Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector) on behalf of the
Minister of State Services: I move,
That the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a third time. These three bills until recently formed the constituent parts of an omnibus bill, the Crown Entities Reform Bill. The three bills all address the Government’s priorities for the State sector, with a view to delivering better quality services to New Zealanders. These priorities are reducing State sector fragmentation, increasing the viability of Government functions by having them carried out by larger, more resilient agencies, and increasing State sector efficiency by reducing duplication of services and back-office functions.
The content of these bills has already been comprehensively addressed in previous speeches. However, I will now briefly recap what each bill will accomplish. The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill disestablishes the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) and the Health Sponsorship Council. In their place, the bill establishes a new Crown entity, the Health Promotion Agency, which will take on the health promotion functions of ALAC and the Health Sponsorship Council, and will have a wide mandate to carry out other health promotion programmes, as well. The bill also disestablishes the Crown Health Financing Agency, because it is intended that its functions will now be carried out by Treasury and the Ministry of Health.
These proposals have received widespread support from both the health sector and the House. It is encouraging that many recognise the benefits that the new Health Promotion Agency will provide, with its strong focus on integrated health promotion. The Government believes that the integration of ALAC, the Health Sponsorship Council, and other health promotion functions will lead to real administrative efficiencies and better health and well-being outcomes for New Zealanders. It is pleasing to see a wide level of support for these goals.
The Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill brings forward the disestablishment date for the Mental Health Commission, which was 31 August 2015, to 1 July 2012. It also establishes a Mental Health Commissioner within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, whose functions will be to monitor and advocate for improvements to mental health and addiction services in New Zealand. This change will put an end to the uncertainty created by repeated extensions of the Mental Health Commission’s disestablishment date. It will secure a home for mental health advocacy and monitoring in an independent, well-established Crown entity. The bill gives strength and robustness to the new Mental Health Commissioner role by establishing it in statute, making the Mental Health Commissioner the only deputy commissioner so established.
The new mental health functions will achieve efficiencies by reducing the duplication of back-office services, and will align and integrate well with the Health and Disability Commissioner’s current service improvement functions, in line with the Government’s priorities for the State sector.
The Charities Amendment Bill (No 2) disestablishes the Charities Commission and transfers its functions to the Department of Internal Affairs, except for the registration and deregistration of charities, which will be performed by an independent statutory board of three persons. All the functions and duties that the Charities Commission currently performs under the Charities Act 2005 will remain. Indeed, the promotion of trust and confidence function is moved into the Act’s purpose section, reflecting its importance.
The bill’s changes are structural only, and reflect Government priorities of reducing State sector fragmentation, improving the resilience of functions by having them carried out by larger agencies, and promoting efficiency by integrating similar functions and back-office services. The bill preserves the independence of the charities registration and deregistration functions by providing in law that Ministers may not give any direction to the board or to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs in respect of these functions. The Department of Internal Affairs has extensive experience supporting independent boards and offices of this kind. In all other respects, the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs will be responsible for carrying out the functions set out in the Charities Act and will be responsible to Parliament for its performance in this regard. The Government has every confidence that the charities sector will continue to receive a high level of service and support under the bill’s new arrangements.
Overall, these bills will lead to greater efficiencies in the State sector, and, ultimately, better services for New Zealanders. It is with these goals in mind that I commend these bills to the House.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North)
: It is a pleasure to speak on these three bills, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), which, as the Minister for Community and Voluntary Services pointed out, are the bills formerly known as the Crown Entities Reform Bill. On this side of the House, we actually agree with the decision to split that single bill into three bills—we think each of those component bills is quite distinct in its nature, and it is for that reason that I would like to make it clear that on this side of the House we believe there should be three questions put, so that members have the opportunity to make their views known on all three bills. I appreciate the positive affirmation I am getting from the Deputy Speaker about that. So we look forward to being able to vote on each of these three bills.
As was pointed out by members on this side throughout the debate on these bills, although superficially there are some similarities, in that essentially they legislate for the merger and acquisition of a number of public entities—which is, I suppose, the only approach that this Government has to the public sector—the outcome from those mergers is quite different in each case. We have been very supportive of the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency, which, of course, will be the result of the merger of the Health Sponsorship Council and the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC). The Health Sponsorship Council, of course, was originally established to promote activities that reduce the harm caused by tobacco, but people will probably remember it most for its role in supporting those organisations that had hitherto been dependent upon tobacco industry sponsorship. I do not want to traverse all the different organisations that received tobacco industry sponsorship, but, needless to say, some of them seemed quite perverse. When sports or ballet companies, for instance, or even orchestras and bands, were supported by a tobacco company, you have to think what the performance of those sports teams would be like if all their members were smokers. What would the performance of a ballet troupe be like if all its members were smokers? What, indeed, would the performance of the woodwind section or the brass section of a
band be like if all of its members were smokers? So it was unusual, I think, that all those organisations were so dependent on—
Hon Ruth Dyson: You could do it with alcohol.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, I am coming to that, Ms Dyson. It was unusual that so many organisations were dependent on the tobacco industry. And I know that there was a lot of nervousness amongst those organisations that they would not be able to find replacement sponsorship if they were unable to get that support from the tobacco industry. What the Health Sponsorship Council did, in a way, was to be a kind of nicotine patch for those organisations. It helped them wean themselves off that addiction they had to funding from the tobacco industry.
I note that the Cancer Society, when it made its submission to the Government Administration Committee on the Crown Entities Reform Bill, submitted that part of the Health Promotion Agency’s core business should be addressing the issue of alcohol sponsorship, which my colleague Ruth Dyson alluded to moments ago. I think this is a worthy consideration, and Parliament should take the next possible opportunity to consider the Health Promotion Agency’s role in reducing the impact of alcohol sponsorship. What getting rid of tobacco sponsorship was about was a public health measure to reduce not the availability but the normality of tobacco in our communities. I guess what the Cancer Society is getting at is reducing the normality of the presence of alcohol in sporting events, for example. I mentioned during one debate on this bill that students associations have a very close relationship with the liquor industry, and there is a wide range of other organisations that do probably feel dependent on sponsorship from the alcohol industry.
I think the Cancer Society has a good point that is worthy of debate at the very least, and that is around the Health Promotion Agency’s role in reducing the influence of alcohol sponsorship and assisting organisations through the same transition that had to be made when tobacco sponsorship was brought to an end. That is obviously something for Parliament to consider in the future, but certainly the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency makes that initiative far more likely, especially seeing as the expertise of both ALAC and the Health Sponsorship Council will be brought together.
