Hansard (debates)

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Date:
22 July 2014

Draft transcript - Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Motions

Malaysian Airlines— Flight MH17 Crash in Ukraine

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I seek leave to move a motion without notice in relation to flight MH17.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I move That this House express its condolences to the families of all those who lost their lives on flight MH17, register its dismay at the constraints that have been imposed by armed separatist groups impeding the international investigation, call on those groups to cooperate immediately and unreservedly with international authorities, and urge Russia to use its influence with those groups to ensure the investigation and recovery operation proceed appropriately and unimpeded. The New Zealand Government has been shocked by the events surrounding flight MH17. All New Zealanders will wish to join me in expressing our sadness to the families of the New Zealanders who perished. We are also greatly saddened by the grievous casualties borne by our friends in other countries, particularly the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Australia. I have spoken with leaders of those countries to pass on the condolences of the New Zealand Government and people. The Government has been deeply concerned by the lack of appropriate and secure access to the site of the crash of MH17 over the course of the last few days and by suggestions that armed groups have interfered with evidence. We are appalled that the bodies of those who died may not have been accorded proper and dignified treatment. We are disturbed by continuing hostilities in the region, which have hampered the investigation. There are reports that many of the bodies have now been collected, but others still remain at the site and it is essential that they too be quickly collected and the site remain secured for a proper international investigation.

Two hundred and ninety-eight people, including people who called New Zealand home, have been caught up in a conflict they had no part in. President Putin must use his influence with the rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine to ensure that a ceasefire takes effect so the international investigating team can undertake the important work unimpeded and without danger to themselves. Acting on instruction, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also registered this message with Russian diplomats to convey back to their authorities. On 19 July New Zealand made a statement to the United Nations Security Council calling for an international, thorough, credible, and independent investigation. This morning New Zealand co-sponsored Australia’s resolution on this matter at the Security Council. The international community has made clear the need for urgent action, and we expect the Security Council to show leadership and work together to support all international efforts in resolving this crisis. This terrible event reinforces the urgent need for an end to hostilities in eastern Ukraine and for the dispute to be resolved peacefully and in accordance with international law.

[Continuation line: Hon David Cunliffe]

Motions

Speech - Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition)

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): I stand firm with the Prime Minister on this matter. The Labour Party expresses its deepest sympathies to the families of all aboard Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The tragic deaths of the 298 people on board, apparently shot down over a war zone, are a heart-breaking loss. Our thoughts are especially with the families of the New Zealanders and New Zealand residents killed in the crash—Robert Ayley, Mary Menke, and Gerry Menke—and also with the families of the deceased of those of other nations. Losing a loved one can only be a horrific experience, and their loss will be so much worse in circumstances such as these. There is nothing that any of us can do to lessen their grief, but we can push for answers as to how this terrible tragedy happened, who is responsible, and how we can prevent anything like this ever happening again in future. We join with the international community in calling for a swift, independent investigation of the crash site to establish the causes of the crash. We expect nothing less than the full cooperation of all parties concerned, including Russia and the Ukrainian separatists. I would add that I support the sentiments and actions of the New Zealand Government in pursuing this end. We are encouraged by the news that the black boxes from MH17 have now been handed over to the Malaysian authorities and that safe, secure access to the site for international investigators has now been guaranteed. But the Russian Government must also step up and take responsibility for ensuring that international efforts to find the answers we need are not hampered and that a full inquiry is allowed to take place no matter what answers that inquiry may find.

[Continuation line: Metiria Turei]

Motions

Speech - METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader - Green)

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader - Green): Tēnā koutou e te Whare. The Green Party wishes to support this motion and to convey our condolences to the families and friends of the victims of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The tragedy has cost the lives of 298 innocent people who had nothing to do whatsoever with the conflict in Ukraine. But then, all war takes innocent lives. War is itself an atrocity. Our thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones in this crime against humanity. Many countries around the world have been directly affected by this tragedy—the Netherlands and Malaysia, including for them 15 crew members. Australia has lost more than 30 of its own. We make particular acknowledgment of the New Zealand families who are grieving for their lost loved ones. The Green Party supports the * United Nations Security Council call for an international investigation into the downing of the Malaysian Airlines passenger flight. It is vital that those armed groups in control of the region do allow access to the crash site and ensure that its integrity is maintained. It is most vital for the families that have lost loved ones that their relatives receive dignified, respectful, and professional treatment in the recovery operation. The tragedy of MH17 shows just how quickly an internal conflict within a country can spiral out of control and how a conflict thousands of miles from New Zealand can affect us all. It is vital that the international community, as well as seeking justice for the victims of MH17 and their families, puts all of its efforts into promoting peace in the Ukraine. Thank you.

[Continuation line: Rt Hon Winston Peters]

Motions

Speech - Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First)

Rt Hon WINSTONRt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First): This grave matter concerns our nation. Because we should speak in condemnation with one voice, New Zealand First endorses the comments of the Prime Minister and other party leaders.

[Continuation line: Flavell]

Motions

Speech - TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader - Māori Party)

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader - Māori Party): Mr Speaker, Tēnā koe.

[Continuation line: Key]

Motions

Gaza Strip— Military Action

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I seek leave to move a motion without notice in relation to the situation in Gaza.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is none.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I move, That this House express grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Gaza, particularly the appalling and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, and express strong support for international efforts to obtain an immediate ceasefire and to end hostilities so that both parties can return to negotiations and work towards a permanent two-state solution.

[Continuation line: On 17 July after 10 days of heavy shelling in response to rocket fire from Gaza-based militants,]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY

On 17 July, after 10 days of heavy shelling in response to rocket-to-rocket fire from Gaza-based militants, Israel launched a ground invasion of the * Gaza Strip. We have expressed our concern at the latest escalation of this conflict, the origins of which include the kidnapping of three Israeli teens on the * West Bank in early June. Indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel by * Hamas and other groups is unacceptable and must immediately cease. Israel has the right to defend itself from these attacks. Israel’s citizens who live in towns near the Gaza Strip live in daily fear of rocket fire. At the same time, the nature of Israel’s response has resulted in deep international concern at the growing number of civilian deaths. Israel is providing warnings to evacuate areas prior to striking them, but in many cases the people of Gaza, 75 percent of whom are refugees, have nowhere to go. The * United Nations reports that the humanitarian conditions in parts of Gaza are dire. It is clear that both sides have breached international law by failing to protect civilians, including firing indiscriminately into civilian populations. This challenges basic principles of acceptable international behaviour. For the sake of their people, both sides must agree to an immediate and lasting * ceasefire. This is imperative. We have been deeply disappointed that, to date, ceasefire initiatives have failed. We urge all parties to continue efforts to de-escalate the situation. Last week we added our voice to the * United Nations Security Council’s call for a ceasefire, but we also strongly support United Nations * Secretary-General * Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the Middle East in an effort to mediate a cessation of hostilities. Once the ceasefire has been obtained, there is an urgent need to address the underlying causes of this conflict to avoid a repetition of these dreadful events in another 2 years’ time. This pattern of conflict has gone on too long. We have consistently called for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations. These latest incidents reinforce the importance of a sustainable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The New Zealand Government wants to see a permanent two-State solution, so that both parties can live in peace and security.

[Continuation line: David Cunliffe]

Motions

Speech - Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition)

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): The Labour Party joins with this Parliament in calling for an immediate * ceasefire in Gaza and, in so doing, expresses its support for the Government’s motion expressing grave concern at the ground invasion of Gaza and at the firing of rockets into Israel. To date, there have been more than 500 Palestinians killed in Gaza—most of them women, children, and non-combatants. No parent and no humanitarian could fail to be deeply moved by this tragic suffering. Twenty-five Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have also been killed. The death toll, however, reveals the disproportionate nature of this conflict. It is impossible to conduct a ground war and use * F16s and missiles in such a congested area where 1.6 million people live on a strip of land without innocent people being killed. Neither should rockets simply be fired in Israeli civilian areas. We should also not forget that this violence is symptomatic of other issues that have never been resolved. No population should live behind barbed-wired fences where electricity is rationed, food controlled, and people’s ability to move in and out of Gaza constrained. What sort of future can young Gazans look forward to where unemployment is 40 percent and there is no ability to escape? The seeds of future conflict are being sown in the inability of Israel-Palestine and the international community not making the tough decisions to end the current * stand-off.

[Continuation line: Until now, no side has been willing to agree to a ceasefire.]

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE

Until now no side has been willing to agree to a * ceasefire. Pressure needs to be applied to ensure that that happens. Our Government should have already told the Israeli * Ambassador to New Zealand that although we recognise both the right of the State of Israel and the Palestinian State to exist in peaceful co-existence, we condemn the many innocent lives that have been lost. Our * ambassadors around the world should likewise be sending an unequivocal message to their Israeli counterparts and, where possible, Palestinian ones: New Zealand wants to see a peaceful just end to the * Middle East conflict.

[Continuation line: Dr Kennedy Graham]

Motions

Speech - Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green)

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green): Yet again we have a round of mutual lethality between Israel and Hamas, except that the military asymmetry means that the death toll runs against Palestinians by a factor of several hundred to one. Some 500 Palestinian civilians have been killed, of whom 80 percent or more are children and elderly. Here are some: Hiji-ziya Hamed al-Hilu, aged 80; Saber Sukka, aged 80; Salah Awad al-Nawasr, aged 6; Nidal Khalaf al-Nawasra, aged 5; and Mohammed Khalaf al-Nawasra, aged 4. Then we must mourn as well the murder of the teenagers. On the Israeli side: Eyal Yifrah, aged 19; Gilad Shaar, aged 16; Naftali Fraenkel, aged 16; and, on the Palestinian side, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, aged 16. This is an unmitigated tragedy all round. So how should New Zealand react to the latest crisis? What should the New Zealand policy be? The fundamental issue at stake in this crisis from 1948 to 2014 is the occupation of Palestine by Israel. Everything emanates from this: the refusal to implement the UN framework for peace under the Oslo accords, the continuing and expanding settlements, the wall, which is judged by the * World Court to be illegal, and the excessive use of force by Israel. This is not to condone the firing of rockets by Hamas. We do not condone violence by anyone. But let us recognise the violence of Hamas for what it is: a desperate attempt at resistance by an oppressed people. And so following we must recognise Israel’s violence for what it is: a continuation of oppression for an illusory kind of security. As it happens, the UN charter requires a member state when exercising self-defence to immediately report it to the * Security Council. I have scrutinised the formal communications to the Security Council over the past week, by both Israel, as member state, and Palestine, as observer state. Each advances its own case. Palestine on 14 July appeals for all possible measures by the international community to provide immediate protection to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the occupied State of Palestine “against the ongoing savagery and military aggression being perpetrated by Israel.” On 16 July Israel calls on the international community to stop the attacks on Israeli citizens by unequivocally condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend its citizens. Israel justifies its actions in Gaza in the name of self-defence. The inherent right of self-defence, sanctioned in international law for several centuries now, does not justify what Israel is currently doing in Gaza. Most jurists around the world are describing the Israeli actions as an excessive use of force and a violation of humanitarian law.

Continuation line: If this is self-defence, it is time that the principle.

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM

If this is * self-defence, it is time the principle evolved in a manner that precludes this kind of response, for we all know that whatever the principle of self-defence might justify, it does not justify the kind of collateral civilian damage to Palestinians that we have been witnessing this past week. The Green Party is calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and for Israel to withdraw its military forces. We condemn the violence and invasion of Gaza and the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli military. We call on the * United Nations Secretary-General to establish a fact-finding* inquiry into the events and submit the report to the General Assembly* and to Switzerland as the depository Government of the Fourth Geneva Convention. We call on the New Zealand Government to call for a consideration by the UN of economic and other sanctions against Israel, as occurred with South Africa in the 1990s and 1980s. If the Security Council*, , in its ineffable wisdom, is unable to address the issue, perhaps the General Assembly can consider such a course of action under the Uniting for Peace precedent. We call on the Government to increase New Zealand humanitarian aid through appropriate UN agencies, targeted at relieving the human suffering in Gaza. We support the idea of Palestine acceding to the Rome Statute and referring a complaint to the * International Criminal Court alleging individual leadership crimes against humanity by certain named leaders in the conflict. If Israel feels justified in referring Palestinians to the International Criminal Court, it has only to accede to the Rome Statute and join the court as well. There will be no end in sight to this conflict as long as there is a relationship of oppressed-oppressor in Israel and Palestine. Israel has a right to exist peacefully and securely, but it will not find this in continuing the sustained, brutal, and dehumanising oppression of Palestinians. There will be no end in sight as long as the only options open to Hamas are surrender or resistance. The accord between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas went some way to recognising the legitimacy of each. I say this not to offer support for all policies of each, but to reiterate that although the struggles and opinions of some might stir distaste, the grievances of a people deserve to be heard with open ears and to be engaged with respectfully. I do not think that power over others will ever lead to lasting peace for Israel. Work needs to be done to build mutual respect for the lives and livelihoods of Palestinians and Israelis. This will need an abundance of empathy and a re-humanising of each other in the other’s eyes. No doubt crimes have been committed against civilians by both military groups, and both require condemnation, but in the longer term peace requires a political realignment and a refashioning of mind-set, perhaps on all our parts, before a settlement is achieved and peace is finally secured.

[continuation line: Rt Hon Winston Peters]

Motions

Speech - Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First)

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First): New Zealand First joins with other parties in this House in expressing grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Gaza. All parties to that conflict must step back from the brink of so much mutual destruction. We concur in expressing our support for international efforts to obtain an immediate ceasefire and to end hostilities. We trust that those international endeavours be both quick and effective. Both parties to the conflict must return to negotiations and work towards a permanent solution that will ensure peace and stability for all the people of that area.

[Continuation line: Questions for oral answer - Q1 Rt Hon Winston Peters]

Urgent Debates Declined

Police Crime Statistics, Counties Manukau— Miscategorisation

Mr SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Jacinda Ardern seeking to debate under Standing Order 386 the miscategorisation of official police crime statistics in Counties Manukau. This is a particular case of recent occurrence involving ministerial responsibility. Although the case relates to events that took place between 2009 and 2012, it has only just been revealed by the media. However, disciplinary action has been taken and spot audits are now routinely carried out. In these circumstances I am not persuaded that the matter deserves the immediate attention of the House by way of an urgent debate today. The application is therefore declined.

Points of Order

Application for Urgent Debate—Gaza

Urgent Debates Declined

Police Crime Statistics, Counties Manukau— Miscategorisation

DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there may be a mistake, but we did put in an application on Gaza, I think. Is that right?

Urgent Debates Declined

Police Crime Statistics, Counties Manukau— Miscategorisation

Mr SPEAKER: My office was informed that there was a letter put in, which was subsequently withdrawn because there was a motion being debated in the House today.

[continuation line: Standing Orders—Hon Bill English]

Standing Orders

Sessional

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I move, That Genesis Energy Ltd be a public organisation for the purpose of the Standing Orders. This is a process we have been going through with each of the mixed-ownership model companies. As a result of Genesis ceasing to be a State-owned enterprise and becoming a mixed-ownership company, it ceases to be subject to ongoing financial reviews by a select committee. To ensure that Genesis continues to be subject to financial reviews, we need to put this motion through the House, which deems Genesis to be a public organisation under the Standing Orders. That will mean that when Genesis’ annual report is tabled in the House it is then referred to a select committee for financial review. Following completion of their public offerings, Mighty River Power and Meridian were deemed to be public organisations in the same way. Air New Zealand was also deemed to be a public organisation, and has been for some time. This is just part of the procedural tidy-up after the successful floats of 49 percent of these Government companies. The merits of the policy have been debated probably more extensively than any other single issue over the last 3 years, and the Government is pleased to note that after that debate and the sale of the assets there is around $4.7 billion that has been put into the * Future Investment Fund, and that is now available to be recycled into other public assets—a process that is well under way and from which thousands of New Zealanders will benefit. Particularly, I am pleased to see that some of this money is going into the rebuild of Christchurch schools, where we have a generational opportunity to spend a billion dollars on new schools and upgrades, and to change the way that the schooling system operates in our second-largest city. It is pleasing to see that so many of the members of the Christchurch educational community are involved in taking that project forward.

Dr Megan Woods: Give us all the facts.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, if the member is looking for some facts I will just give her some. The share offer programme has increased the incentive for these companies to improve their performance, and this is now flowing into higher dividends for the Crown. It is particularly noticeable in the case of Genesis Energy, the company about which we are debating today. Despite selling just under half of the shares in the company, the Crown expects to receive nearly twice as much in dividends from Genesis this year than it did in the best year in the decade up to 2012. So in those 10 years, when the company was fully owned by the Crown, 100 percent, in its best year we received half the dividends that we will receive from Genesis Energy this year. So the taxpayer sold half the company, and it is getting more than twice the return. That makes a lot of sense. The Opposition members are going to get up and say that is because power prices went up. They should look at the last CPI index, which shows that the increase in power prices was all due to increases in line charges from the monopoly, community-owned companies. In fact, the variable power price, the energy price, dropped very slightly. So the increased dividend, which is twice as big a dividend as the best of the last 10 years under Crown ownership, is not due to higher power prices.

[Continuation line: It is due to a better-run company that no longer wastes]

Hon BILL ENGLISH

It is due to a better-run company that no longer wastes taxpayers’ money or tries to exploit what was a less than competitive position up until 3 years ago at the expense of the consumers of power. There are many other benefits from the floats—that is just one of them—and, as a result of Parliament passing this motion, select committees will have the opportunity to question * Genesis Energy closely about why it is now paying the Crown twice the dividend when the Crown is a 50 percent shareholder—twice the dividend it paid when the Government was a 100 percent shareholder. Actually, a similar but not quite the same pattern applies for * Mighty River Power, which is also paying somewhere between 50 percent and 100 percent more dividend to the Government when it owns half the shares as when it was 100 percent owner. In the case of Meridian Energy* it does not work out that way because Meridian Energy had a number of special dividends and the special dividend that it paid—the very large special dividend that it paid—was because it sold assets.

Hon Craig Foss: Who to?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it sold assets in Australia. It set up some energy generation in Australia and sold it very successfully. I have not actually done the calculations if you take that special dividend out, but I am sure that once you remove that special dividend we will see that there is also a better performance by Meridian Energy and taxpayers getting a better deal. The final point I would make is this. The only reason the Government has billions of investment is because ordinary Kiwis pay their power bills and, at the end of a week of working in the cold, wet July weather, they hand over $300 of PAYE. That is how we get billions. But just because they came in small amounts is exactly the reason we should respect them. We should pay attention to every $300 because if Kiwis kept it they would be able to do a lot with it. They would be able to upgrade their car, pay for the school trip, buy a new washing machine, and that is why I am so deeply opposed to the wasteful arrogant attitudes of the Opposition members who think that the billions somehow belong to the Government. They do not. They belong to people working in the rain and cold today and this motion is part of a process that reassures ordinary New Zealanders—everyday New Zealanders paying their tax and their power bills—that the National-led Government respects their contribution to New Zealand’s common good. We will make sure that people on good pay, with good jobs, who run these companies are thoroughly scrutinised and most particularly scrutinised by a market that can signal very clearly by reducing the share price when that company is not performing.

[Continuation line: Shearer]

Standing Orders

Speech - DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert)

DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert): The reason we are here today with this motion on Genesis Energy is because the Government forgot—forgot—to put in the little part in this bill that talks about financial review, scrutiny, transparency. That is just the normal sort of things that you would expect a Government to do. It forgot. It forgot to do that, so we are here wasting Parliament’s time to make sure that that scrutiny is in and is part of this bill. It is not a procedural tidy-up, Mr English; it is a tidy-up of a complete cock-up, which shows exactly where this Government’s priorities really are, and that is to not to pay too much attention to transparency. This motion comes at an interesting time. Today is one of the coldest days in our winter and people, as they are maybe watching this, are turning on their heaters to keep warm, burning up energy and electricity in order to stay warm. They know that their power bills, despite all of the saving and the conservation that they are doing in perhaps not even turning on the heater when they should, are going up. Two days ago our power prices went up by 4.2 percent in one quarter, according to the consumer price index—4.2 percent in just one quarter. That is not an annual rate; it is a quarterly rate. That was the highest increase of power prices since 2000, with the exemption of one quarter in 2012 also under this National Government. The National Government talks about all the work that it is doing to bring power prices down but the consumers at home who are sitting there in front of their heaters today worrying about their power prices have just had to endure a 4.2 percent increase—the largest increase in 14 years. You have got to ask yourself whether Kiwis are really getting a fair deal. Are they getting a fair deal? I do not think so. I do not think so, as 93 percent of our power market is dominated by five big companies, and Genesis Energy is the biggest. The organisation that we are talking about today is the biggest. This is a story of industries that have now been partly sold off to private investors. One percent of New Zealanders now owns those shares in half of those companies. They are doing very well. They are doing very well out of ordinary Kiwis who are paying their power bills, because it is the residential payer who is paying the most. This is an industry where the oversight by the * Electricity Authority believes that what is good for these companies must also be good for consumers. Well, it just does not work like that. It does not work like that. In fact, the Electricity Authority not so long ago said that demand when coupled with a drop in rates must lead to lower power prices in a competitive market. But they never did. Power prices have continued to go up even though we have a decrease in the amount of power that is being consumed. In a competitive market, power prices should have gone down like they have in most other OECD countries. Instead, we have had a 4.2 percent increase in just one quarter and Genesis Energy has been at the forefront of maximising its profits—maximising its profits. It had a 35 percent increase in profits. It went from $243 million profit in 2010 to $335 million profit in 2013—a 35 percent increase in profit. We have got power prices going up and we have profits of energy companies, including Genesis Energy, going up at the same time. You get the picture. No wonder they are returning more revenue to the Government because they are just squeezing more money out of ordinary New Zealanders who are struggling to pay their power bills. That is what is happening. That is what is happening under this Government. Let us look at what is happening with pre-pay, because I believe that pre-pay is a bit of an indicator of the way that companies behave towards consumers. Those people who are on pre-pay schemes pay in advance of their power bills—in advance. So, unlike most people in New Zealand who get their power bill and they pay it, these people effectively put money in the meter to keep them going. Well, I can tell you that if you are on a pre-pay scheme in Gisborne with Genesis Energy—the only scheme that you can go on to with pre-pay—you will be paying 32 percent more than somebody who is on a normal rate. And if you are here in Wellington—I am sure that Mr English is not on this scheme, but if he was he would be paying 31.5 percent more under a pre-pay scheme than on a normal bill. This is money in advance. People are putting money down in advance. There is no risk to the companies. They prey on mainly poorer, less well-off people who are paying more than one-third of their bill in advance and this company is simply preying on those people. Let us contrast those people with the chief executive officer of Genesis Energy and the salary that he is getting. Well, the chief executive officer of Genesis Energy just got a 12 percent increase in his salary. That is great. I would like to see more people in New Zealand get a 12 percent increase, but they do not and they will not. Forty percent of New Zealanders did not get a 1 percent increase in their salaries over the last year.

