Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Questions to Ministers
Government—2010 Economic Programme
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the
Minister of Finance: Why is the Government embarking on a comprehensive economic programme in 2010?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Because the country needs it, after 10 years of economic mismanagement and a global recession. We have a lopsided economy where we spend more than we earn and our export sector is weak. In fact, it has been in recession for the past 5 years, and in the 5 years to 2009 Government spending grew at twice the rate of economic growth. We can either muddle along and fall further behind, or set our sights higher and create the kind of country that the Prime Minister spoke about yesterday.
Craig Foss: What is the Government’s economic priority for 2010 and beyond?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Better economic performance means having more jobs, new jobs, higher incomes, and better public services. In 2010 the Government will have less focus on managing the short-term impacts of the recession and more focus on raising our long-term economic prospects, so that we can have more jobs, higher incomes, and better public services.
Craig Foss: How will the Government’s economic programme deliver jobs and sustainable, higher economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: By correcting all the imbalances that arose through 10 years of economic mismanagement, and by improving our management of the economy in a systematic way. We have used a range of review groups and task forces to give us advice, and yesterday the Prime Minister set out in detail the Government’s policy programme and action programme for this year.
Craig Foss: Is there broad agreement across the community about what needs to be done?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, generally there is. Not everyone agrees—
Hon David Cunliffe: Oh!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —as is obviously the case. Those who were responsible for the mess that we got into do not agree that things need to change. But even on issues such as taxation, there has been broad agreement that the taxation system needs to be improved so that it is fairer and more equitable, and so that it sends the right incentives to people to save, to invest, and to work, and less of an incentive for them to consume too much and borrow too much.
GST—Prime Minister’s Statements
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on GST?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Mr Speaker—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What about his own statement?
Hon JOHN KEY: We will get to him in a minute. Yes, I do, and if someone asked me whether I would want to raise GST to cover deficits, the answer would be no; it remains no today.
Hon Phil Goff: On what basis does he claim a mandate for increasing GST, when he explicitly promised the nation that he would not do so?
Hon JOHN KEY: I never made that promise. I said I would not raise GST to cover deficits, and we are not doing so.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a DVD in which the Prime Minister explicitly promises not to raise GST.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that object. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- DVD, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Phil Goff: Will the Prime Minister now admit to the country that he misled the country in promising not to raise GST to 15 percent, and that he has broken his word?
Hon JOHN KEY: No, because my word was that I would not raise GST to 15 percent to cover deficits, and I will not do so.
Chris Tremain: Has he seen reports of people supporting a rise in GST accompanied by compensation through tax cuts, increases in benefits, and increases in superannuation?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. As members will know, the Labour Government in 1986 introduced GST at a rate of 10 percent, accompanied by personal tax reductions, increases in benefits, and increases in superannuation. At the time, that proposal was greeted with enthusiasm by a person who said these words: “… every New Zealander will be better off under the proposals announced last night. … it introduces a fairer system for New Zealanders. It reduces the burden of personal tax, which wage and salary earners have to pay … If the goods and services tax is such a bad system, why has the National Opposition not pledged itself to repeal it? It will not do that, because it is not a bad system.” That was a great little speech from Phil Goff back in 1986.
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Members, a little decorum, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition called a point of order.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table this document, which says National is not going to raise GST, National wants to cut taxes—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has not indicated what the document is.
Hon Phil Goff: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. This document is from www.stuff.co.nz today—an article by Tracy Watkins.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that seeking leave to table stuff that is in the common media is no longer approved in the House.
Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister ever said that raising GST will not be necessary if National was doing a half-decent job in growing the economy, and is his decision now to raise GST an admission that National is not doing even a half-decent job in managing the economy?
Hon JOHN KEY: The question was whether I would be required to raise GST to cover deficits. The answer to that question is: “No, we will not.” In fact, National will not be increasing taxes; National will be reducing taxes, which actually proves we are doing a really good job.
Chris Tremain: Has the Government ever raised GST without compensating people through tax cuts, benefit increases, or superannuation increases?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, actually. In 1989 the Labour Government raised GST from 10 percent to 12.5 percent with no tax cuts, no increase in benefits, and no increase in superannuation. People on lower incomes were left significantly worse off. That will not happen under a National Government.
Hon Jim Anderton: When the Prime Minister, as the then Leader of the Opposition, told New Zealanders at his media interview 18 days before the last election: “National is not going to be raising GST.”, what did he mean by the word “not”? Does he have a lot of other definitions that most of us do not understand?
Hon JOHN KEY: I urge everyone to look at the video. The exact question was whether I would raise GST “to cover deficits”. The answer to that question is no, I will not be raising GST to do that.
Hon Jim Anderton: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister in that question a very simple point: to explain to the House his understanding of the word “not”. I expect to hear the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need further help on the matter. The Prime Minister disputed in his answer the basis of the question the member asked. I think he is perfectly entitled to do that.
Hon Phil Goff: Was his answer, word for word: “National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes, not raise taxes.”?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, because we are going to cut taxes, not raise taxes. Secondly, the question—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Oh, not raise taxes!
Hon JOHN KEY: I know it is a real downer for their story, but if I get asked a question, I answer it. Am I going to raise taxes and raise GST to cover deficits? The answer is no. But why let the facts get in the way of the story?
Hon Phil Goff: The facts were set out on the DVD that has been tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask both sides to please settle down a little. It is obviously a fiercely contested issue, and I have allowed a bit of noise and robustness, but please, as the member is seeking to ask his question could we have a little more order.
Hon Phil Goff: If the top tax rate is lowered from 38c to 30c, what percentage of the total spend of this tax package will go to the top 10 percent of income earners in that bracket?
Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that answer to hand. If the member wants me to go to the Inland Revenue Department, I can get him the answer to that question. We know that one in four New Zealanders who are tertiary qualified lives overseas. The probability of someone who is tertiary qualified paying the top personal rate, given that 300,000 New Zealanders are paying the top personal rate—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific, as you know. The Prime Minister answered that question by saying that apparently he did not have that information. There is nothing else to add.
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition makes a fair point. He asked a question that was very specific, following a very general primary question. The Prime Minister was very upfront and said he did not have that particular information. In fairness, I have to acknowledge that that should have been the end of the answer.
Hon Jim Anderton: Under the policies he foreshadowed yesterday, which taxpayers will receive the highest dollar amounts per week in personal tax cuts? Will those taxpayers be the ones who need the money the most?
Hon JOHN KEY: We do not know yet, because the tax package has not been formally put together, but of course one would logically assume that the highest taxpayers would receive the highest personal tax cuts, and that is because they pay the most tax.
Hon Phil Goff: Instead of giving the lion’s share of the tax cuts to the very top income earners, why does not the Prime Minister bring in a package that gives fairer tax cuts to those on $40,000, $50,000, and $60,000 a year, in line with his undertaking that this tax package would be fair to all New Zealanders?
Hon JOHN KEY: All I can say to the Leader of the Opposition is that he is jumping to conclusions. He may find soon that he is factually incorrect.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister indicated that he did not have an answer to one of my supplementary questions, and that is a fair answer to a question. I wonder whether the Prime Minister would provide that answer subsequently.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not strictly a point of order.
Hon Phil Goff: He offered to. I just wanted to clarify that he is going to.
Mr SPEAKER: But I do not think the House’s time should be taken up in that way. It is not a valid point of order; it is something the member can pursue privately with the Prime Minister.
Education, National Standards—Support
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the
Minister of Education: What reports has she received on support for national standards?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education)
: I have received several reports. I have seen the results of a
New Zealand Herald
survey in which 73 percent of respondents said they supported the introduction of standards for reading, writing, and maths in their children’s primary schools. National standards will set clear expectations of what children should have learnt and by when, and will ensure that parents will know, in plain language, how their children are doing. The
New Zealand Herald
survey confirms that this is overwhelmingly what parents want, and this Government is proud to be delivering that.
Allan Peachey: What reports has she received from the education sector that support national standards?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have received several reports. I have had many principals and teachers tell me they have studied the standards, they have worked with their staff, and they are looking forward to using the standards this year. One of those principals emailed me, saying: “I think that the standards have long been needed to promote some evidence-based conversations around student achievement and progress at every layer of primary education. Thank you for being steadfast with the implementation of the national standards.”
Allan Peachey: What reports has the Minister received on people changing their position on national standards?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have seen a report from one member who in 1999 said: “We will be requiring schools to work against national standards and to report to parents on that twice a year.” In October last year that same member said: “… I support the standards. I support better information for parents, I support looking at class and school results to identify”—
Hon Trevor Mallard: We’ve got it already!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: —I am just reminding the member—“teacher and school strengths and weaknesses so they can be built and worked on.” The author of all that was Trevor Mallard from the Labour Party, which is opposing them up and down the country.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Going back to the primary answer, is she in the group of 11.9 percent who claim that they fully understand her system or in the 88 percent who acknowledge that they do not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: In answer to that question, I think the member should think very carefully, being 20 points behind—
Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a very simple question, and the Minister has made absolutely no attempt whatsoever to answer it. The Minister seems to want to
make a statement that bears no relationship to what the member asked. The member asked whether the Minister was in the percentage who believe they understand the proposal fully or in the group that does not. People can have their own judgement about the question, but it should be answered.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Parents know what they want, and this Government is delivering what they want. Labour does not seem to know what it wants.
Mr SPEAKER: This point—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What do you know?
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and there will be silence. The member asked a very simple question. The Minister may not think it is a very good question; I have no problem with that. But it is a fairly easy question to answer. I think the House deserves to hear an answer, and I invite the member to repeat the question, since we have twice asked the Minister to answer it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the Minister in the group of 11.9 percent who claim that they fully understand her system or in the 88 percent who acknowledge that they do not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I understand perfectly well what the national standards are and what they can do to lift student achievement for the 150,000-odd students whom the previous Labour-led Government left to fail in the education system.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s mentor, John Hattie, who said this system will hurt the most able children; if not, why not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have seen that comment from Professor Hattie, and I have talked with him on a number of occasions. I have also seen his comments where he said national standards, if implemented well, can make a difference.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I again asked a very specific question that goes to a specific comment from Professor Hattie. It was not addressed, other than by the Minister saying she saw it. She was asked whether she agreed with it, and if not, why not.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The answer from the Minister pointed out a contradictory statement from the same person. That makes it very difficult to take an opinion on one person’s interpretation of what he said, when there is evidence that the same person said something completely different.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to take further time on this point of order. In fairness, where a member asks for an opinion, it is very difficult for the Speaker to insist on any particular answer. As the Hon Gerry Brownlee pointed out, the Minister drew attention to a comment that was somewhat different from the one that the member quoted in his question. In doing so, I think it demonstrated the difficulty in agreeing to any particular one of those comments. The member has more supplementary questions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem I have is that we in the House know we are allowed to ask about opinions. It is something that did not used to be the case, and the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings have changed. But Ministers have been required to, as you say, answer and, as previous Speakers have said, address questions. The question I asked was neither addressed nor answered. A completely separate question was addressed and answered, but no opinion was proffered to the House on the question that I asked.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There is surely no need to proffer an opinion on an assertion that is offered by way of a question. In this case the Minister pointed out that the particular quote the member was basing his question on was potentially or possibly contradicted by the person to whom the quote was attributed in a subsequent comment. I think the Minister answered perfectly adequately by saying she had seen it, but she had also seen the subsequent quote. We could go back and forth all day on this. I think
asking for opinions in questions should mean that the person who answers that question has some discretion about whether he or she offers that opinion. It cannot become mandatory.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard quite sufficient on this. I do not want to take more time of the House. The points that have been made are fair enough. The member made the point that opinions can be sought in questions and that although it was not always the case, with our Standing Orders today it can be done. The dilemma is that I cannot insist on particular answers when opinions are sought. That is the risk that the member takes when asking a question that seeks an opinion, but I think, in fairness, the Minister addressed the question just as much as I have heard questions being addressed in this House over recent years. I think the member has further supplementary questions. He is clearly not satisfied with the answer he received in response to the question he asked. He can dig deeper with further supplementary questions, should he wish to do so.
Question No. 4 to Minister
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: My question is to the Minister for Social Development and Employment, what action—[Interruption]
Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception to the comment that member has made and I ask that he withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I understand that. The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw and apologise. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Hon Annette King. Let us get some rules pretty clear here from the word go. When I require a member to withdraw and apologise there will be not be comment on it afterwards. A comment afterwards indicates that the member was not the least bit sincere in withdrawing and apologising. I ask the Hon Trevor Mallard again to get to his feet, withdraw and apologise, and not add any further comments.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I call the Hon Annette King. [Interruption] I ask the House to settle down. I did not hear that interjection. The member has the floor to ask the question. I have tried to get silence for her and I ask her to do so.
Unemployment—Government Actions to Address
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment: My question is to the Minister for Social Development and Employment—[Interruption] She is answering it already.
Mr SPEAKER: Just ask the question.
Hon ANNETTE KING: What action, if any, is she taking to address unemployment?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: This Government has made unemployment our No. 1 priority during the course of this recession and has implemented a balanced, responsible, and successful plan to steer New Zealand through the global economic crisis.
Hon Annette King: Can she confirm that the number of people going on to the unemployment benefit increased by 2,000 in January alone—a figure she quietly slipped out yesterday—if so, when will all the amazing and comprehensive policy initiatives she has been talking about start helping the 168,000 New Zealanders who are now out of a job?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The January figures for the unemployment benefit were released publicly last week—
Hon Annette King: No, they weren’t.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: —yes they were—along with the household labour force survey. The number of people on the unemployment benefit did go up by 2,000 in the month of January, which we were expecting. But, equally, 3,180 people came off the unemployment benefit in that month alone and went into jobs.
Hon Annette King: Does she stand by her statement “Let’s not panic. There are jobs out there.”; if so, why cannot 16,000 new job seekers find them, why cannot 168,000 unemployed people find them, and why is the chief economist for ASB saying that he cannot find them either?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we saw for the last quarter of last year was a 5 percent increase in the number of jobs advertised. We are seeing more jobs come into Work and Income than ever before. A third of job applicants are still being triaged away and are going into jobs. This is what happens in the lag of one of the worst global recessions that we have seen. Things are tougher out there, but this Government’s plan is implementing more jobs.
Katrina Shanks: Why is the Minister particularly concerned about the increasing number of people who are unemployed for more than a year?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This year the Government will spend $7.6 billion on benefits. That is more than $20 million a day. With an ageing population, rising levels of long-term welfare dependency have serious consequences for future taxpayers. It is our children who will bear the cost unless we do something about it.
Hon Annette King: If she is so concerned about long-term unemployment, is she aware that the number of long-term unemployed has soared in the 15 months that she has been the Minister from 14,800 to 40,500 today? I thought that these were the people whom John Key was going to get off welfare dependency. You have just added, Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: —about 30,000 more to it.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister to answer, I just ask the member to remember that when she says “You have just added”, she is referring to the Speaker. I would remind members of that.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that the member struggles to understand what happens in a global recession and the effect that it has on jobs and employment. What I can say, Mr Speaker—and I do not want to raise your ire in the first question time—is that there is a long, long list of initiatives that this Government has implemented that are making a difference, including $1.1 billion in broadband; nearly 30,000 home insulation cases; Job Ops, which is being expanded because it is so successful; and Community Max, which is already signed up. I could go on, but I shall not.
Hon Annette King: Can she confirm that funding for Job Ops and Community Max has almost run out; if so, will she be putting in additional money in this financial year to help more New Zealanders into work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Job Ops is doing fine. We have already put another 2,000 places into it. We have not started on those 2,000 yet, so I am fairly confident that we will be able to keep up with the demand for Job Ops. Community Max is getting close to being fully done, but we announced just this morning that we will expand that slightly so that more people can go on it.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction—Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change 2020 Target
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the
Prime Minister: When he referred yesterday to avoiding “overly-ambitious climate change targets”, did he mean that the
minimum target of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees, is overly ambitious?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Before I answer the question, I will just take a moment to acknowledge Jeanette Fitzsimons and the fact that she is giving her valedictory speech today after 13 years in Parliament. I know that members will want to join with me in congratulating her on such an illustrious and successful career here in Parliament. In answer to the question, that is a global target, and for New Zealand a target of 25 to 40 percent would be an overly ambitious target, in our view.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: In light of the UN advice that the targets announced so far by all countries are “not enough to forestall the dangerous effects of climate change by mid-century”, will he commit to working with other world leaders to raise all countries’ targets, including New Zealand’s?
Hon JOHN KEY: The answer to that is that New Zealand is already putting up what is an ambitious target relative to those of other countries. If one was to look at the analysis provided by the New Zealand Treasury, one would see that it argues very strongly that we are doing much more than our fair share. Of course, over the course of the next 12 months or so, as we head to Mexico, countries will be working to see what agreements can be secured, and New Zealand will play its part in those discussions.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Now that he has had 2 months to think about my questions last year, which he was not able to answer at the time, can he now name even one country that he expects will make bigger than 25 to 40 percent cuts to its emissions in order to balance our smaller ones?
Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure there are some out there. I do not have the names of those particular countries to hand, although they would almost certainly be in the European Union. I just make the point that the aggregate reduction in 1990 emissions that would be achieved if all developed countries were to meet their currently stated targets would be about 18 percent. We know that it is more difficult for New Zealand to achieve its target, for all the reasons we know, not the least of them being that we have had the fastest per capita population growth of any annex 1 country. I think that New Zealanders can be proud that we are paying more than our fair share when it comes to the battle on climate change.
Charles Chauvel: Is one of the ways in which the Prime Minister plans to avoid “overly-ambitious climate change targets” to completely ignore the huge opportunities from investment in clean technology; if not, why was there no mention whatsoever of those opportunities in his speech yesterday?
Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure we will work on those, but one of the ways in which we will come to terms with the challenges of climate change is through the global alliance, and I can tell the member how successful it has been. I am sure he joined with us in the celebrations at Copenhagen when the United States committed US$90 million to that fund. We are pleased that so many countries will be coming to New Zealand at the start of this year for those negotiations and discussions. That alliance will make a real difference when it comes to the world combating climate change.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a letter dated Friday, 29 January 2010, from Phillip Mills, Lloyd Morrison, Sir George Fistonich, Geoff Ross, Rob Fenwick, Sir Stephen Tindall, Rob Fyfe, and Jeremy Moon, urging that opportunities for New Zealand in clean technology and green technology be seized by this Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How do the Minister’s plans to mine the conservation estate, to expand oil production, to mine, burn, and export more coal, and to build more roads align with his stated ambition to do our part for climate change?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member will be aware that the largest proportion of our greenhouse gas emissions comes from the agricultural sector. If we are going to make significant inroads into our emissions, we need to tackle the bit that is causing the biggest problem from New Zealand’s perspective. That is why we have the global alliance. In terms of building roads, if we do not build those roads we will have more traffic congestion, and that means that motorists end up emitting even more emissions. Finally, as we all know, when we build roads things called buses travel along them, and that actually helps public transport. [Interruption]
Jeanette Fitzsimons: It is nice to see such cross-party accord on the building of roads! Was the Prime Minister’s lack of ambition on New Zealand’s climate change target the reason he refused to meet with the New Zealand youth delegation in Copenhagen, despite its letter requesting a meeting?
Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know where the member gets her information, but I did meet with the youth delegation. Funnily enough, the youth delegation members were absolutely thrilled that I met with them, because they said that no other leader had bothered to meet with them. I welcomed the opportunity to talk to people from America and other countries.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table a letter from the New Zealand youth delegation written on 15 December to Minister Nick Smith, asking to meet with the Prime Minister while he was in Copenhagen.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Did the Prime Minister meet with the New Zealand youth delegation, as requested in that letter, or did he just have a meeting with a few people?
Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot honestly recall the letter, but I certainly recall the meeting with members of the youth delegation in Copenhagen.
GST Increase—Effect on Families
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: What advice, if any, has he received outlining the effect of an increase in GST on families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: The advice is that the way an increase in GST impacts on families and other taxpayers depends entirely on what other tax changes accompany it.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Government currently have a Budget deficit, and is the Government planning to increase GST—yes or no?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It may be news to that member—in fact, I think it is news to that member—that the Government has a Budget deficit. We are not raising GST to close that deficit now, and that is what the Prime Minister stated before the election.
Hon David Cunliffe: I think it might be news to the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Just ask the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that he told the
Dominion Post, in response to a question about whether he would support raising GST or imposing any kind of capital gains tax: “We won’t be doing that … It is not our policy,”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can confirm that. I can also confirm that the following descriptions were given just 6 months ago: “His initial plan was right. The things we did
on Family Support, accompanying GST as a way of cutting down your huge tax rates …”. That was Phil Goff, just 6 months ago, referring to the plans he was part of back in 1989.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and there will be silence. Forgive me, my attention was a little divided, but I thought I heard the member’s question, and I am not sure the answer bore a lot of relationship to the question. I think the only fair thing I can do is invite the member to repeat his supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am happy to ask a different one.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I invite him to repeat it.
Hon David Cunliffe: Then I will repeat that question. Can the Minister confirm that he told the
Dominion Post, in response to a question about whether the Government would be raising GST and imposing any kind of capital gains tax: “We won’t be doing that … It is not our policy,”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I will give the same answer that I gave before, which was: “I can confirm that.” I also add, if I am allowed to, that the previous Government left the economy in such a mess that we have had to set out to design a tax package that will increase our economic performance.
Amy Adams: Under what conditions might GST be increased?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have not considered increasing GST for the purposes of closing the Government’s deficit, which is a very large one. The Government has been looking to increase New Zealand’s long-term economic performance because, after 10 years of mismanagement, we have a lopsided economy where the incentives to invest and save are weak, and we have had too much consumption and borrowing, as illustrated by the fact that New Zealand now owes the world around $160 billion. So we have proposed a package that bundles up GST, income tax rate changes, and changes to the taxation of property as a way of improving the tax system and our economic growth prospects.
Hon David Cunliffe: Sorry seems to be the hardest word to say. How can—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will just ask his supplementary question without adding any—
Hon David Cunliffe: Respectfully, a reprise deserves a reprise, and it was not me that started reprising.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will not now argue with the Speaker. I invite him to ask his supplementary question, and to do just that.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can the Minister say that Kiwis will be better off after a hike in GST, when low and middle income earners will, at best, be compensated for their increased costs? How does he expect those hard-working Kiwis to get ahead?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will just have to wait and see. I know it is disappointing for him that the Prime Minister stated yesterday that lower-income New Zealanders, particularly on benefits and superannuation, will be compensated for any increase in GST. That is technically not difficult, and it is a policy objective of the Government if it decides to increase GST.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he therefore guarantee that hard-working Kiwis earning $70,000 and below will be much better off in the tax package, or is his version of fairness that the Prime Minister gets a $500-a-week tax cut, the average wage earner gets 35c a week, and the minimum wage earner gets nothing?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister agree that, whether one looks at it from the criteria of fairness and progressivity, of broadening the tax base, or of the size of the
revenue actually raised, on all those criteria a capital gains tax excluding the family home comes out way ahead of GST?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we discussed this morning at the Finance and Expenditure Committee, the Government has been looking at tax changes that might meet a number of criteria, including simplicity of administration, positive impact on the economy, and fairness. In considering those changes in some detail, the Prime Minister stated yesterday that a comprehensive capital gains tax, along with some other options, were put off the table. I note that the Tax Working Group, which looked at this issue in some detail for 6 months, could not agree on whether a comprehensive capital gains tax would work.
Rahui Katene: What advice has he received about the benefits of introducing a 1 percent transaction tax—a flat tax for everything consumed, whether it be a product, service, or financial transaction—and how would that tax impact on disposable incomes for families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not received particular advice on a financial transactions tax, although I know it has been discussed and dismissed a number of times over recent years. GST amounts to a flat tax on all consumption except for financial services, housing rentals, and interest, and, as such, it is regarded around the world as a model of an effective tax.
Rahui Katene: Is he aware of my bill, the Goods and Services Tax (Exemption of Healthy Food) Amendment Bill, and does he support the Māori Party’s commitment to assisting those in low-income households to purchase healthy foods?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am aware of the Māori Party’s bill, and I am also aware of the Māori Party’s desire to participate in extensive discussion about a tax package. I might say this is an example where we need to be a bit careful about criteria. By some standards, milk and bread do not meet the standards of healthy food. Some people are saying to us we should exempt milk and bread, and others are saying we should exempt healthy foods, which may be two different groups. By and large, we favour GST staying as it is.
Oil and Gas Production—Potential for Economic Growth
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the
Minister of Energy and Resources: What evidence does he have that oil and gas production has the potential to lift New Zealand’s economic growth?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: This January I released the latest
New Zealand Energy Quarterly, which showed that New Zealand’s production of crude oil jumped nearly 20 percent in the quarter ended September. That was largely due to the Maari field reaching full production. Production of oil and gas in New Zealand will continue to rise, and this season will see the most extensive drilling programme since exploration began in this country. In the year 2008, oil was our third-largest export earner, at $2.8 billion. That was a 100 percent increase on the amount in the previous year. Those three facts, I think, provide the clear evidence the member seeks.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: How does the taxpayer benefit from our increasing domestic production of oil?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Crown received approximately $965 million, including taxes paid, from petroleum production in the last financial year. Of that, $543 million was in royalty payments alone. New Zealand produces in excess of 21 million barrels of oil a year. Closing the balance between oil imports and exports is a real benefit to the New Zealand economy and, consequently, the taxpayer.
Question No. 8 to Minister
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato)
: I seek leave to hold this question over until the Minister of Māori Affairs is present to answer this very serious question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.
GST Increase—Effect on Māori Families / Whānau
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the
Minister of Māori Affairs: My question is to the real Minister of Māori Affairs, and asks—
Mr SPEAKER: The member must ask her question to the Minister of Māori Affairs as it is on the Order Paper.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: What advice, if any, has he received from Te Puni Kōkiri on the effect a rise in GST will have on the well-being of Māori families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the
Minister of Māori Affairs: The next-best thing—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear that the Minister of Māori Affairs cannot be present to answer the question, but the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs is present, and the member clearly wants to ask a Māori Minister about this—
Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Government as to which Minister answers when the Minister is not present.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The question has been asked; let us hear the answer.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am advised that the Minister of Māori Affairs has received some advice from Te Puni Kōkiri. That advice says the impact would vary from household to household, depending on income and spending patterns. Of course, the impact would depend entirely on what other measures were part of a tax package.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister support the Māori Party member’s bill to remove GST from food; if so, how does he reconcile this conflict with his Government’s plan to instead increase GST across the board?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister of Māori Affairs is part of a range of discussions with the Government over this and related issues.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister stand by his words to “argue the case for Māori”; if so, what response does the Minister expect to give to Māori families who, as a result of an increase in the rate of GST, will struggle to put kai on the table and feed their tamariki—how is that whānau ora?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The advice to the Minister of Māori Affairs makes it clear that the impact of an increase in the GST rate would depend on what other measures are taken as part of a tax package—for instance, a reduction in income taxes faced by those same Māori families. I would expect that his discussions with the Government will also include the longer-term benefits of an economy that creates more jobs and generates higher incomes. That is certainly in the interests of Māori families, probably more so than for many other families.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Does the Minister of Māori Affairs stand by his statement: “Sometimes we pass a bill and then we forget we passed it and talk against it. I have to ring the Prime Minister and say, ‘Whoops’. Or he rings me.”; if so, will his support for the Government to increase GST be something he votes for, then talks against, then tells the Prime Minister, and Māori, “Whoops.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can say the current Minister of Māori Affairs makes his views a great deal clearer than the previous Minister of Māori Affairs used to.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to members that it is hard for me to hear members calling.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister intend to administer Whānau Ora through a newly established trust; if so, why is Te Puni Kōkiri not being used?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The question is a bit wide of the mark, but I can tell that member that the Minister of Māori Affairs is engaged in intensive discussions with the Government over that programme. I must say there is real energy around the basic change—and vital change—in the delivery of our social services, which in 10 years the previous Government talked about but never did anything about. Many families have missed out on support that they should have had, and much money has been wasted that can now be used more effectively.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That clearly did not answer the question that was asked.
Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma I have is that the supplementary question that the member asked was a long stretch from the primary question. I did not intervene to stop the question being asked; I did not rule it out of order. But it makes it very difficult for me to then insist on the Minister giving a particular answer. It seems to me that he did give a reasonable answer to the question.
Economy—Gap Between Australia and New Zealand
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT) to the
Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard that “I don’t think we can catch Australia”, but “there’s a lot of crumbs come off the Australian table we can take advantage of”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: No, I do not agree with that statement.
John Boscawen: If New Zealand adopts an emissions trading scheme tax and Australia does not, does he agree that this would put us at a competitive disadvantage and slow our growth rate relative to Australia’s; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, not necessarily. The Australian debate is pretty vigorous, but both sides are proposing to take some action on climate change. Even the actions that Australia’s Opposition is promising involve complicated public subsidies and heavy regulation. It is not at all clear that that would be better than an emissions trading scheme in the long run.
Hon Phil Goff: How did it help New Zealand close the income gap with Australia to scrap Labour’s research and development tax credits and the $2 billion Fast Forward fund, when a smart Government in Australia was increasing research and development by 25 percent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Fast Forward fund is a fantasy in the minds of the Opposition members; it never actually existed. The Government replaced it with the Primary Growth Partnership. The one difference between the Primary Growth Partnership and the Fast Forward fund is that the Primary Growth Partnership actually has some money that is actually paying for some science. The Fast Forward fund had no money and had not bought any science.
Minimum Wage—Closing Income Gap with Australia
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the
Minister of Labour: Does she stand by her statement: “The goal is to match Australian income levels by 2025”; if so, will the 25c change in the minimum wage achieve that?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour)
: Yes. Yesterday the Prime Minister laid out an excellent plan for growing the economy, but simply raising wages by regulation is not the answer. Unlike that member, we are not prepared to risk sentencing 8,000 workers to the dole queue for the sake of a headline.
