number of families. Those people are also the ones who are often most vulnerable and disadvantaged in having the leaky homes problem.
That said, I know that the Minister specifically made comments on the issue of no Crown guarantee for bodies corporate, and he offered a response in that area. Some of the concerns we raised at the select committee, and continue to hold, include the fact that apartment owners are unlikely to benefit from the package because bodies corporate are not able to borrow the repair funds and levy owners for loan repayments. That is largely because banks will not lend to bodies corporate, as they are unable to give mortgages on common properties. Although some of the owners will have funds available and will be prepared to front up with those funds, at the start of the project many owners may not be able to extend their mortgages. I understand from colleagues that there was a fair bit of discussion about that, and it remains, again, a key concern.
Another concern is that the bill does not require remediation work to restore homes to performance and durability compliance with the building code. For example, councils that will have a say in setting the scope of the remediation might insist on targeted repairs that remediate the worst problems but do not necessarily bring the building up to code compliance. There are many buildings with severe weathertightness issues where the best option may be to bowl the building over and sell the land or rebuild, and this package offers nothing to owners who are in that particular situation.
We also think that speculators could take advantage of this legislation. It does not differentiate between owners of leaky homes who need help and speculators who are buying up leaky homes at very low prices. It is feared that a speculator who buys a property in the knowledge that it is a leaky home is eligible for assistance under this package. Is that fair? We have concerns about that, and think not. I understand that the Minister for Building and Construction, in previous remarks, has said that he is not fussed who fixes the homes—whether it is the homeowner or the speculator. I am looking at him, to either confirm or deny that.
Hon Maurice Williamson: You can’t stop that.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Minister says we cannot stop that. If that is the case, if it is just about getting the houses fixed, then we want to raise this issue. Given the limited funds available for this scheme, and the fact that many affected homeowners are excluded from it, it does not make sense to hand out taxpayer funds to speculators. The concern for us is that we want to stop the speculators, while still not restricting those who may have unwittingly found themselves in trouble due to, for example, a lack of disclosure by the vendor or agent of the status of the property they were purchasing.
I turn to the issue of the ban on third-party claims. Labour is concerned with the proposed restrictions on people who are not parties to the contribution agreement seeking to join the Crown, a local authority, or other contributing party into a claim, and seeking contribution from them. It is a completely unjustified statutory removal of existing property rights, and we believe there are two competing policy interests. The first one is the interest of the local authority and/or the contributing party in achieving finality through making an agreed contribution to the repair of a leaky home under the scheme. The second is the interest of people who are not a party to that agreement having their legal rights to seek contribution or indemnity removed, and potentially leaving them carrying a disproportionate burden. The present bill recognises the first interest, at the complete expense of the second, and again we are saying that this does not make sense.
I want to come back to the key point in terms of meeting the skills deficit, because I think we cannot really discuss these issues without asking the how, or being able to respond to the how. We are significantly concerned that the building industry in the current economic climate, and with the current direction of the Government, has lacked the vision to continue to invest in the trade sector. We will see the downfall of that lack of vision most significantly in meeting demand in both Auckland and Christchurch. We cannot stress enough that although this is a step towards addressing the issue of leaky homes, the bigger challenge is to be able to meet the skills deficit we have in the country as well, so that these homes can be fixed properly and the job can be done well. Our select committee members have, I think, made a valuable contribution to the working through of the number of issues I have briefly touched on in this debate, but I know that in supporting this bill to go forward and identifying some of the key gaps, we want to ensure that the House continues to be informed about meeting the significant needs amongst a lot of homeowners in this sector. Kia ora koutou.
Dr CAM CALDER (National) : It is my pleasure to rise to speak on the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. I am amazed to hear comment from the Opposition about a skills deficit. For 2 years National has been in Government and we take responsibility for the great advances we have made over that time. But if there is a skills deficit, which is what we are hearing from the Opposition, one can assume only that it grew in the 9 years of the last Government. In fact, Labour did little or nothing to address that appalling blight on the lives of thousands of New Zealanders.
I am very appreciative of the Minister for Building and Construction outlining how the systemic failure in respect of leaky homes developed—and it was a systemic failure. It is interesting to hear that at no stage did a judge sheet home responsibility to a Crown entity. That in itself is very interesting. Designers, builders, consenting authorities, material failures, the monolithic cladding that we have heard about, and owners not taking care of routine maintenance—all of these factors contributed to this problem, which is blighting the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working New Zealanders.
The Government has put together this financial assistance package to address the problem. We believe it is a fair solution. It spreads the costs as evenly as possible, at 25 percent to Government, 25 percent to the local authority, and 50 percent to the homeowner. The package has strong support from local authorities. Nobody has to take up this option, but it is an option that is available to owners to get their properties fixed swiftly, after far too long.
We have heard that the estimated cost to the Government is possibly in excess of $1 billion, but we believe it is money well spent on a problem that thousands of New Zealanders have had to endure for far too long. This Government is about getting results and addressing something that is equivalent to a natural disaster in this country. This package will deliver thousands of New Zealanders from a debilitating, uncertain blight on their lives. I commend the bill to the House.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : I come late to this debate but it is a pleasure to take a call in the third reading of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. I will make a contribution in respect of the conclusion of the work that has been done by the Minister for Building and Construction and the Local Government and Environment Committee. Labour supports the bill, and we support the Government’s efforts to find a resolution to what has been a very sorry tale, and a long tale, for a long, long, time. It is a systemic failure, as the Minister said, and a disaster in the building industry and in many people’s lives.
The leaky home crisis, which emerged in the 1990s, is an ongoing construction and legal crisis in New Zealand, in which many thousands of newly constructed houses and apartment buildings built in the 1990s and early 2000s suffered from severe weathertightness problems. The total cost of the leaky home crisis is estimated at around $11.5 billion, with a reported estimate of between 22,000 and 89,000 homes affected, and only a minority of around 3,500 repaired to date.
Behind those eye-watering statistics are many ruined lives. I believe the Minister when he says he has had to look people in the eye. He described the other day in the Committee stage the difficult meetings he had had to attend, where people were crying. We have all met those people; we have all had them come into our offices. People have lost their homes and their livelihoods because of this crisis, and, sadly, as we have expressed throughout the debate, many will not be covered by this scheme.
Buying or building a house is part of the Kiwi dream. I can only imagine the joy of moving into a new home that people have built from scratch or taken over, soon turning into despair as the leaks appear, the building rots, the house starts to stink, and damaging fungi begins to creep through the house and damage the family’s health. Imagine what it is like not knowing where to turn or whom to hold responsible, especially when the builder or numerous contractors or subcontractors have disappeared, when the council takes no responsibility, or when liquidations occur.
We have a slightly less political view of what happened—well, I certainly do. I will not talk about who was responsible, but there is no doubt that this crisis began in the early 1990s, when the system of construction changed dramatically. It was the building code 1991 that re-regulated construction by setting performance criteria to be achieved, rather than prescribing the precise manner in which buildings were to be constructed. For instance, builders were told only that the structure must last 50 years, the cladding must last 15 years, and the walls and roofs must be impermeable to water.
Other factors that led to leaky home problems involved many developers, builders, and architects, who knowingly or carelessly constructed buildings with numerous faults and shortcuts. These changes coincided with our passion for new architectural design based on the Mediterranean-style flat roof. Perhaps too many people had been visiting Italy during that time; that design is traditionally for a dry climate. I can understand the attraction to those kinds of buildings; I find them very attractive and appealing as well, although now I am very suspicious of them. They have low-angle, mono-pitch roofs and no eaves.
Numerous local authorities failed in their inspection duties, and we have heard the stories of those failures. Local authorities now share significant financial responsibilities along with the builders, who in many cases have simply disappeared or removed themselves from liability, and the owners. Court cases generally assign around one-third of the financial responsibility to local authorities.
In 1998 the New Zealand standard for timber treatment was changed—and I am not saying any politicians were involved, I say to the Minister—to allow untreated timber to be used for wall framing. As that timber gets wet, it starts to rot. Due to increased insulation being used over that time, any moisture that came into contact with the timber was slower to evaporate. Additionally, some house designers used the opportunities to cut back water-protecting features such as eaves.
Another related problem was the collapse of the apprenticeship system, and the operation of some unqualified builders. Cowboys entered the market—[Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am speaking to the bill. I am rehearsing the history of this issue, as indeed the Minister did.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member is right in saying that, but for 5 minutes the member has been talking about things other than those that are in the bill. A third reading debate is about what has been reported back from the Committee. With the remaining time, I ask the member to concentrate on what is in the bill, not on other peripheral things. The member is entitled to touch on them in response to what the Minister said, but we would like to hear something about what is in the bill. This is a third reading debate.
DARIEN FENTON: I do want to mention, if I may, one of the problems that I think will continue, and that is the growth in contracting, sub-contracting, and sub-subcontracting, which we still have in the market today.
The total cost of leaky home problems has been estimated by PricewaterhouseCoopers at around $11.5 billion. We are talking about up to 89,000 homes that need some repair. Those are huge, eye-watering numbers. Only 23,000 homes were recently estimated to be covered under the financial assistance package outlined in the bill. I know I have to talk about the bill, but I think it is important that I put on the record that Labour did take action during the 2000s, because other members have said that we did nothing. I think it is very important that we put on the record that we did take a lot of action, including setting up the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service to assist leaky home victims.
The history of this bill is that when the National Government came into power it offered to fix the problem. It offered a package in November 2009 with 69 percent of the costs being borne by the owners, 26 percent by the councils, and only 10 percent by the Government. That package would have also forced homeowners to sign away their rights to sue for more. The package was widely rejected. There was a lot of criticism of the package, and several mayors noticed that by paying only 10 percent, then receiving 12.5 percent back in GST, the Government would make money from the crisis. So in February 2010, building experts said that the Government had seriously underestimated the true scale and cost of the problem, and advice from officials stated that 89,000 homes would fail the test, at a cost of almost $23 million. At the time Maurice Williamson warned, and has continued to warn, that the issue was so ginormous that even a Government with Budget surpluses would struggle to compensate leaky home owners.
On 17 May 2010 the Government came to an agreement with local authorities and others, which forms the basis of this bill. Local authorities and the Government will contribute 25 percent of agreed repair costs, and affected homeowners will fund the remaining 50 percent, backed by a Government loan guarantee. The Government anticipates that its share of the package will cost around a billion dollars over the next 5 years. Maurice Williamson said that it is bigger than Christchurch when we look at the numbers. He said the numbers are eye-watering; we agree with him.
One of the concerns we have expressed during the debate on this bill is the 10-year limit. Again, the Minister has said that is tough—it is tough—and we agree with that. Some building experts believe many cases have yet to be found out, and they will come to the fore in coming years as building rot becomes more advanced.
We have also expressed our concern, as did my colleague Nanaia Mahuta, that the lack of skills could derail this very, very important bill passing today, which will give hope to people. We are facing a severely depleted workforce. The forecasts for the reconstruction work in Christchurch and the leaky homes are enormous—they are in the billions of dollars, not in the millions—and the work is over and above the normal demand for new houses. This was discussed in the Committee of the whole House, and it was discussed in the select committee. There does not seem to be a resolution coming through in this bill, and I am worried that the homeowners who want to start building projects and fixing their leaky homes will face delays and increases in cost.
However, this bill makes a good contribution to giving relief to the thousands of people affected by this awful crisis. I believe the Minister when he says that this has been one of the most difficult jobs he has ever had to do, and, without wanting to impinge on his reputation, I want to say I think he has done a very good job. That is why Labour is supporting this bill. Sadly, many people will miss out, and I think this will continue to be a problem.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : I noticed a subheading in today’s New Zealand Herald that stated: “Allowing the mining industry to self-regulate was an unfathomable mistake,” and I think exactly the same thing could be said for the leaky homes fiasco. Allowing the building industry to effectively self-regulate has turned out to be an unfathomable mistake and one that has created, as many have pointed out, the biggest man-made disaster in our history.
The Minister for Building and Construction said in his speech that there was not any one cause of this fiasco. Actually, there is one underlying, fundamental cause: the passage in 1991 of the Building Act, which deregulated the building industry and was passed unanimously by Labour and National in this House. That legislation wiped out most of the previous protections in relation to building new homes and dwellings. It allowed builders to enter and exit the building industry without any real liability, any accountability, or any costs, it removed requirements in relation to skill levels and training, it loosened council inspection procedures, it allowed private sector building certifiers to compete with local council inspectors for work and issuing building consents, and, of course, it deregulated standards, which allowed Standards New Zealand to allow the use of untreated timber and monolithic cladding.
Under the new era of deregulation that was ushered through Parliament by both National and Labour, who were wildly enthusiastic about deregulation and what it would do for the building industry, effectively anyone could develop or build a home. They could build a house then wander off to the Gold Coast in Australia, as so many did. We got a whole lot of cowboy developers who did not give a damn about anything except trying to cut costs, building as cheaply as possible, and getting as much profit as they possibly could, with no responsibility. And, of course, we got a whole lot of builders who were not trained as builders. So it is a saga of greed, as well as of deregulation.
Basically, as I said, everyone who was in the House in 1991 has argued that they were swept up by the ideology of deregulation at the time. I looked back at some of the arguments in this House at the time. Apparently the new Building Act would reduce building costs, increase competition in the building sector, save money, and boost the building industry. Instead of these wonderful promises that both sides of the House assured us would happen, it has actually undermined confidence in the entire building sector. It has resulted in families all over New Zealand living in mouldy, damp, unhealthy, and rotten homes. The Minister himself acknowledged that the dreadful mould that many are exposed to, Stachybotrys, can actually kill people, and probably is killing people even as we speak. It has resulted in endless misery and a $22 billion bill for taxpayers, all because Parliament decided to deregulate the building industry and leave it to the marketplace.
Let us be quite clear: if there is an underlying reason for this, it is because Parliament created the problem by passing flawed legislation that deregulated the entire industry. Therefore, by that standard, it is Parliament’s responsibility to resolve it. We should be held accountable, not the innocent homeowners who are stuck in cold, rotting, damp, and insanitary homes. They did not create the problem, although their lives have been blighted and in many cases ruined because they made a fateful decision to buy a home in good faith that is now leaking like a sieve. They are the innocent parties in this, and we should remember that. This problem was created—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I just remind the member that, as I mentioned to the previous speaker, third reading speeches are about the contents of the bill as reported back from the Committee. Your speech is a first reading speech. Although it is fine to bring up the points that have led to where we are, spending 5 minutes on nothing related to what was reported back from the Committee is not permissible. There are a number of Speakers’ rulings on this issue. With the remaining time, I ask the member to now concentrate on the purposes and contents of the bill.
SUE KEDGLEY: But Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe, and I have said before—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, no. There are plenty of Speakers’ rulings. [Interruption]—Order!
SUE KEDGLEY: I was not even challenging your ruling.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, no. I am just mentioning to the member that if you look at Speakers’ rulings 117/2 and 117/3, you will see it is very clear. I am asking the member in the time remaining to actually concentrate on what is in the bill. This is a third reading speech.
SUE KEDGLEY: If we do not learn from history, we will recreate it. That is why it is so important to do what the Minister did. The Minister spent a significant amount of his speech giving his version of what he believes created the problem, and he was not called to order by the Speaker. It is also the reason—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is a direct challenge to my ruling. I have been very fair in allowing all speakers an opportunity to go back to how we came to be in this position. I have given fair leeway in that respect. I am saying to the member now, as I did to the previous speaker, to in the time remaining just concentrate on the contents of the bill.
SUE KEDGLEY: What I was saying was that many submitters on the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill argued that if Parliament had created the problem, then surely Parliament must be accountable and liable for the problem. We acknowledge the Minister and the efforts he has made to solve this intractable problem; nevertheless, we are concerned that although this legislation will protect the Crown, which created the problem, from liability, and will limit councils’ liability, it will not protect or benefit many innocent homeowners who are excluded from the provisions of this bill because they fall outside the 10-year time line. Nor will it protect many people in multi-unit dwellings.
In our view, it is unfair and unjust that people who are outside an arbitrary 10-year time frame will, through no fault of their own, miss out on the financial package or the provisions of this bill if their house was built in the 1990s. They will miss out completely. By some estimates, as many as 15,000 to 20,000 homes were built before the 10-year time frame and will fall outside the time limits in this bill. We believe that that is unfair and arbitrary. We continue to argue that the provision should be open to homeowners whose homes were built in the 1990s in particular.
We strongly supported amendments that would have allowed the provisions of the bill to apply to apartment owners and multi-dwelling owners, who are effectively excluded from the package because of the difficulty of getting 75 percent of owners in a body corporate to agree to a package and because of the difficulty of getting banks to lend to bodies corporate. About 90 percent of apartment and multi-unit legal claims are stalled because owners cannot afford to pay legal and other fees, and experts point out that actually it is the apartments—the multi-unit dwellings—that are most at risk of weathertightness problems and are most likely to suffer. They make up 25 percent of dwellings affected by weathertightness problems. So an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 are missing out because of the time frame, and all these others—up to 25 percent of dwellings affected by weathertightness problems—are also missing out on this package.
We predict that if we do not deal with those people, we may be back in this House some years on dealing with this unresolved problem. Although we think this legislation is a positive step forward, we need to remember that, as others have said, the experts are predicting that up to 80 percent or even 100 percent of houses built with monolithic cladding and untreated timber will fail, irrespective of their design. Many people argue that, contrary to official assurances, there are still houses that were built after the reforms to the building code that leak like a sieve, despite that fact that builders are using treated timber. There are still builders out there who are not registered builders, developers who do not give a damn, and owners who are trying to cut costs and build as cheaply as they can. We still have the huge health problems of Stachybotrys, of people living in damp, leaky homes with these tiny spores that when inhaled cause huge breathing problems—asthma and other serious respiratory problems. From a health perspective alone we should be doing everything we can to fix the homes; otherwise, we will be paying for the situation through our health bill.
We think that the package, as far as it goes, is a good package. Previously, we have said that we give credit where it is due. We have congratulated the Minister on what he has done, but we think it is a mistake to leave out all of those people who are innocent parties who bought homes in good faith in the 1990s, who are in multi-dwelling units and apartments, and who cannot afford the 50 percent loan.
NICKY WAGNER (National) : I am very pleased to support the third reading of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. This bill has been a long time coming. The leaky homes problem emerged in the mid-1990s and continued until about 2005. It was at that time that the Labour Government refused to acknowledge the enormity and the severity of the problem, and it also refused any Government compensation. In fact, the Labour Prime Minister called it a media beat-up. The Labour Government’s solution was to establish the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service, which set up a process that was so time-consuming and so expensive that the costs of determining liability were often substantially more than the costs of repairs. Millions of dollars were spent on disputes rather than on fixing anything. The estimated number of leaky homes in New Zealand could be up to 42,000, and the cost of repairing those homes is enormous. To get that into perspective, the cost of leaky homes could prove to be more than the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes.
When National came into Government in 2008 we made a commitment to dealing with this issue and to delivering a pragmatic, cost-effective solution that would mean funding would be spent on repairs rather than on lawyers and disputes. New Zealanders need to be able to repair and restore their homes, and this bill provides a method of funding that will allow homeowners and families to get on with their lives. The Hon Maurice Williamson has worked long and hard to piece together this economic package. It means that, generally speaking, local government has agreed to pay 25 percent, central government will contribute 25 percent, and householders will pay 50 percent, but the Government will guarantee homeowner loans so that obtaining finance will not be a problem.
The Government’s financial package is expected to cost over a billion dollars over 5 years, but we believe that it will be money well spent. Leaky homes have caused misery to thousands of families, and many have had to live with this problem for years. Today is a new beginning, and this bill will give relief to thousands of victims of leaky homes. It might not be the perfect answer and it might not fit everybody, but at least now everyone who has a leaky home has a solution and they can choose to take it. Thank you.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) : It is a pleasure to take a call on the third reading of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. I agree that the Minister for Building and Construction has every reason to express satisfaction, because he happens to be the Minister who has heard from everybody who has been suffering through this issue, and he is the one who has brought a solution to this Parliament. The solution has currency and has been developed into this bill, which has nearly gone through all its stages. So, yes, it is a time to acknowledge that that advocacy has been successful, and everybody in this House has been a part of that.
However, it is not a time for recrimination of the type we have just heard. I was intimately involved in the development of this issue right throughout the period—through my own family and through many of my friends—and I know that solutions were being designed as people became more familiar with the problem. The Weathertight Homes Resolution Service was a solution that was probably best practice at the time in the view of those who had experience. To say that the last Government did nothing is looking for recrimination for no good reason, and I think one must push back on that. Public opinion was at a particular place, and the science was at a particular place, and we have now understood more about it. So I thank Minister Williamson for acknowledging that, and I acknowledge his contribution to this issue.
I will talk about the specific provisions in the bill, and what I am about to say leads into that, but also it is time to reflect on the kind of failure that occurred and resulted in this problem. Minister Williamson has described it as multiple failures, truly systemic. Yes, it was so, but also it was a failure of the private sector in many, many ways. The private sector was allowed to run amok in the development industry devoid of the standards one expects in order for good buildings to be built. When the issue of building standards was brought together with the issue of untreated timber and things like that, we realised that the issue we needed to address was that of unethical practice. Designs were faulty—and no good architect would say they were good designs—but they were cheap, which is why they were adopted. There was no reason for the building materials to be abused in the way that they were. I was incredulous to see the workmanship that created this problem—and I know something about building, having built houses myself. The normal guarantees that would be given were not there, and, indeed, the assurances one gets in terms of inspection were not there. Those who inspected those buildings were from the private sector, many of them contracted by local authorities.
So here we are. This is a massive bail-out of a failure of the private sector, and I want to acknowledge that. We trusted the sector to fix the problem, and it did not. There are so many examples. I have seen top plates of curved buildings being made out of particle board, plastered over, railings drilled through them, and simply sealed up. They became leaky buildings. That was a failure of design. If those buildings had been made with the same materials, but with good workmanship, good design, and good inspection, then this failure would not have happened, but it did. The Minister is right that leaky buildings are as a result of systemic failure.
The damage that leaky buildings did to many individuals and families is incredible. I entirely believe the Minister when he says that he has looked into the eyes of people from affected families and he has seen the enormous damage that has been done. I have looked into the eyes of my own children and I have seen the enormous damage that has been done to them. Luckily they had a parent who could sign a cheque to fix it up. The provisions of this bill do not take that damage away, and we ought to acknowledge that. I know of some elderly people who sold the last pieces of their property and bought an apartment that would enable them to manage their expenses, but it became leaky. They had nowhere to go. They are still there, and this bill does not assist them. The bill is a good attempt to address the problem, but it still leaves enormous problems unaddressed. I do not say that as a criticism of the Minister. I appreciate that there are limitations, but it is a problem for this Parliament and for this Government.
There is something difficult about understanding that one qualifies to make a claim only if one’s building is 10 years old. People whose buildings are 10 years and 1 month old do not qualify, yet they are in exactly the same situation as the person whose building is 9 years and 11 months old. It is exactly the same situation. The personal hurt, the impossibility of fixing it, and the assistance from elsewhere are exactly the same, yet the family whose building is more than 10 years old will not be assisted. There are many families in that area. I say to Mr Williamson that the problem has not gone away for a sizable part of our population. What is to happen to those people? Who will stand alongside them? I still think that solutions need to be developed for this group. Perhaps 25:25:50 is a generous offer for those who qualify and it could have been stretched a little bit further, but I am sure the designers and the Local Government and Environment Committee looked at that. However, it does create a problem, and the provisions of this bill do not address it.
There are others who do not qualify. I have talked only about those whose buildings are more than 10 years old. But there are those who have already commenced repairs and those whose buildings were approved by private certifiers. That is pretty hard, because a private certifier was contracted to do a professional job. They did not do that, and simply because of that fact, the family, the individual, or the elderly couple in retirement now do not qualify for this assistance. So there is something unfair about these solutions, as well.
The bill is like the proverbial curate’s egg: it is good in parts. It is good as far as it goes, and it is still a credit to the designers who have brought it this far. But it leaves a problem unanswered, and that problem at some point will have to be answered by the Government or local authorities.
I want to make one or two other points. I was very happy during the Committee stage to get the Minister’s assurance about the assessment process. When a building is assessed and an agreement is reached as to how much will be paid, the building is opened up. When it is opened up, as sure as night follows day, that assessment has been found to be inaccurate. I have been really worried, because I have seen with my own eyes the damage that has been done. The Minister assures me—and it is on the record of Parliament if lawyers ever need to go back to this—that owners who have received inaccurate assessments can go back to the assessor to have the building reassessed after the cladding has been taken off, and another arrangement can been made about how much money is made available. I thank the Minister for clarifying that, as I was quite concerned that it would be a problem.