[Continuation line: His salary went from $1.2 million a year to $1.35 million]

DAVID SHEARER

His salary went from $1.2 million a year to $1.35 million a year. That must really help with those electricity bills in his case. To say that somehow this is a good thing from Bill English does not speak to the facts. There was a 2 percent decrease in demand in electricity, and we had a 4.2 percent increase in electricity prices. In a normal, competitive market, as is happening right around the world, prices are stabilised or going down. In New Zealand that is exactly the opposite of what is happening, and that shows that we have got a broken market. We have got a broken market in New Zealand and people in New Zealand are not getting what they deserve. As the Labour Party, we are not afraid to stand up and say “This market is not working and we will change that market.” We are not afraid to take on the vested interests that are taking profits out of the pockets of ordinary New Zealanders, and that are supported, backed up, encouraged, and cajoled by that Government. No, we will stand up for the New Zealanders who are paying too much for their electricity—too much for their electricity. New Zealand is full of people who cannot afford to put on their heaters when they should put on their heaters. Those people are taking their kids to the doctor with rheumatic fever and respiratory problems. We know that if you invest in insulation, you will be able to save money on health costs. If you put an efficient heating source in a house, you will also be able to save on health costs. Those people do not have a choice. Ten percent of New Zealanders are paying 10 percent of their household income on energy and the top handful of New Zealanders is paying, like, 1 percent. We will look at reforming this energy market. We will bring in NZ Power*, , which will make sure that more money goes into the pockets of New Zealanders—hundreds of millions of dollars. People can rely on us to make sure that power prices are stabilised and that we, at the same time, ensure that there are benefits derived for the economy as well. This is a disgrace. We are here because of a mistake that the Government made a day after power prices for one quarter had gone up 4.2 percent. We will do something about that.

[Continuation line: Dr Russel Norman]

Standing Orders

Speech - Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader - Green)

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader - Green): I rise on behalf of the Green Party to address this motion regarding Genesis Energy*. . This motion, of course, comes out of the Government’s failed privatisation programme. I think it is important for us to remember how the privatisation programme worked. The first step was tax cuts for the very wealthy, which have cost probably in the order of $5 billion more, probably more, so far, just the cost of tax cuts for the top 10 percent. The Government gave very large amounts of money to the top 10 percent and then said: “Oh, there’s a hole in our Budget. We don’t have enough money. We’re going to have to sell assets to cover the hole in our Budget caused by the tax cuts.” So then it said it was going to have to sell some of these assets, and it sold about $5 billion worth of assets. Of course, who could afford to buy the assets? Well, it was not ordinary mums and dads*. . They could not afford to buy shares in Meridian Energy*, , Genesis Energy, and all the rest. They do not have spare cash. Of course, the people who could afford to buy the assets were the very same people whom Bill English and the others gave tax cuts to. There was $5 billion was transferred from the Crown account to wealthiest 10 percent in the country, and then $5 billion was paid back to the Crown account to purchase the shares in these assets. So at the end of it, for ordinary people, what they find is that their collective assets have been reduced by about half—half of these assets were sold. Of course, the very wealthy, who have got Bill English’s very large and generous tax cuts that did not go to anyone else, found themselves in possession of half of the nation’s electricity generating assets. It was straight theft. National orchestrated the straight theft in front of everybody’s eyes of half of the electricity generating assets in the country and moved them from the ownership of all New Zealanders and gave them to the very wealthiest people and, of course, to the wealthiest corporations. Many of the shares in these assets simply went to large corporations or they went offshore. So it was simply a straight theft—stealing assets in front of everybody. Everybody could see that National was transferring the assets. Hence, it was not at all surprising that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders opposed the theft of their assets by National. We saw that in the referendum and in every opinion poll. So, none the less, National proceeded to steal the assets from the people of New Zealand. Then it had the temerity, during this election campaign, to offer back some of the money that it raised in the slush fund as election bribes. This is with John Key as the slush fund manager. He is the manager of the slush fund created by the asset sales programme. National sold the people’s assets against the people’s will. Overwhelmingly, people were opposed to the sale of these assets. Then, after selling the assets, it offered the money that it gained back as an election bribe. So National members would say to the people in rural New Zealand: “We’ll pick a number of our favourite roading projects across the country, and if you vote for us, we’ll build those roading projects with the money that we got from stealing your assets.” So it is like when someone breaks into your house and against your will steals some of your stuff and then sells it, and then says “Here, have some money back. You should like me because here’s some money from me.” Actually, it was New Zealanders’ money. It was New Zealanders’ assets that National flogged off, and now it is using the cash that it got from selling the assets as an election bribe. It is disgraceful behaviour. Bill English talked about how we should value all the dollars that ordinary people pay in the form of taxes. I agree with Bill English. My question for him then is: why did he waste $748 million on the process of the asset sales? I think it is important for people to realise how empty the rhetoric is of this Government about being fiscally conservative. This is how the Government spent the money. Treasury spent $85 million on the asset sales process itself. It spent $12.6 million just on those ads* on TV. You know the ads you saw on TV that were shown to ordinary New Zealanders and that said: “Buy shares in these companies that you used to own. Buy shares in these companies.” Those ads cost $12.6 million. On top of that, Treasury outsourced to contractors $65 million worth of work—that is, taxpayers had to pay $65 million to these contractors. They were for things like people who were doing public relations* work in order to try to massage public opinion. They were people like stockbrokers, who were taking a cut out of the proceeds of the asset sale process. Then Treasury spent $8 million internally on the asset sale process. So Bill English, who tells us that it is so important that we look after taxpayers’ money, spent $85 million just in Treasury on the asset sale process. The companies themselves spent $36 million on preparing themselves for privatisation. So the companies, on top of that, spent another $36 million. Then we had the incentives. The incentives were the bonus shares, where National said to its mates: “If you buy a share in this company and you hold on to it for a certain period of time, then we will give you extra shares for free.” Of course, they are not for free; they are paid for by taxpayers. The bonus shares for Mighty River Power* cost taxpayers about $25 million. The Meridian Energy incentive costs taxpayers about $33 million. The Genesis Energy bonus costs taxpayers about $22 million. This is all the money that Mr English told us he is so careful spending. He does not like to spend it on things that are not important. This is all money that Mr English and National have given away as part of this privatisation process. Then we have the losses on the sale. If you compare the book value of these companies with what National actually brought in when it privatised the assets, there is a difference there of about $361 million. It sold the assets for $361 million less than National itself valued them at. So, effectively, the assets lost $361 million of taxpayer value. On top of that, the Government gave Rio Tinto* $30 million, as part of the sweetener. Remember, Rio Tinto had the Government over a barrel, because if it did not renew the contract from Meridian Energy or it threatened the contract with Meridian Energy, then it would decrease the value of Meridian Energy, but particularly all the other assets including Genesis Energy. So Rio Tinto, a hugely profitable company, was able to force the Government to hand over $30 million as part of the process for the asset sales. So when you add that all up, including $9 million on the referendum, whereby the people of New Zealand spoke very clearly that they did not want the asset sales process, then Bill English, who tells us he cares so much about taxpayers’ money, wasted $748 million on a process that an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders opposed.

[Continuation line: This is a Government that prides itself on fiscal rectitude, and it is]

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN

This is a Government that prides itself on fiscal rectitude, and it is spewing money everywhere in order to force through this incredibly unpopular privatisation process, to transfer ownership of these companies from all of us—from all New Zealanders—to a tiny few. That, I think, demonstrates the true priorities of this Government. It is to create for itself the slush fund. So John Key, the slush fund manager, is managing a slush fund that is $5 million and he hands it out here and there, where he thinks it is important to get votes in the election campaign, as he manages the slush fund. A big part of the slush fund is guaranteed to go to increased water pollution in the form of the $400 million irrigation fund, because the National Party is determined to increase toxic pollution in our rivers and lakes across the country, and it is giving $400 million free to the irrigation companies. That is money that ordinary New Zealanders used to have. This is part of the Government’s pollution economy. Instead of having an economic and fiscal strategy that is sustainable, it has a different kind of strategy, and that is—asset sales are a key part of it. Borrowing, of course, is a key part of it. This Government borrowed $50 billion—the Government that supposedly knows about money. Well, what it really knows about is borrowing lots of money. It is very good at borrowing money. It is excellent at borrowing money. It is very good at asset sales. It forced through the asset sales programme. But of course, borrowing and asset sales do not generate any new wealth. When you look at the parts of the economy that the Government is very interested in, it is simple commodities—milk powder, raw logs; the kinds of things that do not make the country rich. That is the focus for the Government’s economic strategy—its pollution economy. When you look at what it is spending on research and development, it is tiny—1.3 percent of GDP on research and development. That is a tiny fraction. The projections going forward show a 20 percent cut in research and development under this Government’s own projections in the 10 years forward. So instead of having a smart, green economy that invests in innovation and research and development, this is a Government that has a pollution economy that pays its bills by selling assets and borrowing money. That is the truth around this Government’s economic strategy. We have put up a number of alternatives to this Government’s failed pollution economy, but, of course, it is only a change of Government that will bring those changes into life; for example, the * NZ Power proposal put up by the Greens and Labour for a single buyer to create competition in generation and retail. Currently, vertical integration of the generator in retail companies means that there is no real competition in the electricity sector. If you want real competition in generation and retail, that is what NZ Power will achieve, because it puts a horizontal dividing line across the electricity market. There will be real competition, and hence, innovation, in the electricity market, under NZ Power, whereas in the current system there is none. Then there is our * Solar Homes project, to make sure that people can access a solar PVP panels on their roof, to give them some control over their power. A smart, green economy that invests in innovation and research and development is a much better option than the pollution economy and asset sale economy that the National Party is proposing.

[Continuation line: Andrew Williams]

Standing Orders

Speech - ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First)

ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First): I take a call on behalf of New Zealand First in this * Genesis Energy debate. Has any other country had to endure the sort of madness that National has imposed on our electricity system? No—this national Government has taken ideological fixation and fantasy to new heights. Nothing has been learnt from the past. Nothing has been remembered from the mistakes of the 1980s and the 1990s. Not content with * Max Bradford’s theory-driven mess, the National Government has spent the last 3 years selling State power assets to enrich their pals and their mates. Now we have ended up with a * Byzantine structure that is baffling and wholly without logic. The State asset sales programme is entirely consistent with National’s agenda. That agenda is to use every opportunity to transfer wealth from the many—the general public of New Zealand—to the few; namely, the friends, mates, and cronies of the National Party. Feathering the nests of a few—that is the National Party way. It is an outrageous theft of the common wealth into the hands of the speculator and assorted wheeler-dealers. In the case of one of the State-owned enterprise power generation companies, nearly 10 percent of shares went to a New York bank. That is hardly moms and pops New Zealanders, when nearly 10 percent of shares went to a New York bank. I wonder how close that New York bank was to Mr Key, who, himself, was a former New York banker. So it is very, very suspicious indeed that suddenly a New York bank pops up out of nowhere to buy into our power companies. There was overwhelming public opposition to the selling up of 49 percent of * Meridian Energy, * Mighty River Power, and * Genesis Power. The public well understood that these assets, built up by generations of Kiwis, were not for the Government to sell. The public were not fooled by all the ideological waffle that National and an army of paid lobbyists, who were paid over $100 million—and media hacks—churned out. These were assets owned by all New Zealanders, not just the select few—not just the 2.5 percent who ended up buying the shares—but by all New Zealanders. These were assets built up by two or three generations. My parents, my grandparents, my great-grandparents, and your great-grandparents built up those assets across the length and breadth of New Zealand—the likes of the dams on the Waikato River, the likes of the hydro schemes in the South Island, the likes of the thermal plants that we have in the central North Island. These were built up over many generations. There are some of us who can remember when New Zealand had a generating and electricity system that was the envy of the world. There was a time when the electricity system was a public utility that we were proud of. It was run for the benefit of all. A little bit like water, a little bit like air, power and gas are a basic staple requirement that we all require and that we all must have. We took advantage of hydro power to have some of the lowest power prices in the world. National, in its inimitable genius, threw all that away. In its incompetence and greed it cast aside a system that the rest of the world could only envy. No, New Zealand’s electricity system had to be stuffed up, well and truly, just to favour the few. Among those few—those happy few—are the chief executive officers of those energy companies. At the top, there are $1 million-plus executives receiving huge salaries. At the other end of the scale Kiwis are struggling to pay soaring power and electricity prices. On Sunday, the * Sunday Star-Times did a public service by revealing what the chief executives of five of our biggest energy companies earn. The chief executive officers mega-pay cheques are as follows: * Contact Energy, $1.58 million to the chief executive officer; Genesis, $1.35 million—and that was an increase of 12 percent in salary in the last 12 months—Mighty River Power, $1.3 million; * Transpower, $1.22 million; and Meridian, $1.0 million. These are all million-dollar salaries to pay for these executives to run our power companies, which have been there for decades and decades in most cases, and which have been the staple backbone of this economy. As the asset sales programme has shown, National’s shameless manipulation has no bounds. The public are entitled to ask who actually benefited from the asset sales programme, which brought in some $4.5 billion, when the Government was promising $6 billion to $7 billion. Clearly it is not electricity consumers or taxpayers. Pity the poor electricity consumers or taxpayers. They have been coshed by the asset sales programme. They have been well and truly mugged. Kiwis will be paying the prices of National’s asset sales folly for generations. What a legacy of failure National will leave when it is given its marching orders in September. When we look back on it and ask who sold off those assets that were built up by the previous generation, it was a small group of people—a small, tight five of Cabinet Ministers who controlled everything in those days, around the years 2008 to 2014. They controlled it and they sold off the silverware. They sold off the silverware and it was gone. New Zealand First is the only political party that has said, unequivocally, that if we are in a position of influence in the next Government, we will buy back the shares of those power-generating companies at a price that is no more than that initially paid for them. I repeat, under New Zealand First, we will buy back the shares at a price that is no more than that initially paid for them.

[Continuation line: We will then merge those State-owned power-generating companies]

ANDREW WILLIAMS

We will then merge those State-owned power-generating companies into one single energy entity. That one single energy entity will then ensure there is security of supply, there is forward planning, and it is strategically developed so that all modes of power and gas generation are explored and all sustainable, renewable energy sources are also explored across the length and breadth of this country. That wholesale generating company will then supply to the retail market at consistent, reliable, affordable prices for the people of New Zealand. That is common sense. That is what New Zealanders expect. That is what under New Zealand First we will provide. We will also under New Zealand First provide a power and gas discount during the winter months—from May to September—for those with a * SuperGold card. It is very important that our seniors, our elderly, those who require us to ensure that they are comfortable in their homes over some of the bitter winters that we are experiencing and that they can afford to turn the heater on or turn the gas heater on. It is critical that people should not be suffering in their senior years because they cannot afford to stay warm. New Zealand First will ensure that a discount is put in place from the State-owned enterprise that we will be forming to ensure that those people can again have dignity in their old age in their homes. Again, that is a policy that is common sense. It is common sense that we must explore in the future to ensure that the people of this country are taken care of. So, in closing, can I just say that New Zealand First does not support this motion. This is, again, a transfer and endorses the whole situation that National is pushing time and time again. It is just backing up a situation where the wealthy in this country continue to get wealthier and the regular, everyday New Zealanders, the middle-income New Zealanders, the lower-income New Zealanders, the hard-working families in this country suffer. We will not allow them to suffer. New Zealand First will ensure that we do something about it. It is common sense.

[Continuation line: Clayton Cosgrove]

Standing Orders

Speech - Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour)

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour): I do not disagree with many of the sentiments from the New Zealand First colleagues, apart from one. We will be supporting this motion. I do not agree that supporting a motion somehow validates or supports the selling-off of State-owned assets. We are supporting this motion simply because it will allow, through the select committee process, a modicum of scrutiny of the activities of this asset. We know that the * Official Information Act and even parliamentary questions now—this Government’s wish to sell that asset off with the others, as it did, limits the scrutiny by members of Parliament, the general public, journalists, and others. Under the guise of so-called increased scrutiny the * Minister of Finance says that somehow the magic hand of the market will provide that scrutiny through stockbrokers, analysts, and others. I would wager that that scrutiny will be nowhere near the level of scrutiny that occurs in this place, where Ministers’ feet are put to the fire before the select committees and this Parliament, where full disclosure can occur through parliamentary questions and Official Information Act requests. They are now limited. There is no way that a broker or an analyst can provide—or would be interested in, actually—many of the key pieces of information that members of Parliament and members of the public gain through the various mechanisms like the Official Information Act, parliamentary questions, and full select committee scrutiny that will be lost because of the sell-off. So I make it very clear that in supporting this motion the Labour Party does in no way endorse the fire sale—the bargain basement sale—that occurred as this Government sold off asset after asset. Let us look at the history. It was the Prime Minister who originally said—and we have got the quotes—that the total asset sale proceeds would number in the order of $10 billion. People forget this—$10 billion. Then that was revised down. Somebody tapped the Prime Minister on the shoulder, presumably Tony Ryall or Bill English, and said: “*“ Taihoa—that is a bit over the top. That is a bit of propaganda. We need to ratchet back expectations.” Then it went to $7 billion, then it went to $6 billion, then the range was revised again to $5 billion to $7 billion. Then it was revised down again to $6 billion. Where did we get to when the Government sold the final asset, which is * Genesis Energy, after the raft of others like * Mighty River Power, * Meridian Energy, * Air New Zealand? Well, it got to $4.7 billion—*— bargain-basement prices. My word, * The Warehouse as an entity would be proud of Bill English. Maybe he should go into sort of a mail-order business or a discount business or selling * Tupperware or something, I do not know, because, my word, can this guy get a huge discount on the assets he sells, I have got to say. The gall of Mr English to say that we are sort of tidying things up—this is not a tidy-up; this is an attempted clean-up of one of the biggest stuff-ups in the history of this Parliament. We have already heard the Green colleague talk about the wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to get these assets away. But Bill English talks about the fact that he is prudent with the purse. He talked in sort of voice-breaking tones about every $300 being important to average Kiwi, and he is right about that. So my question is how does he explain the * Rio Tinto deal, when he gave Rio Tinto $30 million? And here are the facts on that: Rio Tinto did not even ask for the $30 million that he gave it. It did not ask for it in the deal. Nowhere does it appear in the deal. The halving of the notice period does. The cheaper electricity price does. But nowhere in the deal, I am advised, did Rio Tinto put its hand out and say it would like $30 million. It was a free gift. Bill English talks about being prudent about every $300 that the Government spends on behalf of taxpayers. So he doled out $30 million to Rio Tinto that it did not ask for, and then he came into Parliament and went around New Zealand and said that this was a prudent spend of money because it guaranteed the Southland jobs. We know that was a lie. It was an absolute lie because on * Kathryn Ryan’s show he was asked by Kathryn Ryan whether he asked for a jobs guarantee and he said no, he did not, and he did not get one. So that was a lie—absolute, unequivocal, from his own lips. So you tell me how that is a prudent use of taxpayers’ money. And then the Government made the argument saying that it was selling these assets because it had got this * Future Investment Fund and it would be buying new assets—is that not a good thing? It was in a sort of blind attempt to hoodwink the taxpayer. But the taxpayer worked out, as evidenced by the referendum, that when you sell a revenue-generating asset and you buy non – revenue-generating assets—and last time I checked public hospitals and schools and the like were not revenue-generating entities; they were taxpayer-funded entities designed to make people healthy and to educate kids—there is a wee problem. At the end of the day the slush fund runs out and there is no more money. These turkeys over here did it in the 1990s. They * learnt absolutely nothing from it. I say to Mr English that if this policy is so remarkably successful, why is it that when you and your mate * Jim Bolger and the like flogged off all the assets in the 1990s—what happened? Where is the success? It is * Groundhog Day. We are back here again with the same National cronies, the same guys who were there under Jim Bolger, selling things off again. These guys are good, I have got to say. When it comes to the old pyramid scheme, these boys are phenomenally professional. Look at the promises that were made in respect of the Future Investment Fund. If you take the promises at face value, National has promised on the latest count $80 billion worth of spending from proceeds of $4.7 billion. We had promises from John Key that they would fund * Kiwibank in 2011. In 2012 Tony Ryall said that asset sales were necessary to pay down debt. Then in 2012 John Key said no, the asset sales were for new hospitals and schools. Steven Joyce in the same year said no, we have got to use some of this money to fund * KiwiRail. Nathan Guy in 2013 said no, some of this money will be to subsidise irrigation schemes—*— multimillion-dollar schemes—for farmers. Then Gerry Brownlee, the big fellow himself, came out and said no, the asset sales money would be used to rebuild Christchurch. And then John Key in June 2013 said the asset sales would be used in part to fund the Auckland * rail link. And then you look at some of the other little missives that they put in. Remember, this asset sales money was all about big investments—schools, hospitals, all this sort of thing. But then you get into the sort of additional asset sales proceeds that they have paid for, not to mention the $100 million odd that they appropriated, of course, to try to stabilise * Solid Energy. Tony Ryall and Bill English stood by and watched the then directors and then management run it into the ground to the tune of 800 to 1,000 jobs and counting.

[Continuation line: I am sure those poor people are watching]

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE

I am sure those poor people are watching every $300 they make, if they do, through the unemployment benefit. I am sure they are taking due care with every $300 they are lucky enough to scrape up given they have lost their jobs. You have a look at some of the other stuff—$40 million for the bonuses for * Mighty River Power. This is what the Government has spent taxpayers’ money on from these proceeds—replacement of the refugee resettlement facilities, immigration management systems, and closed captioning on * Parliament TV. I cannot remember that in the last National Party manifesto in terms of a major sort of investment from the * Future Investment Fund. There is the replacement of the ground station for search and rescue satellite systems; replacement of something called the Matriarch system in the * Debt Management Office; the whole-of-Government* radio network; “analysis of outcomes, Cabinet investment function”—whatever that means—a computer system for Cabinet, presumably so Bill English can actually tot up all the dough he has wasted from the sale of these assets; and a few other obligations to the * IMF. You tell me, Mr Speaker and colleagues, where that was mentioned in the list of assets that the Future Investment Fund would use in respect of these sales. The truth is that the people of New Zealand own these assets. For generations they have paid for them through blood, sweat, and tears—through generations of people. The truth is that Bill English was generous enough to say “I’m going to allow you to spend your own money”—the big end of town, of course—“to buy what you already own back again.” What has happened are a wealth transfer and an asset transfer from every Kiwi and every member of our community, who owned these assets, down to the privileged few, who pay for the so-called free shares, which have never been free. They are paid for by the people who could not afford to buy or did not wish to buy shares in these particular assets. All the loyalty bonuses, remember, will expire a few months after the next general election. A few months after, the loyalty bonuses expire. I make this prediction: those shares, as soon as the bonuses are picked up when the expiry happens, will wing their way to New York, London, and Tokyo, just like * Contact Energy’s.