Darien Fenton: Is she aware that the 2 percent increase in the minimum wage will not even keep pace with estimated inflation increases of 2.3 percent, and can she explain how letting our poorest get poorer will help close the wage gap with Australia?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: As the member knows, the 2 percent increase in the minimum wage was linked to inflation at the time. As it turns out, it is also the average increase in wages across the board, so it is also linked to that—which also happened to be Labour’s policy 2 years ago.
Darien Fenton: What advice has she received on how much less our lowest-income New Zealanders could be earning in real terms once inflation increases as well as increases in accident compensation levies and GST are thrown in?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The advice I received was that if we increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which was the suggestion made by that party over there, it could result in the loss of 8,000 jobs, and we were not prepared to put those 8,000 jobs at risk.
Darien Fenton: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think the Minister addressed the question. It was a specific question about the advice she had received on what the impact on the minimum wage would be once inflation and accident compensation levies had been taken into account.
Mr SPEAKER: As far as I heard, the Minister did give the advice that had been received in respect of the impact of raising the minimum wage, and I think for me to ask her to be more specific would be a little pedantic on my part.
Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Is she aware of the academic research in New Zealand that shows that Labour’s removal of youth rates is responsible for the huge increase in youth unemployment; and will she review that decision, or is she comfortable with youth unemployment of 17 percent, including Māori youth unemployment of 38 percent?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The member may be aware that when Labour wanted to abolish the youth rate we did in fact vote against that legislation, for that very reason. We were concerned that it would price young people off the job market, and that it might also be a perverse incentive for them to leave education. I say to the member who asked the question that we are always willing to listen to good ideas.
Darien Fenton: If the Government does go ahead with an increase to GST, will she commit to supporting Trevor Mallard’s member’s bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2011, so that the more than 450,000 New Zealanders currently struggling to get by on less than that do not fall even further behind?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I say to that member that if raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is such a good idea, why did Labour not do it in the 9 years that it had the opportunity? Our advice tells us that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour could result in the loss of 8,000 jobs. We are not prepared to risk that. I also remind the member that the Prime Minister made it very clear yesterday that any rise in GST would be offset by changes to income tax, so low-income workers will not be any worse off.
Roading—Christchurch Motorways Road
NICKY WAGNER (National) to the
Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on the Christchurch motorways road of national significance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport)
: I am pleased to report that 2 weeks ago I was privileged to be able to turn the first sod on the Christchurch Southern Motorway’s stage one extension. This project was accelerated out of the Government’s $142 million stimulus package, and it will employ around 150 people directly as well as create more jobs in downstream support services and suppliers. This long-awaited project will deliver economic growth and improve safety by developing better access
from the south of that wonderful city of Christchurch to the central business district and Lyttelton Port.
Nicky Wagner: What else will the road of rational significance deliver for Christchurch?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is an exciting time for transport in Christchurch. Other projects in the package include further stages of the Southern Motorway and the Northern Motorway extension, and I am very pleased to report that the first stages of the Western Bypass will also commence construction this year. Christchurch people will now see real progress on that highway development plan as the result of the Government’s $11 billion nationwide commitment to State highway improvements over the next 10 years.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the last question, I say to the Opposition that an awful lot of noise was coming from the Opposition benches. I will insist on the other side giving more courtesy to their member as she asks the last question than they extended to the Minister in answering that previous one.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you recall it, but when Darien Fenton asked that question we could hardly hear the question being asked. I ask you that the rule you applied last year—that you can hear the question—be applied this year.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member, but the noise got totally unacceptable at that point. I am asking the Government now to extend courtesy to the member asking the next question. That was what I have just asked, despite the lack of courtesy the other way round.
Youth—Prime Minister’s Statement
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the
Minister of Youth Affairs: Does she agree with commentator Bernard Hickey that the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday sent a clear message to young New Zealanders: “leave the country now”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Youth Affairs)
: No, I do not. In fact, under the National Government more New Zealanders are choosing to come home and stay home than ever before. Bernard Hickey is throwing his toys because he wanted us to take a much more radical approach to economic reform. He wants the Government to increase the retirement age and drop superannuation from 66 percent—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the expression “throwing his toys” in reference to an outside commentator is an appropriate expression to use in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: Let us just settle down and not get too pedantic. I do not think there is anything wrong with suggesting someone outside this place may have thrown his toys. I do not think it is as insulting as that.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Bernard Hickey has thrown his toys because he wanted us to take a much more radical approach to economic reform. He wants the Government to increase the retirement age, to drop superannuation from 66 percent, to bring in a capital gains tax, to ration health care, and to have a flat tax. I was not expecting the Labour Party to listen to Bernard Hickey; I did not know it was its policy.
Jacinda Ardern: How does she reconcile her answer with the
New Zealand Herald
article 10 days ago in which she was reported to already be concerned by the number of young people who see their future overseas?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We want more New Zealanders to be in New Zealand. But New Zealanders have always done an OE and picked up a lot of skills and an amazing international experience. I think under a National Government we are seeing more of them coming home because this is where they want to be.
Jacinda Ardern: Have her views on Kiwis going abroad changed since the Prime Minister’s statement, in which he offered no new ideas to reduce record high levels of youth unemployment and, according to commentators, “He is saying to a generation unlucky enough not to own property … that they can give up on their dream of family homeownership.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: New Zealanders are aspirational and so are young New Zealanders. They believe in themselves and their capability to earn a living and make something of themselves. They know that this country is the place to do it and that this Government is the one to deliver them tax reforms that will mean something.
Jacinda Ardern: I seek the leave of the House to table an article in the
New Zealand Herald
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order was called and the member’s own colleagues were still interjecting. It is the first question time of the year, I know, but we have not been very brilliant today.
Jacinda Ardern: I seek leave to table an article titled “Minister concerned about youth intentions” from the
New Zealand Herald,dated 1 February.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this an article from a recent
New Zealand Herald?
Jacinda Ardern: It is.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, we are not going to do that.
Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement
- Debate resumed from 9 February.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman)
: The National-led Government encourages enterprise, rewards resourcefulness, and salutes success. The substance of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday will create new opportunities to engage those qualities. I am wholeheartedly behind the Prime Minister’s speech and the direction he has laid out for legislative change in 2010, which will make this country a better place for all New Zealanders, particularly after 10 years of economic mismanagement and a global recession.
Last night I spoke about the opportunities that unlocking the potential for our natural resources will afford. For those who are concerned about minerals recovery, there needs to be an awareness that a considerable amount of mining activity is already conducted on Crown-owned land. I can think of Oceana Gold at Reefton, of Pike River Coal, and of the Stockton mine, all on the West Coast and in Buller—an area that is not strange to Mr Speaker—and all involve working on Department of Conservation - supervised land, with the Pike River coalfield tunnelling under a national park. Those are all permitted activities. Those who have concerns should take faith from the process of the Resource Management Act, which provides controls over the activity. The recently amended Act was strongly supported in this House last year by 108 votes to 13. People can have confidence in the process, and should be assured that that is the case.
Other areas the Prime Minister addressed will guide us into prosperity. The two most important things that a country requires from its tax system are for it to be fair and equitable to all its residents and for it to stimulate economic growth. Tax cuts for all New Zealanders, we are told, are likely in the May Budget. Tax cuts, as is widely recognised, are a stimulant for economic growth, as they put more money into the hands, and, indeed, into the pockets of individuals to make choices about what they do with them. An increase in GST is being carefully considered. One of the advantages of such an increase is that, coupled with reduced income tax, it is universal in its effect, and in fact it favours savings and investment over consumption. Lower taxes put the
right incentives into the economy. A certain degree of consumption is a good thing, as that is how businesses grow and develop. It is imperative that the balance is correct.
Chris Hipkins: Do you understand any of this?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Absolutely, but I am not sure that member does. GST could disproportionately disadvantage beneficiaries, superannuitants, and lower-income earners, so they will be fairly compensated if GST is raised, thereby negating the risk to lower-income earners. There is a lot to like about these ideas, moving forward.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I was one of the many New Zealanders who unfortunately believed the hype that led up to the Prime Minister’s statement. I thought that we would have a grand plan, that we would have a big shift in the approach of the Government, and that we would have progress. Frankly, from a political point of view, I was quite anxious about the possibilities coming from this statement. But what happened? We found that National has no plan to increase wages and no plan to create jobs. What it has decided to do is to fall back to its old approach and have tax cuts for the rich, paid for by the poor. What we want is a system that is fair and one that people who are on the average wage will get real benefit from. But as outlined by Mr Key yesterday—more to the media than in this House—no one on an average or a below average wage, such as $48,000 or below, will be affected by his drop in the top rate of tax. No one will be affected, and no one will benefit. But the Prime Minister will get $509 a week—
Hon Annette King: More.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: —more—but just on the pocket money he gets from Parliament, not on his real income. He will get much, much more on his real income, but on the pin money that he gets from his parliamentary job, he will get $509 a week more. If one happens to be the head of Telecom, it will be $2,500 a week more.
What John Key says depends on when one listens to him saying it. Last year he was asked, very directly, about a hike in GST. He stated: “National is not going to be raising GST. National wants to cut taxes not raise taxes.” He then went on to say that if a National Government was doing “a half-decent job”, it would not need to raise GST. “If National was doing a half-decent job”—says John Key—“it would not have to raise GST.”
Then, yesterday, we had the Prime Minister misleading again. He said that New Zealand taxes consumption at a relatively low rate. That is what he said. John Key said that New Zealand taxes consumption at a relatively low rate. I thought that was interesting and I tried to find out what it meant. Let us look at like countries and look at the OECD. Thirty countries were reported on in the latest OECD report, it was published in 2009, and it goes up to 2008. There are 30 countries there, and if we were relatively low, I would have thought that we would be in the bottom 10. Yes, Chris Tremain, the member for Napier, nods. He also says that we would be in the bottom 10 if we were relatively low. I was looking for us. I was trying to find us on the chart and I could not find us. I had to go all the way up to No. 6. We are the sixth-highest consumption-taxed country in the OECD out of 30 countries. Are we relatively low?
Hon Members: No.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Of course not. It is just another misleading statement from the Prime Minister. We already hit our poor much harder than most other countries, and he is proposing to put up GST.
As a proportion of our GDP, we already pay 110 percent more than Australia does. We pay 110 percent more. We pay 8.4 percent of our GDP in consumption tax, and in Australia that is 4 percent. So what is the story? The Prime Minister is the person who promised that we would have equality with Australia. He is the person who said that that is the objective for New Zealand. Now we have Dr Bollard, whom I think everyone
in this House would believe before they would believe the Prime Minister, saying that that is not possible with this Government’s settings.
What do we have? We have a Prime Minister who is clearly bored with the job. He has a pile of mates who are high-income earners, and he is asking how the Government could possibly help its mates with their poor income and what progress can it make relatively quickly to do what is rapidly being labelled out in Wainuiōmata as the Sheriff of Nottingham approach. What he is doing—
Paul Quinn: Have you been there recently?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I was in Wainuiōmata this morning. Does the member remember the way to Hutt South? He has not been to his office for a long time. I was in Wainuiōmata this morning. That member promised to shift to Hutt South, but he still lives in Roseneath. He promised to shift to Hutt South, and he still—
Paul Quinn: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has made a false accusation against me.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): That is not a point of order, and the member knows that.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I ask when the member is shifting to Hutt South, or at least I ask when he will get a global positioning system to help him find his way out to the Hutt Valley when he is wanted out there, rather than getting lost on the way to the meetings in the way that he always does and not turning up when he promises to. He can interject on me—
Paul Quinn: I’ve been to more meetings there than you have recently.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yeah, but not without a mirror. That member has his meetings with a mirror; that is what he does. He looks at himself in the mirror, he preens himself, and he says that he has had a meeting. That is Paul Quinn. [Interruption] Hekia says he is not the sharpest pencil in the House, and I agree with her. I agree with Hekia Parata.
Hekia Parata: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am being deliberately misquoted. I said that the member Paul Quinn was good-looking, not that he was not as sharp a pencil as elaborated.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): The member knows that that is a debatable point. It is not a point of order.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would like to focus for part of my speech on the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley. I asked her a question today about whether she was in the 11.9 percent who claim to fully understand her national standards system or in the 88 percent who admit that they do not. I make it very clear that I am with John Hattie, Lester Flockton, and just about every other assessment academic in the country. I accept that I do not understand what is in her mind to do with the assessment system. No one understands how it will work, and the reason is that a whole pile of the work that needs to be done on it has not been done on it yet. John Hattie was very clear that the most able kids will suffer, so I ask what we are doing. That Government has taken away gifted and talented education, and now it is focusing down the curriculum so that the brightest kids will suffer the most as a result of this system. This is so badly designed that John Hattie told the Prime Minister to scrap it and start again.
I support high standards. As Minister of Education, I put well over $10 million into developing asTTle. That produced—
Paul Quinn: Is that all?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: People come from around the world to look at asTTle. It is the best system in the world, it is working well, it produces really good reports for parents, and if someone could read them to Paul Quinn, then he would understand them.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
:Ā, tēnā tātou e te Whare. Kua puta te mahere rautaki o Nāhinara mō te tau e heke mai nei engari, arā anō tētahi kōrero kāore anō kia korerohia. He take tērā e hāngai tonu ana ki te noho o te Pāti Māori me te hoa haere a Nāhinara. Me pēnei kē taku whakamārama, nō te Rā o Waitangi, e pēnei ana tētahi pātai a te Pirimia:
“Why can’t this be the generation of New Zealanders who open the next chapter of ourhistory?”.Koi nei tā te Pirimia. Ka pā tūturu tēnei pātai ki tētahi tautohenga tōrangapū nui rawa atu o Aotearoa, arā, mō te hanganga ture takutai moana.
E tekau mā tahi marama ki muri i pānui atu te rōia matua o te Karauna i te whāinga matua o tētahi rōpū arotake i te ture me ōna tāngata nā runga anō i te kawenata tautoko a te Pāti Māori me te Rōpū Nāhinara. E rua ngā kaupapa nui o te arotaketanga, tuatahi kia kitea mehemea e whakapūmau ana, e whakanui ana te ture i te mana whenua, tuarua, ki te whakapūmau i ngā tikanga tūpuna, i ngā tikanga hoki a te marea i roto i te pire takutai moana. Mai rā anō e mea ana te Rōpū Māori me taurite tēnei tikanga, te whakapuakitanga o te mana o tēnā iwi, o tēnā hapū, otirā, kia whai wāhi anō te tokomaha mō ake tonu atu. Koi rā pea te pūtake o te pātai a te Pirimia ki a tātau. Koi nei te reanga ka whakawātea i te huarahi ki te paerangi i ngā rā kei mua i te aroaro, kia tau katoa i runga i te pūmau me te mārama ngā take e pā ana ki te takutai moana. Engari, i konei pea o māua huarahi ka tīhoi. Hei tā te kauhau a te Pirimia i Waitangi, me anga whakamua tātau kia kaua e waiho ake mā ngā raruraru o nehe i te taengamai o tauiwi, e whakakotiti, e whakapōrearea ō tātou whakaaro i tēnei wā.
Kei te rongo au i ētahi e mea ana, kāore rawa i pēnā te ngāwari. Kāore e kore, ko te ture o te tau 2004 te mea taumaha rawa atu o te rau tau kua hipa. Ki a au nei me anga whakamua tātou, engari kei wareware a muri. Nō muri tata nei, āe, engari kei te pupū tonu ake te āhuatanga o te riri me te mamae i waenganui i te tangata whenua. E kore e wareware ki ngā tāngata e 25,000 i hīkoi ngātahi ki te Pāremata i runga i te whakaaro kotahi—me pana te ture ki tua o tāwauwau. Kua takahia tō tātou mana i te ao whānui nā ngā whakatau maha a te Whakakotahitanga o ngā Whenua o te Ao i a rātou e mea ana, he ture takahi i te Māori i te mea, he ture whakakore tērā i ō tātou tikanga whenua, nā te paku kore whakaae atu, ā, karekau he paku aha hei utu i a tātou, mātou me kī o te ao Māori. Kua whakarūhī tō tātou mana hei Pāremata ki te kōrero mō te tika me te pono, nā tō tātou kore aha ki te whai i te tika me te pono i mua i ngā kooti, hei whaiwhai haere i te whakataunga mō Ngāti Apa.
I te tau 2003, koi nei te wā i noho a Ngāti Apa me te Rōia Matua o te Karauna i te kooti, he wā whakahirahira mō te hanganga kaupapa mō tēnei motu. Ko te tikanga, ko taua whakatau o te kooti he mea pānui mā tēnā, mā tēnā o ngā mema Pāremata katoa, mā ngā tauira ā-whare wānanga nei, mā te hunga whai nei i ngā kōrero tūpuna me ngā mahi tōrangapū tae atu ki te hunga whai i te ture. Anei tā Ahorangi Jane Kelsey mō te whakataunga o Ngāti Apa. E ai ki tāna, he whakataunga auaha “because judges in the Māori Land Court and the Court of Appeal were prepared to take the risk and challenge the prevailing precedents.”
Nō reira kei te hoki mai au ki te wero a te Pirimia kia whakawātea tēnei whakatipuranga i te huarahi whakamua. Ko tā tēnei whakatupuranga, he poipoi, he ako, he tautoko, he waitohu, he awhina i ngā reanga kia tipu, kia pakari. Ki tā te Ao Māori, he tōtara wāhi rua, he kai nā te toki. Me aro ake te kaitōrangapū ki ngā whakaaro o te nuinga, āe, engari ko te mahi a te rangatira, ko te māia ā-ngākau, ā-wairua ki te whakakotahi i a tātou, ahakoa tukia e te ua, e te hau.
Nō reira, ka piki taku wairua i ngā kupu a Sonny Rāniera Tau i te hui a te rūnanga manukura—arā, iwi leaders’ forum. Ko taua rūnanga, he whakakotahitanga i ngā iwi e rima tekau mā whitu, ko tā rātou he kōkiri i ngā take o ngā iwi, hapū katoa e pā ana ki ō rātou ake rohe moana. I tautoko a Rāniera i te rūnanga hei reo pai mō te tangata whenua
ki te Karauna nā te mea, kua kōwhiria ngā mema katoa o te rūnanga e ō rātou ake iwi. He aha hoki te tikanga o tēnei kōrero? E pēnei ana pea. E kore rawa e tatū noa ngā whiringa kōrero mō te takutai moana, mei kore ngā iwi, ngā hapū e noho tahi me te Karauna. Nō reira me āta whakarongo ngā māngai ki ō rātou ake iwi, hapū rānei, me pūmau, me pono ki ō rātou whakaaro.
Ko tā mātou kī taurangi ā-Rōpū Māori ki te hunga tautoko i a mātou, ka whakapau wera, ka whakapau mātou i te kaha ki te whakakore i te ture, ā, he whāinga nui tērā mō mātou. Engari, kei te titiro mātou ki mua me te ngākau rorotu. E hiahia ana matou o te Pāti Māori, he reo mana motuhake mō te iwi Māori i roto i te Whare Pāremata nei, kia whai wāhi ai ngā iwi, ngā hapū, i roto i ngā whakahaerenga katoa o te takutai moana. Kua akiaki mātou kia whakatinanahia ō rātou tikanga, ka mutu ko tā mātau hoki ko te kī atu, me whai mana ngā iwi me ngā hapū, kāore i kō atu, kāore i kō mai. Mā te wā ka kitea mai ai ngā hua o wā mātou mahi. Nō reira, waiho tērā kōrero ki reira.
I tēnei wā mō te wā poto, me kōrero au mō tētahi atu take nui, whakaharahara, arā, ko tērā i tīmata mai ai i nanahi, ā, anei ahau e rongo nei i ōna hua. Tērā tētahi tohu nui, whakahirahira e hiki ai te wairua o te iwi Māori, arā, ko te tīmatanga mai o te tukutahi i te reo Māori me te reo Pākehā i tēnei Whare. Kua roa kē tēnei rā e tāria ana. Nō te tau 1987, ka whakamanatia te reo Māori i raro i te Ture o te Reo Māori. He hurihanga nui mō tēnei motu, ā, e 23 tau ki muri, anei tātou e whakanui ana i te tikanga o taua ture.
E pēnei ana te whakapapa. Ka noho tonu te mahi tukutahi o ngā reo i roto i a Māui Tikitiki a Taranga, arā, te wāhi e whiriwhiria ana ngā take Māori mai i te 24 o Hui-tanguru 2000. Kua whakapākehātia ngā kōrero Māori a ngā mema Pāremata mā ngā manuhiri kōrero Māori nei, ā, ka rere tika tonu ki ngā mema Pāremata. I taua wā, i puta te kōrero a te Kaitiriwa o te Whare—arā, te Karaka nei—a Ailsa Salt, mēnā ka eke te mahi ki te taumata e tika ana, ka kokirihia kia tae mai ki tēnei Whare. Mai rā anō i te tau 1999, i konei tētahi kaiwhakamāori mō te Whare Paremata e mahi ana, nā runga i ngā whakapae a ngā mema Māori i ngā tau 1996 ki te 1999, mō ngā uauatanga o te kōrero Māori i te Whare. Nō reira, me mihi ki ngā mema huri noa i te Whare, mai i ngā Kāwanatanga maha o ērā wā, nō rātou te whakaaro nui ki te kōkiri i tēnei take kia korerohia te reo Māori, hei reo tūturu o te motu, kia tere tonu te rongo a ērā atu mema Pāremata i ngā kōrero e rere haere nei.
Hoi anō, ko tā mātou ko te kī atu, ko ā mātou whakataukī, pepehā erā mea katoa kei te putake mai i te Māoritanga he mea kīnaki mō ēnei kōrero, he whakaputanga mātauranga, he mea ārahi i a tātou i ēnei rā. Hoi anō, nā ēnei mātauranga, ēnei māramatanga e mōhio ai tātou arā noa atu ngā huarahi e wātea ana ki wā tātou tamariki mokopuna i ēnei rangi, ā, he huarahi i takahia ai e ō rātou tīpuna, e ō rātou mātua. Kia ora.
[Greetings to us, the House. National has provided a statement regarding the year ahead, but there was one topic that was not really discussed. That matter has some relevance to the agreement between the Māori Party and National. Let me explain. On Waitangi Day the Prime Minister asked the following question: “Why can’t this be the generation of New Zealanders who open the next chapter in our history?”. It is a question of the utmost relevance to one of the most significant political debates to have impacted upon Aotearoa, the foreshore and seabed legislation.
It has been just under 11 months since the Attorney-General announced the terms of reference and members of the Government’s ministerial panel to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act as provided for in the confidence and supply agreement between the National Government and the Māori Party. There were two key components to the review: to ascertain whether the Act adequately maintains and enhances land ownership, and to ensure that both customary and public interest in the coastal marine area are recognised and provided for. It is a balance that the Māori Party has
consistently advocated for—the need to respect the mana that every iwi and hapū express over their coastal marine areas, while at the same time promoting the concept of enduring public access. That, then, is perhaps at the heart of the question that the Prime Minister put. This generation must the one to open the next chapter of history by providing certainty and clarity around interests in the foreshore and seabed. But this is where we differ in some respects from the approach taken by Mr Key. Mr Key’s Waitangi Day proclamation was that we should move on and accept that the history of colonisation and injustice cannot be allowed to dominate decision making.
I can hear some of our people saying that is easier said than done. There would be little dispute that the 2004 Act has been the most pivotal piece of policy served upon Māori for at least the last century. To me, we must face the future, being absolutely informed by our past—a recent past, admittedly, but one that continues to engender hostility and anguish from amongst the indigenous people of this land. We will never forget the memory of 25,000 people marching on Parliament to universally reject the Act. Our international reputation has been damaged by consistent findings from the United Nations that the Act discriminated against Māori because it extinguished property rights without consent or compensation. And our capacity, as a Parliament, to talk about matters of justice is severely compromised by the complete disregard for the concept of due access to the courts, as spelt out in the Ngāti Apa decision.
That period of time in 2003, during the Attorney-General v Ngāti Apa case, is a very significant period in the building up of our nation. Indeed, I would hope the Ngāti Apa decision would be compulsory reading for all members of Parliament, all students of history and politics, all those with intentions to enter the halls of law. This is what Professor Jane Kelsey said about the Ngāti Apa decision. She described it as creative, occurring only
“because judges in the Māori Land Court and the Court of Appeal were prepared to take the risk and challenge the prevailing precedents.”
o again I come back to Mr Key’s question challenging this generation to open the next chapter of history. The critical responsibility for our generation is that we are able to provide the insights, the knowledge, the direction, and the support that will help all future generations to grow and develop. Māoridom considers that we cannot advance if we ignore or deny the conflicts that have rendered us asunder. Opinion polls, focus groups, and political commentators all have their place, but ultimately the true test of leadership lies in the courage to work with policy differences.
In this respect, I was heartened by the words of Sonny Rāniera Tau in his analysis of the iwi leaders’ forum. That forum consists of representation of all 57 iwi and is a powerful advocate for the recognition and mana of iwi and hapū over their coastal waters. Mr Tau spoke in support of the forum as the best group to represent Māori in negotiations, given that all members are elected members of their own iwi. What does this really mean? Quite simply, the foreshore and seabed approach that we consider and conclude in upcoming months can be effective only if there is meaningful engagement between the Crown and iwi/hapū. It is expected that those representatives communicate well with iwi and hapū, to be accountable, to be transparent, and to be faithful to the views of their people.
The key commitment that we gave to our constituency is that we would do everything in our power to repeal the Act—and that has been a priority for us. But we also face the future with optimism, wanting to ensure that the Māori Party, as the strong and independent voice for Māori, can ensure that all aspects of the management of the marine environment and marine resources enable effective input of iwi and hapū. We have advocated for iwi and hapū involvement in decisions that bear the influence of tikanga; and we have spoken out consistently for the recognition of the mana of iwi and hapū. Time will demonstrate the fruits of our efforts. So let us leave that matter there.
Now let me turn to another important matter, which arose yesterday, and here I am profiting from that. There is one thing that would inspire hope for the success our people seek; that is the significance of yesterday, a day in which, finally, simultaneous interpretation has been welcomed into this Chamber. This has been a day long in coming. In 1987 the Maori Language Act declared te reo Māori an official language of New Zealand.
That was a key event in the history of this nation, and it is somewhat sobering to think that Parliament, some 23 years later, is finally honouring the intention of that Act.
The whakapapa goes like this.
On 24 February 2000 a simultaneous English-Māori translation service was installed in the Māori Affairs Committee room so that direct English translations of members of Parliament or visitors speaking in te reo can be made. At the time, then Deputy Clerk of the House Ailsa Salt said that if the service was a success it could be introduced into the House. We have also had an interpreter in the House since 1999, after Māori members of Parliament expressed concerns during the 1996-99 Parliament about the barriers to speaking Māori in the House. So I want to recognise the efforts made right across the House, in successive terms of Parliament, for the right to be able to speak Māori and for it to be given the status of an official language, with the capacity for other members to benefit from an immediate understanding of the concepts and statements expressed.
Indeed, we advocate that our whakataukī, pepeha, and kōrero tawhito are cultural assets and capital of tangata whenua as being the essential core of Māoritanga. They embellish our talk, demonstrate the unique knowledge and wisdom of Māori frameworks, and provide contemporary guidance based on historical precedents. Indeed, it is through such learning and leadership that we are confident our future generations can open many new chapters in the history of our nation—chapters that are stronger for the foundation they emerge from. Thank you
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. He mihi nui ki te Whare Paremata, he mihi nui kite. For speakers of te reo rangatira and translators of te reo rangatira it is indeed a good day.
What a happy summer break it was, standing on the infamous Kōpū Bridge and talking to carloads of visitors about why they were coming to the Coromandel. Strangely, not one of them said: “I am hoping to see an industrial-scale goldmine in a forest park.”, or “Lead me to the gold processing plant. I want to relax to the smell of chemicals and the music of crushing machines.” No one even asked to see Gerry Brownlee in nothing but his tramping boots paying final tribute to the schedule 4 forests and mountains before he, assisted by the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, attempts to rip them open.
What is schedule 4? Most people back where I come from call it the goldmining ban, and they do that because we were part of creating it. In the Hauraki-Coromandel we drew a line in the land at Kōpū-Hikuai, and after about 15 years’ hard work, we created enough support to see a level of legislative protection. We did not say that it was about protecting icons in exchange for stewardship land, and it was voted in by a National Government. We said that gold was a finite resource and that modern goldmining was not sustainable. We still say so, and we do not want the blood money from mining spent on conservation projects as a Faustian bargain.
We called then, and we call now, for the protection of steep forested catchments and waterways, for Tīkapa Moana, the Hauraki Gulf, and the fragile coastal fringes. We call for absolute protection for Te Moana Hau o Tama-te-Kapua, the maunga, and we included every scrap of land we could, because that is how we create real ecosystems and improve biodiversity. None of it is open for mining in our area; members should just come and ask the people.
I asked the people what they wanted this summer at public meetings from Ōpoutere and Onemana, which are outside schedule 4, right up to the Coromandel township, which is surrounded by old gold reefs and stewardship lands. Every public meeting was the same. People wanted to take action to oppose any mining. They were not convinced by boutique mining, which could become “maul-size”. They know what mauled land looks like, because we have been through all this before, and the land is only just starting to heal.
As for surgical mining, it sounds like some ghastly procedure to disembowel the earth. If that is the name for what has been happening on the West Coast recently, then we are all in trouble. And do not get me started on the new language of offsetting biodiversity, which Landcare and the Ministry of Economic Development are busy trying to trade off. However, there will be a consultation phase, which John Key appears to have pre-empted in his speech yesterday about his expectations to amend schedule 4. The Green Party looks forward to this, as hundreds of people have indicated that they want to participate, even if the Prime Minister will not listen. They have told us that areas from Murihiku, Southland, to North Cape are not open for coal and goldmining by multinationals.
John Key stated in his address to Parliament yesterday that if there is an increase in mining activity, New Zealand’s natural environment will also be improved. My co-leader Russel Norman said that that sounded like George Orwell, but it also reminds me of George Bush. In the age of the big lie, the Minister of Tourism attempts to sell destruction as protection, and he thinks that this country will swallow it. Well, I say to the Prime Minister, pigs might fly and the Earth might be flat, but we will not surrender our treasured places. Whatungarongaro he tangata, toitū he whenua; people persist, but the land remains. That is what we have to pass on to our mokopuna, not toxic tailing dumps.
