Thursday, 15 February 2007
Madam Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Sri Lanka—Speaker, Parliament
Madam SPEAKER: I have much pleasure in informing members that the Honourable
Lokubandara, Speaker of the Parliament of Sri Lanka, is within the precincts of this Chamber. I am sure that members would wish that he be welcomed and accorded a seat on the left of the chair.
- The Honourable
Lokubandara, accompanied by the Deputy Speaker, entered the Chamber and took a seat on the left of the Chair.
United Kingdom—Secretary of State for Education and Skills and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Madam SPEAKER: I also have much pleasure in informing members that the Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and the Rt Hon John Hutton MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, of the United Kingdom, are present in the gallery, and I am sure that members would also wish to welcome them.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)
:Next week following the completion of the Prime Minister’s statement debate, priority will be given to the Major Events Bill, the Judicial Retirement Age Bill, the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill, and the Customs and Excise Amendment Bill (No 2). Wednesday is a members’ day. It is my understanding that the maiden statement of Katrina Shanks will be given on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 5 o’clock.
Sittings of the House
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)
: I seek leave for the House at its rising today to adjourn until the ringing of the bell on Tuesday, 20 February 2007.
Madam SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being followed? There is no objection.
Points of Order
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that last year there was considerable public outrage at the way in which the Labour Party dipped, shamelessly, into public funds in order to produce the election pledge card and associated pamphlets. I want to raise with you, Madam Speaker, a very serious point, because it appears that the Labour Party is at it again.
Last evening in this Parliament there was a function to celebrate the Chinese New Year. That was a parliamentary occasion paid for out of the resources of Parliament—resources that belong to all parliamentarians and not any one political party. That event was hosted by the Hon Chris Carter. At that function Labour Party members took it upon themselves to distribute a pamphlet, you might call it—I would not, but it is a small advertising card touting their credentials to a particular group of the New Zealand population. This is electioneering, which I understood was not allowed inside the parliamentary complex. It leads to the question—
Madam SPEAKER: I have heard enough of the member’s statement. It is not a point of order but it is a point that should be raised in the appropriate place, which is at the Parliamentary Service Commission. I am sorry, Mr Brownlee; it is not a point of order.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs)
: On that point, Madam Speaker—
Madam SPEAKER: No, I have dealt with the point of order. [Interruption] Please be seated. The matter should be raised in the appropriate forum, which is the Parliamentary Service Commission. I will hear no more discussion on that point.
Tabling of Documents
Green Party Electoral Spending
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green)
: I seek leave to table a document. It is a photocopy of a cheque made out by the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand to the Parliamentary Service for $87,082.77—that being the refunding to the Parliamentary Service of the money that the Auditor-General’s report found, according to his interpretation of the rules, was spent outside the rules by the Green Party before the last election.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Points of Order
State Luncheon—Distribution of Party
GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There is a State luncheon being held next week. Parliament has just decided that the function will go on for a period of time, so that means the ringing of the bell will be at a later time. Can you tell us whether it would be OK for political parties to distribute party political material at that State luncheon?
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Brownlee. That is not a point of order.
Questions to Ministers
Early Childhood Education—Costs
1. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that the costs of early childhood education will be lower “for all New Zealand families with the implementation of up to 20 hours free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds beginning in July next year”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Prime Minister: In June last year a joint statement was issued by the Minister of Education and me, which said: “The Labour-led Government is also working towards lowering the costs of early childhood education for all New Zealand families with the implementation of up to 20 hours free early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds beginning in July next year.” I stand by that statement. From July this policy will be able to immediately lower the costs of early childhood education for families with 3 and 4-year-olds enrolled in a teacher-led centre.
John Key: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under her Government’s 20 hours policy, parents will be asked to pay optional charges for the so-called free care the kids receive, and when is she going to admit to Kiwi mums and dads that her promise of free childcare is nothing but another Labour Party cruel hoax?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Twenty hours free has to mean 20 hours free. What is being paid for with this money is up to the regulated level of care. Very few centres ask for or deliver more than above the regulation, but some do. For example, they might take children on outings to a zoo or whatever, and they may arrange an optional charge for parents for that.
Tim Barnett: What responses has the Prime Minister seen to the policy of 20 hours of free early childhood education?
Hon Brian Donnelly: Why, if the 20 free hours policy is about increasing participation and quality in early childhood education, are playcentres and parent-led
kōhanga reo excluded from the policy, simply because they are not teacher-led?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The policy is for 20 hours of free early childhood education in teacher-led centres. That is because the costs of providing early childhood education also rise with registered teachers. As the member will know, when the policy first came out, those in the playcentre movement welcomed it and agreed with it, because they rely on a volunteer base and their costs are in administration—which is what we have given them $4 million towards. I should also point out that
kōhanga reo are eligible for the policy if they have teacher-led centres, and many of them do.
John Key: Has she seen warnings from the Government’s early childhood education advisory committee that parents who do not sign up to pay the so-called optional charges may be subject to “back-door exclusions”, and that their kids could remain on waiting lists until their parents agree to cough up the cash?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I have seen that. It is not the advice that will be put into action anywhere in this country. I met yesterday with all of the early childhood sector, and overwhelmingly they are reporting that their members are keen to take this up, come 1 July.
John Key: Has she seen further advice from the advisory committee that optional charges “will lead to a two-tier sector” with free childcare at the “low end” and fee paying at the “top end”, and will not such a two-tier system perpetuate the growing underclass in New Zealand?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The shrinking number of people who are in situations of disadvantage in the country will enjoy the policy of 20 hours of free early childhood education. I pointed out to the member before, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that the overwhelming majority of centres now—if he cares to go and visit one—are providing a service that is within the regulated level of early childhood education. Very few charge for more. Optional charges can be for such things as going to zoos, but this rate will cover quality education in those centres.
John Key: Is it not the case that parents who do not sign up to pay additional “optional charges” for the 20 free hours will not be able to enrol their kids, who will end up being relegated to the waiting lists of over-subscribed services; is this not just another example of Labour leaving those who are most in need out in the cold—and I am surprised the Minister is not in
McGehan Close with the Prime Minister today, playing catch-up? [Interruption]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If I could just get a word in edgeways, I would tell the member that if he went to any early childhood centre he would find that they do have rules there that say one has to be quiet for a wee while.