[Continuation line: Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill 2R]

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)

KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National): It is my pleasure to take a short call on the Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill*. . National is focused on boosting growth and creating jobs. Only a strong economy can provide financial security for families and real opportunities for young people. Since National came into office, it has been working hard to simplify and improve the integrity of our financial system. This bill, which will enable the accounting and audit industry to be more efficient and effective, is part of the Government’s * Business Growth Agenda and helps achieve one of National’s key objectives, which is to build a more competitive and productive economy. With these words I commend this bill to the House.

[Continuation line: Hon Clayton Cosgrove]

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour)

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour): The Labour Party, as my colleague Clare Curran said, will be supporting the * Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill. The aims of this bill are pretty straightforward. It builds on other pieces of legislation where other professions in New Zealand and Australia have grown closer together and amalgamated, and on where we have similar rules of engagement in terms of commerce and banking in other regulations and legislation. It will enable the * New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants to amalgamate with its Australian counterparts, creating a new trans-Tasman institute, subject to the approval of members. It allows competent auditors with the appropriate qualifications to offer audit services to New Zealand firms by altering restrictions on non-user audit work. It allows audit firms to incorporate as a company if they decide this is the most efficient way to conduct business for themselves. And, of course, the bill replaces references to a “chartered accountant” in various Acts with references to “qualified statutory accountants”. I just briefly want to pick up on the issues that Clare Curran raised in respect of a submission we received from the * Exclusive Brethren. With due respect to them, it did vex the * Commerce Committee somewhat. I know that the National Party has, of course, a long and close relationship with that particular entity. It is a very long and close relationship dating back, I think, to 2005. The submission did raise a number of issues for us in that on the one hand groups are indeed entitled to express their moral and religious views, their beliefs, as it should be, and no one argues with that. What the committee found itself attempting to do was trying to wade through on the one hand acknowledging and respecting those particular beliefs and on the other hand trying to ensure that a person could not, if you like, rock up to the authority and simply say they believe in X—I am not trivialising this; I am just using this as an example—and therefore should be exempt from a number of the governance arrangements and strictures put in place by this amalgamation. It will be interesting in later stages to hear the Minister of Commerce’s view on that. Officials did recommend the course of action that was contained within the legislation. Some of us still feel some unease. Again, I mean no disrespect to religious organisations, but whenever, as members will know, you pass legislation, you are not actually passing legislation for the 99.9 percent of the population that would not break the particular rule or law or moral code; you are passing it for those who would abrogate their responsibilities and offend. That is what we find ourselves doing in this place every day: passing legislation, in some cases for the lowest common denominator, acknowledging that that may or may not restrict the rights of those law-abiding citizens who would always, regardless of legislation or law, adhere to the basics of the moral and ethical code we observe in this country.

[Continuation line: So we listened to those submissions rather carefully.]

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE

So we listened to those submissions rather carefully. I must say personally I was not convinced by some of the submissions by the Brethren and the notions that they put forward. I do have reservations in respect of the safeguards around those notions, as we tried in this legislation. I say, briefly, that I would be very interested in the Minister’s view as we move this legislation forward in terms of assuring this House that people who apply for essentially exemptions based on personal belief, that there are safeguards in place to ensure that they are not deliberately attempting to walk around the legislation. We did put it to officials that we would not want officials to somehow take on some sort of quasi-religious role in terms of deciding—I see a chuckle from the Deputy Speaker in the Chair; I think he understands what I am saying—somehow interpreting scripture as to what was a legitimate religious or moral belief and what was not. That is not the role of officials. I suspect for many of us that would be hard to do. We would leave that to the deity and others in other places, perhaps; maybe some in Rome, if I go to my religious background. So it is an important point. Because there will be those who perhaps will try to use that corridor, if you like, to walk around this legislation. So, as I say, I will be interested as to whether the Minister can give us some assurance around that. I know there are, in labour relations legislation and other legislation, some longstanding precedents. But, as I say, I was not particularly convinced. I am not making a judgment on the beliefs of the * Exclusive Brethren—I am sure that Mr Foss and others could give us a better view on that given the close association—but in terms of I was not impressed with some of their arguments in terms of the legitimacy, if you will, or the safeguards. We support this legislation. I think putting that matter aside I can say I believe it will benefit New Zealand. It will benefit our professional accounting institutes on both sides of the Tasman. It will make them more efficient. I think it will make them more robust. It will also provide easier access to both markets. One would hope then that that will enhance business opportunities not just for that profession but other associated commercial entities around that. With those words, I support the bill.

[continuation line: JIAN YANG]

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - Dr JIAN YANG (National)

Dr JIAN YANG (National): I rise to speak briefly on the * Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill. This bill achieves its main purpose of enabling the accounting and audit industry to be more efficient and effective with some key amendments to existing Acts. For example, it amends the rules on who may perform statutory audits to enable more people who are competent to perform audits to do so. This kind of reform will realign the structure of the audit and accounting industry so that participants are able to quickly adapt to an evolving environment. This bill is part of the Government’s * Business Growth Agenda to improve regulation and promote healthy financial reporting frameworks. National has improved financial reporting requirements so that 90 percent of New Zealand businesses no longer need to produce full financial accounts. National has also strengthened the capital markets and created more opportunities through crowd funding. It has also tightened the regime for those providing financial advice. I commend this bill to the House.

[Continuation line: Mr Deputy Speaker]

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am advised this is not a split call.

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER

KRIS FAAFOI (Labour - Mana): Yes, but it will be a short-ish call, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to the second reading of the * Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill. As a number of my colleagues have already stated in their contributions to this debate, this was one of the more interesting bills that I have seen traverse this Parliament for the reason of the exemption that both Clare Curran and Clayton Cosgrove have mentioned for a particular group. Before I get to that issue, I did want to say, obviously, that this side of the House supports this bill, because we understand by the merging of the two accounting bodies on this side of the Tasman and also with Australia there will be some effectiveness and efficiencies gained from that, and then, hopefully, some opportunities for businesses in our country on the other side of the Tasman. If you believe what the National Government says, it thinks that this side of the House is not business friendly, but that is absolutely not the case. Policies that we have already released, such as our research and design tax credits, accelerated depreciation, I think, of the forestry and the manufacturing sectors, and some exciting policy that we are yet to see around apprenticeships, I think will be of great attraction to small-to-medium enterprises, as we head into the decision-making period of the electoral cycle.

Meka Whaitiri: $200 million!

KRIS FAAFOI: That is right; $200 million—quite a big push for regional New Zealand. This brings me to a local story of the graduation I attended in Porirua on Friday. There were graduates from a money management and small business management course who were keen to see some real practical policies from the political parties who are advancing their causes at the election this year. I think a number of policies that I have already spoken of on our side of the House will certainly help them advance their cause to be a profitable, efficient, and effective business, which this does for accountancy systems. It is an interesting bill, as I said before, because of this exemption that we do have within it, essentially for a particular religious group. They did come and submit to the select committee. Before I talk to that I thank the officials in this, because it was one particular clause, one particular submission that took up quite a lot of time and debate within the very hard-working Commerce Committee. Essentially there is an amendment in clause 31 within the bill, which inserts new section 36M into the Financial Reporting Act 2013*, , which asks for a chartered accountancy body that would essentially grant membership of their organisation to essentially exempt a religious body from being members because of their religious beliefs. It was a submission from—and I do not think they will mind me mentioning their names—Brian Prestidge and Michael Powell, who are two people acting as auditors and accountants already but who are members of the * Exclusive Brethren. I know there has been some controversy about that particular religion. That is not why I am bringing it up; I am bringing it up because it was a very interesting debate we had within the select committee as to whether or not that particular group making a submission, or any group that holds particular religious beliefs, should be exempted from membership of a body that we are asking all other people of a certain profession to be part of so that they can be held to a code of ethics or particular standards, or any disciplinary action that that body may put on any of its members. There was some concern from this side of the House as to who was going to be the arbiter of what we would consider the appropriate religious beliefs or the particular religious group. Again, as Clayton Cosgrove said, we did not think that should be up to the officials. I think that during the Committee debate that will be an interesting part of the debate, if we do get to that stage of the debate before this House rises. In terms of granting that exemption to a particular religious group, the accountancy body or the organisation has to have an agreement with that religious group. It is apparent upon the religious group that they have to abide by all the rules and regulations of the accountancy group. I believe personally that there was a case to maybe grant the exemption. I think we came to a relatively good position within the select committee that for particular religious reasons there should be an exemption, because essentially the religious groups are practising now.

[Continuation line: They do not, I believe, hold memberships of the bodies as they are now,]

KRIS FAAFOI

They do not, I believe, hold memberships of the bodies as they are now, but this legislation compels them to do so. They agreed that they would be accountable to those bodies if there were to be disciplinary action for code of ethics behaviour or particular things that they had to adhere to in order to make sure that their standards were as good as other members who had to become members. I know that they are a relatively controversial group, but I thought that they made a relatively sound contribution or submission to the * Commerce Committee. They did believe under the * New Zealand Bill of Rights Act they had the freedom to non-association, and I this debate is not necessarily over as this bill, the * Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill, traverses the House. I would like to again thank the officials because this was not an easy part. It certainly was not the main thrust of the bill. The main thrust of the bill was about those two entities on this side of the Tasman and the other side of the Tasman coming together and ensuring that there could be effective and efficient business between our side of the Tasman and theirs, but that was one issue that I think we need to thank the officials for. It was a tricky one that, I think, as Clayton Cosgrove said, only has one other precedent in another piece of Labour legislation.

[Continuation line: Mark Mitchell]

Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill

Speech - MARK MITCHELL (National - Rodney)

MARK MITCHELL (National - Rodney): I am very pleased to take a call on this, the * Accounting Infrastructure Reform Bill. It is a very good bill and it is part of the wider * Business Growth Agenda of this Government. Because I have only got a short time, I would like to just focus on what I think are four pretty important points, and they are that the reforms will realign the structure of the audit and accounting industry so that participants are able to quickly adapt to an evolving environment; this bill will enable the accounting and audit industry to be even more agile in an increasingly competitive environment; the bill is part of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda to improve regulation and promote healthy financial reporting frameworks; and the accounting and audit industry will be better supported to meet a broader range of business and community needs. So, in effect, it is going to provide for less red tape and compliance cost, and it is going to make businesses more efficient, which is fully in line with our Business Growth Agenda.

[Continuation line: Land Transport Amendment Bill]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

In Committee

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): It is superb to see this bill, the * Land Transport Amendment Bill, back in the Chamber. It does not seem like an awfully long time since we were debating the first reading debate, so I want to congratulate the * Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for an expedient approach to this piece of legislation. I see the chair of select committee is in the Chamber this afternoon. I want to congratulate Mr Bennett and his team on the select committee on making sure that the passage of this legislation was not held up at the select committee. I was not a member of the select committee. I am speaking, I guess, because I actually had a bill that did something very similar to this legislation drawn from the ballot. It is nice to know that it is possible to have some influence over legislation from Opposition. There are not many opportunities in the New Zealand Parliament for Opposition members to get legislation through the House, and it has happened to me twice now where I have had a bill drawn from the ballot and automatically—instantly—the Government suddenly takes an interest in that issue and introduces legislation of its own. I have to say, given how quickly this legislation has moved through its first reading, through the select committee, through second reading, and now into the committee stage, it boggles my mind as to why it took so long to introduce the legislation in the first place, because Labour actually had a member’s bill in the ballot for close to 2 years before the Government finally acted. It only acted when that bill came out of the ballot. That is despite the fact that the evidence, both internationally and domestically, was incredibly strong that reducing the drink-drive limit from 0.08 to 0.05 grams would have a marked impact on our road toll. Although the Government has finally relented to the overwhelming evidence and it has finally realised that actually the public is on side with this as well—I mean, it is not often that you get such a perfect alignment of both the evidence and public opinion—I think the Government is underselling this. In fact, Gerry Brownlee, the Minister in charge of this bill, basically said that he does not think it is going to make all that much difference, but he has not looked at the wider issues around the cultural impact of reducing the drink-drive limit. I think we are actually already seeing this. I have to say, from experience, people are already much more aware of what an appropriate amount of alcohol is to consume before you get behind the wheel. I think a lot of people have probably adjusted downwards the amount of alcohol that they would consume before they get behind the wheel because of the debate that has gone on around this issue, and because of television programmes like, I think, both * Seven Sharp and * Campbell Live, which both ran little experiments. They were not the most scientific experiments I have ever seen, but they demonstrated just how much alcohol someone could consume and still legally get behind the wheel at the current limit of 0.08 grams. So that debate in itself I think has already made our roads safer. But what, of course, everybody has been desperately waiting for to happen is for the legislation to actually pass. It amazes me, given the pace with which it is now moving through the House, that National took so long to see fit to actually get on with this, and it was only because the Opposition was actually in a position where it was going to get legislation of its own through, because, of course, there was a majority. I had secured a majority of support for our member’s bill, it would have passed first reading, and it would have been able to progress through the House just as quickly as this one. The only difference is that it was an Opposition bill and the Government could not possibly have it that the Opposition get legislation through, especially when it was so obvious that the Government had been sitting on its hands for so long. Having said all that, of course, we are very, very pleased to see that this legislation is now making good progress. What the bill does, of course, is it addresses the problem of legal drunk driving, because that is what we have got right now. It is legal to be drunk—under any medical definition of intoxication—and still be behind the wheel. That is how high our alcohol limit is right now. So it removes that ability to be drunk behind the wheel legally, and it brings us in line with the vast majority of Western nations around the world. This is not something new. We have actually dragged the chain on this one for far too long, and all we are really doing is bringing ourselves, as a nation, in line with international best practice. Now there was some debate—and this is where Labour’s bill and the Government bill did differ—and that was about whether being between 0.05 and 0.08 grams should be a criminal offence. Under Labour’s bill, we simply planned to reduce the limit and make it a criminal offence to be over 0.05 grams just as it is right now to be over 0.08 grams.

[Continuation line: The Government has introduced a system whereby being between the]

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY

The Government has introduced a system whereby being between the new limit and the old limit is essentially an infringement offence, carrying a fee of $200 and 50 demerit points. I would be interested to hear from members who do sit on the * Transport and Industrial Relations Committee what the evidence was that they heard around that, because I have not seen strong evidence one way or the other, to be honest with you. I am open to hearing whether there is strong evidence one way or the other as to whether it would be better for it to be a criminal offence to be over 0.05 or whether it is better to have an infringement offence between 0.05 and 0.08. I can see what the Government is trying to achieve here, that it is a method of ensuring that more people do not end up in the courts—although, to be perfectly honest with you, I think people are smart, and they would adjust to the new limit and you would not see more people in the courts because they would understand what the new law was and would change their behaviour accordingly. But that is what the Government is trying to achieve. I guess—given that the Government will have a majority for its view, the way it has drafted this legislation—that this is the way it is going to go through, and we will have to see whether it has a significant impact on * drink-driving and whether it has a significant impact on the road toll or not. That is something that I think we ought to review after a period of time, in order to see whether the original intention of having it just as one limit with a criminal offence of being over 0.05 would be more effective. There are different regimes around the world and that is why I would be interested actually to hear what the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee heard. Did it hear about the different regimes around the world, the different approaches, and how impactful each of those have been? That would be useful information, I think, for the Committee as we consider this legislation. But overall we do support this legislation, because it is very, very similar to what we were trying to achieve. The Government has also sought to deal with another very, very tricky situation that I know a National Party member attempted to deal with, with a member’s bill, and that is the issue of what happens if someone refuses to give blood. I have to say, reading through the legislation as it has now been drafted, it still looks like a very tricky and challenging issue. I think this legislation looks as messy as the member’s bill did. Again I would be interested to hear what the official advice was on how impactful the changes around that are going to be, because there certainly are issues with the presumption of innocence. There are issues with under what circumstances someone might not be able to give blood, and it appears that there are some exemptions built into the legislation as it has come back from the select committee that could prove to be very difficult to enforce in real terms. As we start this Committee stage, those are the issues that I would be interested in hearing from other members about, interested in exploring, but it is fair to say that in general Labour absolutely supports this legislation because it is something that should have been done years ago, and if the Government had had its wits about it, it would have tackled this issue a long time ago.

[Continuation line: Mike Sabin]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - MIKE SABIN (National - Northland)

MIKE SABIN (National - Northland): I would like to pick up on a couple of the points made by Iain Lees-Galloway and on the * Transport and Industrial Relations Committee’s deliberation on a couple of pertinent points that I think he is right to highlight. Firstly, in terms of the 0.05 to 0.08 and whether that should be a criminal offence or an offence essentially punishable with an infringement notice, there were some interesting reports provided to the committee. One that particularly stuck in my mind was from someone who had had a number of * drink-driving convictions. What was quite apparent from him and from his understanding of other friends and colleagues and so forth, the general perception out there, is that the penalty in itself was far less of a * determiner for whether or not they made a decision to drink and drive; it was actually the likelihood of being caught and the fact that there would be a swift and certain consequence to that particular activity. So his strong view was that lowering the limit to 0.05 in actual fact sent a message and put the very big question mark very quickly in the mind of the person who would drink and then go on to drive that if they did, there was far more likely to be a consequence. I think the important thing to note there is that from someone who had committed a number of offences—and the penalties for drink-driving are certainly not insignificant, certainly for repeat drink-driving—his view was that as soon as that limit came down, it changed the game altogether because it was not a question of “Can I have a few and get away with it?”. It basically sent a message that drinking at all would likely result in a consequence and that the risks outweighed the reward in that sense. I think it was also important to note through that the police raised the very good point around the amount of time that officers are required to be tied up, essentially, dealing with an excess breath alcohol that may go on to blood and what have you. The process in itself can be anything from half an hour. It can take a number of hours depending on actually whether the police officers are in a rural situation and how far through that process it actually goes through to a full arrest or the like. So the ability for the police to be out on the road, obviously, gives them a greater deterrent impact. What was clear from the conversations with police and other submitters during the passage of the submissions to the bill was that the police are much more effective not when they are sitting in a booze bus but when they are actually out on the street providing a visual deterrent. Having an infringement notice component to the legislation between 0.05 and 0.08 actually speeds up the process significantly. What was also clear is that it is not the fact that someone may get some hefty fine or even imprisonment that was the great determiner; swiftness, certainty, and the likelihood that there would be a consequence were far more of a determiner about the behaviours and activities. Actually, if we look across other areas of criminal offending, that is actually common across many other facets, not just with drink-driving. The challenge, of course, that you are dealing with when you are talking about alcohol is that you are talking about a mind-altering substance. So as soon as someone takes it, the very first part of their function, if you like, that is altered is their judgement, their ability to make judgments. So one thing that is certain is that this legislation provides an opportunity to say “Before you even start drinking, be aware that even a couple of beers or a couple of wines could put you in a position where there could very likely be a consequence.” Having a greater number of police being able to be out on the street, by virtue of the fact that they can turn over the notices much quicker, adds to that. Just very quickly, in terms of the point that the member made about the presumption of innocence around blood, what came through very clearly, and certainly in other jurisdictions, was that when the consequence to the behaviour was insignificant in terms of it being a criminal offence or a fine, it outweighed the need for there to be an exceptionally high standard of evidentiary proof required at that point. I am happy to leave it there. It looks like you are reaching over for the bell, Mr Chair.

[Continuation line: Denis O’Rourke]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - DENIS O'ROURKE (NZ First)

DENIS O'ROURKE (NZ First): New Zealand First supports tougher measures to curb the worst cases of drink-driving but this bill, the * Land Transport Amendment Bill, is badly targeted and is aimed at the * drink-drivers who do the least harm. The bill would lower the allowable * breath-alcohol content from 400 micrograms to 250 micrograms and would reduce the current blood-alcohol limit from 80 milligrams to 50 milligrams. Disobeying these new limits is to be addressed only in the form of infringement notices, on the grounds that they are in the less serious range of offending. That really is the issue here, because the people in this range, between the existing threshold and the new one proposed in this bill, are not the people who cause most of the deaths and injuries on New Zealand roads. So targeting these people is not likely to have the desired effect of reducing the death and injury rate on our roads to any great extent. The lower infringement limits, as proposed in this bill, may in fact have an unintended perverse effect, because there will be some people who will convince themselves that drinking to between an estimated blood-alcohol range of 50 milligrams to 80 milligrams, or between 250 micrograms to 400 micrograms per litre of breath, when driving is an acceptable risk because it is only an infringement offence for which a small fine and a few demerit points are incurred if caught.