I still believe—and I disagree with the Minister on this point—that there is something inherently unfair about this bill, and it is in relation to those who have purchased leaky buildings at bargain basement prices, at sizable discounts. The people who originally owned the building have missed out. They have got out of it and somebody else has purchased it. Most of those purchasers are not young, private couples; they are developers and speculators. They now have the ability to receive State funding for up to half the cost of repair, and they can then harvest the capital gains that this would give them—and those gains would be enormous. I would rather that that money was utilised for the kinds of cases I have talked about—for those people who have no other means of fixing up this problem. The Minister has not been convincing on this point, but it is a problem and I hope that, at least, priority will be given to those who are genuine homeowners, who still own and live in their homes. Thank you.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman) : I am very conscious of previous speaker Dr Prasad’s family involvement, which he expressed during the second reading of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. Far be it from me, in any way at all, to try to dilute the reality of that situation for anybody who has been involved, but I would like to reassure the member on some of the points raised by him. Although I appreciate that not everybody can be at a select committee, I think he would have been comforted by the degree of thoroughness that the Local Government and Environment Committee process ensured was given to these things. I mean that quite sincerely, because the stories that came before us were oftentimes heart-rending.
I will address two of the points the member made, and I am sorry that the member’s representatives on the committee did not explain this when they were explaining the bill to his caucus. The 10-year feature is because prior to 2004 things were done to start to stop the leaky home syndrome. The Building Act 2004 made sure that the leaky homes problem would not arise again. Building techniques were developed, supplies became better, and the accreditation of building consent authorities was concentrated. So the select committee was assured that it is reasonable to expect that claims coming forward now would have occurred well within the 10-year period. It was on that basis that we accepted that there has to be some sort of defined point.
The other thing is that there is a no-blame basis for this legislation—a little like ACC. It is not designed to comfort—and I do not make the remark flippantly—homeowners or initial owners of leaky homes; it is designed to address the problem. In this case the building is the feature, not the owner. It is the building that has to be corrected. From that point of view, there is a no-blame basis. I understand that there has been very good sign up from local government and territorial authorities—not because it is cheap or an easy way out but simply because it gives certainty. This is where I think the Minister for Building and Construction’s bill and his work have been so praiseworthy in terms of getting this put right. It does not do anyone a favour, but it certainly gets the work done.
Just to address one of the points that was raised about past practice, I must say that I concur with the previous speaker from the other side of the House that now is not the time to be allocating blame. Indeed, this bill does not. Nothing about it allocates blame. But it is a case of bye-bye to the cowboys. The Minister, who is not known for his love of intense regulation—he has not been previously known for it—has reintroduced regulation and has reregulated builders and, shortly, the licensed building practitioner scheme will come into effect in March next year. [Interruption] Yes, this Minister did it—mandatory H1.3 timber treatment is required. This Minister has reregulated.
I know we have done a lot of work on the building amendment bills Nos 1, 2, and 3, and I think No. 4 is coming up shortly. A lot of work has been done and it is most reassuring. All in all, this is a most worthwhile bill. I am very proud to be involved in its processing. Thank you.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Kia ora tātou katoa i tēnei ahiahi i a tātou e wānanga nei i tēnei o ngā pire Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. He wā poto noa iho ki a au engari i a au e tū nei, ka hoki ngā māhara ki ngā mate nei kua pā mai ki a au ki roto i a Te Arawa. Ko tērā o ngā pāpā, a Theo Tait, tae rā anō ki te mokopuna a Te Ariki Mōrehu e takoto mai rā ki runga i tōna marae. Kore tae te aukati te āhuatanga ō-mate kua tae mai ki runga i a au o Te Arawa ka mutu, te motu. E kui mā, e tama mā, e koro mā, e hine mā i te pō, moe mai, moe mai rā.
Ka huri atu rā ki tēnei o ngā kaupapa kōrero i tēnei rā. Kai te tautoko te Pāti Māori i tēnei huarahi ki te manaaki, ki te tautoko i te hunga kua rongo nei i te ngau o ngā whare tuturu nei. I te ōrite tō mātou tū mō te Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Bill,arā, mō te mātāmua tonu o tēnei ture i te tau 2006, me ētahi atu o ngā ture mai i taua wā. Kei te tautoko mātou i te whakaaro kia noho te Kāwanatanga hei tuarā ki ngā whare pūtea, kia whakamāmā i te āhuatanga ki runga i aua whare pūtea kia rere pai te moni, te pūtea rānei ki ngā whānau, ki te whakatikatika i ngā whare. He huarahi pai tēnei i tōna tuturutanga ki te whakatau i ngā kerēme hei whakatika i tēnei take, arā, ngā whare tūturu, ngā whare pirau nei.
He pai tonu ēnei āhuatanga katoa engari, i a tātau e kōrero nei mō ngā whare tuturu, ngā whare pirau nei, me whai anō hoki tātou ki te kōrero mō te whānuitanga o tēnei mea o te ora o roto i te whare. Ki a au nei, he hononga tonu i waenganui i te hauora o te āhuatanga o te whare, o te ora o te tangata. Kai reira tērā whanaungatanga i waenganui i ngā mea e toru e kōrerohia ake nei. Ki taku mōhio, kei Counties Manukau, kei te Tonga o Tāmaki, kei Tāmaki tonu, kei Te Tai Tokerau, kei Te Awakairangi ētahi kaupapa i raro i te maru nei o te Healthy Housing,arā, ko te whakakotahitanga o ngā take hauora ki ngā take ā-whare. Nei au e pātai nei, he aha te take kāre i te pērā i roto i tōku ake rohe pōti o Te Waiariki i te mea, kai reira tonu, kai te wā kāinga ngā whare tuturu, ngā whare pirau, ngā whare makariri, ngā whare mākū, ngā whare pūwhāwhā nei. Mēnā ka pērā te āhua, arā noa atu ngā painga ki te hauora o te tangata. Nō reira, ko te tūmanako i a tātou e kōrero nei mō te pire nei,tērā pea ka whai wāhi tātou ki te whakatau i te whakaaro, āe, ka pai te whare, ka ora anō hoki te tangata.
Kai te tautoko te Pāti Māori i te āwhina ā-pūtea mō ngā whare tūturu engari, me titiro anō ki te āwhina ā-pūtea i ngā whānau ki te ārai i te makariri, ki te whakapaipai ake i te hanga o ngā whare, ki te whakanui pea i ngā rūma o te whare kia kore te whānau e noho kōpā, kia taea ai e rātou te whakatikatika ngā pirau me ērā atu momo raruraru o ngā whare. Me pēnei tātou ka tika. Ki te āta titiro tātou ki te māuiui ā-rūmātiki nei, ka mōhio mai tātou, arā nō tōna hononga ki te āhuatanga o ngā whare. Kua kaha ngau mai taua māuiui ki a ngāi Māori me ngā whanaunga o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Ka pā mamae tērā mate, tērā māuiui ki te tangata nā te kino o ngā whare, nā te kōpā o te noho o ngā whānau, nō reira, arā noa atu ngā painga ka puta i tēnei kaupapa o te Healthy Housing project.E kī ana te kōrero “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata”. Mēnā e pono ana tērā āhuatanga ki a tātou me whai atu i tēnei huarahi ki tōna mutunga mai. Koinei au e whakaara ake nei i tēnei o ngā whakaaro.
Nā, kia hoki mai ki te pire nei me ōna toronga. Kei te tautoko te Pāti Māori i te Housing Innovation Fund,kai te tautoko anō hoki i te Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation programme,hei mea whakamahana i te motu. Arā nō ōna painga. Nō reira, mēnā ka pērā, kai te tautoko mātou i tēnei pire i tōna mutunga mai. Ā, kia ora tātou.
[Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Greetings to us all this afternoon as we debate this bill, the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. I have only a brief call, but as I stand here my thoughts go to specific deaths affecting me in the Te Arawa region: those of the fatherly figure Theo Tait and of Te Ariki Mōrehu’s grandchild, who is lying in state on his marae. Circumstances relating to the deaths can never be avoided for me, Te Arawa, and, indeed, the nation. Oh elderly womenfolk, young sons, elderly menfolk, young daughters in the void, rest there, rest there.
I turn now to address this bill today. The Māori Party supports this way of taking care of and embracing the people affected by these leaky homes. Our stance on this one is similar to that on its predecessor, the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Bill passed into law in 2006, and on other legislation since then. We support the proposal that the Government act as a guarantor to financial institutions to ease the pressure on these money institutions, so that money becomes accessible to families to repair houses. In its simplest form this is a good way to resolve the claims that will fix this issue relating to these leaky and decayed homes.
All these situations are well and good, but while we are talking about these leaky and decayed homes we should be talking broadly about healthy housing. To me, there is a connection between the healthy state of the house and the person’s health. There is an association between the three things being discussed here. I understand there are Healthy Housing projects operating in Counties Manukau, South Auckland, Auckland itself, Northland, and the Hutt Valley under the mantle of Healthy Housing, in regard to an association between health and housing matters. Here I am asking why those projects are not operating in my electorate of Waiariki, because the situation exists back home there as well. There are leaky homes, decayed homes, cold homes, damp homes, and dilapidated ones present. If that is the case, there is much benefit to be gained in terms of a person’s health. Hopefully, as we talk about this bill, we will find time to consider the thought that yes, if the house is fine, the person is healthy as well.
The Māori Party supports a financial assistance package for leaky homes, but we must find a similar package for families to block out the cold, to make improvements to houses, to increase the size of living spaces so the family is not cramped, and to carry out repairs to decayed areas and other basic problems of houses. We have to do this; that is for sure. If we examine the disease of rheumatic fever, we will then understand its connection to housing conditions. That illness has impacted greatly on Māori people and their Pacific Island relatives. It is linked to poorer housing conditions and overcrowding. There are enormous benefits in the Healthy Housing project. The aphorism states “What is the greatest thing in the world? It is mankind, it is mankind”. That is why I bring it up here.
In coming back to this bill and its connections, I say the Māori Party supports the Housing Innovation Fund and the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation programme as a means of giving warmth to the nation. It has many benefits. In order that this legislation is implemented, we will support this bill right to its conclusion. Greetings to us. ]
Hon RICK BARKER (Labour) : Thank you very much for the recognition, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, and for the opportunity to make a contribution to this debate on the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. First, I reiterate what my colleagues have already said: Labour supports this bill. I congratulate the Minister for Building and Construction on steering this bill through the House. Like a large number of bills that have gone through this House it offers good points but it is not perfect. That is not surprising; I have not seen anything yet crafted that can be considered by all parties to be perfect. But let us look at the world not through a glass half empty; let us look at the world through a glass half full. I pick up on the points made by my colleague Rajen Prasad and I re-echo them: there are many, many people in New Zealand who are incredibly distressed at the state of their buildings. They are incredibly distressed that they have been let down by, as they see it, the authorities, the builders, and the architects. There has been an enormous amount of blame game played. We heard some of it this afternoon in the House. The Green Party member Sue Kedgley pointed the finger at all and sundry, other than the Greens, as to who was responsible. Well, the Greens can of course do that, but some people have to take some responsibility and get things done. This bill gives some certainty as to the way forward, but there is still a lot of uncertainty.
The first point I will raise in the third reading is the size of the problem. As I understand it there is $11 billion worth of houses involved—$11 billion is a large figure. It is an enormous figure. When we put that figure beside the cost of the reconstruction of Christchurch, we are, effectively, doing the job of rebuilding Christchurch twice over. This is a huge amount of money, it involves a huge number of homes, and it represents in many ways a loss—because if it is a cost, it is a loss. We are looking at a loss of $11 billion in Christchurch, a loss of $11 billion in leaky homes, and a loss of multiple hundreds of millions of dollars in finance companies that have gone broke. New Zealand has suffered a significant hit in a short period of time with leaky homes, Christchurch, and the financial crisis, but we have to dig ourselves out of the hole. This bill represents, in part, a way forward.
As my colleagues have said, there are some issues around, for example, who is eligible for the assistance package. There will always be issues at the margin. The member Chris Auchinvole explained why the 10-year limit was there. I have to say to the member that the moment we draw a line, some people are in and some people are out. That means that some people will be out and they will feel aggrieved.
Hon Maurice Williamson: They’ll miss by just that much.
Hon RICK BARKER: The Hon Minister Maurice Williamson holds up his fingers a little bit apart.
Hon Maurice Williamson: I’m just saying that some people can miss by just that much, though.
Hon RICK BARKER: They can miss by just that much. Yes, by just a small amount. So there will be some people who miss. Again, looking at the glass half full, this package will address the bulk of the problems for the bulk of the people. But this legislation will have people who will be outside of it.
This legislation also has other issues in how to deal with multiple-ownership properties. There is a threshold of 75 percent that has to be met. What happens if we get 72 or 73 percent? Then the majority are held at the whim of the minority. That is not seen as democratic by most accounts, but that is what we will have with this legislation. That does not seem to be a pathway forward to reconcile the differences between the majority, say, 66 percent, which is two-thirds, and the other third. It is another issue that we might have to come back to, as well.
The bill will rely in its implementation on the cooperation of local authorities and banks. The Minister has been very good in explaining what the legislation does, but we have not heard a lot yet about the attitude of banks. Banks have talked about goodwill, constructive engagement, and so on, but that does not amount to a guarantee or an undertaking.
Hon Maurice Williamson: They’ve signed up to it, Rick. They’ve signed.
Hon RICK BARKER: The Minister says that the banks have all signed up. That is a very good thing and I am pleased to hear it.
The other problem I come back to with this bill is that the legislation is all right in having a way, but we have to have the means to carry it out. The means for carrying it out is having a skilled workforce to undertake the work. There is very little point in having the legislation and the technical pathway forward, if we do not have the means to implement the work. Another way of looking at it is that we have the plan and we have the strategy, but we do not have the tactical resources. One of the National speakers made light of that fact and said that if there was a problem, then it had to be the fault of the previous Labour Government. In my opinion that is not a good enough answer. It is not good enough, because it is wrong. It is not good enough, because pointing the finger and blaming others is not a responsible attitude to this legislation. I re-echo the point made by Chris Auchinvole that this bill is not about apportioning blame, and that is a very worthy point. But we have to come back to the question of whether we have the technical resources to do this work. It seems to me that if we are going to struggle to get the resources to rebuild Christchurch, we will struggle to get the resources to rebuild Christchurch twice over. That is what this bill represents. We will need a large number of qualified builders, carpenters, roofers, plasterers, plumbers, and electricians—you name it. These people will have to be available to undertake this work, and any scan of the horizon from this vantage point today tells me that there are insufficient skills for this work.
Although this just leaves the enactment of the legislation, the Government now has a responsibility to do something more constructive about upskilling and training young people into the building trades than what it has been doing. The current rate of training and of upskilling of young people is lower than it was 5 years ago.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Dismal.
Hon RICK BARKER: It is lower, and it is showing no signs of picking up. The Government can point to the fact that it has increased funding and that is true, but when people point to the increase in funding, which is true, they do not point out that in fact the increase is measured off a base that is lower than it was previously. So the Government’s increase in funding for skills and training in the building industry leaves it short—well short—of what it used to be. If it is well short of what it used to be, and we were struggling to cope then, how will we cope when we have two major building projects to be undertaken? We have the rebuild of Christchurch and the repair of leaky homes. The work will be done over a similar and concurrent period, because once this legislation is passed we will see an increase in activity of getting those leaky homes fixed.
We must do that work for all the reasons outlined by Sue Kedgley. I feel ill and queasy when she talks about all the diseases in those homes. She makes it seem like I should have a facemask on to protect myself. I shudder at her description of the conditions those people are living in. She is very good at it, and she is quite right to say that it is a threat not only to their physical health but also to their mental health. It must be incredibly distressing to them every day to watch their most significant investment rot and cave in around them.
It is good that this legislation is being passed. It is good that we are getting to the final stage of it. It offers a pathway forward. It is not complete, and that is accepted. It is also accepted that, in all probability, we will have to come back to the House and do some more work on the legislation in the future. But that is not a debate we want to have now. The fact is that the glass is half full. Something constructive is being done, but underpinning this legislation there is still a fundamental weakness—that is, the very means by which we can give effect to this legislation to fix these homes that these people desperately need. To fix the homes we need more than just legislation, we need more than just the banks signing up the money, we need the people wearing the shorts and builders’ tool belts, and with hammers and nails out there doing the job.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Show us that again.
Hon RICK BARKER: The Minister missed it. We need them doing the job. These are people who turn up every day at 7 o’clock in the morning and work hard. They are great people, they do a great job, but we need many, many more of them. I think this is the fundamental weakness in the legislation. I would like to hear in the future a better plan from the Government, not the one it has reiterated but a better plan as to how it will upskill the industry and provide us with the skilled tradespeople necessary to construct and rebuild the houses in Christchurch and repair the leaky homes. Labour will support this legislation but much more needs to be done.
LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) : I am pleased to stand in support of this third reading of the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services (Financial Assistance Package) Amendment Bill. This is a bill that will give some people some certainty, and these are very vulnerable people. I am sure that every one of us in the House will have faced one or many more of them over the years. It is very important that the Government steps up with an assistance package that helps people not only rebuild their homes but, more important, rebuild their lives. This bill is another example of the Government getting on and getting the job done. That is what people want; they want some certainty.
Others speakers in the House today have referred to leaky homes as a disaster, and it is fair to say that the issue is a disaster of significant proportions. In the fullness of time this may end up to be larger or smaller than the Canterbury earthquake, but it is a disaster none the less. I am pleased that the speaker before me, Rick Barker, chose to take an optimistic view in terms of apportioning blame. It is one looking forward to the future and looking at this financial assistance package as a good solution, where the Government shares responsibility for the cost with local government—the Government being responsible for 25 percent of the cost and local government for 25 percent of the cost. That is a fair and equitable solution in terms of how we are able to go forward and to make sure that people are able to rebuild their homes.
I want to touch, just for a moment, on the human cost of this. Often in this debate we have talked about the financial cost and whether it is $1 billion or $11 billion, but more important for me is the human cost, which we are unable to measure entirely, ever. That is why, in terms of the contribution of this bill, it provides people, whether an individual or a family, with the certainty to get on, to move forwards, and to rebuild. Yes, there is a time frame, and other speakers before me have talked about the fact that the drawing of a line will have an impact on some people, but in the hearing of the Local Government and Environment Committee, it was clear, given the submissions that came in, there was general support for the bill. People accepted that this bill was a fair and equitable solution to a fairly devastating issue.
It was really good to see the strong support from local authorities. As the Minister for Building and Construction said, we have also had the signalling of support and agreement by the banks. They are an important part of this puzzle, so that people who wish to borrow to complete their repairs and maintenance are able to do that. Getting the banks on board was an important part of the solution and I know that the Minister has done an enormous amount of work to make sure that this is a package they could buy into. So I congratulate the Minister on doing that.
I say in closing that each one of us has heard the stories of the agony for homeowners and of how much litigation and legal wrangling has gone on for them in trying to solve this problem of leaky homes, so it is really great to see that this bill is focused on fixing and rebuilding homes, rather than lengthy litigation and legal wrangling. That is why I am proud to support this bill.
- Bill read a third time.
Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation) on behalf of the Acting Leader of the House: I move, That the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) be referred to the Regulations Review Committee for consideration, that the committee report finally to the House on or before 12 September 2011, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting except during oral questions, during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).
This bill is required each year because it contains various orders and regulations that must be validated or confirmed by the Parliament. If the House chooses not to validate or confirm any items of delegated legislation, they will lapse. This is a small but important bill that traditionally receives the support of all members of the House on the basis that the orders and regulations tend to be routine and technical in character. This is certainly the case again this year. The bill validates or confirms orders and regulations under a range of legislation, including the Commodity Levies Act 1990, the Customs and Excise Act 1996, the Land Transport Act 1998, the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001 and the Social Security Act 1964, the Tariff Act 1988, the War Pensions Act 1954, and the Wine Act 2003. The bill will go to the Regulations Review Committee and, as it does each year, the committee will, I am sure, give the bill a careful and thorough examination on behalf of the House. I commend this bill to the House.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : For people listening to the House on the radio, watching on television, watching on demand, or sitting in the gallery, the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) might seem to be a strange thing to appear on the Order Paper, and it might be worth saying a few words about it. The Minister said in her first reading speech that these annual subordinate legislation (confirmation and validation) bills tend to deal with matters that are uncontroversial. The Opposition is consulted about the bill in advance of its introduction to ensure that there are no matters of controversy. As the Minister pointed out, these bills exist because on occasion Parliament makes laws that allow delegated legislation that has a sunset clause to be made because the executive is conscious of the need to bring the subject matter of the order back to the House for consideration as to whether the powers taken under the principal legislation remain necessary for the administration of the particular regime that was set up by the relevant legislation.
Although it is true that this is a non-controversial bill, it is worth considering the sorts of matters that the legislation brings to the House. There is delegated legislation that prohibits trout from being imported into New Zealand. There is delegated legislation that prohibits the export of live cattle for slaughter. That is very topical, particularly in Australia at the moment, where there are huge concerns around the animal welfare issues that live exports to Indonesia, for example, are now causing. There is delegated legislation that allows for the automatic increase in tobacco excise; ditto alcohol excise. There are orders referred to in the bill that relate to the export of so-called dual use material, which is scientific material that could be used in the manufacture of weapons such as nuclear weapons.
Then, of course, there is a reference to the Tariff (New Zealand - Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement) Amendment Order. There is very similar legislation in Australia that is also very topical at the moment. That is the same kind of treaty under which a tobacco company seeks to sue the Australian Government in an international legal forum to prevent it from proceeding with its proposal to plain package tobacco products on the domestic market in Australia. There are very, very similar provisions in the treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, as there are between New Zealand and Hong Kong. It is worth not minimising the issues that Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) bills bring to the House.
I think it is worth, though, raising a question about whether this is a good way to legislate. Is it a good use of the scarce time that the House has to allow for up to a 2-hour debate on a matter such as this every year, when we all know that other urgent matters that could be dealt with are just languishing on the Order Paper? By my calculations, we have 17 more sitting days until we run into the 16 valedictory speeches, which have already been scheduled in this term of Parliament by the Business Committee. So I ask whether it a good idea, from the point of view of parliamentary procedure, to force on to the Order Paper every year this sort of bill for a debate of this nature. Could we do better?
The Minister made a kind reference to the Regulations Review Committee, which I have had the good fortune to chair in this term. She said she was sure that the committee would give the bill careful scrutiny, and we will do our best, but let me tell members a little bit about the scrutiny that we can, in practice, give this sort of measure—because we have done it twice already in this Parliament. We write to the relevant departments responsible for the administration of each measure in the validation legislation. We ask whether they still need these powers, and invariably they write back and say: “Yes, we do. We would like to keep them, thank you.” We acknowledge that and then report the bill back to the House. We say that the departments responsible for the legislation would like to keep the powers they already have and that it appears to us that that seems unobjectionable, and therefore we recommend to the House that the bill be passed. That is the level of scrutiny that we can effectively give to these sorts of measures, because the committee has no other way of knowing whether there is any ongoing utility for the powers.
We could, I suppose, in theory, apply to the Clerk for an independent adviser to go through each aspect of the legislation and come to an independent view as to whether these powers are still required, but we have never considered doing that. It seems to us that if we were to request that sort of resource, we would be better advised to reserve it for some issue where there was actually some controversy.
In reality, there is no systematic method of review available to the House, despite the form that these bills take, for measures contained in them. That is why I raise the question of whether there is a better way to do this sort of thing. Under the current Standing Orders, the only way that I can think of that there could be a systematic review of the ongoing need for delegated legislation, independent of the empowering legislation requiring that there be a sunset clause, or, on the making of the order or regulation, the imposition by the relevant Minister of a sunset clause, is if the Regulations Review Committee were to undertake an inquiry, as it did in the last Parliament, on the effect of spent legislation. That is certainly a course that is open to the committee, but it is not usually done. The question arises of whether there will be the time for that, given that an ongoing scrutiny job is required in respect of all existing new delegated legislation. Then there is the complaints jurisdiction, which the committee exercises under the Standing Orders when it receives a concern from a member of the public about the operation of an existing regulation.
Maybe it is time to look at what I understand is the practice in the Commonwealth Parliament in Australia, where all delegated legislation is now given a sunset date. My understanding is that the practice is that there should be regulations in force for 10 years, and then it is a matter for the responsible Minister or the department to have to come back and make the case for the carrying on in force of the delegated legislation, so that there is a justification advanced in every case for every regulation to continue in force. Maybe that is a good way to clean up the red books that sit outside in the lobbies, because they do tend to fill up, given our executive’s propensity, whoever is in power, to rely on the regulation-making power.