Although we support the creation of the Health Promotion Agency, I would like to point out some of the inconsistencies in Government policy. You simply have to look at the Budget that was announced last week to see how inconsistent this Government is on the issue of public health. Although it is establishing the Health Promotion Agency, it is also cutting $80 million worth of public health programmes over the next 4 years. We have no idea which, because, of course, the Budget documents are purposefully vague as to which programmes are being cut; I look forward to hearing what the Minister of Health can tell the Health Committee about which programmes those are. Of course, these are the public health programmes that actually save us money in the health sector in the future. It is an investment in the health and well-being of New Zealanders for the future, and it will save our health system money. But this Government is not interested in the future; this Government is interested in the here and now, and it has sucked money out of those public health programmes to put into its pet projects, its politically motivated projects in the health sector. So there is a very, very inconsistent approach on public health from this National Government.
The second bill that we are debating this evening is the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill. I do not have too much to say about this bill, other than to say that we look forward to the release of the second mental health blueprint, which I understand is due to be launched on 13 June. That will be an important step forward. Of course, that will actually be the final act of the Mental Health Commission, and that blueprint
document will have to be picked up and guided through its infancy through the Health and Disability Commissioner.
I know that a number of submitters to the select committee expressed some concern and disappointment about that, but that is the nature of what this Government is about. It has no particular plan for growing the economy, and therefore what it has to do to balance the books is these little tinkering mergers within the public sector to save a penny here and a dollar there so that it can make up for its abysmal failure to grow the economy and bring in the revenue that is required to run these public agencies properly. I think it reflects the incompetent management of the economy by this Government, the negligence that we have seen from John Key. That is what we are seeing in these bills, which really are tinkering around the edges and will save very, very little.
I think the Minister actually referred to the fact that these are structural changes that will have no impact on the outcomes for these organisations. They will have no positive public health impact, and they will have no positive impact on the delivery of mental health services. And, as my colleagues will get to later on, as for the changes to the Charities Commission, well, that is just utterly negative, but it is driven by a desperate need within this Government to find any little cuts that it can to make up for the appalling lack of effort in growing the economy and bringing in the revenue required. We have a range of positions on these bills, being that they are three different bills, which will become clear at voting time.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National)
: It is with pleasure that I stand to speak on these three bills that we have before us: the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). I am always a little saddened to hear desultory commentary from the speakers from the other side, because, basically, this is a good thing, and I think they agree with it—I think they agree with it.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is it good news? Is it good news, like Hekia’s good news?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Well, I do not know about good news, but it is a necessary change to bring about better services, and that is what it is all about. Although the Crown Entities Reform Bill had been introduced before I joined the Government Administration Committee, it has been a pleasure to discuss it with other members of the select committee who were involved.
Let us begin, if we may, with the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill. This bill relates to the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency—HPA; we love acronyms, do we not—as a Crown agent, and the disestablishment of the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC), the Health Sponsorship Council, and the Crown Health Financing Agency.
There would be some who could be concerned when they heard about the disestablishment of ALAC, that organisation that has done such a splendid job over such a long period in New Zealand. However, they need not be disconcerted by that. The bill provides that the new Health Promotion Agency’s board will have at least five but not more than seven members appointed by the responsible Minister. Levy provisions carried over from the Alcohol Advisory Council Act 1976 will enable the Health Promotion Agency to recover certain of its operating costs. I think this is probably one of the most key reassurances that can be provided for those who have a particular interest in the activities of ALAC. The money that it has been getting from levies is ring-fenced. The money is dedicated to the purposes of controlling alcoholism.
In respect of the Health Promotion Agency’s alcohol-specific functions, therefore—the advice, the recommendations, the research relating to problems associated with the misuse of alcohol—the Health Promotion Agency will be required to have regard to Government policy when directed by the responsible Minister, rather than being
required to give effect to Government policy. It has to have regard for it, so there is a fair bit of latitude over how it responds.
Let us look at the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, which was Part 2 of the Crown Entities Reform Bill. This bill relates to the expiry of the Mental Health Commission Act 1998—and let us remember that it had an expiry; it was due to end—and the appointment of a Mental Health Commissioner under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. The Act will now expire on 30 June 2012, rather than on 31 August 2015.
Quite a lot of discussion has been given to the Mason report. I have been privileged to meet with Judge Mason on a few occasions. He is, in fact, from the West Coast of the South Island. He is a guy who has tremendous interest in mental health, and his report is a standpoint for the development of mental health services.
The new bill provides for the appointment of a Mental Health Commissioner under the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994, and for the appointment of the chairperson of the Mental Health Commission as the first Mental Health Commissioner. If we have a look at some of the key points associated with these changes, disestablishing the Mental Health Commission and establishing the new Mental Health Commissioner within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner will enable a continued focus on the mental health sector’s performance while benefiting from reducing the corporate governance overhead.
In all these moves, and in other Government departments where we have brought about these changes, what we have had is a synergy of professionals working together. The product is most worthwhile. This bill provides an enduring solution to the expiry of the Mental Health Commission in 2015, establishes a new Mental Health Commissioner, and transfers the existing Mental Health Commissioner, Dr Lynne Lane, to the new position to provide continuity and leadership from a respected leader in the mental health sector.
We then come to the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). This bill is probably the most controversial of the three, I would think—the most controversial of the three. This bill disestablishes the Charities Commission, and reassigns its functions and duties under the Charities Act 2005 to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, with the exception of the registration and deregistration of charities, which will be carried out by an independent decision-making board of three persons.
This bill provides that the chief executive must supply all secretariat and administrative services required to enable the independent board to carry out its functions, duties, and powers. The independent—and let us emphasise that independent aspect—board may delegate its functions, duties, or powers to the chief executive, but the chief executive must act independently in exercising such delegated powers and is not responsible to the Minister in this regard. That is a key aspect of this legislation.
I support the legislation. Thank you.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills)
: It gives me a lot of pleasure to speak in the third reading of these three bills—the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2)—which previously came under the Crown Entities Reform Bill. Can I begin by acknowledging the constructive way in which our Government Administration Committee worked on these three bills. There were a large number of submitters, some of whom were incredibly angry and frustrated and were in opposition to Part 3 of the Crown Entities Reform Bill. They were treated by all members of the select committee, including members who did not agree with their views, with the respect that I think gave both the members of the select committee and the submitters
appropriate credit. So I just want to acknowledge that. I think it is a good way for the select committee to operate.