[Continuation line: Although there is evidence and research that shows driver]

DENIS O'ROURKE

Although there is evidence and research that shows there is driver impairment between the proposed limits and the existing limits, there is very little convincing evidence that most people are likely to harm themselves or others if they do so. Therefore, it is clear to us in New Zealand First that New Zealand’s existing alcohol limits in relation to driving are unlikely to be too high, and lowering them would be unlikely to be effective. That is also the position taken by the UK Government, I understand, and its drink-driving* regime works well, probably because its penalties are higher. We in New Zealand First believe that a better long-term effect could be achieved, firstly, by increasing penalties for offending against the existing alcohol limits of 80 milligrams per 100 litres of blood and 400 micrograms per litre of breath. That is why we have adopted this policy. Secondly, we want people to clearly understand that the policy of being caught is actually a probability, by having more police on the road and more random breath tests. In that respect I would have to completely disagree with the previous speaker, Mike Sabin, who felt that there were sufficient police on the road and that sufficient was being done as far as breath testing was concerned. We in New Zealand First do not believe that that is the case and, therefore, people still think that they can get away with it. The new proposed penalties do not reflect the seriousness of the offence. The proposed breath-alcohol limit will not be a criminal offence incurring the full force of the law, but would instead provide for only a small fine of $200 and 50 demerit points, and between 50 and 80 milligrams per 100 litres of blood, it is $500 and 50 demerit points. Demerit points may eventually lead to a loss of licence, but that is something in the future for most people and does not have much of an immediate effect, and the fines at that level are clearly derisory and are definitely not an adequate deterrent. The public actually does want stronger action and leadership on drink-driving than this Government is apparently appeared to take. New Zealand First wants penalties to reflect public opinion. Looking at the * Land Transport Act, I see that for a first conviction, the penalty is only up to 3 months’ imprisonment or a $4,500 fine. We think that it should be at least up to 6 months’ imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $6,000 for a first conviction. That is the scale of penalty that we think would actually make a difference. So the public does want to see a tougher set of actions taken, but this bill does not fit that prescription. In the end what we really need, of course, is a change in the drinking culture towards having a more sensible culture in terms of drinking habits, especially among young people. To that effect, New Zealand First has recently also proposed a policy that says, especially to young people, that if people are found so drunk in a public place or while trespassing on private property that they are likely to be a danger to themselves or to others, then they are committing an offence and would suffer a significant fine or period of imprisonment. That is the sort of provision that we in New Zealand First think will help change the drink culture—and, therefore, the drink-driving culture—in New Zealand. This bill is not enough. It is wimpy. It is weak. For a Government that says that it is going to get tough on crime, this bill goes totally in the other direction and is not what the public would see as being anywhere near adequate as a measure to try to* reduce the road toll from drink-driving in New Zealand. The penalties must reinforce and underpin the fact that drink-driving is a serious offence. It must never be seen to be something that you can do and then just get a small fine or a few demerit points for it. That is going to have the wrong effect in people’s minds. So for that reason, above all, New Zealand First opposes this bill. It is wimpy, it is weak, it is soft on law and order, and it is not where New Zealand First wants to go. To summarise, New Zealand First will vote against the bill because we want to see better detection of drink-driving, with more police on the road and more breath testing being carried out, so that people will know that their chances of getting away with it are too slim to try it. That is what would be effective. And we want to target the offenders who do real harm. Those are the people who drink at a rate of over 80 milligrams per 100 litres of blood. We want those people to suffer much tougher penalties so that it will be a genuine deterrent. We will be voting against this bill.

[Continuation line: Darien Fenton]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - DARIEN FENTON (Labour)

DARIEN FENTON (Labour): I am very pleased to take a call in the Committee stage of the Land Transport Amendment Bill*. . As I said in the second reading, this bill has been a long time coming. It might not be perfect. It might not be perfect and it might not be as tough as New Zealand First would like, but, actually, it is progress. It is progress because we have been waiting and we have been agitating—and so have the public—since 2009 for this change to happen. I want to start my contribution to the Committee stage by congratulating the members of the Labour Party, Darren Hughes and Iain Lees-Galloway, who put forward this bill way back in 2009 and were calling for this change not only as a member’s bill. It was drawn by the ballot in Iain Lees-Galloway’s name, but we were calling for this change in many a land transport bill that came before this Parliament. We put forward amendment after amendment and the Government voted it down. But I also want to congratulate the New Zealand public, because in the end it is the New Zealand public who have put the pressure on the Government to do something about this issue. Indeed, they have been saying this as well since around 2010, when the * Herald on Sunday ran a campaign asking the New Zealand public whether they believed the blood-alcohol* content should be reduced. There was overwhelming support in the Herald on Sunday campaign and in the polls that followed. It ran a campaign during that time to get New Zealanders to pledge to drink two drinks as a maximum, and it was a very successful campaign. So I agree with my colleague Iain Lees-Galloway. As I came into the Chamber I heard him talking about cultural change, and I think that that campaign and Labour’s work over many, many years has actually contributed to a point where the public now accept that the current blood-alcohol limits are, quite frankly, ridiculous. Actually, the public have been saying for some time now that we should be doing what many other countries do. Surely, we would want to be saving the, what is it, three lives a year that have been lost because of this—three lives a year—since 2009—

Carol Beaumont: Not to mention the injuries.

DARIEN FENTON: —not to mention the injuries and the terrible costs. So although I accept that some members in this Parliament do not think this bill is tough enough and that we should be tougher on this issue, I am just at the point now where, because it has taken so long to get to the point in Parliament where we can pass a bill that will have some sanctions and that will lower adult legal alcohol limits so that people will drink less than the current limits, I am just really pleased to see this change in Parliament, after many, many years of having all of the various experts advising that this was a measure that New Zealand could take easily enough. We should have done it a long time ago. In 2010 the Government kicked it for touch. It said: “Oh, we don’t have New Zealand studies on this issue.”, even though there is a truckload of information from overseas. There are many international studies about the benefits of lowering the blood-alcohol content to 0.05. But, anyway, we had the Government—I have to say, I hate to say it—kick it for touch. I do not want to—no, I will not say what I was going to say, but the Government kicked it for touch because it did not want to take on this issue publicly, even though the New Zealand public were calling for it.

[Continuation line: So we waited from 2010 to 2014]

DARIEN FENTON

We waited, from 2010 to 2014—4 years of people dying; at least three people a year dying because of the Government’s failure to implement this bill. Of course, the other thing about this bill that is very interesting is, if you go back in history a wee bit, I remember Steven Joyce drinking, very enthusiastically. How much did he drink?

Iain Lees-Galloway: Three-quarters of a bottle.

DARIEN FENTON: He drank three-quarters of a bottle. He said that quite frankly this was a no-brainer. We should fix this. He said that, and then we had TV programmes showing people drinking 12 beers, to reach the 0.8 level—12 beers, and currently they are entitled to get into a car. As I said, we are just at the point where, although the bill may not be perfect and we might like to have some other debate around the penalty system, and we would have liked quite a lot more time to deal with some of the amendments that came to the select committee, we just want to see this bill implemented. That is why I said in my second reading speech that we are here to cooperate with getting this through because it is a step forward. It has taken long enough. There are a number of amendments to Part 1 that caused quite a lot of discussion in the select committee. As my colleague Iain Lees-Galloway has just said, I think they will cause problems in the future. These are around giving a blood specimen. So clause 6 has introduced a change. The presumption that a driver had refused to permit a blood specimen to be taken, if blood had been required on a previous occasion but he or she was medically or physically unable to provide it, was a presumption that the driver has refused to give a blood specimen. Indeed we did deal, in the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, with this very issue in another bill, in the name of Scott Simpson. It is a very, very difficult issue. However, there have been some amendments to clause 6. We had a lot of debate also about clause 7, which is about paying the costs. If you have a blood test, even if you are found not to be over the limit you still have to pay the cost of the blood test. The next tricky part of it will be recovering the cost of the blood test from those who do not pay it. So we are going to have * Baycorp knocking on the doors of a few people, trying to recover $700 because they have not paid their bill to have a blood test. We had a lot of advice around this. There were warnings about the legal issues that will arise from this. We predict that this will become problematical, and in the next Parliament you will see another Government—it will not be the current one—coming back, having to amend this bill. Perhaps that is not a bad thing, because it will give us the opportunity to have another look at this bill and see whether it is working. I support the idea of perhaps having a review after a certain period of time, and seeing whether there are other things we can do. We do all know that things like the alcohol-free limit for under twenties—zero alcohol for under twenties—has been very successful. Again, that is about changing the culture so that people do not just get in a car and think: “Oh well. I’ve only had nine glasses of wine, so I’m not over the limit yet.”, even though they are dangerous and are dangerous on our roads. I think it will lead to a lot more responsible driving on the roads, and in fact over time I think this will lead us to the point in the future where we are able to introduce a zero alcohol limit when driving on our roads. We all know how long culture change takes. I am old enough to remember when seatbelts were introduced. What an uproar there was about that, at the time. People thought that was * nanny State and it could not happen, and why did they need a seatbelt. It was just appalling. But the fact of the matter is that that measure ended up saving lives, and still does to this day. I think this bill, over time, will change the culture in a way that we have gradually seen, with * drink-driving over recent years. I think there are some issues, as I said, in Part 1 that we are going to have to have another look at. It is disappointing that we are having to get this bill through at the last minute. But as I said, we support it. It would be good if we could have done it way back in 2009 when it was first mooted by the Labour Party.

[Continuation line: TWYFORD]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - PHIL TWYFORD (Labour - Te Atatū)

PHIL TWYFORD (Labour - Te Atatū): Just to follow on from Darien Fenton, it has to be noted I think that this bill, the * Land Transport Amendment Bill, is squeaking through in the last gasp of this parliamentary term. It has been sitting around in this House—going back to the issues being on the Table of this House since 2009. Although we support this bill, we regret that it has taken so long to progress. If we are going to speak plainly about this, I think we have to acknowledge that the root of the problem, which has held the bill up for so long, is Steven Joyce’s unwillingness to risk being perceived as * nanny State. That is basically what it is. In Steven Joyce’s own words, it is the optics. He was so concerned about any public perception that this bill would be perceived as * nanny State, as too much of an intrusion on people’s rights to drink and drive, that he was willing to ignore official advice that this bill, these provisions, would save, on average, 3.4 lives per year—3.4 fatalities. That is the advice. That is the social cost of the injuries and fatalities caused by people who have been driving over or within the legal blood-alcohol limit, from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, for drivers over 20. There were 61 fatalities, 244 serious injuries, and 761 minor injuries every year, caused by at-fault drivers who had been drinking. The social cost of these injuries and fatalities is $446 million. The provisions in this bill alone would save, according to the projections that have been made, 3.4 lives on average, 64 injury-causing crashes, and save $200 million in social costs over the 10 years. That is the cost. That is the cost of delaying this legislation at least 4 years. We find that regrettable. I note that there is another echo of the same dynamic at work with the proposal that was made by Ministry of Transport officials about 3 years ago, to make marine lifejackets mandatory for recreational boaties, after a string of appalling drownings, including a whole family on * Manukau Harbour about 3 years ago. The transport Minister told the officials to withdraw that material, that advice, and those recommendations to make lifejackets mandatory for recreational boaties and remove it from the paper that went to Cabinet. That advice included the view that making lifejackets mandatory would save 10 to 12 lives a year. We support this bill. It is long overdue. As previous speakers have said, this will simply bring us to speed with other jurisdictions that we often compare ourselves with. I want to come to the point that a couple of other speakers have referred to, and that is the decision made by the Government to basically make it a civil offence instead of a criminal offence. Mike Sabin, in his comments, seemed to be making the argument that somehow, by making the blood-alcohol infringements that fall between the 80 and 50 milligrams a civil offence would somehow provide greater certainty and speed of consequence, and that it would therefore act as a deterrent. It does not seem like a very compelling argument, to me, that someone, when they are drinking in a bar, contemplating driving home after a few drinks, are going to think that because it is a civil offence and not a criminal offence it is acting as more of a deterrent. I do not find that argument very convincing. I did not serve on the select committee, so if the Minister in the chair or others who served on the committee who heard the evidence would like to explain further, I would certainly be keen to hear that explanation.

[Continuation line: I think one of the interesting clauses in the bill]

PHIL TWYFORD

I think that one of the other interesting clauses in the bill is clause 13, which deals with the power of an enforcement officer to immobilise a vehicle in certain circumstances. I thought that was worth pointing out. Currently an enforcement officer may immobilise a vehicle, or basically forbid the person to drive, if the result of an evidential breath test indicates that they are over the 400 micrograms and what the bill does is essentially broadens that clause out and says that there only has to be an evidential breath test that is positive and the officer has the right to either forbid them to drive or to immobilise the vehicle. I will leave it there. We support this bill but we regret that it has taken so long to get to this stage.

[Continuation line: Ross closure motion]

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip - National)

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I just wonder whether you could perhaps give the Green Party the opportunity to check and make sure its votes are accurate. This is this closure motion. This is not the substantive vote.

Land Transport Amendment Bill

Speech - JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip - National)

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I thank you for that. I am sure that the Green Party understands where we are at.

[Vote on closure motion—agreed to]

The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 479 in the name of the Hon Gerry Brownlee to Part 1 be agreed to.

[Vote on SOP 479 to Part 1—agreed to]

[Vote on Part 1 as amended—agreed to]

[Continuation line: Part 2: Lees-Galloway]

Part 2 Technical and consequential amendments

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): We now move to Part 2. This is debate on clauses 14 and 15 and schedules 1 and 2.

Part 2 Technical and consequential amendments

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): Part 2 is appropriately titled “Technical and consequential amendments” and it is a reasonably technical part of the Land Transport Amendment Bill*, , but it is indeed consequential. It is an exceptionally consequential part of the bill because it implements the changes that are held in schedules 1 and 2. The changes in schedule 1 are actually the guts of what this is all about. The changes in schedule 1 reduce the blood and breath-alcohol limits—in the case of breath replacing 400 micrograms with 250 and in the case of blood replacing 80 milligrams with 50. This really does go to the very heart of what this legislation is about, which is reducing the * drink-drive limit in New Zealand. I would like to traverse some more of the reasons why we are reducing the drink-drive limit in New Zealand and refer to some of the statements that have been made this afternoon. Denis O’Rourke accurately referred to “the drink-drivers who cause the least amount of harm”—I think that was the phrase he said. He referred to “the drink-drivers who cause the least amount of harm” and he was absolutely right when he referred to people who are at 80 milligrams of alcohol per litre of blood as drink-drivers, because they, in fact, are drink-drivers. They are drunk at that point, they should not be behind the wheel, and we should not tolerate drink-driving. Our law should not tolerate drink-driving and that is what schedule 1 is all about. It is about ceasing the legal tolerance of drink-driving. It does not matter whether the people who are between 50 and 80 milligrams, or between 250 and 400 micrograms in the case of breath, cause the least amount of harm or are at the lowest end of the scale of drink-driving. They are drink-driving and it should be codified in our law that they are drink-driving. I think the argument that just because people are a little bit drunk we should continue to allow them to drive under our law is not one that stands up in the court of public opinion and the changes held in schedule 1 actually ensure that in our law we have limits that ensure that people cannot legally be drunk and be behind the wheel. The other reason why you would make the changes in schedule 1 is because, as people have referred to, on average 3.5 lives will be saved every year, because that is the number of people killed by drivers who are between 50 and 80 milligrams and it is really tangible that the evidence is very strong around that. However, there is a good case to be made that more lives than that will be saved by making the changes proposed in Part 2 under schedule 1. That is because when changes like this have been made overseas there has been a measurable reduction in the number of people who are severely intoxicated. That is because, as Mike Sabin pointed out, alcohol is a mind-altering substance, it impairs one’s ability to make good decisions, and once you are over 0.05, then your ability to make a decision about whether if you continue drinking you will still be too drunk to drive is impaired. By bringing the limit down it actually forces people to make a decision whilst they are still capable of making that decision and what the experience has been overseas is that when that lower limit has come down, the number of highly intoxicated drivers has reduced as well and that should have a positive impact on our road toll well beyond the known quantity on average of 3.5 lives saved per year. I think in a way the Government is underselling this. There is actually a lot more opportunity. There is a lot more potential for lives to be saved because of the changes made in Part 2 of this legislation. It makes good sense to implement the changes held in Part 2, technical and consequential as they may be, because they are the very, very heart of this legislation, and these changes will save lives. For that reason, this House should wholeheartedly support them.

[Continuation line: Vote on Part 2]

Vote on Part 2—agreed]

[Continuation line: Schedule 1 vote]

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North)

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): This Veterans’ Support Bill* is a bill that has been long in its gestation. Its genesis goes back to—and Phil Goff will be able to help me with this—about 2006, I think.

Hon Phil Goff: 2006 under the Labour Government.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: It was 2006, and, as Phil Goff points out, under the Labour Government. That is true. Rick Barker*, , who was the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs* at the time, asked the Law Commission to carry out a comprehensive review of the War Pensions Act*, , which, of course, came into being as far back as 1954. So that review of the original legislation was a very long time coming. The review itself took a long period of time, and that was appropriate because there were a lot of opinions that needed to be canvassed, there were a lot of people who needed to be spoken to, and there was a huge range of issues that needed to be dealt with. The Law Commission eventually came back to Parliament, after the current Government had been elected, with a comprehensive report, and then the Government sat on that report for a very, very long time indeed. Frankly, veterans and their families started to despair that progress would never be made on this legislation.

[Continuation line: We went through the whole term of the last Parliament]

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY

We went through the whole term of the last Parliament without any progress being made, and here we are, right at the end of this Government’s final term—the second term of Parliament under this Government—and we are only just now at the point where this legislation has been progressed far enough that it may well indeed finally be passed into law, just in the very last breaths of this second term. That is over 8 years on from when the original instruction was given by the then veterans affairs Minister, the Hon Rick Barker, to embark on this process. We knew it was one that was going to take a long time, because there are a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with, but it simply did not need to take this long to get to this point. The question that is at the front of our minds over on this side of the Chamber in this part is the question around the * veterans pension. Through Phil Goff’s advocacy, I am really pleased to see that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Michael Woodhouse, eventually saw reason and saw fit to propose the changes to the legislation, or most of them, that Phil Goff was proposing around a universal application of the veterans pension. This is something that does not cost Governments a large amount of money. It is unusual in that as time goes on the cost to the Government actually decreases. Usually, when you introduce a new entitlement or new policy, the costs actually tend to go up over time. The costs for this policy actually reduce over time. It is a small way of recognising the contribution that our veterans have made to our safety, our security, our peace, and our place around the world, and not just that of the veterans themselves, but their families as well. As Phil Goff rightly pointed out, the impact of serving overseas, particularly for those veterans who have served in full-scale combat in a full-scale war that a generation ago took people away from their families for years, not just for 6 months at a time in a rotation, but for years and years and years, is a significant contribution to our nation that has been made by the veterans themselves and by their families. It was a shock, really, that it took as much advocacy from the Opposition spokesperson as was required to get the Government to see fit to apply the veterans pension universally to all veterans. What the Minister has not seen fit to do yet is allow a lump-sum payment to be handed out as well. That is the final component of this issue that Labour would like to see put in place. We implore the Government to take that last step. It has come—I was going to say a long way, but it was never a long way to get from where it was, to what Labour has been proposing. It was never a long way. It has taken most of the steps required; it just needs to take one final step so that we as a nation can properly acknowledge the contribution of veterans and their families to ensuring that we have security and safety here in our country but also that we are contributing to peace and security around the world. New Zealand has for a long time had a very good reputation as a keeper and as a pursuer of peace, both in a diplomatic fashion and, where necessary, by deploying our military. Until recent times we of course had our forces serving overseas in three different locations on multiple rotations, and that is something that is well acknowledged by the international community. We should justifiably be proud of that and we should be proud of our veterans who carry those tasks out on our behalf. It is not a huge ask for us as a nation to recognise those efforts through the changes that are being made throughout this legislation, particularly in Part 1, but in particular, around providing a veterans pension and for lump-sum payments that, certainly, in some cases, may be of direct benefit to the family, rather than to the veteran themselves. But as Phil Goff has outlined, plenty of military families have made a significant sacrifice themselves, as well as the person who was actually serving offshore and in uniform themselves, serving on behalf of the nation. There are a number of parts to this legislation and there are a number of aspects that we on this side of the Chamber do want to consider. We believe that given the long gestation of this legislation and its comprehensive nature it does deserve a comprehensive consideration here at the Committee stage, and so I look forward to further contributions.

[Continuation line: David Shearer]

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert)

DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert): I have spoken on this bill, the * Veterans’ Support Bill, before, and I firstly just want to compliment Phil Goff on the work he has done on this, because he has progressed it from a point where we had very limited benefits to servicemen who had served our country abroad, and a result of his lobbying and intensive action on this bill, he has made some real differences, and will bring about some real differences for many of our veterans. As we all know, we ask our service people to go off and serve our country and to put themselves in harm’s way. We respect them for doing that and we honour them for doing that, but that honour is not just in the form of medals, and parades, etc.; it is also about the way we treat people in terms of the abilities and the type of support we can get in behind them, in terms of financial support and recognition. This is what this bill is really all about. It is about making sure that the proper recognition is given to our service people for the work and the service that they have undertaken for us. It was in 2006 when Rick Barker first looked at this bill; it is about 8 years ago. It has taken a long time for this to come to the fore. We would like to see it out of the way under this Parliament. We certainly support the bill, but we are asking for more modifications. We did, in some of our initial Supplementary Order Papers that were put forward, ask the Government to change the 52 percent disability impairment that was in place. That really was about the ludicrous way in which people had to prove that somehow they were 52 percent impaired. I mean, why 52 percent, as opposed to 51 percent, or 55 percent? I do not know, but it was a ludicrous situation that they were in. That was changed, and I thank the Government for coming to its senses and to accept that. Some of the other things that it has accepted are the allowing of veterans to have automatic entitlement to a * community services card. Once again, it is a small issue perhaps for many of the people that are looking at this bill, but it is a very big issue for those service people, and it acknowledges the effort and the contribution they have made to New Zealand. The bill also enables the continued payment of a pension while the service person is in hospital for more than 13 weeks. Again, there was a recognition and a change occurred. These are all changes that happened to the 1954 Act, which had not been looked at really since 1954, and which the Hon Rick Barker decided in 2006 was well overdue for attention. He went about that change in a responsible way. He got the * Law Commission in and asked it in 2008 to make a full inquiry and investigation into what was there and in place, and that is what the Law Commission did. It came back in 2010. Well, here we are in 2014, 4 years after the Law Commission put forward its very learned and very sensible recommendations. They were not radical; they were simply bringing us up to date. Four years on from there we are still debating this as part of this piece of legislation.

[Continuation line: Our Supplementary Order Papers ask for those changes]

DAVID SHEARER

So our Supplementary Order Papers ask for those changes, in line with what the * Law Commission had recommended. The one thing that was not agreed to by this Government was the * lump-sum payment on death. For some curious reason the Government believed that that was not going to go to the benefit of the service person and therefore we should not have that paid as part of that person’s entitlement. But as Phil Goff just mentioned in his remarks before, it was not just one person, in many ways, who did the service, did the time for New Zealand; it was also their loved ones. It was their wives, it was their husbands who have been at home looking after kids, trying to make do without one of those parents. It was the mothers and fathers and the sons and daughters who would have missed out as a result of that person serving our country. It seems to me that this is an incredibly small contribution that we can make to these people and to those people who have been left behind who also made a sacrifice on behalf of New Zealand as well. The cost is infinitesimally small when we look at it in the bigger picture—that is, it will cost about $11 million, according to * Veterans Affairs New Zealand, for the 2014-2015 year, and it will fall steadily until it gets to about $8.4 million. That is not a lot of money. Unfortunately, some of those veterans are in the last years of their lives—they are old now—which means that the number of those veterans who are around will fall and therefore the cost will fall. At some point in the future—20 or 30 years’ time from now—some of our people who have been serving in * Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and the Solomon Islands will become eligible for that, but that will be some time well down the track. But what it does do is acknowledge fully, as per the recommendations of the Law Commission, the service of our people and their families—and I stress “and their families” because their families have suffered as well. It recognises that they have made that sacrifice and can be properly acknowledged and compensated for it. It means that a widow whose husband has died is able to meet the costs of a decent funeral and enable her to transition and make her life a bit more comfortable as a result of receiving that lump-sum payment. These are not big things; they are just simply what we should do, as a decent and fair nation, in terms of acknowledging and getting behind and supporting those people who go out and choose to serve our country. They do that, put themselves in harm’s way, come back—possibly wounded or scarred psychologically—and have to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. Those are the costs that we are asking them and their families to bear. All we are saying is that perhaps those families deserve some recognition of their costs, and we should get in behind them. Thank you very much.