I made some similar points when Mr Foss made his maiden speech as a Minister on the dog control legislation, because that involved the invocation of what is known as the affirmative resolution procedure. That procedure is invoked not only with dog control legislation but with epidemic preparedness legislation. It was contemplated for the Canterbury earthquake orders, but that notion was dropped in favour of the ordinary scrutiny that the Regulations Review Committee can provide. I said on that occasion that maybe the idea of having to come to the House to get specific pieces of delegated legislation confirmed under that procedure was not a great use of the House’s time either, and that we had a perfectly good scrutiny committee that could perform this sort of scrutiny without using the time and resources of the House, and report as required. I would have to say that similar logic applies to these annual Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) bills. They are not a good use of the House’s time and resource. We could be debating much more important substantive legislation, but because this is an annual requirement, we cannot do so. I do think that when we have legislation such as the Legislation Bill, which would reform some of these procedures, simply languishing on the Order Paper, it is timely to think about how we could do a better job here.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) : It is fairly rare for members of this House to have an opportunity to consider in close detail work similar in nature to that undertaken each week by the Regulations Review Committee, and I imagine that this debate may make our colleagues very glad of that fact. I doubt whether many New Zealanders will remain glued to their radios or TVs to hear the first reading of the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) through to its conclusion. My long-suffering and incredibly loyal mother may prove to be one exception to that statement, but even she, I imagine, will find herself switching channels back to Television One after the dinner adjournment, as her devotion to Coronation Street overcomes the questionable allure of this bill. But as the deputy chair of the Regulations Review Committee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to reinforce the comments of the Minister the Hon Kate Wilkinson and the Regulations Review Committee chair, Charles Chauvel, who have preceded me, and to say this is an important measure, and the consequences of not giving it due consideration and seeing it enacted could be far-reaching and damaging for several affected industries.
As the explanatory note states, “This Bill’s purpose is to prevent the lapse”—either through expiry or deemed revocation—“of certain subordinate legislation that, by virtue of the Acts under which it is made, lapses at a stated time unless earlier confirmed or validated by Act of Parliament.” It is for that reason that Parliament is required to consider and pass this bill each year. Traditionally, Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) bills receive the support of all members of this House, as they are uncontroversial in nature. In fact, that comment is equally true of the workings of the Regulations Review Committee as a whole. That is one reason, by convention, that the committee is chaired by a non-Government member of the House, and I acknowledge the considered and constructive approach currently demonstrated in that position by Charles Chauvel. As a committee we work in a cooperative fashion and rarely divide along party lines, reflecting the fact that our function is the scrutiny of parliamentary process rather than the consideration of policy matters.
In this instance 13 orders and regulations listed in the bill need to be confirmed, or confirmed and validated, and they are made under seven different Acts. These provisions were outlined by the Hon Kate Wilkinson and Charles Chauvel, so I will not repeat them. Although this is a routine and technical measure, it is an important one to ensure that the subordinate orders and regulations do not lapse, which will be their fate if these items are not confirmed or validated, because each of the empowering Acts provides that the subordinate legislation will be deemed to be revoked on specified dates unless confirmed or validated by Act of Parliament before those specified dates—in other words, the sunset clauses referred to a moment ago by Mr Chauvel. I can sense the excitement building right around this Chamber, particularly from my colleague the member for Hamilton East, and indeed right around the country, and I therefore say “Let’s bring it on.” I have great pleasure in commending this measure to the House.
RAYMOND HUO (Labour) : I rise to take a call on the first reading of this routine and annual bill. Although it is a routine and annual bill, there are a couple of important issues in relation to the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3), not only in its content but also in its process. As the purpose clause confirms, subordinate legislation has to be confirmed to avoid the effect of provisions lapsing, or deemed to be revoked after the elapse of a certain time, unless confirmed or validated by Act of Parliament.
In terms of process, we are dealing with a sunset provision. Most laws do not have sunset provisions, and therefore remain in force indefinitely. Some laws do, and they provide that a law shall cease to have effect after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend the law. A recent example in New Zealand is the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, which was passed in 1999 to discourage waka jumping in an MMP parliamentary system. That amendment expired, as scheduled, in 2005.
We have been assured that this is a relatively administrative and procedural bill, but it touches on many facets of our society. Matters to do with social security benefits, New Zealanders’ superannuation, war pensions, or commodity levies are matters of importance, and they are significant to the ongoing operation, regulation, and maintenance of those industries.
Having said that, I point out that one particular order that is validated and confirmed in this bill is worth mentioning. The War Pensions (Rates of Pensions, Lump Sum Payments, and Allowances) Order 2011, which came into force on 1 April 2011, amends the War Pensions Act 1954 to increase the maximum levels of pensions and allowances in accordance with the “all groups” Consumers Price Index and to implement the Government’s commitments—or so-called commitments, should I say—in relation to the levels of veterans pensions.
I reiterate what the Hon Rick Barker said in his press release in May: “the veteran community is still awaiting the Government’s long-overdue announcement on overhauling and updating the War Pensions Act 1954… [The] Law Commission reported to the government on 1 June 2010 making a number of recommendations to modernise the veterans support scheme legislation.” The commission outlined two principles, but I want to bring the attention of the House to the second, which is, as stated by Rick Barker, that “veterans who have suffered as a result of being put in harm’s way as part of their service deserve to be recompensed over and above the entitlements of ordinary citizens. No New Zealander would disagree with that. The commission also noted that some ACC entitlements were more generous than the War Pension entitlements meaning that some veterans were treated less generously than ordinary citizens,”. Again, I reiterate what Rick Barker said: “This is unacceptable, unfair and needs to be fixed fast.”
The contents of this bill deals with areas of lawmaking where Parliament has decided that it would not give the executive carte blanche in making regulations—for example, levies imposed on primary producers under the Commodities Levies Act 1990, the Wine Act 2003, and so on and so forth.
The bill also validates certain subordinate legislation. This is a chance for Parliament to examine the legislation for conflict with delegated legislation principles or any other defect in the regulations or in the making of them that could lead to the regulations being regarded as invalid, or to cure any such potential defect by validating provisions. The regulations and provisions—for example, the levies, and so on—that are contained in this legislation need to be renewed, and they need to be applied after consideration by this House. At each turn, it means that these provisions will get renewed scrutiny.
This is a strict contrast to another bill introduced to this House last week. Echoing the concerns expressed by my learned colleague Charles Chauvel a moment ago in this House, but from a different angle, I tell members that all the practices of the bill we are considering are better than those of the Regulatory Standards Bill, sponsored by ACT’s Rodney Hide. Mr Hide’s bill introduces some new ideas that are relevant to some aspects of this bill. Mr Hide’s bill would be applied to new laws, but after existing for 10 years the bill could apply to existing regulations as well. That could empower the courts to reinterpret provisions in other laws to make them consistent with the so-called principles prescribed in his bill, thus changing the original intention of Parliament when the law was enacted. That is unconstitutional, and would fail to meet the test of responsible regulatory management.
To a large extent, Mr Hide’s bill is redundant. Further, by requiring certification by Ministers and chief executives, Mr Hide’s bill would virtually change the role of Parliament and the courts, and would put chief executives in a position to politicise themselves. I am trying to say that we have well-established practice and a good regulatory management system to make sure that laws are enacted appropriately and, where necessary, that subordinate legislation—namely, regulations and orders—is confirmed and/or validated. This is what responsible regulatory management is all about.
David McGee, in his must-read book Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand, describes the need for such bills as being purely and simply about confirming regulations that might otherwise lapse. These lapsed regulations are commonly brought together in a single piece of legislation, and that touches on the very issue of the speed of lawmaking. David McGee has evidence of a dramatic reduction in the number of minutes allocated to passing each single page of legislation. He identified that a total of 12.3 minutes per page, in the 2002-05 Parliament, was the lowest amount of time recorded over the previous 50 years. This tells us about the quality of legislation, business efficacy, and what the legislators and Government can deliver.
I conclude my contribution by mentioning another piece of subordinate legislation that is validated and confirmed in this bill. The Social Security (Rates of Benefits and Allowances) Order 2011, which came into force on 1 April 2011, amongst other things increased most benefits, pensions, and allowances. I particularly note that under this National-ACT Government there are more people on the benefit: 17,521 more people were receiving a main benefit in June 2011 than in the same period last year, which is an increase of 5.6 percent; 5,409 more people were receiving an unemployment benefit in June 2011 than in June 2009, which is an increase of 10.6 percent; and unemployment benefit and student hardship numbers were up 234 percent in June 2011.
This Thursday Labour will announce its economic package, which will show that we have a vision, we have a plan, and we have very, very good alternative policies. When National was voted in, in November 2008, it had a huge mandate to do many things, including bold ones, which may not be popular at the moment but would have benefited New Zealand in the long run. It is a pity that opportunities have been wasted. Thank you.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Tēnā koutou katoa. I will make a very short call on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) on behalf of my colleague Kennedy Graham, and of course on behalf of the Green Party and its position on this legislation. The bill will provide legal force for subordinate legislation, regulations, and the like, and in some cases will confirm orders that are already in effect but that will otherwise lapse unless this legislation is passed. The subordinate legislation that is covered by this bill includes levies imposed on primary producers under the Commodity Levies Act, regulations made under the Customs and Excise Act and the Land Transport Act, and rates of benefits, pensions, and allowances under the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act, the Social Security Act, and the War Pensions Act. The Tariff Act and the Tariff (New Zealand - Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement) Amendment Act 2010 Commencement Order will be validated and confirmed by this legislation.
Quite rightly, these are mostly technical regulations, which could easily be supported to go to the Regulations Review Committee. When specific groups are affected by these changes, then no doubt they will submit, or have the opportunity to submit, on areas where they may have concern. The Green Party certainly supports raising benefit levels, which is being done in part under this legislation, I understand. Of course, benefits are not being raised by enough, and the poverty that beneficiaries still suffer from will continue under this legislation until there is a serious review of the poverty trap that the welfare system is at the moment.
We do not have any particular concern at this time about the customs and export provisions, but no doubt we will have a look at them when the bill is at the select committee. The land transport provisions deal with registration and the licensing of motor vehicles. Those provisions are quite complicated and technical provisions. It is difficult to tell at this early stage whether there are any specific issues with them. We assume that issues will be dealt with at the select committee if they do arise, and, again, those affected will have an opportunity to submit.
I say, however, on behalf of the Green Party, that we do not support the Hong Kong free-trade agreement, and we are opposed to the legislation in so far as it validates and confirms the amendment order for the New Zealand - Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement. On that basis, because we are so opposed to it and have such strong views about the economic injury that these kinds of free-trade deals do to the New Zealand economy, and therefore to families and New Zealand business, the Green Party will not be supporting this bill at its first reading. We always consider that we have to weigh up very carefully whether we will support or oppose legislation like this, where there is a range of different things, some of which we may agree with or not have concerns about, and other parts that we may disagree with. On balance, the Green Party has decided that our opposition, and concern for the New Zealand economy, are reflected in our concern about the Hong Kong free-trade agreement. Therefore, we will not be supporting this bill. Thank you.
AARON GILMORE (National) : This is a wonderful opportunity to stand and talk to the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). It is not often that members of the Regulations Review Committee stand to speak, so it is an honour and a privilege to have this opportunity. I will start by talking about one particular thing. This bill does a really important thing: it outlaws the export of military products, and in particular components of nuclear or biological weapons, or of chemical weapons. I think every New Zealander probably thought that was already outlawed. This bill does a number of things and brings in a number of regulations, but it shocked me when I realised that those exports were not currently banned in New Zealand.
I look forward to being a member of the select committee as it looks at many of these things. The Customs Export Prohibition Order 2011 has some very interesting things that I think the committee will look into in serious depth, as it will look at the other issues in the bill around tobacco duties and the recent increase in those duties, which I think is a very important step forward for the health of New Zealanders up and down the country. I look forward to the great deputy chairperson to my left, Mr Tim Macindoe from Hamilton West, admirably chairing the committee when and if required. Thank you.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) : Namaste. This debate on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) is the first time that I have participated in a debate of this nature. Of course, when I was a highly sought-after speaker on this bill and had to go into a ballot to make sure that I was the third speaker, I knew that this would be serious stuff, whereupon I thought it was really important that I understood what subordinate legislation is all about and the process by which it comes into the House. Of course, this completes my learning. I have also had the privilege of being a substitute member on the Regulations Review Committee.
The Regulations Review Committee is one of those committees that, if one is a substitute member on it for the first time, one goes to assuming one will make a contribution, but in the knowledge that there is absolutely no space at all to make any kind of contribution. There is an amount of paper that one has to read, which I bet most members of the committee do not read, about all the regulations before they are passed. But at least the members have the guarantee that there is legal counsel who has read everything, and who comes to the committee to offer proper advice. Of course, under the chairmanship of Mr Charles Chauvel and the deputy chairmanship of my good friend Tim Macindoe, I am sure it all goes very well. I was very keen to try to understand the procedure by which those Acts that have time-limited provisions have to be brought back to the House, for it to validate those provisions, change them, or confirm them. Of course, now I know that this is the procedure whereby it happens.
I was interested in the specific regulations that are being confirmed in the bill. It is a tremendous learning experience that there are these provisions. People who are watching the debate today on television will be very, very interested to know about the specific provisions in the bill, and that the bill will go to the Regulations Review Committee. I did not know that there is a levy on all chicken eggs produced in New Zealand for sale. Had I known that—
Stuart Nash: Where have you been?
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: That is a good question. I have been busy working out—
Hon Member: Shock, horror!
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: Absolutely; shock, horror! But what is more interesting is to know where the levy goes. It is payable to the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand Inc. The Commodity Levies (Eggs) Order, which came into force on 20 December 2010, expires in 6 months. Obviously there was a very good reason why the order was limited to 6 months, and now it is being confirmed. I hope the select committee has a good think about that. The committee members will want to know what has happened to the money, where it has gone, whether it has been put to the right use, and whether it is time to confirm that order as an ongoing provision. The serious business of the House and the serious business of the select committee now make much more sense to me, and now I understand why there was such scintillating discussion when I was a substitute member on that committee.
Another one is the Commodity Levies (Tamarillos) Order 2010. There is also a levy on tamarillos grown for commercial purposes in New Zealand, and of course people will want to know where that money goes. It goes to the New Zealand Tamarillo Growers Association. This is amazing; I did not know there was one. I love tamarillos. Of course, the select committee will want to know where the money goes to and what it is used for, and whether it is now time to confirm this particular regulation.
Of course, the regulation covering trout has already been spoken about. The Customs Import Prohibition (Trout) Order 2010 prohibits the importation of trout and trout products in quantities of 10 kilograms or more. A little bit is fine, but if it is too much you need—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order!
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I am sorry; of course I know that Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson does not import trout products, but New Zealand does as a country. Of course, these products can be imported, but the Minister of Conservation has to be involved if the quantity is more than 10 kilograms. Here is a regulation about trout, and the select committee will ponder deep into the night, wondering whether this is the appropriate one.
But perhaps one of the most serious orders is the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order. I am not a meat eater, so consequently my sympathy is with the animals. These poor animals—I do not know why we have to send our cattle, deer, goats, and sheep for slaughter overseas. There is a little piece of me that knows that although it is prohibited, it can be approved by the chief executive of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry under certain conditions. I urge the select committee to have a good look at this one. We want to make sure, at least for a vegetarian like me, that we do this under proper conditions, and that if we do not have to do it, we should not. That is a very important role that will be referred to the select committee in relation to this bill, and I know that my friend Tim Macindoe will give this issue very, very serious consideration.
Then there is the Excise and Excise-equivalent Duties (Tobacco Products Indexation and Separate 10% Increase) Amendment Order 2010. Can the committee look at shorter names for some of these orders? They are very long. This order is the one about the excise duty on tobacco.
Another order is the Excise and Excise-equivalent Duties Table (Alcoholic Beverages Indexation) Amendment Order. This has the rules by which there is an adjustment to excise and excise-equivalent duties on alcoholic beverages, to reflect the movements in the CPI. Those rules play a very important role.
But then comes the Customs Export Prohibition Order, which is really about some of our treasures being exported. I hear that rules are coming up for confirmation around the export of pounamu, green-lipped mussels, and dual-use goods like the ones that the previous speaker spoke about that might be used in a nuclear production programme. So this bill brings very, very serious regulations around really important matters to the House and will be referred to my esteemed colleagues in the committee.
There is also the Customs Import Prohibition Order, which I am sure the Minister of Police will be very interested in. This is about the prohibitions on the importation of offensive weapons—knuckledusters, various knives, and bayonets—and motor vehicles with inaccurate odometers. It is a very, very specific and important regulation that is coming up for confirmation, and our friends on the committee will ponder over many arguments from either side. They will look at this bill and bring it back to the House. I look forward to the Committee stage of the bill. We will ask hard questions of the Minister in the chair.
There is another order under the Land Transport Act. It is about motor vehicle registration. There is a whole set of rules about registering motor vehicles and cancelling registration, licensing motor vehicles, and changing the use of motor vehicles. These are the other regulations to come in.
Then there is an order under the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001. Of course, this order is about increasing most benefits, pensions, and allowances. That is very important these days, because a lot more people are accessing those benefits—not just people on the unemployment benefit, etc., but also those on superannuation as well. So the interests of a large number of people are affected by that measure, and the committee will want to validate and confirm those particular rules as well.
Then there is the order about Hong Kong and preferential rates of duty under the Tariff Act. The Green Party does not support that provision. Now that we want to be unanimous, I am sure there will be great debate on that issue in the House.
As for the provisions on war pensions, the committee may like to state in parenthesis, on the side, that it wonders when the overhaul and updating of the War Pensions Act will come into place. Perhaps the committee should look at the regulations around that; this might be a good time to do so.
The most fascinating provision relates to the Wine Act 2003.
Sandra Goudie: Wind him up.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: No, this is quite interesting, I say to Sandra Goudie. There is also a levy on those who grow grapes; however, the levy is not imposed in relation to the sale of grape wine to another winery in New Zealand. We can sell that to other wineries, and there will no levy on it, but in some other places there are levies. So there we go; I have learnt more about a different part of one Act.
This is a really important bill. We are happy to support its referral to the select committee, and I look forward to the report back. Thank you.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel) : I am delighted to be able to take a call on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). This is a bill that traditionally has the support of all members of the House. There is no need to expand on it at any great length. It will be going to the Regulations Review Committee for that additional oversight. I commend the bill to the House.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : It is my pleasure to follow the interesting contribution made earlier by my colleague Dr Rajen Prasad on the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). I also intend to look a bit more deeply into the bill than, perhaps, some of the other contributors have done so far. As has probably been mentioned, the purpose of this bill is “to prevent the lapse (expiry or deemed revocation) of certain subordinate legislation that, by virtue of the Acts under which it is made, lapses at a stated time unless earlier confirmed or validated by Act of Parliament.” This is the first time I have been able to speak on a Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) bill, although I understand that this is at least an annual process in Parliament, and I thought I would find out a little bit more about the process. But first I say up front that Labour is supporting this bill to select committee, the Regulations Review Committee, which I am interested in finding out more about, because I think that scrutiny of regulation and delegated subordinated legislation is really important. From the little I know—and I am trying to learn more—this is a very important feature of trying to ensure the integrity of this Parliament and the transparency of our legislation.
Anyway, I decided I would try to look a little bit more, and I went to that source of a great deal of useful information, McGee, to find out what it stated about this sort of thing, because I thought I would like to know. McGee states: “Each year legislation is introduced to confirm regulations that would otherwise lapse.” It further states: “regulations made under different Acts will be confirmed in a single piece of legislation, often called”—as, indeed, this one is—“the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill,”. Basically what McGee states is that “Confirmation is the House’s opportunity to consider the policy which lies behind the regulations to be confirmed. It is not an exercise confined to examining regulations for conflict with delegated legislation principles.”
Interestingly enough, McGee states that there is “no presumption that a confirmation bill will be referred to the Regulations Review Committee”, although certainly in this case we are referring it to the Regulations Review Committee. It continues: “A confirmation bill dealing with regulations solely relating to producer boards, for example, would be likely to be referred to the Primary Production Committee, where the committee could hear evidence from growers opposed to the policy underlying the regulation—”. However, it also states that a confirmation bill dealing with a miscellaneous range of regulations on a number of subjects is likely to go to the Regulations Review Committee, and in fact that is happening here, because in this bill a range of regulations are being looked at.
The regulations are governed by a number of different Acts, including the Commodity Levies Act 1990, the Customs and Excise Act 1996, the Land Transport Act 1998, the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, the Social Security Act 1964, the Tariff Act 1988, the War Pensions Act 1954, and the Wine Act 2003. I see the point that McGee is making here: there is no commonality amongst all of those Acts. The regulations mentioned in this bill cover a wide range of issues, from commodity levies, through excise, a range of things on motor vehicle registration, social security rates and benefits, the New Zealand - Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, and the (Wine (Grape Wine) Levy Order 2010. That is quite a range of things, which would not go together in any of the subject select committees, so off goes this bill to the Regulations Review Committee, which I am sure will have a very interesting time looking at the various provisions in here.
I shall follow on from Dr Prasad in looking at some of the different provisions. I too was interested in the Commodity Levies (Eggs) Order 2010 provisions. This is a levy payable, as my colleague said, to the Egg Producers Federation of New Zealand, and it was expressed to expire 6 months after it came into force. This provision really is to see whether that will continue, and likewise the Commodity Levies (Tamarillos) Order 2010. The levy in that case goes to the New Zealand Tamarillo Growers Association, and—
Hon Maurice Williamson: How does the member know all this?
CAROL BEAUMONT: I ate a tamarillo just the other day, and it was delicious—really very nice. But the point is that that is not what this measure is about. There is also the Wine (Grape Wine) Levy Order 2010, and periodically I do drink a glass of wine, but that is not really the point. The point is that these levies are an important part of industries, and organisations that represent industries, getting together and acting in the best interests of their industries, in order to ensure that our food and beverage products—which we are renowned for as a country—have some industry-good work done. This is a way we can go about doing that, through these levies, which are set under the regulations, and are now going to the Regulations Review Committee to see whether they need to be extended and confirmed.
I support very strongly the idea that our industries cooperate in this sort of manner. There are things that are industry-good objectives, which can be promoted to strengthen the ability of our exporters and producers to get products into overseas markets and earn us the very important export earnings we need as a country. From Labour’s point of view it is fair to say that we are deeply troubled by the lack of an economic plan from this Government in terms of supporting our exporters, and providing the opportunity for us to earn the very income we need to provide the standard of living that this country desires for all of its people. This is just a small example, but we would like to see a greater emphasis on an economic plan that supports our producers and exporters. So those are three regulation areas, on tamarillos, eggs, and wine.
Dr Prasad also talked about the Customs Export Prohibition (Livestock for Slaughter) Order 2010. This is an order that came into force on 21 December 2010 prohibiting the export of cattle, deer, goats, and sheep for slaughter, except with the consent of the chief executive of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and subject to any conditions not inconsistent with the prohibition that he or she specifies. That is quite important, and I am not being flippant here. Obviously we are very concerned about exporting, and the issue of livestock being exported is really important. Our colleagues and comrades across the Ditch, the Australians, have seen recently what can go horribly wrong in this area. Many, many farmers in Australia have been concerned about issues they have had with the export of livestock—I think it was to Indonesia—and with that livestock then being treated inhumanely.
This is a very important area of regulation. Increasingly, global markets, the sorts of countries that buy New Zealand food and beverage products, want to know how we go about producing the items we are selling—the food they will eat. They want to know how that food has been grown and raised, and how, in the case of livestock, livestock has been treated. Traceability is a really important issue. People all around the world are now demanding much more as consumers. They want to know that animals have been treated in a humane manner. They want to know what sorts of chemicals and other additives have been put into the food chain—all of these sorts of things. So this is an important regulation for us, certainly from the point of view of ensuring that animals are not treated cruelly, but also as part of the bigger picture of food production, and the importance of the food industry for our country.
Those are some of the areas covered in this Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). The issues I have chosen to talk about are the ones particularly relating to our food and beverage industries, ensuring that they are strong and supported so we can get the best possible outcome in our overseas markets.
Again, I say Labour supports this bill. I am sure the select committee dealing with it will have a very interesting time dealing with all of these various regulations. I look forward to following its progress through the House. Thank you very much.
|Ayes 111||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 10||Green Party 9; Independent: Carter C.|
|Bill read a first time.|
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the Acting Leader of the House: I move, That the Regulations Review Committeeconsider the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3), that the committee report finally to the House on or before 12 September 2011, and that the committee have authority to meet at any time while the House is sitting (except during oral questions), during any evening on a day on which there has been a sitting of the House, and on a Friday in a week in which there has been a sitting of the House, despite Standing Orders 187 and 190(1)(b) and (c).
- Motion agreed to.
Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2)
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: I move, That the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a second time. I thank the Justice and Electoral Committee for its careful consideration of this bill, and for its unanimous support. Widespread cross-party support will ensure that this reform is enduring, and that we maintain a stable system of electoral administration.
This bill is the second stage of the process to integrate New Zealand’s electoral agencies into a single agency. In October last year a new Electoral Commission was established, which took on the functions of both the Chief Electoral Officer and the former Electoral Commission. This bill transfers the function of the Chief Registrar of Electors, including responsibility for the electoral roll, to the Electoral Commission. Having one electoral agency will allow a more cohesive and strategic approach to electoral administration, and will provide an accessible one-stop shop for the public and stakeholders.