Hon Member: They are better behaved than National.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: They are better behaved than that member. Can I say in answer to the first question from Mr Key that the answer is no. Can I say in answer to the implied second question that the only way people will miss out on 20 free hours is if there is ever a National Government, because it would scrap the policy.
John Key: How will this policy help the kids who need education most, when only one in eight in Manukau childcare centres surveyed by the Early Childhood Council have committed to offering the 20 free hours; and is it not a hoax to tell those in South Auckland—those most in need—that their community will not be providing services?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is worth pointing out that the early childhood survey the member is referring to was of a potential 600 respondents, 42.9 percent of whom responded. They responded in January. They have not really even discussed the issue with the Ministry of Education yet. What I can tell him, for example, is that the New Zealand Childcare Association told us yesterday that 90 percent of its members have already indicated that they are in the process. Barnardos has said that all of it members are in the process—and this is still just the beginning of the year. I am sorry that the policy is working, but it is.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the Minister take it from the thrust of Mr Key’s questions that he is calling for even larger increases in spending in early childhood education, and is he aware that yesterday at the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mr English called for large reductions in Government spending?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am aware that the co-leadership of the National Party do find it difficult to stay on the same script. So, yes, I am aware that Mr Key, in his efforts to hug Labour, is offering the same policy that Mr English is, at the same time, undermining in select committees.
John Key: I seek leave to table the minutes from the early childhood education sector meeting that show that the practical consequences of the Government’s 20 free hours policy will not work, that parents will be put on waiting lists, and that young New Zealanders will not get the opportunity to join the scheme.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Early Childhood Education—Free Hours Policy
MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the
Minister of Education: What reports has he received regarding the implementation of the 20 hours of free early childhood education policy?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education)
: At the risk of repeating myself, I say that this week I met with the representatives of the early childhood education sector, and they expressed their support for the Government’s policy of 20 hours of free early childhood education. They see a great deal of benefit for New Zealand families. Even at this early stage some organisations, like Barnardos, have already announced that they will offer 20 hours of free early childhood education in all of their centres. Other organisations have also stated that many of their members are keen and ready to offer the policy of 20 hours of free education. They are currently working through the details of that policy with the Ministry of Education. The ministry is travelling throughout the country, talking with the sector and supporting it as it moves towards 1 July.
Moana Mackey: What other reports has he seen on alternative approaches to funding early childhood education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Today I visited the National Party website and saw reports of the National Party saying that the policy of 20 hours of free early childhood education “will not go ahead”. It is strange, therefore, to see that the National Party currently appears to be endorsing the policy. Its spokesperson, Paula Bennett, has stated that she is alarmed that some families will miss out on the scheme. The only way they would miss out on the scheme is if there were a National Government, as National is committed to abolishing it.
Paula Bennett: When the Minister referred to 20 free hours as being “simple”, and said that all that parents have to do is turn up to their local centre and say their child is there for the free 20 hours, was he referring to the fact that the word “free” in the slogan “20 free hours” does not actually mean free, or that service providers cannot charge fees but can charge something called optional charges for some things but not others, or that a parent working an 8-hour day will get only 6 free hours, or that no one has any idea of how many places will be available or how the system will be administered; what is simple about this policy?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam SPEAKER: Yes, I think I can anticipate it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, perhaps, Madam Speaker. With the greatest respect, where on earth was that question going, and where was it coming from, seeing as she has given it about eight shots and we are still none the wiser?
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member. That was not the point of order I was expecting. Members are reminded that they are to ask questions, not give speeches, and that questions must be answered succinctly.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I was referring to the very simple fact that the way to get into this policy is to have one’s child enrolled at a teacher-led centre, and to attest that the child is enrolled there for the purposes of the policy.
Taito Phillip Field—Immigration, Associate Minister
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney) to the
Minister of Immigration:
How many failed refugee claimants, or failed asylum seekers, had immigration decisions reversed through visas or permits being approved by the Hon Damien O’Connor in response to representations from Taito Phillip Field?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration)
: Although I do not have precise data for the exact dates in question, I am advised that from 15 August 2002 until 31 March 2005, 458 ministerial appeals were made by Taito Phillip Field. Of these, 28 related to refugee status claimants, of which some 10 were granted some form of intervention by the then Associate Minister of Immigration. Only one of those was directly related to residence.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why did the Minister tell Parliament on 23 November last year that the concerns raised with the former Minister of Immigration by the Department of Labour’s workforce deputy secretary, Mary Anne Thompson, “related to advocacy not decision making”, when Mary Anne Thompson stated publicly on 16 November last year that “The concern there was not only just about the applications Mr Field was making but the number of decisions reversing the department’s decisions”—the decision making of the Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: In the first place, it was because that was the subject of the House debate at the time. In the second place, it was because the expressed concerns of the deputy secretary, as confirmed publicly, were about the general processes, and not the specific nature of the Sunan Siriwan case.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Why did the Minister tell Parliament on 22 November last year that “there was no question as to the previous Associate Minister’s decision-making”—that is, Damien O’Connor’s decision-making—when the deputy secretary, Mary Anne Thompson, stated publicly on 16 November last year that she approached the Minister of Immigration with her concerns after the group manager for service international,
KerupiTavita, drew to her attention the number of failed asylum seekers who were getting those decisions reversed following applications from Mr Field?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It may interest the member to recall that in the year 1998-99, when he was Associate Minister of Immigration, there were some 2,649 refugee status claims. If I were now, as Minister of Immigration, to revisit the legitimately made, legal, broad discretionary decisions of former Ministers, where would that end?
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that my question was pretty explicit, and the Standing Orders do require the Minister to give an answer that addresses the question. The Minister’s answer just given to the House in no way addressed the quite explicit question I asked.