More and more people understand that we live in the 21st century, not the 19th century, but it seems that this Government will have to be educated. I tell National members to look to their vote before they start on this reckless demolition. I ask whether their focus groups told them that mining in forests and national parks was a public relations winner, or have they missed the essential component of our national identity: economic uniqueness and survival as a species, the need to protect the integrity of the Earth.
I will also comment on the Prime Minister’s statement in terms of education, where there were some very interesting signals. That is as it should be, because we have some serious challenges in this area, not the least being the Government’s declaring war on many teachers and principals. We will not meet many people who do not believe that quality learning is a human right for our children, but how is this achieved? It must be a matter for dialogue and negotiation.
The Government has signalled that early childhood education will see some changes to increase the number of poor, Māori, and Pacific children participating. It does not say how that will be done, and the Green Party would love to know how the increase in GST, which affects childcare fees, will help people to pay for early childhood education, especially when unemployment statistics for Māori and Polynesian families are at a record high and when their wages are so low. Perhaps free quality child care will now be made available to the poor, but we are not holding our breath.
As for primary schools grappling with national standards, we would love to know what the Prime Minister meant by “we will intervene more aggressively” in consistently failing schools. Does he mean the kind of aggressive intervention experienced by Aorangi Primary School, which has now been closed without there being any of the conventional hallmarks of educational failure? It is great news that the Government will
provide more professional development for teachers, but to what end? We all agree on the need for quality education, but the across-the-board adoption of standards without a trial or pilot sends the worrying signal that this is an ideologically rigid process in response to a genuine recognition of a problem.
We have a deserved reputation for educational success at the primary level, but we also have the frightening statistic that many Māori and Pacific children leave the education system without sufficient literacy, unless they are Māori and go to kura kaupapa. The issue here reflects a harsh combination of the effects of social inequity in the way that our Pākehā designed and managed education system fails to engage children from other cultures, notably tangata whenua. But when a child comes to school without breakfast or any lunch and carries the neighbourhood social damage on small shoulders, their teachers cannot work some Hollywood miracle.
What about children with a wide range of disabilities? How does a generic standard help them to become confident learners at their own pace? That is why national standards will not help. It has been tried, in the No Child Left Behind programme, which the Bush Government attempted in the United States. President Obama is now withdrawing from that approach because he has seen that literacy and numeracy have not improved. The United Kingdom experience is similar. Teachers started teaching to tests in order to protect themselves and their schools before the label of “loser” undermined their resources and their reputations, and children have suffered. It is a sorry business when the education academics have to attack the Minister of Education.
The names Snook, Crooks, Flocton, and Hattie sound like a Dickensian law firm, but they are actually quite diverse professors of education, all of whom are warning the Government that standards without a pilot could create disaster. Professor Ivan Snook also points out that the rationale for introducing national standards ignores the detail in the 2009 Education Review Office report on the use of assessment tools, which showed major improvement across the country.
We need action across the whole community if all children are to have access to culturally appropriate, quality education, but, as young teachers have said to me in the last few weeks, the real losers from national standards will be the classes of children whom no one will want to teach because they will never meet the standard for reading and maths. Dedicated teachers can lift them from where they have started to much higher standards, but for many it will not be possible to reach the standards set in the current national standards. It will not be an easy journey for those children, unlike the middle-class children whose parents loved school themselves, read to them constantly, and live amongst peace and plenty.
It is pretty alarming that the national standards are being rolled out when the Government conceded in its address to Parliament yesterday that “policy will be developed” this year. Most great educational ideas are based on policy that has already been developed, but this one fails on this count and on many others. The Prime Minister’s speech also had some worrying threats to students about performance and punishment.
We are very concerned that the education and the mining messages in the Prime Minister’s speech spell trouble for the environment, for the tourist dollar, for the future of this country as a home for biodiversity, for the integrity of the Earth, and for the education of our children. The Green Party will be challenging these issues in the year to come. Kia ora koutou katoa.
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT)
: Yesterday we heard the Prime Minister outline the Government’s plan for the year. He touched on a number of areas, one of which I would like to focus on this afternoon. He talked about the possibility of increasing the rate of GST from 12.5 percent to 15.5 percent. What did we hear from the Opposition
members? One after another we heard Phil Goff, Annette King, David Cunliffe, and Shane Jones stand up and pretend to be concerned about people on low incomes.
From Phil Goff we heard about the people on the minimum wage who will pay more for their bread, their milk, their power, and their block of cheese. David Cunliffe said they are “right to be sceptical that they would be fully compensated. Mums who are trying to feed their 3 or 5 kids on a medium or a low income are frightened about the cost of bread and milk, let alone power and rent.”
Hon Trevor Mallard: This is a better speech than Rodney’s.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: I did not hear Mr Mallard’s introduction, but he was a member of the previous Government, which voted for a tax on power. He voted for a tax on power, and if the people of New Zealand had not had the good sense to vote for a change of Government 15 months ago, the cost of electricity in this country would have gone up on 1 January this year. I say to Mr Mallard that that is right: we would have had a 10 percent increase in the price of electricity from 1 January—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What’s the member been smoking over Christmas?
JOHN BOSCAWEN: The member may not like to hear that criticism, but it is exactly what would have happened. In November 2008 the people of New Zealand voted against a tax on electricity. The cost of electricity would have gone up by 10 percent on 1 January this year.
So when Mr Goff talks about the mother who has to meet the cost of bread, milk, power, and a block of cheese he is misleading all New Zealanders, because he and his colleagues voted for an emissions trading scheme tax that would have increased the price of electricity by 10 percent on 1 January this year, and the price of petrol by 5 percent. Those increases would have percolated throughout the whole economy. There would have been increases in the cost of food.
David Cunliffe talked about the cost of a block of cheese. Electricity is required to manufacture a block of cheese. Farmers have to produce milk to go into a block of cheese. The previous Labour Government was the first Government in the world to put a tax on its farmers: a tax on cows and other animals for doing what they do naturally, which is to burp and to digest food.
One after the other the Labour members stood up yesterday afternoon and talked about the price of electricity going up. They pretended to be concerned about low-income people. That is right; they pretended to be concerned about low-income people.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Oh, John, that’s so disappointing.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: I ask Lianne Dalziel why, if Labour members were concerned about the price of electricity, they voted for an emissions trading scheme that would have increased the price of electricity by 10 percent.
Amendments were made to that scheme last year, and what do we have as a consequence? The good news is that we do not have a tax of 10 percent on electricity; it will be only 5 percent, and it will be going on 6 months later than had been intended, on 1 July this year. So we can thank the National Government for agreeing to halve the amount of the increase in the price of electricity and delay its introduction. But I ask why we are allowing the price of electricity to go up in the first place. Why do we come here and make speeches and pretend to be concerned about people on low incomes, when we know full well that we are prepared to see significant increases in the price of electricity?
The interesting thing about the increase in GST is that the Prime Minister made it very clear yesterday that people on low incomes will be compensated. He will be increasing the rate of New Zealand superannuation. He will be making sure that the people who are most affected by the increase in GST, because it takes the largest proportion of their income, are fully compensated. Was there to have been any
compensation for the low-income people who were to face a 10 percent increase in the price of electricity from the Labour Government on 1 January this year? No, there was not. Sadly, I have to say the National Government too is not arranging any compensation for those low-income people who will have to pay for the increase in electricity from 1 July this year.
Mr Cunliffe talked about people being sceptical. The Prime Minister made the point very well that people will be fully compensated for the increase in the rate of GST. I ask why we have to increase the price of electricity. And if we are to increase the price of electricity, I ask, what about providing compensation for those people who have to pay for that?
I raise the issue of the emissions trading scheme tax because we were told by the Minister for Climate Change Issues last year that we had to have a tax in place before he went to the Copenhagen climate change talks. We were told that we had to keep pace with Australia, and that our emissions trading scheme tax would be consistent with the scheme that the Australian Government was going to pass. The Minister for Climate Change Issues was convinced that the Australian Government would pass the scheme before the end of November, so that the Australians could go off to Copenhagen with their tax in their bag. Well, there is no emissions trading scheme in Australia. That proposal was defeated. New Zealand is the only country outside Europe to have an emissions trading scheme. It is the only country in the world to tax its farmers. Less than 6 months ago the Minister for Climate Change Issues sat in his seat in the front row there, and he gladly and proudly told parliamentarians and the people of New Zealand that the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminium smelter, Comalco, would be the first aluminium smelter in the world to be taxed. It was to be the first aluminium smelter that would bear the cost of an emissions trading scheme. And we wonder why we have problems in creating job opportunities in New Zealand!
But the situation is worse than that. Australia tried to introduce an emissions trading scheme, but it could not pass it. In fact, I understand that it has been introduced into the Australian Parliament for the third time, but it is expected to be defeated. Over the last 3 months we have also had a total lack of credibility from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. First, we heard in November that climate data had been manipulated and hidden. Our own National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research has also adjusted New Zealand’s climate change data and does not have records or adequate proof of the adjustments made, despite constant requests for that. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the supposedly reputable scientific body that tells the world that we are warming, made the claim that the glaciers in the Himalayas will be melted by 2035. It said in 25 years those glaciers would be melting. But over the Christmas vacation we learnt that it had made a mistake. It was supposedly a peer-reviewed document, but we have learnt that the glaciers in the Himalayas will not have melted by 2035; it will be 2300, if that.
The ACT Party stands alone in this House. We are the only party that recognises that this is a country with two classes of citizens. We have the privileged and the underprivileged: the people who pay tax, and the people who avoid paying tax. There is the chance to introduce genuine tax reform into this country. The Prime Minister has laid out only the bare bones of it in what he has done. This country needs to go further. I was very interested to hear from John Howard, the former Prime Minister of Australia, when he visited to attend the ACT conference in November. He said he and his Liberal colleagues used to sit on the other side of the Tasman and look in awe and wonderment at New Zealand’s GST, because it was so inclusive. We have the chance to make some major tax reform, and all I ask is that the members of the Labour Opposition speak more honestly to the people of New Zealand and acknowledge that if it had not been for a
change of Government, we would have had an emissions trading scheme that resulted in the price of electricity going up by 10 percent on 1 January this year. Members opposite should not stand there and give speeches that object to the price of power going up. Thank you.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police)
: I will just take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of Jeanette Fitzsimons. Mrs Fitzsimons will soon be making her valedictory speech. Although I do not think we have ever agreed on anything other than, possibly, the need for insulation in people’s homes, I have to say that in the almost 8 years I have been here, Jeanette Fitzsimons has always been a remarkably well-mannered member, who has brought a degree of sanity to debates, particularly on issues on which we do not always agree. She has always been a very responsible member of Parliament. I think we should all be very pleased for Jeanette that she has been able to find a way to come to retirement, but also that she will be replaced, as that is what happens in political parties.
The Prime Minister’s statement, which he spoke on yesterday, was reasonably unusual for Prime Minister’s statements, in that it talked about issues that were controversial and important. It took all the headlines, both today and yesterday, and probably will for some time. That is in stark contrast to the contribution from the Leader of the Opposition, whose great remedy for the economy is to cap the salaries of 16 of our top public servants. He seems to have forgotten that a Labour Government signed off on a formal policy in 2005 to increase salaries for chief executive officers by 5 percent a year for 5 years. The National Government, on taking office, cancelled that. It seems that he has had a little memory lapse. But we are not here to talk about the Leader of the Opposition, because, frankly, why would we? I am here to talk about the speech that the Prime Minister gave from the Throne—in Parliament, here—and about the need to talk about some of the big issues.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: From the Throne! He’s “King John” now.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Ms Dalziel suggests “King John”. Well, there have been sillier names, and I am glad she agrees that he is a fantastic Prime Minister.
Let us look at law and order. When we came into Government we took over from a Government that did not accept that methamphetamine—P—was a major issue in New Zealand. We have had to clamp down on gangs and P. We have taken action on violent crime, introduced tougher sentences for crimes against children, given police extra powers in respect of DNA, boosted police funding by almost $200 million, and we are well on the way towards the extra 600 police that we promised by the next election. We have passed anti - boy-racing laws, which include the ability to crush the cars of repeat street racing offenders, and we have approved the roll-out of 720 Tasers to our front-line police, which will get under way in the next month or so. We have passed laws that put victims first with on-the-spot protection orders and a victims’ levy. We have a Fresh Start programme for young offenders, with initiatives and programmes to steer young people away from a life of crime. Those are some of the things we have already done in just one year. One would have to say that generally last year was a very big year for law and order in this country—and it is about time.
This year we have some great things happening. The police have been trialling some very good new initiatives, particularly in Counties-Manukau, and that has led to quite a dramatic decrease in crime. We always like to be a little bit careful about making statements like that, but it does seem to have been working, certainly for the last few months since it has been trialled. If we can stop people committing crime, it means we will have fewer victims, which means ultimately we will have fewer people in our jails and fewer dysfunctional families, and that is a fantastic thing.
When we took over as Government, I took over a corrections portfolio that was in some disarray after the “fine” work that had been done by Mr Goff as the former Minister. We took over a prison system that was at crisis point. We were fast approaching the situation of not having enough beds for our prisoners. The probation service had had huge amounts of work put on to it, but without extra funding for staff. It was appalling to find that in September 2008, just before the election, the Department of Corrections had put in an emergency bid for extra funding for its probation and parole staff. The department knew that it was in dire trouble. That request was not even replied to by the then Minister. Frankly, we inherited a real mess. In 1 year—and I pay tribute to the great work of Department of Corrections staff—we have had a huge turn-round. That has been made with the assistance and support of our colleagues in Cabinet, the Prime Minister, and our caucus to give the Department of Corrections the help and funding it needed, but also the support it needed to do the right thing.
Part of that right thing was not just housing prisoners, because we do that already—and, by the way, we are going very well with our double-bunking and container cells, so we have enough beds for quite some time yet. But in terms of rehabilitation of prisoners, we are doubling the amount of positions available for rehabilitation of our prisoners, and that is extraordinarily important, particularly when it comes to drug and alcohol addictions. There is one thing that seems to flow right through our prisons, and that is drug and alcohol addictions. That seems to be one thing that most prisoners have in common with each other. Of course, those addictions affect not only our prisoners but also, most important, their victims and their families. Every time that we send someone to jail a family is deeply affected. In many cases, a victim is also deeply affected, and the victim’s family too—and, by the way, those families and victims never get out on parole.
One of the things we are doing this year is bringing back to Parliament the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill. It will be very interesting to see how parties line up on that. I acknowledge the work of the ACT Party, which has worked long and hard with National over the last year to get that bill into a form that we believe is reasonable, fair, and balanced. At the same time, the bill sends a very strong message of our support for victims and our condemnation of repeat violent offenders who do not care about the rest of society.
Of course, none of this is possible without some money to pay for it. That is why it is very important to get this economy going. I am one of those people who believe very strongly that a strong justice system helps an economy. Frankly, if we look at some of the countries around the world that are very violent and not law abiding, their economies very seldom work very well. That is partly because of corruption, fear, and the fact that a lot of very talented people will not go to work or live there. So it is important that we deal with the economy. The Prime Minister has suggested that there could be an increase in GST. He suggested as well that anything like that would be accompanied by a great deal of support given to our lowest-income earners, so that they are not unduly stressed financially. I think it is important to acknowledge that we are in a competition in this country; we are in a competition with other countries for the best and most talented people, for people who want to come and set up businesses here, and who want to live here and be part of our Kiwi way of life. We have to understand that. We do not agree that we should give up just because Australia has more minerals that are closer to the surface than we do. We actually have lots of minerals in this country. We have water, as well. We have an agricultural industry that is, frankly, second to none in the world.
We have people who are highly educated and who are doing very well, but we also know that about 20 percent of our New Zealand children are not achieving anywhere
near the level they need, should they wish to join a modern economy. That is simply not good enough. I do not agree with people who say to me that the parents of those children do not care. That has been put to me just recently, and, frankly, I think it is a disgrace. I have seen in my electorate of Papakura, in some of the schools where there has been a real effort to engage with parents, particularly of very troubled children, that the more parents are engaged with by the school, the more they are brought in, the more they are told about how their child is progressing or not progressing—what they are doing well at, what they are having trouble with—the more that parents are empowered, and the better the outcome for children. I do not believe for a moment that we should ever write off children because of the poverty their parents may live in. We should never, ever do that. To do so is actually to write off people from before the time they are born. I am not prepared to do that, nor is the Prime Minister, and nor is this Government. We believe very, very strongly that every child has the right to the best education. We also believe in parents, because, frankly, if our parents do not love us, who will? We see parents who are empowered, and who will take this very seriously. I am very proud to stand in the House and support the Prime Minister’s statement.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour)
: We came back yesterday to a new year and to the Prime Minister’s statement, where he asserted that he was looking for a step change in the New Zealand economy. What did we get in that statement that would lead us to believe that those words are at all realisable? We got nothing. We got no plan. We got the usual National Party mantra, its only mantra for the last 20 years, of lower taxes for the rich and an increase in GST to be paid for largely by the poor. The dropping of the tax rates for the wealthy is meant to try to give us a step change in the economy. Where will we get a step change in this economy if there is no investment into tertiary education? I will make that one of my particular themes today because in the absence of a plan, we are left with threats and veiled threats over tertiary education that do not augur well for the future of this country.
First of all, I pick up on a comment yesterday from Bernard Hickey. National has been trying to dismiss Bernard Hickey’s commentary but usually they like to hug him to death. Bernard Hickey is no particular friend of mine, or of the Labour Party, but he has said in his commentary: “John Key has just sent Generations X and Y a clear message: Leave the country now. … He is saying all those too poor to own a home now will never be able to own their own home. He is accepting the poverty and the hopelessness that is often attached to the working poor in rental accommodation. He is saying tough. My backers own property. We won. You lost. Eat that.” The same thing could be extrapolated from Mr Key’s comments about tertiary education. Where this Government appears to be taking tertiary education will not lead to the kind of economic improvement and the productivity that is required if everybody’s aspirations, including the Prime Minister’s, are to be met. John Key will never get us anywhere near Australia if he does not invest in tertiary education or young people in the way that Australia has.
Another long-time commentator has asked John Key to prove the Reserve Bank governor wrong. He has challenged him to say that Alan Bollard is wrong in his assessment of our ability to catch up with Australia. The future the Prime Minister mapped out yesterday in his statement will in fact prove Alan Bollard right. But this is not about personalities. This is not about Key versus Bollard. This is about ideas. This is about plans. This is about the imagination and the courage to invest in young people so that they might acquire the skills they need to achieve the high-income-earning jobs they aspire to and continue to contribute to New Zealand’s productivity.
Mr Key said that the Government intended to “take a careful look at the policy settings around student support …”. Now, what on earth does that mean? We are left to
fill the gap ourselves because clearly the Prime Minister either did not know what to say, or was not prepared to say it. For example, will students be able to access student allowances only if they pass all their subjects? What if they need more support to pass, not doors being closed on them? Who will decide if students have made a genuine effort, and have not simply chosen the wrong course initially and changed their mind about their course of study? It seems to me that when Mr Key talked about those people “who refuse to take their tertiary studies seriously,” he was probably only talking about rich kids because it seems to me that only rich kids can afford not to take their studies seriously. The reality is that most students, whether they are enrolled in a polytech or a university, are working hard and juggling challenging study with part-time work—usually on low rates of pay—to support themselves and supplement their allowances.
Those young people are about to be clobbered with an increase in GST. They are not the ones who will benefit from tax cuts for the rich. They will only get the other part, which is the increase to GST. They are not superannuitants; they will not get any imagined compensation from the Government. They are not beneficiaries; they will not get any imagined compensation from the Government for increased GST. They are simply students. They are the ones on whom our future depends. They will be clobbered with an increase in GST with no tax cuts for them, and, I anticipate, greater difficulty in accessing loans and allowances. The Government is clearly—whether by intention or ignorance, I have not yet discerned—setting up tertiary education to once more become the domain of the well-off few, not the less well-off many.
The step change that needs to occur in the economy in this country is absolutely dependent upon raising the skills of everybody. So when we talk about trades training in schools, and we look at what the Government is proposing, it has outlined a plan for five trades academies around the country. One needs to look for another policy, but one where it talks about the few rather than the many. It will be hard to find one. Our policy in Government was Schools Plus. It extended trades training and flexible high school programmes to every school in the country, not simply to five selected trades academies. The investment that needs to be made in education beyond the school gate will be the thing that makes the difference. That will be the thing that causes New Zealand to prosper.
For mature students with families, or for redundant workers trying to upskill for another job, this double whammy of higher GST and harder-to-get loans and allowances will be especially difficult. In addition to that, another gap in the Prime Minister’s speech that we are left to fill is the veiled threat of the raising of the fee maxima cap at tertiary institutions. If fees are raised, if increased GST is added to all necessary consumer goods and services, and if access to loans and allowances is made harder, what is to become of our world-standard education system? The Government clearly wishes to create an increasingly elitist tertiary education system for its rich friends. We know what has happened to its view of the underclass in New Zealand; it does not like listening to stories about the underclass any more.
From the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday, it is entirely apparent that any investment in a step change in the economy will result in a wider gap between the skilled and the unskilled than we currently have. That means there will be a system of tertiary education that is accessible to the few and not to the many.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction)
: What a great delight it was to sit in the House yesterday and listen to a Prime Minister’s speech that was actually full of substance about what would get this nation’s gross domestic product per capita—I know that is a ghastly phrase; the vast bulk of people out in ordinary television land do not really care about GDP per capita, but it really
translates for them as our wealth per person—back on track with comparable jurisdictions. Those are the countries we like to compare ourselves to.
We remember that back in the early 1950s we were about second or third in the world; we were literally on the sheep’s back. With the Korean War raging and wool at a great price, we were a wealthy country, and back then New Zealanders had a level of expectation about the things we could afford as a nation. Sadly, that expectation has not decreased along with the decrease of our wealth per person. So the plan yesterday was to get that wealth per person back on track to growing and eventually, hopefully, by 2025—we might not hit the target but we can at least have it as a target—getting back to being comparable with Australia.
People like the Greens will say that we should not be focused on the economy and money; we should be focused on environmental outcomes. Others will say those outcomes are not so important, but that social outcomes are. Well, I ask any member of this House to look around the world and see the unbelievable correlation there is between fantastic environmental outcomes and wealthy nations. Members should go to the wealthiest countries and look at the fantastic clean water, fresh air, and clean rivers they have, and then go to the poor countries, the bottom-of-the-heap countries, and look at the filthy rivers with sewage pouring down them, the filthy air, and the lack of infrastructure. I am really happy to say that by being a supporter of growing the economy, I am also a supporter of getting better environmental outcomes.
Indeed, as Judith Collins said before in our law and order area, there will also be better social outcomes. We get way better outcomes if we have an economy that is booming and that can employ people. Those people need to be employable to start with; therefore, I will talk about what I think was great in the Prime Minister’s statement. There was a focus on lifting innovation and productivity. It is no good if we just keep doing the same old thing in the same old way; we will get left behind. Here is a little trick for the House. We think that we are not doing too badly in the world for our wealth per person, our GDP per capita, because we are about 24th in the OECD—the rich man’s club. However, heaps and heaps of countries are not in the rich man’s club but are way wealthier than us already. It will not come as a surprise to members today to hear that Singapore, which we used to help through the Colombo Plan because it was so poor, has wealth per person that is nearly twice ours. That will not come as a surprise. Nor will the fact that Hong Kong is also wealthier. But what do members think about Puerto Rico passing us 5 years ago?
Paul Quinn: 5 years ago?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The wealth per person of Puerto Rico, its GDP per capita, passed us 5 years ago, and Slovenia’s passed us 3 years ago. We are not 24th in the world; we are 24th in the OECD. We are about 49th in the world for wealth per person, so we have to lift innovation and productivity. We have to invest in commercialising good ideas—our good scientific ideas, and our good views about what will make wealthy products that the world wants. I am delighted that there was a focus on that in the Prime Minister’s statement.
There is another collection of portfolios and policies that make a nation work: labour laws that are fair and that give the worker some coverage and some protection, but that do not discourage employers from taking on new staff. I have to say that if some of the lunatic left of this country got their way they would put labour laws and protections in place that in theory would look brilliant, but not a single person would be employed, because no employer would take those risks. I have a view about the minimum wage. There is the idea of putting it to $15 and everybody being wealthy, but I ask why we stop at $15. Let us make it a hundred bucks an hour for everybody and we will be exceedingly wealthy. Of course, everyone is starting to laugh; even Labour members are
starting to laugh at that. They know that the moment we make an artificial per hour rate we stifle the ability for employers to employ, so I am delighted that we have made only the small move we have on that issue.
We need to ensure a well-educated population. I find it absolutely gobsmacking when I go around this country and talk to employers who say that they have got jobs, and that they have signs out the front saying they will take on a general labour force, but they have not been able to employ a number of people because those people cannot fill out their application forms. They cannot read and they cannot write. That is a national disgrace. We have compulsory education to the age of 16, and we are paying billions for an education system, so it is a national disgrace that we are turning out people who cannot read and write. Twenty percent of school-leavers have no educational qualification up to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 1 and, believe me, even NCEA level 1 will not be enough to get them through.
Again, I am delighted with the emphasis on national standards—on identifying for all young children in this country where they are up to in their reading, writing, and arithmetic, and how well they are progressing. I like Anne Tolley’s analogy. We like to have Plunket graphs for children’s weight and health. We want to know whether they are getting stronger and taller, and we monitor that. If they are not, we do something about it. So why do we not do that about their educational standards and their achievements so that we can spot where they are not making the grade and provide the necessary support and assistance? I am absolutely delighted at some of the things that have come out of those standards.
In relation to the taxation system, I have never heard anything like it. Who introduced GST to this country? Who was it? The Labour Government introduced GST. I will pay a tribute: I think that Sir Roger Douglas did one of the best things for this country. I like GST. I tell members that I like it, and I think that David Lange’s quote that now even drug dealers have to pay tax means that it is right. I like the idea of a tax system that taxes bad and rewards good. I think that spending and consumption—buying new big plasma screens—are bad, and investment and savings are good. Income is good. So I do not understand why we keep taxing the good things that we want people to do more of. I am a big fan of shifting the base to put more money into the hands of individuals by reducing the tax they pay, and then starting to move that money—so that the revenue does not get totally eroded, because the Government needs the money—by way of GST. It is so hilarious that Labour put GST up from 10 to 12.5 percent, and back then—
Paul Quinn: When was that?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I think it was back in 1989. So it was OK then, but now, somehow, it is not OK. Well, I like GST.
The other thing I really, really find galling is the Opposition’s claim that tax cuts are for our rich mates. I will give a little analogy. Ten people go to a restaurant. The bill is $1,000 for the meal, and one guy says that he will pick up $900 of it. The others say that that is fantastically generous. Another person says he will pick up $100—just two of them will pay. Then the maître d’ comes over and says that the manager was so delighted with their behaviour and how much they had spent that he would give a 10 percent discount. So the guy who was to pay $900 gets 90 bucks back, and the guy who was to pay $100 gets 10 bucks back. All the others whinged that they were not getting anything back. That is what is going on here. The wealthy will be taxed less because they pay so much more to start with. People at the top end of the income stream are paying thousands and thousands of dollars—sometimes a week—more than others, and they will get a fraction of that back. But the left-wing, Labour, green-eyed envy monster comes up and says that this is tax cuts for the rich. Actually we will take slightly less tax
from those rich people than they were paying in the past, and we will still reward people at the bottom end to make sure they are compensated for changes to GST.
I was delighted also that the Prime Minister’s statement talked about things like getting a world-class infrastructure investment going. All one needs to do is come to our great city, Auckland, where what we used to use for lighting, before candles, was electricity. Members will think I have that round the wrong way, but I do not. What we used to use for lighting, before candles, was electricity. We cannot rely on the electricity system any more. Sometimes it can go down for hours. It can cause major chaos to whole businesses, to whole sections, and even to the whole city. We have to lift this country’s investment in electricity networks and in roading networks to get the productive sector functioning. I am delighted that those things will be done by the Government.
We must dramatically reduce the overheads and the burden of a Public Service bureaucracy that absolutely ballooned out of control under Labour. I have the numbers but I do not have the time to go through them. We need to rein it in. We need a well-performing, efficient bureaucracy but we do not need the massive explosion that happened under that lot.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: I rise today in this Parliament for the first time this year to say that I was completely and utterly underwhelmed by the Prime Minister’s opening gambit yesterday.
Paul Quinn: Happy New Year, Sue.
SUE MORONEY: I say a happy New Year to the Government, too. The speech was a shame for New Zealanders, because they were looking for a plan to take us forward in 2010. We know that 2009 was a difficult year right around the world. It was a difficult year internationally, and New Zealanders felt they had to tighten their belts, but for far too many New Zealanders that meant losing their incomes, that meant losing their livelihoods, because of the very sharp rise in unemployment. So New Zealanders are looking for some solutions in 2010, because they know that in 2010 our economy is recovering, as it is all around the world. All of the G-20 countries are now out of recession, as is New Zealand, and New Zealanders are thinking: “Great! In 2010 we can look forward to some of the damage being undone.”
What did they get from the Prime Minister’s statement? There was not one word about unemployment and not one word about job creation. That was the Government’s response, coming into this year, to those thousands of New Zealanders who suddenly last year, through no fault of their own, found themselves on the scrap heap. Now they hear from their Prime Minister that there are no opportunities going forward and no plans for job creation. They will just have to sit and wait until some miracle happens, because there certainly is no plan going forward on job creation.
I was listening very carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement, and I was looking out for the areas for which I have some responsibility in this Parliament as the Opposition spokesperson on both early childhood education and women’s affairs. I thought those were areas that the Government would really highlight. Certainly, last year the Prime Minister, John Key, in many of his official speeches, said right upfront that improved participation in early childhood education was a top priority for the Government. Well, that seems to have slipped right down the list this year, because although it was in the written statement made by the Prime Minister, it did not rate even a mention in his speech yesterday in the debating chamber. So it has certainly slipped right down the agenda, and it is no wonder.