The bill also implements three recommendations from the Justice and Electoral Committee inquiry into the 2008 general election, which are designed to improve the integrity of the electoral roll and maximise enrolments. The bill also provides for an online re-enrolment service, which is the first step in a process that will eventually allow people to enrol using the internet.
The main recommendation by the select committee is to bring forward the implementation date for the transfer of the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the Electoral Commission from 1 October 2012 to 1 July 2012. This change will reduce administration costs by aligning the transfer date with the beginning of the 2012-13 financial year, therefore avoiding part-year reporting. The committee also recommended updating the types of contact information that may be provided to the Māori Affiliation Service regarding consenting Māori electors. Finally, the committee recommended a number of amendments to clarify drafting and make cross-references to the Electoral Act, which will ensure that electoral legislation is accurate and up to date. I support the committee’s recommendations and consider that they will strengthen the bill and contribute to its objectives.
In transferring responsibility for enrolment services to the Electoral Commission, this bill improves the administration of our electoral system. The bill also takes advantage of modern technology to increase the efficiency of our enrolment service and to improve the integrity of the electoral roll. I commend this bill to the House.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : I rise to support the second reading of the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). As the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture pointed out, the Justice and Electoral Committee spent some time on this legislation. We reported it back unanimously. We think we have improved the bill with our recommendations, and I hope the House will support those recommendations.
I will say just a couple of words about what the bill does. Essentially, this legislation is the implementation of stage two of a two-stage reform of the administration of the electoral machinery in New Zealand. Members will recall the set-up of the newly constituted Electoral Commission. We have debated that matter a number of times in this House already this year, most recently, I think, last month, when the House recommended to the Governor-General that we finally bring the commission up to strength, appoint a deputy chairperson for the commission, and bring its membership to three. That resolution was passed with the unanimous support of the House, and I understand that the Governor-General has now acted on that advice.
The other important thing I think it is worth stressing about this legislation is that it introduces some important abilities for the commission to use new technologies—in particular, online enrolment, which will make a big difference, particularly as far as young people’s involvement in the electoral process is concerned.
There are a couple of other machinery changes in the bill that I will mention in my speech, but, basically, members on this side of the House hope this new Electoral Commission will be a more effective regulator of elections. With its integrated nature it will be able to provide better access to electoral services, and will encourage a more efficient and strategic approach to electoral administration.
At all times we have been supportive of the Government’s two-stage approach to reform. There was the need to pass legislation last year to honour the convention that legislation that would govern a general election would not be passed in an election year itself. Doing this reform in two stages has basically allowed that convention to be satisfied. Late last year the legislation touching on electoral finance and administration for the general election was passed. It came into effect very quickly afterwards, on 1 January this year. I think it is fair to say that it will take a while for the actors to get their heads around all the ramifications of that legislation, but it certainly indicates the common-sense nature of the convention that this House does not legislate for elections in the year that those elections fall due.
Those first parts of the reform dealt with the establishment of the new Electoral Commission, subsuming into it the old commission and the former position of Chief Electoral Officer. This bill brings the Chief Registrar of Electors into the commission. The original proposal was that that should occur, I think, in October next year. The select committee thought—with justification, I think—that that date could be brought forward to July next year, and that is the recommended change. We have heard from the Minister that that change has the Government’s support, which is pleasing.
I think it is appropriate to not let this opportunity pass without doing something that has been done in other speeches on other electoral reforms during this Parliament, and that is to pay tribute to the integrity of the statutory officers who have been responsible in the past in New Zealand for the conduct of elections in the three agencies we are now combining into one. There is every reason to hope that the trust we have reposed, with great justification, in those officers will continue to be justified in the new integrated commission.
The other thing that is important to say about this bill is that every 3 years the Justice and Electoral Committee conducts a review of the way in which the administration of a general election took place. Some of the provisions we are debating today result from the standard review that was conducted into the 2008 general election, and I will speak a little bit about those changes in a moment.
I mentioned earlier that this legislation allows for the use of new technologies. Most interestingly and most excitingly, it allows for online enrolment. Given that the new technologies, the internet and what have you, have been available for a number of years now, one would think that we might already have taken advantage of this new technology. I see Minister Williamson smiling across the aisle; he thinks the internet is already redundant and is about to be replaced by something else. I am sure we will be enlightened as to his vision at some point. But the point here is that we all know how important it is to get younger people and people who are less engaged with the mainstream to take an interest in electoral enrolment, because if they go on the roll first thing and vote the first time they are eligible, they are much more likely, statistically, to keep voting in the future. If we can get access to populations that are much more likely to take an interest in the process because they are being engaged through new technologies, social media, and what have you, they are much more likely to keep—
Sandra Goudie: What have you?
CHARLES CHAUVEL: —a high level of interest in election enrolments. I can see that Mrs Goudie is almost as excited as I am by these prospects, which is quite a frightening thought when we boil it down—Ms Adams, as well. The good thing about the legislation is that it will allow for these new technologies to be used. It will allow for online enrolment, but also it puts some real safeguards in place so that some of the obvious abuses that could come from permitting a non - paper-based enrolment scheme are minimised.
The bill has other provisions that go towards the maintenance of the integrity of our system—something we should be very, very proud of in this country. Those provisions allow for the enrolment centre—or the commission, as it will now be—to be sure that a person is properly on the roll. In respect of people who are new to New Zealand who seek to come on to the roll, at the moment the information of the Department of Labour can be used only to check the immigration status of somebody who is already enrolled; it cannot be checked while an application is being processed. That ability is provided for under this legislation. The bill provides for a new system that is much more efficient.
As I mentioned earlier, the select committee recommended that we bring forward the deadline for the role of the Chief Registrar of Electors to be transferred to the new Electoral Commission. There is also a clause allowing the registrar to seek the consent of declared Māori electors to supply the Tūhono Trust with electors’ email addresses and contact phone numbers. That is clearly on a consent basis, and it will allow that trust to administer its affairs more efficiently. New section 124(5), inserted by clause 14, provides for the use of electronic copies instead of paper copies, and the scanned copy of the enrolment record can be used for the same purposes as the original paper copy. There are one or two consequential amendments relating to the Chief Registrar of Electors, the Electoral Commission, and the schedule.
This bill is good legislation. It is good that we are keeping our electoral laws updated, that we are being mindful of the possibilities afforded by new technologies, that we are minimising the possibility of fraud and other abuse, and that this is all being done in a timely way with appropriate regard for the conventions. With those few words I commend the bill to the House.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : It is good to take a call on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). Electoral law is very, very topical. That, of course, is because Labour does not seem to know how to follow it. I will not go through the history in 2005, 2008, and then again most recently. I put it down to a lack of quality lawyers in the Labour Party. For a number of years now there has been a lack of quality lawyers. Of course, there is Charles Chauvel, but he was an employment law partner, and I have had my doubts about employment law as an area of law for some time now. But in any event—[Interruption] That got them going, did it not? In any event, it is good to speak on this bill—
Hon Member: Lynne Pillay’s a lawyer.
SIMON BRIDGES: No, she is a bush lawyer. It is good to speak on this bill, which transfers the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors to the new Electoral Commission—
Lynne Pillay: Or so these notes say.
SIMON BRIDGES: —and makes other changes. Well, I would like to speak at length on this bill. The bill makes other changes to the administration of electoral enrolment, as well. It is a technical and administrative bill.
I see Stuart Nash on the other side of the House. He, of course, is probably single-handedly responsible for what Labour got wrong with its ads recently. But I do not have time for those sorts of comments. I commend this bill to the House.
CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) : It is a pleasure to rise and speak to the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). This is the second reading debate on this bill. It was introduced in November 2010 and referred on 23 November to the Justice and Electoral Committee, of which I am now a member, although I was not at that time.
Before I talk a little more about why Labour supports this bill, I have to say something in response to comments made by the member who just spoke, Simon Bridges. I find it absolutely rich, coming from that side of the House, that Mr Simon Bridges thinks it is OK to talk about corruption in politics. Coming from a party that is as corrupt as any we have ever seen—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: To use the word the member has used brings the House into disorder. I ask the member to withdraw the word and not use it again. Members on both sides of the House are not to use that word, either in interjections or in main speeches.
CAROL BEAUMONT: I withdraw that word. I go on to talk about the fact that on the other side of the House we still have members of Parliament who were part of the regime of the hollow men. I will leave it at that.
I go back to the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). As my colleague Charles Chauvel said, this bill implements stage two of a two-stage reform of electoral administration establishing a new Electoral Commission and making other changes. I thought it would be useful to look a little bit at this Electoral Commission and what is proposed. This bill will complete the set-up of the Electoral Commission. In doing so, it follows the first piece of legislation, passed in May 2010, which established a new independent Crown entity to be known as the Electoral Commission.
The Electoral Commission’s functions are to conduct elections; deal with donations to, and expenditure of, political parties and candidates; inform the public about electoral matters, which is very important; apportion broadcasting time and funding; register parties and logos; and maintain the electoral roll. In carrying out those functions, the functions of the three former electoral administration bodies—that is, the Chief Electoral Officer, the previous Electoral Commission, and the Chief Registrar of Electors, which had various responsibilities of those listed—are effectively now consolidated into one body, the new Electoral Commission. This will undoubtedly streamline and improve the process.
That is not to comment negatively on any of the three previous organisations. I think that one of the things we can agree on in this House and can take some confidence from is that as a country we are very concerned about ensuring that we have transparency around electoral processes. We want them to be robust, and we want our electoral system to operate in a way that is not, as it is in other countries, subject to intimidation, to people buying votes, and to corruption among electoral officials. Fortunately, that is not the case in this country, although there is always room for improvement. Hence this bill establishes the new Electoral Commission to take on the consolidated functions of the three previous bodies.
That consolidation makes a great deal of sense, and we are certainly very supportive of it. I would go so far as to say that Labour is also appreciative of the consultative process that the Government has undertaken in relation to the changes in electoral administration. As I say, the new Electoral Commission will be a more effective regulator of the elections, providing greater integration, greater efficiency, and a more strategic approach. That is what is envisaged.
The bill was scrutinised by the Justice and Electoral Committee. Only four submissions were made to the committee, two of which we heard. We received advice from the Ministry of Justice. Of course, it is always important to acknowledge the contribution of those officials to the process.
In addition to phase two of the new Electoral Commission, some of the other amendments that are included relate, as Mr Chauvel said, to online enrolment of electors—online re-enrolment and updates. This will give voters the option of re-enrolling and communicating changes to their enrolment details via the internet or by using an approved electronic medium. It will use the igovt log-on service that has been developed by the Department of Internal Affairs. It is stage one of a two-stage process, and I think this is really important. As with any significant changes in the process of enrolling and using electronic media, it is important that we get it right. This is stage one of a two-stage process that will eventually give electors the option of full online enrolment. That will require, as we have been advised, a higher level of security than is currently possible, so that work will continue. The Department of Internal Affairs is working on that.
The two-stage process is seen as necessary to ensure that the integrity of the electoral roll is maintained. That is absolutely fundamental to our system. Having confidence in the electoral roll is really important. It is the key by which people get the opportunity to vote and to have their vote counted. We all know that there can be problems. In my own experience there have been problems in relation to people whose names are in a slightly different order from what people in New Zealand have generally been used to. That has caused problems in relation to how people enrol and, when they go to vote, trying to find themselves on the electoral roll with staff at polling places.
Also we have a problem in this country whereby at every election—and we have not nailed this problem yet—people in good faith go along to vote, and cast a special vote because they cannot be found on the electoral roll. There is a reason for that: they have not enrolled. If their names cannot be found on the roll, the officials at the polling place will let them fill in a statutory declaration and cast a special vote. They vote, thinking that they have contributed to the outcome of the election. Of course, sadly, they have not. We need to work on how we can improve the feedback loop, and how we can find those people. I have spoken to many people who have assured me that they vote year after year, but, in fact, they are not on the electoral roll.
That is an area that needs improvement, but my point really is that the integrity of the electoral roll is very important. It is the fundamental process by which we get our voting paper and we cast our vote. I am sure that everybody in this House is a solid promoter of that. I am sure that every MP works very hard to support those people who try to make sure that every New Zealander who is eligible is on the electoral roll so that they can cast a vote that counts, because that is the basic nature of our democracy. We all need to take greater responsibility for ensuring that people are on the roll. They are legally required to be, but, more important, it is the essential step to casting their vote and to that vote counting.
Secondly, we should all take responsibility for encouraging our fellow citizens to go out and vote. That is, of course, very topical right now as we lead into an election in less than 5 months’ time. I urge all members across the House to take that responsibility seriously.
Sandra Goudie: As long as we do it within the bounds of the rules.
CAROL BEAUMONT: I am sure that even Ms Goudie takes it seriously. That is another part of the process in this bill. They are probably the two key changes being looked at here.
There are also some provisions dealing with immigration processes, and I am sure others will want to talk about those provisions. The immigration changes arose as a result of the inquiry into the conduct of the 2008 general election. Again, I think it is a strength of our system that we hold an inquiry after each general election and each local government election to see whether we can improve the processes. That is in our best interests. Arguably, those sorts of things are where we see this House operating at its best. We talk to New Zealanders and the relevant officials in a cross-party manner to find out how things went in those elections and what could be done better. On that positive note, I commend this bill.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) : Tēnā koutou katoa. I want to take a very short call on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). Charles Chauvel set out very clearly earlier the process by which this bill comes to the House. It is, I think, the last bill in a process of reform. The Green Party has also agreed to the timetable for that reform. We feel that this process has been quite good and has worked quite well. We support this legislation. We support the changes in the updating of the processes, the move to online access for voters, which will enable them to change their details, and the bringing together of the two agencies into one to make for a more effective organisation for managing elections and referendums—including the MMP referendum—for the New Zealand public. We support the legislation and look forward to its speedy progress through the House.
AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) : I want to take a very brief call in support of the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). I think after listening to the debate on this bill this evening that its scope and what it achieves has been fairly well canvassed and I do not intend to waste the time of the House going over it again. I will take just a moment to commend the Minister of Justice for his ongoing programme of work to reform and modernise our electoral laws. It is one of a number of steps this Government has taken.
I also acknowledge and commend Chester Borrows as the chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee, which considered the legislation. The committee works exceedingly well under his chairmanship and has led to significant improvements to this bill and other legislation that has come before it.
It appears that this bill has the support of the House, so I will add my voice to that support and commend the bill warmly to the House. Thank you.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) : I rise, as everyone has done this evening, to speak in support of the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). It has support from all parties, which is certainly not a common thing in this House. I think of some of the dreadful legislation we have had imposed on us—albeit by majority—by the National Government.
Carmel Sepuloni: ACT, Māori.
LYNNE PILLAY: By the National - ACT - Māori Party Government, as my friend has reminded me. But we are here to talk about the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). As Charles Chauvel said, the bill implements stage two of a two-stage reform of electoral administration. The reform establishes the new Electoral Commission and makes a number of other changes to the Electoral Act.
The legislation came as a response to a report from the Justice and Electoral Committee on its inquiry into the 2008 general election. When I was on the Justice and Electoral Committee this issue was raised a number of times both by submitters and by officials, who commented that it would be much more effective to have reform and a commission that encompassed the whole general election process.
As I said, along with every other party in the House we support this bill. We appreciate that there was a consultative process on this bill. I congratulate the Minister of Justice, Simon Power, who will not be with us in the next term—neither will I, but life goes on. This bill is common-sense legislation. It is far more preferable to me than other legislation, such as the “90 Day Sack at Will Act” and the dreadful changes we have seen to law and order and education, etc.
The new Electoral Commission will be a more effective regulator of elections. I hope that the new agency will provide better access to electoral services and encourage a much more integrated, efficient, and strategic approach to electoral administration, because that is what this Government, every other party in this House, and every person who casts a ballot in the general election wants to see.
I pause to acknowledge the work that gets done. Irrespective of the outcome of the election—for many people it was quite devastating—we pride ourselves on a process that, by and large, runs very, very smoothly. If we compare that process with other countries, other so-called democracies throughout the world, I think we find that it is something—I can see Maurice Williamson nodding furiously—we can all celebrate as being part of an inclusive and very effective democracy.
The first stage of this reform has already taken place. The new Electoral Commission was established on 1 October. It takes over from the old Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Office. The second stage, which this bill brings forward, will be completed on 1 July 2012. It will bring the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors within the new Electoral Commission. Although it needs to be streamlined, it takes nothing away from the fact that it has been very well served by the agencies, as I said before. This process, although it was highlighted very strongly in the last inquiry, has been raised in at least two inquiries into the general election prior to that. In fact, when Mr Deputy Speaker was on the Justice and Electoral Committee quite some time ago, it may have been raised even at that stage. That could be something he wants to muse on as he is sitting there, thinking.
I come back to the bill. I will talk very briefly about the select committee report. As I said before, the date was moved forward from 1 October to 1 July. A new clause was inserted to allow the Chief Registrar of Electors to seek the consent of declared Māori electors to provide the electors’ email addresses and contact phone numbers. The use of electronic copies instead of paper copies is provided for in a new clause. We are getting more up to date with the world we live in today.
Hon Maurice Williamson: Soon the internet will be voting for you.
LYNNE PILLAY: I know Maurice Williamson is very much an information technology—
Hon Steve Chadwick: He is. He’s very keen.
LYNNE PILLAY: He is very keen. He is passionate. I think it is his first love, actually. There were other amendments, but those were just drafting amendments that came up.
There is so much to talk about on this bill. I will look a little, teensy bit at the background. Carmel Sepuloni will go into quite a bit of depth on the background, but I will briefly touch on it. Previously, there were three separate bodies. They were the Chief Electoral Officer, the Electoral Commission, and the Chief Registrar of Electors. I will leave Carmel Sepuloni to go into more detail on that, because she is more of a details person than me.
I think, as so many have said, that this will be more effective and we want to see it. I think from time to time we have had a couple of little instances at elections where ballot papers have not got to some of the polling booths in time. There was a situation where some ballot papers went missing on one occasion. But, by and large, those events are very, very infrequent.
This bill will only enhance the service that is provided. I think that full online registration and moving towards more technology will really enhance the situation. The report from the department provides for the full online enrolment option, which is apparently very much on the agenda, to have a satisfactory trial. It will certainly improve online enrolment.
There is also provision for a more efficient way to check whether an elector’s immigration status legally allows them to be on the roll. I think that currently the Department of Labour’s information can be used to check the immigration status only of those already on the roll. It cannot be used to check when an application is being processed. Under this legislation the immigration status can be checked during that time, as well.
Hon Steve Chadwick: That’s really good.
LYNNE PILLAY: That is very good. It is a very good—
Hon Steve Chadwick: A check and balance.
LYNNE PILLAY:—check and balance. It keeps on top of people’s immigration process. It is good to see something good happening with immigration, given the Prime Minister’s dreadful statements lately. Also, the new system will be more efficient. I spoke about that before. It does the streamlining. I know that other people are waiting to take a call on this bill. Thank you very much. Along with everyone in this House, I commend this bill. Thank you very much.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) : The Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) is part of the reforms that were initiated by the National-led Government. The bill has support across all the parties of the House. The main changes in the bill are that voters can register online and change their details online. The bill also includes amendments that will give voters the option of enrolling and of communicating changes to their enrolment details via the internet. Initially, the igovt log-on service was developed by the Department of Internal Affairs. Enrolment offences are to be amended to ensure they cover internet-based acts. The amendments will improve the enrolment service, meet electoral expectation, maximise enrolment, and reduce electoral administration costs.
This bill is stage one of a two-stage process that aims to eventually give electors the option of full online enrolment. For the full enrolment development a higher security level is required. The Department of Internal Affairs is developing the igovt identity verification service, which is also known as IVS. It will require the users to verify their identity online in real time. The identity verification service is intended for use of the full online enrolment option. The two-stage process is necessary to ensure that the integrity in the electoral roll is maintained. I commend this bill to the House.
CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) : It is nice to stand and speak to the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2), which all parties across the House support unanimously. Labour supports this bill, and we genuinely appreciate the consultative way in which the Government went about making changes to electoral administration. Simon Power has done a good job. He has gone about this electoral reform the right way, and we appreciate the bipartisan approach. It is just unfortunate that the process of this bill is in stark contrast with the lawmaking process followed by many other Ministers of the National-led Government, and that this process was the exception rather than the rule for this Government.
The new Electoral Commission will be a more effective regulator of elections, and we hope that the new agency will provide better access to electoral services and encourage a more integrated, efficient, and strategic approach to electoral administration, as envisaged not only by the Government but unanimously across the House. [Interruption] I am not sure what the member Sandra Goudie was yelling about then, but we will just ignore that.
It is really important to put the bill into perspective, so we need to look at the background of what we had prior to what is being pushed forward with this legislation. The former electoral set-up was administered by three separate bodies, which had various functions. Lynne Pillay spoke a little bit about them, and I would like to go into a little more detail.
Hon Steve Chadwick: She spoke quite well.
CARMEL SEPULONI: She did—she spoke very well. We had the Chief Electoral Officer, who conducted general elections, by-elections, and referenda. We in this House know all about by-elections this term. The Chief Electoral Officer also dealt with the division of the Ministry of Justice. In a general election year the office employed returning officers for the 70 electorates. It received returns of donations and election expenses from parliamentary candidates, and provided information to voters, candidates, and parties relating to electoral events. That was the Chief Electoral Officer.
Next we had the Electoral Commission—that is, the previous Electoral Commission. It was an independent Crown entity. It registered political parties and party logos. It also received donations protected from disclosure, registered parties’ annual returns of donations and returns of election expenses, and allocated election broadcasting time and funds to eligible political parties. The commission also encouraged and conducted public education about electoral matters. The third function was the Chief Registrar of Electors, which was responsible for the electoral roll.
The functions of the new Electoral Commission are to conduct elections; deal with donations to, and the expenditure of, political parties and candidates; inform the public about electoral matters; apportion broadcasting time and funding; register parties and logos; and maintain the electoral roll. In short, the new Electoral Commission will take on all of the functions of the three former electoral administration bodies. We support that change, and we think it will result in a more efficient system.
It is great that there was consultation over this issue, and a robust process through the Justice and Electoral Committee. Unfortunately, we have not seen much of that happen, with all of the bills passed by this Government under urgency. But with this bill a good process was undertaken in the select committee. Although I am a member now I was not one of the committee members at the time this bill went through the committee. But from what I hear from my colleagues, it was a very collegial environment to be in during the consideration of, and deliberation on, this bill. It is good to know and good to hear that that is possible in this environment.
I think a lot of people watching from the outside think that at no point do we come together and agree, and at no time do we come together and work collaboratively to come up with the very best legislation that we can. Actually, we do that through our select committee process. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we do not actually agree on the end result, but a very robust process is undertaken through our select committees. This bill is a good example of where that happened. In the end there was unanaimous support for the legislation that resulted. It is good to be standing in the House and speaking about that process.
As I said before, the bill was appropriately scrutinised at the select committee. Given that any changes to the Electoral Act can have constitutional ramifications, we are pleased that this bill has passed with cross-party support. Labour has been supportive of the Government’s two-stage approach to reforming the administration agencies. The bill will ensure a smooth process of change. We are supportive of that and we are pleased about that.
I think I may leave it at that, and wait to hear—
Sandra Goudie: Keep going, keep going.
CARMEL SEPULONI: Sandra Goudie has had a lot to say as I have been speaking, so perhaps she will rise and make a speech on this bill. I guess we will have to wait and see. If she does not, then no doubt we will still hear her screeching from the Government backbenches.
I have just remembered a few more details that I would like to mention. Sandra Goudie asked that I continue, so I will continue. She is enjoying my speech so much that I will continue. There are some aspects that I did not discuss. The first stage of administrative reform has taken place already. A lot of people may not know that, but it has. The new Electoral Commission was established on 1 October, and subsumed the old Electoral Commission and position of Chief Electoral Officer. The second stage provided for in this bill will be completed on 1 July 2012 and will bring the functions of the Chief Registrar of Electors within the new Electoral Commission.
We support this bill. Again, it is great to say that there is cross-party support for it.
PAUL QUINN (National) : It is a pity we are getting close to the dinner break, because I have so much to say on the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2). I would like initially to make two specific comments. Firstly, this bill is yet another example of the efficient way in which this Government is going about its business. This bill consolidates three organisations into one, and that will give greater efficiency, save the taxpayer money, and carry on the excellent business of getting rid of or minimising red tape so the country can get on and focus on the real issues.
The second point I want to discuss very briefly, and one that has not been raised, is the ability of the Tūhono Trust to receive information so it can contact its electors. If I had much more time I would go into that a bit more, but with those few words I commend the bill to the House.