Madam SPEAKER: Certainly the Minister’s answer did address the question, though obviously not to the satisfaction of the member.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is the Minister aware that the deputy secretary, Mary Anne Thompson, told a parliamentary select committee on 16 November last year that the department’s group manager for service international,
KerupiTavita, had “several chats”—I repeat, “several chats”—with Damien O’Connor’s private secretary about the numbers of failed asylum seekers getting decisions reversed by Mr O’Connor following representations from Taito Phillip Field; if so, does he think it plausible that the private secretary would have forgotten to pass on that information on each of those occasions?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I reply yes, because I read the transcript; and yes, because I know what life is like in the Beehive.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: In reviewing the immigration matters covered in the Ingram report—as the Minister has claimed to have done—what steps has he taken to review the allegation by immigration consultant Mr Timothy Spooner that Taito Phillip Field enjoyed favoured treatment with regard to requests to Mr O’Connor for ministerial intervention on immigration matters?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seem to recall that Dr Ingram QC described Mr Spooner’s representations as entirely without substance.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: In reviewing the immigration matters contained in the Ingram report, were any communications found—or is he aware whether the police have found any communications—implicating the Hon Phil Goff, following his meeting with Sunan Siriwan while Siriwan was working on the floor of Taito Phillip Field’s house in Samoa?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: None, beyond the repeated but rather pathetic attempts of the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister have the information to say how many questions on this issue have been put to him by the National Party, and does he know or do his colleagues know of any other issue in the history of this Parliament that has had as many questions as this issue, and why do we not just leave it to the police to conduct their inquiry, rather than have this trial by Parliament by some very unqualified advocates?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No. My press secretary did a count and advised me that there was one sitting day last year, since the inquiry started, on which I did not receive a question on this matter, and the record is four questions. It may assist the member to know that I am rather enjoying it because it is rather good practice on a fairly harmless issue.
Truancy and Absenteeism—Rates for
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the
Associate Minister of Education: He aha
ngā mahi ka
tohua e ia hei mahi
Minita o Te
pānuitanga o te
ripoatawhakataki o te
manomāonomōngā tamariki kei te haere,
kārerāneii te haere, kei te
ngarorāneiingā kura o Niu
whakaatuana e rua
rahiakeingātau e rua
Māori kei te
ngaroingā kura, ā, he
ērāmōngā tauira Tauiwi, tauira
[What action will he be recommending to the Minister of Education following the preliminary report on
Attendance, Absence, and Truancy in New Zealand Schools in 2006]
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education) on behalf of the
Associate Minister of Education: I can confirm that the percentage increase in the
Māori truancy rate was 1.6 percent between 2004 and 2006. That is based upon the attendance and absence survey undertaken over a 1-week period in August 2006. The Government is deeply concerned about the increased rates of truancy across all groups, if they occur, and, in particular, those around
Māori at this time. We have been working closely together with a range of agencies on strategies that are targeted at lifting our performance around truancy issues, and, in particular, at getting
Māori to stay at school for longer and achieve good qualifications.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora, Madam Speaker. Is he aware that in 2005
Māori students in year 11 attending
Māori medium schools had a higher rate of attaining the National Certificate of Educational Achievement than
Māori in other schools did; if so, what strategies is he recommending to ensure that the success of kura kaupapa
Māori education is replicated in mainstream schools?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, the Associate Minister is aware of those statistics. They reflect an agreement amongst schools that are often labelled as mainstream, and kura, that one of the key elements is the way that young
Māori see themselves—whether they have a strong sense of being
Māori, as Mason Durie would put it. Te
Kotahitanga would be a good example of a programme that replicates that in the mainstream setting, and I understand that the results, to be published soon by Russell Bishop, are quite outstanding.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What initiatives have been developed and implemented to improve
Māori participation in education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Encouraging students to stay at school is a top priority for the Government, and since we have been in power we have been aiming to do just that. A major review of the district truancy service has now been done and its results are being implemented. The Student Engagement Initiative is beginning to have an impact. Other programmes are Te Mana; Te
Kotahitanga, which I mentioned before—it is currently in 59 schools, and undoubtedly will be expanded, given how successful it looks to have been—and better systems, of course, to ensure that we know where students are, including the electronic enrolment system, and student management systems. These are just some of the things we are doing to help with this issue.
Hon Tau Henare: When will the Minister take responsibility for the rising
Māori truancy rates and the large number of
Māori students who leave school without qualifications; if he is not going to take responsibility, when will he resign?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Associate Minister of Education takes full responsibility right now. Can I just mention, though, on the last-mentioned issue raised by the member, that
Māori educational achievement is actually improving quite dramatically. There have been big improvements in recent years. In 2002, 35 percent of
Māori school-leavers left school with low attainment. By 2004 that figure had dropped to 25 percent. More
Māori are obtaining university entrance qualification; in 2004 that figure stood at 12 percent, which was up from 8 percent in 2002. We are seeing more and more women, in particular, move on to tertiary education. The member should be quite proud of what is happening amongst
Māori at this time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I took the time to count the number of interjections that the questioner made following his asking the question. In total, he gave 15 different interjections after he had asked the question. He was trained far better than that! It is a deterioration of standards that that is tolerated by his new party, and he should know better—15 interjections!
Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his point of order. Certainly, the member who asked the question at one point made it difficult to hear the answer. He has an opportunity to ask other questions. I would just say that such interventions are not helpful.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is the Associate Minister planning to recommend setting up a goon squad to visit each morning the homes of students with poor attendance records in order to wake up the parents, get the kids breakfast, then walk them to school; or does he believe the answer is to be found in greater ownership of the problem being taken by parents,
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has no intention of setting up a goon squad to run homes around the country, but I am sure that someone like Tau Henare, with all that noise, is willing to wake kids up right across the country.
Heather Roy: Will the Associate Minister of Education recommend to the Minister of Education that
Māori communities be given their children’s share of education funding so that they can choose or start a school that meets their specific needs; or is he in denial about the clear failure of current policies, with 7 percent of
Māori children regularly truanting and 53 percent leaving school with no qualification?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, the Associate Minister of Education is not going to do that, because we are seeing big improvements in the education system. More people from
Māori backgrounds are enrolled in early childhood education, more people are gaining qualifications throughout the system, and more people are going on to university. We are seeing more
Māori move on to higher levels of study, for example, compared with the general population.
Māori people are, as the Associate Minister of Education is fond of saying, on the move. They do not need help from the ACT party. ACT members should stay in the Territorials.
Madam SPEAKER: I do not think that last comment was necessary or helpful.