I also want to acknowledge our advisers. Generally, when you have a piece of legislation you get advisers from one department or agency, and in this particular instance we asked for advisers from three agencies. We had an adviser from the State Services Commission, one from—I am not entirely sure whether the person was from the Ministry of Health or the National Health Board—but a public health expert, and also an adviser from the Department of Internal Affairs. So I want to thank the Ministers for making those advisers available, and I also acknowledge the hard work that the advisers put in. In fact, it was a lot of work, right up to the last minute, when we had an unexpected change to some minor wording in the legislation. The advisers were able to just deal with that extraordinarily competently, as did our select committee clerks.
As previous speakers have noted, because of the very different nature of the three bills that we are considering, it is certainly appropriate for there to be three separate votes held on the legislation. There is a huge difference between the public health bill, the Mental Health Commission Bill, and the charities commission bill, and I certainly look forward to separate votes being held on those three bills, even though we are debating them all in one section in this third reading.
To just go to the first bill, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, I suppose the best thing you could really say about this is that it is the first thing in the public health space that has been done by the National Government, so that is a bit of a move in the right direction. Certainly, we heard from submitters on the legislation that even though the investment in public health—which we all know will reduce the need for further spending in health down the track, because if you invest in public health, you are less likely to need to invest in secondary and tertiary care later. But also, of course, investment in public health greatly contributes to the overall well-being of individuals and families and, therefore, our communities. So it is good that we have got some action in this space. It is just a real shame that the only action in the public health space is rearranging the agencies, rather than looking at a decent public health strategy and investment. Nevertheless, the submitters on this section of the legislation were pretty enthusiastic about it and that was good to hear.
In terms of the second part of the legislation, that was not as strongly supported. I guess the crux of it, from my perspective—and I recalled it at the select committee during the discussion—was that it took me back to the time when one of the most impressive actions took place in this Parliament. We have a lot of action in here, but not many of those actions are what you would really call truly impressive. That was when the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley and the Hon Helen Clark, as she was then, made a deal, basically, across the House. It was before other parties were in Parliament. It was a deal between the National Party and the Labour Party that mental health was going to start getting the respect and value and support that it needed within the health system.
We used to hear frequently that mental health was the Cinderella of the health system, and the most vulnerable people in our society, those who need support or services within the mental health system, were the people who were not only missing out on that support or services, but being used as political fodder and footballs, including in this very Parliament. The deal that the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley and the then Hon Helen Clark made at that time was that that should cease, and that we should start giving people within the mental health system proper respect and proper support. I think that was amazing leadership and I want to pay tribute to both those women.
We know from many discussions in this House about the establishment of the Mental Health Commission, about the blueprint money, about the ring-fencing of it, and how
that was so important to people who could see the money always being pulled at by other parts of the health system. It is very rare that you get anyone in the health system saying: “Thank you very much. We’ve got adequate funding. Perhaps we’ve got a little bit too much. We’d like to give some back.” It is not a common occurrence in the health system. So there was a determination that that blueprint money would be ring-fenced for mental health.
Concerns have been well expressed about this part of the legislation in terms of maintaining that integrity. The new blueprint is coming out soon, in just a matter of weeks. We can never let mental health become the Cinderella of the health system again, and I want to put it on the record that Labour will not tolerate it. I implore members from all parties in the House to reflect on the agreement that was made between Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark, and say that for the most vulnerable—often—in our community that was a huge leap forward and we have a responsibility to maintain it. So whether it is the functions of the new commissioner as proposed in this legislation, whether it is the maintenance of the ring-fencing of the blueprint money, whether it is the funding level increasing at appropriate levels—we know that in the last three Budgets the blueprint money has not been reached, the target has not been reached, and that is a shame—or whether it is the proactive approach, the independence, and the advocacy that the current Mental Health Commissioner is able to act on, those are functions that we will be monitoring, because this will pass into law and it is just too important an issue to say “Well, whatever happens, happens.” So that is notice, really, to the House that this is not an issue that is going to go away. It is going to be very, very closely monitored on behalf of people who often do not have the access or the ability or the voice to speak for themselves.
I come to the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), arising out of the third part of the original bill. I challenged my deputy chair, Chris Auchinvole, to name one submitter in support of this part of the bill and I did not hear him mention one submitter. We had a large number of submitters talking about this part of the original bill and I do not think that I could express strongly enough in appropriate language in the House their opposition. There was nobody who thought this was a good idea. There were a lot of people who thought it was particularly foolish, and all the submitters said it went against the very intention of the Charities Commission legislation.
So this legislation arising out of the third part of the original bill should not proceed, in our view. It is just total nonsense. We had organisations like the Todd Foundation and the Tindall Foundation—they are quite big. The Todd Foundation—have you heard of them—and the Tindall Foundation? Quite big in this sector! Philanthropy New Zealand is quite a big organisation, which represents every single philanthropic group in the country, and we had the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa, which represents every single community and voluntary sector organisation. So all the key players in this space said this is nonsense, and this is going to totally undermine the independence, the autonomy, and the integrity of our charitable sector, which this Parliament works so hard to create. And the reason that Minister Goodhew gave for introducing it—that somehow it is all going to be all so efficient and effective—was just nonsense. Well, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
But also, more than that, at the moment there are two major reviews going on: one is already under way, and one is about to commence. One is the review of the incorporated societies legislation and the other is the review of the Charities Commission legislation. Why on earth would you make huge structural change to the very nature of the Charities Commission—basically gut it—and put it into a department, which for all the fine words from those opposite cannot be independent from a Minister, because it is a Government department, not an independent Crown entity? Why would you do that?
Why would anyone do that sort of change when neither the incorporated society review nor the charities review—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The time has expired. [Interruption] Order! I have indicated to the member that her time has expired. Thank you.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green)
: I would like to begin by endorsing the remarks—pretty much all of them, actually—that Ruth Dyson made in her contribution, but I was particularly thinking of the ones about the excellence of the select committee process and how well that went.
You know, this debate on the third readings of these three bills comes on top of quite a series of contributions I have made in the debate on the previous bill, the Crown Entities Reform Bill. That bill and these three bills now at the third reading range from the sensible and quite exciting through to the irredeemably stupid, and I want to just run through some principles that might assist the House in distinguishing between them. It seems to me that if a Government is contemplating merging Crown entities, then there are some tests, some thought experiments, that perhaps should be carried out to determine whether that is a good idea or not.