- Bill read a second time.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) : I move, That the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill be now read a third time. As the introduction to the commentary to the bill says, this is an on-account settlement bill. It is intended to give effect to certain provisions of the deed of on-account settlement relating to the transfer of assets in an on-account settlement of the historic claims of Whanganui iwi. The river and the land claims are yet to be negotiated, although I am hopeful that we will do that very soon, because Whanganui iwi have been waiting for a just and durable settlement of their grievances—particularly in relation to the river—for many years. It is interesting to look at the history of the river claim. It began in about 1887. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of their case to the Court of Appeal. They desperately deserve a good settlement.
This bill, frankly, should have been passed some months ago. Unfortunately, the Committee of the whole House stage was evidenced by a very disappointing filibuster from Labour, which was probably out of spite for Mrs Turia’s courageous and principled stand on the hated Foreshore and Seabed Act. After this debate, I intend to copy the records of Hansard of the Committee stage and send it to Whanganui iwi. They will see just how pointless and empty the Labour contribution to the debate during the Committee stage was. In 9 years Labour managed very few settlements indeed, and all it could do with this on-account bill was filibuster.
It is interesting that Mr Grant Robertson is in the House, because I know he thinks he is the very apotheosis, as it were, of the art of filibustering because of his little Royal Society bill. The filibustering over that bill is nothing compared with what those members did with this bill. I am very disappointed in Mr Horomia, because he and I always take a bipartisan approach to these negotiations. He is basically a good bloke, but I have to say that the Labour contribution during the Committee stage was pitiful. The bill is very short. As I said, it is an on-account bill. We really must move on, so I commend the bill to the House.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Labour—Ikaroa-Rāwhiti) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Greetings. I rise to speak on the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. I would like to recognise the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations for delaying this bill, but I am certainly encouraged that we have got here tonight and that he is showing a bit of fettle and is going to cut through to the end. I recall that in the 9 years Labour was in Government, we set up 11 settlements that were very close—they just needed a nod and a pat and they would have been finished. The Minister has hardly done any of it.
In relation to this bill, we are getting to the end, and, certainly in a bipartisan nature, we know how to stick to partnerships and not jump ship like some of the people around here. We certainly are encouraged by those people in the Whanganui area. It really is important to recognise those people, the Southern Whanganui Cluster and Tupoho, and also the effort that Ngāti Apa put in. The Minister has gone; I will talk although he is gone.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): It is not in keeping to mention that someone has left the House. We all have to at some stage or other. I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 24/8.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Thank you very much for correcting me, Mr Assistant Speaker. The Labour Party is supporting this legislation. It resulted from work begun by the previous Labour Government. I will stretch it out a bit, because a fair bit of this settlement is on behalf and it is pre the agreement between the parties. It is quite a new situation. If this Minister got his act into gear, he could do a whole lot more.
The bill gives effect to the deed of an on-account settlement that was signed by the Southern Whanganui Cluster / Tupoho working party on behalf of Whanganui iwi. There were tensions, and I say again that Ngāti Apa needs to be recognised for the efforts they put in to allow and to help this to come to a decent end. These are allocations in advance, and there is some peculiarity about allocating the forest, because this forest, standing alone, is held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. That is surprising. One finds these things out, and they are dug out as the settlement goes along. Certainly the handing over of the ownership of that to the iwi is a wonderful advance. This half-ownership of the land under the Kaitoke Prison is given to the cluster here, and the other half is with Ngāti Apa. I suppose again that Ngāti Apa’s efforts in relation to helping this bill get to where it is today is something that has been recognised.
One of the bigger issues in relation to this settlement—and it has some dynamic relevance to some of the behaviour of people who want to become members of this House—is in relation to putting the “h” in “Whanganui” and the unnecessary debates that went on through some factions that really thought to create tensions between the peoples, Māori and non-Māori, by saying that this was a bastardisation of the language. It was terrible. One person on the radio—one person who went and rolled somebody to become the leader of a party even though he was not a member—seems to be revisiting the nasty notions of scratching that racist itch. It is a wonderful thing, it is a wonderful achievement, that the Crown and these people have come to agreement in relation to putting the “h” into the spelling of “Whanganui” and that the majority of people accept it. It may incite some redneckness here and there, which is something that we can really do without.
This is a very historic settlement. Apart from the land being settled with those iwi, this language bit in here and the recognition of one culture in this country is a real advance for us. Supporting the “h” in “Whanganui” is a real advance for this country. I was surprised when looking at a map of Whanganui today, which had all these great names. Some of the areas in Whanganui are Springvale, Wembley Park, Castlecliff, Durie Hill, Windsor Park, and Polson Park. This ain’t London; this is Whanganui. The great thing is that somebody saw fit in 1860 or 1870 to transfer these great names from where the kings’ and queens’ horses run around in a park. I have actually been to Windsor Park.
Grant Robertson: Have you?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, I have been there. I have been to Wembley Park, too. I have been to Tolaga Park, too. But the point is this: Māori have had to put up with the renaming of a lot of their traditional areas, and they have accepted it. They have taken the kids down and picnicked at Wembley Park, at Castlecliff, at Windsor Park, and at Springvale—all of these great, British-named places. I see the great Dr Hutchison over there smiling, because he knows this is the truth. All I want is credence given to the Whanganui Māori and recognition that through long, and at times hardy, tribulations, they have seen fit to respect the visitors to this country and recognise their names on a whole lot of areas there.
So historically today we will support putting the “h” into Whanganui, and we would recognise that one does not play soccer at Wembley Park, and one does not have kings’ and queens’ horses riding around Windsor Park. And what was that other place?
Hon Mita Ririnui: Pākaitore.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Pākaitore—that is right.
Hon Mita Ririnui: That’s a nice English name.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, it is a great Māori name, Pākaitore. Pākaitore—that is right: Pākaitore, Windsor Park. Pākaitore sounds better—Pākaitore—because it is of the people, it is of the land, and it is of their language. That is the issue relevant to putting the “h” into Whanganui. Do not listen to any of this claptrap about saying it is a waste of time, and that it should not be done. I want to really recognise this bill, and I want to really recognise this legislation, because it is taking us well forward—well forward.
You see, the Minister was so belittling of my colleague Grant Robertson as to chastise him for trying to create the differentiation between—what is that bill?
Grant Robertson: Royal Society.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill—that is right. These names smack of our English partners; it smacks of royalty. They are great British names, and they are better suited around the city of London, or up the top end of the city where Windsor Park is, but we can live with that, along with Whanganui. I commend this bill to the House and I look forward to Whanganui being painted alongside Windsor Park, Wembley Park, Springvale, and Castlecliff—and the name Pākaitore may stand for ever.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. It is lovely to see you again. I too will say a couple of words in support of the passage of the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. I congratulate the people at home in Whanganui, the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, and the Minister’s staff in the Office of Treaty Settlements on a job well done. I also thank the members of the Māori Affairs Committee, who did a sterling job when we visited Whanganui and heard from the local people. Although there were a few raruraru, I think we will always get that.
I too use this brief moment in time to comment on the select committee’s recommendation that the word “Wanganui” be changed to “Whanganui” wherever it occurs in the bill—from clause 1, the title of the bill. I will read from the select committee’s commentary on the bill. “We heard from the Southern Whanganui Cluster Working Party that they strongly feel that the spelling of Whanganui should be with an ‘h’. On 18 December 2009, the Minister of Land Information announced his decision to assign the alternative official geographic names ‘Whanganui’ and ‘Wanganui’ and stated his expectation that Crown agencies would adopt the ‘Whanganui’ form over time. We also strongly feel that Whanganui should be spelt with an ‘h’. Accordingly, we recommend amending the spelling of ‘Wanganui (Kaitoke) Prison’ and ‘Northern Part of Wanganui Forest’ to ‘Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison’ and ‘Northern Part of Whanganui Forest’ throughout the bill with the exception of the reference in clause 4 to the Corrections (Wanganui (Kaitoke) Prison) Notice 2008, but including clause 1, the title clause.”
It is easy to sidetrack ourselves from the main part of the bill, which is a Treaty settlement, but the recommendation is really interesting and I commend the select committee for it. I also commend the Government, and the House for accepting the recommendation of the select committee. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour) :Tēnā koe. Otirā, kia ora tātau i roto i te Whare. Ahakoa kua oti rā te Wiki o te Reo Māori i tērā atu wiki, e tika tonu ana kia kōrerohia tō tātau reo tuatahi o te motu, i ngā wā katoa. Hoi anō rā kai te Kaihautū tēnā koe, tēnā tātau katoa. Āe, tautoko ana i tērā kōrero.
[Thank you. Greetings indeed to everyone in the House. Even though Māori Language Week finished last week, it is very apt that our first language of this country is spoken at all times. So salutations to you, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, and to all of us. Yes, I support that sentiment.]
It is obvious that the Labour Opposition will be supporting the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill, and for obvious reasons. Those reasons are that the real work, the really difficult work that is required to bring a proposal like this to the table with all its tentacles intact, is the testing part for any Government. I was a little bemused, shall I say, by the contribution of the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations to the bill, in that he spent something like 80 percent of his time attacking the Labour Opposition in terms of our performance when we were in Government.
Charles Chauvel: 90 percent.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I stand to be corrected—it was 90 percent of his contribution, and it took only 3 minutes. I think it is very important that at times like these, when these difficult settlement bills come to the House, we acknowledge, in full, the part that all parties play in this level of success.
I was disappointed—I did say I was bemused, but I was disappointed—with his contribution. You see, to get a proposal like this to the table requires a hands-on approach from the Minister. It does not require continual interaction by officials to the point of nausea or to the point where the claimant community becomes absolutely fed up. We learnt that in our time in Government, and that is why under the previous Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, the then Attorney General, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, a hands-on approach was required. I think that everyone in this House would agree that once that approach had been taken, Treaty settlements actually accelerated. I have yet to see a settlement bill from this Government introduced to this House that it actually started from the beginning—in other words, where it has actually walked amongst the claimant communities in order to get a buy-in to its policy.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Paul Quinn’s got through.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I have not seen that happen yet, and I am sure the member across the House, Paul Quinn, of Ngāti Awa descent, is familiar with what I am talking about and what it takes to make settlements a success. It is really necessary also to acknowledge the huge contribution that the negotiating team of Ngāti Apa played in the success of this particular bill. I have praised them in this House on many occasions. They were a young team, they understood the importance of collaboration when it comes to settling Treaty grievances, and they understood the need for collaboration when it came to post-settlement arrangements.
There are some people in this House who would think that the biggest problem that W’anganui had was the “h” in Whanganui. Well, I do not agree with that at all, but that is an issue that is important to them locally. If that was going to be the silver bullet for the ails of Māoridom, I would put an “h” in Tauranga, but we know it would not fit. The former chair of the Māori Affairs Committee laboured on that point for quite some time—that is, that essentially the major contribution from the Government representatives on the Māori Affairs Committee in relation to this important bill was where the “h” in Whanganui actually fitted. Well, whether or not one puts an “h” in it, I pronounce it the same way: W’anganui, “h” or no “h”. The problem is not my pronunciation; it is actually the English language and the way it spells the word “Wanganui”. But we have all learnt to live with that, as my colleague the Hon Parekura Horomia echoed in this Chamber this evening, and it is time to move on.
I think everything we need to say about this bill has been said over and over and over again, and it is now time for us to congratulate all of the parties involved and also the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. Although he has yet to prove himself to be able to be engaged upfront with the claimant communities, it still needs to be acknowledged that this is a major achievement for his portfolio. I am sure that in the future he will have many more challenges to confront as he deals with negotiation groups, particularly from the Bay of Plenty.
I have no more to say in relation to this bill. It has been a long, long journey for the W’anganui cluster, and I am sure that, along with many of us in the House, they are actually quite pleased that it is over. I notice that this bill was introduced to the House in September 2009. It is now July 2011, so we have to ask why on earth it took so long if it is such a simple bill. It cannot be blamed on filibustering at the Committee stage, because all the Labour Opposition was attempting to have clarified was whether the Government actually understood what was involved in the bill itself. This is an on-account settlement, and we all needed to be clear about what that meant. It was important that at the Committee stage—and this is what the Committee stage is for—we asked all those questions. If the Government or the Minister in the chair cannot answer those same questions, then we will continue to ask them until there is total clarification about what, in this case, “on-account” means for this legislation.
So, as I said earlier on, the Labour Opposition is very proud to support this bill, simply because all the hard work out there in the communities, where the rubber hits the road, was undertaken by the previous Labour Government. Kia ora tātau. Kua oti rā.
[Greetings to us. It is done.]
KEVIN HAGUE (Green) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Ngā mihi nui ki a koe. The Green Party has supported this Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill at every stage until this time, and we will continue to do so tonight.
I will make a brief contribution to record the basis for our support, because in recent days and weeks an unsavoury element has been creeping into New Zealand politics. It is an element that we reject. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand stands on our charter, and our charter sets out four principles: ecological wisdom, social responsibility, non-violence, and appropriate decision-making. It also stands on a preamble, and that preamble commits us to honouring the Treaty of Waitangi. For the sake of clarity, it is specific about our intent to honour the Māori wording of Te Tiriti o Waitangi—in other words, the original Treaty that was signed at Waitangi. That Treaty, in our view, provides us with the licence for Pākehā people to live in this country. So for our nation to move forward, we believe that it is important that we go back to that Treaty and that we do our utmost to honour its provisions.
This bill is about attempting to be honourable about the breach—the disenfranchisement of a people—of that Treaty. For that reason, we support the bill and will continue to vote for it, including at this reading. That is all I have to say.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe anō hoki, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, i tēnei pō. Ka nui te harikoa ko koe anō rā e noho nei, i te torona tapu o te Whare Pāremata i tēnei pō, e whakarongo nei ki ngā kōrero. He mea whakatinana tēnei i te whakatau i hainatia mai ai e te Karauna rāua ko te Kotahitanga o ngā Iwi i te Tonga, arā, ki te Rōpū Whakahaere o Tūpoho, i te 31, te marama o Hūrae i te tau 2009. He aha te marama o Hūrae Te Taura Whiri nei? Pipiri pea?
Ki taku mōhio kua puta tēnei i muri mai i ngā kōrero i waenganui i a Ngāti Apa me te Rōpū Whāiti. I whakatau i ngā āwangawanga o ngā iwi o Whanganui, me tōna pānga ki te whakataunga o Ngāti Apa. Kāore mātau o te Pāti Māori i te whakaae kia noho, me kī, hei kaitakawaenga mō ngā iwi. Me waiho ngā iwi ki te tohe mō ō rātau ake take. Nō reira, ka pērā anō hoki mō tēnei o ngā pire. Hoi anō, ko tāku e mōhio nei, i tipu ake tēnei rōpū mahi nei kia whai wāhi ngā hapū o Whanganui i te Tonga ki te takiwā o Tūpoho, i te rohe o Whanganui, ki te kōrero ki a Ngāti Apa, kia taea ai e rātau te whakatau i ngā take whenua ki waenganui i a rāua anō. Nō reira, he pānga anō rā tō te pire nei ki te whakataunga o Ngāti Apa, te Ngāti Apa (North Island) Claims Settlement Act i whakaturehia i te 15 o Hakihea i te tau 2010, ā, ka whakamanahia hei te 3 o ngā rā o Hui-tanguru i tēnei tau tonu nei, 2011.
Ko tāku anō hoki ko te mihi ki a Ngā Wairiki, ki a Ngāti Apa mō tā rātau kaha me te māia ki te whakatau i ngā raruraru i waenganui i a rātau, me kī, kia puta ngā rawa ki a rātau tonu kia taea ai te anga whakamua o ngā kōrero.
[Thank you again this evening, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. I am really pleased that you are there once more on the hallowed throne of the House of Parliament, listening to the speeches. The Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill is a manifestation of the deed of settlement signed between the Crown and the Southern Whanganui Cluster - Tūpoho working party, on 31 July 2009. Now what is the month of July to the Māori Language Commission? Pipiri perhaps?
I understand this bill is a result of talks between the Crown and the working party to address concerns that the Whanganui iwi had with aspects of the Ngāti Apa settlement. We of the Māori Party oppose an expectation to play a mediatory role for tribes. Issues among tribes should be left amongst themselves to resolve, and that must apply to this bill, as well. I understand that this working-group came about so that southern Whanganui subtribes of the Tūpoho district could participate in talks with Ngāti Apa to resolve issues relating to land that they both have an interest in. This bill has interests in the Ngāti Apa settlement, namely the Ngāti Apa (North Island) Claims Settlement Act, which was enacted on 15 December 2010, with a 3 February 2011 settlement date.
I want to take this opportunity as well to acknowledge Ngā Wairiki / Ngāti Apa on their efforts and perseverance in resolving problems among themselves, let us say, to ensure that resources go out among themselves and that the talks progress.
I leave that brief contribution in the Māori language there and turn now to English. ]
The Whanganui Iwi (Wanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Wanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill we are debating at this point in time gives effect to the Whanganui iwi deed of on-account settlement, signed between the Crown and the Southern Whanganui Cluster / Tūpoho working party on 31 July 2009. As I said, that was as the result of talks between Ngāti Apa and the working party in order to address concerns that the Whanganui iwi had with aspects of the Ngāti Apa settlement. I expressed the view that it is not for the Māori Party to get involved in iwi politics, which, unfortunately, is one of those things that come with settlements. We do not sit too much in the middle and judge those things, but we certainly provide an opportunity for iwi to have a say. I understood that the working party arose from a need to have a group to represent the interests of Whanganui hapū in the southern or Tūpoho region of the Whanganui district, and to talk directly with Ngāti Apa to work through any overlapping interests that Whanganui iwi had with the Ngāti Apa settlement. Of course, the transfer of those properties is pretty closely linked to the provisions of the Ngāti Apa Claims Settlement Act, which, as I said, was enacted on 15 December 2010, with the settlement date being 3 February this year.
I acknowledge the iwi who were involved, and the discussion that must have taken place in order to try to find the same way forward, and to address the issues of overlapping claims. That would no doubt have required a spirit of cooperation and communication, as the groups worked together to try to find a way through some of the issues they faced. The on-account settlement bill provides the working party with the right of deferred selection over a half-share in the land under the Whanganui Prison, and the northern half of the Whanganui Forest not offered to Ngāti Apa. The working party’s right of deferred selections over these properties is subject to Ngāti Apa first exercising their right of deferred selection over the forest under the prison, and the southern half of the Whanganui Forest. Should Ngāti Apa or the working party decide not to acquire those assets, they will remain in Crown ownership and may be the subject of discussions in negotiating a comprehensive settlement of the Whanganui iwi historical Treaty claims. Either way, Whanganui iwi interests in these sites will be protected.
I believe that Ngāti Apa have until early August to take the initial decision on whether to acquire the properties. The on-account settlement is on behalf of, and to benefit, all Whanganui iwi in relation to the Whanganui iwi historical claims. The value of the assets transferred on this on-account settlement will be taken into account when the Crown makes an offer of redress for the final settlement of the Whanganui iwi historical claims. So those claims, and any claims relating to the Whanganui River, are not settled by this on-account settlement. Of course, when we think about Whanganui, we think about Archie Taiaroa—who has since passed on; gee, it must be close to a year now, or maybe a little bit longer than that—as, I suppose, the face or the mouthpiece of Whanganui, as they talked about, and continue to move, in respect of settling the Whanganui iwi claim.
I suppose the second on-account settlement is offered to Whanganui iwi. It relates to the transfer of the Whanganui courthouse, with a lease back to the Crown agreed in 2004. This asset was transferred to the Pākaitore Trust, and of course mention has been made of that trust. It is a whenua tōpū trust established under the Māori Land Act, of which Mr Ken Mair is one of the mandated negotiators. He will be taking on Michael Laws in the fight of the century at the end of the year, so I am looking forward to that.
The Pākaitore Trust is the proposed holding entity to receive the current on-account redress assets. Transferring these assets to the Pākaitore Trust will mean that all assets acquired by Whanganui iwi through on-account settlement will be held by that same entity. The Crown and the working party considered this to be a pretty pragmatic approach under the circumstances.
That is a bit of a description about a little bit of the history that brought this bill about. It has been a long time coming, but compromise and working together on both sides of the ledger, if you like, in respect of these iwi and a good outcome mean that everyone will benefit.
Ko tāku noa ake, ko te mihi ki a rātau i whai nei i tēnei o ngā kaupapa kia eke ki tēnei o ngā taumata. Kua tutuki, kua tutuki, kua tutuki pai. Waiho tērā hei mea whakamana mā tēnei o ngā Whare Pāremata. Kia ora tātau katoa.
[I simply want to acknowledge those who pursued this matter to this level. It has been realised; it has made it; it has been completed well. Leave the bill now for this House of Parliament to enact. Congratulations to us all.]
PAUL QUINN (National) : Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Tēnā koutou e te Whare. Being one who has always been conscious of my limitations and being advised to focus on my strengths I do not want, in my contribution to this debate, to comment on the spelling of “Whanganui” or “Wanganui” because I take my guidance from my relation across the other side and defer to him on matters of tikanga. I thought that I would focus instead in my small contribution to this debate on explaining, firstly, what is happening with this bill, the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. What is actually happening is that having settled the Ngāti Apa claim, just one of many claims that this Government has settled in a very short period—I think it has been something like 16 or 17 claims in 3 years, as opposed to how many in 9 years?
Chris Tremain: 16.
PAUL QUINN: Sixteen claims in 9 years. We have achieved in 3 years what the previous administration achieved in 9 long years. Having settled the Ngāti Apa claim, part of that settlement had half of the Wanganui Forest going to Ngāti Apa. A cross-claimant to that forest was the Whanganui iwi group, which had a claim to the bottom half of the forest, and similarly with the Whanganui Prison land. Having, if you will, settled the rightful owners to those particular two assets, the Government has taken a very pragmatic step. Because the Whanganui party agreed that in any settlement going forward it wanted those two assets, this Government has got on with the job and given those assets on account, as part of a future full and final settlement. That provides assets, a capability, and a resourcing to those claimants.
A very big issue in the Treaty settlement process is claimants having resource, and this is one way that this Government has been able to help claimants to negotiate in a position of strength, by providing these resources to them as they move forward in settling their full claim. I think that is a great innovation by this Government, and one that I am sure we will take forward in future settlements. With those few words I commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : Tēnā koe. I too want to make a contribution to the third reading of the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. Unlike members who have spoken before me, who have amply covered much of the detail of the bill, I want to speak in a general nature about some of the learning points from the opportunities provided in this on-account settlement. To understand the full interests of Whanganui and the region, we would have to look at the various component parts of their historical claims. It has been with some interest that I have seen the way in which Whanganui iwi have innovated in their approach to dealing with overlapping interests and the nature of their distinct boundaries within their larger collective group. So the fact that they have an on-account settlement that ensures that Ngāti Apa interests in the south of Whanganui are provided for under this particular bill does not detract from any of the other subsequent interests of other component parts of Whanganui iwi within Whanganui. I think that is a good approach. We have had a number of settlements before the Māori Affairs Committee as I speak that seem, with their own historical peculiarities, unable to resolve some of the overlapping interests, some of the overlapping claims, and some of the contesting of their boundaries. So I think that there is good learning from this particular settlement.
Can I say that the Treaty settlement redress that has been brought about through subsequent claims, and certainly our understanding as parliamentarians as to how that is all made up, has been supported by the innovation of iwi for dealing with their own complex issues. Again, an on-account settlement is a creative and innovative approach to addressing overlapping interests while not impeding other component parts of an iwi’s claim. We have not seen this type of approach used too often, but it should be a learning opportunity for other iwi who want to pick up the really difficult challenge of advancing their settlements.
On some of the detail of the bill, the fact that a half-share of the land of Kaitoke Prison will be offered back to Ngāti Apa may present further opportunities for them. Obviously, being a landowner of a prison and a manager of a prison are two different things, but it certainly does present Ngāti Apa with an opportunity on that front. But can I say that I am absolutely sure Ngāti Apa do not want to see more prisons in their region. They probably want to realise any opportunity that gets their people out of prison and into productive parts of our society and contributing to our communities. I say that with a level of confidence because I am sure a lot of people from Whanganui would be happy to see the demise of prisons in their communities and the full utilisation of the skills and expertise of their people, building their people wealth and their economic wealth. Only time will realise whether that is an empty statement or a real aspiration, but it is an opportunity for Ngāti Apa.
Also, the value of the Whanganui Forest, in terms of Ngāti Apa’s interests in planning for the future, I think presents a real opportunity for Ngāti Apa, too. It will be an accelerant for them to reach their development aspirations.
We spent some time in the Committee stage debating the issue of Whanganui and including the “h”. We took on board the recommendations of the Māori Affairs Committee. It does not really mean too much to me, with our dialect up in Tainui, because we have always, always referred to Whanganui as Whanganui. Whether or not the “h” was recognised in the word, we have always said Whanganui. The select committee has formalised the appropriate spelling of Whanganui and has amended it in this bill.