Turei: Does he not agree that if
Pākehā students and their teachers had better knowledge of the Treaty and its relevance today,
Māori kids might feel safer and, therefore, want to stay in school for longer; if so, why is he segregating study of the Treaty to a
Māori curriculum, rather than explicitly including it in the schools curriculum; is that not just entrenching racist attitudes?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I agree with the member that
Māori need to know, as Mason Durie has said, how to be
Māori in the school system, and that is what we are committed to doing. The second part of the question is quite wrong—there is no segregation of the curriculum. In fact, one of the most exciting things about that curriculum is that we are not merely translating it; it is being put into a
Māori education framework this year. That is why it is so important.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister recall the Prime Minister’s Speech from the Throne in 1999 in which she said: “As long as the economic and social gaps between
Māori and other New Zealanders remain large, the Government of New Zealand cannot claim to have addressed the needs of all New Zealanders. My Government is committed to closing the gaps.”; and how, then, does he account for the fact that
Māori truancy rates have climbed since 2004, leading to
Māori having a truancy rate more than 4 percent higher than that of New Zealand European students?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I of course remember the speech made by the Prime Minister in 1999, as all of us remember every single word she has said. The Prime
Minister’s commitment to ensuring that everybody gets a fair deal in this country stands today. I shall take just one thing that I said before:
Māori are moving into higher levels of study at a higher rate than the population in general. The gaps are closing.
Te Ururoa Flavell: How does the Minister account for the fact that not only did the
Māori truancy rate increase to 7.1 percent for females and 6.6 percent for males but the gap between it and the European rate also widened, from 3 percent in 2004 to 4 percent in 2006; what funding has been allocated to address
Māori truancy and disengagement from education?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Those figures are correct. The member is reading off a survey that I have as well. I just point him to such programmes as Team-Up, Mission-On, Hui Taumata, which brings together educators from all across the country, and the iwi education partnerships that are going on. There are a large number of programmes today that are to do with student engagement and with ensuring that we are able to track students. We have revised the district truancy service. The programmes go on and on. We are determined to ensure that young
Māori stay at school until the compulsory leaving age, and leave with a qualification.
Corrections, Minister—Confidence in Department
SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei) to the
Minister of Corrections:
Does he have confidence in his department; if so, why?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Corrections)
: Yes, but there is always room for improvement.
Simon Power: Why did the Minister’s department give Graeme Burton a 2-week head start from when he first breached his parole conditions on 5 December until it notified that breach on 19 December; and why was it so slow to act when the police told it on 30 November: “that if Burton’s parole wasn’t revoked and he remained in the community, that he would kill someone.”?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: All the details around this tragic accident are under investigation. Four inquiries are under way. It is not for me to prejudge the outcomes of those inquiries other than to say that any lessons learnt will be acted on immediately.
Madam SPEAKER: Constant interjections of: “Answer the question.”, when Ministers are attempting to answer the question are not helpful to the order of the House.
Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the
Community Probation Service Operations Manual states: “Conviction or further offending is not necessary before considering recall action.”, and that staff need to bear in mind any behaviour that causes concern or brings about greater risk to the community, as well as any alert or concerns expressed by police; and why did the information received from the police that Graeme Burton was likely to kill someone not lead to immediate recall action?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not have the operations manual in front of me, but those words do sound familiar. The questions the member asks will be answered by one or all of the four inquiries under way.
Simon Power: Why did the Minister’s department fail to provide details of Burton’s stand-over tactics and assaults against fellow prisoners, including a claim he broke one man’s arm, when they were serious enough to warrant transferring Burton to another cell to “ensure the good management and safety of others”, or does he think the safety of inmates is more important than the safety of the public?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am informed that that information was passed on. Those things will be investigated and we will find out—
Simon Power: Well what happened?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Simon Power gets it wrong every time, as he did when he was defence spokesperson and stated that New Zealand should go into Iraq.
Simon Power: Why did it take the Department of Corrections 2 weeks to notify Burton’s breach of parole, when the probation service manual states that parolees on the offender warning system, as Burton was, must be actively managed and some form of enforcement action must be commenced within 1 week of non-compliance; and why did it take 2½ weeks to notify, when the manual states that recall action should be taken immediately when there is repeated non-compliance by those on the offender warning system?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The member might have one thing right when he quotes from the operations manual. There is a requirement to act immediately. I am informed that they did. However, I am not prepared to prejudge the outcome of those inquiries. I suggest that the member gets it right for once and awaits the outcomes of these inquiries.
Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with the bizarre statement made by his chief executive, Barry Matthews, in regard to Graeme Burton that it is “just unrealistic” to expect that taking action against offenders who breach their parole conditions will prevent them from doing any more harm; if so, how has he allowed parole enforcement to become so lax in his department on his watch?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I reject absolutely that Barry Matthews, myself, or anyone in the department would imply that it is not imperative that we take action and do everything possible to keep the community safe from people like Graeme Burton.
Unemployment—Reduction in Numbers
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (Labour) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment:
What reports, if any, has he received on the Government’s progress at reducing the number of New Zealanders in long-term unemployment?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I am advised that the number of working-age people who have been receiving the unemployment benefit for more than 1 year has fallen by 80 percent since the Labour-led Government took office. National left a legacy of more than 70,000 long-term unemployed in 1999. By December 2006 this Government had reduced that number by more than 56,000 to around 14,000. Responsible economic stewardship, coupled with policies that support people into work, and services that support the needs of employers and job seekers, have created a climate where we can ensure that people have real work for real wages.
Russell Fairbrother: Has the Minister received any specific information about whether Burnside—the scene of a recent speech by the Leader of the Opposition—could fit Mr Key’s description of being one of the “places where rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken.”?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I have received advice that suggests that situations such as that described by the Leader of the Opposition did exist in the Burnside area. There were, in fact, a total of 3,458 people receiving the unemployment benefit from the Riccarton and Papanui service centres, but that was in 1999, the last time this country was unfortunate enough to be under the mismanagement of those members. The number receiving the unemployment benefit today in that area is not 3,458, but 403. This Government’s policies have restored the ladder of opportunity for more than 3,000 people, which that party had taken away and would remove again if this country were ever unfortunate enough to see it in Government.