I became momentarily quite excited when the Prime Minister started talking about “unlocking resources”, because I felt sure that when he talked about unlocking resources he must have been talking about the human resources in this country. I
thought that he was going to come forward with a significant plan to get hold of our young people, particularly in their early years of education, and actually give them a better boost through early childhood education. I felt sure that he would go on and talk about a skills agenda and a programme to maximise the potential of our most important resource in this country—our human resource, our people.
But, no, sadly, when the Prime Minister talked about unlocking resources he was talking about digging up our playgrounds, digging up our national parks, and digging up our backyards. Certainly, for the area I come from, the Coromandel Peninsula, where most people from the Waikato spend their Christmas holidays, that was a direct threat. That is what “unlocking the resources” means when the Prime Minister gets up to speak.
It is a great shame that when he thought about the sorts of resources that really do need unlocking in this country, he was not focused on the early childhood education area. All he had to say about that—well, there was no speech referring to early childhood education, but there was a written statement at the beginning of the year—was that this year the Government will focus on increasing the number of children in our poor communities, and in Māori and Pasifika populations, who attend early childhood education. He went on to say that children who do not attend any form of early childhood education start school at a significant disadvantage. Then I think he really gave the game away by saying that despite funding having been poured into early childhood education in recent years, we are still not picking up and supporting enough of those children. Well, if the Prime Minister actually looked at the statistics, he would know that the introduction of the 20 hours’ free policy—when it was free; it is not free under this Government—which was put in place under the previous Labour Government, significantly improved and increased the participation of Māori and Pasifika children in early childhood education.
That is what one calls step change. That was an example of step change; it is not what the Prime Minister had to say yesterday. He kept talking about step change and I kept waiting for it. But there was not one announcement that meant the type of step change that had been achieved under the previous Labour Government. None the less, the Prime Minister set himself a target of going further than that and that is a very admirable target, but it was also the target that the Prime Minister had at the beginning of last year and absolutely no progress was made on it, whatsoever. In fact, I would say that the opposite happened.
We all know—or I hope we all know; I hope we all understand in this Parliament—that the importance about early childhood education is not just what it costs but the quality of that early childhood educational experience. All the research tells us that it is about children getting access to it but not access to any old early childhood education; it is about access to quality early childhood education. What has this Government done in that regard so far? Last year it spent all of its time dumbing down the sector. It spent all of its time dropping standards in the sector—actually dropping standards. Members on that side can talk all they like about national standards in education, but when it comes to early childhood education the standards have been dropped by this Government.
The very first act that the Government took was to scrap the planned improvements in child-staff ratios that were set to be introduced in May last year. In May 2009 children aged between 2 and 3 were set to get more teachers per child in early childhood education. All members in this House should know that that would improve the quality of the experience of early childhood education. But what did the National Government do? It scrapped those planned ratio changes. It pulled them at the last moment. So early childhood education providers who were gearing up for that change, and who had
employed the qualified staff to enable them to meet it, suddenly did not have the funding to go with it. The rug had been pulled from underneath them.
Then the second act the Government took that dropped standards in the early childhood education sector was to stop the regulations going ahead that were going to ensure that facilities had to meet certain regulations. I do not think that it is too much of an ask for our very young children that they should go to facilities that are appropriate for them—for example, to have appropriate sleep facilities for very, very small children. I do not think that that is a big ask, at all. But what did this Government do? It said “No, we do not need any of that sort of quality in our early childhood education sector. Anything will go.” So they dropped that.
Late last year the Government also surreptitiously dumped the target of having 100 percent qualified staff in early childhood education by the year 2012. It did not just shuffle it backwards and say it was not quite ready, or that it would do it at a later time; it completely got rid of that target. The Government is dumbing down and dropping the standards in early childhood education—there is no doubt about that.
With regard to women’s affairs, apparently Pansy Wong said in the House yesterday that the Government will spend more money on investigating pay equity, or on some such illusion that she is under. The truth is that under Labour, $2 million per annum was spent through the Department of Labour on a very, very good pay and employment equity unit that was doing excellent work. But that sum was canned by the Government and replaced with $500,000. I am not sure what school of accounting Pansy Wong comes from, but cutting spending from $2 million in that area to just $500,000 per annum is not an increase in funding; it is a significant cut in funding to that area.
I think the best part of yesterday for me was that while the Prime Minister was giving his address, the
was being delivered to most households in the Waikato with a front-page headline that screamed “Promise on road project broken”. That was on the day that the Prime Minister was trying to set out his strategy for the next 12 months for this country. He was saying what a fantastic Government it was, while it was breaking the only election promise it had made for Hamiltonians—that the Waikato Expressway would be completed within 10 years. The
reported yesterday that the Transport Agency had come to town and said “Actually, folks, it is not going to be completed until the year 2024.” That was an election promise broken.
There is no plan for the next year. There are no jobs. The Government is not keeping true to its word for the people of Hamilton. That is a disgrace.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: I appreciate the opportunity to speak within this debate and to support the statement that the Prime Minister made yesterday. It is no surprise that New Zealanders vote against Governments that they feel have been duplicitous. Duplicitous is an explanation or an identification of people who do not do what they say. In this case, it is a party that did not say what it did. Under the previous Labour Government we had, for instance, a number of years of good growing seasons, strong commodity prices, and a relatively low dollar for most of that period of time. It was a time when we had huge economic opportunity, and we had huge economic growth, but not a single cent of debt was repaid. Our debt-to-GDP ratio went down, because we were doing so well. Now, as the National Party has come into Government, we are finding ourselves with the boot completely on the other foot, yet those on the other side of the House stand and accuse us of not sticking to campaign policies, of not sticking to campaign promises, and of not sticking to things that we had said in Opposition.
What we found, of course, is that when we came into Government a number of changes had occurred, not only internationally but nationally, as well, and that the other side of the House was not clean on its side of the books when they were eventually
opened. When we think about things like the accident compensation scheme, and when we think about the debt within Housing New Zealand, as far as programmed refurbishments go, we find that there are big holes there and there are big holes all over the place.
The previous speaker, Sue Moroney, talked about situations where National had, for instance, withheld Labour’s planned programme for teacher-student ratios within schools. Yet Labour’s policy year-on-year to reduce pupil-teacher ratios within the primary sector, particularly in new entrant classes, was never met. Labour campaigned on promises in 1999 of running a truancy register for the whole of New Zealand. It campaigned on that in successive elections and it never did it, either. The fact is that the previous Labour Government left us in a position where we are playing catch-up not only economically but socially, as well. It is a very, very difficult game to play.
Yesterday we heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he did not believe in GST. He did not believe in GST and he did not support GST, yet of course he was in the Government that not only introduced GST but also raised the rate of GST from 10 percent to 12.5 percent without any compensation at all for those people most affected by it at the bottom end of the tree. Now, apparently, it is a huge crime to indicate that GST may go to up to 15 percent, even given the levels of compensation that would be available to those who do not have the discretionary dollars to be able to choose how and when they spend their money, whose income is spent completely on the necessities. Under National’s programme, those people will be looked after, particularly, for instance, superannuitants, who will have four different legs up, in a way, to raise their income.
I have a real problem with social standards that have dropped over the last few years. To be fair, they have dropped over significant periods of time to a level where we have 20 percent of our young people leaving school without the educational qualifications to be able to function in a modern world. That is a real concern, and it is good to know that it has been a real concern for others in the education sector for a long time. No one is going to try to pretend that it is not. Our colleague on the other side of the House, when he was headmaster at Kaikohe Intermediate School—I think I have got that right—
Colin King: Kaitāia.
CHESTER BORROWS: What did he do when he turned up there—Kaitāia, was it? Sorry about that. He had a test. He found out where his students were in relation to other parts of the country. What did he find? That the vast majority of them did not hit the test. What did he do? He focused his priorities within that school on the ability of those children to be able to meet what was, in fact, a national standard—in other words, to function where they should be in relation to other students of their chronological age across New Zealand. When he did that, what happened? It lifted the game, as I understand it, from 4 percent to 76 percent. That is absolutely excellent—applause all round. Good on him. What do you know: now, of course, doing something like that is evil and nasty and we should walk right away from it!
I cut my teeth in another trade, dealing with people who failed in our society in the area of law and order. One thing that I noticed was that when police finish taking a statement off an offender they have got to get him or her to write on the bottom of that statement a sentence. The sentence is: “I have read this statement and it is true.” or “I have had this statement read to me and it is true.” I can tell the House that about 2 percent of all the people that I took a statement from could write that. The rest needed virtually every word of that small sentence spelled out for them so that they could do the same thing. What that should say to people on hearing that is this: if a person fails in education, he or she fails in every other social area in this country. So if a person fails in education, he or she fails in welfare, he or she fails in law and order, and, what do you
know, he or she fails in health, because a person is forced into a situation where he or she is most greatly exposed to those negatives that will impact on his or her health. The person is consigned to a low-wage income and so is his or her family. To get out of that trap is incredibly difficult.
Nobody in this House and no one in this country would say that we should not concentrate on raising the levels of education with a view to increasing the prospects and the potential of those people who at the moment fail. Every one of us takes that seriously. How we get to that place is probably the reason for debate, and obviously will be over the next while. But just because one side of the House believes that we need to know where we are before we start the journey, that does not mean that we do not care and that we do not know what we are about.
Yesterday’s statement from the House touched on a large number of issues. Our focus this year will be on supporting national standards, with further reforms to ensure that children who need extra support get it. Along with an acceptance that national standards will have a cost to it, there is also an undertaking from this Government that schools will be given the resources to fund it and schools will be encouraged to hit their targets, and good on them. We will make legislative and funding changes to modernise our secondary schools. We will encourage those people in secondary schools now who are in danger of dropping out and being forced to cut a different track away from one that would lead them on to higher skills, and therefore on to higher hourly rates and a lift in their earning potential, and thereby improve the future for their families. We will encourage them to recognise the skills they have, and to apply them while they are in school to a career path that will take them somewhere.
We have also looked at the situation within our prison system, and in law and order generally. This Government has continued down the path Labour started, by increasing numbers within the police, but we have targeted those police into South Auckland. It is interesting to note that crime trends in South Auckland are starting to come down. We have looked at new ways in which the Department of Corrections’ services will be delivered. We are looking at the roll-out of a public-private partnership model within that department, and, yes, that is a hot potato. No doubt we will see the Department of Corrections’ union movement kick against that, and we would expect it to because it is change. We recognise that no one, particularly those in the public sector, likes change. People within the private sector have had to get used to the fact that change is upon us. But we do know that this system worked incredibly well for those people in the Auckland Central Remand Prison.
It is good that that tender is up again, and that tenders will be called for the private provision of those services. That is bearing in mind the rehabilitative and extra help that those who are on remand received within the private sector, which was never open to them within the public sector. When National came into Government the situation within the prisons, as far as rehabilitation was concerned, was that prisoners received no help and undertook no courses unless they had been in jail for at least 2 years or unless they had served two-thirds of their sentence. Most of the people in prisons were imprisoned for fewer than 2 years. We cannot write people off for 2 minutes or 2 hours, let alone 2 years.
I am proud of where this National Government is going, and I am sure, as is the rest of the public, that we will be in a better place at the end of this term than where we set out from. Thank you.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour)
: Tourism was, at least until the recession hit, New Zealand’s biggest export earner. One in 10 New Zealanders was employed in a tourism-related job. Tourism makes a huge contribution to our economy. The Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Tourism, must have been aware when he announced
yesterday a likely increase in GST and also mining in conservation areas that there would be repercussions for New Zealand’s tourism industry. This is an industry that he is meant to be listening to, and advocating for.
Raising GST and mining in conservation areas in national parks are two of the issues that most of the people I speak to in the tourism sector have grave concerns about. One of the features of the tourism industry, especially for inbound tourist operators, is that they have to set itineraries and pricing schedules 2 years in advance so that the wholesalers overseas are able to publish travel brochures and magazines advertising tourism products, experiences, and costs. Because of this advance pricing, tourism operators here in New Zealand will be especially hard hit by an increase in GST. Over the year that GST is increased they will have to absorb the increases and possibly wave goodbye to very slim profits.
The Prime Minister must be aware that the timing of any increase in GST is crucial to minimise the impact on the tourism sector. Already slim margins will disappear and many in the tourism industry will struggle. In order to survive, the quality of the tourist experience may be jeopardised as operators will cut corners to save costs. Some may not be able to provide the experiences that they promised in the brochures, and our reputation as a leading tourist destination may be tarnished. If we add to that the fact that we will be seen to be more expensive than a destination like Australia, where GST is only 10 percent, it is highly likely that we will see a drop in tourism numbers as tourists, especially long-haul tourists, do the maths and opt for less expensive holidays across the Tasman. New Zealand’s competitive edge will be blunted.
Instead of a plan to increase wages and create jobs, this proposal to increase GST may jeopardise wages and jobs, especially in the tourism industry. Some in the tourism industry are calling for the Government to consider introducing a GST refund scheme for international visitors, to help protect their contribution to the economy. International visitors currently contribute about $633 million a year in GST payments, and increasing GST to 15 percent will increase their contribution by about $14 million annually. Regardless, tax cuts for the rich, paid for by increasing GST for all, is not an economic plan.
The second issue the Prime Minister spoke about that will impact on tourism is opening up parts of the conservation estate to mining. Although the Prime Minister told us that new mines would be subject to strict environmental tests, the very fact that we are even considering this proposal damages our international reputation and again tarnishes our “100% Pure New Zealand” brand.
None of what was announced yesterday is the death knell of the tourism industry in New Zealand, but there has been a steady accumulation of policies from this Government that are eroding our desirability as an iconic and unspoiled holiday playground. Aside from raising GST and undertaking mining in conservation areas, the Government’s position on climate change, the number of recent assaults on tourists, the deaths of tourists on our roads and also in the adventure tourism industry, amongst other things, means we need to be careful not to start down a slippery slope.
Although I support the speedy and comprehensive settlement of Treaty settlements, Māori got very little out of the Prime Minister’s speech. The Māori Party campaigned hard before the last election on a platform of removing GST from food. It is ironic that the Māori Party is now part of a Government that is making food more expensive, not less expensive, for our people. It is our people who will really feel the effects of an increase in GST. It is our people who will have the greater percentage of their income spent just on putting food in front of their kids, clothes on their backs, and a roof over their heads. Economic commentator Bernard Hickey said that it is the young and the less well-off who will be hardest hit. Well, that describes Māori. We are younger, and
we are less well-off. If life was hard before, it will get harder. Many of us have family living on the other side of the Tasman, and even more will be there this time next year.
Education will become more expensive with GST added to the cost of bread for school lunches, school shoes, uniforms, and books, and school trips will be more expensive because the cost of petrol will rise. Fewer hard-working Māori will be able to afford the extra educational activities that many others take for granted, and by not being able to afford to participate in these extracurricular activities, the curriculum will become much narrower for our people.
Then there is the national standards debate. Let me be clear from the start. There is not a principal or teacher in the country who is opposed to either high standards or giving parents the information they desire about their children’s achievement. If there is, that principal or teacher needs to leave the teaching profession. Educators’ main opposition to the national standards is that there is just no evidence to show they make a difference. Maybe if the Minister just fronted with the evidence, the debate would be over.
The achievement expectations and the national standards are almost identical to those that we set at Kaitaia Intermediate School. But we did not raise achievement simply by setting a standard. We raised achievement by investing in teachers’ professional development and learning, so that they had the skills and the research-based best-practice teaching strategies to help students to achieve those standards. As an example, in the year 2000, the year before I became principal of that school, the professional development budget was less than $1,000. In 2001 we raised it to $26,000. We need to invest in teachers and give them the skills, the attitudes, and the knowledge that will help them to raise achievement.
There will be teachers out there who are great at teaching many things but will be weaker at other things. The Best Evidence Synthesis says that professional development in specific areas raises achievement a lot faster and a lot further than just generic professional development. If the Minister is serious about raising achievement, she needs to implement a system where the specific teaching needs of teachers are identified and specific professional development is given to those teachers to meet those particular needs. For example, we can talk about raising literacy, but in literacy there is oral literacy, reading, and writing. In writing alone, there are four or five different styles of writing. If we want to raise achievement in any one of those writing styles, teachers need to have specific professional development in that particular style. Raising achievement is a complex, technical, practitioner-specific art that simply cannot be encapsulated into the five words “national standards, plain English reports”.
To pretend that lifting achievement is as simple as repeating a political mantra is an insult to teachers and principals nationwide, and probably is much of the cause of the resistance to the standards. Throughout my educational career, and now as I visit schools as a politician, I see principals and teachers who throw their hearts and souls into making kids learn, but the disdain that has been shown to them by denying them an opportunity to contribute to the formation of these standards before imposing them on schools flies in the face of all best-practice, change-management strategies. With respect, if the Minister tried to work with those in the education sector, she may not be experiencing quite the resistance she is now. Just as Russell Bishop’s highly praised Te Kōtahitanga project looks to improve educational outcomes through improving relationships, so too the Minister may be better able to achieve educational outcomes by improving her relationships with the education sector.
As I have said before in this House, research shows that there are few things a teacher can do that will make students dumber. Almost every strategy works to one degree or another. So when the Government says in 12 months’ time that achievement
has risen, it will be difficult to tell whether it was because of national standards or in spite of national standards. A question I have for the Minister is will she invest $60 million on even the top 10 percent of strategies that are known to be most effective at raising achievement, just as she has invested $60 million on national standards that have no research evidence to show they raise achievement. It is one thing for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education to tell the country what they hope national standards will do, and another thing again to produce the evidence that proves they will make a difference.
JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata)
: Yesterday the Prime Minister gave a speech in this House that outlined the priorities of the National-led Government for this year. However, his speech was an abridged version of the 9,000 word - plus address that members will find tabled in the House. I can assure all New Zealanders that those 9,000 words are certainly worth a read. It is a very good and reassuring read. It is a good read because it is a plan that sets out to improve the lot of all New Zealanders. There are no winners and losers; all New Zealanders are taken into account in that plan. It is a plan to move New Zealand into maximising the opportunities we have to have a much more economically sound nation. The plan also addresses aspects of our nation that have been, metaphorically speaking, holding New Zealand back for many years, and we know under whose stewardship that was, do we not?
This afternoon I intend to dwell on the aspects of that plan that have particular resonance for me and for my electorate of Rangitata. The year 2010 is when New Zealand needs to accelerate out of the remnants of the recession. We have turned the corner, but there is much further to go. This is the year when those New Zealanders who have lost their jobs need to feel uplifted by a confidence in a Government that is willing to change some of the baseline settings that have seen this country languish in recent years when quite massive surpluses allowed us an opportunity to strive ahead, but we did not manage it. We did not achieve it; all of those opportunities were squandered under a Labour Government. The National Government has a different plan for New Zealand. We will not be able to utilise vast surpluses, as Labour did, but we have a plan that addresses the reasons why we, as a country, have been performing below our potential. We can do so much better and we are ambitious enough to get on with the business.
This afternoon in question time we saw a pitiful display from an Opposition that just does not get it. It slates national standards, the very chance we have to address the woeful record of one in five students getting to National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 and not making the cut. We cannot continue to deliver that sort of future to approximately 150,000 young New Zealanders. That is a failure that Labour might be happy with, but we on this side of the Chamber are not.
In the course of last year I visited almost all of the schools in my electorate. I went to 34 schools and to some of them more than once. National standards were on the agenda for discussion and when principals or teachers did not raise it with me, I raised it with them. You see, I am not scared to talk to schools, to educators, and to parents. I certainly am aware that the parents of our nation, some 73 percent and more, want national standards. They want to know how their children are getting on at school and they want to help in making it better. I acknowledge that many of the schools in my electorate are reporting to parents on student achievement, and I was heartened to hear and see examples. National’s plan to implement national standards will not change good practices in schools, but it will set a benchmark that is consistent across all schools and an expectation that the current level of school achievement is absolutely not OK. We can do so much better.
I have been constructively working with the schools of Rangitata to answer their questions about national standards, and we are doing so in a very constructive manner. We absolutely do not ignore the fact that there are some students, one in five in New Zealand, who are not achieving their potential; the educators admit it. The concept of national standards, to measure achievement then educate students so they make progress, is sound. The issue is not where the student starts from; it is how far he or she progresses. We need to use all of the resources at our disposal, and that includes parents. Children spend a whole lot more of their day at home with their parents, so let us use that resource to help them progress. We have always acknowledged that there is some uneasiness about national standards, but now is the time to commit to our kids. It is about the students and it is about New Zealand’s young people, and we need to get on with it.
The Prime Minister uttered some words during his speech that were music to my ears. John Key talked about unlocking resources that can aid our economic recovery, and, what is more, this Government has the guts to get on with it. The natural resource that is most important to the Rangitata electorate is water. The people of mid-Canterbury and South Canterbury know it, and, since making my maiden speech, I have been promoting its importance. When the Prime Minister said that we will unlock resources for economic benefit to create better-paid jobs for New Zealanders, where this is also consistent with our environmental, conservation, and other objectives, my heart warmed. When the Prime Minister went on to reiterate that National will continue the reforms of the Resource Management Act, I could hear the cheering in the sheep yards, in the cowsheds, and on the tractors in my electorate.
When John Key went on to say that this year a National Government will remove particular regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury, I could hear the cheering in the streets, the banks, the businesses, and the paddocks of my electorate. But wait, I then saw an article in the newspaper. It was an interview with the “buddy MP” Ruth Dyson, who seems to have had an epiphany. She was cheering on irrigation in mid-Canterbury. I was scratching my head, and I thought to myself: “Surely not. This can’t be coming from the former Labour Minister who presided in a Government that sat idly by while resource consents got harder and harder to get, not to mention much more expensive.” It is the same group of Labourites who spent most of their time decrying farmers for ruining the environment. Under Labour, farming was still considered a sunset industry. I can tell members that if Labour’s approach to issues like tenure review, the heavy impositions of costs under the Labour emissions trading system, and the added compliance burden that appeared to be unstemmed under Labour had continued, farming might well have become a sunset industry. Fortunately, in our caucus we have a strong, sound base of people who understand agriculture, and none more so than our Minister of Agriculture, the Hon David Carter.
Another issue of importance to me is the social issue. When I was elected I vowed that anyone who could work deserved the satisfaction of having a job. Anyone who could work should work. The ill-conceived headline of the time read “Beneficiaries beware Goodhew”. But this view is based on the constituents who told me they felt trapped in welfare and wanted so much more for themselves and also for their families. “Give me a job, just any job will do”, some of them said to me. I have heard that before and I have heard it quite recently. I have heard it from our Minister for Social Development and Employment; that certainly is her mantra. The mantra is to get a job, any job—get one’s CV in order, to achieve the good feeling of being in work.
As we move out of this recession, now is the time to take on that mantra and to say we will deliver jobs to New Zealanders. Part of that will be achieved by lifting educational achievement in our schools and building opportunities for New Zealanders.
We will also work to increase the number of children from poor communities participating in early childhood education. It is fair to say that that start to their education is vitally important and one that National shares a commitment to. But it is more than that. We need trades and skills as well. We will introduce changes to give secondary schools the flexibility to run trades training programmes, and we will progress the Youth Guarantee so that 16 and 17-year-olds can get vocational training outside of school. School is not the right place for all of our young people. If we trap them in school, all they will do is interfere with the education of students who actually want to be at school. We need to give them options that improve their future chance of getting a job and having a life that they deserve.
In tertiary education we need to drive policy that ensures tertiary providers deliver quality courses that are relevant to the job market, and, by golly, we have seen some amazing examples of courses that are not relevant to the job market. We need to work with universities to support excellence.
This National Government has a huge agenda for 2010. We on this side of the Chamber are really excited. New Zealand deserves to get these things going, and under a John Key - led National Government it will happen in 2010.
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture)
: Listening to that contribution from my colleague Jo Goodhew and then hearing the interjections from the other side made me realise that 16 months on from the last general election that Opposition still has not woken up to the fact of why it lost so decisively at the election of 2008. Labour voters left in droves and decided that the then Labour Government did not have a strategy to deliver for New Zealanders. They were fed up with the Helen Clark proposals of recklessly spending their hard-earned taxpayer money in a benign attempt to buy votes, simply to stay in power. Yesterday’s statement was all about the National Government, led by our Prime Minister John Key, putting a very firm stake in the ground as to what this National Government will be branded for. This National Government will be branded for a genuine effort to engender economic growth and prosperity for all New Zealanders. So I suggest that New Zealanders get hold of the full statement of John Key—the 9,500 words—and read it carefully. [Interruption] That member calls out “job creation”; well, job creation was throughout the statement, with the amount of money that we are spending on infrastructure and the progress we will make with irrigation. All of that will deliver prosperity and jobs. It seems to me when we talk to New Zealanders that the only people who have not woken up to that are the Labour Opposition members.
Last night when I left this place I was walking home and got talking to a guy who said to me: “I didn’t vote National at the last election.” I said that that was his choice. He then immediately said: “But I wish I had.” He sees that this Government is intent on trying to do something for that sort of person, who I suspect was very much a blue-collar worker and the sort of voter who traditionally would never have considered voting for any other party. But after yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister we have got him and locked him in as a National voter, and that is what the Labour Opposition has to wake up to.
The economic plan that the National Government laid out yesterday is ambitious. It has to be ambitious if we are going to encourage our young New Zealanders both to return from overseas and then to stay in New Zealand. They left in droves during the last decade and we cannot blame them. They were driven out by policies of high taxation and reckless spending, which did not deliver prosperity. To the day I die I will never forget the images of Michael Cullen on the pre-election fiscal update release, gloating that he had left 10 years of deficit for whoever was to be the incoming Government. He achieved that through a period of international buoyancy. Then we
came into Government and struck the worst economic conditions that we have seen since the 1930s. We spent last year fulfilling and delivering our election promises, and no New Zealander can say that we did not do that. This year we outlined a strategy to deliver real growth.
I will concentrate on the part that I was significantly involved in and that is the irrigation development that will occur in this country. I will read two paragraphs from John Key’s statement. He said: “The Government will also take action this year to remove particular regulatory roadblocks to water storage and irrigation in Canterbury. This will be in addition to the work already being carried out by the National Infrastructure Unit and the Land and Water Forum on progressing water storage infrastructure throughout the country.” The Prime Minister went on to say: “Overall, the Government is committed to ensuring that water storage and irrigation projects which meet environmental standards, and which are good economic propositions, can happen in a decent time.”
That is a far cry from what was done by the previous Labour Government. It is all very well for buddy MP Ruth Dyson to come in 2010 to say she supports irrigation in Canterbury. Where was she through the 9 years that she was in a Cabinet with a chance to do something? She was silent, as was Darren Hughes. What did he do to develop the Canterbury water strategy? He did absolutely nothing.
We often hear the comment that Australia is the lucky country. We have all heard that. Well, New Zealand is the lucky country. We have the minerals. We had just previously never decided to use them, and that will change under a National Government. But more important, we have one attribute that Australia will not have and will never have, and its precarious situation will get worse, and that is water. At the moment in my home province of Canterbury, 96 percent of that water goes down those major rivers and into the sea. We can harvest that water. We can utilise it and deliver substantial profitability, productivity, and buoyancy to the economy, not only of Canterbury, but also to the whole of New Zealand. We have identified 500,000 hectares currently irrigated in New Zealand. Much of that irrigation is actually unreliable at the moment, yet we also have identified potentially a further $1.9 million worth of hectares that could be irrigated.
I think it is a crying shame that our Government had not done this many, many years ago, because the opportunities are there. So we are determined to unblock those roadblocks that exist at the moment. We will make sure that we deliver that profitability. In my portfolio area of agriculture, when I was asked by the Prime Minister where could we quickly get some economic gains, the obvious answer was water. I am pleased that the Prime Minister, Cabinet, and my caucus colleagues have accepted that challenge and have prepared to move so decisively on it.
I will just touch on one other issue, and that is the global alliance that the National Government delivered to the world at Copenhagen. It was the only success that came out of the Copenhagen conference on climate change last year. This initiative has been recognised throughout the world. It has been praised by everybody. It has been joined by 23 countries, with the Americans giving US$90 million and New Zealand giving NZ$45 million to it. I have seen one sole criticism of the global alliance, and that came from a little-known Labour backbench MP called Charles Chauvel. Charles Chauvel travelled to Copenhagen, and the sum contribution from his trip to Copenhagen was to criticise the New Zealand initiative, the global alliance.
I have been at conferences last year around the world selling the concept. Every time it is spoken of, it is spoken of as the New Zealand initiative. New Zealand has recognised this as an opportunity—that with money spent on science, we can do something to lessen and mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. New
Zealand cannot do it alone, and the rest of the world will not be able to do it alone, but if we get cooperation between the scientists around the world, then we can make real progress. I congratulate John Key as Prime Minister on announcing that initiative at Copenhagen, and I severely criticise the Labour Opposition, and particularly Charles Chauvel, as being the only people whom I know of who have managed to find criticism of the initiative.
Not only did we tidy up a number of issues around economic growth but also we clearly signalled that we are serious about reforming the tax system. There was concern about land tax and capital gains. John Key took the opportunity yesterday to say that those are not part of this National Government agenda. There is a lot of work to be done now on finalising a tax package, and I look forward to being involved in that. But I was surprised by Mr Goff’s response immediately after the Prime Minister sat down, when he said that he was against GST—because he introduced GST; Mr Goff was a close colleague of Mr Caygill at the time when it was introduced. He then corrected himself and said that he was against increasing GST. Well, the last time that GST was increased, from 10 percent to 12.5 percent, guess who was a Minister in Cabinet? It was none other than Phil Goff. So it is no wonder Mr Goff’s speech yesterday had no credibility whatsoever.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: I begin my remarks today by paying tribute to the 40,000 New Zealanders who, through no fault of their own, found themselves joining the unemployment benefit ranks last year—40,000 extra New Zealanders. They are real people who previously had real jobs. They have real families, real homes, and real mortgages. Too often in this House when we talk about unemployment, we talk about numbers. We saw that with John Key last year, when he said that he was happy with the increase in unemployment rates last year given the economic conditions. I do not think that anybody should ever be happy with an increase in unemployment rates. I pay tribute to those 40,000 New Zealanders for the work that they have done and the work that they are doing to try to get themselves back into work.