The other part that I wanted to briefly comment on is an issue that was raised by Te Ururoa Flavell, in terms of the other component parts of Whanganui interests, especially with regard to their impending river claim. It seems to me that the opportunity once again for Whanganui to continue to advance some larger aspects of their historical claims will add another strong pillar to the ability of Whanganui to plan for the future, to have a vested interest in the protection of their beautiful river, and to contribute to long-term decision-making within their region. I say that with a level of insight, because I have had the honour of being hosted down the Whanganui River, and I know that it is one of special significance and sacred meaning and value to the people of Whanganui.
I note with interest the contribution of the Green member, who said that in this day and age we have moved well beyond some of the views that are starting to rear themselves out in the public domain about Māori getting too much. The resolution of historical injustice is an absolute necessity in order for our nation to move forward, to plan forward, and to ensure that Māori can contribute positively to the shape and identity of the nation that we all want to see, which is the kind of nation where everybody is valued and where historical injustice has been resolved. Sometimes we can never take away the hurt of the past, but working towards resolution, redress, and reconciliation is, I think, a positive way for our nation to go forward.
All those pillars and elements of resolution are contained within this small bill, and it is important to recognise that, and to not underestimate the value of the transformation that can happen within settlements like this one.
I thank the Māori Affairs Committee, which considered these issues. As a current member on the select committee I am acutely aware of some of the limitations that we have when it comes to Treaty settlement bills and being unable to significantly comment on the substance of Treaty settlements—but neither would we want to. We do have to continually remind people who are making submissions on bills like this one that the select committee is limited in its capacity in terms of being able to make recommendations of substance that can be enacted by this Parliament. However, if the Māori Affairs Committee is an avenue for casting an eye over some of the substantial matters dealt with in Treaty settlements, looking to some of the technical aspects, and ensuring that the intent of the deed marries up with the articulation of legislation, I think that is a very valuable role for the select committee. I thank the clerks of the committee for their hard work, the advisers to the committee, the officials, and, last but certainly not least, I recognise the negotiators—a young team—of this particular on-account settlement for their wisdom in trying to find a pragmatic solution that is also something that resolves some of their historical hurts and looks to the future.
Nō reira, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, tēnei e mihi atu ki a rātou, nō Ngāti Apa, i raro i ngā whakaaro hei tutuki i tēnei wāhanga mō ā rātou nei kerēme. Tēnā koutou.
[So I acknowledge those of Ngāti Apa, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, in the context of the thoughts expressed to complete this part of their claim. I salute them collectively.]
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) : Nanaia Mahuta referred to some of the debates that were held at the Māori Affairs Committee on the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. Many wide-ranging debates were held on whether the “h” should be included in “Wanganui”, and on many other such things. It reminds me of a quote from Winston Churchill, I think it was, who said that if people wanted a long speech from him he could start straight away, but if they wanted a short speech he needed time to prepare. Many of the speeches, as I say, were long and exceptionally wide ranging. I will give a very, very short speech, simply to say that this bill gives effect to the deed of on-account settlement in which the Crown and Wanganui iwi agree to the transfer of assets on-account of the settlement of the Wanganui historical claims. I agree with my colleague Paul Quinn that, really, this bill is a continuation of the very proud record National is gaining in settling—and promptly settling—Treaty settlements in this country for the betterment of all New Zealanders, Māori and Pākehā.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour) : Tēnā kōe, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. Tū ake ana ahau hei whakaputa i ōku ake nei whakaaro e pā ana ki tēnei pire. Harikoa ana kua tae ki te wāhanga mutunga, kia ’hakatutuki pai ai ngā moemoeā o Ngāti Apa, o te iwi o Whanganui, kia ’hakataungia tēnei wāhanga o te kerēme, kia haere tonu ngā wāhanga atu, ngā kerēme matua. Nā reira, mihi kau ana ki a Ngāti Apa, ki a rātou katoa mā i whiriwhiri ai ngā āhuatanga e pā ana ki tēnei pire.
Kua rongo ake nei ahau i te hoa a Paul Quinn, meatia ana ia i ōna ngoikoretanga, ōna kaha hoki, nā reira, i te hiahia e ia kia kōrero mō ōna kaha anake. Kua huri ia ki te kōrero mō tōna tuakana a Mita Ririnui. Nā reira, e tautoko ana wēnā kōrero mō tōna hiahia kia kōrero mō āna kaha, arā, mō tōna whanaunga a Mita.
Hanga pā pōuri ana ahau kia rangona wētahi tautohetohe pakupaku noa iho, e pā ana ki tēnei, ngā pahupahu o te Minita. Nāna nei i tū ake hei whakahē i te Rōpū Reipa i te mea, nā ngā mahi o tōku hoa a Mita Ririrnui, nāna i whakaritea ngā wāhanga matua o tēnei pire me te on-accountsettlement. Ko wēnei wāhanga te pānuitanga kei roto i te Whare Mīere, te Whare Pāremata hei whiriwhiri. Kō wēnei wāhanga te wāhi māmā noa iho, te wāhi ngāwari. Engari, nā Mita, i a te Minita tuarua, nāna nei i whakapau ōna kaha hei ’hakatutuki pai ngā wāhanga tino pakeke. Nā reira, mihi kau ana ki a ia.
Hiahia hoki ana ahau kia tuku kōrero tautoko mō tērā o ngā mema o te Rōpū Kākāriki, nāna nei i kōrero mō tētahi wāhanga o Aotearoa e āhua kaikiri ana, e kaikiri, e whakahāwea ana i ngā tūmanako o te iwi Māori. Kua ’hakaputa i runga i te pouaka whakaata, i roto i ngā pūrongo niupepa i te wiki kua pahuri ake nei, ngā kōrero ’hakahāwea ētahi ki a ngāi Māori mā, ki a ngāi mātou te iwi Māori. Me te kōrero anō hoki, horekau e whai wāhanga a Aotearoa, wēnei rangi, i wēnā tūmomo kōrero e pā ana ki a mātou. Nā reira, kite ana mātou i taua rōpū e hanga wehewehe ana i nāianei. Ko ia te kai o te mahi kaikiri.
Nā reira, tāku nei akiaki rā i a tātou katoa kei roto i tēnei Whare Mīere, tēnei Whare Pāremata, kia ū tonu, kia hāpaitia i ngā hiahia, ngā wawata o te iwi Māori. Mehemea ka tutuki pai ai ō tātou wawata, ka oti kē, ka tau kē ngā kerēme katoa, ka taea e tātou me tātou katoa o Aotearoa, kia haere whakamua. Tāku e whakapae ake nei, e tū ana a Aotearoa ki runga i ngā pokowhiwhi o ngāi Māori me ngā mahi tūkino ki ō mātou tupuna i ngā tau kua pahure ake nei. Nā reira, horekau ahau e hiahia ana kia kūmea kia roa tēnei tū i te mea, kua roa aianei a Ngāti Apa, ngā iwi o Whanganui, e tatari ana mō tēnei pire ’hakatutuki ai.
[Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson. I stand to express my personal views about this bill. I am pleased it has reached its final stage, fulfilling the dreams of Ngāti Apa and those of Whanganui, settling this part of the claim and ensuring that other claims and primary claims can continue. I acknowledge Ngāti Apa and all those who negotiated aspects relating to this bill.
I note the references by fellow member Paul Quinn to his weaknesses and his strengths as well, and his wanting to focus solely on his strengths. Consequently he has turned to comment on his elder kin Mita Ririnui. So I endorse those comments about his desire to talk about his strengths—namely, his relative Mita.
It saddens me somewhat to hear some very minor haggling relating to this bill in the prattle from the Minister. He got up and condemned the Labour Party because of the work by my colleague Mita Ririnui, who arranged some of the main parts of the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill. These parts were announced in the Chamber for the House’s consideration, but they were just the easy and straightforward ones. It was Mita, the former Associate Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, who worked hard on the more difficult parts to ensure that they were completed well. So I really acknowledge him.
I also want to endorse the comments by the member of the Green Party who spoke about someone in New Zealand being somewhat racist towards the aspirations of Māori people. These racist comments, of an offensive nature to Māori generally and to us, the Māori people, appeared on television and in newspapers just a week ago. The member went on to say there was absolutely no place in New Zealand for this sort of talk about us in these days. We perceive that group to be dividing us. That individual will become a victim of his own racism.
I urge all of us in this Chamber, in this House, to remain committed to lifting up the wishes and aspirations of the Māori people. If our aspirations are achieved well, all our claims will then be finalised and settled. As a consequence, we and all of New Zealand will be able to move forward together. I praise the fact that New Zealand stands shoulder to shoulder with the Māori people to rectify the injustices our ancestors suffered in years past. I do not wish to prolong this address any more, because Ngāti Apa and the tribes of Whanganui have been waiting a while now for this bill to be settled. ]
Without wanting to drag this out, I want to just go over a few things I said in Māori. First of all, I acknowledge Paul Quinn, who said that he recognises his weaknesses and his strengths, and that he wanted to talk only about his strengths, so he stood up and spoke about the Hon Mita Ririnui. We can acknowledge that Mita is Paul Quinn’s whanaunga, and I am glad to see that Mr Quinn recognises Mita’s strengths and the work that Mita did on the groundwork around the Whanganui Iwi (Whanganui (Kaitoke) Prison and Northern Part of Whanganui Forest) On-account Settlement Bill.
It is great that we have come to the stage of the third reading, where this part of Ngāti Apa’s and Whanganui’s settlements can be settled, so that they can go on to settle the rest of their claims. Once all of these claims have been settled—and I am not just talking about Ngāti Apa or Whanganui, but all of the Treaty claims—we can move forward. I think it is important that the country recognises that we have to go through this. We have to settle these claims so that we can move forward. New Zealand is built, basically, by standing on the shoulders of Māori, and on their sacrifices and on what was done to our ancestors over the last 150 years. There is no place in this House or in New Zealand for the sorts of divisive politics we have seen over the last few days. I agree with our colleague Kevin Hague from the Green Party when he mentioned this issue. As a country we cannot afford to engage in this petty divisiveness where we pit one sector of New Zealand against another, because we then have factions on the extremes that basically feed off each other. They give each other oxygen to survive. We cannot have extremism in any field in New Zealand, because there is no constructive use for it. We as New Zealanders need to come together to get these claims settled, so that we can move forward as a nation.
On that point, again I would like to acknowledge the work of the likes of Mita Ririnui, of the Minister—despite the fact that he spent 90 percent of his 3-minute speech criticising us—and of the Māori Affairs Committee, of which I was privileged to be a member, although I was demoted to the Education and Science Committee, unfortunately. I would like to just acknowledge the work that everyone has done in getting this bill into the House and through the House. Hopefully we can go on to settle all of the other claims, as I said, so that New Zealand can move forward as a country—as two peoples, I will say, with one sense of purpose going forward. I will always say that I was born Māori first, but I am still proud to be a New Zealander. With those final words, Mr Assistant Speaker, huri rauna i tō tātou Whare, tēnā koutou, tēna koutou, kia ora mai anō tātou .
[To you, Mr Assistant Speaker, and members throughout our House, greetings, greetings, and greetings once again to us.]
- Bill read a third time.
Television New Zealand Amendment Bill
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting) : I move, That the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill be now read a third time. The Government’s pre-election manifesto included a commitment to provide certainty to our public broadcasters. To do this, we had to address the outmoded provisions in the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) legislation, and put in place a new mandate for TVNZ’s operations in the 21st century. This bill amends the Television New Zealand Act 2003 in line with this Government’s wish to replace the current TVNZ charter with a less prescriptive list of functions, and to leave TVNZ to concentrate on being a successful television broadcaster, without the shackle of an unrealistic dual mandate.
The other core purpose of the bill is to amend the Act to allow the rescreening of TVNZ’s archived pre-1989 television programmes and to provide a process for compensatory payments to individuals with an interest in the works when the archived programmes are rescreened. This bill recognises that TVNZ is now operating as a multimedia company delivering content to mainstream and niche audiences. The bill also future-proofs TVNZ’s ability to use new media platforms to display content.
The Government’s expectations of TVNZ are set out in Part 1 of the bill, replacing a lengthy list of charter obligations as outlined in section 12 of the Act. Tinkering with the charter during the 2007-08 review tightened up the wording but did not address the central problem that TVNZ cannot meet the requirements in section 12 to give effect to its charter and to maintain its commercial performance. The dual mandate had to go.
This bill provides a realistic framework within which TVNZ will operate. The reality is that for many, many years TVNZ has been predominantly commercially funded—well over 90 percent of its income is from commercial revenue. That was the case under the last Government, as well. Members will be well aware that TVNZ’s charter was not workable for a commercial broadcaster. As a result, there was not a real point of difference for TVNZ’s programming, and charter funding was sometimes used in ways not intended when the charter was first enacted in 2003. Removing the charter is being honest, and not trying to pretend that TVNZ is something it plainly is not. The real test is to look at what difference there is between TVNZ’s viewing schedule prior to the charter and during it. The answer is that there is none.
Clause 6 of this bill therefore replaces the charter with a clear, achievable set of functions for TVNZ. These are “to be a successful national television and digital media company providing a range of content and services on a choice of delivery platforms and maintaining its commercial performance.”, to “provide high-quality content that—(a) is relevant to, and enjoyed and valued by, New Zealand audiences; and (b) encompasses both New Zealand and international content and reflects Māori perspectives.”, and to “include the provision of channels that are free of charge and available to audiences throughout New Zealand.”
The bill gives TVNZ the flexibility it needs to set its own priorities and compete in a highly competitive and diverse media market without the encumbrance of an unrealistic charter. TVNZ’s challenge is to deliver content that New Zealanders want to see, or, as the bill puts it, content that is “enjoyed and valued by New Zealand audiences”. TVNZ already delivers on that provision. Its programmes dominate the ratings. New Zealanders clearly want to see New Zealand content, and this Government is continuing to fund that content through NZ On Air. Our policy is to support the production of content, rather than channels or platforms for delivery, because one broadcaster does not have a monopoly on good ideas. Rather than ring-fencing funding for TVNZ programmes, we allow TVNZ to compete along with other broadcasters for NZ On Air funding. We thereby make sure that only the best projects make it to our screens.
The Māori Party had concerns that with the removal of the charter TVNZ will not meet its obligation to promote Māori language and culture. The Māori Party referred to the Privy Council findings in the 1993 New Zealand Māori Council case that the Government has a legal obligation to promote Māori language and culture. This Government is very aware of its obligations. We support those initiatives that promote Māori language and culture, including the establishment of Te Māngai Pāho and the Māori Television Service. NZ On Air also has a specific statutory mandate to address Māori interests. The new functions in the bill also explicitly require TVNZ to provide high-quality content that reflects Māori perspectives.
The second part of this bill introduces a new scheme to free up for rescreening publicly funded archive material in TVNZ’s archive. TVNZ’s archive has an extensive collection of New Zealand audiovisual material, and is an important part of New Zealand’s cultural heritage. It is in the public interest to make that material available. Currently a significant number of programmes are effectively locked up in that archive, unable to be screened because of the multiple rights attached to the works, which would require clearance. This bill provides a means to resolve the issue of rights clearance. The scheme balances public-good objectives of making these works available for current and future generations to see with the rights of those who were contracted to work on those programmes.
The bill imposes certain conditions on the use of the archived material. Only material for which TVNZ holds sole copyright will be screened. Co-productions cannot be included. Employees of the Broadcasting Corporation of New Zealand or its predecessors will not be able to seek payment for rescreening of archived work. The material must be screened free of charge to the viewer on TVNZ channels, on the TVNZ Ondemand internet site, or on any other platform that TVNZ chooses. The material must be screened outside prime-time hours on TVNZ’s main commercial channels, and must not be subject to a licence sold for profit by TVNZ, though the recovery of reasonable costs will be permitted.
The Māori Television Service currently has arrangements with TVNZ regarding the use of material held in the archive. I am aware of how invaluable this material has been for Māori Television. Section 29C, inserted by clause 10, permits TVNZ to make archived works, covered by the scheme, available to the Māori Television Service. It does not in any way supersede the existing arrangements between TVNZ and Māori Television in respect of wider access to material in the TVNZ archive. Similarly, TVNZ will be able to enter into an arrangement with New Zealand On Screen in respect of a work previously screened by TVNZ or Māori Television.
I know, of course, that the Opposition has made a number of statements about broadcasting. Whereas we have laid out very clearly and unambiguously our view that we will fund programmes and not bureaucracies, Labour has made a number of undertakings in the past few days, yet only yesterday Labour was calling for a public service television channel. I am looking forward tonight to Labour speakers confirming that, indeed, should Labour become the Government it will be finding at least $15 million per annum to fund that channel.
As the Minister of Broadcasting, it is great for me to see this legislation pass. It ushers in a new era for TVNZ and allows our State broadcaster to operate effectively in today’s fast-moving media environment. This bill removes the confusing and conflicting goals that have hampered TVNZ in recent years. It sets the company on a new course with a clear direction for its operations and a mandate to provide added value for publicly funded works. It is a very positive development for TVNZ. I commend this bill to the House.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) : I am pleased to take a call in the third reading debate of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. If there are lessons to be learnt from the News of the World phone hacking debacle, it is that independent public media, not captured by vested interests, is critical to the health of a nation and to democracy. I think we should talk more about democracy and what it means, because it is damn important. The public needs to know that politicians and media are not in bed with each other, that media adhere to some damn standards, that there are lines that will not be crossed, and that if those lines are crossed the judicial system will investigate, will act, and will not be captured and muzzled by the fear of powerful media.
The bill before us tonight does not reinforce any of those important aims and values. Instead, it is an erosion of them, taking away a charter of public responsibility and accountability to public broadcasting standards and values; allowing a stronger alliance between the State broadcaster and pay TV, owned by Murdoch; and reinforcing the view that commercial, profit-based media is best. All this leads to the conclusion that this Government does not give a stuff about public broadcasting, and does not give a stuff about the rights of New Zealanders to be told the truth and to be delivered quality content about ourselves. It is all a “nice-to-have” and it is all about money and vested interests.
This bill takes New Zealand on a slippery slope towards an environment where vested interests rule our media and possibly rule our politicians. Why did this Government refuse to support TVNZ 7? Why has it made Television New Zealand (TVNZ) a commercial broadcaster? Why freeze Radio New Zealand funding and force it to look for other revenue streams? Why refuse to support, encourage, or even acknowledge the fact that our broadcasting sector has virtually no regulation, that the mammoth Sky Television rules the air, that free-to-air broadcasting is under threat, and that the prospect of locked-up content delivery through broadband technology may reinforce the digital divide between those who can and those who cannot afford access to material that should be available to all?
Labour is strongly opposed to this bill. We believe in a well-funded, innovative, and community-orientated public broadcaster—in other words, the very opposite of the goals of this bill and the current Minister of Broadcasting. I must point out that I believe that the Minister actually wanted to retain a public TV broadcaster, but he just could not get it up. He was not strong enough.
This bill axes the TVNZ charter. As Russel Norman would say, it thrusts a dagger through its heart, eliminating the need for our public broadcaster to act in any way in the public interest. Instead, it will be replaced by a statement of functions, which has the main goal of ensuring that TVNZ carries out its functions and maintains its commercial performance. We can see what National intends for TVNZ: for it to become a commercial enterprise motivated only by the bottom line. This Government has already moved to centralise TVNZ in Auckland with the sale of Avalon Studios, and has signalled the demise of TVNZ 7. Any more cuts will have a huge impact on local production and the people who work in it. It is a criminal waste. Avalon Studios are the best studios in the South Pacific. TVNZ is becoming “TV Auckland”. It is all about supplying pay TV content rather than quality public broadcasting.
In 2008 TVNZ presented the memorial service for Sir Edmund Hillary, held at Windsor Castle. This was an important occasion for New Zealand and an example of the crucial role of a genuine public broadcaster. Under National’s statement of functions I highly doubt that an event of this nature would be regarded as worthwhile, considering the pressure that TVNZ will be under to deliver profits. Instead of seeing a national hero honoured, we may be forced to endure the latest so-called comedy sitcom from the US. This Government has got its priorities wrong.
The Minister tells us there will still be plenty of local programming that will receive funding from New Zealand On Air through a contestable pool, but that is rubbish. Does the Minister seriously believe that a commercial broadcaster, which TVNZ has become, will replace a high-rating overseas show in prime time with unknown and unproven content? What would the shareholders think of that? I ask the Minister whether TVNZ is being prepared for sale.
Local producers and artists need more than basic funding. They need the support of a public broadcaster that can give them access to high-quality production crews that have a wealth of broadcasting knowledge. It was with the support of TVNZ that Marcus Lush’s programme North was produced. It was a critically acclaimed and hugely popular programme with high production values.
The Minister needs to wake up and realise what commercialising TVNZ will do to locally made television. We have seen the impact of National’s commercialisation policy. Funding of TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7 was cut completely, forcing valuable Kiwi shows off air. These channels offer real choice in programming as well as being ad-free. The programmes on those channels would not be touched by a commercial channel of prime-time broadcasting, yet they are crucial to making New Zealand a country where diversity and talent are valued.
The Minister says that viewers were not there to keep it going, but in the case of TVNZ 7 his comment ignores the fact that it was a digital channel and not available on free-to-air TV unless households had a digital receiver. Yet it still managed 200,000 viewers a week. As North and South journalist Mike White aptly put it, it is like saying that all seldom-read books in the library, which would include a swag of classics, should be removed and the library downsized to cut costs. With more funding for effective advertising it could have been a highly successful channel that educated viewers as well as entertained them.
But why would that Minister care? He is not doing it for the New Zealand public; he is doing it for his mates in the private sector, who have been making a killing from the crony politics of this Government. Perhaps the Minister would like to explain to the New Zealand public why he felt it was in their interests to loan a commercial business $43 million of their money while at the same time cutting funding to TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7.
We know what National has planned for TVNZ. Freshly commercialised, broadcasting the latest TV sitcoms from the US, it will be flogged off to the highest bidder as National begins large-scale privatisation of State assets after the election. We are firmly opposed to the sale of any State assets, and we should not let the Minister begin this process with this bill.
A competitive and thriving media and content creation sector is needed to create diversity. The New Zealand broadcasting sector currently lacks a diversity of ideas, because we are unique in the world, apart from Mexico, in that we have lost the public television broadcasting function. Radio New Zealand’s frozen budget puts it under such pressure that it must consider fund-raising via a trust or a commercial sponsorship to pay for some of its programmes.
To incentivise competition and get the best of it, we need to be aware of the extent to which the ownership and control of our media exists outside of New Zealand and whether our access to content is being delivered by those who protect their commercial interests by anti-competitive behaviour. We consider that the current commercial market framework does not deliver diversity, because it lacks a publicly funded component. It does have a significant locally funded component: the subsidising of local content by New Zealand On Air. We support New Zealand On Air, but it is not enough and it is not, as Jonathan Coleman seems to think, the replacement for public broadcasting in this country. We challenge the National view that local content and public broadcasting are synonymous.
It is for those reasons that Labour is committed to developing a new model of public broadcasting. We welcome this week’s announcement of a lobby group, the Public Media Foundation, mooted by David Beatson, which is a much-needed watchdog for the industry, but members will have to wait to hear what it is. This bill erodes the last bastions of public broadcasting in this country, condemning us to further dumbing down and sensationalising of our news, and ultimately resulting in the privatisation of TVNZ. We do not believe in that, and we will stand up for the New Zealand public today by opposing this bill.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): O a mai oe?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: I am well. It is my pleasure to speak on the third reading of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. I will start by congratulating the articulate and intelligent Minister Jonathan Coleman, who has brought this bill to the House. Finally we are seeing come to fruition one of National’s campaign platforms on bringing change to Television New Zealand (TVNZ). I also thank the officials who assisted our progress through the Commerce Committee, and the submitters. We learnt quite a bit not just about archive works but also about the purpose of this bill and what New Zealanders out there thought about what we are doing here tonight.
This bill is about repealing the charter and freeing up TVNZ from its dual mandate. We know that that dual mandate, over time, has been unsustainable, unworkable, and undesirable to most New Zealanders. National is committed to public broadcasting through the New Zealand On Air model. Tonight we heard the previous speaker opposite, Clare Curran, brush over that model, but let me say that it receives $81 million of funding. As well, we have the Platinum Television Fund, which contributes $15 million to the rich tapestry of New Zealand’s creative talent.
We want TVNZ to be a successful commercial broadcaster operating across various platforms. We know that, going forward, TVNZ has to compete in a competitive market. We know that technological change is going on not just here in New Zealand but around the world.
This bill replaces the TVNZ charter with more generic statutory requirements. What does the bill do? In essence, it replaces section 12 of the current Act. The functions of TVNZ are to be a successful national television and digital media company providing a range of content and services on a choice of delivery platforms, including the internet, including television, and including a number of platforms.