[Continuation line: Moana Mackey]

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - MOANA MACKEY (Labour)

MOANA MACKEY (Labour): I am very pleased to be able to stand and take a call in support of the * Veterans’ Support Bill and Supplementary Order Paper * 441 being put up by my colleague, the Hon Phil Goff. This may seem like a small piece of legislation, but it is, in fact, a very important piece of legislation. On a personal level I am very proud of the military involvement and contribution of members of my own family. My grandfather from * Ruatōria served in the * navy in * World War II in the Pacific. He was mentioned in dispatches for managing to dispose of a grenade that landed on board. He used to like telling the story. My nana used to say that the real version probably involved a hell of a lot more panic and swearing than the version that we were told. But I am very proud of my papa’s involvement in the navy in the Pacific. On the other side of my family my grandfather served in the army in Italy. He was actually photographed when he was marching out in Auckland to leave for Italy. What he did not know was that his photo was actually used as the recruitment for World War II in New Zealand, which was very ironic, given that he was a committed pacifist. When he got home he was quite shocked to learn that his photograph had been used. But he served time in an Italian prisoner of war camp over there. The impact that that had on him on his return—even though he died when I was 6 years old, so I was very young, I know that the impact on my family and on my grandparents was great from having their men leave and serve overseas. My grandmother actually served with the Wrens up in Auckland. She was mapping all of the different shipping movements in the Pacific. On an even more personal level, my great-grandfather was a medic at Gallipoli. I was incredibly fortunate to be part of a Speaker’s delegation that involved Gallipoli on * Anzac Day. To stand at * Chunuk Bair and to look at the trenches and to see what my great-grandfather saw when he came ashore at Gallipoli and the huge challenge that lay before them was deeply moving. I felt incredibly privileged, as his great-granddaughter, to be able to stand there honouring and commemorating his commitment and the commitment of his colleagues to our country on what was a tragic day, but a day that really forged a nation. So I come from a family that has had a long contribution to the military in New Zealand, of which I am deeply proud. I also want to pay tribute to another great chief from the * Eastern Bay of Plenty. On 17 April, Doug Belsham passed away. Doug Belsham will be known to a number of my colleagues for being a very passionate letter writer and someone who would come along to any event we were holding and talk to my colleagues about many of the issues facing veterans in New Zealand. He was the Eastern Bay * RSA welfare officer for many, many years. I think it would be a conservative estimate to say that he helped many hundreds and hundreds of people. Although he was based in * Whakatāne, he actually supported veterans, * ex-service people, and their families right throughout New Zealand, and even some who were living in Australia. What always struck me about Doug in our many, many long conversations was his incredible grasp of the detail of policy and legislation relating to veterans and to ex-service people, his unmoveable commitment to ensuring that access to entitlements and assistance was not eroded, and his phenomenal memory, which allowed him to recall details of pension claims going back more than 20 years. He was a renowned historian of military and political matters, and he is greatly missed. I was actually in touch with Doug in the months before his passing regarding the Veterans’ Support Bill that we are debating today. This is a bill that came out of a * Law Commission review but it has, unfortunately, ignored a key recommendation of that review as well as many of the submissions of veterans and the New Zealand RSA. That Law Commission review, as my colleagues have said, was set up by the last Labour Government. It recommended that all war veterans put in harm’s way in an overseas deployment should be eligible for a * veterans pension. The pension is in place of, rather than on top of, New Zealand superannuation and it confers some small but important benefits to our veterans such as a * lump-sum payment on death, a * community services card, and the continuation of the pension if hospitalised. Most returned service personnel who want to go on to the veterans pension do not do so because of the benefits but because they see it as their country honouring their service. However, our veterans are eligible for this pension only if they are considered significantly disabled or, more specifically, have 52 percent or higher impairment. For many years veterans have been asking that this requirement be dropped. This was a position that was endorsed by the New Zealand RSA. Unfortunately, this recommendation has been ignored. The Government has said that the recommendation shall not progress “at this point in time”. Well, that is all very well and good but time is not on the side of World War II, Korean, Malayan, and * Viet-Nam veterans. Time is not on their side. As the years pass their numbers are rapidly declining. The decision not to support this recommendation fails to answer a fundamental question of why it should be necessary to be significantly disabled to qualify for a veterans pension. This year we commemorate the centenary of the start of World War I. There will be many sincere expressions of gratitude for the service of our veterans. Surely we can do more to acknowledge the centenary and our veterans in a tangible way by extending their eligibility for a veterans pension. That is why Labour is moving an amendment in this Committee stage to remove the disability requirement. We are hopeful that the National Government will see the enormous symbolism in this small gesture, reverse its position, and support the change. The cost of doing so is small—$11 million this year, declining to $8 million in 3 years’ time. The message it would send, however, is not small. It is an incredibly important one. Labour has said we will adopt the Law Commission’s recommendation to ensure all war veterans are eligible for a veterans pension. The RSA National President, Don McIver, says that it would be “a real indication that the proud and dedicated service of our veterans, potentially with their lives having been put in harm’s way, is recognised as warranting special acknowledgment beyond that provided to New Zealand citizens generally by way of superannuation,”. A Labour Government would do the right thing for our veterans.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - MOANA MACKEY (Labour)

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member. The time has come for me to leave the Chair.

Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): As we have said before on this Veterans’ Support Bill, this bill is strongly supported by Labour. Why would Labour not support this when back in 2007 I worked very hard with the then Minister of Veterans’Affairs, Rick Barker, to introduce a scheme that would update and modernise the * War Pensions Act 1954. That was part of a process of negotiation that I had as Minister of Defence along with Rick Barker as Minister of Veteran’s Affairs, with the then president of the * Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, * John Campbell, and the chair of the * Ex-Vietnam Services Association, Chris Mullane. What we did at that time was work out a process that was designed to achieve the best possible replacement to the 1954 Act. That replacement, we thought, would be best worked through after an extensive period of consultation by a group that was outside of the political process. We gave that task to the * Law Commission. The Law Commission did do its work incredibly thoroughly and I would have thought that there was no room for political debate around this—that what we would do is put in place the critical recommendations of the Law Commission, and part of the objective of this legislation was to be more generous to our war veterans. But for reasons that this Government has still not explained adequately, it decided to cut costs by cutting benefits to the veterans. First of all, the Minister said that he was not going to allow all veterans who had served on overseas deployments in operational areas to get the * veterans pension. You would only get that if you were 52 percent disabled, and, try as I did in the * Social Services Committee to find whether there was any rationale behind why a person had to be 52 percent disabled to get a veterans pension, no explanation was forthcoming. The officials had worked hard on this legislation. They could not give an explanation. The National members of the Social Services Committee sitting over there could not give an explanation either. I brought in Supplementary Order Paper 441 that would have changed that. The Minister backed down at that point because he knew his position was absolutely unsupportable and he agreed that the veterans pension would apply to all of those who had operational service. Along with that, there are these small benefits. You get the * community services card automatically, and you keep your pension if you are hospitalised for more than 13 weeks. But in an extraordinary display of penny-pinching, the Minister said: “But we are not going to give those veterans a lump-sum payment on death to cover the funeral costs”—it is a small amount; $5,700—“unless they are still 52 percent disabled.” I asked the Minister why. I sought outside of this Chamber to get agreement from the Minister. First of all, he said that this would just help the families. Unapologetically I say that the families of the veterans deserve that support, and every veteran would say that. The veterans are not naïve about that. Then the Minister said that the cost was too great. I asked the question in the select committee on the estimates, and the cost is actually—here it is. It is $7.3 million in the first year, dropping by $1 million every 2 years. This Government in the foreign affairs estimates is going to spend $13 million on a conference next month in Samoa—$13 million—but somehow we cannot afford to give $7 million to honour the veterans who put their lives at risk, who sacrificed for their country, who worked for their country. We cannot afford it. We can give * Rio Tinto $30 million to keep Bluff going for another year or two but we cannot give our veterans $7.3 million. That excuse simply does not wash. I asked the Minister what was happening with veterans affairs expenditure. You know, it is down $23 million over the last 5 years. It has been cut by $23 million. Over the next 4 years it will be cut by another $22 million. The money is there now so let some person, just one person, on the National benches stand up and explain why we are rejecting what the veterans ask for, why we are rejecting what the * RSA asks for, and why we are rejecting what the Law Commission recommended.

The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 480 in the name of the Hon Michael Woodhouse to Part 1 be agreed to.

Amendments agreed to.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): We now move to the amendment in the name of the Hon Phil Goff to Part 1 set out on Supplementary Order Paper 441. The question is that the Hon Phil Goff’s amendment be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say “Aye”, to the contrary “No”. The Noes have it. [Interruption] Party vote? The Clerk will conduct a party vote. [Interruption] Order! Now look the member has been around a while and he knows that that is entirely out of order. The members casting votes know the consequences of misleading the House. No member should interrupt a vote for any purpose.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I was trying to be helpful to the whip just to check out that he had read his instructions right because my understanding from the * Māori Party was that they would be supporting the amendment. I would rather sort it out now than have to have the whip come back and explain to the House after that he got it wrong.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): There is a process and it is not to interject and the member is admonished for that.

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

TIM MACINDOE (Junior Whip - National): I am reading from what I believe to be the instructions but I hear the point that the member is making. Maybe if there is an opportunity just for me to double check that, but it is my understanding that I am recording the vote correctly and I seek—

Veterans' Support Bill

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Let me just then now score what the process is. The member who is casting the vote should do so on the instruction he has. If he gets an instruction that he has voted in error of what the intention was it is the course of this House by leave to correct the vote. That is the way it works. So we will now ask the Clerk to continue. He should call the last vote again.

A party vote was called for on the question that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 441 in the name of the Hon Phil Goff to Part 1 be agreed to.

[Vote on SOP 441 to Part 1 – not agreed to]

A party vote was called for on the question that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 452 in the name of Andrew Williams to Part 1 be agreed to.

[Vote on SOP 452 to Part 1 – not agreed to]

Part 1 as amended agreed to.

[Continuation line: Part 2]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): I rise to speak in support of Part 2. It is a relatively small part, but it is nevertheless reasonably important. It talks about the obligations that are placed on “VANZ”—that is, Veterans Affairs of New Zealand*— —and the rights that it accords to the veterans. I think it is important that we codify the rights that veterans are entitled to and we do place those obligations on the department. Often, old people generally, but in particular vets, feel that because of their age they do not count for anything, they are not listened to, and they are not treated with respect. Some of that is perhaps a little unfair on Veterans Affairs, but it is certainly a feeling that the veterans themselves have. So in Part 2 we set out a code of veterans’ and other claimants’ rights. It specifies what Veterans Affairs should do. That refers back, actually, to clause 14 of the bill. Veterans Affairs has such responsibilities imposed on it as having to perform its functions and exercise its powers on reasonable grounds and in a timely manner. The difficulty with any sort of code like that is that it is relatively subjective in how it is set out. But it does at least give those who are trying to exercise their rights something to refer to. It requires, under clause 14(b), that Veterans Affairs keeps veterans up to date on the progress of their claim and gives notice of its decision. Again, that would seem a relatively straightforward and proper thing for it to do. Also, Veterans Affairs must tell the claimants about their review rights: that they have the right to apply for a review of any of the decisions made by Veterans Affairs on the claim, and it must do so at a time appropriate to enable the claimant to exercise their rights. They are relatively straight forward, but, nevertheless, important rights that are set out in the legislation. It also requires that the person who drafts the code of rights is the * Chief of Defence Force, and he must do that—or, theoretically, she must do that—as soon as is practicable after the clause comes into force. The Chief of Defence Force has to consult with a group that is established by the Minister. This clause sets out that that group must include the * Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association and other groups representing veterans and claimants. I think it is important that the veterans themselves are involved in this process of drawing up the code of rights. It means that the people who are affected by this legislation and by the code do have an input into it. The final decision rests with the Minister, and the Minister must decide whether or not to approve that particular code. Presumably, the Minister can send it back to the Chief of Defence Force if he feels the code is not sufficiently full of comprehensive enough to cover the areas that need that coverage. The Minister must then, after he has approved the code, present the code to this House within 12 sitting days of Parliament to ensure that they House sees what is in the code, and the Minister must arrange for the approval of the code to be notified in the newspapers. That is pretty much that clause. There is not a lot controversial about it. As I said before, the Labour Opposition is fully supportive of the main areas of this bill that are designed to promote the interests and to respect the interests of the veterans and the service that they have provided to this country.

[Continuation: Melissa Lee]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - MELISSA LEE (National)

MELISSA LEE (National):

Hopefully, my pronunciation is actually OK to celebrate Te Reo language week. This is my first opportunity to speak in the Committee stage of the * Veterans’ Support Bill. I would like to start by sending my condolences to the Vinton family—the president of the * Korea Veterans Association, Des Vinten. His wife Helen passed away and today was her funeral. I was lucky enough to be part of the family and friends who were in Lower Hutt today for her funeral. I send the family my love and my sincere condolences. I think everybody knows that I do hold the Korean veterans very dear to my heart. Being the only Korean-born member of Parliament, I have always said that I owe my life to the veterans, because who knows what would have actually happened if the Korean War did not end the way it did? For 3 years Korea was devastated with the bloodiest war. Korean veterans, the * K-force, answered the call of the * United Nations to assist the Korean Peninsula. The South Koreans are forever grateful. I do not know how the North Koreans actually feel about the Korean veterans; I have not talked to one of them. But the South Koreans are definitely grateful for their service, their very long service. It is winter. I forgot to wear socks today. I am wearing high heels and I forgot to wear socks. My feet were freezing when I went to the church service. It reminded me of the talk of the Korea Veterans Association when they talked about the nasty winter that they went to Korea to fight in, in the Korean War. Their boots split open. New Zealand’s winter is nowhere near as cold as the one that they faced in Korea. They fought for my former nation. I take this opportunity to say thank you to all my Korean veterans, the Korea Veterans Association K-force veterans, who served there. This bill will make sure that we can better meet the needs of the older veterans who require assistance to stay in their own homes and also meet the needs of veterans on modern-day deployment who need rehabilitation and assistance to return to work. Earlier Mr Phil Goff talked about this bill not providing the * veterans pension to all of those servicemen. I would like to just correct him. With the Minister’s Supplementary Order Paper all of the veterans do get the veterans pension. The only difference is the lump-sum payment. It still requires the attachment of the disablement criteria, which now sits at 52 percent. The Veterans’ Support Bill still contains many of the provisions in the current Act. The service eligibility criteria remains the same, and all the veterans currently covered under the 1954 Act will have coverage under the new law. Healthcare treatments for accepted conditions will continue to be funded, no veteran will have their entitlements reduced, and thousands will actually benefit from increased care and support. To me, that is a good thing. This National-led Government is committed to honouring the servicemen and women and the service that veterans have given to our country and the people who have actually served in overseas deployments. We owe them a great deal of debt. Service in defence of our nation for freedom and democracy around the world needs appropriate recognition in legislation. This Veterans’ Support Bill delivers on our election promise. This Government has committed $60 million for a package to support this new legislation. Part of this package saw the increase of the war disablement pension, and the surviving spouse pension was increased by 5 percent last year on top of inflation.

[Continuation line: We are supporting an amendment to the bill that will extend eligibility for the veterans pension to all veterans over the age of 65.]

MELISSA LEE

We are supporting an amendment to the bill that will extend eligibility for the veterans pension to all veterans over the age of 65. I think it was my learned colleague to my right, Mike Sabin, who said in an earlier speech in this debate—I think it was the first reading—that our veterans, our servicemen and women, do not go to war or deployment overseas thinking that they are going to come back and get a lump sum. The actually do go in service for their country because they feel that it is the right thing to do. They are duty bound—honour bound. I was reading one of the books about the Korean War and I read something that some of those men wrote. They went there on an adventure. [Bell rung]

Iain Lees-Galloway: Carry on. Say Mr Chair.

MELISSA LEE: Mr Chair?

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Melissa Lee.

MELISSA LEE: Sorry. It has been a while since I did a Committee stage, so I forgot what was needed. I was going to call you “Mr Chair”.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I am Mr Chair.

MELISSA LEE: Yes, I was going to call you “Mr Speaker” and then realised that I had to call you “Mr Chair”. They did not go to war because they felt that they were going to get a bigger pay at the end of it; they went for adventure. They felt that they were joining their friends in comradery in overseas nations that required their service. Korea was one of them. There are plenty of examples of their service displayed on our walls. New Zealanders have gone to many, many wars and they have served our people and the people overseas. Their service is recognised in this bill. This bill will increase the number of New Zealanders eligible for the veterans pension by nearly 17,000 from 8,600 currently to more than 25,000. That is 19,900 veterans and about 5,000 spouses. Importantly, it also means that thousands more veterans will benefit from any future changes provided to those on a veterans pension. We understand the importance to veterans of the recognition of their service and that being paid a veterans pension gives them the distinction from others who did not actually serve—namely, the New Zealand superannuation. The lump-sum payment on death will continue to be paid to all of those service men and women who meet the current threshold, as is provided for in the bill as drafted. The legislation provides for two schemes of entitlement. Scheme One starts on 1 October this year and applies to all veterans with service from the Second World War through to the Vietnam War. Scheme Two starts on 1 October 2015 and applies to personnel with service post 1 April 1974 when * ACC was introduced. It will be closely aligned with ACC entitlements, as recommended by the Law Commission. The Government is committed to improving veterans support, and this is reflected in the bill as reported back by our Social Services Committee. Submissions questioned the 55 percent threshold and whether that was, in fact, appropriate, and I know that Mr Goff talked about that in terms of the appropriate level of whole person impairment. I personally had difficulty trying to gather the way that * Veterans Affairs New Zealand calculated the level of disablement as well, because when the total was calculated, it ended up becoming more than 100 percent. So the way we have done it now, in terms of the percentage, is that it goes up to 100 percent, and they now have to be 52 percent disabled to be entitled to the lump-sum payment and the extra payment apart from the veterans pension, which is much clearer than how it was previously when disablements were lumped together, added together, and often it actually ended up becoming more than 100. I do not know if anybody is 100 percent disabled—I would have thought that meant you are actually not alive. The select committee established that 52 percent whole person impairment was the most equivalent threshold, and in order not to disadvantage veterans, the threshold will be moved from 55 percent to 52. To further ensure that no veterans are disadvantaged by this provision, the bill has been amended to provide that a veteran or other claimant who currently meets the threshold for entitlement under the 1954 will continue to do so if they claim under this bill. We have put a lot of work into this bill. I see that the advisers are here. They have helped us through the long process that the select committee went through. We have had many submissions from our veteran community as well and we have had discussions with the Opposition. We are very happy to have arrived where we are. It would be a fantastic thing if we could provide more money for our veterans. It would be a fantastic thing if we could provide all the support that we possibly could, but we have to be fair and we have to be fiscally balanced, but we have to be supportive of our veterans.

[Continuation line: Tracey Martin]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First)

TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First): Kia ora, Mr Chair. I just rise to speak on behalf of New Zealand First on the * Veterans’ Support Bill. I just want to read clause * 25: *“ “The purpose of the Code is to meet the reasonable expectations of veterans and claimants (including the highest practicable standard of service and fairness)”—and I think that is a really good statement. It is about the highest standard of service and fairness, because these individuals—men and women—gave us their highest standard of service. They went away in a variety of conflicts to stand for us on those fields of battle. I want to acknowledge my grandfathers. Both of them served in World War II—both in different ways. My mother’s father went to Egypt and also Italy and served in the New Zealand engineers, and my father’s father was the second officer in charge at the Featherston prisoner of war camp during the particular period of the Featherston riot. So both men saw very different service for their country, but they went nonetheless. Some might say that they went for adventure. Some really went because we asked them to. We asked them, as a nation, to go and stand against an evil that we believed needed to be stopped. They were among many. They expect, and should expect, the highest practicable standard of service and fairness from their country when they come home. They go on to try to lead normal lives, some of them after terrible ordeals in the field on our behalf. I also want to remark on how good it is that we have moved on, as a nation and as many nations have, so we now recognise—unlike how we thought as a nation in 1960s, when we had some of our servicemen take off their uniforms and get back into “civvy” clothing and go home quietly without any recognition—that these men and these women serve and carry out orders because we have asked them to do so. We acknowledge their service and hold the decision makers to account for these conflicts, as opposed to some of the scenes that we had in the 1960s and the 1970s after Korea and Malaya and so on. I also just want to take this moment to acknowledge ** Sol Te Whata, who passed away on Sunday. Sol was a member of the * 28th Māori Battalion in A Company. He passed away on Sunday morning in the * Hokianga and his * tangi will be on Thursday. Our thoughts are will him. He was one of two of the last surviving members of the Māori Battalion in the north. He lived to a ripe old age. He had three wives, I believe, so he was certainly a man of spirit and a man who gave for his country and then came back and continued to participate in his community and with his family and lived his life to the full. So our thoughts go to him, to those who served with him who are no longer with us, and to those who served with him who are still with us and deserve our care. That is what this bill is about. It is about making sure that those who served—both those gentlemen who are of a passing generation and the new veterans that are coming, because the world will never be a 100 peaceful place.

[Continuation line: That is something we might wish for, but every now and then men and]

TRACEY MARTIN

That is something that we might wish for, but every now and then men and women of our nation are going to have to stand up for us and going to have to go into conflict, whether to protect others, or whether to actually put forward a line—to create a line in the sand that says no more, this is wrong, and we are here on behalf of the New Zealand people to say “Stop or we will actually enforce international law.” So this is just a quick call again to reinforce New Zealand First’s support for this bill and our disappointment that it has taken so long. We believe it is timely. We believe that the burden of proof with regard to medical claims, and so on and so forth, should not be on the veterans, and that if medical records have been lost, then it is not for them to have to try to convince a bureaucrat in an office somewhere that when they served their country, the illness that they now suffer from has come out of that service.