Question No. 7 to Minister
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon)
: When this question was put in this morning it was addressed to the Minister for Social Development and Employment. It was subsequently shifted by the Government, and I seek leave of the House to amend one word in my question so that I am addressing the Associate Minister by the correct gender.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Child Abuse—Policy Advice
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) to the
Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF):
What policy advice has she received from the Ministry of Social Development to address the significant increase in child abuse notifications, that has more than doubled from 26,588 to 66,210 in the last 7 years?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF))
: I have received a number of reports on the increase in notifications and also how to manage this demand. A significant point is the growing recognition and growing intolerance in our wider community, particularly backed by action from the police, of the damage to children who are in violent family situations. It is worth emphasising that the goal of better managing this demand is not simply to reduce it. When people have concerns about the safety of a child or young person, Child, Youth and Family should be informed. The key is to make sure that families and children get the most appropriate response given their circumstances.
Judith Collins: Can the House take it from the Minister’s answer that she thinks it is a good thing that we had 66,000 notifications of child abuse last year as opposed to 26,000 notifications of suspected child abuse 7 years ago, and if it is a good thing, is it going to be an even better thing if we have more notifications of child abuse—say, 70,000—this coming year?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The ideal would be that New Zealand had zero notifications because we had zero acts of abuse against children. That is not the situation. In my view it is far better for us to have situations of potential abuse or actual abuse notified rather than being ignored. It is highly unlikely that more than about 5 percent of the increased notifications is due to increased incidence.
Shane Jones: What has been the trend in unallocated cases?
Hon RUTH DYSON: While the total notifications received has doubled, Child, Youth and Family has worked extremely hard to reduce the number of unallocated cases—from 3,000 in October 2004 to 435 in October 2006. I think all members will appreciate that this is a significant achievement.
Judith Collins: Does she agree with Helen Clark who, when notifications of child abuse numbered 13,500 in 1994, said that it was “a national shame”, and if she does agree with that statement when notifications numbered 13,500, what is her view of the record 66,000 notifications of child abuse under her watch in her Government?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Any abuse of a child should be the entire country’s shame.
Judith Collins: If 13,500 notifications of suspected child abuse are a national shame, what words would she use to describe the fivefold increase to 66,000-plus a year that we are getting under her watch?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I have never seen child abuse statistics as a competition. In my view, it is far better for us to act together to deal with the problem that we clearly have in our country.
Judith Collins: Why have substantiated child abuse cases more than doubled from 6,000 when this Government came into office 7 years ago to now over 13,000?
Hon RUTH DYSON: As I indicated in my answer to the primary question, a large drive for the increase in notifications has seen a decrease in tolerance in our community, particularly backed up by action by the police where children are in situations of family violence. It is important to note, however, that although there has been a significant increase in the number of notifications, there has not been a proportionate increase in findings of abuse over that same period.
Judith Collins: Why is she continuing to quibble about figures and spin slogans—saying that substantiated child abuse is less when it is actually more—when we have some children in this country who are hungry, who live a life of utter misery, and who live with violent adults in their homes while she is just sitting there saying that the bigger the figures the better the problem?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am not.
Child Safety—Innocenti Report Rankings
JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future) to the
Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF):
Does she have confidence in her service’s intervention work, when the
Innocenti Report ranks New Zealand children last in the OECD for safety; if so, why?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment (CYF))
: Yes, I do. However, I think that all members would agree that there is room for improvement. The vast majority of deaths captured by the safety indicator result from traffic fatalities, drowning, falls, fire, and poisoning. The proportion of abuse is very small, but even one child’s death from abuse is one too many.
Judy Turner: How can she have confidence in her department when Child, Youth and Family does not even centrally collect important information regarding violence against children, such as the types of injury and the relationship of the perpetrator of the victim; and without knowing information such as who is doing this violence and what type of violence it is, how can Child, Youth and Family hope to stop trends in child abuse or identify areas that need attention?
Hon RUTH DYSON: The collection of data in New Zealand is far more robust than in most other comparable countries. It is not necessarily the responsibility of Child, Youth and Family to do it, but that data is collected. It is my view that the primary point of the member’s question is correct: that information must be utilised by organisations including Child, Youth and Family.
Moroney: What is the trend for New Zealand’s infant mortality rate?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Our infant mortality rate fluctuates from year to year but has been trending downwards over time. It has actually more than halved over the last 20 years.
Anne Tolley: How does the Minister justify the huge cuts in family well-being services—the important interventions and wrap-around services aimed at those New Zealand families at risk—from almost $59 million in 2004 to just $38 million in this year’s Budget, when clearly from the Unicef report children in New Zealand are more at risk of abuse, neglect, poor health, etc., than in most other developed countries in the world?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am delighted to hear the member supporting an increase in social services expenditure. I am not sure which of her co-leaders would provide the financial policy to back that up.
Judy Turner: Does not the lack of tracking and monitoring further support my call for accountability that would see the instigation of a Child, Youth and Family
complaints authority; if so, is any work being done on such an authority at present within the ministry?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Following the advocacy and hard work undertaken by the member asking the supplementary question, I have requested my officials to investigate a complaints authority for Child, Youth and Family, as, in my view, the member has proven that it would have merit. I hope that further work on such a complaints authority will continue, with the participation of United Future.
Judy Turner: I seek leave to table the answer to written question 16643 last year.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the
Minister of Health: Is he confident that
Pharmac’s forthcoming decision on whether to fund
Herceptin will be based on proven scientific evidence and in the best interests of New Zealand women with breast cancer; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Health)
: I am confident that any decision on
Herceptin will be based on all available evidence and expert clinical advice, and will consider all the options.
Dr Jackie Blue: Does the Minister stand by his statement in the House on 10 October when he said that
Herceptin was not funded because the number of women was sufficiently small that “we did not think it was worth a $30 million per annum investment”; if so, how does he think it makes women like
MhairiFlett, mother of Sophie and
Brodie, feel to hear him say she is not worth it?
Hon PETE HODGSON: As I said in the House yesterday, Pharmac continues to keep the issue of
Herceptin under close review. It is following data that becomes available pretty much every month, and is, in fact, looking quite hard at new data this week.