I pick up a point that Jo Goodhew made before. She talked about the fact that those who can work should work. Well, the news is that they can work and they should work, but there are no jobs for them. If there were jobs for them, then they would be working. Three thousand people lined up outside a Countdown supermarket to apply for 150 jobs—3,000 people want to work in those 150 jobs, yet this National Government is looking down on the people who are unemployed and telling them that they need to lift their game. It is doing nothing to create the type of environment where there are real jobs for them to get into. It is all very well to say that those who can work should work, but if there are no jobs, then they have no choice. This National Government talks a lot about choice, but there are no choices for people who are on the unemployment benefit if there are no jobs for them to go to. What is this Government doing about creating jobs? It is doing very, very little.
I also acknowledge those elderly people who have found that their home help has been cut in the past year, and those people who previously undertook night classes and who have found that those classes have been taken away from them. I acknowledge the low-income earners who have found that the tax cuts promised to them at the last election were taken away by the National Government last year. I also acknowledge our police force, which has found that its police cars have been taken away by the National Government, whose members said before the election that they were pro-police. This Government has taken its eye off the ball already. It has already taken its eye off the ball, and it has no vision for New Zealand.
John Key’s speech was all sizzle and no sausage. There was absolutely no substance to John Key’s hollow rhetoric about aspiration for New Zealand. It was a regurgitated
list of announcements that National had already made last year. There was nothing in there to give New Zealanders hope that the future will be better. As Tom Scott pointed out in his cartoon this morning, the message to New Zealanders who want to catch up with the wages in Australia is that they should just move there. If any New Zealanders want to earn the types of wages that people are earning in Australia, the message from this National Government is that they should get on a plane and go there. They should join the Australians, because this Government has no plan to lift wages in New Zealand. In fact, the best thing that this Government can promise is that it will increase the price of a basket of groceries when people go to the supermarket. It will increase the price of a visit to the doctor. It will increase the price of day-to-day living for ordinary New Zealanders so that it can give tax cuts to those at the top of the heap, to those who earn the most money. It is doing that so that John Key can get a big, fat tax cut and so that the chief executive of Telecom can get a big, fat tax cut. That is what this Government wants to do. It wants to increase the cost of day-to-day living for ordinary New Zealanders so that it can give tax cuts to those at the top of the heap. I do not think any New Zealander should look forward to that. I do not think it will give any New Zealander hope for a better future. It does not deliver on John Key’s promise to be ambitious for New Zealand.
I will talk mostly about John Key’s other big idea in his speech, which is national standards in education. The Government’s plan for education appears to amount to little more than turning teachers and parents against each other. The National Government’s goal to lift standards in education is to completely destroy any relationship of trust between teachers and parents, and to create the impression in all parents that teachers are simply out to rort the system and that they are not there for the good of the kids. It wants parents to think that teachers are out there to hoodwink parents and to pull the wool over parents’ eyes. Well, I have news for the Government. I visited every single school in my electorate during last year. I spoke to all of the primary teachers in their staffrooms. Having visited every primary school in my electorate, I did not find one single teacher who thinks that having national standards is a good idea. Every single teacher whom I spoke to thinks that it is a bad idea and that it will actually lead to worse outcomes for the kids.
Ultimately, that is what this should be about: what is best for the kids, not what sounds best on a bumper sticker, which is all the Government really cares about when it talks about national standards. It does not really care about the research. What does the research, the evidence, say about what works? The research is from people like John Hattie, whom John Key used to hold up as a shining example and whom he used to listen to. John Hattie thinks that the national standards policy is a bad idea. He thinks that it is a bad idea and that it is badly implemented. Anne Tolley is shaking her head. She clearly has not been listening. This Government does not listen to the experts, because Anne Tolley’s superior knowledge of all matters to do with education is apparently far more beneficial—according to this National Government—than evidence put together through tested examples, through tried and true examples, and through careful research!
I know that there are kids in our schools who need to do better—absolutely. We have to focus on them, and we need to focus on the quality of teaching. We need to focus on putting more resources into the kids who are not doing very well. But, as my colleague Kelvin Davis has said so many times before, weighing the pig over and over again will not make the pig fatter; giving the pig more food will make it fatter. This Government is doing nothing to do with that. Instead it is spending millions of dollars on a massive public relations exercise to promote the National Party. It is spending millions of dollars on little flyers with the National Party logo on them and putting them into people’s
letterboxes to tell them that national standards are a good idea. Parents are wising up to it. They are talking to the teachers, sitting down with them, and realising that these national standards add nothing. They do not actually improve the quality of education; they do not tell them anything that a good sit-down and a discussion with their kid’s teacher could not tell them already. In fact, what they do is narrow the scope of what kids will be focused on and what kids will be learning in school.
Hon Steve Chadwick: Self-paced learning—gone.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Self-paced learning will be gone. It is a one-size-fits-all model that is designed to drive out creativity and innovation from our schools. It is designed on the assumption that every kid learns at the same rate, but we know that they do not. All the evidence tells us that different kids learn at different rates, yet the Government is turning its back on all of that evidence.
The Government seems to have ignored the fact that some of our most innovative people and some of our most successful entrepreneurs were driven away by the one-size-fits-all education system. A lot of our most innovative people did not actually make it through the education system, because it was such a one-size-fits-all education system. The Government wants to exacerbate that problem with its national standards policy. It has no comprehension of what it will actually take to lift student achievement, which is a focus on quality teachers and a focus on giving teachers the resources and the acknowledgment that they require. The Government’s launching of a $20 million - plus campaign up and down the country to tell teachers that they are rubbish and not doing a good job will not do that. To somehow think that by telling parents that they should distrust the teachers in their school and that the teachers are not giving them the information they should get we will raise the standard of education in our schools is just rubbish. Yet that is what this Government is focused on.
John Key’s speech to Parliament yesterday was simply a rehash of announcements from last year. It contained no new ideas, and it contained no hope for the future—no real agenda to catch up with Australia. To conclude, I say that I can find one example of where the National Government has caught up with Australia. We had a much lower unemployment rate than Australia did before National came into Government, and now we have a much higher rate than Australia. It caught up with Australia on only one measure: we now have more unemployed people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is too much noise and there are also many people moving into the gallery. I ask that we give the speakers some respect.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green)
: I will address the Prime Minister’s statement and I commend the comments of my Green colleagues who have spoken earlier in the debate. I also commend my colleague Rahui Katene, whose contribution I heard last night about the social and equity issues faced in this country by Māori, in particular, and about the failure of this Government to address those in any form. I will pick up on some of the themes of what she was saying, from a Green Party point of view.
The Prime Minister said in his speech that he worried about the emergence of an underclass in Aotearoa—he said New Zealand—
Sue Moroney: “New Zillun”.
METIRIA TUREI: —in “New Zillun”. How fantastic that the Prime Minister would worry about such a thing, but obviously he must be blind to the reality of hundreds of thousands of New Zealand families who already are part of an underclass in this country. Not only has the Prime Minister displayed his blindness and his failure to understand what it means to be a low-paid vulnerable family in this country. Everything he said yesterday in his statement, every plan that he has for this country, will further create that underclass. It will add more and more New Zealanders to that underclass; it
will add more and more children to that underclass. I will discuss some of the plans to increase the underclass in Aotearoa.
We have some 200,000 children living in poverty in this country. Many of them are the children of beneficiaries, identified as the children most likely to be living in serious and significant hardship. The social security system on which these children and their families rely is simply too poor to support their needs. Families cannot live on a benefit.
I have had to live on a benefit—on both the unemployment benefit and the domestic purposes benefit. I know what it is like for those families to have to provide for their kids while finding a way to get themselves out of that situation. The people I have known over many years who have been on benefits, and the people I have worked with who have been on benefits, are fighting every day just for survival. They are fighting every day to find a way out. What they need is support from the State, not cuts to services like the training incentive allowance, which, of course, make it extremely difficult if not impossible for most people on the domestic purposes benefit to get a university degree, when we know that a person with a university degree will earn a higher income than with any other kind of tertiary education qualification. Yet this Government has shut out domestic purpose beneficiaries—solo parents who are struggling to find a way to get themselves out of that situation—from being able to get the kind of degree that will enable them to earn a high income.
What is this Government’s response to the increasing numbers of unemployed and beneficiaries? It is to blame and attack those families; to blame and attack the children of the poorest families. The benefit reforms highlighted by the Prime Minister in his statement simply entrench the inequality that this country faces. They simply entrench the poverty gap between the rich and the poor by forcing solo parents, ordinary Kiwi mums and dads who for whatever reason find themselves in need of social support, into a job market that cannot cope with them because there are no jobs for them to go to. That will not work. It will do nothing for those families and it will severely interfere with the ability of those solo parents to properly parent their children. It will force them away from their homes and families and away from their kids, who need them. It will impose greater costs on those families. Looking for work, alone, costs money. It costs money in childcare and in transport, and in a whole range of areas that John Key obviously has no concept of. He does not understand that and he has never understood that.
Sickness beneficiaries are being subjected to constant assessment. People who are paraplegic, people with severe illnesses, and people who are unable to work and who, therefore, need the social security system to support them—as it should—are being pressured by State agencies, which increases their stress and increases the likelihood that their illnesses will get worse. But it is not only that, the Prime Minister is isolating those families and people from the rest of the New Zealand community through the abusive language that is used to describe them. We heard the abuse from this Government last year with its continual series of attacks on beneficiaries, and we heard more of it yesterday. There are no jobs for these people to be forced into. The jobs simply do not exist. There are 40,000 extra people unemployed. There are no jobs, so why would any Government with any sense of compassion choose to attack those people who have the least amount of choice, the least amount of political power? Perhaps it is because it benefits the Government in its votes. The process by which this Government is undertaking that work will create even further the underclass that Mr Key says he is so worried about.
We know that the Government intends to persecute those New Zealand parents who are doing their very best for their families in trying personal circumstances. But what about the working poor? Just because someone has a job it does not mean that person
has enough money to survive on. We know that people who work a 40-hour week on the minimum wage, which is now $12.75 an hour, will earn somewhere around $400 a week. Families cannot survive on that kind of money. We know that 450,000 New Zealanders are earning less than $15 an hour on the minimum wage. That is 450,000 New Zealanders who are earning a miserable wage. They are working full-time and they cannot support their families. Sometimes we hear the rhetoric from the Government that these are young people, students, or part-timers, but these are people who do full-time jobs and have families, and who struggle and struggle to find the support they need to take care of their families properly. What do they do? Well, they have no choice. They use Working for Families, for example, to try to top up that income.
If this Government chose to put up the minimum wage to a rate that was able to support a family—at least $15 an hour—this country would save $1 billion in Government social support. The Government could save $1 billion in social support if the minimum wage was raised to a reasonable level. That is $1 billion that could be invested in our schools, which are desperate for funding to support the children. It is $1 billion that could be used for housing or for other forms of social support, which could support both economic development—building more State houses—and the environment. But, no, this Government chooses not to support the families but to subsidise business, because that, in effect, is what Working for Families does. By keeping the minimum wage low and having Working for Families or some other social support behind it, what ends up happening is that this Government subsidises businesses, and families suffer as a result.
Housing was raised in the Prime Minister’s statement. There is no plan from the Government to increase the number of State houses. It is talking about selling off State houses. There is no plan; it will just sell off State houses in wealthy areas and buy cheap State houses in poor areas, ghettoising those vulnerable families who need a place to live. Because there is no plan to build any more State housing, we will have a continual round of families who are in the State houses, then back on the waiting list, being shifted around the country. There will be no consistency and no ability for kids to stay in the schools that they have become attached to, and no ability for people to get secure work because their housing is so insecure. They will be separated from their families.
Thousands of New Zealand families are still on the Housing New Zealand Corporation waiting list. They are waiting for a State house, and those people will stay on that waiting list, going through the cycle of poverty that keeps them poor, vulnerable, and out of society, and which keeps their kids sick and out of school. This Government has no plan to fix that. It would like to keep it that way. It will not even fix the issues in the housing market to make sure that housing is affordable for New Zealanders. Perhaps it is in the interests of the Government and its voters to do that. It is not in the interests of the families of this country, who are desperately in need of jobs, living incomes, and basic housing.
There is no plan from this Government to fix that. The Green Party is here for a smart economy and for a sustainable and prosperous country, and we have the plan that will do that.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister)
: I welcome the contribution from the co-leader of the Greens, Metiria Turei, but I must say I disagree with a number of her statements. Just to take, for example, the housing issue, I say the Government is doing a tremendous amount of work on how to make better use of a $15 billion asset owned by the New Zealand taxpayer. The Government has found that all the performance measures that the previous Government had been using focused on the houses, and not on the people. There are 10,000 people on the waiting lists. Some of them do have quite serious housing needs, and we need to make better use of what is the
taxpayer’s largest single asset. The member will be able to watch that process unfold over the next few months.
Ms Turei also raised the issue of welfare reform. I think there are a number of aspects of this issue on which we could agree. Despite New Zealand having experienced 8 or 9 years of pretty strong economic growth and strong growth in jobs, 250,000 New Zealanders are currently on so-called long-term benefits; that is, the sickness, invalids, and domestic purposes benefits. That is a quarter of a million people, and I have to say the system does not pay a great deal of attention to them. Their capacities are unknown, and their potential is untested. It is a significant human waste, which the Prime Minister referred to yesterday in his statement. The Prime Minister signalled in his statement that for the current Government, that is not good enough. There is a lot of unrealised potential among those 250,000 people, and there is a very large long-term fiscal cost. One of the things the Government can do to deal with the long-term fiscal issues in New Zealand is to have a pretty hard look at how we deal with the large group of people who are on long-term benefits.
Those things were covered yesterday by the Prime Minister in his statement. They are part of a comprehensive agenda that the Government has laid out, and it includes significant reform of our social services. The reasons for those significant reforms are pretty straightforward. After large increases in spending on housing, health, and education, New Zealanders are not convinced that they have the outcomes that they hope for when they hand over their tax every week. In addition to that, we also have constrained fiscal circumstances, looking ahead. Regardless of whoever is in Government, the reality is that the Government’s books, because of the recession, are not in good order. We will have small growth in expenditure over the next 4 or 5 years. That means the Government needs to rethink how it delivers front-line services, because it is critical that New Zealanders enjoy good front-line services despite the fact that the Government’s books are not in very good order. That is just one example of the reasons why the Government is focusing strongly on economic growth.
If we want to have better public services, have new jobs created, and have higher incomes, that can happen only if we have a sound economy, where businesses have the confidence to invest, employ people, and make enough profits to pay tax. Those are the raw facts of it. We cannot do that in the same way as was done in the last decade. A fair chunk of the growth in this economy in the last decade was growth in the Government sector. In fact, Government expenditure grew at about twice the rate of the economy between 2003 and 2008. Because we have significant deficits and are having to go to world markets to borrow large amounts of money—I think in total we are borrowing about $240 million a week—the Government does not have the opportunity to drive the growth of the economy over the next 10 years. Growth needs to come from the private sector, and particularly from our export sector. Those are the terms that the Prime Minister outlined in his speech yesterday.
The results of the boom times of the early 2000s, followed by the New Zealand recession that began in late 2007 and early 2008, followed by the global recession that turned up in October 2008, have left us with an economy that is out of balance. Essentially, we spend more than we earn. We became pretty good in the last 10 years at spending, both in the Government and in households. Households have ended up with significant debt, and the Government is growing its debt quite rapidly. We owe the world $160 billion; the world has lent us $160 billion. We have to service that debt, which will continue to grow. So it is important that we now focus on the earning side of the economy. The Prime Minister laid out a range of measures that are designed to boost the earning side of the economy. Among those were a number of sectoral
measures that he outlined in respect of water storage, aquaculture, mining, and the tax system.
There will be plenty of ongoing debate about the contribution that changes in the tax system can make, but the motivation behind them is straightforward. Tax is a pervasive incentive in the economy. Everyone makes decisions based on the taxes that they face. The Tax Working Group pointed out a number of weaknesses in our tax system. In respect of people on higher incomes, it is inequitable. For instance, a survey of the top 100 asset-owners by the Inland Revenue Department showed that only half of the wealthiest 100 people in New Zealand were actually paying the top tax rate. The opportunities for structuring to avoid taxes are too great, and that is eroding our tax base. I think there is another aspect of that, too, and that is New Zealand’s skill base. The fact is, we have next door in Australia an economy that can compete for our skilled people and does so vigorously, and we need to create every advantage that we can for ourselves.
So the context in which the Government and the Prime Minister are considering tax changes is the need to create the right incentives in the economy, so that we have the incentive to invest, to save, and to export. In the last 10 years we have had too much consumption and borrowing. We have had too much of spending more than we earn. Our political opponents may regard that as sustainable; we do not. The reason is not ideological; it is straightforward. We cannot keep doing it, because people will not keep lending us money, and more important than that, it means that by the time we get through this cycle, we will be leaving for the next generation of workers about twice as much public debt as the Government currently holds. That is simply not good enough for future generations of New Zealanders, because it means that we are using their earning capacity to meet our needs now. That means they will have less of that earning capacity to meet their own needs. I know the co-leader of the Green Party Jeanette Fitzsimons will refer to sustainability, a word that can have many meanings. But one thing that is not sustainable is policy that leaves the bills for our consumption to the next generation.
I just finish my time by acknowledging the role that that co-leader of the Green Party has played in the last 13 years in this Parliament. I know the Greens will feel her loss, but I think Parliament will certainly feel her loss. I share with Jeanette Fitzsimons the regret that she did not have the opportunity to be a Minister in previous Governments, an opportunity that, had her political allies offered it to her, she would have taken. She would have been an excellent Minister. I acknowledge, from a political point of view, her expertise and professionalism, and her ability to get her message across. There are very few politicians who display total coherence in what they themselves believe, how they represent that, and how they articulate it. In my view Jeanette Fitzsimons was one of the few, in the time that I have been here, who represented that total integrity of message. It was not always a message I agreed with, but that is the business. I think it is something that the whole Parliament has respected. I do not want to take away Jeanette Fitzsimons’ opportunity to speak—she has her valedictory statement coming up now—but I just offer those words of respect. Thank you.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House)
: I move,
That this debate be now adjourned.
Sittings of the House
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House)
: I seek leave for the House to rise upon the conclusion of Ms Fitzsimons’ speech. It is likely to go beyond 6 o’clock, and I think that the House could extend its sitting by leave on this occasion.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection?
Hon Trevor Mallard: You mean rise for the dinner hour? We should suspend for the dinner hour; otherwise we are adjourning the House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think that is very good.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to suspend for the dinner hour at the completion of the valedictory statement of Jeanette Fitzsimons. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green)
: I thank the Hon Bill English for his kind words a moment ago, and I thank the House for agreeing to postpone dinner. Unfortunately, as I did not know the House was going to do that, I am afraid I will not be speaking for more than a minute or so past 6 o’clock. So members can rest assured that dinner will still occur at a reasonable time.
It has been 13 years since I had the great privilege of giving the first Green speech in the New Zealand Parliament. I never set out to be an MP, or a Green Party leader. I was pushed into it under that maxim of John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I am not sure I have found the answer yet.
I was proud to be a member of an MMP Parliament with its much greater representation of women, Māori, and ethnic communities. I am still proud to have led the party that pioneered several new constitutional relationships with successive Governments and developed processes for the negotiations between parties, which now ensure that Governments have to think twice about policies and earn genuine majorities before they pass them. That is not the only change for the better that MMP has made.
I have been wondering whether any others from the 1996 intake—the intake that experienced the bizarre orientation session where we were taught by Parliamentary Service how to pack a suitcase—are here tonight. We were shown the correct size of suitcase to use if we wanted to put it in the overhead rack, and we were shown the compartments for our carefully ironed shirts on one side and the pockets for ties and socks on the other. The large new intake of women fell about laughing, and I suspect it was the last year that module was taught.
It was the year that Winston Peters kept the country waiting for 10 weeks before deciding which party to support, so there was no time for maiden speeches before Christmas. By the time February came, I was so impatient to get started that, on my first day, I leaped to my feet and blurted: “Supplementary Speaker, Mr Question!”. Speaker Doug Kidd was kind enough not to laugh. There was also no time to wait for the niceties of a maiden speech before moving a resolution, supported 111 to 9, expressing the concern of the House about the nuclear waste ship that was passing through the Tasman Sea on that very day.
In that first speech, I spoke of the birth of the Green movement internationally 25 years earlier, and of the vision of the first Values Party manifesto in 1972, heralding much that has since come to pass. Since that speech the Greens have become a parliamentary party in our own right, built our representation to nine MPs, and introduced and passed six members’ bills, with another currently in a select committee and an eighth awaiting its first reading.
We have established the tradition that support parties under MMP can expect to negotiate Budget initiatives that advance their policies, and I was proud to pioneer those negotiations. Rather than threatening to withhold support, we expected, and got, recognition that relationships in here have to be reciprocal and based on trust. There are many laws that passed only because of our support, laws that are different because of our amendments, and potential laws that never made it because of our opposition. But most of all, the role of the Greens has been to set the agenda—to raise issues that had never been raised in this House before.
In 1996 many throughout the world were talking about climate change, sustainable energy policies, toxic chemicals, human rights, genetic engineering, and the failure of our current ways of measuring economic success. But this Parliament, mostly, was not. Those are the issues that I and my colleagues have brought here and that are becoming mainstream. The breathing space we created on genetic engineering, with the royal commission and the moratorium, although it did not result in the law becoming precautionary enough, did prevent the release of crops that could never have been contained and were imminent in 1999.
Transport policy refocused somewhat on public transport, cycling, walking, and rail, and even the current fixation on new roads has been unable to stop the momentum of the electrification of Auckland’s rail system. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, my first member’s bill, has made energy standards part of mainstream energy policy, saving millions for consumers. Communities fighting major environmental battles are now better resourced, with legal aid at the Environment Court and the resourcing of local conservation initiatives.
Yet I have to say, with great sadness, that the big picture has not changed all that much. This place, on which we pin such hopes as the pinnacle of democracy, has proved itself incapable of responding to the crises that threaten to overwhelm us. As an institution it is asleep, often in denial, and often preoccupied with trivia.
When my grandchildren Jasper and Isabella, here in the gallery today, are struggling to bring up their children in 30 years’ time, amidst the storms and instability of a changing climate, with little oil left—and that being unaffordable—what will they think of us at the turn of the millennium? What will they think of a Parliament more preoccupied with its own privileges than with the good of humanity? What will they think of a Parliament that spent far more passion and energy on where Bill English parked his car than on where to get the oil to run it, on measures to reduce climate emissions, on how to reduce the pollution of our waterways, or on how to protect our unique ecosystems and species from extinction? What will they think of Governments that had all the information presented to them and could not claim to not know, but chose to do nothing?
I have sat here for 13 years weeping at the tragedy of so many people wasting the precious gift of life by chasing the mirage of a bigger GDP. What is stopping us as a species, and particularly as a Parliament, from seeing the truth that climate change, which has now entered the public consciousness, is only a symptom of a much greater issue? The planet is full. Its capacity to absorb our wastes and generate our resources is already overstretched, and even mining the last national park and Antarctica, and damming or draining the last river, will not allow us to continue using even more.
Our ancestors could be forgiven for thinking the planet was infinite, unmeasurable, and obviously flat. Their world was circumscribed by what could be walked, ridden, or sailed. Even when the world was proved to be round, it was still immense, and going around the world in 80 days was an amazing feat. Reducing 80 days to 2 still did not change the deep-seated certainty that there can be no limits. Despite the images from space, economics still takes it as a given that we live in an infinitely elastic universe.
For 30 years there have been many studies of how economic growth does not improve human well-being, even for the poorest, but the poor have always been an excuse for policies designed mainly to benefit the rich. The central message I came here with 13 years ago was that we need to find better ways of measuring our economic success, and that the aim should be a better economy, not just a bigger one. The aim should be an economy based on respect for people and for nature, not on dog-eat-dog competitiveness.
The futility of our current measures is shown by the Brash report on closing the income gap with Australia. Australians have bigger houses, so more housework; more cars per person, so higher greenhouse gases; more than one cellphone each; and they drink more alcohol, so more drunkenness and violence. And so we must catch up—what a goal to aim for!
Two very important and accessible books were published last year, and they sum up beautifully the Green message of hope for a better economy. The first was Tim Jackson’s
Prosperity Without Growth, which systematically examines the proposal that growth makes us better off, and finds it wanting. He then sets out the framework for an economics that genuinely makes people better off without growing output, and finds it entirely feasible.
The second book illustrates powerfully that social equity is better for everyone, not just for the poor.
The Spirit Level, by Wilkinson and Pickett, brings together international data showing that nations with the greatest income equality also have the best health and mental health outcomes, the least crime and the lowest rate of imprisonment, the best educational outcomes, the lowest obesity and teenage pregnancy rates, and the lowest infant mortality rates. A highly stratified unequal society forces everyone to stress about keeping or improving their place on the social and economic ladder, and it damages the lives of the well-off as well as those of the poor.
New Zealand used to be near the top of that equality league table; now it is the fourth worst of 21, and heading down further. If anyone here wants to understand better the core Green message of the last 38 years, they should read those two books. They show why the twin Green goals of ecological sustainability and social justice are inseparable. It is not possible to nurture the environment without nurturing people, or the other way around.
I said in my maiden speech that Parliament was just a different way of working for the Green ideals that had driven my life for decades as a teacher, a writer, a researcher, and a community activist. I have enjoyed my time here, and I have found it satisfying as well as frustrating, especially when it was possible to achieve change for the better. I enjoyed my 6 years chairing the Local Government and Environment Committee, seeing my role neither as the Minister’s vassal to expedite Government policy nor as the obstructionist to frustrate it. It was possible to work constructively with both sides of the committee table.
In my view, select committees are Parliament’s opportunity to scrutinise the executive, and to knock the silly corners off raw legislation. They are a place to listen to the people, who have a lot of wisdom about the laws they want, if we would only listen to them. They are a place where we can challenge officials to prove their case for the legislation they have put forward to Governments. Perhaps select committees should be chaired more often by third parties. I particularly enjoyed my 3 years as a quasi-Minister, leading the work of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority on energy efficiency and the solar water heating programme.
Probably my greatest concrete achievement has been to persuade two successive Governments, Labour and National, that it is worthwhile investing in home insulation
on a large scale, combining benefits to health, family well-being, employment, energy demand, and carbon emissions.
Now the time has come to move on to the next phase of my life. Retirement is not really a concept I can imagine, but I do intend to take the gap year I never had after school—or maybe a gap 6 months—while the head clears and the future takes shape. I am looking forward to a lot of work on our farm, where Harry has held the fort for too long on his own. I am looking forward to more family time, more music, films, and theatre, and to 3 months in Europe visiting my son and old friends. After that, the work will continue. In what form I do not know yet, but the goals of protecting people and planet will be the same.
There are many people I want to thank for their help along the road of the last 13 years. First must be Harry, my rock, who has supported my work, run the farm and the household, and put up with my absences, constant exhaustion, and hours on the telephone. Thirteen years ago he was here in the gallery with my father Jack and my son Mark. Today Jack is with us only in spirit, but Harry is joined by the new generation: my grandchildren Jasper and Isabella and their parents.
Jeremy and Sarah, you have been an oasis I have escaped to on an occasional Wednesday. You have listened to my frustrations and elations, fed me after playtime with the kids, and sent me back for an evening’s work. My grandchildren have been the touchstone of much of my work, and I remember that Jasper was once the subject of a whole Budget speech, because it is he and his friends who will live with the consequences of the decisions we make here.
None of us here could do the work we do without a host of people who make it possible. I have been blessed with some amazing executive assistants: Judith, who knew the parliamentary system so well and guided me into it; Katya, who came straight from uni and then went on to lead our research team; Tania, unflappable and organised, with a passion for conservation; Helen, who loved administration and looked after me like a mother; Hina, who has got inside my head and my work, and who may one day do my job; and Rosalie, Sandra, and Moira, who ran my office in Thames. I thank all of you for going well beyond the call of duty.
There have been so many Green Party staff over the years that I cannot name you all, but I will miss you all as my friends and colleagues. I would particularly mention my heads of staff Deb Moran and Ken Spagnolo, who took the weight of managing the office off my shoulders. It has been, and is, a great team with a huge commitment to people and planet.
I thank the librarians for the information they have dug out for me, always on time. I thank the Clerk’s Office for their help in select committees and their advice on procedure. I thank Bellamy’s staff, security staff, messengers, cleaners, and building staff—it is humbling to think how many of you all it takes to keep one of us going. May we never take you for granted, and may we use the time and resources that you give us to maximum effect.
Fellow MPs, we have argued, joked, fought, and strategised over years, and to all of you who are working your hearts out for something you truly believe in, I say kia ora. Mr Speaker, thank you for your efforts to get Ministers to at least address the questions. To the people of New Zealand who put their trust in a new political party and allowed us to represent you, I say thank you. It has been a privilege. And to all the Green Party members and activists, I say that we could not do it without you.
The lowest point of the last 13 years was, of course, the death of my beloved co-leader, colleague, and friend, Rod Donald. It is rare to have a working relationship blessed with such mutual trust and friendship. He did a lot for this country, and I am particularly pleased that Nicola and Holly have been able to come tonight. Sadly, his
departure was not planned, but mine has been, and I know I leave the parliamentary Green Party in the excellent hands of Metiria and Russel and the team. We are in a transition to a younger generation with new energy and faces but the same values and commitment. You are my other family and I shall miss you, but we will keep in touch. The green movement is growing stronger worldwide. Kia kaha—you are the hope of the future. Haere ra.
- Sitting suspended from 6.03 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Appropriation (2008/09 Financial Review) Bill
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: I move,
That the Appropriation (2008/09 Financial Review) Bill be now read a second time.
Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I move,
That the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be now read a second time. This bill represents New Zealand’s biggest commitment to improving front-line youth justice services in many years. Our more serious youth offenders will get more attention. They will get greater support, they will face stronger discipline, and there will be greater expectations of change.