[Continuation line: David Shearer]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert)

DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert): I just want to pick up on a couple of points that were made in the contributions by National members and that is that men did not go to war to get a pension—of course they did not—and really that that is denigrating what they went to war for. They did not go to war necessarily for a sense of adventure either. They may have wanted that, but most men went to war because they believed that it was the right thing to do. They went to war because they felt a sense of duty, a sense of what was right and what was wrong. They may have gone from a sense of patriotism, that they were standing up and doing the right thing for their country. To try to say somehow that we should not increase our pensions because people did not go to war to pick up a pension, I think, is just ridiculous. This part of the * Veterans’ Support Bill, Part 2, is only a short part, but it is still an important part. It is the part that actually sets out the purpose of the code. The code is set out in Part 2. It sets out the rights and obligations in the code. It indicates that the code will be put together in a draft form by the persons nominated by the * Minister of Veterans’ Affairs. They will work on that and then the approval of the draft code will be done by the Minister after that and a notice will be put in the * Gazette to approve the code, and the Minister must present the code to this House within 12 sitting days of it going through. In many ways the code sets the sort of underlying architecture of what we are talking about today. It is a solid basis on which the rest of the bill needs to be supported. Hence the reason it is in Part 2—it is there. I will not go on any further than that, other than to say that the obligations and the rights to respect that code are also there in Part 2 and provision for any amendments that need to be made and how they are meant to be made are set out in clause 30. But just coming back, I could not let that one go by—about why our soldiers go off to war. They go off and they serve New Zealand well. They do it for a variety of reasons, but they certainly do not have—I mean, it is ridiculous to think that a 19-year-old has the possibility of earning a pension in their mind when they go off to war. What we on this side certainly do believe is that anybody who does serve their country in that way deserves the * veterans pension and deserves the lump sum payment and their family deserves the lump sum payment, but this Government is scrimping on that last recommendation by the * Law Commission, a very eminent body, that took 2 years and an enormous amount of consultation in order to look at this. It is supported by the * Returned and Services’ Association right across New Zealand. It supports this as well. It is time that this Government gets with the pace and actually realises that this is a small amount of money—it is $7 million, $8 million at most. It is time that it gets with it and gets in behind it and gives our people and those people who serve New Zealand so well the financial recognition that they deserve.

[Continuation line: Catherine Delahunty]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy)

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Mike—oh no. We have not had a Green. Catherine Delahunty.

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy)

CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green): I rise to take a short call. I am sure there will be space for others to do so as well at this Committee stage on this * Veterans’ Support Bill. I want to speak about the real cost of the health issues associated with some veterans and about experiences that I have had, both those in my partner’s family with his father and with the Vietnam veterans whom I travelled this country with on a tour called People Poisoned Daily. We cannot underestimate the real cost of the trauma of war. I personally do not believe anyone comes back without being traumatised. I do not believe that killing and witnessing people being killed can do anything except damage and can do anything except create trauma, which has to be addressed at some level—as well as all of the other more noble sentiments. When I see the psychological pain that gets carried and passed on from the generations, I think there is a really great need for the resources to go into support veterans, to support them to recover from some of that trauma. I am thinking of people who went to Afghanistan and were extremely traumatised in ways that you would not even imagine from participating in what was supposedly not even really our war. However, the one I want to focus on is the Vietnam vets and the experience that they had, because it relates to this bill and the costs, the real health costs. One of the members, Melissa Lee, talked about whether you can be 100 percent disabled. When people are exposed to * agent orange, which is dioxin, they can indeed be alive but 100 percent disabled—not only themselves but their children and grandchildren. So we are talking about intergenerational poisonous effects from a chemical that was in some places manufactured in this country and used to destroy the population of Vietnam, destroy the jungle—it is a defoliant and it is a toxic chlorinated persistent chemical—but it also affected the bodies of our veterans. Whatever reason they went to Vietnam—and I was not a supporter and I still am not—they did not expect that they would be poisoned and their families would be poisoned and their children would be poisoned and their wives’ lives would be affected and they would be compromised by exposure to a defoliant. When we travel the country with the People Poisoned Daily, the veterans told us their stories. These stories are not pretty stories. They are stories of a multiplicity of effects that are difficult to diagnose let alone fix. So it is not a matter of just identifying a health issue and getting the funds to pay to fix it. Dioxin poisoning cannot be fixed and it has intergenerational effects, such as birth defects, heart conditions in the grandchildren and the children. The exposure to dioxin that those soldiers experienced has been passed on through the generations. I have met the people who have been affected. So it is not just about the soldiers. One of the reasons we were touring was that the soldiers were sick of trying to tell people that it was not just them. They wanted their children and grandchildren acknowledged as well. There is a lot of rhetoric about war in this Chamber and a lot of rhetoric about service. But actually the reality is for people who come back damaged like that, they are entitled to be looked after and we have to be listening a lot harder to them. So I was very concerned when I heard their stories about how little support they actually had. I was very, very concerned to see the effects that that dioxin poisoning had on these people and on their families—the real price of throwing poisons around in a war zone. When you see the phosphorous bombs that are falling on Gaza today and tonight and the cluster bombs that were used in Afghanistan and the uranium that was used in Iraq, the endless use of chemicals, we have to realise that we are creating a cost for these people, not only the soldiers but the citizens of those countries who live with the permanent effects. We should apologise to the Vietnamese people for that if nothing else. And we should protect these veterans with the long-term consequences. Their children and their grandchildren are going to need help because they have been poisoned by one of the worst chemicals ever used on this planet. It is still used in other forms but no longer called agent orange and no longer used in quite the same way. We found new ways to include toxic chemicals in war. We found new ways to poison and destroy people and create cancer, because the—

[Continuation line: Mike Sabin]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy)

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Mike Sabin. [Interruption]

Part 2 Code of Veterans’ and Other Claimants’ Rights

Speech - The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy)

MIKE SABIN (National - Northland): The member Catherine Delahunty is a little perplexed, I feel. I just want to acknowledge a few members on the * Social Services Committee—in particular, the Hon Phil Goff. I do not throw too many bouquets across the other side of the Chamber, but on this occasion I will because I think right throughout Mr Goff has articulated a very, very strong argument and an argument that holds a lot of weight. I think that the committee actually tangled with a number of issues because of what we are dealing with here. I mean, although we are talking about millions of dollars, * veterans pensions, and what have you*, , the point is quite clear that no one can put a dollar figure on what our veterans contribute to the country in the sacrifices that they make personally, with their families, with their communities and so forth. That is not just about the Great War* but it is also about, if we look at the peacekeeping roles of the modern soldiers, sailors, and airman—I am supposed to use some sort of generic sort of gender format there; I am not sure. I am looking across at Major Rebecca Thornley* for guidance, but she is not helping me out at this stage, so I will stumble on. I think that there is not a dollar value that can be put on that, and I think that everyone across the House, when dealing with this in the select committee, actually acknowledged that. I guess that where I differ from Mr Goff is in terms of the idea of zeroing out, essentially, the disability component of it. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I am trying to have a pretty valid discussion here and the Green members were just—it seems that they have now calmed down, so I will carry on.

Tracey Martin: Oh, come on. Get over it.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order! I was just discussing an issue pertinent to the bill with the Minister and my attention was diverted. If there is an issue, the member should raise a point of order and then we will deal with it, but let us proceed.

MIKE SABIN: Indeed, Mr Chair. Thank you very much. So the issue where I guess I differ from Mr Goff is in terms of the disability component. So the 70 percent became 52 percent. It is essentially parity between the old system and the new system, and what that essentially acknowledges is that where someone has a degree of disability—and it comes in many and varied shapes and forms, and it is quite a complex equation in terms of measuring that—on death, that disability will be recognised with a lump-sum* payment. The issue that I have is that if we were to say: “Right, well, it is only a few million dollars. Why trifle with this? Shouldn’t we zero that out and have everyone get that lump-sum payment?” is that for so long many have been in the position where they were not eligible for that and they did not get that, and it should not be just a matter of timing that means that that should change. Perhaps that discussion should have been had some time ago—a long time ago—and then it could probably hold a little more water. So to me it is not really about the value but it is also about actually recognising those who were recognised as veterans under the scheme as it previously was, as much as it is about recognising those who will be subject to the bill. My father is a former naval man—a sailor—and so is my uncle. He joined the navy as a seaman as a boy, I think, and that is actually how I came to be, because my father ended up marrying my uncle Lou—that is where my mother came into the equation, and here I am. Here I am.

Hon Simon Bridges: Your father married your uncle?

MIKE SABIN: Yes—no. So—

Hon Simon Bridges: What! You can’t have a baby like that.

MIKE SABIN: Ha, ha!* ! My uncle—

Hon Members: It’s a miracle.

MIKE SABIN: It is a miracle, I know—I am. I am often puzzled myself how I came to be, but my uncle’s sister is my mother, indeed. So many a story has been told—

David Shearer: This is one of those Northland stories, I know.

MIKE SABIN: Oh, hold on—hold on. Let me draw it back. I also joined the navy, and that is where it got really confusing. I am not sure who I married at that time. [Bell rung] Mr Chair, I have got to keep going with this.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Mike Sabin.

MIKE SABIN: So I also joined the navy, and spent a couple of very passionate years in the navy. I was passionate about service to the country and the role that all servicemen and women play in what is quite a different arena from what it was certainly when we look back on the great wars and on some of the major sacrifices and challenges that were faced by our servicemen and women at that stage. What it gave me was a great appreciation, I guess, of the meaning of military service, and I think that David Shearer has certainly pointed that out. Although he takes issue with it, no one joins up for military service thinking about what will be at the end of that—whether they do end up in a confrontation or whether they do end up serving their country in that manner. It is fair to say that from my experience as an active serviceman and from having talked to many veterans since, none of the passion that they hold and the sincerity that they have about serving their country is really reflected in any way in a dollar value. What they do want to have reflected is the importance of their role in serving and upholding what they believe is important to their family, their country, their nation, and the world that they live in. I do not think it is possible to actually land in a place that would actively reflect that, and actually in many senses I do not believe that veterans expect that, but the Minister’s Supplementary Order Paper essentially enables all veterans’ service to be recognised at the age of 65 so that all veterans and their spouses would receive the veterans pension at that time. By maintaining what was the status quo in terms of the equation of disability, it means that what was under the previous legislation essentially migrates through into the new legislation, I think that is fair on both the modern-day* veteran and also those who have passed. I think it is important to understand, as I have mentioned, that it should not just be the case that because there are only a few veterans, or we are talking about a reduction in that overall disability cost, it should be zeroed out. That is my view, but I do accept that the Hon Phil Goff raises good arguments as to why that should not be the case. I think that the fact of the matter is that it is hard to put a dollar value on that. Lastly, I just want to acknowledge Major Rebecca Thornley and the other officials advising the committee, who provided the committee with very, very sound advice and guidance on what is for a number of us a very sensitive issue on a whole lot of levels. There is no one in this House who does not take this matter of getting the balance right very, very seriously. So I just want to commend the work of the officials and members across the House on the * Veterans’ Support Bill. Although we do not agree on everything, and I guess that is the nature of politics to some extent, I personally think that it is landing in a pretty good place, and it does recognise and reflect the significant investment in our veterans community. It is a dollar value investment in some senses, but the important thing is that this House recognises the service that veterans give well beyond that. Lest we forget that, members in this Chamber are surrounded by memorials that reflect exactly that service. So I will leave it there, before I get myself too much more complicated. Thank you.

The question was put that the amendments* set out on Supplementary Order Paper 480* in the name of the Hon Michael Woodhouse to Part 2 be agreed to.

Amendments agreed to.

Part 2 as amended agreed to.

[Continuation line: Iain Lees-Galloway]

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Speech - IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North)

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): I seek leave for Parts 3, 4, and 5 to be taken as one question.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There appears not. Leave is granted.

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Speech - IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): I think it makes sense to talk about the three parts together. Part 3 combines scheme one, which deals with the veterans who served before April 1974 plus those who served at Qui Nhon as support for the medical team, and Squadron 41 up to 1975. Part 4 deals with scheme two, which deals with veterans since that time. The reason for separating that out is the introduction of accident compensation in April 1974. The whole emphasis of those who have served since 1974-75 is on rehabilitation, getting the person back to the position that they were in before they sustained the injury that led them to require that support. Part 5 deals with elements that are common to both scheme one and scheme two. But I just want to comment on the discussion that we have had. It is not what we agree on, which is most of this bill, that concerns me; it is where we disagree. Where we disagree is that somehow we think that when you set up a Law Commission to independently analyse and make recommendations about how we treat our veterans, there has to be a good reason if we depart from its recommendation. There is no good reason why we should depart from its recommendation relating to the payment of all of the benefits that go with the * veterans pension. What effectively we have had happen here is that the Law Commission, supported by the veterans, supported by the * Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association, recommended that veterans should get a level of benefit because they have served our country. What this National Government has done is cut the amount of money that the Law Commission and the * RSA both recommended should go to our veterans. This is about cutting support for our veterans. Do you know what amount it is about? It is about a miserable $7.4 million. That is what it would take to give our veterans the full entitlement that the RSA and the Law Commission said they should have. This is * penny-pinching. This is miserable. This is mean. In the 100 years since the First World War, as we mark that centenary, this Government marks itself out as being so miserable that it is going to take $7.4 million away from the veterans whom the Law Commission, the RSA, and the veterans believe they are entitled to. I have not heard one valid argument, in this whole debate, from the National Party to justify doing that—$7.4 million. You know, the Government is spending twice that amount of money on one conference, the Small Island Developing States conference in Samoa next month. Are our veterans less important than that? The Government is spending $30 million on * Rio Tinto—a foreign multinational. Are our veterans, who sacrificed for our country, less important than the money that the Government is prepared to put into a foreign multinational company? The Government spends $150 million in legal fees on hocking off our assets, which many of our veterans, like my father-in-law, came back from the war to build up. They worked on the hydro dams at * Mangakino and Aratiatia. There is $150 million in legal fees to lawyers, to hock off the assets that we New Zealanders own, but the Government cannot spend $7.4 million to give our veterans what the Law Commission said, after due consultation, after careful analysis, our veterans were entitled to. This bill, the Veterans’ Support Bill, in this form cuts the entitlements that our veterans should have got if the recommendations of the Law Commission and the RSA were followed. I have not heard a single argument to justify why we should be penny-pinching from our veterans, as we commemorate in this centenary year all of those who have died, all of those who have given service, and all of those who have sacrificed for our country. I think that is pathetic. In terms of the parts in front of us, we have got, first of all, scheme one that will deal with those veterans who served prior to 1974-75. Basically, what we have tried to do in this part of the bill is preserve the entitlements that those older veterans from the Second World War, from Korea, from Malaya, from Malaysia, and from Viet Nam are entitled to. Those entitlements are good entitlements. I do not think there is anybody in this Chamber who would deny the right to those entitlements by our veterans—entitlements such as travel costs associated with treatment and long-term hospital care, a disablement pension that people get in addition to their veterans pension, taking into account the level of disablement that they have suffered, weekly income compensation, retirement lump sum, entitlements for spouses, and bursaries for children. I think all of those are important entitlements. I think some of them are quite reasonable entitlements. I do not think they are more generous than what other veterans in similar countries like Canada, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom are getting, but they are entitlements that should be there. We stand by maintaining those entitlements and lifting them above the level that they were once set at. In terms of the second part, which relates to the post - Viet Nam War veterans, that is designed to take into account the changes that were brought about by the accident compensation scheme. Before we had the accident compensation scheme, the pension for veterans effectively was compensation for those who had suffered accidents. Now we need to ensure that there is a complementarity between the accident compensation payments and those received by war veterans—not just a complementarity, but to ensure that there is a margin over and above the entitlements that war veterans get. There should be that margin because these are people who have suffered their injuries in the service of their country. There is a top-up, to preserve the additional support provided to veterans under the 1954 Act, over and above that available to other New Zealanders, and it will ensure that all scheme two veterans receive the same amount of compensation, whether or not their accident compensation claim was accepted. I think that is important. I think it is important that we have moved to focus on rehabilitation and restoration to pre-injury capability, to the maximum extent possible. The assistance provided to veterans is about incentivising wellness and using rehabilitation as a way of leading to other assistance that might be available. I think one of the important changes that is made in scheme two is in relation to the lump-sum payment rate. That will be set at the equivalent payable under the accident compensation scheme plus an additional 20 percent. I think it is also important that those who are terminally ill can get a lump-sum payment brought forward as a way of acknowledging that their terminal illness is, in most instances, related to the service that they have given. A veteran who is entitled to a disablement pension can elect to suspend payment of that pension for a period of up to 12 months and receive a lump-sum payment equivalent to the aggregate of the pension payable at the maximum rate for the 12-month period. That was a change that was made in the select committee. I think it is an appropriate change. I think the concept of this legislation, based on the Law Commission, of having a scheme that maintains the entitlement for our older veterans and brings our new veterans into a space where there is a focus on rehabilitation is the right approach.

[Continuation line: So if it is good for this House to follow the recommendations]

Hon PHIL GOFF

So, if it is good for this Committee to follow the recommendations of the Law Commission in the fundamentals of this scheme, why is it that National insists on departing from the recommendations of the Law Commission in terms of cutting the benefits that are available to people who have served? It is, frankly, unacceptable to this side of the Chamber, and I had hoped that it would be unacceptable to the Māori Party, that our veterans would be denied that lump sum payment—$5,700—to enable the family to meet the funeral costs of the veterans. I understand that the amendment I had moved was supported by the Māori Party. Mr Flavell will speak for himself but I understand that—[bell rung]

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order!

Hon PHIL GOFF: Mr Chairman—just to finish off. I will be only 1 minute. I understand—

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I will decide that. The Hon Phil Goff.

Hon PHIL GOFF: A very good decision, Mr Chairman. I understand that pressure was put on the Māori Party members by National that if they were not to support the Government’s position on this bill, then the bill would not proceed—certainly during the life of this Parliament. If that is the case, then that is quite unacceptable. I regret the fact that the Māori Party is no longer supporting what the RSA* and the veterans have asked for and the Law Commission recommended, but Mr Flavell will no doubt comment on why there has been a change of heart on behalf of the Māori Party. If they had not changed their view, then the votes would have been equally 61-61 and we would have, I think, negotiated a reasonable solution for the veterans.

Tim Macindoe: We don’t have 122 members.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Well, the calculation—and the whip can confirm it—was that it would have been a tied voted, if the Māori Party had supported Labour on this. [Interruption] Sixty-sixty—OK. It is like 20/20 vision—60-60. It is regrettable that the Government has used its position to prevent a fair deal being reached for the veterans. I have got just this one challenge and it might go to Mr Flavell, it might go to the National Party members, or it might go to Mr Dunne. It is a simple question. Why is it that the recommendations of the Law Commission to be a little more generous to veterans have been dropped by this Government when the cost was small, the cost was affordable, and the case that could be made for the veterans gaining entitlement to that small extra benefit was clear and overwhelmingly supported by the veterans. Why is it that in 2014, 100 years out from the start of the Great War, we could not have given that little bit of extra to the veterans. Words are cheap. It would have been much better if we could have backed up our expressions of gratitude and thanks to our veterans by giving them something, a small something, that would have made a difference for them and their families. That question is hanging there, waiting for a member of the Government, or a party supporting the Government, to answer why it was not affordable to implement the recommendation of the Law Commission.

[Continuation line: Flavell]

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Speech - TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader - Māori Party)

TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader - Māori Party):

Mr Chairperson, I wish to take a couple of calls, I hope, at your behest to be able to explain the Māori Party position with respect to the Veterans’ Support Bill. As I said in Māori, there is no doubt in our minds that it is appropriate to support those who put their lives on the line for our country and do the best that we can. In our caucus we had some vigorous debate in respect of the Hon Phil Goff’s amendment and Supplementary Order Paper. It was very vigorous because, of course, we are talking about people’s lives, servicemen’s lives, and, indeed, I suppose what happens to them after they pass away as well. In that regard we were in a position to be able to support this bill, to be able to allow it so that veterans could, in fact, gain while we are in Parliament. Who knows what happens after the end of this election. We were of the view that it was far better to make some gains now than not to allow this bill to move through the various readings. We chose, accordingly, to enter into negotiations with the Government and the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs over points that we believed would advance the bill in its original form to something that we believed would have far bigger coverage. So in the time that I have got I want to outline some of those gains. There are about eight of them or so that I want to put on the record of this House. Firstly, the removal of the 52 percent disability criterion, which used to be 70 percent, means that from our perspective a greater number of veterans will receive the pension. From our perspective, currently around 6,800 veterans receive it and we say that this will increase, according to the information that we have, by about 16,700 to 25,300 veterans. That is 6,000, now going to 25,000. We suggest that is a major and significant gain, a far wider spread to bring in a far greater catch of those who put their lives on the line. That is the first point. The second point is that a greater number of veterans will have formal recognition that they are war veterans receiving a war veterans pension. This has been a point of contention for them and under the amendments—at least, the negotiations we had—they will have that recognition. The third point is that the veterans pension is paid at the same rate as superannuation and is increased annually in line with this and veterans will automatically get the community services card, which is currently income tested. Income testing will no longer be applied so, therefore, again that is a major benefit from our perspective. The fourth point is that veterans have protection for long-term hospital stays after 13 weeks. Currently, the pension is reduced to $40 after 13 weeks in hospital. Fifthly, we are also asking for a review of the Act—and I think this comes to the heart of Mr Goff’s discussion—and associated levels of support to be written into the bill and this has been agreed to. The period of time we are talking about is to allow it to run for 2 years and then have a review to assess the points that the Hon Phil Goff has made and indeed how the bill is going. As the sixth point, Veterans Affairs New Zealand is proposing to rewrite its standard operation procedures to direct case managers to proactively advise families of recently deceased veterans of their existence, advice and eligibility requirements, and assistance to apply for the Ministry of Social Development funeral grant, which is up to about $2,000. Although this is currently available, the uptake by veterans, from our understanding, has been relatively minimal. Personally, I think that this should be a standard operating practice anyway but there we are. These changes will come into effect on 1 October 2014—obviously not far away—and therefore veterans will be able to take up the benefits of the changes and amendments in the bill. We are seeking on top of that the formal recognition for the Malaya, Afghan, and Syrian veterans and their service, and will be progressing this through the Hon Jonathan Coleman’s office. Just to wrap up, currently veterans will be eligible for a lump sum payment on death although the 52 percent impairment criterion is applied. However, under the review we will aim to have this removed. If the Māori Party did not support this bill—and here is the point—we would suggest that over 1,600 veterans would miss out on the ability to receive a pension and the other gains that we have previously mentioned. We saw this simply as an opportunity that could be not missed out. We did, in fact, have at the very heart of our submissions and our thoughts the many veterans who are hanging up on taking up the opportunities that come from this bill and, indeed, to ensure that we captured as many as possible people into the net to allow them to access the benefits that come from this bill.