It is about choice and the modern context under which TVNZ must operate. It is about carrying out its functions in programmes that are relevant and enjoyed by New Zealand audiences—that is right, New Zealand audiences. Content is king. Content is important. It is about satisfying the needs of consumers, of all New Zealanders, not just the liberal elite that Miss Curran represents. This is about the public interests of opening up a pre-1989—
Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception to what the member opposite said about me representing an elite, given that I come from one of the poorest electorates in the country, and represent that electorate.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry, we were just changing presiding officers so I did not hear the comment that was made. I caution members about what they say about other members.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: I apologise to Miss Curran if she took offence, but she does represent the champagne-sipping urban elite that she professes to—
Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take great exception to being told that I represent an elite.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: These are debating points and this is a robust debate. The comments are acceptable and in order under the Standing Orders.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: The urban elite do not wear Highlanders’ jerseys—
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had this speech interrupted twice on matters that have not been a point of order. I remind you Mr Deputy Speaker that before you came into the House the member who is making the complaint accused the Minister of cronyism. I suggest that you do not allow these points of order to continue.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have ruled and we will move on.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: I reiterate that we are honouring our election promise to replace the current TVNZ charter. It is about all New Zealanders and not just the urban elite that she represents.
BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) : I am very pleased to follow the member opposite, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, who seemed to suggest that members on this side of the Chamber represent some kind of urban elite. I would like to challenge that notion. We actually represent a broad spectrum of New Zealanders, many of whom still believe that the State has a role beyond simply ensuring that the market thrives, and that the State, in respect of broadcasting, might have something more to do with ensuring we actually have some content that people might want to watch from time to time.
Over the weekend I had the privilege of being in Australia on a short break from the rigours of Christchurch. I happened also to be there during the time when Julia Gillard, a very fine Labor Prime Minister, announced to her nation the carbon tax proposals that will take Australia forward to 80 percent reductions in its climate change emissions by 2050, well ahead of the target of the Government opposite of simply 50 percent by 2050. It is a bold, bold move by a Labor Government.
I also had the pleasure of watching some of Australia’s public service television: ABC1, ABC2, SBS One, SBS Two, ABC 24-hour news—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Interjections are fine. I would like to hear what the member is actually saying. I ask members to calm down the interjections. Otherwise I will have to rule against them.
BRENDON BURNS: Thank you for that intervention, Mr Deputy Speaker. I had the privilege of watching those five non-commercial state channels in Australia. I will not for one minute suggest we should emulate Australia; we are not as wealthy a nation as Australia. We have only one-fifth of Australia’s population, but what we did have until this bill was a non-commercial channel that served the broader interests of New Zealand and the populace of New Zealand beyond simply what the commercial model delivers. As it is, we are the only nation in the OECD other than Mexico that will now have no State television service with anything other than a commercial motive. I think that is a very, very backwards step.
I have to ask members opposite what sort of media environment we want as a nation to live in. Do we want to be a nation that has only commercial channels with commercial drivers? If members want an example of where that can lead to, they need to look only at the recent coverage of what has been happening with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in Britain: the News of the World paying police, scanning private phone calls, tapping the phones of dead children and soldiers who died in the service of that country, and frightening politicians on both sides of the House to live in subservience to Rupert Murdoch. That is the sort of media environment we get to when the dollar or the pound is king, the market drives, and there is nothing to constrain them.
Do not try to pretend to me that these issues have no connection to New Zealand. Who owns 40 percent of Sky in this country? It is Rupert Murdoch and his empire. The Minister of Broadcasting says that we have never had more choice. Who is providing the multiplicity of channels on the Rupert Murdoch - owned Sky network? It is Rupert Murdoch himself through his various connections with American providers and others. Rupert Murdoch provides much of the content we see on New Zealand television at the moment.
The idea is promulgated by the Minister that we are simply consumers. To that I say on behalf of New Zealanders that we are absolutely not. We are more than consumers; we are citizens of this land. We need something more than the most popular, we need something more than what simply sells the most, and we need something more than what simply rates the most. If we want an example of where that has led to in recent times on our State-owned channels we need to look no further than Paul Henry. He, encouraged by Television New Zealand (TVNZ) management, pushed and pushed and pushed the line of what was acceptable to public taste, until finally even he crossed that line and paid the ultimate price.
I do not hold Paul Henry responsible for what happened to him. I hold the management of TVNZ responsible for it. I hold the Government responsible for it because they effectively encouraged TVNZ through this bill, which states that all that TVNZ ever has to do now is make a profit and return it to the Government. There is no other consideration in this bill, at all. All that the Government requires of TVNZ, of our State-owned broadcaster, is simply to make more cash and return it to the Government. The Government does not give a darn about the content, it does not give a darn about what sort of service is provided; it is downgrading TVNZ, it is dumbing it down. The Government is simply saying: “Don’t worry about it, just make sure you give us the maximum amount of cash, because that is really the only thing that matters to us as a Government. On behalf of our nation we require nothing more of you, TVNZ, than to simply coin it in the market place. If that means you go into programmes with questionable taste and decency then so be it.”
We need to look only at TVNZ putting on air the programme Hung fairly recently—the title is self-explanatory—which the Broadcasting Standards Authority has ruled on. I understand that it was not screened on any State or free-to-air television anywhere else in the world. It screened on cable television, which has some capacity for parents to put a constraint upon who can watch it. That was not so in this country. That is the kind of direction this Government wants TVNZ to go in. It does not give a damn about the content, it does not give a damn about the probity of the programmes; it simply says: “Under this bill, go off and coin it, TVNZ. That is your only requirement.”
I think it is a very sad day for this country when a Government is prepared to say that to a State-owned enterprise that has a quite sacred duty to represent New Zealanders, to give them some sense of their identity, and to give them a sense of their culture. That was exactly what TVNZ was required to do under the charter, which was at the heart of Labour’s time in office. The charter is absolutely thrown out by this bill and replaced with, simply, this profit motive.
I look to TVNZ 7. It has had, I think, a fantastic track record in innovative and cheap programming. It has not been at the top end of the spectrum in terms of what taxpayers have been getting for their dollar spent. It has had very innovative programmes. Members opposite will know that from appearing on the Back Benches programme. I have the privilege of appearing again tomorrow night on Back Benches. It is not highbrow—it is not highbrow—it is good, innovative, low-cost programming. It allows New Zealanders to have a little bit of fun with their politicians. It is the sort of thing we should be encouraging, not putting forward a bill that states that the only thing that matters is for TVNZ to put profit into the Government’s pockets.
What a shabby, shameless, short-sighted way for a Government to view the proud history of TVNZ and its predecessors, to put it into a context where it is simply told to dumb down content, make it rate, make it sell, and the Government does not care whatever is done with it. What a legacy for Jonathan Coleman, as Minister of Broadcasting, to go out of office in the reshuffle, which I am sure is coming very shortly. His only contribution to TVNZ and to broadcasting has been this bill and a Radio New Zealand bill, which, 18 months after it was due to have been passed, still languishes on the Order Paper. What a legacy for that Minister to leave behind! Can he truly go from the House proudly saying “I did my best for New Zealand, I did my best for State broadcasting. I cut it. I simply put it on a footing that said ‘profit is all that matters’—that is the only thing—I drove it down.”
I saw Paul Henry’s rise. I saw Paul Henry’s fall. There will be more of that to come under the sorts of prescriptions that this bill delivers. It is a very sad day for New Zealand to see TVNZ reduced from a proud history with public service at its core and a requirement, yes, to make some money, to fund itself along the way. It was a mixed model. Now there is simply no longer a mixed model; there is simply a model with the profit centre at its heart. Nothing else matters. What a sad, shameful, shabby piece of legislation.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : I worked as a reporter for Television New Zealand (TVNZ) in news and current affairs and as a director and producer when TVNZ was, I might say, in its heyday as a genuine public service broadcaster, with documentaries and extended current affairs programmes screening regularly in prime time. As someone who was part of that era, it is quite hard to figure out how we in New Zealand have ended up like this. We are one of the only countries in the world without a public service television channel, with one of the most deregulated broadcasting media environments in the world, with no restrictions on foreign ownership of media, with no restrictions on cross-media ownership, with no restrictions on pay TV, and with no rules about just about anything. We are one of the only countries in the world with no regulated local-content quota on television. As a result, we screen one of the least amounts of local programming in the world.
It is also hard to believe that in probably half an hour’s time our only publicly owned broadcasting channels other than Māori Television will exist for the sole purpose of returning a profit and a dividend to the Government. One could be forgiven for asking what the point of that is. What is the point of having a publicly owned television channel that has no mandate other than to make money for its shareholder? There is no publicly owned television channel in the rest of the world with such a pathetic mandate.
In the absence of any regulation or any restrictions in our broadcasting environment, it raises the question of what would happen if National, should it win the next election, were to sell off TVNZ, which is now nicely fully commercialised and ready for sale, if it can find a buyer. That clearly is its agenda. What would happen if TV3 went bankrupt? Hopefully, it will not, but that is not beyond the realms of possibility. We could be left with one foreign-owned, commercially driven network—such as that owned by Sky TV, of which Rupert Murdoch owns 40 percent—controlling all the television channels in New Zealand. There is nothing in our media environment to prevent that. We could end up with pay TV and a couple of other channels owned by Murdoch that have a particular bias, such as Fox Television. That could be all that is available in New Zealand, so we could all be watching the equivalent of the Murdoch-owned Fox Television. There is nothing to stop that happening in New Zealand.
Even if that rather alarming scenario does not play out, there is no doubt that in the short term—now that TVNZ has no mandate to provide public service content—we will end up with less and less New Zealand content on television, because we all know that it is much cheaper to buy imported programmes from offshore than it is to make New Zealand programmes. At a recent broadcasting seminar TV3 said that a commercial channel can afford to screen only about 20 percent New Zealand programmes; it cannot afford any more. That is what TV2 screens now; actually, I think it is nearer 18 or 19 percent. So we will have channels in New Zealand—Television One, TV2, TV3, and, of course, Prime Television—screening more than 80 percent foreign content. The only criterion for TVNZ about whether it will screen a programme will be made by the sales department of TVNZ, and it will be based on whether it thinks the programme will produce enough ratings and attract enough advertising. Who will care whether the programmes are New Zealand - made?
Under this new mandate TVNZ will become a nakedly commercial broadcaster indistinguishable from any other channel. We will end up with less and less news and current affairs, as well, because it is very expensive to make news and current affairs. The only thing that TVNZ bosses will be focused on is making money, returning that dividend to the Government. TVNZ will have to fulfil this mandate, no matter what personal misgivings it may have. Already the small amount of current affairs that we have on mainstream television—Campbell Live, Close Up—is constantly interrupted with the hand-wringing mantra: “Oh, sorry, we have run out of time.” That is what we will hear over and over again, because no one will have time for in-depth exploration of current affairs, or for just about any other issue, on this commercially focused TVNZ.
One of the reasons that I believe we have ended up in this sorry state of affairs is that this Government, like other conservative Governments, is deeply suspicious—indeed, it seems to dislike public broadcasting. I think it believes that public broadcasting has a left-wing bias and a bias against free-market ideology. George Bush spent years targeting American public service broadcasting, John Howard spent years attacking Australian public radio, and since the 1990s we have had sustained attacks on public service broadcasting in this country.
In fact, I came across an article from 1998 written by Denis Welch when he was exploring the attacks made on Radio New Zealand. It was most interesting, because a whole series of letters attacking Radio New Zealand was uncovered. The letters had been written by the Business Roundtable and its lobbyist, one Barrie Saunders, who has now been appointed director of TVNZ. Barrie Saunders, a lobbyist for the Business Roundtable, said that Radio New Zealand’s programmes were inherently anti-market, that they were left wing, and that they were biased against the Business Roundtable. He said: “I … feel [that Radio New Zealand] is … beyond redemption … it should be shut down.” That guy, who made a sustained attack against public service broadcasting, has now been appointed to the board of TVNZ. He is a full-time lobbyist, and he has been appointed to the board of TVNZ. A lobbyist is now being appointed to run TVNZ. It is quite clear what the agenda is; it is the same as it was with Radio New Zealand. His goal will be to shut down TVNZ.
Interestingly, it is a shame that Mr Ryall is not present, because in the same article Mr Ryall said: “I’m not convinced that we want all our stations owned by Mr Murdoch.” Very prophetic, this. He said: “In the seas of signals you’re going to want one or two lifeboats, of New Zealand culture.” That was said by Mr Ryall in 1998, and it was very prophetic, because that is what will happen. We will have all of our stations owned by Mr Murdoch, and we will be looking for one or two lifeboats of New Zealand culture.
Mr Coleman clearly shares Mr Saunders’ suspicion of those who work in public service broadcasting. Mr Coleman has no understanding whatsoever of the importance of public service broadcasting for a healthy democracy. We want broadcasters who are free from commercial pressures, who are not beholden to any commercial or other interests, and who are not solely driven by television ratings and advertising schedules. We want broadcasters who can look at different ideas and perspectives and speak without fear or favour.
Mr Coleman has no understanding of, and no support for, public service broadcasting. Rather, he supports the nakedly commercial broadcasting that others have pointed out has resulted in the atrocious scandal that we are seeing unfold in England, where Rupert Murdoch’s empire has been engaged in shocking, illicit behaviour. That is what happens when one has commercial media driven by the ratings and whose sole purpose is to bring in the ratings. They will descend to any level, no matter how illicit, to get their ratings. In New Zealand, where we have no regulation whatsoever, Rupert Murdoch could continue completely unfettered. If he is booted out of England, then that maybe is what he will seek to do. There is nothing to stop him. There are no cross-media rules in New Zealand. He could take over our entire media without any problem, because there are no rules.
It is a very sad day. In about 20 minutes we will see the end of public service broadcasting, apart from TVNZ7, but that too is to be booted out. The Government cannot find $15 million a year to fund one last public service niche broadcasting channel, but it can find $45 million for a sweet-heart deal with private broadcasters.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) : Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Kia ora anō tātau e te Whare. He wā poto noa iho tēnei kua tukuna mai ai ki a au, ki te whakatakoto i ngā whakaaro o te Pāti Māori. Me pēnei rawa te kōrero mai i te tīmatanga o tēnei o ngā pire i roto i te Whare kua kaha whakahē mātau i tōna pūtake. Arā anō ngā mea kua whakatakotohia e aku hoa. Ka mutu, ahakoa i puta mai i te waha o te Minita ko tāna whakautu ki tā te Pāti Māori i whakatakoto mai ai, kei reira tonu te āwangawanga.
Ko tāna, arā anō ngā huarahi kei mua i te aroaro kia tiaki pai, ko te taha ki te Ao Māori engari nei au e noho nei i roto i te rangirua me te kore whakapono i te mea, ko te pai o tēnei mea o te charter, te tāhūhū kōrero, ka herea katoatia ngā tikanga, ngā ture hei whāinga mā tēnei o ngā kamupene. Ko te mea pai, ka eke ki te wā kia whakamātauria, āe rānei, he tika rānei tērā tāhūhū kōrero, kāore rānei, ka taea e te tangata te whakamātautau i ngā taumata katoa ki tā te tāhūhū kōrero i kī ai. Mēnā kāre i eke ki te taumata ō roto i tērā tāhūhū kōrero, ka riro mā tētahi a ia e whakamātautau. Mēnā ka eke, ka eke panuku, ka eke tangaroa, ā, me pakipaki ngā ringa ka tika. Nō reira, koinei te pai o tēnei mea o te charter, o te tāhūhū kōrero, ka taea e wai rānei te whakamātautau i te pai rānei, i te koretake rānei, o ngā mahi o te kamupene.
I te mea kua whakakorengia tērā wāhanga, kei reira tonu te āwangawanga ka kore ngā take Māori, te mātauranga Māori, ngā rawa Māori e noho mai nei, i waenganui i a pouaka whakaata o Aotearoa, Te Reo Tātaki me kī, e kitea mai ai e te marea. Ka kore e tiakina paitia ngā mātauranga kei a ia i tēnei wā tonu nei, ka mutu, ka kore pea Te Reo Tātaki e whai nei i te hiahia o te Ao Māori, o te motu, ka tahi, ka rua, kia kitea mai ai e te kanohi Māori, ngā kōrero Māori e pāohotia atu ana hei kanohi mō te motu, kaua ki Aotearoa nei i tōna kotahi engari ki te ao. Nō reira, kei reira tonu tērā āwangawanga, hāunga ngā kōrero o te Rōpū Kākāriki me Reipa, kei reira tonu tērā āwangawanga ō mātau mō tēnei o ngā take, kia whai wāhi te mātauranga Māori, ngā kōrero Māori, ngā hītori Māori, te reo Māori tonu i runga i te pouaka whakaata. I ngā tau kua hipa i whakamātautauria te pouaka whakaata, Te Reo Tātaki, me kī mō ēnei take, arā, mō Te Karere, mō Marae i tēnei wā, ko Marae Investigates, he wāhi pakupaku noa iho o ngā hāora e pāohotia atu ana e te pouaka whakaata. Ko tā mātau, ko te kī atu he aha te uauatanga o te whakanui ake i tērā āhuatanga ki te motu. I te mea, pēnei i te Wiki o Te Reo Māori kua hipa ake nei, arā anō ngā painga o te kite atu i te kanohi Māori, te reo Māori, te hītori Māori ki runga me kī, i te pouaka whakaata matua o te motu.
Nō reira me pērā rawa tētahi kupu kōrero ka whakairia ki te pakitara o te Whare nei i tēnei pō, me te kī atu, e kore mātau te Pāti Māori e whakaae ki tēnei o ngā pire. Ahakoa te paku aro mai o te Minita ki ngā auē, i tōna mutunga mai, kāre mātau i te whakapono ka eke tēnei pire ki te taumata e wawatatia ana. Ka mutu he nui tonu ngā mahi kai mua i te aroaro hei whakapakari ake i te āhuatanga o ngā kōrero Māori, mātauranga Māori i tōna whānuitanga. Kāre e tino kitea i roto i te pūtake o tēnei pire. Nō reira koinei tā te Pāti Māori he whakahē i tēnei o ngā pire.
[Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Greetings once again to those of us in the House. I have been given only a short amount of time to present the thoughts of the Māori Party on this matter. Let me put it this way: since the inception of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill in the House, we have strongly opposed it. My colleagues have advanced several issues, and although the Minister responded to the Māori Party’s concerns, those concerns remain.
According to the Minister, there are many ways to ensure that aspects pertaining to Māoridom are protected. However, I remain confused and unconvinced, because the good thing about this instrument called a charter is that it binds together all of the protocols and legal requirements for the company to follow. A positive advantage is that once it is time to review whether the charter is appropriate, then one can test the standards against those in the charter. Should those standards not be met, then someone will have the task of reviewing the entity. If the standards are met successfully, then the entity must be applauded. That is what makes a charter so useful; it allows anyone to see whether the company is performing well or poorly.
But because that part has been abolished, the concern is still there that issues of interest relating to Māoridom, Māori knowledge, and Māori resources within Television New Zealand (TVNZ) will not be seen by the public. The intellectual property it currently has will not be protected, hence TVNZ will not meet the needs of Māori and indeed of the country, whereby Māori faces and stories are broadcast not just in New Zealand but throughout the world. Regardless of what the Green Party and Labour had to say, that concern of ours remains. We are concerned that Māori knowledge, Māori history, and the Māori language should maintain a place on television. A few years ago TVNZ underwent a review of Māori programmes such as Te Karere and Marae, which is now called Marae Investigates. It found that Māori programmes had only a small amount of time on air. We wonder why broadcast time cannot be increased for Māori programming. As is the case with Māori Language Week, there are many benefits to broadcasting Māori faces, the Māori language, and Māori history on the nation’s main broadcaster.
Therefore I leave that thought to hang upon the walls of this Chamber tonight, and state that the Māori Party will not support this bill. Despite the Minister’s paying minor attention to the objections, in the end we do not believe that this bill will satisfy our expectations. There is much work to be done to strengthen Māori programming, which is not covered within the details of this bill, so the Māori Party opposes this bill. ]
MELISSA LEE (National) : It is a great pleasure to rise to speak in the third reading of the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill. Without taking too much time in this debate I would like to start off with a little comment in relation to Sue Kedgley’s speech. I think there will be tens of thousands of New Zealanders who would take offence at her speech, because she decided to have a go at overseas content. I know that there is some fantastic overseas content, namely things like Coronation Street. I know that that television programme has been loved for many, many years, and the viewers of that television programme would not have liked that speech.
For someone who has actually worked in the television industry as a television content maker—I know there are other people in the House who have worked in television—when the Television New Zealand (TVNZ) charter was first introduced, there was some confusion as to what the charter was in fact going to bring. I remember thinking that Asia Downunder, a programme about New Zealanders of Asian descent, with programmes made by Asian reporters, had to include and start speaking in te reo, for example. Initially there was a lot of confusion as to what the charter would bring. Having said that, once the charter had been introduced into law and was being administered by TVNZ to bring more diversity in programming, in reality the charter did not really do much for the content of TVNZ’s programming. Programming was always about popularity—programmes that attracted more people to sit down and watch television programmes. Popularity really dictated what kinds of programmes were going to be commissioned.
Often, the kinds of programmes that other speakers have talked about—public service - type programmes—are not commercially funded and have had a lot of New Zealand On Air funding in order to facilitate their being broadcast. For example, there is Tagata Pasifika, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary next year. That particular programme was commissioned way before the TVNZ charter was ever put in place. When one actually considers the debates in the House, one would be led to believe that the charter increased the number of locally made programmes, but that is not so. A number of programmes like Tagata Pasifika were made well before the charter, and what happened with the charter money was that it was spent on programmes that did not necessarily need the money. It was going to things like commercial operations. It did nothing for the actual local content that people were talking about. Asia Downunder, Pacific Beat Street—all of these programmes that people consider to be public service and non-commercial never actually got charter money.
Removing the charter obligations from TVNZ means that it is freeing TVNZ to get on with what it does best: making television and broadcasting television. The way that people view television nowadays has actually changed. When I first arrived in New Zealand 23 years ago, people sat down to watch traditional terrestrial television. Nowadays, my son does not actually sit down in front of the television to watch a programme. He is on the internet—for the time he is allowed to be on the internet—watching television programmes on the internet. Young people do not watch television news at 6 o’clock like we used to. They watch it on demand, when they want to, and however fast they want to, and often people who advertise on television have the dilemma of deciding whether they should continue advertising on television because people are not watching commercials. For me, I do not get the time to watch a lot of television, so I tend to record it on my MY SKY, and I view it in my own time when I want to. The television sphere has changed dramatically.
Simon Bridges: What’s your favourite?
MELISSA LEE: My favourite programme would probably have to be watching the member on Parliament TV. Thank you, Simon, for that. One of the things—[Interruption] He is a great debater, and is a great-looking member of Parliament to watch. It is a pleasure, and I am sure the people of Tauranga will be very pleased to see him on television.
Another aspect of the bill that I am very pleased about is the freeing-up of programmes that were made pre-1989. I moved to New Zealand in 1988, and I have pretty much seen television progress over the years, but there are some programmes that I have heard about that happened before I arrived in New Zealand. I would love to see some of those programmes. Unlocking that archived material so that people can see it again is a fantastic move. I congratulate the Minister of Broadcasting on this wonderful bill, and I commend it to the House.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : I take a slightly different approach to many of the members who have spoken on the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill this evening, because I do not necessarily see the Television New Zealand charter as the panacea for quality public broadcasting in New Zealand. I do not think it ever was. I do not think Television New Zealand (TVNZ) has been a public service television broadcaster for quite some time, and I do not think that we have seen the quality public broadcasting television content that New Zealanders should be able to expect for a very, very long time. I think that is a real tragedy.
What I am concerned about, however, is the direction that we are going in with public television broadcasting in New Zealand. To some extent we seem to have just given up on the idea altogether. I will give the House a really good example of that, and that is TVNZ Heartland. It has 100 percent New Zealand content and relies on content that has been built up over a number of years, quite often with taxpayer subsidies through New Zealand On Air. Some great television programming is available on TVNZ Heartland, but only for those who can afford the Sky television subscription. Increasingly what we are seeing—and we are seeing it with Kidzone24 as well—is that TVNZ is producing some good local television, but only for those who can afford a Sky television subscription. It is not a public broadcaster, it is not a free-to-air broadcaster; it is increasingly becoming a content provider for Sky television.
I think the real question we have to ask ourselves is whether the role of New Zealand’s public service television broadcaster is to simply provide content for a pay TV service. Sky television arguably is the most profitable television broadcaster in the country, yet TVNZ—the State-owned public television network—seems to be increasingly focusing its attention on providing content for the most profitable television operator in the country. I do not think that is right. I do not think that the charter was perfect, I do not think that we got all of that right. I think there were definitely some improvements that needed to be made, but this bill goes the other way. What it does is it abandons any notion of public television broadcasting in New Zealand and says “Let’s just focus on making a buck.” Well, actually, the best way to make a buck would be to put all of TVNZ’s content on Sky television, because Sky television is profitable. TVNZ is profitable at the moment, but with the way technology is going, and with the increasing market dominance of Sky television that may not necessarily be the case for much longer.