The legislative changes will give Youth Court judges new options by providing for tougher and longer orders for our most serious young offenders. These are young people who are on a fast track to prison if we do not turn their lives round. New Zealanders have been appalled that some of these offenders are as young as 12 or 13. This bill extends the jurisdiction of the Youth Court so that these young people—a tiny minority—can get the intensive support offered by this Government’s Fresh Start reforms. Their behaviour needs special attention if they are to be saved from a lifetime of crime.
All serious young offenders will be subject to longer and more intensive sentences, but they will, at the same time, receive support and rehabilitation opportunities unequalled in New Zealand’s history. This Government is serious about tackling youth offending, and we are putting $84 million into the Fresh Start initiative over the next 3 years in order to do just that.
I thank the Social Services Committee for its diligent and careful consideration of this bill. I especially thank the chair, Katrina Shanks, for the outstanding job she did. I am pleased that the committee received 51 submissions on the bill, with most people giving up their time in order to make oral submissions. The committee made a number of excellent recommendations, and I thank it for that. It is clear that there is a great deal of interest in getting this legislation right.
The bill introduces longer and more intensive sentencing orders. It doubles the maximum time that a serious young offender can spend in a secure residence from a standard 3 months to 6 months. I have talked to many professionals who work with young offenders and their families, and there is general agreement that 3 months is not long enough to make a lasting change. One mum told me that she had just started to see improvements in her son’s behaviour before he was home again and back to his old
ways. A longer time spent in a residential programme will help to embed good habits and boundaries and better prepare young offenders for their return to their communities and families.
We will not just dump these young people back into the community. The bill also doubles the maximum amount of time—from 6 months to a year—that a young person will be supervised and supported in the community after release from a secure facility. Under this bill, Youth Court judges will also have new options to compel young offenders and their families to complete parenting education, mentoring, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes. These orders will address the root causes of offending.
Every single serious offender who appears before the Youth Court will have a comprehensive plan that addresses her or his particular crime triggers. We know that these programmes work. A young man sentenced for aggravated robbery was linked to a mentor who, by encouraging the boy into kapahaka, helped him reconnect to school. That young man is now crime-free and looking forward to studying business and information management at university.
Young offenders will be intensively monitored, kept busy and focused, and held to greater account if they fall from the straight and narrow. The bill will, for the first time, see young offenders kept under the scrutiny of the Youth Court. It has long been a defect in the legislation that young offenders cannot be compelled to come before the Youth Court to answer allegations that they are in breach of their sentences. Also, on occasion, sentences have expired without young people being held to account for their breaches. This has actively undermined public confidence in the youth justice system.
The Social Services Committee has proposed amendments that will enable the Youth Court to issue arrest warrants for young offenders who breach orders or go into hiding from the system. The amendments will also enable the Youth Court to suspend the operation of an order while it deals with breach allegations. Police are granted powers to ensure that the curfew conditions of intensive supervision orders can be enforced by arrest if necessary.
Our plans for 12 and 13-year-old offenders who commit serious crimes have attracted a lot of attention and debate. In my view, it is absolutely necessary for the Youth Court to have jurisdiction over this very small number of young people, if they are to be saved from a life of crime. The Family Court simply does not have the tools and solutions to deal with these extremely complex cases, especially when there is often little buy-in from these children’s families.
Let me be very clear—we are talking about only those young people who have a record of offending well beyond their years. These are 12 or 13-year-olds who are out of control and are a danger to our communities. Let us take the case of a 13-year-old boy whom the system is struggling with at the moment. He has been in trouble with the police since he was 8 years old, and he has a fully fledged drink and dope habit. His most recent offending involved threatening with a weapon, assault, and burglary. As the second-eldest of six children, his behaviour is now impacting on his younger brothers and sisters.
The bill gives us more choices as to how we address the issue of serious child offenders. Police will have the choice of taking action in either in the Family Court or the Youth Court. The Youth Court will have the power to refer a matter back to the police if judges feel that a matter would be better dealt with by the Family Court. I believe that this approach will protect those very young offenders—those 12 and 13-year-olds who are to be dealt with by the Youth Court. I want to be clear that the Youth Court is specially designed to deal with young offenders. I have no doubt whatsoever that Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft, and his fellow Youth Court judges
will take a balanced and sensible attitude towards the small number of 12 and 13-year-olds who come before them.
The Social Services Committee has recommended several changes in relation to child offenders. In particular, it has tightened up the rules that determine which child offenders should be subject to Youth Court jurisdiction. Many submitters were also concerned about the current inadequacies of the Family Court to deal with child offenders. For example, the Family Court has no power to impose bail conditions and has limited options when a child first comes before the court. The Fresh Start reforms will be better supported when we can fix the way that the Family Court deals with child offenders. As such, I welcome the Social Services Committee’s inquiry into child offenders. I am confident that the committee will identify practical ways to improve the ability of the Family Court to respond to child offenders.
An important feature of Fresh Start is our plan for our 40 most serious youth offenders to participate in military activity camps. These are kids for whom the system is just not working. These young people have no respect for the law, people, or property. They are notorious in their neighbourhoods, and many adults will have tried and failed to help along the way.
New Zealand’s armed forces have a long and proud history of working with young adults. Since 1993 thousands of young adults have participated in Limited Service Volunteers schemes. Seventy-five percent of those who have completed the military training life skills course have succeeded in getting work or have gone on to further skills training. The mix of traditional values—team work, self-discipline, individual responsibility, pride, and discipline—has turned round the lives of thousands of young New Zealanders. It makes sense to incorporate some of these elements into a programme for those who, until now, have been seen as hopeless cases who are tracking an almost inevitable path to prison.
The recent pilot run by Child, Youth and Family at Burnham shows what can be achieved. I am aware that getting that camp up and running in such a short time has placed some limitations around it. Nevertheless, it has provided valuable lessons for future camps. In November I attended the graduation at this camp, and it was inspiring to hear the stories. Some families were moved to tears by the changes they saw in their boys. It was pretty incredible to see a patched gang member dad apologise to his son for not being there for him in the past. All the young people made a real connection with their army supervisors. The programme challenged them physically and psychologically.
These camps have nothing remotely in common with the old sentence of corrective training. They are a modern innovation that incorporates army-style discipline with cognitive behaviour treatment and a full range of rehabilitation programmes, including alcohol and drug counselling, mentoring, and intensive supervision. I commend the bill to the House.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: The Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill had a very, very poor start on its journey in this House. In fact, the Minister of Youth Affairs was in such a hurry to make her name and have her photo in the paper that she brought in this bill half an hour before Parliament was to sit, at 1.30 in the afternoon. Nobody, including the public or other political parties, had an opportunity to look at it before she rushed it through under urgency to the Social Services Committee. So it had a pretty poor start. It was not because it was not ready; in fact the bill was ready 2 days before she tabled it half an hour before Parliament sat.
Todd McClay: That’s enough; what about the children?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Half an hour before Parliament sat, Mr McClay says, is long enough. Well, it might be for him, but the people of New Zealand and the other political parties in this House deserved to see that bill when it was ready to be seen.
Katrina Shanks: You had 9 years—9 years.
Hon ANNETTE KING: And to the member sitting across the House saying we had 9 years—well, of course, the changes that the Minister is making in terms of the length of sentences were in the bill that we introduced, plus changes for children in New Zealand. All of that was dumped for this hastily drawn-together bill. It has become clear that this bill is more about hype than it is about substance. It is about slogans and not about good policy. It is about political expediency and not about sound decisions based on evidence. If we wanted proof of that, we needed only to sit and listen to the submissions at the Social Services Committee. Her bill is not based on sound evidence, and that was told to us over and over again as we questioned the submitters.
I also think it was a shame that the Minister tried to pull the wool over the eyes of this Parliament and the public when the bill was introduced. She told this House that her flagship boot camps would not be implemented until the end of 2010. The bill was not even finished in the select committee before she set up a pilot of boot camps at Burnham. We had not even finished the most important part of this bill to make boot camps part of the options, before she went ahead and started to implement them. Now she has once again told us what a great thing this is, based on a few months of a pilot without proper evaluation, and without proper research. It is that sort of sloppy thinking that really has tarnished this bill that the Minister has brought in.
This is a lightweight bill. It received very little support at the select committee. It received very little support for the main parts of it, particularly about lowering the age at which children would go into the Youth Court. There was almost overwhelming opposition to boot camps. There was some agreement on the extension of the range of sentencing options. We support an extension to sentencing options. However, we also are rather worried about how effective compulsory mentoring would be. We do not have any evidence that making people have a mentor is necessarily effective. We also do not think it addresses the fact that 80 percent of the young people who appear in the Youth Court now are under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The Minister is saying that they will be able to get some help with alcohol and drugs. But we have not seen where the resources, the training, and the services are going to be provided from, so that the young people who have those problems will receive those services. That information was not shown to the select committee when we asked for it. It was not shown to the public of New Zealand or the submitters. It is hot air. That is what we have had from the Minister.
The submissions on the bill were overwhelmingly opposed to lowering the age at which children could appear in the Youth Court. It is significant what Judge Becroft, the Principal Youth Court Judge, has to say. After all, Minister Bennett paraded Judge Becroft around as the pin-up boy for her policies before the election. So she ought to take some notice of what he said, when she brings in legislation. He said he believed that this constituted the most fundamental change to the system since its inception in 1989. Judge Becroft also highlighted: “there is a real concern by Youth Court Judges that the Court will be assuming responsibility for the worst child offenders, who by definition will have the most serious care and protection issues, yet the Youth Court will not have the necessary statutory ‘ammunition’ to deal with the inevitable care and protection issues at the root of offending.”
So when the Minister talks about this bill, she talks about making sure child offenders get the appropriate punishment, but she does not talk about the root of their offending: dealing with their care and protection issues. Labour raised the issue in the
select committee that if the concern is that the Family Court does not have the tools, why do we not give a greater range of powers to the Family Court rather than transferring child offenders to the Youth Court? But we could not even consider that. We were told it was outside the scope of the bill. It did not need to be outside of the scope of the bill. The Minister wrote the bill. She could have said “Yes, why does the select committee not look at that?”. Now she is saying “Won’t the select committee inquiry be good, looking at youth offending and the range of tools that the Family Court might have?”. Why close the door after the horse has bolted? Why not do it first? Why did she not look at those issues before bringing in this bill? Judge Becroft has made it clear that this bill does not deal with those issues that address care and protection. The right approach would have been to look at extending the powers within the Family Court.
The other major issue, which I think most submitters submitted on, was the issue of military-style camps. John Key, before the election campaign, did call them boot camps. Unfortunately, either because people from National had forgotten that at the select committee or they did not agree with it, they believed that calling them boot camps was a misnomer. But that is what John Key called them in the run-up to the election. He did it for a purpose. He did it for political expediency. That is what they were called. That is what every submitter who came to the select committee called them: boot camps.
We set about pulling apart the reason why New Zealand ought not to go down that path, why we did not need to have military-style camps set up in New Zealand in the style of a boot camp. Submitters pointed out the failures overseas. They pointed out the failure within New Zealand when we had that sort of approach, and the recidivism that came with it. They pointed out that there were other approaches. It was also pointed out—and was quite clear to us—that we did not even need to include a provision in a bill to be able to have military-style camps, because, ho, we have one set up at Burnham without this legislation. So if the Government wanted to put in place military-style camps, we did not need to go through the expense and the time of calling on submitters from all around New Zealand to tell us they think it is a bad move.
Does the Government really want to do something in terms of the most serious offenders? After all, we heard from the police that we are talking about 80 apprehensions—not 80 offenders, not 80 arrests, but 80 apprehensions—and some of those are children who have been apprehended more than once, so we are talking about a very small group. Why not, I ask the Minister, keep open Te Hurihanga? Why not put Government resources into that programme, which has shown a huge success? But for political purposes the Minister has decided to close Te Hurihanga, even though it is showing that it is working. What is so sad about this is the shonky figures that the Minister has used to justify closing it. The Government has tried to put the entire cost of establishing one programme on to eight kids. As somebody said, why not put the entire cost of Wellington’s maternity hospital on to the first birth that came out of it? I say to the Minister that this is a poorly designed bill. It is not based on evidence, and Labour will not support it.
KATRINA SHANKS (National)
: It is my pleasure to stand and support the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill in the House tonight. As chair of the Social Services Committee I can say that we had a substantial debate within the committee, and many issues were raised with submitters when they came forward. Because of some of the issues, changes were made to the bill. We do not always get a bill 100 percent right before it comes to a select committee. We listened to the submitters, and we made changes accordingly.
Tonight I would like to acknowledge the officials who put a lot of work into this bill. They came back many, many times with many new answers for us, as we dug deeper
and deeper. The committee appreciates the hard work they put in. I also know that the officials worked outside their normal hours in support of this bill.
The bill received 51 submissions. They came from the Youth Court, the New Zealand Police, the Law Society, and many non-governmental organisations. At the select committee, a huge criticism was that there was no evidence-based research to support the changes made by this bill. The fact that New Zealand has undertaken little evidence-based research concerning youth offending and the programmes is no reason not to make a change—otherwise we would be waiting forever to make a change that will make a difference in these children’s lives. Because of that, the status quo is not good enough for us. We had to make changes; there was no choice.
In an article in the 5 September 2009 issue of the
Dominion Post, Judge Andrew Becroft put forward some very important facts about the youth whom he sees in his Youth Court. I will give members just some of these facts, and they are pretty sobering: 85 percent of offenders appearing in the Youth Court are male; 80 percent are not at school—that is not truancy; they are entirely out of the education system—80 percent have alcohol and cannabis problems; 50 percent are Māori, and in some areas that figure is up to 80 or 90 percent of the youth who appear before the Youth Court.
Judge Becroft went on to say he sees a lot of family instability, such as a dad who is long gone and a mother who is struggling. One in three kids will undergo a psychological assessment, and many go on to further assessment, counselling, and treatment. He went on to say that no New Zealand research has been done but that, based on international evidence, about a quarter of teenagers who appear in the Youth Court have symptoms—sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle—of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Nobody really understands how seriously damaged a lot of these kids are. Judge Andrew Becroft was saying that we have a major problem in New Zealand, and one that needs to be addressed.
Hon Steve Chadwick: And it’s too late. It’s too late when they’re in the Youth Court.
KATRINA SHANKS: Labour members sit there and say it is too late. It is never the right time to give up on the children of New Zealand. This issue might have been in the too-hard basket of the previous Labour Government, but this Government and this Minister will not give up on the children of New Zealand. These young people are what this bill is about. The status quo just does not work for a National Government.
What about the purpose of the bill? Let us go right back to why the bill is before the House. A big part of the bill is about 12 and 13-year-olds appearing before the Youth Court, so it is important that we have protections in place for these children. It is important also that we strengthen the Youth Court and give it more tools so that it can treat these children when they appear before it. The court has to be given tools for sentencing, and measures for dealing with offending and addressing the causes that underlie offending, and that is something the Labour Government did not understand. We need to address the underlying causes of offending. That is what this bill helps to do, and if Labour members read the bill they would see that.
Many submitters agreed that the bill addresses areas of high and complex need. It is aimed at increasing the methods of accountability of young offenders, increasing assistance for young offenders, and improving and providing tools to the Youth Court. The greatest concern of some of the submitters was the extension of the Youth Court’s jurisdiction to 12 and 13-year-olds. We must remember that we are looking at and discussing the most serious and persistent young offenders, who cause significant harm to themselves, to others, and to their communities, and for whom the present system is not sufficiently intense.
Expanding the Youth Court’s jurisdiction to 12 and 13-year-olds charged with serious offences is important to this Government, so we also had to give it more tools to deal with these offenders. These tools will involve things like longer supervision with activity orders; longer supervision with residence orders, because 3 months just does not cut it; early release from supervision with residence orders; and military-style activity camps. A range of new orders will be introduced, including parenting education programme orders, mentoring programme orders, alcohol or drug rehabilitation orders, judicial monitoring, intensive supervision orders, and breach provisions. I notice that the Labour members are not arguing about these new tools, because they are good and they strengthen the Youth Court. The big argument about the Youth Court was that it had no tools.
We will also improve other existing orders. Measures for dealing with offending by a child or young person should, as far as is practicable, address the causes underlying the child’s or young person’s offending. The removal of consent to community work orders is pretty logical, is it not? What offender, when told: “We would like you to do a community work order, but you have to agree to it.”, would want to agree to that? So we will remove that consent process. There will also be split sentencing, a review of orders for periods of at least 8 months, social worker reports, and access to reports and plans. This is pretty logical stuff.
I want to speak more about the most controversial aspect of this bill—the military-style activity camps. Twenty-seven submitters were opposed to having military-style activity camps in the Youth Court’s jurisdiction. Military-style activity camps will cater for the most serious young offenders on Youth Court orders who require intensive 24-hour supervision, a structured environment, and a complete package of support to address the causes of offending. Long-term mentoring will be provided, along with help with literacy and numeracy skills—something that Labour does not think we are failing in. Well, I can tell members that a lot of these children do not have good literacy and numeracy skills. Most of them have dropped out of school. They are not truants—they are not even in the education system.
There will also be programmes to address drug or alcohol problems. The programme will include a period in a military-style activity camp, a structured programme in a residential environment, and supported transition back into the community. There will be a focus on installing self-discipline, personal responsibility, and community values. Actually, that is what most parents do undertake. We install self-discipline, personal responsibility, and community values in our children. It is unfortunate that not everybody does that in their own family, or in their wider families even. If they did, then maybe we would not have so many offenders now. People actually taking responsibility for their own families would be a good thing.
Military-style activity camps may represent the last opportunity for some young offenders to turn their lives round after being dealt with in the adult criminal jurisdiction. Child, Youth and Family is working with the New Zealand Defence Force and a non-governmental organisation to develop and deliver military-style activity camps. The Defence Force has proven experience in helping young people to gain important life skills, self-discipline, and employment through its Limited Service Volunteers programme. In fact, I have recommended that to some of my constituents, and they have had some great success stories.
There will be 40 available places on military-style activity camps. We are not talking about a lot of places; we are talking about a few. The programme being introduced will differ from the previous corrective training sentence and some other military-style models used in other countries.
This legislation is well overdue. I commend the Minister for having the courage to face some of the hard issues that confront the youth of New Zealand. It is my pleasure to support this bill tonight.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: I am extremely disappointed in the direction this Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill proposes for children and young people. Unlike the previous speaker, Katrina Shanks, I attended the ministerial meeting on the drivers of crime, hosted by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Māori Affairs last year. I would be interested to know the Māori Party’s view on this particular legislation.
I came away from that meeting last year quite heartened by the approach that I thought the Government was going to take over a really important issue. I felt it would eschew the law and order drum it had beaten the tattoo on every year, for several layers of intervention—early intervention, school-based intervention, and the youth development programmes that actually were effective in making a difference and being a last chance to turn people away from a lifetime of offending.
Following on from that meeting, I was then absolutely delighted to see that the Prime Minister had appointed a chief science adviser. I thought that that was fantastic, especially when I read the speech that Professor Peter Gluckman gave later on in the year. I quote from that speech. He said: “There is the beginning of the recognition that there is a far greater need for evidence to be rigorously based and inform policy formation, although I hasten to say that there can be many cogent reasons why evidence and policy need not align: the evidence may not be complete,”—that is the assertion of the member who has just resumed her seat—“the public may not accept the evidence,”. Well, that is pretty much a problem that we have in terms of how crime is reported. The speech continues: “it may conflict with the accepted values of a society, the cost implications may be contrary to the approach supported by the evidence,”—ha, ha! That is why Te Hurihanga has closed down—“and ultimately the democratic process will put constraints on decisions that can be made. The important point, however, is not to deny the evidence but to acknowledge it and explain when and why policies are developed that are not in accord with the evidence.”
This policy and this bill are not in accord with the evidence, and I have not heard the Minister stand up and explain why the Government has decided to ignore not only the very good general advice from the chief science adviser but also the advice of the Chief Family Court Judge and all the researchers who spoke at that meeting that day, such as Richie Poulton from Otago University and David Fergusson from the longitudinal study in Canterbury. We had there everyone with a long-term interest in evidence-based policy and intervention, who had been working on these issues for many, many years—working with central government to bring about some change within our education system, and within social development across the range of policies where those policies needed to be changed.
But what do we have? We have had no explanation, other than that anecdotally it felt really good to be at the graduation ceremony. Well, I have been to lots of graduation ceremonies where I have felt really good about the change that has occurred, but I want to know that when change occurs it will be long-term and sustainable, and will make a difference in the lives of these young people. That is what I want from policy in this country.
I think this bill is an insult to the appointment of a chief science adviser. There is no evidence to back military-style boot camps as a method of achieving that long-term sustainable change that is often needed to override—and I think this is where on both sides of the House we are being honest—an upbringing that no one in this House has
experienced. The Minister talked of the people who gave evidence in the select committee. Those who are committed to making a real difference actually opposed the provisions in this bill; they are not evidence-based.
Let me just briefly refer to the actual kinds of interventions that came up at the discussion we had at the ministerial drivers of crime meeting. They were to provide parenting advice, support, and intervention from pregnancy and through the early childhood years, particularly in vulnerable families—those in poverty, with young mothers, and with parental criminality—and to provide coordinated and effective early screening, diagnosis, and intervention programmes for at-risk families and individuals, encompassing and addressing a wide range of issues such as conduct disorder, mental health issues, and family dysfunction.
Another intervention was to address the alienation and disengagement of young people from education, by giving teachers the skills and support to deal with difficult behaviour, and to improve alternative education provision and pathways back into education for those who were excluded or not enrolled. Well, in my electorate this Government has got rid of all the adult and community education to speak of, which is exactly the opposite of what was recommended from that meeting.
A further intervention was to provide more accessible and timely mental health, drug, and alcohol treatment services, with greater use of tikanga Māori - based models. I thought that was very interesting, because the bill we will be dealing with next is a carry-over from legislation that our Government introduced—and guess what? All of the provisions about access to addiction programmes have been completely expunged from the bill; they have gone. We can see that this Government is not really interested in getting to the root of the problem; it is more interested in the headline news.
Another intervention was to provide positive leisure, sports, cultural activities, and role models for young people, in order to give them positive focus for their spare time and energy, and to build their confidence, identity, and sense of belonging and worth within society. That is the sort of thing that does make a difference. I have heard Judge Becroft use the expression that kids in sport stay out of court. It is a pretty simple one, but those kids are busy, involved, and engaged. They learn team activities: they are not individuals left to fight on their own; they learn the skills to work as team players.
Other interventions were to improve the quality and availability of therapeutic rehabilitation and reintegration services for prisoners and offenders serving community-based sentences, and to review the underpinning principles, structures, and processes of the justice system, to ensure that bias was addressed and the needs of victims were met, and that justice system responses did not inadvertently increase crime. That is very interesting, because of course we all know what the reality is, in terms of increased recidivism, of the effect on imprisoning people for longer. But we do not want to talk publicly about facts; they might get in the way of a good headline.
Yet another intervention was to reinvigorate a sense of caring and responsibility within communities by building community capacity, resources, leadership, and social capital. When the group was asked to say how that would happen in fact, the very first point the group came up with was to have interventions based on evidence, with a strong focus on what worked and with greater investment in research and evaluation.
I thought that day was tremendous; I felt very heartened by it. Other interventions were to support innovative community-based and Māori-designed programmes, but those needed to be evaluated and they needed to demonstrate effectiveness too; to develop an immediate, long-term, 10-year, cross-party, inter-agency approach to addressing the underlying drivers of crime, in partnership with iwi and communities; to adopt a strengths-based approach that built resilience and strengthened families and communities, by building their capacity and capability; and to adopt a resourcing model
that provided sustained funding for effective programmes, and flexible funding to enable local responsiveness and build provider capacity and capability, and then to build relationships between iwi in order to share ideas, models, and initiatives. But that is all too hard for the Government. It just seems that it has given up on what really works.
I have a question for members on the other side of the House. Who are Alexander Tokorua Peihopa and Whatarangi Rāwiri? How about Phillip Kaukasi, Riki Rāpira, and Joe Kaukasi? Maybe this quote from the
website will help: “Michael was brutally murdered nearly 4 years ago by six thugs, including this country’s youngest killer, Bailey Junior Kurariki.” The first two names I mentioned were the two young people who murdered Michael Choy, and the other three were the others like Bailey Junior Kurariki who were convicted of manslaughter. It took me ages to track down the names of the people who murdered Michael Choy, because story after story only ever referred to Bailey Junior Kurariki. He was the one who contacted the pizza firm, who enticed the pizza deliverer to the house, and who opened the door when Michael Choy arrived. What Bailey Junior Kurariki did was wrong, but he has been additionally punished with the notoriety his youthful age earned him. Yet nobody knows the names of the real killers, the murderers.
I make this point about extending the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to 12 and 13-year-olds for other crimes beyond manslaughter and murder—as it already can—and I say that the Government should think about the consequences.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green)
: I firstly acknowledge those final comments from my colleague the Hon Lianne Dalziel. I agree, and I think that was exactly the issue that needed to be put on the table: that a child of 12 years old becomes notorious due to his age while those who committed the crime—he did commit a crime; but he did not wield the bat—become anonymous out of the notoriety driven by the youth of the child and what is done to that child by the legal system, which has no capacity to deal properly with issues like this. The problem with the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill is that it does not help, and it makes the situation much, much worse by not recognising that children as young as 12 years old are children. They might know what they do is wrong, but they do not or cannot understand the consequences of what they do, and they must never be treated as if they are anything other than the children that they are.
Children must only ever be treated in the context of their family, in the context of their community, and in the context of the care and protection issues that Judge Becroft talked about. That is the only way to make sure that that child gets the help that that child needs, however heinous the crime. Sometimes the crime can be terrible, but this is still a child—not a young adult, not an adult, but a child. Such children must be treated with all possible care to make sure that they are well and healthy, that they never commit that act again, and that they never suffer as they must have done so that they committed that crime in the first place. This bill does not do that. This bill does not treat the issues around children who offend. This bill attempts simply to treat them like young adults, meeting some need of a community that prefers punishment to care and punitive action to preventing recidivism and crime.
The Green Party will oppose this legislation at this stage and at the third reading. Following the first reading of this bill I was not able to be on the Social Services Committee for most of the time that the bill was being dealt with and when submissions were being heard. But at the very first reading of this bill I acknowledged that there were some good measures in it around extending the orders of the Youth Court, for example, and giving the Youth Court more tools to deal with the young people who go into that court. I can see that the select committee has tried to make some positive contributions and changes to the legislation. It is good that an admission of a prior
offence at a family group conference cannot be used to then escalate that offending or that child through the process. It is good that there is an attempt at least to try to keep 12 and 13-year-olds in the Youth Court as opposed to the High Court and other courts, and that there is an attempt to try to restrict the time that 12 and 13-year-olds will spend in custody. I see that there has been some legitimate attempt to make the bill better.
But the problem is, of course, that the bill is fundamentally flawed. The premise on which it is based is that 12 and 13-year-old children should be treated as young adults, and that is simply inappropriate and wrong. It will cause more offending later on because of the way that the children will be dealt with. The bill is contrary to New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. That alone should signal to the New Zealand community that legislation like this and the policies of the National Government, driven by the extreme radicalism of the ACT Party, are really driving New Zealand legislation around crime issues back to the 19th century. The legislation does not take into account the most recent evidence about what works to reduce crime in a community, what works for young people to reduce their risk of offending, and what works to prevent families from being in a situation where their kids might offend. None of that is incorporated into the policies of the National Government or ACT’s extremist agenda. All the extremism on that side of the House is geared towards making New Zealand a much more punitive country, one that cares even less for families and for children, and it is driving the penal system back into the 19th
or even the 18th century.
One other concern I have related to that is that this Government has wasted thousands of dollars on this ridiculous legislation; thousands of dollars that could have been better spent elsewhere or on policy development that would have looked at how to prevent children from being in the situation where that kind of offending was even likely. The legislation admits that it might apply to about a thousand children in New Zealand and to only one hundred for the most serious offending. That begs the question of why all the resources are put into just those few, when, in fact, if we can put more resources into the 200,000 children, for example, who live in the most severe poverty, we might get a much, much better outcome. In fact, I will not even qualify it. We would get a much, much better outcome if we put the resources into the children and families who need them now, rather than wasting time at this other end on legislation that is unnecessary.
The truth is that there are no plans, and this has already been expressed tonight in the House. There are no plans to increase access to drug and alcohol treatment for children.
Todd McClay: You should have been in committee.
METIRIA TUREI: No. Let us look at the evidence. We know that in prisons, for example, there were 500 places for drug and alcohol treatment for 8,000 prisoners in New Zealand. That has recently been increased to 1,000 places. So we know that although 80 percent to 90 percent of crime committed is due to drug and alcohol issues in this country, which leads to the imprisonment of 8,000 people, or near enough, only 1,000 of them will get access to any kind of drug treatment; not only that, it is those who are in jail for longer who will get access to that drug treatment. Those who are in jail for lower-level crimes, for which this intervention would be effective at preventing them from reoffending, do not get access to that treatment. It only applies if prisoners have a sentence of 3 months or longer. So the whole system by which this Government is looking at drug and alcohol rehabilitation services fails from the outset, because there is no plan and no properly thought out scheme to deliver those kinds of services to the people who need them, to prevent reoffending and to help keep the community safer. That same failure applies across the board, including over drug and alcohol rehabilitation for young people at risk.
There is certainly very little in this latest plan of John Key’s to increase access to health or education services for young people and children at risk. In fact, all of the attention—the $26 million, for example—is going into standards, which will simply tell these children, particularly those most at risk, just how stupid they are. Not only that, but the standards will tell the whole country just how stupid they are. In his speech yesterday John Key said that the Government would look at intervening aggressively in those schools that failed to meet the standards. If that is not a direct threat to those schools that find most of the difficulty with most of the kids, the kids who are really at risk, then I do not know what is. How are they are expected to meet standards under those conditions with kids who are most at risk, kids who are hungry, kids who are cold, kids who are not sleeping, and kids who are sick because of the housing that they are in? Yet this Government will not help. It will aggressively intervene in those schools. Those schools will be identified as failed schools, because the kids at those schools will be identified as failed kids.