[Continuation line: Under those circumstances, while these are the parts that you have already outlined]

TE URUROA FLAVELL

Under those circumstances, although this is the path that you have already outlined, and my discussion has been to cover a fair part of the bill, these are the reasons that we as the Māori Party are supportive of the bill. We are pleased with the amendments that we have been able to negotiate with the Minister, such that it will in fact go exactly the way we want. Sure, there is always more to be done—there is always more to be done—there is always more that can be offered up, but the 2-year review period would allow for that to be assessed at the time. In the meantime, as of 1 October, as I said, the benefits will be able to roll out to those veterans who will be hanging out on these sorts of amendments. Ka nui te mihi*. .

[Continuation line: Jan Logie]

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Speech - JAN LOGIE (Green)

JAN LOGIE (Green): Thank you for the call in this Committee stage of the Veterans’ Support Bill*. . I want to pick up on some of the points that have just been made by Māori Party members around negotiation and how hard they have had to work to get the concessions from this Government. What a shame I think that is, because the evidence that the Social Services Committee* heard was pretty compelling and I think that a lot of the advice that the officials gave us actually supported the full extension of these provisions. The feeling I had was that the Government members on the committee were also, at least in their hearts, supportive of the full extension of these entitlements. So the fact that the Māori Party has apparently had to negotiate so hard to be able to get some gains, to get us almost there but not quite there, to me just leaves the question as to why. Why could this Government not go all the way? Why hold out on the one point around the funeral payments on death? I just do not understand it when we have heard that it is only about $7.4 million. I do not understand why that is a point to hold out on in negotiation, when most of the people in the committee, whom I believe, in their hearts, supported it. I do not understand why the Government is holding out. The point was made that it is not really about the money. One of the arguments brought up by this Government was that it should have been done before. That seems very weak to me. I just want to make the point that in the regulatory impact statement* we actually read that 28 percent of our war veterans will pass away in the next 5 years, and that will be most of the World War II* veterans. This is probably our last opportunity to deliver for those families—that full recognition and this entitlement. I just cannot understand why this Government is holding out on that point when it is such a relatively small amount of money. I think it has been mentioned in this Chamber that it is 0.00001 percent of total Government spending that it is holding on to—out of meanness? Is it out of political pride not to have caved in to what was seen to then be an Opposition request rather than the fact that it was the Law Commission that recommended it and that it was backed up by the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association*? ? This is not really about politics. This should not be about politics, and I cannot understand how it has become about politics because it is just about a just recognition. While I am on the record, being a pacifist and not wanting to glorify war, for me, is all the more reason to be able to offer whatever support we can to our war veterans who have been sent into these horrific environments, who have had to do things that none of us would ever want to do, and who have seen things that we would never want to see. They have been harmed, whether it was physically or emotionally, and their families have also often bore the cost. We heard very moving testimonies through the select committee process from veterans as well as the children of veterans, who talked about growing up in households where the war was relived in their living rooms*. . If as a country we cannot afford the cost of acknowledging the harm that Governments have done by sending people, then that is a very clear reason not to send people. If we cannot afford to compensate for that, then we should not be doing that. I do also want to mention—I am not going to spend very much longer on this because it has been 7 years since this was sent to the Law Commission and we definitely need to update this 1954 Act. We need to do it as quickly as possible and by the end of this Parliament.

[Continuation line: Hon Phil Goff]

Parts 3, 4, and 5

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): I listened very carefully to the explanation by Māori Party members as to why they have flip-flopped on their support for the amendment in my name, Supplementary Order Paper 441*, , to this Veterans’ Support Bill*. . They had given me that undertaking to support it. I have to tell the Māori Party members this: they have been duped. They have been totally hoodwinked—

Dr Rajen Prasad: Again.

Hon PHIL GOFF: —again by what this Government said. Let me use the first example that Te Ururoa Flavell used as to why they supported it. He said that they have reduced the level of disablement you need for funeral expenses from 70 percent to 52 percent. Anyone who sat on that Social Services Committee*, , and everyone on the backbench* over there was on that committee, knows that that is absolutely wrong. Seventy percent of the old system is simply equivalent to 52 percent of the new system. It will not bring in one extra person for a lump sum entitlement. Yet, that member from the Māori Party comes in and says “Look what we’ve got. We’ve lowered the entitlement ratio.” It is exactly—exactly—the same. They are being duped. They have been duped. Then we get this other hori*, , old excuse: “We’ll have a review in 2 years.” Do you know what National said to the Law Commission recommendation? It said that it would not bring this in at this time. Do you know what the veterans told me around the country? “Bloody typical,” they said. “They will wait until we are all dead and then they will give us the entitlement.” That is what our veterans think—2 years. I have got in my hand here the regulatory impact statement* that goes with this bill. What does it say? The veteran population as a whole will decline by 28 percent over the next 5 years—delay, delay, delay until nobody is eligible. This morning we heard the sad news that a member of A Company of the 28th Māori Battalion died yesterday. Do you know how many veterans we have left in A Company from the 28th Māori Battalion? [Interruption] No, just one—just one—left. Surely, at this time, we can make the gesture of saying to our veterans that there is a handful left from the Second World War*. . We respect you, we respect what you did, and a very small gesture of appreciation is that we will meet your funeral costs on death to relieve your family of that obligation. This really is a disgrace. They will review it in 2 years. It is $7.4 million. That is all it is. Te Ururoa Flavell said: “Oh, but they’re lifting the requirement of losing the pension after losing 13 weeks in hospital.” I asked the question: what was the cost? It was so small that the answer is here in black and white. It says the amount is “negligible”. It probably does not even make five figures. They have given Te Ururoa Flavell the equivalent of beads and blankets. It is worth nothing—it is worth nothing—$7.4 million.

Alfred Ngaro: Oh, you’re better than that.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I ask Alfred Ngaro why it is that his Government cannot afford the $7.4 million a year in the first year, declining by $1 million every 2 years, to honour our veterans.

Mike Sabin: It’s not about that. It’s a privacy decision.

[Continuation line: I want to thank Mike Sabin for his compliment,]

Hon PHIL GOFF

I want to thank Mike Sabin for his compliment, but if we follow his logic—that we cannot give it now because they did not get it before—we would not be changing anything in this Veterans’ Support Bill. If we were not to give something new to veterans today, we would not have changed the Act at all. We have changed the Act because we believe that veterans deserve more—$7.4 million. You know, what the Government gave to * Rio Tinto would have paid the cost of that to the veterans for at least 4 years—over 4 years; probably 5 years, because it is declining. But somehow Rio Tinto is more important to this crony capitalist National Government than honouring our veterans—honouring our veterans, not because the Labour Party said it should have been done, but because the independent group set up to analyse what was going to the veterans said that this is a change we should make, and because our veterans said that this is a change that we should make. Every one of those members in the back row over there heard veteran after veteran come in and ask just for this gesture. You know, words are cheap. We could have afforded $7.4 million.

The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 480 in the name of the Hon Michael Woodhouse to Parts 3, 4, and 5 be agreed to.

[Continuation line: Part 6; Lees-Galloway]

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North)

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour - Palmerston North): Part 6 is in fact the part of the Veterans’ Support Bill that deals with the issue of veterans pensions and lump-sum payments. This is the matter that has been canvassed by members for much of the evening, particularly by the Hon Phil Goff, who has amendments that he has proposed to this part of the legislation. It is a pretty simple thing, that in the Labour Opposition we wanted to follow the desires of the * RSA and other veterans’ groups, to ensure that all veterans would be entitled to a veterans pension, and that that would be something that was universally available to everybody who has served our country overseas in conflict or peacekeeping situations. It is fair to say that it was not a big ask of the Government. It was seven point—

Hon Phil Goff: 4 million.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: It is anticipated to cost $7.4 million a year, and that is actually the anticipated cost for the first year only. It is an unusual provision in that as time goes on the costs actually reduce. Usually when you introduce a new provision like this the out years are more expensive than the initial year. This is the exact opposite, so it is not a difficult thing for the Government to adopt. In fact, after a lot of advocacy from the Hon Phil Goff the Government finally relented—almost. It almost relented entirely and supported everything that Phil Goff asked for, except for one thing, and that is the provision for lump-sum payments. The argument that the Government is using is that it will not be the veterans themselves who benefit from lump-sum payments, but their families. We on this side of the Chamber say that veterans’ families have made a significant sacrifice themselves—a different type of sacrifice from a veteran who actually goes and serves and sees conflict and faces battle alongside their comrades, true. It is a different type of sacrifice but it is nevertheless a significant sacrifice for a family to have one of their own, often the breadwinner, go overseas and come home with all the impacts of seeing conflict. We particularly think about our older veterans who served in the Second World War, in Korea, in Viet Nam, and in Malaya, who saw—just as our recent veterans in Afghanistan and East Timor and the Solomons did—very real conflict and very real danger and things that were traumatic and that obviously put their lives at risk. We simply want to acknowledge their sacrifice and also the sacrifice of their families in sending a loved one overseas and giving up their time with them, but also sometimes having to be there, more often than not, for that family member when they come back home again. So we think it is absolutely appropriate that both veterans and their families should have the opportunity to be acknowledged. We agree with the comment made by Melissa Lee, I think, that nobody goes overseas to serve our nation because they expect to get a pension out of it. That is not the reason they go. Of course it is not the reason that they go, but it is a way in which we can acknowledge the sacrifice that they have made. I think Melissa Lee talked about a spirit of adventure. Well, sometimes people did go with a spirit of adventure and then found that it was something a lot more than that when they actually got into the conflict zone. I think what actually drove most of our veterans to participate and to serve our nation was a sense that what they were doing was absolutely right. It was what their nation had called on them to do. They were doing it because they believed that it was in our country’s interests, and they believed that it was in the interests of the people who lived in the nations in which they went and served in, and absolutely, in the case of the Korean conflict. I have been to Korea myself on a parliamentary delegation and there is no doubt that the people of Korea absolutely appreciate the work and the sacrifice that was put in by New Zealand veterans over there. They did it because they believed in our security, in our region’s security, and in supporting, ultimately, peace in our region and around the world, by confronting aggressive actions from other nations. That is why they do it; we appreciate that, but there is still nothing wrong with us as a nation saying we want to acknowledge that with some additional support that goes to those people who serve us and to their families as well. It really is now at the point of absolutely penny-pinching, that the Government has refused to take this final step.

Hon Ruth Dyson: How much would it be?

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: How much would it be? It is $7.4 million annually; that is what they have agreed to, and the lump-sum payments would add—

Hon Phil Goff: That’s what the lump-sum payment is.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: That is what the lump-sum payment is; it is the value of the lump-sum payment. So it is really a tiny, tiny amount of money in the scheme of Government expenditure, and it just kind of feels like the Government just does not want to do the whole thing that the Opposition has asked them to do. That is basically what it comes down to. It was not the Government’s idea; it was the Opposition’s idea, it was Phil Goff’s idea. The Government does not want to do it because it was Labour that proposed it. The Government has come some of the way but not the whole way. That is a shame. It is simply a shame. I know that when we go and visit RSAs around our electorates and around the country, and when we talk to other veterans’ groups, this is on their minds. It is what they talk about, and it is the first thing that they talk to us about. It would have been a simple thing for the Government to agree to, and it is just a shame that it has not been prepared to do that. But on this side of the Chamber we will continue to fight for those veterans and they can be assured that, should there be the inevitable change that is coming in September this year, there will be a better deal for veterans under a Labour-led Government.

[Continuation line: David Shearer]

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert)

DAVID SHEARER (Labour - Mt Albert): I just want to take a quick call on Part 6 of the * Veterans’ Support Bill, because this is the critical point of difference. I mean, there is an enormous tome of a new piece of legislation here, 99 percent of which we agree with. It is the 1 percent that we do not agree with. Before I touch on that, I want to just make reference to Te Ururoa Flavell’s contribution a bit earlier. He made the big play that in his caucus they argued for a long time about this. Well, for God’s sake, if you are going to do it, get the facts right. Get the facts in front of you so you are actually able to argue about what is real rather than what you are told. What he has done is to do himself a huge disservice, because not only has he argued about the wrong things but he is standing up there and stating facts that are simply not right and is basing his decision not to support this lump-sum payment on that.

[Continuation line: This is about an expenditure of $7.4 million]

DAVID SHEARER

This is about an expenditure of $7.4 million—$7.4 million so that on the death of our veterans their families can receive a * lump-sum payment of just $5,700. If anybody has had to prepare for a funeral, you will know that that will only just cover the costs of an ordinary funeral. This is not extravagant, but it is a gesture to the families who have put up with so much while their loved ones—normally, their fathers or their sons or whatever—have been offshore and serving. This is $5,700 per veteran, an annual cost of $7.4 million. When you go back and you look at some of the expenditure that this Government has committed this country to, it has given $30 million to * Rio Tinto. It has given $30 million to Rio Tinto. It has given $150 million to a bunch of fat-cat lawyers to sell off our assets—$150 million. That could have taken us through for the next 15 or 20 years at that rate. You ask yourself whether our veterans are worth that. Of course they are—of course they are. This is wrong. It is * penny-pinching. It is just simply not good enough when the Government has come to the table on the other issues that we disagreed on just a few weeks ago but it has left this out. We know that the RSAs support this. They support the lump-sum payment. They tell us that when we go around and speak to them. We know that this is what the * Law Commission recommended. It is not what Labour recommended; it is what the Law Commission recommended. We believe that both the Law Commission and the * Returned and Services’ Association are absolutely right—are absolutely right. This is a very small amount of money that will go an enormously long way, particularly for those * World War II veterans, who are diminishing week by week. I just hope that the Government—but I doubt that it will, but, nevertheless, I hope—sees fit to pass this, as it has the other aspects of this bill. As I say, 99 percent of this bill we agree on, but that 1 percent is important. That 1 percent is important and it will go a long way for the families of those veterans who serve us so well overseas. Thank you.

[Continuation line: Phil Goff]

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill): Last month, together with the * Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, I had the privilege of attending two ceremonies: the 63rd anniversary of the Battle of Crete and the 60th anniversary of the * Battle of Monte Cassino. The true privilege of attending those two occasions was to talk to the several dozen veterans at each event; to talk to the men who had fought on Crete, who had fought at Cassino, and to be able to acknowledge to their faces our debt to that generation. Most of them are now at least 90—one or two of them had reached 100 years. As I sat at those commemoration ceremonies I considered the lucky generation that we in this House represent. We are the generation that did not have to follow in our fathers’ and our grandfathers’ footsteps and serve in great wars overseas. The story of my family is very similar to many families in this House. I was very much influenced by my grandmother. She lost her elder brother in 1917 in the Great War. Even more tragically, she lost her youngest son, my dad’s younger brother, aged 19 in the Solomon Islands in 1944. I think of what that generation went through and I think of the debt that we owe to those people. When we mark the centenary year of the start of the Great War in 1914, whatever we can do within reasons for our veterans, we should do. It is decent. It is common sense. It honours and respects them. Honour and respect can be in the words we say, but, more important, it can be in the small gestures that we can make. I have not invented Supplementary Order Paper * 441 that stands in my name, but I am asking the Committee to support it. Supplementary Order Paper 441 does something very simple. In one clause, it restores the * lump-sum payment on death to all of those who are eligible for the * veterans pension. It is a gesture. It is what the * Law Commission asked for. That is the logic of it. The Law Commission did the hard yards. It consulted with thousands of New Zealanders. It took 2 years over its work. I do not condemn it for taking 2 years; it did it thoroughly. Nobody says that this group of people did other than their job properly and thoroughly and came up with considered recommendations. So when we reject a recommendation of the Law Commission, surely there has to be a good reason for that. I have been participating in this debate for 3 hours. I have asked time and again for the National Party to put one speaker up—one speaker; just one speaker—and give us a reason why we should be rejecting the recommendation of the Law Commission and why we should be throwing this in the face of the New Zealand RSA and the veterans when they asked us for it. Surely we owe them an explanation as to why we are denying them it. I hear from the National members, when they think that it is appropriate to take a call, that it is the expense. Well, I want to talk about the element of expense as it relates to veterans’ affairs of New Zealand. I have in my hand the written answers to the estimates questions for the Budget Vote Veterans’ Affairs for 2014-15. What do I find? Between 2011 and 2012 there was a cut of $8 million in expenditure on veterans’ services and payments. Between 2012 and 2013 there was another cut of $9 million. In 2013 and 2014, it was a cut of $7 million. This year, the Budget represents a further reduction of $11 million. In each of those years the cut that we have given to * Veterans Affairs New Zealand would by itself have paid for what the Law Commission is asking for. It is not asking you to invent new money; it is saying to slow down the cuts that you are making in payments and services to veterans so that it can give those veterans, whom we honour sincerely and gratefully, the payment that the Law Commission asked for and the RSA pleaded for. The money was already there. Each and every year the National Government has been able to cut the payment to services for veterans by more than what we are asking for in my Supplementary Order Paper. Do not tell me that we cannot afford it. The evidence is there. You would just have to reduce the cuts that you have made each year for 5 years to veterans affairs to pay for this. I know from talking to some of my colleagues on that side of the Committee that they would dearly like to support this Supplementary Order Paper. I am not going to name them; that is unfair. I know they would like to do that because it is the right thing to do, and they recognise it is the right thing to do. I have talked to the Minister outside of the Chamber and said “For God’s sake, let’s have a consensus here in this Committee that we can do the right thing for our veterans.” I do not want the politics of this; I want to do the right thing for our veterans—what the Law Commission said we should do, what the RSA and General Don McIver have asked for us to do, what those veterans whom we meet every week or every month in our RSAs say is the decent thing to do.

[Continuation line: I have been around more RSAs than I would care to number]

Hon PHIL GOFF

I have been round more * RSAs than I would care to number, and I deeply respect the service that those people have given us, the last of the World War II veterans, the Korean War veterans who Melissa Lee spoke quite movingly about, and our * Viet Nam veterans, who we failed to honour when they returned from Viet Nam. Is it too much to ask this * Committee to do the right thing by our veterans? It is affordable. It is justifiable. It has been recommended to this House by the body that we set up to review the Act. For heaven’s sake, why will the National Government not do the right thing? I say to the Māori Party* that has switched its vote to support a mean cut to the veterans to think again because every reason that Te Ururoa Flavell* gave us was evidence that he had been duped in his discussions with the National Government. If the Māori Party goes down screaming at this election, this will be yet one more example of why when the crunch point comes it has not been able to stand up for the rights of its own people. Why have they sold out? Well, Te Ururoa Flavell said that the Government said that it will not progress this bill unless they do. That is equivalent to blackmail. That is unacceptable. It is not acceptable to do that. This Opposition—Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First—are facilitating the passage of this * Veterans’ Support Bill so it can pass before the rising of the 50th Parliament. We are doing the right thing by our veterans. We are simply asking reciprocally for the National Government to do the right thing by supporting this amendment, because if each member over on that side of the Chamber fails to support that amendment, they are effectively saying that they do not put value on our veterans, not because I am saying that that payment should be made but because the official inquiry that was set up to recommend to the Government made that recommendation because the RSA has asked for it. In their hearts so many of the National members of Parliament on the back bench know that it is the right thing to do. I heard the former Speaker of this House in his valedictory go out saying that he had a deep regret that he had voted against the Crimes Amendment Bill in regard to homosexual law reform. I hope there is no member of this current Parliament that goes out of Parliament saying: “God, I wish I’d done the right thing by our veterans.” It is not a matter of expense; it is a matter of respect. I ask the National Government and each member of the National Government to show that respect to our veterans.

The question was put that the following amendment in the name of the Hon Phil Goff to new clause 161(1) in Supplementary Order Paper 480 be agreed to:

in new clause 161(1) replace “section 148(1)” with “section 147A”.

[Vote on Hon Phil Goff typescript amendment to Part 6—not agreed to.]

The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 480 in the name of the Hon Michael Woodhouse to Part 6 be agreed to.

Amendments agreed to.

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): The amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 441 in the name of Hon Phil Goff to clause 148 is out of order because it is inconsistent with a previous decision of the Committee. The amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 452 in the name of Andrew Williams to clause 148 is out of order because it is inconsistent with a previous decision of the Committee.

The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 441 in the name of the Hon Phil Goff to Part 6 be agreed to.

[Vote on Hon Phil Goff amendment to clause 149—not agreed to.]

The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 452 in the name of Andrew Williams to Part 6 be agreed to.

[Vote on Andrew Williams amendment to clauses 156 and—not agreed to]

Part 6 as amended agreed to.

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Junior Whip - National): I seek leave for Parts 7, 8, and 9, the title, and the commencement to be taken as one question.

Part 6 Veteran's pension

Speech - Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour - Mt Roskill)

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): There are also schedules 1 to 4. Do you include those as well? [Interruption] Leave is sought for Parts 7, 8, and 9, schedules 1 to 4, and clauses 1 and 2 to be taken as one question. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 480 in the name of the Hon Michael Woodhouse to Parts 7, 8, and 9, schedules 1, 2, and 4, and clause 2 be agreed to.

Amendments agreed to.

Parts 7 to 9 as amended agreed to.

Schedules 1, 2, and 4 as amended agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 as amended agreed to.

Bill to be reported with amendment presently.

House resumed.

The Chairperson reported the Land Transport Amendment Bill with amendment and the Veterans’ Support Bill with amendment.

Report adopted.

[Continuation line: Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)]

Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

First Reading

Hon CHRISTOPHERHon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): I move, That the Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3) be now read a first time. I nominate the Regulations Review Committee to consider the bill. Given that from the next Parliament future subordinate legislation bills will be sent to the Regulations Review Committee without debate in the House, I propose to start this new procedure early with this year’s bill. I commend it to the House.