First of all—I am sure Government members will appreciate this—is the function necessary? Is the function of this entity a necessary thing? Secondly—again, I am sure the Government members will agree with this—is the function appropriately one for the State? Again, that is an important test, is it not? Thirdly, are the functions of the entities that are proposed to be merged actually congruent? Does it actually make some sort of prima facie sense to merge these two things? Would they work together? Fourthly, what are both the financial and the non-financial benefits and disadvantages of what is proposed? Quantify them and balance them off one against the other—the benefits against the disadvantages—and proceed only if it has a positive balance. It makes sense, does it not? Then, finally, I suggest that the next test is how easily the gains are realised. Because, as I have said on a number of occasions in debates on the Crown Entities Reform Bill, the fact is that the experience of State sector changes over the past several decades is that it is extraordinarily difficult to realise the gains that are promised by the business case. Actually, we have not seen the business case for any of these mergers, so we do not even know, really, what is promised. But the reality is that the experience of the mergers that have taken place in the State sector over some quite considerable time is that usually the benefits are not realised, at least to the extent that is promised.
So there is a framework for assessing those changes, and when we look at the first of these bills, the amendment to the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act to create this Health Promotion Agency, we can say not only that this is a desirable function but that it is an extremely important one, and it is one that in this country, as the social determinants of health are eroded further and further by successive Government actions, becomes more and more necessary. So it is a highly important function that absolutely must be carried out by the Government. That is what the Ottawa Charter is all about, and Government members have talked about how important this is as a means of operationalising the Ottawa Charter.
Are the functions congruent? Well, these great organisations, the Health Sponsorship Council and the Alcohol Advisory Council, who have done a fantastic job over the years, do, in fact, have highly congruent functions, and, actually, the work of each will be advantaged by being in the same pot as the other, let alone the other functions that could be added to that. I again remind Government members that I am looking to see this agency become more and more the engine for health promotion in New Zealand.
What are the financial and non-financial benefits? Well, I think there are clearly some significant efficiency gains from this particular change, and it seems to me that there is very little in the way of a downside, so that balance looks to me to be positive,
and those gains ought to be relatively easily realised. So that is a green light on all of those aspects of my test.
Then we come to the next bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill. Is the function necessary? Absolutely it is, for the reasons that Ruth Dyson has very ably outlined tonight. Is the function appropriately one for the State? Again, absolutely. The State is the planner and funder of mental health services for New Zealand. Although we have made dramatic advances, particularly in mental health services for those with serious mental illness, as a result of the changes that the Hon Ruth Dyson has outlined, there is actually still a long way to go with community-based mental health services, and that function must be carried out by the State.
Are the functions congruent? In this case, they are absolutely not—absolutely not. The functions of the Mental Health Commission have been long-term planning, and monitoring against that long-term plan. Those are very much helicopter-view functions and prospective functions, whereas the functions of the Health and Disability Commissioner tend, instead, to be very much analysing individual cases, looking at the micro situation, and usually working in retrospect to work out what we can learn from the thing that went wrong. These are both important sets of functions, but there is no congruence between them. So the marriage that is proposed by this bill is absolutely the wrong one.
What is the balance of benefits and disadvantages in this case? Well, there is a massive disadvantage in the risk that is posed to achieving the mission of the Mental Health Commission—a massive disadvantage—and the benefit is probably a small cost saving. Well, that is not a balance that passes my test. And the reality is that when you factor in on top of that the likelihood that that small cost saving may well not be achieved, or not be achieved in a realistic time frame, it suggests that that merger ought not to go ahead.
Finally, we come to the change that I described as irredeemably stupid, and that is the one around the Charities Commission. Is this function necessary? Absolutely, yes. Is this function one that should be carried out by the State? Well, that is kind of interesting, is it not? The whole point about the Charities Commission was to respect the separation between the State sector and the community sector, and to manage the interface between the two through an entity that was sufficiently distal from the core State to give trust and comfort to the New Zealand community sector. That is the point of the Charities Commission. So it is not appropriate for that function to be carried out in the core State service in the Department of Internal Affairs.
Are the functions congruent? Well, again, they kind of are. But that is not really the issue in this case. What is the balance between financial and non-financial risks and benefits? Well, in this case, the potential benefits are tiny. They are immaterial, and that has to be balanced against these huge risks around the total loss of trust from the New Zealand community sector in the interface between the State and the community sector. That is a test that this merger fails absolutely.
So let us by all means look at ways of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the State sector and look at structural changes, but only one of these proposed changes actually passes a rational set of tests. That is the only one that we will support.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: I stand to debate the third readings of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), which were formerly part of the Crown Entities Reform Bill. These bills provide the structural change to the way the Government is organised across the health and charitable sector. I would like to acknowledge the chair and other members of the Government
Administration Committee. I would also like to acknowledge the officials for their hard work in the select committee process.
The first bill, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, relates to the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency, the HPA, as a Crown agent, and the disestablishment of the Alcohol Advisory Council, the Health Sponsorship Council, and the Crown Health Financing Agency. This bill provides that the new Health Promotion Agency’s board will have at least five members, but not more than seven members, appointed by the responsible Minister. The purpose of the bill is to create a Health Promotion Agency that is viable and able to supply better public health results.
The Health Promotion Agency will continue to implement the role established by the Alcohol Advisory Council. This agency has been proved to be invaluable in alcohol matters, and the bill ensures that the vital measures it previously enforced will continue under the Health Promotion Agency. Alcohol abuse among the young people of New Zealand has been smeared over the news for the past month. The Health Promotion Agency has promised that it will give its utmost priority to dealing with this issue. More than 2,000 young people end up in hospital with alcohol-related diseases.
The Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill brings forward the disestablishment of the Mental Health Commission, transfers its functions to the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner, and establishes a new Mental Health Commissioner within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner. These changes will reduce duplication of the corporate and governance overheads and ensure that the agencies continue to deliver the front-line services that New Zealanders expect. I commend this bill to the House.
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First)
: New Zealand First has no comments on the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill or the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill. We accept that some gains in mergers of agencies are appropriate where their functions are not compromised. But New Zealand First does oppose the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). With this bill we say that the dead hand of Government bureaucracy will fall on the charities sector.
There is no need to disestablish the Charities Commission. It has been doing a very good job in a very short time. It has been building relationships within the sector and with the public generally. It has the confidence of the charities sector and has earned the confidence of the public. It has built expertise and institutional knowledge, which will not be replaceable. It has been providing leadership in the charities sector. It has been standing at arm’s length from the Government and its administration. And it has been positive, has had a helpful culture, and has exercised some flexibility in the way it went about its work. To put it in a nutshell, it has been a very successful commission in the job it is doing. There is simply no reason to disestablish it. What is being achieved by that? I see nothing in anything that I have read in the regulatory impact statement or have heard in listening to Government speakers that would justify it.