Ann Hartley: What is the Government’s commitment to women with breast cancer?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The commitment is very strong. The member will be aware that not only have we increased breast screening by almost 20 percent per annum—and it continues to increase significantly, with another three mobile units coming on stream presently to ensure that rural women,
Māori women, and so on have access—but also that this Government has both introduced new drugs against breast cancer and extended the range of treatment for other existing drugs.
Dr Jackie Blue: Does the Minister consider that offering women with breast cancer an experimental and unproven 9-week course of
Herceptin is in their best interests, when proven international best practice is 12 months of
Herceptin—a practice that has been followed by 23 other OECD countries—or is he happy to let our women be the guinea pigs?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I think the member should be careful about besmirching a way of using
Herceptin that is used in significant parts of Europe, especially in Finland, and is sometimes used in North America. It is the treatment of choice of some oncologists in those countries, especially in Finland, even though 12-month treatment is freely available in that country.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister read the documents I tabled yesterday, and familiarised himself with the 1,000 percent cost discrepancy quoted by both the previous Minister of Health and Pharmac before and after the 2005 election; if so, has he ordered an inquiry into why such a colossal discrepancy was quoted and who verified the pre-election figures, and, perhaps more important, could he tell us why the public should have confidence in Pharmac, which clearly set out to deceive both the
previous Minister, the public, and cancer victims, and when will we see someone involved in that deceit being held accountable?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I have not launched an inquiry, but I have sent a message to Pharmac, asking it to please explain. My own view is that it made a mistake, but I do not know that. Certainly, in my time as Minister of Health no one has suggested that the cost of
Herceptin would be $300 million. I think an extra zero was added. It would be $30 million, whether we were to go to 12 months’ treatment or less.
Dr Jackie Blue: Is he prepared to take, and follow through with, the advice of New Zealand oncologists, given that they are meeting today with Finnish researchers brought to New Zealand by Pharmac to discuss the best way for
Herceptin to be accessed by New Zealand women with breast cancer, and could he please explain why he says women are not worth the Government funding
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am very happy to take the views of the oncology community of this country. Indeed, Pharmac and its various subcommittees are consulting with it on that matter now in order to come to a way forward, if indeed there is one.
Dr Jackie Blue: Will the Minister be signalling to Pharmac prior to its forthcoming decision that funds will be available for
Herceptin, so that the decision whether to fund it is based on scientific fact and drug effectiveness, not drug cost?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member seems to forget that the cancer treatment subcommittee of the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee—which body is asked to look at effectiveness, not cost-effectiveness—itself came to the view that
Herceptin was a low priority in this country.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence that proves that when it was pointed out to Pharmac that its figure of $300 million was grossly inaccurate, it persisted in using it, and still, to this time, has not put out any retraction.
Child Poverty—Unicef Rankings
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment:
Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “huge progress” has been made towards eradicating child poverty; if so, can he explain the results of today’s Unicef report on international child poverty, which found New Zealand to be one of the worst countries for keeping children safe and healthy?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: Yes; New Zealand can be justly proud of the huge progress we have made in the three areas that comprise the material well-being section of the Unicef report. In the area of child material deprivation, we are reported as being sixth out of the countries reported. In the area of households without jobs, we are reported as being 18th in the OECD, based on the year 2000 data. Back then, the household labour force survey unemployment rate was averaging 6 percent; it is now 3.7 percent and we are ranked among the top four countries in the world. In the third area of relative income poverty, we were ranked 18th, based on the 2001 data. Since that time the Working for Families tax credits have substantially changed that position. At the end of the 2007-08 tax year we will have reduced the percentage of children living below 50 percent of the median income level, from 15 percent to 4 percent, which will place us in the top five countries of the OECD, alongside Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
Sue Bradford: Is he concerned, nevertheless, that by discriminating against beneficiary families with the Working for Families package, his Government has exacerbated the inequality and deprivation that still face some of our children; and what
action will he be taking in response to the recent statement from the Child Poverty Action Group, that “minimum incomes still need urgent Government attention”?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Can I remind that member and other members of the House that beneficiary families have received an average weekly amount, through Working for Families components, of $32 from the end of October 2005, compared with the previous year, and from 1 April 2007 all families, including those on benefits, will receive an extra $10 per week per child; because of the policies introduced by this Government since 1999, from 2008 all families with children earning less than $35,000 a year will effectively pay no tax, at all. Almost all families with incomes below $45,000 receive significant gains. Nearly all sole parent families receive extra money from the Working for Families package as a whole, and the combined effect of all the Working for Families changes to family assistance is an estimated average gain of $64 per week from 1 April 2006, rising to over $80 per week by 2008. In terms of the question of the comment made by Dr Turner from the Child Poverty Action Group, I draw the member’s attention to the earlier part of the quote, which was: “CPAG research showed that current Government policy was helping a lot for many low-income families. Overall there had been significant improvement on the 90s, when a lot of policy damage was done.”
Hon Members: Come on!
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I can understand the National Party not wanting to hear that—and then the statement continued with the comment the member quoted.
Madam SPEAKER: I remind the Minister that answers are meant to be succinct.
Dianne Yates: What is the impact of Government initiatives on the material well-being of New Zealand families?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: I think it is very significant indeed. Incomes have risen. The medium income has risen 32 percent between the last two censuses. Employment has increased, and there is lower unemployment. Members will know that 115,000 people are now not reliant on a benefit. With the Working for Families package, at 1 April $1.6 billion annually will be channelled to lower and middle income families—money that the National Party wanted to give to its friends instead. In the area of income-related rents, $417 million a year benefits 84,000 children in 59,000 families. And the list is not yet complete.
Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Does the Minister share the concern of Unicef New Zealand Advocacy Manager, David
Kenkel, that the report shows: “There are countries out there with far fewer resources than us, but they are doing much better than we are.”, in relation to child welfare; and does he believe that simply throwing money at the issue is the main solution to our appalling child welfare statistics?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes and no. I draw that member’s attention to the comments made this morning by Barnardos Chief Executive, Murray
Edridge, who said: “How should we respond to the conclusions of this report? Shall we engage in unseemly political point-scoring? Shall we blame the Government and avoid personal and community responsibility? Or shall we take a good hard look at ourselves? The children of this nation demand we do the latter, and if we have any sense of responsibility for the future of our society, that’s exactly what we will do. Perhaps the most important question of all, however, is whether New Zealand society has the capacity and maturity to engage in constructive public discussion of the findings of the report.” I would like to thank the questioner for the question. That is exactly what I propose to do.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister explain why the quality of New Zealand data is inadequate for the purposes of comparison, to the extent that the Unicef
Innocenti researchers were not able to include New Zealand in some of their more important
measures—for instance, New Zealand does not even participate in the UN’s
Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study, which is recognised by most other OECD countries as a vital tool for planning for future well-being?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: That is an issue that the Children’s Commissioner raised yesterday with me. I am happy to discuss that further with my colleagues, and report back to the questioner.
Tēnā koe, Madam Speaker. Does the Minister support the belief that New Zealand’s shocking child welfare statistics are a societal issue; if so, what is being done to change how New Zealand, as a whole, values and cherishes our children?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I do, and I think my earlier answer makes my and the Government’s attitude quite clear.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree with Dr Gay Keating of the Public Health Association, who says: “We need a major rethink now to show we value our children, as a result of this report.”; if so, does he also agree that removing any legal defence for violence against children by passing my bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act would be a step in the right direction?
Hon DAVID BENSON-POPE: Yes, I do, and I believe that, as a result of some of the comments we have heard on this matter this morning, a large number of members of Parliament and members of the public share that member’s and my view.
Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change—Ministerial Foreword
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the
Minister of Forestry:
Is it his photograph and signature on the ministerial foreword on the Government options paper titled
Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change?
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister of Forestry)
: Well, I am reasonably sure that it is; if it is not, it bears a remarkable resemblance to me.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the Minister reconcile the statement in the document under “Deforestation Option 1”—“a charge would be levied on any party that removed a non-Kyoto forest and introduced a new land use. The charge would be set at a rate per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, and levied on the level of carbon assessed as stored … That is equivalent to an emissions cost of around $13,000 for each hectare of land deforested …”—with his statement made yesterday: “The claim by the foresters in the National Party that the Government is proposing a $13,000 per hectare tax on deforestation is wilful ignorance and deceit designed to alarm the community.”?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: That sounds like an accurate description of the National Party to me. The document, of course, goes on to state—and the member did not quote this—“The Government would carry a portion of the deforestation costs incurred under the Kyoto Protocol by: Agreeing a threshold level of emissions in each commitment period, below which parties could deforest without being liable to pay the charge, and/or”—these are options, of course—“Setting the charge at a discounted level below the expected international price of greenhouse gas emissions.”
The document is therefore very clear that if this option proceeded—and it is a consultation document—then some of the costs of deforestation, currently estimated at $13,000 a hectare, would be carried by the Government. Consequently, it is absolutely correct to say there is no proposal to charge $13,000 per hectare, retrospectively or otherwise.
H V Ross Robertson: What reports, if any, has the Minister seen on ways to control deforestation?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a remarkable coincidence I have seen such a report. It is the National Party’s blue-green discussion document. It makes only one suggestion dealing with deforestation, and that is to remove the 21 million tonne deforestation cap.
The present cost of that policy is estimated to be $651 million, and I would like to know from the National Party how it plans to fund this, together with the tax cuts offered, year after year, by its leader in this House on Tuesday.
R Doug Woolerton: Is the Minister still intending to hold further briefings with the National Party on these issues, given that in the first week of Parliament it has now twice breached the usual protocols in respect of private briefings given by Ministers; and would he not be better off restricting briefings to parties that uphold protocols, like New Zealand First?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Firstly, the Minister who is being asked that question has no ministerial responsibility in that regard. Secondly, it was Michael Cullen who announced to Parliament that there had been a meeting, then misled Parliament over the content of it. David Parker was the other Minister who was responding to an offer that was made to him some 18 months ago. Madam Speaker, I think that question was right out of order.
Madam SPEAKER: No, I do not think it is out of order, provided that a briefing has been given. Has a briefing been given?
Gerry Brownlee: There has been no briefing.
Madam SPEAKER: There has been no briefing?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: Speaking to the point of order, there have been briefings of some parties on the question of deforestation and climate change. New Zealand First is one of them. I have to say I have enjoyed its cooperation and confidentiality, which is how New Zealand First treated such a briefing.
Madam SPEAKER: Thank you. The question was in order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by his statement made in the House yesterday: “The rate of deforestation under the previous National Government was higher than any deforestation now.”, when official Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry figures show an increase in forestry of 491,000 hectares from 1990 to 1999, and the press statement of his own ministry last year stated that 2004, 2005, and 2006 were the very first years since 1951 that there was any deforestation; and is not the only person guilty of ignorance and deceit the Minister?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I was referring to yesterday in the House was the fact that between 1994 and 1999 under the period of National Government new plantings in New Zealand were reduced from 98,000 per hectare to 40,000 per hectare, whereas in a similar period, between 2000 and 2005, the reduction was 28,000, not 58,000.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister now telling the House that when he told us yesterday there was deforestation during the 1990s, he really meant that in the last year there was only 40,000 hectares of new forests, and that now the latest figure is 11,000 hectares of deforestation—and somehow we will need to believe that things have got better?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: What I am telling the House is an accurate description of what has happened in forestry in the last decade and a half. There have been fewer new plantings and more deforestation because of the economics of agriculture versus forestry. If the National Party has a new policy to announce to communities—that it will be restricted in the change of land use it has—would it please announce that and tell the farmers and foresters of New Zealand what it has in mind.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain how being the first-ever Minister of Forestry in New Zealand to preside over a declining forest estate is consistent with the Prime Minister’s talk of carbon neutrality?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: One of the real advantages that the New Zealand economy has, particularly with its natural resource base, is flexibility of land use. And it always has been so. This Government is dealing with a new era of climate change that requires
new policies—nothing retrospective, but new. And those new policies are not some kind of new revelation on the road to Damascus, in the way the leader of the National Party has just discovered climate change; this Government has been working on climate change policies for a very long time now.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What does it say about the Minister’s competence in his portfolio that he publicly accuses others of deceit and ignorance for suggesting a deforestation tax, when that is exactly what he has put forward as option No. 1 in his document, and when he makes false claims that contradict his own ministry over deforestation; and is this not a sure sign that he and his Government have gone well past their use-by date?