[Continuation line: Street]

Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

Speech - Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour)

Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour): While the Attorney-General wishes that this be referred to the House without debate, which I would normally concur with, as chair of the Regulations Review Committee I would like to explain to the public just what this does and what this bill means. The process that the Attorney-General just outlined has not arrived at this point without a deal of history and without a deal of consideration by successive Governments. This is the * Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3). Last year the Regulations Review Committee considered the equivalent but No 2 bill. It was referred to the Regulations Review Committee, as it is as a matter of procedure and is normally the case. What I would like to do at the outset is to commend the Government on bringing it to the attention of the Regulations Review Committee in a timely manner. We had complained previously as the Regulations Review Committee to the Government that it did not give sufficient time for the Regulations Review Committee to consider the subordinate legislation and the various expiry dates within it in 2012. So we were very pleased to see and to be able to report in our recent report of the activities of 2013 that last year the Government did act on the recommendation of the Regulations Review Committee and introduced the bill on 29 July—one month earlier than the equivalent bill in 2012. On 22 July this year it has done so again and presented it earlier than previously. That is to be commended. The only thing that gets in the way of this proceeding very quickly is in fact that big democratic right that all citizens have, and that is to elect a new Government. This is important stuff. I do not want to talk about this simply because every Parliament needs to have its process wonk—and that seems to be me in the current Parliament—but because it is important. I am not a trained lawyer, but I am passionate about this Parliament and particularly the Government of any hue doing its business in a way that is constitutionally sound, that is legally sustainable, and that observes proper and due process. I want to go back to one example that some people in this House might remember. It is one of those things that stuck in my memory as a young person in 1982 when I was, I think, convenor of the * Combined State Unions in Auckland, the Auckland region of the Combined State Unions. Some people may remember that there was in 1982 inflicted upon working people in this country a wage and price freeze—a wage and price freeze—inflicted by the Muldoon Government. That was done by regulation. Regulation is subordinate legislation. That is what this bill is about. Subordinate legislation is legislation that is not primary legislation, that is not legislation passed by Parliament that can have debate and scrutiny. Delegated or subordinate legislation are the rules and regulations that are usually provided to make sure that the administration of legislation is smooth and operates effectively and efficiently. But back in 1982 Muldoon decided to bring down a wage and price freeze. There were to be no wage increases and no price increases by regulation. The Combined State Unions took that case against the State Services Coordinating Committee and on appeal it became very clear from the Court of Appeal’s judgment that the Act the regulations were being promulgated under, which was the * Economic Stabilisation Act 1948—a pretty iniquitous piece of legislation on its own merits, and one that stayed with us for a long time. Muldoon had seen fit to cancel all wage increases and price increases, though somehow that did not quite work, despite the fact that in the * Public Service wage increases were set by quite different primary legislation, by proper legislation that was considered by the whole Parliament. On that basis the Combined State Unions took the State Services Coordinating Committee, as it was—it would be now the State Services Commission—to court and in fact won. So the wage-fixing procedures in the State sector that came about under separate legislation could not be overridden by regulation. That is the purpose of this scrutiny: to make sure that the executive, the Government, is not bringing in regulations that override primary legislation passed by this Parliament. It is not that complicated. It is as clear as that. This Parliament is sovereign; the executive runs the country according to the legislation that this Parliament passes. It does not have the right constitutionally or legally to promote regulation that overrides primary legislation. When Muldoon realised that he had lost that case, it took him about 1 month to change the law. Because of the majority he had in the House at that time, notwithstanding * Marilyn Waring’s impact on it later in that term, under a first past the post system, he was able to ram through amending legislation so that the wage and price freeze was able to be maintained by primary legislation and not by dodgy, overriding regulation. That process then resulted in changes to Standing Orders taking effect in 1986 and Parliament’s establishment of the Regulations Review Committee. That is why we end up where we are now. I would like to thank for all of that information as well as my own recollections of the event, because I remember huge marches up Queens Street in Auckland against the wage price freeze, and myself and Bill Anderson making speeches at those rallies against the wage and price freeze. That is how old I am. [Interruption] Bill Anderson, yes. [Interruption] Oh, right, Bill Anderson, as a representative of the * Federation of Labour as it was at that time, and myself as a representative of the local Combined State Unions. The point of this is that it is right and proper that this bill be sent to—it is the only bill that goes to the Regulations Review Committee. It is right and proper that it is sent there for proper scrutiny, because what it does is to validate and confirm regulations that would otherwise expire or fall to pieces if this bill was not passed.

[continuation line: What the Regulations Review Committee will now do is take this bill.]

Hon MARYAN STREET

What the Regulations Review Committee will now do is take this bill. It will write to all the departments and ministries that are affected by the different pieces of legislation and the orders that are in this bill and ask why those pieces of regulation and subordinate legislation need to be confirmed and validated in this way. So there is some scrutiny, there is some justification, and it is done properly. But just before I finish, I wanted to acknowledge * Justice McGrath, who drew my attention to that episode of the wage and price freeze in the 1980s in the introduction to this very fine book, ** Subordinate Legislation in New Zealand, by our very own parliamentary staff.

[Continuation line: Hon Christopher Finlayson]

Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

First Reading

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): I move, That the House take note of the report of the Privileges Committee on the question of privilege regarding the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct, and that the protocol for release of information from parliamentary information and security systems be adopted and brought into effect at a time to be determined by the Speaker. I do not think I need spend too much time on this excellent report given that we have previously debated the first part of the * Privileges Committee’s report into a question of privilege arising from the use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct. I remind the House that in the first report the committee function was not necessarily to apportion blame for the release of various information in a way that seemed to us on the committee to be haphazard and somewhat ad hoc. Rather, it was to try to gain a clear understanding of the facts in that situation—what information was managed by the * Parliamentary Service, in whose interests, how it came it be disclosed, and what procedures were in place to prevent its misuse. So what this report does is focus on where to from here. It sets out a number of principles for the release of information held by the Parliamentary Service. As the Attorney-General, I have a particular interest in the matter of privilege as it relates to the separation of powers. I am a member of Parliament, but I am also a member of the executive and have the Attorney-General’s role as protector of the judiciary. To that, we can now add that in my work as chair of this committee, I have continued the Attorney-General’s ancient role as defender of the fourth estate and of the important work the media does in bringing transparency and accountability to the proceedings of our democracy. I say this, of course, without any inference that the media should reciprocate this affection while I am out campaigning in the closely fought battle for the marginal seat of * Rongotai. After the preliminary comments, we come to the heart of the report, which is part 3 on page 10. That report sets out four key principles regarding information on the parliamentary server. They are these—and it is very important to spell them out. First: *“ “There should be a presumption that information held on parliamentary information and security systems should not be released.” Secondly: *“ “Individual members should retain complete control over the release of any information that relates to them. That is, material relating to individual members should only be released where that member specifically agrees to its release.” The third key principle related to journalists: *“ “Journalists working in the parliamentary precinct should retain complete control over the release of any information that relates to them. That is, material relating to a journalist or group of journalists who work in the parliamentary precinct should”—and I reiterate this important point, because it was lost sight of in the eagerness to investigate the suspected leak last year, so it is a very important principle. We must, whether we are members of the executive or members of this House, remember at all times that we have a press gallery in Parliament so that they can keep an eye on us, not so that we can keep an eye on them. The final principle is: *“ “For information requests that do not relate to an individual member, the Speaker of the House of Representatives should be the ultimate decision-maker.” We had quite a lengthy discussion about the role of the Speaker in determining these important matters. So these principles are, of course, not necessarily absolute. Ministers have extensive and necessary obligations to disclose official information, for example, in response to requests under the * Official Information Act, but what the principles do is form the basis of the protocol for the release of information from the parliamentary information, communication, and the security systems. A key part of the protocol is that no distinction should necessarily be made on the supposed nature of the information. A lot of energy was expended by parties over the course of the original investigation, giving rise to this report, and, in our subsequent inquiry, trying to parse the fine distinctions between data and metadata. So the protocol, which is appended to the report—and I acknowledge the tremendous help of the Clerk of the House in getting to this stage—I hope will be accepted by the House and will be able to come into force just as soon as possible, because I do think it clarifies what turned out to be an utterly unsatisfactory situation, and, as I say, we investigated the facts very closely in our first report.

[Continuation line: I think that is all I need necessarily say about the protocol.]

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON

I think that is all I need necessarily say about the protocol. There was a second recommendation, which I need not spend a lot of time on. The second one was that we recommend that the Government update the * Cabinet Manual to reflect that where an inquiry is established under the Inquiries Act, the exercise of powers in relation to members of Parliament and the parliamentary agencies will require recognition of parliamentary privilege, and that the Government develop some standard terms of reference for use in any inquiry when it seems or appears that powers may be exercised in relation to members and the parliamentary agencies. I think we need that, given that there will from time to time be inquiries set up under the Inquiries Act 2013 and we do not want to get into the unhappy situation that we found ourselves in, in 2012-2013. I thank all the members who served on the committee. I think we have reached a very good place and everyone worked very hard on the report not just for members of Parliament but for members of the * press gallery so that we have got some clarity going forward.

[Continuation line: David Parker]

Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

Speech - Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader - Labour)

Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader - Labour): While we thank the people who assisted the * Privileges Committee, could I make mention of Debra Angus and Meipara Poata. Debra Angus and Meipara have provided assistance to various committees over the years. Actually, when you come to these issues that are arcane in terms of the constitutional principles at large, Debra Angus I think is probably one of the experts in the Commonwealth. I particularly value the advice that we get from her and the assistance to the committee that we get. It is interesting that some of the reports that we have done recently have turned up being quoted in reports of other Commonwealth Parliaments around the world, particularly in relation to our questions concerning parliamentary privilege. What caused this inquiry was something that really it would be hard to script in one of those old silent movies, the Keystone cops. It was the report that went wrong into the report that went wrong. The original report was that of * Rebecca Kitteridge into things that went wrong at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and concerning those affairs of state, which I do not want to make light of because they were serious affairs. It then turned out that that report was leaked to the media. We all know that it was leaked by the Hon Peter Dunne. We note that that is not because of admission; it is just that he has refused to deny it. [Interruption] What is that? He lost his ministerial portfolios—for a very brief period because the Prime Minister thought he might need him to form a future Government I think was the reason. So he had, effectively, a very short time suspended as a Minister. We then had, as a consequence of the leak that was never proven because the Prime Minister refused to reach a conclusion on all the evidence that it had been leaked by Peter Dunne, the incident of the manner of the inquiry into the unauthorised release of information relating to the GCSB compliance review report, i.e., this is the inquiry into the leaked report by Rebecca Kitteridge. This inquiry was by Mr Henry, and Mr Henry and those who assisted him managed to get released to them things that should not have been released. Those included documents relating to the movements of members of the gallery, notably Andrea Vance, and copies of phone records, which indicated who was phoning who.

John Hayes: Who was phoning whom.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Whom. Thank you. The finest contribution from Mr Hayes! Knowing Mr Hayes as I do, I will go and check that one afterwards, and I wish him well in the next stage of his career. It then transpired that the Henry report did not even use the Official Information Act, which could have actually been quite useful for getting information from the ministerial hard drive as to whether the ministerial hard drive was used for communications with the press that would probably have been disclosable under the Official Information Act. Actually, we still have not had a final decision on that from the Ombudsman, which—you know, it is so long after the event that it has become a bit farcical. But not having used the Official Information Act to get what was probably official information under the Official Information Act because it was ministerial information, I do not think it is permissible for a Minister to claim that they did something on a ministerial hard drive and then because it is inconvenient for them that it proved they leaked a document—to claim that it should not be disclosed under the Official Information Act. But in any event that is not the route that Mr Henry took. He managed to convince * Parliamentary Service to release information that ought not to have been released, and then we had the hullabaloo about the release of both information of members of Parliament and of information that should have been kept confidential for the press. I want to make the fundamental point that the reason that we do this is not actually to serve our own interests. It is to protect democracy. One of the things that is very important in this Parliament is that members of Parliament can go about their business. They can receive information confidentially from constituents. They can where appropriate—

Denis O'Rourke: Or journalists.

Hon DAVID PARKER: That is right. They could receive the information confidentially from journalists. They can receive information confidentially from anybody and that ought to be their information to disclose, unless it is information that they hold as Ministers within the Official Information Act or the ambit of the Official Information Act.

[Continuation line: It is important that that be retained because]

Hon DAVID PARKER

It is important that that be retained because that is actually one of the mechanisms by which we protect, in appropriate cases, the anonymity of people who are bringing us information—to encourage them to do so—through the processes that we have, including the privilege that we have in Parliament to actually say things, even if they attack the interests of the wealthy and might in ordinary circumstance be suppressed because of the risk of defamation suite at the behest of people who feel that they do not want their reputation undermined, even if it is a fair undermining of their reputation. Some people have got very deep pockets and go to extraordinary lengths to protect their position. So one of the roles of this Parliament is to protect the cleanliness of democracy by being transparent about things that go wrong, and that is what this actually relates to. If the information that comes to members of Parliament can be obtained and given to somebody else, well, it is less likely that information will come to us. Similarly, the role of the press is to work around this place and find out where things are going wrong. Sometimes that is through disclosures by members of Parliament. Sometimes those disclosures are not to the liking of their own political parties, but none the less that is one of the things that happens in democracy. The role of the media to try to* winnow those things out and encourage people to talk about things that should not be happening within political parties from time to time is a very proper role of the press gallery, and the media ought not to have the confidentiality of their communications that are held on parliamentary systems or where they walk around the building able to be scrutinised on the basis of the swipe card* records that are held by computer systems as a consequence of when we swipe through electronic locks as we go from one part of the building to other parts of the building. So it is for those reasons that the Speaker referred these issues to the * Privileges Committee. The Privileges Committee has come up with a series of recommendations that we agree on unanimously across Parliament, which is fantastic. All of the areas of disagreement were worked through by the members of the committee so that we got to agreement, and we all agreed in respect of the likes of that swipe card information, which really would not have been available to be collected a few years ago. It was only when we had these electronic security systems and the computer systems to keep records of those over time that we could have the sort of information that can establish patterns. Similarly, a lot of the stuff that is collected on emails would not have been in written communications in earlier years, and the phone records, which are now so detailed, would not have been available years ago, either. You would have just picked up the phone and there would not have been an electronic record of the numbers that were being phoned. That sort of information is now collected for different reasons, but it ought not to be automatically disclosed, so we make the presumption that this sort of information should not be released and that individual members should retain complete control over this. We discussed the issue as to whether that should be something that could be divulged to whips of parties, and we all agreed that it ought not to be. It ought to be the preserve of individual members of Parliament. In respect of journalists, again, we were absolutely clear that they ought to be in a similar position and should retain control over the information that affects them. That would not stop the Official Information Act* release of ministerial information that showed dealings with a journalist because that is actually disclosable under the Official Information Act. In respect of other information, then the Speaker is delegated to do it, and we trust the Speaker to do that well. I do not think I will say anything more than that. I think that this is a good report. These things, as I say, are not actually for the protection of individual members; they are to keep this place functioning for the good of democracy.

[Continuation line: Dr Kennedy Graham]

Subordinate Legislation (Confirmation and Validation) Bill (No 3)

Speech - Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green)

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green): It is 1 year now since the Speaker ruled on a question of privilege raised by the Green Party. The issues involved the exercise of intrusive powers against members and the release of information from parliamentary information and security systems. The particular incident involved the release of information to the Henry inquiry that was held on parliamentary information systems. The * Privileges Committee was asked neither to investigate the matter as a contempt of privilege, nor to determine who was responsible for the release. This was a mistake. The resulting terms of reference made it inevitable that certain issues would never come to light, so the result was always going to be partially unsatisfactory.

[Continuation line: The committee was not tasked with finding who leaked]

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM

The committee was not tasked with finding who leaked the * Kitteridge report, so the public is none the wiser on the facts. Our new wisdom lies in a blinding clarity over the dangers of taking constitutional principles for granted, even as weak as ours are. Consider the background. The Kitteridge report into the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB)* ) was leaked by a member of Parliament, so the Prime Minister ordered another inquiry to identify the leaker. The Henry inquiry failed to do that, succeeding rather in racking up a spellbinding series of errors all of its own. We like to characterise ourselves as a decent and casual people, who do politics in a decent and casual way. That is fine as far as it goes. It is when things go wrong that we regret the lack of guidelines, whether it is deregulation and the Pike River, or an invertebrate constitution in the Henry report. We are one of only three countries that lack a written constitution, and we probably have the least-developed mechanism in place to compensate. The mistakes of the Henry inquiry were largely those of individuals—an excessive zeal for the task, reflecting hubristic youth, a callous indifference from the inquiry leadership to procedural practice, and an emerging cult of prime ministerial dictate. These kinds of problems can usually be neutralised in other countries by constitutional protection. Without it, they can be exacerbated and even run amok. That is the lesson of the Henry inquiry. The committee’s formal task was to examine the incidents involving the release of information from parliamentary information and security systems, and a more general issue of appropriate principles for access to and the release of information from parliamentary information and security systems. In other words, find no individual guilt but find out what went wrong and craft a mechanism for ensuring it can never happen again. A comment on process. The Green Party was dissatisfied with the committee’s decision not to have the Prime Minister or the Speaker appear. As Minister responsible for the GCSB, Mr Key initiated the inquiry. He appointed the co-commissioners. He was consulted over the terms of reference and choice of inquiry, and publicly released the report. He acknowledged ministerial responsibility for the inquiry. In this exercise Mr Key formed the apex of the executive branch of Government. For his part, the Speaker, being responsible for * Parliamentary Service, formed the apex of the legislative branch in the matter. He too bore primary responsibility for certain aspects of the inquiry. It defies logic that the Privileges Committee exploring the shortcomings of an inquiry in which the two members of Parliament who bore primary responsibility for it do not testify, could perform the job entrusted to it, with some irony, by the Speaker. Then there are the findings of fact, such as they are. The evidence gathered at the hearings revealed a series of avoidable errors, political or procedural, by virtually every individual who was directly involved in the Henry inquiry. First, the Prime Minister decides a ministerial inquiry should be set up. He appoints the co-commissioners, is consulted over the terms of reference and choice of investigator, receives the report, and makes it public. He acknowledges that he has ministerial responsibility, yet his only engagement in his own inquiry is to declare that he expects everyone else to cooperate. Second, the chief executive officer of the * Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is a co-commissioner of the inquiry. The chief executive officer draws up the terms, in consultation with the Prime Minister, and is actively engaged in the inquiry, yet he is one of the suspects.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Focus on the report and the protocol.

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: I am requested by the Attorney-General to focus on the report and the protocol. I will do so when I have completed my criticism of the process. Third, the chief executive officer then seconds a staffer to the inquiry. The staffer acts only under the supervision of the investigator, yet he exercises personal freedom in visiting Parliamentary Service on his own initiative, at third-tier level, thereby undermining the authority of the general manager of that body.

[Continuation line: Fourth, the inquirer adopts the belief that he is free to ask]

Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM

Fourth, the inquirer adopts the belief that he is free to ask for any information he deems necessary without considering whether its release is constitutionally appropriate. He leaves it to the recipient of the request to determine constitutional propriety. He neither receives nor seeks guidance on the constitutional and procedural requirements and constraints pertaining to the operation of a ministerial inquiry. He displays a general indifference before the committee to the importance of constitutional integrity. Fifth, the main recipient of the request, the * General Manager of * Parliamentary Service, has doubts about releasing information on a Minister and journalist’s communication plus their parliamentary records, yet he feels compelled not to second-guess the requests because of their security implications. The material does not involve issues of national security but, rather, domestic politics, which should have heightened not diminished those concerns. Sixth, the chief executive of the * Prime Minister’s office becomes engaged. He takes it upon himself to authorise Parliamentary Service to release data pertaining to Ministers and journalists. He does this on the basis that the terms of reference have been made public and that the Prime Minister has made it clear he expects Ministers to cooperate with the inquiry. In fact, there is no cause for him to become involved in the inquiry at all, given it had been commissioned by the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Seven, the co-commissioners harbour uncertainty over the particular status of one Minister, who has been given the report in the capacity as a coalition party leader, but is subsequently expected to cooperate as a Cabinet Minister. This blurs further the distinction between his role as a member of the executive, as a Government Minister, and a member of the legislature as a member of Parliament. No one appears to care. Eight, no official involved, whether Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet or Prime Minister’s office, appears to acknowledge that request for data pertaining to communication between a Minister and a journalist unavoidably means obtaining information from a journalist. Refusal to acknowledge this is strange. In the hearings the most senior officials in the land seemed bemused by this self-evident fact. Nine, the information platforms maintained for Ministerial Services and Parliamentary Service become operationally merged in late 2011 for reasons of efficiency. This appears not to bother the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Prime Minister’s office, or the inquirer. Constitutional separation of powers appears not to be an issue of concern to them. The sloppy operation of the Henry inquiry rests on a series of individual misjudgments. They derive from systemic failings of our governmental system. The first is the merged information platform between Parliamentary Service and Ministerial Services that clouds the already opaque distinction between executive and legislature in New Zealand. The second is a governmental culture that has developed that whatever the Prime Minister wishes to occur must occur. These are our criticisms of the inquiry, both process and substance. On a more positive note, the protocol itself that the committee has submitted to the House is a very sound one and should serve as a mechanism that we were seeking to ensure that the above mistakes and acts of executive hubris can never occur again. I commend the protocol to the House.

[Continuation line: Robertson]

Adjournment

Speech - GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour - Wellington Central)

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour - Wellington Central): I am sure that my colleague Mr O’Rourke will speak tomorrow when we return to this matter—[Interruption]—and it is peak viewing time, that is right. It is always popular, the slot immediately before 10 o’clock. I rise to speak in support of the report. I want to acknowledge all of the staff who were involved in producing it: the Clerk of the House, Debra Angus, and also Meipara Poata, the clerk of the select committee and for the assistance we were provided with, which was excellent throughout. This comes to us as a result as a shambolic episode in the way in which this Government has operated both in terms of the activities of the * Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and let us not forget at the core at this lies illegal spying on New Zealanders. That is something that is very serious and something that the current Government would wish that we stopped talking about, but it remains a blot on this Government that it has had a report into that and that the law has been changed in such a way that in fact the likelihood of it occurring again has not changed. On top of that, we then had the question of the leaking of this report and, to this day, New Zealanders do not know for sure who it was who leaked the report. One or two of us have suspicions about who it might have been—

Hon Ruth Dyson: Who’s that?

GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, that is actually the Hon Peter Dunne, because he has not ruled it out. But more to the point, as Kennedy Graham was just saying, this huge process that we have gone through was set up because the Prime Minister said he was going to get to the bottom of who leaked a sensitive report about one of our security agencies, and yet he dropped it because he did not want to have to acknowledge that it was one of his own Ministers, someone whom he has now reappointed to a role as a Minister to prop up this Government.

The House adjourned at 10 p.m.