With the segmentation of the market, the platform will become a lot less important than the content. What we are seeing with the content, the New Zealand - made content—often paid for by NZ On Air or through TVNZ’s previous charter funding—is that that content that has been built up over those years is now available only if people can afford a Sky television subscription. I do not think that is right. I think New Zealanders have paid for this content and they should be able to watch it. This bill frees up the content prior to 1989—frees it up for whom, is the question I would ask. Does it free it up so we can get even more of those New Zealand stories and that New Zealand content on Sky television, where people have to pay to watch it? That would be a concern for me. If it frees it up so that we can actually get it on free-to-air TV, on the FreeView platform, so that all New Zealanders can see it, that would be absolutely fantastic.
The real question we have to ask ourselves is what TVNZ will be in the future. If it will simply be another commercial TV network providing nothing that is any different from what one gets on TV3, Prime TV, or Sky television, then we have to ask what the fundamental purpose of having TVNZ at all really is. If we are going to have a distinctive New Zealand television service, then it needs to reflect New Zealand, it needs to tell New Zealand stories, and TVNZ does not do that. In fact, what we are seeing from TVNZ at the moment is an abandonment of anything south of the Bombay Hills.
In my electorate we have the Avalon Studios, which are widely recognised as the best television studios in the country. The technology at Avalon Studios is the best, most up-to-date technology that is available. Anyone, including TVNZ’s current management in Auckland, will admit that the studios in Avalon are world leading. The people who work there are fantastic. I pay tribute to the staff who work at TVNZ’s Avalon Studios, who, in a few months’ time, will find themselves out of work as TVNZ abandons the rest of the country and focuses all of its content on Auckland, and produces all of its content in Auckland. It will simply abandon the rest of New Zealand. Pretty soon the only way a person will be able to be on television, if he or she lives outside of Auckland, will be if that person is on the news, because the rest of New Zealand’s television content is being produced in Auckland, and I think that is a real shame.
What is even more disastrous is that those absolutely fantastic studio facilities at Avalon now will simply be abandoned, because TVNZ does not seem to have any credible plan to sell them as a going concern. What TVNZ will do is to wait until the Racing Board’s current lease on the studio facilities expires, wait until the lotteries stop doing the lottery draws there, and then it will try to sell the studios. In other words, it will try to sell empty TV studios with no customers. Well, nobody will want to buy that. TVNZ is dragging its heels, and it is dragging out this process, and part of the reason is that it does not want its competitors to get hold of the facilities.
TVNZ does not have a plan to sell them as a going concern—it does not have any plan—so the most likely thing is that they will just become another empty lot in the Hutt Valley for a property developer to buy. Frankly, we have enough of those in the Hutt Valley as a result of this Government closing just about every other Government department or agency in the Hutt Valley. We have enough of those already; we do not need another one at Avalon, when we have perfectly good TV studio facilities that have in the past produced some of the best New Zealand television content available.
Finally, I pick up on the points made by Te Ururoa Flavell from the Māori Party. I think he raised some really legitimate concerns about who we see on our TV screens. Is Māori culture an identity reflected on our TV screens? I would argue, actually, that Māori do quite well because they have the Māori Television Service, and I believe that the television service is far closer to being a public television broadcasting service for New Zealand than TVNZ is or has ever been—certainly as far back as I can remember. I think the Māori Television channel does an absolutely fantastic job of providing quality public content. It does so at a relatively low price. It is not highbrow television, as the members opposite would think. It just reflects New Zealand; it is genuine New Zealand content. I think that is what New Zealanders want to see: a public broadcaster. They want to see TVNZ delivering that service. It should not be on only Māori Television. It should actually reflect all of New Zealand’s many cultures, identities, and communities, and increasingly it does not.
I think that is an absolute disgrace. I think all New Zealanders should be able to see themselves reflected on screen, because if we do not, and if we simply say to TVNZ “Just be like any other broadcaster; import as much content from overseas as you want to.”, then what we are saying is that will be the end of TVNZ, effectively. There will be nothing to differentiate it from anyone else, and it probably cannot do it as cheaply as other commercial public broadcasters can do it. In fact, a lot of the content produced by TVNZ at the moment is very similar to the content on TV3, but TV3 produces it at a cheaper price. If one looks at the overhead cost of TVNZ news, for example, one sees that it is actually much, much more significant than the cost of producing TV3 news, yet the volume is probably about the same for both.
The question we have to ask is: if we will not have TVNZ as a public content broadcaster, what is TVNZ going to be? If it will be just another commercial broadcaster, what is the point of having it? But, you see, the thing is I suspect that is where this Government is going. I suspect that it will come back to this House, maybe in the next term of Parliament, if it gets the chance, if it gets re-elected—which is looking slimmer by the day—and say: “Hang on, TVNZ is no different from TV3, and no different from Sky television, so let’s just hock it off and add it to the list along with all the energy companies, and everything else. Let’s just hock it off.” I think that is exactly what the Government is intending to do. It wants to make TVNZ look and feel as much like a private, regular commercial broadcaster as possible so that it can be hocked off.
Aaron Gilmore: Are you part of the coup team?
CHRIS HIPKINS: There is no such thing—there is no such thing. None of the Government members seem to be willing to engage in the real issue of the moment, which is why we do not have a public television broadcaster in this country. It does not have a vision for public broadcasting. It does not want to see New Zealanders represented on New Zealand screens. It does not have a plan. This is another example of where it does not have a plan for pretty much anything, and as a result New Zealanders are suffering.
I conclude my remarks simply by saying that we have an opportunity here. We have an opportunity to draw a line under everything that has happened in the past, and institute something that is about genuine public broadcasting in this country. The Government has missed the opportunity to do that. Instead, what it is doing is simply turning TVNZ into just another set of broadcasters that people will have to pay money to watch, and I think that is a disgrace.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) : Somebody once said that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and that everything costs something. Television New Zealand (TVNZ) costs a tremendous amount of money to run. Mr Hipkins has certainly said tonight that the charter does not work. Mr Burns made comments regarding some of the programming that he felt was substandard. If we looked at the sorts of programmes that Mr Burns was alluding to that would be good to watch—for example, documentaries—we would probably ask what channels they would be on. They might be on the Discovery Channel, or they could be on the History Channel.
What I am saying is that the landscape of TV viewing is changing. In the town of Stratford there is a museum, and in it is one of the original TVNZ cameras—one would hardly fit it into the back of a Land Rover—whereas today one could see somebody recording a documentary for television, and the camera would fit in the palm of their hand, and then one could watch it on an iPad. The technology of TV viewing—how it is delivered and how it is paid for—is changing throughout the world. What this bill is doing is seeking to be flexible in order to allow those changes to come into New Zealand. It takes away the charter and replaces it with a briefer and less prescriptive statement of functions, which enables TVNZ to determine its own priorities against a general set of functions.
I really disagree with the statement that Mr Hipkins made about nothing south of the Bombay Hills being viewed on TV. I would say that some of my favourite programmes would be programmes like Coasters, which is a travel documentary about all of the coastal regions around New Zealand, and it has been highly popular. What about Hunger for the Wild, that fantastic show about wild game that is available around the different parts of New Zealand? The TV show went in there with Al Brown—Brownie—from that great restaurant Logan Brown here in Wellington. People were interviewed, and beautiful meals were cooked in cabins, in baches, on beaches, and all sorts of things—certainly not north of the Bombay Hills. All of that was funded by NZ On Air.
So this is how we are doing it: we are bringing New Zealand content through NZ On Air, not necessarily through the strict parameters that have existed in the past but with a more flexible format that will see programmes such as those available to all New Zealanders. I am very happy to commend this bill to the House. Thank you.
RAYMOND HUO (Labour) : Good legislation prescribes who gets what, why, and under what conditions. Under Labour, Television New Zealand Ltd (TVNZ) was required to give effect to the TVNZ charter. The charter requires it to feature programmes that reflect who we are as Kiwis, telling our own stories, and lifting our sense of self-identity and confidence. It requires Television New Zealand to offer a richer and more diverse view of our world, and to grow business at the same time.
I can still recall what the chief executive Ian Fraser said in 2002, when the Labour Government introduced the charter to require Television New Zealand to broadcast a wide range of programmes for all groups in New Zealand. He said “The Charter reinforces the fact that TVNZ is ‘The New Zealander’. We are the only television company owned by New Zealanders and so we are uniquely placed to provide the programmes, the information and entertainment that promote a deeper, shared sense of what it means to be a New Zealander.” Mr Fraser acknowledged that TVNZ was, in some respects, a singular sort of public broadcaster. On one hand, its mandate was to give effect to the charter. On the other, it was also charged to maintain a commercial performance, meaning that it needed to continue to demonstrate a strong ratings performance over its own schedule. What would change was the balance. The balance was that “Under the Charter [Television New Zealand] will be driven by content considerations, where creative and culture objectives are as highly valued as commercial ones.” As a result, Television New Zealand has been constructing the home place for more New Zealanders, investing in talent and imagination, and providing a more diverse menu, particularly in prime time when most people are watching television. So under Labour, every and all Kiwis were getting a fair go, where we were protecting the assets—including Television New Zealand, of course—built up by past generations so that Kiwis owned their own future.
Under National, the Television New Zealand Amendment Bill will effectively give Television New Zealand the go-ahead to act as a fully commercial broadcaster. It will end TVNZ’s public broadcasting role, and turn it into, as some media commentators have put it, a cash cow. This bill will repeal the charter. There will no longer be a requirement for Television New Zealand to broadcast a wide range of programmes for all groups in New Zealand. Will the story end here? I rather doubt it. National’s broadcasting policy seems to remove Television New Zealand’s charter obligations but retains Television New Zealand in public ownership for the moment—
Hon Steve Chadwick: For now.
RAYMOND HUO:—for now. Following its logic, that makes no sense. If a public asset is not to be used for public purposes, and if Television New Zealand is to become just a commercial broadcaster, then there is no point in the asset remaining in public ownership, is there? So the whole agenda smells. This is nothing more than a strategy by this National-ACT Government to make TVNZ a mirror of its commercial rivals and then say that it is no different and put it up for sale as soon as politically possible. Abolishing the Television New Zealand charter is the latest step.
Reading into this bill, I see that the only hint of deviation from a purely commercial broadcaster is the reference to “Māori perspectives”. Otherwise, the company is being asked to do just what any commercial broadcaster would do. There is no longer any requirement for programmes for educational purposes, local drama, documentaries, or minority-interest programmes in the schedule. There is also no mention of the minimum amount of local programming required, because local programmes are usually costly to produce compared with buying in international programmes. Local programmes will be in jeopardy.
I recently had a 2-hour interview with a reporter from a newspaper located as far away as Paris. Monsieur François d’Alançon, a senior reporter from the French daily newspaper La Croix—translated into English: The Cross—and I had a 2-hour talk in Auckland. We covered extensive subjects from the Rugby World Cup, for which he is assigned to do a series of stories; beautiful New Zealand where there are more sheep than people; and, more relevant to my portfolio, the New Zealand - Chinese community and its integration into New Zealand society. The interview, to a large extent, brought with it a sense of reminiscing, the kind of feeling one often has when overseas, the feeling of missing New Zealand no matter how long one has been out of the country. It is not uncommon to hear people say they do not realise how strongly they feel about New Zealand until they go overseas—the fresh air, the landscapes, and everything that makes New Zealand unique. It is the kind of feeling that often motivates us to think about what we should do to make New Zealand a better place for our future generations. Like it or not, New Zealand is a small and isolated country, so I say a big thankyou to the Labour Government, which secured the Rugby World Cup hosting rights for New Zealand. Without this major event in New Zealand this year, it is hard to imagine that newspapers like that French daily, one of the only three daily national French newspapers to turn a profit, would have any interest in us.
Promotion of New Zealand is the first step to ensuring that we are relevant in both trade and the development of people-to-people contact. I told Monsieur d’Alançon during the interview that I had a dream—the dream that NZ would become the Switzerland of the southern hemisphere. Relevant to my member’s bill on export education, I say that New Zealand will become a world leader and attract only top-quality international students, because some of them will stay—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: We are on television. We are talking about television.
RAYMOND HUO: I will come back to this bill. Comparing New Zealand with France, which sits comfortably as one of the best examples of productivity in the world, New Zealand lags behind and is slipping further down, and is now sitting near the bottom of the OECD. To turn this round we have to rely on innovation and nurturing our creative and entrepreneurial individuals.
In the context of this bill, it is more about our Kiwi national identity and our Kiwi dreams, and about owning our own future. Defining our national identity is not simple. New Zealand is a diverse nation made up of many cultural groups with many different customs and traditions, but a strong sense of New Zealandness is important. So national identity is an important contributor to people’s well-being. Establishing a national identity provides access to social networks, which provide support and shared values and aspirations. Social networks can help to break down barriers and build a sense of trust between people—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Can I just bring the member back to the bill, in his 1½ minutes remaining. This debate is about television, and I would like the member to concentrate his last 1½ minutes on what is in the bill. This is a third reading, and a third reading speech is about what has been reported back from the Committee. There are a number of Speakers’ rulings on page 117.
RAYMOND HUO: Thank you for your reminder, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was about to say that this is one of the reasons why we fought so strongly to oppose this bill. Under National we will remain the only developed country without a public service television channel. The only true public service broadcaster we have left in this country is Radio New Zealand, and I believe it is only a matter of time before Radio New Zealand’s public service role is eroded if a National and ACT Government has its way. It is a disgrace.
|Ayes 64||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 56||New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 8; Māori Party 4; Progressive 1; Independent: Carter C.|
|Bill read a third time.|
Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health) : I move, That the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill be now read a second time. At the outset, I thank the Health Committee for its consideration of this legislation. The bill will restrict the availability of the primary precursor substances used to make the class A drug methamphetamine, as well as make some necessary technical amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. The bill does not carry out a comprehensive overhaul of the Misuse of Drugs Act, but it will address some fundamental problems with the legislation in the short term.
Members will be aware that the Law Commission has recently made its final recommendations to the Government, following a first-principles review of New Zealand’s outdated drug legislation. The Government has welcomed this thorough and wide-ranging report, and will be carefully considering all 144 recommendations. In particular, I am sure that most members will agree on the importance of dealing with the increasing number of uncontrolled substances, such as party pills and substances like Kronic. As members will be aware, currently the onus is on the Government to demonstrate the harmfulness of substances before those substances can be controlled. In the meantime, those products can be sold without any restrictions. The Law Commission has proposed reversing the onus so that manufacturers must demonstrate a level of safety before products can legally be sold. The Government broadly accepts this approach, and work is under way to put in place such a regime.
However, we now have a more immediate problem due to the increasing sale of psychoactive substances, like Kronic, without any controls. This bill will make changes to the current Misuse of Drugs Act to enable new restrictions to be put on new party pills and smokeable products. But these moves may not be sufficient, given the way this industry operates, so I have been working on stronger additional amendments to apply until the format proposed by the Law Commission can be put in place. These new amendments will be introduced, by way of Supplementary Order Paper before the Committee of the whole House stage, as the first item of business during the week after the coming adjournment, and will take effect shortly thereafter.
This bill will also make the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine more difficult by closing off the source of domestic methamphetamine precursor substances. This cannot wait. Methamphetamine is the only illegal stimulant drug commonly manufactured in our country, and we have high rates of use, by international standards. It is a particularly problematic illegal drug, which causes significant harm to individuals, families, and communities. Gangs and other organised criminal groups are closely involved with the manufacture and supply of methamphetamine and its precursor chemicals, and the trade of this drug is associated with significant crime and violence. The proposal in this bill is to reclassify ephedrine, and in particular pseudoephedrine, the classification of which will therefore be a significant component of the Government’s intention to tackle the availability of this insidious drug. The bill will reclassify pseudoephedrine and ephedrine as class B2 controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. This reclassification will remove over-the-counter access to pseudoephedrine from pharmacies, and make it a prescription-only medicine. That will make it more difficult for potential manufacturers of methamphetamine to access the key ingredients to make the drug.
Some people have suggested that taking away pseudoephedrine from over-the-counter sale in pharmacies will place an unnecessary burden on legitimate flu sufferers, but those legitimate sufferers will still be able to obtain pseudoephedrine-based medications from their medical practitioners. Members may be interested to note that most people already use alternatives to pseudoephedrine to treat cold and flu symptoms, and that currently fewer than 20 percent of the cold and flu products sold in pharmacies actually contain pseudoephedrine.
Some have suggested that although there is a benefit in restricting the supply of such precursor drugs, the method proposed in the bill is not necessary. Well, I share the views of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, and of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, in saying that a B2 classification is the most effective way of shutting down the domestic diversion of pseudoephedrine while maintaining its availability as a medicine. Reclassification of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine as class B2 controlled drugs will also give the police and the Customs Service increased powers to control supply, such as the ability to obtain a warrant to intercept communications. The penalty for the unlawful dealing of class B drugs is imprisonment not exceeding 14 years, and for the unlawful possession or use of these drugs it is imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $500, or both. I intend to introduce a Supplementary Order Paper at the Committee of the whole House stage to change the date these provisions will come into effect to 1 month following the date of enactment, in order to give the industry time to bring these changes into effect, because currently the bill proposes they would take effect on 1 March 2011.
I would be misleading the House if I were to claim that this amendment will, of itself, solve our methamphetamine problem. This is just one of a number of Government actions to address the harms from this drug. I am also fully aware that the major part of the pseudoephedrine currently used to make methamphetamine is smuggled across our borders into New Zealand. The Health Committee noted in its report that the methamphetamine market is worth around $1 billion annually, and that at least 10 percent of that market is manufactured from domestic pseudoephedrine. We cannot therefore ignore the over $100 million worth of the methamphetamine market. We need to complement the valuable work the Customs Service already does, and to strengthen our response to domestic diversion.
The other components of this bill are technical. One of these amendments, the amendment to tighten our existing drug utensils provisions, has raised a certain amount of public interest, and was, I understand, the subject of the majority of the submissions to the Health Committee. Let me make it clear that it is already illegal to import or supply drug-related utensils such as cannabis and methamphetamine pipes, so the bill closes two loopholes to enable police and the Customs Service to enforce, more effectively, the law we already have. At the moment it is an offence to sell drug utensils, but not an offence to display them in a shop or advertise their sale. This places limitations on the police, who can act only if they witness an illegal sale. The second loophole affects the ability of the Customs Service to seize illegal utensils being brought across the border. At the moment it is not illegal to bring in components of drug utensils and then assemble them in New Zealand to be sold illegally. This bill will give the Customs Service the power to seize the recognisable parts of methamphetamine or cannabis pipes, such as a bowl, which requires only a mouthpiece to become a cannabis bong.
This bill will remove thalidomide from class A of the Misuse of Drugs Act, so that it can be more appropriately controlled under the Medicines Act. Thalidomide is not psychoactive, nor is it used recreationally, and its place under the Misuse of Drugs Act is therefore an anomaly we propose to rectify with this amendment.
The bill also proposes to correct a problematic overlap between the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 by removing the exclusion that a hazardous substance cannot also be a restricted substance. The restricted substances regime is an important mechanism that we need in order to place robust controls on low-risk psychoactive drugs, such as the so-called party pills and some of the legal highs that would otherwise be uncontrolled, but the current wording of the legislation unintentionally acts as a barrier to the scheduling of any substance as a restricted substance. This amendment bill will remove that barrier. I have already made reference to the problem of synthetic cannabinoids and the Government’s plans to deal with them, culminating in the implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations. But they themselves do not remove the need for this technical amendment to be made, and it is essential that we address the barrier posed by the wording of the restricted substances definition to ensure that this mechanism is available for controlling new substances in the short term.
I am also proposing a related change in the Supplementary Order Paper to give effect to the Ministry of Health’s view that synthetic cannabinoid products intended for smoking purposes should also fit the definition of herbal smoking products under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990. An exclusion currently exists in the drug legislation to the effect that a restricted substance cannot also be a herbal smoking product. Therefore, the amendment in the Supplementary Order Paper will propose a further change to the principal Act to allow for certain smokeable products to be regulated as both restricted substances and herbal smoking products under the Smoke-free Environments Act.
These amendments will go a long way to strengthening our drug rules, but they are only the precursor—if I can use that phrase—to far more substantive change following the Law Commission’s report. That change will be enacted next year.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) : I rise to speak at this point in support of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill. There are aspects of this bill that Labour is very much in favour of, but then there are aspects of this bill with which we have some concerns. I would like to discuss some of those concerns as I continue this call.
Let me say at the outset that we support what the Government is trying to achieve in terms of curtailing the prevalence of P, or pure methamphetamine. We are very supportive of what the Government is trying to achieve. However, I need to say at the outset that this continued tinkering with the Misuse of Drugs Act cannot go on. I support what the Associate Minister of Health Peter Dunne has said about bringing into legislation some of the recommendations that the Law Commission made in its review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. We on this side of the House would like to see that happen as soon as possible, because as we continue chasing our tails, trying to keep up with new substances as they come on to the market, we will find that as we remove one substance from the market, another one will replace it. If we remove that substance, then another and another will constantly be coming on to the market.
Although we support what the Government is trying to achieve, it is absolutely clear that New Zealand needs new legislation to deal with mind-altering substances, and to deal with drugs in the 21st century. The original Misuse of Drugs Act has, over time, become outdated and outmoded, and it simply cannot keep up with the drug environment of the 21st century.
Probably the aspect of this legislation that the public has taken most interest in is the reclassification of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as class B2 controlled drugs. Labour supports that move, but we point out, as we did in the first reading of this bill, that the vast majority of precursor substances that go into the manufacturing of pure methamphetamine are actually imported illegally across our borders. They are not being purchased at pharmacies. Although this is a good measure that will hopefully curtail the availability of the precursors of pure methamphetamine, it is not a silver bullet that will actually deal with the issue.
We need to see much more being done to curtail the illegal importation of those precursor substances. In fact, one really has to wonder whether the amount of inconvenience to people who simply want to access effective cold and flu medicine that will help them to keep going to work and keep going about their normal daily activities is warranted, given the minimal impact that this measure will have on the availability of methamphetamine on the streets of New Zealand. But the Labour Party is more than happy to support any move to curtail that availability, no matter how small.
Obviously, we also support removing thalidomide’s classification as a class A controlled drug. I think that simply reflects the ad hoc approach that has been taken to the Misuse of Drugs Act over the years. It is a substance that is completely out of place in the Misuse of Drugs Act, and it just makes sense to get that substance out of the Act.
Extending the definition of “amphetamine analogues” is also a useful move, but, again, it is representative of the issue we have of new substances coming on to the market and we in Parliament trying to legislate to keep up with those new substances. We can try to spread the net a bit wider by changing the definition of the analogues of certain substances we deem to be illegal, but we know there will always be new substances.
One of the best examples of that issue, which the public is well aware of, is the issue of synthetic cannabinoids such as Kronic, Dream, and Spice. We support the Minister in terms of the Supplementary Order Paper he will put forward during the Committee stage to bring more regulation to those synthetic cannabis products. But we very much see that only as a bandaid and a short-term fix, and we hope we see the real fix coming through as quickly as possible.
We need a comprehensive review—well, we have had the review. We need comprehensive change to our drug laws in this country. Although it is important that we move quickly to restrict those synthetic cannabis products as much as we can under the current legislation, the real problem is that the current legislation does not allow us to take a sensible, methodical, scientific approach to the availability of new substances. We absolutely support the approach that new substances would need to be proven safe before they come on to the market, rather than the situation we have at the moment, where new substances come straight on to the market. We are essentially experimenting on our children and our young people, and only if we find that they are unsafe do we then try to remove them from the market. That change needs to happen as quickly as possible.
That change is all in the name of reducing harm, and that is what we should be thinking about in terms of drug control and drug law in this country. We should be thinking about how we reduce the harm that drugs have on the people who use them and, of course, on the community around the people who use them. Whether those drugs are legal or illegal, we need to make sure we reduce harm as much as we possibly can.
That brings me to one aspect of this amendment bill that the Labour Party is not able to support. I signal at this point that we will be putting forward an amendment to have clause 4 removed from this piece of legislation. Clause 4 relates to drug utensils. We heard no submitter to the Health Committee say that removing drug utensils would reduce the harm caused by the drugs that are consumed through those utensils. In fact, we heard that potentially we will see an increase in the harm caused to people who will be using ad hoc replacements. Utensils such as pipes are typically used to reduce harm. We heard from the submitters to the select committee that people will use all sorts of devices, most of which are available at the local hardware store, and some of which can be made out of an empty Coke can.
- Debate interrupted.
- The House adjourned at 10 p.m.