On the other hand, the Department of Internal Affairs is a quintessential Government bureaucracy. As such, it is, naturally, not good at consultation or public engagement. It will not be as accessible to the public or as approachable to people. It will not be as transparent in its decision making. It will do the job, I am sure, competently, but it will not provide any encouragement to the development of the charities sector in this country. So, again, it is very difficult to see why you would replace the commission with that.
We are told that the Department of Internal Affairs will be more efficient. In fact, I think the words used in one of the reports were “robust and resilient”. I do not really know what that means in this context, but I suppose it is aimed at saving money. That, in itself, is not very convincing, because I am sure it will grow and the savings will
disappear over time. But, most particularly, I do not think the department will be effective at anything other than reflecting the Government policy of the day—that is what normally happens—whereas if the commission were to remain, we could be sure that there would be independence not just as a matter of statement, not just as a matter of intention, but as a matter of culture. That, essentially, is the difference between a Government department and a commission of this kind.
We are told, for example, in new section 8(4) in clause 45 that we do not have to worry about independence, because the words are there in the statute—that the Minister would not have any influence. But what does that really mean? Words in a statute are just that. Again, some Ministers may actually abide by that principle, but perhaps others would exercise some interference. That is the danger that many people see in the bill.
When you look at new section 10 in clause 45 you get even less confidence about independence, because new section 10 covers the functions of the chief executive. The chief executive cannot be independent of Government policy or the Minister, because they are part of a Government department. His or her independence is not covered at all in new section 10. The chief executive will be a very powerful person in practice, and in the section itself it refers to the chief executive issuing guidelines. Perhaps that really means instructions. The chief executive will issue model rules, so charities will no longer be as free to adopt their own set of rules under this regime. I do not think that is very positive.
Mike Sabin: It’s very positive.
DENIS O’ROURKE: Also, the chief executive will provide appropriate information. Somebody opposite just said that that will be positive. Well, if you actually asked the charities what they think about that, I do not think the response would be very positive at all. The chief executive will also be able—in fact, it will be the function of the chief executive—to present the recommendations to the board as to whether a particular charity be registered or not. The chief executive will also be responsible for the department’s monitoring and inquiring into charities. So when I say that this is a very powerful position in practice, what it really means is that the Government is going to take very firm control indeed of the charities sector, under this legislation.
The Government will, in fact, dictate to charities. Whereas charities thrive on diversity—they have passion for their causes, and they have a flair in achieving their objectives—those are all the things that a Government department is not good at and will not be able to assist them with. So although some structure was needed, what we did not need was a wholesale takeover of the charities sector by the Government through a Government department. The proper balance here was the commission, something that stood at arm’s length from the Government—genuinely at arm’s length—able to develop its own practice and culture, and yet exercise some control and regulation, which was needed, over the charities sector. So the balance that we would wish to have is already there and will be removed by this legislation.
A review of the charities sector was, in fact, needed, following, first, a review of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. But that does not mean there was any need to even consider the disestablishment of the commission. What is actually needed with the charities sector is a close look at the definition of what a charity is and what it is not. The old four-part definition—of encouraging the purposes of education, religion, and the relief of poverty, and other purposes beneficial to the community—is no longer appropriate for the 21st century. There are so many other good public purposes that fall outside that definition. If the Charities Commission, as it now is, was empowered with much more forward-looking, up-to-date legislation that did address that issue of what is a charity and what is not in the 21st century, then we would have something worth considering this evening. But as it is, we are looking at a piece of piecemeal legislation
that does not attack the major issue and does create a worse situation than we have already. So why would anyone not oppose this bill? It is simply not common sense, and it has got no chance of succeeding. It is simply the victim of some halfwitted approach to creating robustness and resilience or efficiency in the Public Service. Like so many of the other Government statements concerning so-called efficiencies in the Public Service, this is just a bad fit and is not going to work. It will not even create efficiencies or effectiveness or advance the cause, in this case, of any charities whatsoever.
This is not what the sector wants. The sector opposes this legislation, and it ought to know. The sector almost universally opposes it, and for the very good reasons that I and others have mentioned. So for that reason, New Zealand First will certainly be opposing the third part of the Crown entities legislation, relating to the charities sector. It is just bad legislation.
Dr CAM CALDER (National)
: It is a great pleasure to rise and take a very brief call on the bills arising from the Crown Entities Reform Bill, which at the Committee stage was divided into the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). At this stage I would like to acknowledge the excellent chairmanship of the Hon Ruth Dyson. I am not a member of the Government Administration Committee, but I have been given a briefing by the deputy chairman, Mr Chris Auchinvole, who spoke of the excellent work and the collegiality on that committee.
The Crown Entities Reform Bill, as we said, has been divided into the three bills we have here. This is part of the Government’s overall programme to improve State sector performance as a whole. One of our four priorities, as we heard in the Budget debate earlier today, is to get better value from our public services—more efficient, more effective, better public services. We are about not growing the Public Service but growing services to the public. This means more front-line service delivery and more efficient back-office services. We are aiming to reduce the duplication of corporate and governance overheads, and ensure that agencies can continue to deliver the front-line services that all New Zealanders have a right to expect, and, indeed, do expect.
One of the things that I am particularly taken with is the establishment of a new Health Promotion Agency. With a background in medicine, I do believe that prevention has a huge part in improving the health of New Zealanders. The new Health Promotion Agency will take over the functions of the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand—often known as ALAC—the Health Sponsorship Council, and the relevant functions of the Ministry of Health. The reason for this change is that it is part of the Government’s programme, as I said, to ensure that the State sector delivers efficient front-line services. We believe that reducing the number of Government agencies is likely to improve coordination, reduce fragmentation, and ensure that functions are delivered by agencies with greater resilience in a state of some uncertain and harsh economic times. We believe that, for instance, will allow efficiencies in the commissioning of television advertisements, and possibly in education resource production, just to show a couple of small examples.
This is an opportunity. It strengthens the focus on health promotion activity, as I say, also by transferring existing health promotion activity in the Ministry of Health to a focused health promotion entity. We believe this will create more opportunities for innovative and targeted approaches to those people in communities with multiple health issues. I commend these bills to the House.
LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa)
: Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. It is my pleasure to rise and speak in this third reading debate, which is a summing up debate on what was the Crown Entities Reform Bill. I want to acknowledge that at this point in time we are discussing the New Zealand Public Health
and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). I want to speak exclusively about the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2).