There is no plan from members on the Government side of the House for dealing with the reality behind those children’s lives, so that there is real intervention to provide them with the support services, the schooling system, the health, the education, and the housing that they need. Raising benefits to make it possible for their families to live and to buy good food and good clothing would really help. We should increase wages so that people do not have to be the working poor, but are able to work full-time, take care of their kids, and provide them with good housing. We need to build State housing, as I suggested earlier, so that the 10,000 families on the waiting list for State houses have somewhere to live and their kids have somewhere to live. They would be able to go to school at the same school, and would not have to move from school to school because their housing is so insecure.
Those are basic systems and basic services that would support the families of the kids who are most at risk. We would not need stupid legislation like this, because our children would be properly cared for by their families, and because they would live in an economic and social system that cared for them. We do not have that in this country. Those children live without any care from the social and economic system in this country. The inequality in this country is getting worse. We already have the sixth-worst inequality rate of highly developed countries. It is a failure; it is shameful. What does this legislation do for those kids? Nothing. It makes it worse. We are pleased to oppose stupid legislation like this. Thank you.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker, huri rauna kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare, tātou e nohonoho nei ki roto i tō tātou Whare Miere, tēnei hāora o te pō. Tēnā koutou, kia ora tātou katoa.
Whenever people screech and carry on about the sins of youth, one guy’s name keeps being brought up time and time again. Judge Andrew Becroft, Principal Youth Court Judge since 2001, is quick to point out—and rightfully so, I might add—that youth offending has remained relatively stable and has even reduced in some areas, while violent crime has increased right across the spectrum, particularly in the 51 to 99-year age group. It makes one wonder why all of a sudden the Government has decided to spend $84 million on targeting serious and repeat offenders in the Youth Court, when, in fact, only 1 percent of kids actually end up before the court. The Government should be focusing on the key issues put forward by people like Judge Becroft, such as ensuring more targeted resourcing and the coordination of relevant agencies, instead of beefing up the court infrastructure and extending the court’s jurisdiction to include 12 and 13-year-olds.
We are not walking away from our responsibility for dealing with serious and repeat offending amongst a small group of youth, either. We know that this country has to deal
with this issue honestly and openly, but we also know this: increasing the thumping power of the courts, criminalising even younger kids, and dishing out orders and punishments like French fries quite simply does not work. Research from all around the world, as provided to me by Chester Borrows, shows that the countries that invest more in communities and in rehabilitative justice have lower criminal offending rates than those that use the big stick approach that this Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill is proposing. One report from Britain showed that the more face time that we spend with kids at risk and the better we target resources towards helping them, the better the outcome we get and the lower the cost our society pays, as well. The same report proved that the cost of support services needed to help youth to break out of the cycle of criminal offending is less than a quarter of the cost of keeping them locked up.
All that confirms what we already know—that the best way to reform young offenders is to help them deal with the issues in their lives and equip them to make better choices in the future. Of course, the long-term cost savings are not just economic. People profit as well: offenders, their families, their communities, and society at large. That is what Whānau Ora is all about: taking the funding currently being wasted in futile, one-size-fits-all social recovery programmes run by Government agencies, and targeting that funding in ways that help and that enable families and their communities to lift themselves out of despair and raise themselves to another level.
There has been a lot of talk about boot camps, too. Although I have a soft spot for good programmes—boot camps or whatever we want to call them—that encourage rangatahi to challenge themselves and raise their sights, I know, too, that some are based simply on isolating kids and treating them to a short, sharp shock. I know that all that does is increase their sense of alienation and fuel their anger. Boot camps are OK, but they simply will not work just by making somebody fitter, faster, and harder to catch. There must also be strong elements of rehabilitation and a challenge to youth to reach their potential. Dr John Langley, a member of the Youth Justice Independent Advisory Group, said: “the one single factor that correlates most highly with violent behaviour in our young people is that those who commit it have had an excess of violence and punishment inflicted on them … Why dish out more when we know that has caused the damage to them in the first place? Such an approach is both wasteful and logically absurd.” At its extreme, this wasteful and absurd approach also threatens the whānau-centred approach articulated by the Māori Party and enshrined in the Children, Young Person, and Their Families Act.
What this country needs now is effective interventions and programmes, like those where communities taking responsibility for their youth are supported by resources that would otherwise be spent on their incarceration and are reinvesting the savings in other community youth programmes. The results of the interventions and those programmes are clear: increased community care, a 25 percent reduction in detention and probation, and a 75 percent drop in jail time. That is what we should be talking about: strengthening communities and helping them to develop their own solutions to take care of their own kids. That is also the basis of the Children, Young Person, and Their Families Act: treatment, rehabilitation, and restoration. It is a youth justice system based on making young offenders accountable for their actions, but also, because they are just children, it is based on rehabilitation and restoration. Those principles remain the basis of our world-leading reputation in the field of youth justice—a reputation that this bill places at risk.
The Children, Young Person, and Their Families Act 1989 was the brainchild of John Rangihau and others who wrote
Pūao-te-ata-tū. They recognised the centrality and importance of the whānau to the care and protection of young people, and of having
positive alternatives to custodial sentencing, based on families and communities taking responsibility for their own. This bill will erode some of those principles, so, regretfully, we will be opposing this bill and focusing our energy on making Whānau Ora a concept that will help to turn whānau, communities, and the whole of Aotearoa round. Kia ora tātou.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: I am pleased to be able to stand and take a speaking opportunity in the progress of this Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. It is important to look at where this bill came from and at what it is trying to address, and to look also at the way that the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act has been practised through until now. To be fair to Labour members, I say that the previous Labour Government realised there needed to be some alterations to the legislation. Some of those alterations National supported; some of them we did not. But what had grown over a period of about 15 years since the implementation of the 1989 Act was a lack of confidence in the ability of the Act to deal with younger offenders, especially prolific younger offenders.
The reason for that was that there was a lag in time between the apprehension of offending 12 and 13-year-olds and their finally being dealt with before the Family Court, which is where this legislation started out. A young child aged 12 or 13 and brought before the Family Court after being reported for prolific burglaries, for instance, took so long to go through the family group conference process and the resolution practice that before he—generally it was a “he”—could get in front of a judge and have a resolution, numerous amounts of further offending had been going on. What we ended up with was a situation when the practitioners—the police—and the youth justice social workers would lose faith in that system and not initiate those sorts of orders. In other words, they did next to nothing with those young offenders.
We have heard the name Bailey Kurariki quoted a number of times in the course of this debate—funnily enough, by people who were not in a position to be able to hear the evidence before the select committee. But the whole thing was, yes, that the serious offending on that occasion crystallised the fact in the minds of not only National members but also Labour members that we needed to do something. If Michael Choy had not died then Bailey Kurariki would not have been charged with anything, because there was no precursor for him to be able to be brought before the court. The action taken in response to the manslaughter conviction sustained by him would have happened under the law, both as it is now and as it was then.
So we have to be very careful that we do not set about muddying the waters here, and trying to think that this is some move by the now Government to do some dirty deal in order to deal to young people aged 12 and 13. What has been implemented as a result of the select committee process is that we now have a system whereby the Youth Court judge will act as the gatekeeper to where those 12 and 13-year-olds will be heard—either in the Family Court or the Youth Court. So when the police initiate a charge against a 12 or 13-year-old, the first appearance will be in the Youth Court. The person who decides whether that 12 or 13-year-old goes back to the Family Court to be dealt with, or continues within the Youth Court because he or she meets the criteria, is the judge. What is wrong with that? Who are the best and most appropriate to make that decision? It is the judges. When we had Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft before the select committee, what did he say?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: “I don’t want them.”
CHESTER BORROWS: No, he said: “What you are doing is trying to lump far too many 12 and 13-year-olds straight into the Youth Court.” That is what he said at his initial appearance. He said to the select committee: “What you need to do here is
streamline the process so that the practitioners working within the Youth Court process and within the youth justice process are able to get those 12 and 13-year-olds dealt with more quickly and on to curfews and adjournment provisions, like bail conditions, so that they are under curfew, there are non-association clauses, and there are prohibitions on knocking around certain neighbourhoods where the crimes they are committing are happening.” He said that the process should be streamlined.
So what happened? Those bits were pulled, they were rewritten, and we have pretty much done what he said. We have streamlined that process so that 12 and 13-year-olds appear initially in front of the Youth Court. If they are prolific offenders they can have adjournment conditions put on them and be sent back to the Family Court, and that is where the vast majority will go. But those offenders with previous offending or previous admissions after they have had legal advice—which is another condition put in after the select committee process and on advice from officials—will carry on through the Youth Court. By doing that they will be able to access programmes they cannot access at the moment in the Youth Court.
We were criticised by the Labour spokesperson on social services for not increasing the powers of the Youth Court to equal those that currently exist within the Family Court. Those of us who were privileged to be in the committee when we discussed this know that we had a look at doing that. But we were told that we could not do it because the scope of the bill was not wide enough to increase the powers of the Youth Court along those lines; therefore that has not happened. It is true to recall that the children, young persons, and their families legislation put up by the Labour Party when it was in Government extended the provisions of supervision with activity and supervision with residence. What we have done is to glue conditions on to the back of that, on which they are then released back into the community. A number of things were put up in the initial bill that the National Party was happy with and was happy to support, and that was one of them.
Those on the other side of the House who have had the privilege to attend those supervision-with-residence courses know that a huge chunk, if not the majority, of those young people who are sitting in those places right now are doing back-to-back 3-month courses. Some of them are on their fourth, fifth, and sixth 3-month period on a course, and it has gone nowhere for them. Every time those young people have been released they have had to go out and create a whole new set of victims before they can come back and access what we call the justice system. That is rubbish. So we are pleased to have received, at least within the select committee, the support of those Labour members who agree with that particular part. It was foolish to have ever stated in legislation that before a child could be ordered to attend community work, that child had to agree to it. How ridiculous was that; we are pleased to see that change happen, as well.
We have heard a lot of talk about military-style activity camps, and I can understand why. It is a bit of a touchstone for people who want to give the whole thing a smack-around. Let us look at where that came from. The introduction of military-style activity camps came from an agreement, which is also bipartisan across the House, on the way that limited service volunteer courses work, and on the way that the military components of academy education courses work, as well. Yes, the point can easily be made, and it is well made, that people who attend those courses do so voluntarily, as much as those who attend as part of an academy, volunteer, This is usually their last chance at education; they go on that course or they are gone.
What we have tried to do with military-style activity camps is to take the best of the limited service volunteer courses and the best of the military component of the academic programmes, then to force those young people, by order of the court, to attend
those courses and wrap services around them that actually address, for instance, issues within the family—issues that deal with drug and alcohol, that deal with literacy and numeracy, that deal with violence, and that deal with their background. My colleague from the Māori Party talked about Whānau Ora; this is exactly that. It is about reaching back into families, which the current system does not and cannot do, and is not empowered to do.
It is hugely frustrating to have a bill that seeks to intervene in the lives of young people—the most vulnerable in our community, who desperately need intervention—shafted and ridiculed by people who want to put those sorts of labels upon it, knowing all the time, having sat through the select committee process, that that is not what was intended and that that is not how it is going to work. I urge the members of this House to look within themselves and have the courage to be able to support this legislation, because it is worthy legislation.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: Last night I spent some time thinking about how I might describe this Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill to someone who was hearing about it for the first time—to someone who perhaps had no knowledge of our youth justice system, political agendas, and the issues we face in New Zealand—and thinking about how I would tell that person what we were doing here today. I would probably start with this: our youth justice system as it is now is unique. It is something we should be proud of. It is a system that acknowledges that young people should be treated differently; that for the most part we have an opportunity to turn their lives around. It is a system that, until now at least, has been internationally respected. But this bill and the policy that surrounds it undermines our existing system.
I will take this opportunity to go through the most significant elements of the bill. In fact, I want to focus mostly just on two elements, but first I give my thanks to all of those who participated in the select committee: practitioners, academics, youth leaders, and community organisations. They all gave up their time to present to the Social Services Committee. They are people with more hands-on knowledge than ourselves, and they undoubtedly told us how it is.
Two parts stood out for me, in particular, as a member of that select committee. The first was the Government’s decision to enable proceedings to be commenced in the Youth Court against children aged 12 or 13 years who are alleged to have committed specified offences. This point has been well canvassed in this House this evening. As my colleague the Hon Annette King has already pointed out, the Principal Youth Court Judge said it best when he stated that this part of the bill constitutes “the most fundamental change to the system since its inception in 1989.” Why would we make such a significant move, such a fundamental change? I have to be honest and say that after a full select committee process I was still none the wiser, and neither were the submitters.
If a child commits the worst offences in our law books, they can already be sent to our adult courts. As for the rest, there is no denying that if a child—I repeat, a child; a 12 or 13-year-old—is committing the kinds of crimes that the Government has identified, then there are issues going on in that child’s home and that child’s life. The best court we have in New Zealand to not just deal with that child but also assist that family is our Family Court. Nothing the Government has proposed has convinced me otherwise.
Again, Andrew Becroft noted that “there is a real concern by Youth Court judges that the Court will be assuming responsibility for the worst child offenders, who by definition will have the most serious care and protection issues, yet the Youth Court will not have the necessary statutory ‘ammunition’ to deal with the inevitable care and
protection issues at the root of offending.” He did not talk in that statement about issues of streamlining or of the Youth Court being inundated with young people. He talked about its inability to deal with those young people with the statutory powers it has.
If the heart of the issue, as the chair of the select committee has pointed out, was the desire to give judges the right kinds of powers, then why in the first instance did the Government not look at giving greater powers to the Family Court? We proposed this to the Principal Youth Court Judge, who said that it would have been a much more elegant solution than the fundamental change we see before us today. Labour refuses to support such an amendment, a fundamental change that the Government cannot justify, for which it has no evidence, and which undermines our system.
Perhaps more telling, though, was the fact that the most commonly raised and discussed element of the bill was something that was not really even a formal part of the primary legislation. As the chair of the select committee has pointed out, everyone had a view on the Government’s so-called boot camps. I call them “so-called” because, in fact, it was the Prime Minister who first coined and referred to the military element of these camps so strongly. Almost unanimously, the view of submitters was negative. Submitters told us that these methods have been tried and have failed in New Zealand. We have heard over and over that those who graduated in the early version of these camps’ corrective training had a 92 percent reoffending rate.
Hon Steve Chadwick: How much?
JACINDA ARDERN: It was 92 percent. If that was not enough, plenty of other jurisdictions have also tried these programmes and have failed. But Government members—and I acknowledge this—continually maintained during submissions that their programme would be different. It was not the same as corrective training. This programme would work intensively with young people, it would focus on providing good role models, and it would take a wraparound approach. It was presented as if it was a completely new idea. Well, it is not, and if this is truly what the National Government is aiming to create, then we already have it. It was called Te Hurihanga, and for the listeners who may not have heard of this programme before, it was established several years ago by Phil Goff and Judge Caroline Henwood.
Te Hurihanga was small and intensive, and it took on the worst offenders in Hamilton and the surrounding area. At first, we must all acknowledge, Te Hurihanga was controversial. Some local Hamiltonians did not want it, but that was then and this is now. I do not need to pass judgment on this programme, which was based on multi-systemic therapy and was operated by the Youth Horizons Trust. It has been evaluated favourably by a reviewer, and that review is now publicly available, but, more important, it has been judged by local police officers, family and friends of those in the programme, and the local community. It has been described—I say to the member from Hamilton West, who is with us in the House—as a godsend, it was filled with talented and skilled staff, and it was the reason that offending has dropped by 82 percent by those who have graduated. It now even has the buy-in of some of its biggest opponents.
Let me be clear and honest. In youth justice, success rates are low and tough, not just here but everywhere in the world. But Te Hurihanga was making gains, and for less than it would have cost to imprison someone for just a few years. Without this programme, many of these young men would have been facing that as soon as they hit their 17th birthday. Last week the Government announced that it would close Te Hurihanga, and I am left with one big question. If it is not the model that the Government wants to follow, as it describes, then what is?
I fear that, despite the Government’s denial, the answer is closer to the boot camp model, which is the failed model that the Government has tried to distance itself from. I fear that the Government’s Fresh Start programme, rather than being the full
wraparound it describes, is based on the idea of a short, sharp shock, as my colleague from the Māori Party described: short-term programmes that churn young offenders through with little acknowledgment of the hard and difficult truth that the methods that work take time; they take work, not just with the young person but also with their family; they take experienced staff; and, inevitably, they take money.
Ultimately, gains in youth justice take political courage. In a society where a “lock and throw” mentality is popular, investing in early intervention programmes that already exist may not make for a sexy headline, nor may having an evidence base or using programmes with acronyms like MST, or multi-systemic therapy, and FTT, or functional family therapy or following the recommendations of expert advisory groups, but those would have been the right things to do. It is time for some political courage.
For a brief period I thought, like my colleague Lianne Dalziel, that Simon Power might have been capable of it. He launched the Drivers of Crime conference. He committed himself to listening and to addressing the precursors of crime and investing in them. He heard the things that we have all been told over and over: if we get a group of young offenders in a room, we will find something common in all of their backgrounds, whether it be poverty, family violence, a lack of engagement in education, or drugs and alcohol. We know the problems; we just need to invest in the answers.
I lost faith in this Government’s desire to make that investment last week when it closed Te Hurihanga. If the only measure for early intervention for this Government is something that is cheap, then that move is truly short-sighted. Nothing costs this country more than the intangible cost to a victim, a family who has lost a loved one to crime or as a consequence of it, and a wasted life behind bars—nothing except, perhaps, the absence of political courage.
TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua)
: Thank you, members, for the applause before I speak. It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill, and it was a great privilege to serve on the Social Services Committee. There was more than a year’s worth of work from the select committee on an issue that is a great problem for New Zealand. I can cast my mind back to when this bill was first brought to Parliament. I can remember the debate in this House, and I can remember what members opposite said. I thought then that it would be interesting to go into the detail of the bill at the select committee and really look at the problem we have in New Zealand, which is that younger people are being driven towards crime, and that those who have been committing crimes are not getting support from the Government of the day.
We had this bill before us in the committee for a whole year. Indeed, the Labour members of our committee, from the very first day, said we were going too fast and were rushing the proceedings. They had been sitting around there for 9 years, and they said the Government was going too fast on its new legislation. A case was made to the Minister for Social Development and Employment, and the Minister came back to us and said if we wanted to have more time, she would allow it, because it was important to get this legislation right, for the good of the children. A member opposite is nodding his head; he remembers that. But what happened when we turned up to the committee and said we could take a bit more time to hear more people and make sure the bill that we brought back to the House was a good bill? The Labour members threw their hands in the air and, as Mr Mallard said earlier, they chucked their toys out of the cot. They said the Government was in disarray.
Well, I say there is a growing problem of youth offending in New Zealand, and there has been for many years. I pay tribute to those members opposite who were part of the previous Labour Government. I believe they had the very best intentions at heart for the youth of New Zealand during their time in Government. Let us have a quick look at the
problem. I will then briefly talk about how this bill will work through and help to address the problem.
Let us take the 9 years before 2008 and look at some of the offending by young people. Violent youth offending by those aged 14 to 16 rose by 47 percent. None of us here want children to get into trouble; none of us want kids to go out and commit violent crimes. But in the 9 years until 2008 there was a 47 percent increase. Violence by 12 and 13-year-olds increased by 30 percent, robberies by 14 to 16-year-olds increased by 94 percent, and offences involving intimidation and threats increased by 69 percent. Members should go out and listen to the public’s concern about law and order in this country. A grievous assault is a serious crime. Grievous assault offences by young people increased by 122 percent in the 9 years until 2008. What happened over that period of time? The previous Government forgot about those kids. I said earlier that I believe members of that Government had the very best intentions at heart, but I think they became caught up in the things that they were doing, rather than looking at whether children were being helped and whether the problem was becoming worse. The reality is that it did become worse over that period of time.
We have heard today lots of reasons why we should not pass this legislation. From members opposite we have heard about a lot of the things that they did. They have said those things were OK and were working. I tell members that anybody whose family member has been grievously assaulted by a young person—and those assaults increased by 122 percent—would disagree with the members opposite. I listened to those members during the select committee deliberations, I listened to them during the first reading debate, and I have listened to them today. The only conclusion I have come to is that I must treat them in the way that the New Zealand public did for at least a year before the last election, and certainly since the election: I think I pretty much have to just ignore them. That is what the New Zealand public has been doing; those members have no credibility on these issues.
The select committee went out and visited a number of institutions that work with some of the children who are the most troubled in our society and who get into the most difficulty with the law. I say to members, as a father, that I did not enjoy those visits. I did not like to see children up to the age of 17 locked up in a form of incarceration. I did not like that, at all. I came away from that visit to Auckland thinking that those kids should not be there.
We then went to a residence where young children were in the care of the State. I sat with some of those kids and listened to them as they were doing their schoolwork. I did not want to see those kids there, and I wish there was a way that they could not be there. I spoke to them and asked a young boy, who was 9, what he thought about being there. I asked whether he missed his mum. He said he certainly did. I asked whether he had a bike to ride there. He said it was OK, but he wanted to be back with his family. I spoke to the people who run that institution afterwards, and asked about the boy’s background. His father is a gang member; his mother is in hiding. There is huge violence in that community. I do not want that kid to be in that residence; I want him to be with his family. But the conclusion I came to, and the sad reality, is that there are too many parents in this country like that boy’s parents, for whatever reason: their background, or they do not have employment, or they do not have enough money, or they do not have a great house to live in. But that kid was better off in the residence. Otherwise he would go on to a life of crime, because his mother could not help him—she had to hide—and his father did not care enough about him. So it is the State’s responsibility to help that young boy.
This bill will do a number of things, and I will touch on them very, very briefly. We will look at how we can help these young kids. Members should think for a moment.
Our prisons are full; we know that. It was a big issue during the election campaign a little more than a year ago. We know that people are going to prison. But are members opposite honestly telling me that the moment that young people reach the age of 18 to 24, all of a sudden they start to commit crimes, and that is why they go to jail? Actually, if members go and talk to the police and youth workers, they will hear that the problem starts for many people when they are young, and it gets progressively worse. Then, when they hit the age of 18, we say they are not youths any more. We say the problem is solved, and they end up in jail.
Well, we have to start at the very beginning. We need to look at the kids that have the most difficulty, and we need to support them much, much more. Of course, it will be about drug and alcohol rehabilitation—absolutely. We heard that in the select committee; the Minister has said it. Of course that needs to happen. The members opposite are turning a blind eye and being political if they think that this legislation is not about helping young kids to get out of those problems. Of course, it will mean, in some cases, children spending more time away from their families in an environment where some of the issues can be worked through. Do members know what has been happening over the last 9 years? A child would commit a crime. The Family Court would say the child must go into a residence. The child would go there for a period of time, and then be put straight back into the environment that he or she came from. The child ended up being back where he or she had started from, and of course started to commit crimes again. Those kids, when they hit the age of 18, would get into trouble and go to jail. That is not good enough, at all.
We heard other members talk a little about the military-style camps. We are not talking about the time when those camps were called boot camps, and the people had to wear boots and march up and down. Members should go and look at some of the work that is being done at the moment. In some cases, when a young person gets in trouble, a short, sharp shock is enough. The police may visit the home, and that is enough—the young person will stop offending. But for many of our children, that is not enough, and that means that they need to spend some months away from home, to learn to respect themselves and be taught to respect others. There will be some discipline. People will treat them as they should be treated, and there will be a large amount of follow-up when they go back into the community, rather than dumping them straight back there again so that they end up in our prisons.
I feel passionately about this issue. I could talk about it a lot more. I could talk about young people in Maketū who go out and rob houses and break into cars, but I will not. Those young kids need to be given some help, and members opposite know that. We need to start to work with them earlier, so they do not end up spending their lives in our prisons. I will be supporting this bill, and I think those members opposite who have any experience in these areas should support it, too. Thank you very much.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I inform Mr McClay that I indeed have the experience that he thinks members on this side ought to have before we address bills like the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill. I worked with many of those families; I worked with them for years. I have also developed many workers to work with them, and, indeed, researched much of the background from which those families come. The member seeks an assurance that Labour members speak from that kind of background, and coming from that background, I am convinced that the kinds of provisions that this bill has come up with are not what those families require. I do not disagree a great deal with the member when he talks about some of what those families need, but where in the philosophical thinking behind this bill, or in the principles that guide this bill, are the provisions that will enable that to happen? They are not there.
I, too, thank the officials who worked with us over the last 12 months. I also thank parliamentary counsel, who helped design some of the amendments that were required. I acknowledge the chair of the Social Services Committee, Katrina Shanks, who led and chaired with good humour, and enabled us all to participate, with contributions from members from both sides.
The bill, however, has a chequered history. That history forces me to really suspect the real motivation for this bill. The bill was introduced under urgency in February 2009. That fact would immediately say to us that there is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed, and that we will do so fairly quickly. The bill was sent to the Social Services Committee quite early, as well. The committee had begun to receive submissions by April, and through May and June heard many of them. But at that point, when we were waiting for the departmental report, there was a vacuum. There was a direction from the Minister of Social Development and Employment—a letter that was sent to the select committee—saying that officials needed to do some more policy work. We asked what policy work was being done, because the select committee—having heard all of the submitters, and having understood what the bill was trying to do—wanted to know what the thinking was. Nothing was provided. Indeed, we realised later on that a trial of the boot camps—military-style training—was under way. At that point I became very suspicious, and I am still suspicious.
I ask whether this is a real attempt to address the complex and fundamental issues our young people face, knowing now what we know from the research and evidence that exists, or whether it is merely a demonstration or working-out of some attempt to be punitive—to be seen to be punitive, to be seen to be tough on crime. In the context of that particular flush, some of the provisions of this bill begin to make sense to me. I do not agree with them, but they begin to make sense to me. The Minister, in her statement at the beginning of the second reading, said that this bill was indeed about targeting the underlying causes of offending, but I am not at all convinced that this bill does that. The Government’s own work on the drivers of crime says that we need to move from a retributive or punitive model to a restorative and rehabilitative one, but the bulk of the provisions in this bill are really still quite punitive. Even though there are some wraparound services, as was talked about, the bill is still quite punitive.
Indeed, if the Government really was sincere in its own work on addressing the drivers of crime, then this type of bill would not come to Parliament. Much of that work would be about poor parenting, poor education and attachments, the disconnectedness from the wider society that many of these young people feel, and the failure of parents to provide the right environment, so that degeneration is taking place in family, community, cultural supports, and structures like that. There would also be a much more aggressive attempt to look at poverty, intransigence, and the demands on parents, particularly single parents. Indeed, the drivers of crime material would take precedence.
This bill does not talk about those provisions, but, as my colleagues have already pointed out, it makes one of the most fundamental changes in child welfare legislation in this country in the last several decades, which is to take 12 and 13-year-olds to Youth Court jurisdiction. That is a very serious move; that move forces us to begin to contemplate the particular stage of development of 12 and 13-year-olds. We have been parents; we have brought up those young people, and there but for the grace of God some of our own children could have strayed, if you like, at the ages of 12 and 13. When that happens—I am sure it has happened to members of families in this Chamber, and indeed to people we know and have worked with—a punitive approach should not be the response; we should begin to address all those complex factors, including our own behaviour, the way our family operates, the way we have supported our young people in our community, and the demands of the young people themselves in terms of
their own personalities, etc. When we address those kinds of things we begin to manage this transition of the early teens into the later teens.
Judge Andrew Becroft was very clear about that fundamental shift. He really said to me to be careful about that change, and to ask whether that was what we particularly wanted. We know that 12 and 13-year-olds primarily have care and protection needs; they do not need for us as a society to be retributive—to really get our ounce of flesh, if you like. In the kind of decent society in which we live, 12 and 13-year-olds will always demand that we address their care and protection needs. We have a court that specialises in those care and protection needs, and although that court is not perfect—it might require more resources, it could be timelier, and what have you—it is those shortcomings that should be addressed if we really have in mind the care and protection needs of 12 and 13-year-olds. I have spent half my life working with that particular population, and that is what they require. In the time I worked with those young people, I fought the system that sought to be punitive towards them. We were trying to get around the punitive approaches of days gone past. But those days are coming back, and this is a fundamental change that we will live to regret. Now it is 12 and 13-year-olds, but what will happen if that group becomes much more troublesome? If 10 and 11-year-olds get troublesome, do we keep going backwards or do we use a different approach?
I will also talk briefly about boot camps. We pride ourselves that people come to select committees saying that their Government will listen to them, that Parliament will listen to them. They take a lot of pride in that, and they put a lot of emphasis on what they do. At the select committee, experts—people who have worked with this group—said that this particular model does not work. But not one of them has been listened to, because here it is in the bill, as originally envisaged. That is a problem. I do not think that in this Government there is a serious attempt to look at the programmes that achieve change. Te Hurihanga is a programme that was achieving change. The Minister said that four participants had reoffended, but she did not tell us that the overall rate of offending had reduced by 82 percent. The select committee visited that group—
Hon Simon Power: You’ve got no idea.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: The Minister, Mr Power, is saying that it was useless, but the select committee visited them. In a disingenuous kind of way, that Minister added the cost of the plant to the cost of the first eight or so kids.
Hon Simon Power: You’ve got no idea what you’re talking about.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: The Minister did. That is how the Minister was reported. But here was a programme that was working successfully, and now the plan is to close it down.
Hon Simon Power: There is another side to this story you know nothing about.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD: I tell the Minister that we visited this programme. We visited the programme and spent some time there. Not one person in the select committee will disagree with that. But the Minister is not really interested in achieving change.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West)
: I welcome the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill back to the House, because the simple reality is that the status quo is not working. Current measures are letting our young people down, and our whole society is paying a very heavy price for the inadequate provisions we have at the moment. I acknowledge the members who worked on the Social Services Committee on this bill. It has been obvious in the House tonight that we had some vigorous debates, and we are still quite some distance apart. Nevertheless, the issue had a very good airing. I particularly acknowledge the submitters, who also brought different viewpoints. But it all assisted us to come to a clearer understanding of the major challenge we face, and all of us, of
course, were motivated by the common desire to turn troubled young lives round. I acknowledge the excellent work of the officials who guided our progress.