What I am going to do is basically sum up the process that has led us to today. In terms of the background to the bill, the bill amalgamates the functions of a number of existing agencies to improve their financial efficiency—supposedly—and effectiveness, and to increase their future viability. Dr Jonathan Coleman was the Minister in charge of the original bill. The bill was first introduced on 29 September 2011, and it had its first reading on 4 October 2011. We obviously had a general election on 26 November 2011. It is worth noting that the Government Administration Committee, which was ably chaired by my colleague the Hon Ruth Dyson, reported back to the House on 30 March 2012. So I am sure that the people listening understand that there seems to have been quite a truncated process. In fact, one of the points that the select committee itself highlighted was that the process was interrupted by the end of the last Parliament, which further added to the confusion about the status of the bill. An extension of the deadlines for submissions resulted in some stakeholders being unaware that submissions had been called for.
On the key findings of the select committee report, it is interesting to note that there were 43 submissions received, 17 of which were oral. Of the 43 submissions received, 20 were specifically about the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2)—or Part 3 of the Crown Entities Reform Bill—and 19 of those submissions opposed it. So the charitable sector, in fact, was very clear that it opposed this bill, the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). I also want to highlight that the select committee report about the Charities Commission component did acknowledge the strong concern expressed by submitters in relation to the disestablishment of the Charities Commission, and that not all members of the select committee were convinced that the legislative safeguards in the bill would be sufficient to maintain the degree of independence the Charities Commission provided. Members also expressed concern that some functions would be less accessible to the public and less transparent when transferred to the Department of Internal Affairs.
When we look at the Charities Act 2005 as it currently stands, there is a review timetabled. The Charities Act review is due to take place following the current review of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. I want to make the point that the Labour and Green select committee members believe that the Charities Commission function should not be transferred to the Department of Internal Affairs, that no decisions on legislative or operational change should be made until the review of the Charities Act has been completed, and that the independence and integrity of the Charities Commission cannot be retained if the functions are transferred to the Department of Internal Affairs. At least on our side we were very clear that we did not want to see this part of the Crown Entities Reform Bill proceed, and our position has not changed.
I want to highlight that the report of the State Services Commission to the select committee noted the following points, and they are interesting. The first one I want to highlight is that there has been a lot of publicity about how efficient and effective, and what a cost-saving measure, merging the Charities Commission operations into the Department of Internal Affairs will be. So savings associated with disestablishing the Charities Commission were one of the main rationales for this part of the bill. What the officials acknowledged was that many submitters believed that savings from disestablishing the Charities Commission were doubtful. The officials themselves said that one of the critical rationales for the Government’s proposal to merge the Charities Commission with the Department of Internal Affairs was doubtful. I want to put that on record. Another key theme that emerged, and this is again from the State Services Commission’s report to the select committee, was that the independence of the Charities
Commission’s functions would be compromised by transferring them to the Department of Internal Affairs—highlighting the autonomy and independence of the commission. The second point was that the Charities Commission’s role of educating the charitable sector would be compromised by transferring the functions to the Department of Internal Affairs. The other point I want to make is that the Charities Commission should be retained in its current form until after the completion of the review of the Charities Act 2005.
It has been interesting, as the Labour spokesperson for the community and voluntary sector, to have an opportunity to engage with our sector and to listen to what it had to say about the proposal in the Crown Entities Reform Bill in terms of merging the Charities Commission with the Department of Internal Affairs. I would like to read a couple of quotes.
I have one here from Dave Henderson, who is coordinator of ANGOA, which is the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa. It works in the areas of health, education, recreation and sports, international development, human rights, arts, culture and heritage, social services, family budgeting, hospice care, disability, conservation and the environment, child and youth support, women, mental health, aged care, refugee support, family planning, prisoners and family support, injury prevention, and ethnicity. I want to quote Dave: “The change being forced through Parliament actually does not address the real issue that community sector organisations have been raising consistently with Government for several years: that a review is seriously needed of the way the 2005 Charities Act is being interpreted. Community organisations and charities have been asking for the planned review of the Act to be brought forward from 2015 so the Commission can be given a better steer on its interpretation of certain clauses. Just a few of its decisions have been ill-founded, and as a result have been damaging to community organisations. Instead of addressing those real issues, this Government is simply axing the Commission, but it has still not committed itself to bringing forward the review, which community groups are still saying is what’s really needed. Question to the Minister: will the Government commit to addressing those real issues with urgency after this bill has gone through?”. I guess that that is the challenge for the Minister. Will the review take place? Will the sector be involved?
I want to read another quote, from Tina Reid, the Executive Director of Social Development Partners, which is a member of ComVoices, an independent network of tangata whenua and leading national community and voluntary organisations. She agrees with Dave, but she wants to add this: “My further point is that we have always valued an independent commission being in a position to speak up for the sector outside of Government policy. Over the last 4 years they have had a major workload to establish the regulatory function of the commission, and it is only in their last year that there has been the opportunity to develop the functions to support and advocate for the sector. We are concerned that this will be lost by losing its autonomy.”
I want to reiterate that on this side of the House we will be voting with the community and voluntary sector. We have heard them. So it is my pleasure to say that we oppose the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), and I look forward to working with the sector, because this issue is not over. Kia ora.
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland)
: I was not a part of the Government Administration Committee, but I am very pleased to be able to take a short call on this legislation. We have heard calls from the Opposition, not unsurprisingly, about the minuscule savings: “It’s a few million here, a few million there.” It seems to be a theme that creeps through. The savings we are talking about are in the order of $19.6 million over 4 years—$4.1 million per year ongoing.
Iain Lees-Galloway: That’s huge!
MIKE SABIN: We hear comments from across the floor, as usual, because they are quite flippant with their regard to taxpayers’ dollars. A few million here, a few million there, soon becomes a few billion here and there, which is pretty much why this country was going into recession in 2007, after 7 or 8 years of their “a few million here, a few million there” of taxpayers’ dollars. I have not had an opportunity yet to speak in the Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill debate, but I am very much looking forward to that.
Charles Chauvel: And we’re looking forward to you.
MIKE SABIN: I will fix my tie. Thank you, Mr Chauvel, I appreciate that. Thank you very much.
Charles Chauvel: Always looking after your interests.
MIKE SABIN: It must have got a bit out of shape after my time in the gym. But really what we are talking about here is a continuation of the theme in Budget 2012. One of the key planks in that Budget is about delivering better public services. That really is at the heart of what these three bills, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), are about.