It is very disappointing to hear the efforts of members opposite who are belittling the work of the Minister and the real purpose behind this bill. It is worth remembering that New Zealanders voted overwhelmingly for measures of this kind at the last election because they know just how serious this problem is. It is disappointing to note the lack of focus of Opposition members on the breadth and comprehensiveness of the package, and their relentless determination to dismiss the bill with cheap slogans and irrelevant discussion of what it is not about.
Let us remind ourselves of what the bill is focusing on. Whether or not we like it, we have a worrying number of young people who are out of control. They are a risk to themselves and to those around them. There are many reasons for that, and it is a tragedy to see the increasingly youthful appearance of juvenile offenders. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that it is not happening. It is, and in berating the Government for tackling the issue, members opposite have chosen to look the other way and to ridicule the efforts of those who are determined to tackle the problem.
The evidence that we need this bill is found on street corners the length and breadth of this country. The co-leader of the Green Party was determined to dwell in a naive and discredited mindset that puts all the blame for our nation’s crimes and social ills on everything and everyone but criminals and the socially disaffected. Of course there are serious problems that knock many of our young people off course. Of course life has dealt many of them a cruel blow from the outset. But we will never help them to turn their lives around if we blame all their offending on the system and absolve them of responsibility for their actions. Of course we must provide significant support for our troubled youngsters and intervene when they are hurtling off the rails. That is exactly what this bill is all about. As my excellent colleague Chester Borrows emphasised, the crucial thing is to do so comprehensively and in a timely fashion.
By strengthening and expanding the orders available to Youth Courts, we will open up a raft of vital measures. These include parenting education, mentoring, and drug and alcohol treatment programmes, which are not sufficiently available through existing Family Court policies yet are desperately needed if life-changing interventions are to occur. Contrary to the claims of members opposite, this significant change is based on compelling evidence. For a start, we know that what we have now simply is not working. Many of the 12 and 13-year-olds who are being drawn steadily into youth offending have problems with substance abuse. If we do not give the courts the power to confront that reality, we will not only be wasting their time and the taxpayers’ money but, more worryingly, be dooming any intervention to failure.
There is clear evidence that access to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes, which assist in getting young offenders off the booze, the dope, and the P, make a difference, and there is even clearer evidence that a lack of such programmes is often fatal. This bill is aimed at the 1,000 worst young offenders and contains three major reforms. These have been well canvassed by previous speakers. I commend this bill to the House. We must throw our efforts wholeheartedly behind this bill. Then we will start to see real improvements for the youth of our country.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: It is a pleasure indeed to follow the member for Hamilton West, Tim Macindoe, who has sat on his hands—in fact, he was in the paper the other day because he has been fishing—while his Government closed down the effective programme in Hamilton called Te Hurihanga. While the rest of us were fighting in February to try to keep that facility open, Tim Macindoe was still fishing. He should have been on the ground; he should have been hearing what the people of Hamilton had to say about the Te Hurihanga facility being shut down.
If he had been listening, reading his emails, and at work over that period, he would have heard the same things that I have heard from the Hamilton community about why the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill will not work. People do not believe that the boot camp model works. All of the evidence says otherwise. If Tim Macindoe had been working during January and February, he would have read this kind of email—this is an example of the sorts of emails that the Minister of Justice, Simon Power, has been receiving. This email is addressed to the Minister; it is from a constituent in Hamilton. She writes: “Dear Simon, I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at your recent decision to close the Hamilton youth justice facility Te Hurihanga. Working with young offenders to turn their lives around is an incredibly difficult task. Internationally, research shows there are no quick-fix solutions. Success is hard to come by. Yet, in 3 short years, Te Hurihanga has been successful. With a sound research base,”—yes, I say to the Minister, that is right—“one of the most highly skilled staff teams in the country, and growing community support, the lives of young men at risk are being turned around. The young men and their families are committing themselves to change. Yes, the programme is costly in the short term, but such costs are small compared to the human and financial costs of long-term offending. The costs of a lifetime of welfare support, family dysfunction, recidivist offending, terms in prison, and the suffering of the victims of crime are immense, and are borne by the whole community.”
She goes on to say: “These are the costs that need to be taken into account when thinking about the cost-effectiveness of Te Hurihanga. I have seen no evidence”—and neither have the rest of us, by the way—“that the Fresh Start initiative has a sound research base or proven rates of success. Your comments so far suggest that it will be inadequately funded. Like many in the community I am deeply saddened by the decision to close Te Hurihanga. I am particularly saddened because I suspect that you are already well aware of the things I have said. Yet, despite this, you will still make your decision. That suggests to me that you are putting politics ahead of people. I urge you to reconsider your decision for the sake of those who desperately need and want to turn their lives around, and who looked to Te Hurihanga for hope.”
That email is indicative of what many in the Hamilton community feel about the very successful, ground-breaking programme that has been trialled. I was very disappointed to hear the Minister stoop to the level of inflating the cost of providing that programme for those young men.
Paul Quinn: Do you have any joy in your life?
SUE MORONEY: I say to Paul Quinn that I do not have joy in my life when these successful programmes that people have sweated over and put their lives into are used to score cheap political points. The Minister got up in front of the media and pretended that the programme had cost $600,000 per offender, when the truth is that it cost about $170,000 per offender. That is a lot less than the human costs that even the ordinary person from Hamilton who wrote that email could work out. She could work out how much, in human costs and financial costs, it will cost this country to not look at the evidence from Te Hurihanga. The Minister has decided to go against what many in the Hamilton community are calling for.
There is one particularly telling thing. When Te Hurihanga was established, it was controversial, and two groups formed in the Hillcrest community in Hamilton. One group desperately wanted the facility to be opened up because they saw the wisdom and the importance of the community taking care of its own. The second group had a different range of agendas. Some did not want that type of facility in their backyard, and some were concerned about a lack of consultation. They held a range of different perspectives but they came together to oppose the opening of the facility. One of the
most telling things about the success of the programme is that those two groups have now joined forces. They united just this last weekend to campaign to keep the Te Hurihanga model operating as it is. The people who vigorously opposed that facility’s being established in their neighbourhood have now, in 3 years, completely turned round—as reflects the English translation of Te Hurihanga’s title. They have turned round because they have seen those young men turn their lives round, they have seen the commitment of the staff, they have seen that the programme has enhanced and improved safety in their community, and they have now become convinced. After being completely opposed to that facility’s opening, they are now fighting this Government to keep the facility in place. That is incredibly telling. But is the Government listening? The fact that the Government has hurried this bill back into the House before the Social Services Committee has even had a chance to report back shows that this Government has its fingers well and truly plugged into its ears—and not just the Minister but also the members of Parliament for Hamilton.
There is another telling thing about the opening of Te Hurihanga. At the official opening there was a protest—by the group that now desperately wants to keep the facility, by the way. During the opening, they left their placards up against a fence and walked away from them. One of the people who did not like some of the offensive slogans on the placards turned them around, and guess what was on the back! It was David Bennett of National: “Tick David Bennett. Tick National.” David Bennett was right in the thick of winding that protest up.
Hon Steve Chadwick: He’s got his way.
SUE MORONEY: He has got his way. Now, 3 years later, when the people he was supporting in their protest have changed their minds, David Bennett still has not changed his. His Government is closing down an effective programme.
People in Hamilton cannot believe that this Government is turning its back on a programme that is showing successful results with the most hardened of offenders—young men who, on average, have offended 23 times before they even get to the facility. Let us remember that these young men are aged between 17 and 24 years of age, so they have not had a lot of time to rack up that sort of record. But that is where they have come from. That is what they have been doing before they enter the grounds of that facility. Until about 3 days ago, the police were reporting that of the eight who had graduated, none had committed offences. In the first—
Hon Member: That’s not the problem.
SUE MORONEY: Absolutely. In the first 10 months—the Minister is shaking his head, but he is wrong and he knows it—no offences were committed. Subsequent to that there have been four. A 50 percent strike rate is very, very good when dealing with this level of criminal activity. Here the Government is closing down a programme that is proving to be successful and replacing it with something that we know does not work—boot camps. The evidence everywhere, here and internationally, is that boot camps do not work, and that is why Labour is opposing this bill.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the amendments recommended by the Social Services Committee by majority be agreed to.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.
|Question agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1.
|Bill read a second time.
Child and Family Protection Bill
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice)
: I move,
That the Child and Family Protection Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee for consideration. This bill is the next step in this Government’s commitment to reinforce the ability of the courts to act to protect children and families from all forms of violence.
This Government has already taken action to ensure that perpetrators of domestic violence are made more accountable for their behaviour. The Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Act passed in October last year strengthened enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act 1995 with the introduction of on-the-spot police safety orders. The Act also amended the Sentencing Act 2002 to enable sentencing judges in the criminal court to issue protection orders on behalf of victims.
The Child and Family Protection Bill now takes the next step with measures that will ensure that court processes and programmes are more responsive to the needs of victims of domestic violence, including in particular child victims. In 2007, 6,400 children were involved in applications for protection orders. Most of those children had witnessed violence and some had been subjected to violence directly. The bill clarifies when protection is available for child victims of domestic violence, and provides the court with a greater ability to review care arrangements when children are involved in domestic violence proceedings.
Circumstances occasionally arise when it is not clear whether a child remains covered by a protection order, such as when a protected person dies. The bill therefore affirms that any child of a deceased protected person remains protected.
The bill makes it clear that a protection order applies for the benefit of any child of the applicant’s family until he or she is 17 years old. Once the young person turns 17, the bill allows that person to apply to the Family Court for the current protection order to continue. Section 54 of the Care of Children Act currently enables the court to make interim care or contact orders to protect the welfare and best interests of the child when a protection order is made. This bill moves that provision into the Domestic Violence Act to underline the importance for the court to consider care and contact arrangements when children are involved in domestic violence proceedings. The bill also provides the court with a new discretion to offer a review of care and contact arrangements where a temporary protection order is made without notice.
A second group of amendments to the Domestic Violence Act will involve court processes and procedures. The bill enables the court registrar to make changes to a direction to attend a programme, such as adjusting the date and time of the programme where necessary to enable a respondent to attend. Other measures remove any opportunity for a gap between a temporary and final protection order that could result inadvertently in protected persons having no protection.
Amendments to the Care of Children Act 2004 will also provide greater clarity and flexibility regarding the protection of children. The Family Court deals with many families who are involved in proceedings under both the Domestic Violence Act and the Care of Children Act. More consistency between the two Acts is desirable, particularly to ensure that the Care of Children Act is clear that protection is available to children who are victims of psychological abuse. The bill therefore amends the Care of Children Act to reflect the same definition of violence used in the Domestic Violence Act, clarifying that “all forms of violence” means physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.
The bill ensures that the court may make an order allowing a person who is subject to a protection order to take care of, or have contact with, a child only if it is satisfied that the child will be safe.
The bill enhances the protection of children who are at risk of being wrongfully removed from New Zealand. It delivers on New Zealand’s commitment to protect the welfare and best interests of children internationally. When seeking to obtain an order preventing the wrongful removal of a child from New Zealand it will no longer be necessary to prove that the risk of someone taking the child out of the country is imminent. It is also proposed that the orders be made more flexible. Previously, parents may not have wanted to seek an order, because they want to retain the ability of the child to travel overseas. I hope that these changes will encourage parents to apply for these orders in all cases where they are necessary to protect children.
Finally, the bill includes a new offence under the Adoption Act 1955 of improperly inducing consent for the adoption of a child. This is the last legislative amendment required for New Zealand to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. New Zealand signed the optional protocol on 7 September 2000, but has yet to ratify it. This bill will make it an offence for a person to induce another person, by improper means, to consent to an adoption. The new offence will apply whether it is committed domestically or transnationally, and will attract a punishment that reflects the gravity of the crime—up to 7 years’ imprisonment. Ratification of the optional protocol will demonstrate this Government’s commitment—and I hope this Parliament’s commitment—to ensuring that New Zealand meets its international obligations to protect children from economic and sexual exploitation. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: Labour will be supporting the Child and Family Protection Bill. In 2008 the Hon Annette King introduced the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, and it is now at the bottom of the Order Paper. It was, of course, abandoned by this Government so that it could do two things. The first was to introduce the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill, which picked up the police protection order provisions of Annette King’s bill and was passed after being divided into two separate bills. That then left a number of other provisions that needed to be passed; hence the bill that we have before us tonight.
But there have been some major omissions from this bill. When we add up the bills—the divided bills with the police protection orders in them that have already been passed, and this one—there are still some glaring gaps, and I want to—
Hon Simon Power: That’s why it’s still on the Order Paper.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Oh, the Minister is actually saying he will address the other issues with the Domestic Violence Reform Bill.
Hon Simon Power: I wouldn’t have it on the Order Paper if I wasn’t going to.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Oh, I do not know about that, but anyway I will wait and see. The Minister has said he is leaving Annette King’s bill on the Order Paper so that it
can be addressed at a later stage. I will be very interested to talk to him about what that timetable might look like.
I will talk about the omissions from this bill, because I think it would be very good to know, maybe from the next Government speaker, why there is the delay with the additional provisions—if it is indeed a delay, and they are not being put off into the never-never. I welcome the changes included in this bill that originally came out of the Domestic Violence Reform Bill. The Minister has gone through those provisions. There is really only one provision in the legislation that was not included in the bill that Annette King introduced, and that was the last provision that the Minister mentioned.
I will quickly run through the provisions of the bill, just to indicate the support that the Opposition has for them. First of all, clarifying the law around the application of protection orders for young people when the applicant dies is clearly something that needs to be tidied up. There are, of course, provisions to enable the Family Court to make interim orders relating to a child’s care or to vary existing orders, even though no application has been filed. This is important. It came up during the consideration of the discussion document that we put out during the domestic violence review that the previous Government was responsible for. We identified that quite often the courts were not attuned to the provisions of the Care of Children Act when they were looking at a domestic violence application. It was therefore important to write in this provision. I think it is really just to draw the judges’ attention to the fact that this is something that they should resolve at the time that they are dealing with a domestic violence application.
Issues of contact are to be addressed by ensuring that the Family Court reviews those arrangements within a few weeks after a temporary protection order is made. Again, the need for this provision came through very clearly in the discussion document that we put out. It was really important that the law codified the practice that has now been developed in the Family Court in that regard.
The bill removes the administrative barriers to engagement in stopping violence programmes. We know that there are issues around effectiveness levels in stopping violence programmes, but where they are willingly participated in we know that the success rate is much higher, so therefore removing those administrative barriers will obviously be of advantage.
In relation to the extension of the Care of Children Act to address all abuse, including psychological abuse, in terms of the care and contact arrangements, I want to put it on the record that I was on the Social Services Committee, which considered the bill. After hearing a lot of evidence on this, we decided to exclude the psychological abuse provisions that related to the domestic violence legislation from the care and contact provisions in the Care of Children Act. I think we got it wrong. I am not ashamed to say that; sometimes we do. Sometimes it is a question of a judgment call, and it is based on the evidence and the submissions received at the time. I think this is a good tidy-up of the legislation. Too many gaps have been left in the difference that exists between the two bills, so I really do think this provision does strengthen the protection for children, as the Minister has said. I strongly support this change coming in.
There is then the provision that I have been waiting for, for a long time. Actually, I do not think the Minister mentioned this particular provision in his commentary. It is the question of the ability to discharge a section 105 order, which is essentially a Hague convention provision ordering a child to be sent back to the other signatory party’s jurisdiction, where the guardianship arrangements should have been dealt with in the first place. The case referred to in the explanatory note of the bill,
ButlervCraig, involved a constituent of mine, and that is why I have always felt that this is an
important case to address. It highlights a gap in our law, and it is one that is commonly addressed in other jurisdictions. I do not think people should be nervous about giving the court the power to cancel one of these orders. Other Hague convention countries do exactly the same as what the bill proposes, and I think it is important that our law allows for that, as well.
Finally, the bill makes changes to the Adoption Act, by introducing a 7-year sentence for inducing another person to consent to an adoption. I think the point that the Minister did not make is that the whole point about bringing in the 7-year sentence is to create an extraditable offence, which gives us the international reach that, unfortunately, we do not have under our existing law. It enables the ratification of the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as the Minister said. I totally support this change. This issue is a serious matter internationally, and I just reflect on the scene in Haiti involving a group of people going in and grabbing children in order to take them out of the country for adoption. I do not know what the motives of those people were, and I am not making a judgment call on them. I am just saying that in those sorts of situations we have to be really, really careful that the law is strong enough to protect against the unlawful trafficking of children. That could have been the case in Haiti; who knows whether they were a genuine outfit. So this provision is very important.
I remember attending the World Conference on Women back in 1995 and being at a table with a group of women politicians from Romania, from whom I heard about the impact of international adoptions on children from that country. People were taking personal responsibility for wanting those children to be cared for; we saw terrible scenes in the orphanages back then. But the message those women were giving to politicians from other countries was that we should stop stealing Romanian children. They agreed that Romania had a problem that needed to be addressed, but they said we should think about the long-term impact on children of totally ripping them out of engagement with their families. As we saw in Haiti, family members will sell their children, not for personal benefit but so that their children will have more advantages, whether educationally or with regard to positions, or whatever else. They will allow their children to go, but long-term emotional damage can be done to children in that situation, when they are dragged away from their family, culture, language, and all of those things. There has to be the capacity for children to return to their families, as well. So the Minister is bringing in a good change, and it certainly has support on this side of the House.
Compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is obviously important, but it has been made kind of ironic by the exclusion from the other bill of the definition of a minor. I think it was really important that we lifted the age from 17 to 18, not only for the sake of compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also made me wonder whether there was a connection between this and the bill we are just dealing with, which drops the age of criminal responsibility for a range of offences in addition to manslaughter and murder in terms of the Youth Court’s jurisdiction, and whether that has something to do with the failure of the Government to address the problem where 17-year-olds can simply fall through the cracks. I was thinking of what the Minister said about the circumstances that these young people can find themselves in, in terms of being exposed to family violence. Then I heard the debate we have just had on the previous bill, and I was thinking about the long-term consequences of the damage that domestic violence does to children, even when they are just hearing the violence or experiencing the violence around them, rather than being directly involved. That long-term damage can lead to the sort of outcomes
that we were just talking about with regard to the previous bill. So I would like to think that we could address that at some stage in the very near future.
A couple of other provisions have been left out of this bill, such as the question about without notice applications for protection orders being declined, and the need for written reasons. Those provisions were based on very, very important reports that were done for both the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the ministerial task force on family violence. I think it is really important that the Government seriously thinks about including those additional provisions in the bill sometime soon.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: It is great to be part of a debate where there seems to be some sort of unanimity across the House. As the previous speaker, Lianne Dalziel, indicated, it is a little bit of an unusual thing to find that just minutes after we have been metaphorically at each others’ throats—probably not good terminology to use when addressing legislation that addresses violence—a Government that had it so wrong just 5 minutes ago now apparently has it so right.
I think it is interesting to draw the conclusion that the Child and Family Protection Bill does not stick so rigidly to age thresholds. Previously, huge assertions had been made that people are children until they are 13 and 364 days, then they miraculously become young people. The fact is that domestic violence and dysfunctional families blur the lines between ages.
We have to have a stocktake of where our country is in respect of domestic violence in particular, but also violence in general. Police are called to about 80,000 domestic violence incidents a year. We know that in a huge number of those cases, children are present. Over time, messages of violence can be inculcated in them, and it can be an answer or an option for them when we know that it is not.
We also know that with over 200 women and children killed in domestic violence over the last 12 years, it is clear that New Zealand is facing an epidemic of domestic violence. Thankfully, that has started to be addressed, which is a good thing. We have found that because of the promotion of the idea of reporting and the building of confidence of people who were offended against in this way—and the ability of agencies to deal with it—those people went on to report domestic violence, so we saw an escalation of family violence reporting. It was very disappointing to see a downwards trend in the number of applications for protection orders. It is very important to have legislation that reinforces the place of protection orders in domestic violence circumstances and does a little bit of manipulation, as this legislation does, to ensure that they are effective and they can be made effective. Therefore, we can enhance the confidence those people have that if they go on to report an instance of domestic violence, then it will be addressed and over time things will get better.
In the relatively short experience I had as defence counsel, I noticed that those men who are forced into obtaining counselling and go on and eventually do it, no matter how unhappy they are about having to do that, invariably gain an insight if they are prepared to turn up sober. To have the ability through this legislation to extend the ability of those men to attend, or at least initially be forced to attend, means we have some hope for it.
It is good to see that we are recognising the severity of emotional violence and psychological abuse, and broadening the application of that across the legislation, and it is great to be part of a team in Government that is enhancing the legislation to deal with domestic violence. In the last short couple of years we have seen additions to the suite of legislation that deals with these things so well. I am pleased to see that the bill has support across the House. Thank you.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: I agree with one thing that the previous speaker Chester Borrows just said: we do have a problem with domestic violence in this
country. Anybody who looks at the statistics will be able to confirm that. In 2008 the police responded to over 82,000 incidents involving some form of that sort of violence. Between 4 percent and 10 percent of New Zealand children reported experiencing physical abuse. Twenty-four percent of girls and 11 percent of boys reported such abuse. In 2007, 6,400 children were involved in applications for protection orders. Most of those children had witnessed violence and others had been subject to violence directly.
At the same time there has been an increase in the international movement of children for adoption purposes. Current powers in the legislation to deal with this phenomenon are quite clearly inadequate. It is obvious that New Zealand needs laws that better allow the prosecution of offences relating to intercountry adoptions. Those are the reasons why Labour introduced the Domestic Violence Reform Bill in 2008. As has been pointed out, the Child and Family Protection Bill re-enacts many of the provisions that appear in that bill, so we have decided to support it.
I will highlight three particular provisions that are the basic and essential reasons why we are supporting this legislation. The first is the set of provisions amending the Domestic Violence Act 1995. Clause 6 would amend section 16 of the Act to make clear that a protection order will apply for the benefit of a child of an applicant until the age of 17 unless the order is discharged earlier. That is really important. The bill also clarifies that a protection order that has not lapsed or been discharged continues for the benefit of any child of a deceased applicant until the age of 17, as well. The Domestic Violence Act at the moment is silent on those matters. The bill also inserts into the Domestic Violence Act a provision to put it beyond doubt that the Family Court can make interim orders relating to a child’s care or to vary existing orders even if there has not been an application filed. Finally, as far as the Domestic Violence Act is concerned, the bill makes it entirely clear that any lawyer appointed to act for a child under the Care of Children Act may, as of right, be present at a hearing of proceedings under the domestic violence legislation.
The second set of provisions—clauses 17 to 28—amends the Care of Children Act. The bill will provide that where a protection order has been made against a party to an application for a parenting order, the court may make an order allowing that party day-to-day care of, or contact with, the child only if the court is satisfied of the safety of the child. If there is any doubt as far as the court is concerned, then the court can make an order for supervised contact between the child and the party. The bill also strengthens the protection for children from unlawful removal from New Zealand.
The final set of amendments—clauses 29 to 35—amends the Adoption Act, and I will turn to them now. As Lianne Dalziel said, these amendments would ensure that New Zealand can ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The bill amends the Adoption Act to create a new offence of improperly inducing consent for the adoption of a child. This offence will be punishable by a maximum term of 7 years’ imprisonment. As has been pointed out, under the law, and under the treaties to which we are party, that will make it an extraditable offence, and that will allow us to ratify that optional protocol to the convention.
I have said that Labour will support the bill, but I think members will have gathered that we do not do so uncritically. The exchange between the Minister of Justice and my colleague earlier indicated that Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill remains on the Order Paper. We on this side of the House are mystified as to why that legislation simply has not progressed. Labour carried out extensive consultation and research before introducing the bill. It would have been preferable if National had done the right thing, had not played politics and re-branded the legislation as its own, but had simply
got on and speedily progressed our bill through Parliament. Instead, like many aspects of National’s programme so far, the introduced legislation just rehashes much of what was proposed by Labour and re-brands it as National’s own. But it does so imperfectly, and I will point to five areas where this bill does not go far enough or fails to make important provisions.
The first area relates to the fact that Labour’s Domestic Violence Reform Bill changed the definition of “child” in the Domestic Violence Act to someone under the age of 18, and that was in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Currently, the legislation defines “child” as anyone under 17, so if Parliament passes the current legislation, it will be non-compliant with our international obligations. As Lianne Dalziel said, this is especially ironic in light of the pains that the current bill takes to allow for ratification of the optional protocol to the convention on the point about creating an extraditable offence where trafficking or other serious crimes concerning children are committed.
Secondly, the bill does not provide the court with the power to direct attendance at an addiction treatment programme. Labour’s bill did that, and if National was serious about dealing with the causes of crime, then this bill would as well.
Thirdly, Labour’s bill introduced a provision requiring any judge who declines a without-notice application for a protection order to provide written reasons for declining the application. This was to make sure that a declined applicant could decide on an informed basis whether to proceed instead on notice. National’s bill does not include any such provision. Why weaken potential protection for a victim in this way, unless the Government is simply paying lip-service to the interests of actual or potential victims of crime?
Fourthly, Labour’s bill made provision for applicants to be able to attend information sessions that would provide advice on making effective use of protection orders, and advice on any social assistance that might be available. Again, that provision would have been of great assistance to those potentially at risk. Why has it been omitted? Because National clearly does not really care about those who are actually or potentially at risk.
Fifthly, and finally, Labour’s bill also contained much better provisions concerning applications for the discharge of protection orders, and it allowed the court to order reports if necessary. It is simply inexplicable that any Government claiming to care about the vulnerable would not have re-enacted those provisions.
Judith Collins issued a media release on 1 October 2009, and in that media release she claimed that National’s two new bills—the replacements for the Labour bill that I mentioned earlier—would “tackle the evil of family violence”. But in that press release she did not make any explanation of how that will happen or why these five omissions have occurred. And, unfortunately, we never heard from the Minister of Justice in his introductory speech tonight why these omissions have occurred, nor have we yet heard from another Government speaker on these matters. So although Labour will be supporting this legislation’s referral to a select committee and hopes that it will be able to support the legislation through its other stages, Labour members will be listening carefully as to why these important matters are missing from this bill.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Kia ora, Mr Deputy Speaker. When I heard that during all the chaos and carnage of the recent earthquake in Haiti, a bunch of dodgy American missionaries was stealing more than 30 babies and whipping them back to the US, I really wanted to puke. All the talk about them being adopted to escape the devastation was really just a ruse to enable a bunch of crooked Christians to steal kids and brainwash them, and possibly worse. I say big ups to the Haitian Government for putting a stop to that human trafficking.
Of course, the link between them and us is that the Child and Family Protection Bill, which we are considering tonight, will, hopefully, amend our own Adoption Act to bring it into line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, because our laws simply do not deal properly with the international movement of adopted children.
The situation in Haiti is a case in point. More than 2,500 children are stolen and illegally removed every single year. It is a brutal reminder of the vulnerability of children being targeted on the back of a natural disaster, with people capitalising on a crisis to separate children permanently from all they know: their families, their culture, and their land. Hopefully, this bill will help us to protect our children from such abuse, to strengthen our compliance with the United Nations convention, to improve court responsiveness to domestic violence, and to enhance the protection of children and families.
This bill also gives me the opportunity to put on record my support for some of the really positive work being done in Te Tai Tokerau through agencies like Amokura and its family violence prevention strategy. It is a community-based initiative to address family violence and promote whānau well-being that has the support of the chief executives of iwi, who have made a long-term commitment to preventing whānau violence: Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu, Whaingaroa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, and Ngāti Wai. It is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of some of the practical things we can all be doing: supporting parents and whānau, establishing our own tikanga about how we care for our mokopuna, and trying to see things through their eyes, keeping their space alcohol and drug-free, and free from the dire consequences of domestic violence.
While we are taking these steps up north, it is also good to see that legislation is being introduced to ensure our children are protected from all forms of violence, including psychological abuse, to bring the Care of Children Act into line with the Domestic Violence Act, to move to a point where lawyers act for children involved in proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act, and to break down the barriers to registering protection orders. Children suffer from the impact of violent and aggressive behaviour, so we need to keep their voices always in our mind, remembering always that even if our mokopuna are too small to put their fears into words, we know the impact of such trauma on their development and their learning and how, unchecked, it can lead to a whole raft of other major problems later in life: teenage violence, suicide attempts, learning and behavioural problems, mental health problems, and drug and alcohol issues. So this bill is timely. It is not perfect, and, hopefully, the select committee will help to flesh out some of the more important issues like court referrals for drug and alcohol and opening up eligibility for domestic violence programmes to ensure that the whole whānau learn from the experience.
The Māori Party is happy to support this bill in the knowledge that we are all part of the village that helps to raise the many wonderful and gifted children and mokopuna that live in this wonderful land that we all call home. Kia ora tātou.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)
: The Greens are pleased to speak in support of the Child and Family Protection Bill. We consider that the continuation of protection orders for children until they are 17 years old is a positive development. We are very pleased with the inclusion of psychological abuse in the definition of violence, and that the safety of the child is the key concern for an order of supervised contact. We also agree that it is good to take measures over adoption issues so that New Zealand can ratify the optional protocol: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For those reasons, the Greens will be supporting this bill.
SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga)
: One of the positive things in my very short time in Parliament has been that although parties in this House are divided on a lot of issues, we have nearly always been able to unite against domestic violence. We now have many laws on the statute book against the scourge of domestic violence. I think the explanatory note refers to New Zealand having a comprehensive set of laws designed to protect children and families from violence and abuse. Nevertheless, as has been ably said by a number of speakers, domestic violence is still a very significant problem in this country.
Minister Power has already referred to the 6,400 children involved in protection orders and applications for protection orders. That number slips off the tongue quite readily, but if we think about it, we are talking, just in the surrounding area where I live, about towns of the size or smaller of Waihī, Paeroa, Katikati, and Kawerau. If we think about those numbers, we realise that literally whole towns’ worth of children have been traumatised and faced with serious emotional stress that children should not have to be faced with, because of domestic violence.
- The House adjourned at 10 p.m.