What we are talking about is part of the Government’s overall programme of improving State sector performance. This reflects an ongoing willingness by this Government to show some leadership in finding efficiencies and ensuring the very best use of taxpayer dollars in delivering public services.
Of course, the Opposition does not seem to think that that is a very important thing to do. That pretty much sums up why those members are sitting on that side of the House. To be quite honest, although they spend most of their time opposing, it is a fairly good gauge to members on this side of the House that we are heading in the right direction. It is something that seems to be fairly well supported by those in the public, when you look at the polls and the 20-point difference that exists between the two major parties. I think that pretty much sums it up. This is about efficiency. This is about service delivery. This is about getting better synergy in terms of backroom functions. These are all very important in these tough economic times when we are making sure that we get the best bang for buck for the taxpayer.
I want to just briefly come to the three specific bills.
Kris Faafoi: It’s about time.
MIKE SABIN: Thank you, Mr Faafoi, for that valuable contribution. The first bill, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, relates to the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency as a Crown agent and disestablishes the role of the Alcohol Advisory Council, the Health Sponsorship Council, and the Crown Health Financing Agency. In respect of the Health Promotion Agency’s alcohol-specific functions, the Health Promotion Agency will be required to have regard to Government policy when directed by the responsible Minister, rather than being required to give effect to Government policy. As a former drug educator, I see great advantage in this, and certainly commend this move.
The second bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, relates to the expiry of the Mental Health Commission Act 1998 and the appointment of a Mental Health Commissioner. The Hon Ruth Dyson made a comment about the agreement reached by Dame Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark, and their commitment to mental health. I want to endorse those comments made by the Hon Ruth Dyson. What I actually believe we are doing here is reinforcing the importance of mental health approaches and the responsibility that Government must have in this very concerning area.
Thirdly, if I can just turn to the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), this is the one that seems to have created the most interest—if I can put it that way—from some of the
submitters. The Charities Amendment Bill (No 2) sees the disestablishment of the Charities Commission and the reassignment of its functions and duties to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. There is some call that this will somehow lower the independence and bring it into some murky, dark lands of Government departments. Quite simply, I do not accept that. I think it is probably more an opportunity for Opposition members to try to score a few points where they have failed to in the other areas. They know that this is good law. They know that this is about continuing to drive better efficiencies in our public service delivery. They know that this is about better use of taxpayer dollars. They will oppose it. That is usually a fairly good indicator we are on track. This is nothing less than what the New Zealand public expect of us, it is what they deserve of us, and I am very, very happy to commend these three bills to the House.
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana)
: Taloha ni.For those people watching Parliament TV tonight—just in case they went to get a cup of tea while Mike Sabin was talking, and I do not blame them—I would like to just remind them what we are actually debating here tonight. We are debating the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the
Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and also the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). But Mr Sabin, in his contribution on those three bills, which I would like to remind those people who are watching tonight that we are debating, talked about front-line services and the agenda of this Government to make sure that front-line services are delivering better for all New Zealanders. I would like to just remind Mr Sabin—or maybe he has not read the papers in the last couple of days—about the front-line services that have been affected in the education sector. Maybe Mr Sabin might want to go and have a look and read the
Dominion Post, or maybe the local paper up in Northland, just to see the front-line changes that this Government has announced, and the back-pedalling—the significant amount of back-pedalling—that is happening with the Government’s announcements in the Budget with front-line services.
Can I turn to the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, after rebutting some of the points that Mr Sabin has made, and just talk about—and Mr Sabin used the word—the synergies that will come about from bringing the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) and the Health Sponsorship Council together in the Health Promotion Agency. We do agree with that measure that is contained in this legislation. We do believe that bringing together two agencies like ALAC and the Health Sponsorship Council, which has done such good work in terms of its promotion of the anti-smoking message, is a good move. I would like to thank the board of ALAC, and also Gerard Vaughan, the Chief Executive of ALAC, for the work he has done over many years. We do hope that that new agency does good work.
I know there was some concern during the select committee stage, and especially from Alcohol Healthwatch, which did not agree with the merger of those two agencies. In its submission to the Government Administration Committee it said: “However, the establishment of the new entity—the Health Promotion Agency—appears to be driven by cost cutting measures rather than a desire to see better health outcomes for New Zealanders. This is of great concern to us given that any cost savings will not necessarily be increasing investment in health.” Although Labour is supporting this measure in the first of the three bills that we are debating here tonight, we will be keeping a close eye on that measure, to make sure that the synergies actually do deliver and that it is not just cost savings that we are looking at.
Can I now turn to the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), which is the most contentious part of the legislation. Mr Sabin said this was the most debated or interesting part. I think the correct term may be that this is the part of what was the
Crown Entities Reform Bill that got the most opposition. Of the 43 submissions on the bill, 20 were specifically in opposition to it. I would like to just point out the comments made by the United Future leader, Peter Dunne, who was very, very, I believe, supportive of some of the moves around this area. I would like to just point out an email that was sent to me by Mr Robin Gunston, who was one of my electorate in Mana and who was also, funnily enough, a United Future candidate in Mana.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Who was it again?
KRIS FAAFOI: Robin Gunston, who helpfully sent me an email. [Interruption] He did. He said: “I am writing to you to ensure that as a local MP you are fully aware of the proposed Government changes to the future of the Charities Commission, which we in the sector are deeply concerned about. My wish and those of the boards and volunteers of the various charities I represent would ask Parliament to drop the Charities Commission from the Crown entities that the Government is seeking to reform at this stage.” He goes on to say: “The monetary savings are minuscule, but we cannot afford to lose the independence of the Charities Commission at this juncture. There is time to do this in the 2015 sectoral reform already announced.” Mr Gunston goes on, and I would just like to remind the House that Mr Gunston was a United Future candidate: “Through the meetings and phone calls that we have had with Ministers it has become clear that the ramifications or timing of this were not especially well-thought-through, and aside from the hoped-for cost savings there does not appear to be overwhelming evidence to support the move, certainly not that the Ministers have articulated.” I do want to note that Trevor Mallard moved Supplementary Order Paper 32 in the Committee stage to delay this by 3 years. That was not picked up, and that is very unfortunate.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Mr Speaker—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): This is a split call, I am sorry to say to the member. It is a split call between Labour and the Greens. The Green member of Parliament is seeking the call.
DENISE ROCHE (Green)
: Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koe. I am going to restrict my comments to the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). My colleague Kevin Hague has already spoken very eloquently on the other parts of the legislation, and he has the expertise in that area. There is a little saying that goes: “No good deed goes unpunished”. This is clearly the case with the Charities Commission, because it is being punished. In the debates, in all the speeches, and in all the readings of this legislation, not one single person has said that the Charities Commission is failing. Not one person has said that it needs reform in order for it to do its job properly, because it does do its job properly. It is as trim as it can be, and it is still effective.
This is from the Charities Commission’s statement of intent: “The Commission is very mindful that we will be operating in an environment of limited resources and have been told not to expect additional funding for the next three to five years.” It goes on to say that it will meet the outcomes that it is expected to meet. These outcomes include that the public is better informed about registered charities, that charities are better informed about effective governance and management practices, and that the Government is better informed about charities.
Without this law change, this is what the Charities Commission already does. It promotes public trust and confidence in the charitable sector, it provides education, and helps with registration, it registers charitable entities and maintains a register, it monitors charitable activities and entities, it investigates any wrongdoing and breaches of the Act, and it monitors and promotes compliance with the Act, including taking prosecutions. All in all, it is about creating—and it has done this—and maintaining transparency in the community and voluntary sector. Incorporating the Charities
Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs will change how effectively this independent organisation operates.
Yesterday I cornered the Hon John Banks to ask for his support to stop this bill, and he declined. But I thought it was worthwhile to ask him, because his predecessor in the House, the Hon Rodney Hide, complimented the Charities Commission recently in an article in the
National Business Review. He was particularly complimentary about the Charities Commission database, which he said is the best Government database on the internet. He goes on to say: “There’s every charity, with all their relevant information and, critically, the database is easily searchable by the likes of you and me.” He points out that there is a lot of money washing around in the sector, citing a total of $350 million a year in rebates from donations, and an estimated $1.5 billion in tax breaks for charitable businesses. So there is really a need for very good scrutiny. He notes that the Charities Commission has a good reputation and already does the joined-up thinking that this Government wants to achieve by putting it into the Department of Internal Affairs. I never thought I would ever agree with Mr Hide, but there you go.
Last week I also door-stopped the Hon Peter Dunne when I caught up with him in the lift, and later, when I followed him down Lambton Quay. He said that the community and voluntary sector was overreacting—that is right. He dismissed the concerns of the entire sector by saying that he maintained the Charities Commission would keep its independence because it is just like the Gambling Commission. But it is not just like the Gambling Commission. The Gambling Commission sits outside the Department of Internal Affairs. It acts as an appeal for decisions that are made inside the Department of Internal Affairs by the department’s investigators. The Gambling Commission, moreover, does not assist the industry with education as part of its raison d’être.
I would urge members to vote against the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2). It is not needed, and it is unlikely to ensure transparency. In the big things it does not save a lot. It is premature, as Louisa Wall has already outlined. The Charities Commission is already effective and independent, and, honestly, it is a huge leap backwards. Thank you.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak on these three bills, the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill, and the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2), all of whose genesis emanates from the Crown Entities Reform Bill, from which this debate started. I was heartened to hear the Hon Ruth Dyson mention how well the Government Administration Committee functioned, even though there was slight disagreement on the third-mentioned bill. Ruth Dyson did say that there was considerable enthusiasm for the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill, and I am very glad to hear that. But I think it is important that she does understand what this is all about. It is all about improving financial efficiency and effectiveness and increasing the future viability of these agencies.
There is absolutely no doubt that making every dollar count in this current environment is absolutely vital. We find so often that those on the other side of the House tend to just forget about it. There is no question that in the area of health we saw the health budget double over 9 long, arduous years, for very little gain. Money was sprinkled all over the place, for very little gain, and that is why it is so important that this excellent National Government does concentrate on making every dollar count.
I did like the line from Dr Cam Calder that the National-led Government is not about growing the Public Service but about growing services to the public. This means more front-line service delivery and more efficient back-office services. Today at the Health Committee I was very impressed to hear Dr Lester Levy, Chief Executive Officer of the Waitematā District Health Board and the Auckland District Health Board, recount how
effectively back-office services had been used, with focus on increasingly effective and efficient front-line services. I also had a briefing from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise today, and it is doing a similar sort of thing. Right throughout the Government service, this excellent National Government is concentrating on extra efficiency and effectiveness.
I was interested to hear Kevin Hague say that it is often very difficult to see the benefit of structural change. That is so. It has always been of huge concern to me the massive structural change that occurred in 1999—well, a few years after 1999—when the Labour Government decided to absolutely restructure the health system. It is very hard to see, as Mr Hague pointed out, where the gains have come. It has really been only in the last 4 years that we have seen significant gains in the health sector, under the excellent leadership of Tony Ryall. The establishment of a new Health Promotion Agency is something very much dear to my heart, and, again, as Mr Hague pointed out, he very much hopes to see this as the engine that drives positive changes. I am sure it will be.
Back in 1999 the advice to the incoming Minister of Health was that the greatest gains in health would come from health promotion, disease prevention, and the integration of primary and secondary health. That is hugely important, and it is being very much worked on by this excellent National Government, whereas there had certainly been a large gap in the previous 9 years.
Again, I did take note of the Hon Ruth Dyson when she mentioned the great concern about mental health in the 1990s, and the fact that the leaders of the major parties agreed that this was an area that had to be sorted out—hence the Mason inquiry, hence the blueprint, and hence the ring-fencing of the funding. Consequently, it is important to acknowledge the work of the Mental Health Commission over the years. I am sure that in the future it will function very well in the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office. The Alcohol Advisory Council will be independent. Its evidence-based advisory function is retained within the new health promotion entity, and alcohol harm reduction programmes will continue to be funded through a levy on alcohol consumption. As well as that, some of the $7.7 million of existing health promotion activity in the Ministry of Health will transfer to the new health promotion entity, and work is continuing on confirming the programmes to transfer and the appropriate transition of those programmes. Indeed, it is all good in terms of these three bills.
I want to finish off by just pointing out that in the commentary on the Crown Entities Reform Bill, in terms of the review of the Charities Act 2005, the strong view of Government members was that transferring the commission’s current functions to the Department of Internal Affairs will create a more robust, resilient agency, and they endorse the intention to do so now rather than after the review of the Charities Act. Fa‘afetai tele lava.
- New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Bill read a third time.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Mental Health Commission Amendment Bill be now read a third time.
||New Zealand National 59; New Zealand Labour 34; New Zealand First 8; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
||Green Party 14; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.
|Bill read a third time.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Charities Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a third time.
||New Zealand National 59; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Māori Party 2; Mana 1.
|Bill read a third time.