Hon JIM ANDERTON: As a matter of fact, the preferred option in the document is for tradable permits. I understood that the National Party agreed with tradable permits, so what is Dr Smith going on about and wasting the time of this House when he knows full well that the options in that paper include one that evidently the National Party publicly—I do not know about privately—agrees with?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave, for the benefit of the Minister, to table
Deforestation Option 1: Flat charge on land use change from forestry to another use.”
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Biofuel—Prime Minister’s Announcements
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) to the
Minister of Energy:
What reports, if any, has he received on the Prime Minster’s announcements this week on biofuels?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister of Energy)
: I have received many reports welcoming the announcement of a 3.4 percent sales obligation, equivalent to over 100,000 carbon neutral cars and trucks in New Zealand by 2012. Biofuels are good for our health, our environment, and our economy. This really is sustainable economic transformation. Endorsement of our approach has been widespread, including that from environmental groups, the motor industry, and oil companies.
Steve Chadwick: What reports, if any, has he received on alternative approaches to biofuels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: All parties are welcome to submit any new policy ideas they may have, through the regular submission process. I have been meeting with other parties over the matter of biofuels and other climate change matters. Yesterday the National Party, in a hollow stunt, cancelled our scheduled meeting to discuss these important issues. Given National’s inability to keep up with changes in technology and leadership, I believe that it cancelled the meeting because it has so little to offer.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister tell the House, assuming that carbon neutrality is not just an empty slogan, exactly where he is going to offset the other 31 million tonnes of emissions we would still be emitting from the energy sector alone, after his biofuels target was fully implemented in some 5 or 6 years’ time?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There are a number of points, but I do not have time for all of them. Of course, some of the reductions in emissions will come from the stationary energy sector, including electricity generation. The other point that has been made is that the biofuels target will be reviewed annually from here on. This is an area that is moving fast. The importance of this measure is that it actually gets the infrastructure in place to cater for higher levels of biofuels in the future.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware of the six possible concerns the Automobile Association has in regard to biofuels; if he is, will he comment on the first three, which revolve around price, vehicle performance, and engine damage?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Certainly. The concerns of the Automobile Association are proper; it has to protect the interests of its members. In respect of price, it is not expected that the price of bio-diesel will be higher than the cost of diesel. Indeed, on prices last year it would probably have been cheaper. In respect of bio-ethanol, the exemption from excise duty will mean that the production of ethanol itself is economic, but there will be a very slight increase—probably of 1c to 2c per litre in fuel price—by 2012. In respect of quality issues, there is not expected to be any diminution in performance of vehicles with regard to their ability to take biofuels. There is a grey area as to how much bio-ethanol they can take, but there is no doubt they can take up to 3 percent of bio-ethanol blends, which is what would be delivered by a 3.4 percent mandatory obligation.
Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that if his biofuel strategy is successful and after 2012 we have the equivalent of 100,000 vehicles on New Zealand roads running with biofuel, we will still have over 3 million vehicles on our roads running with fossil fuel?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No I cannot confirm that. Indeed, the essence of the target, if the member had been following, is that it is likely that all vehicles will be operating on blends that incorporate biofuels.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the letter from Mr Parker and the response from National, so that the public and the Parliament might be clear as to the conditions under which National is interested in having climate change discussions with the Labour Party.
- Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to table a copy of the website from the National Party
Bluegreens website this week showing Dr Brash as party leader and no commitment to biofuels.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Points of Order
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave to clarify an answer that I gave to a point of order earlier.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Gerry Brownlee: We don’t know what it’s about.
Madam SPEAKER: Fair enough. Would the member please indicate what he is seeking leave about.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: It was my response to the point of order that you ruled inappropriate from Mr Brownlee earlier about the Chinese function held at Parliament.
Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to clarify that matter. Is there any objection?
Gerry Brownlee: You gave a ruling—
Madam SPEAKER: The member is entitled to seek leave. If members do not agree they can, at that point, decline. But whether or not I ruled it out of order, every member in this House is entitled to seek leave for a matter. It is then for every member to decide whether that leave should be given. That is what is happening here. Leave is sought. Is there any objection?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It should not be an option for the Government to use the parliamentary process to explain its bad behaviour in an environment where—
Madam SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. That is not a point of order, as the member well knows. Leave is being sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement
- Debate resumed from 14 February.
SIMON POWER (National—Rangitikei)
: What a messy, difficult start it has been for the Prime Minister and the Labour Party since this House has come back. The issue of Taito Phillip Field has come home to roost for all those Labour MPs who never took the opportunity over the last 8 months to stand up and defend that member. Well, that was good judgment, because as it turns out it was indefensible. Now this sick, tired old Government is propped up by the Green Party. I will come back to that later on.
When I look around the House during question time I see it is a sad state of affairs. George Hawkins is actively disengaged now. He is not the slightest bit interested in what is going on in the House. The Hon David Cunliffe is all puffed up with his chest out, answering his questions to the gallery, instead of to the people in the House. Moana Mackey is about to start her career for the mayoralty of
Pētone. She knows the time is up for a Government back-bencher who is never going to make it.
Who has been setting the agenda in New Zealand since Christmas? John Key has been setting the agenda since Christmas time and into 2007. He is doing a sterling job, because not only is he aspirational and unafraid of the big fights but, more to the point, he represents a generation of New Zealanders who cannot be represented by that tired, old, grey lot across the other side. It is a generation that that Government has lost touch with and does not understand. I can tell the House that National has lost confidence in the Department of Corrections and in the Minister of Corrections. But it is not just us. It is the Prime Minister as well.
In the Prime Minister’s annual statement she made it clear that although responsibility for applying for recall rests with the probation service, she now wants the police to do it, because the Department of Corrections is not up to it. She has also—and this one snuck under the radar—lost confidence in the Ministry of Justice. When we look closely at who is leading law reform and legislative change, we see it is the Law Commission. It is not the Ministry of Justice; it is the Law Commission. If it is a hot potato, we know that Rick Barker does not want to know about it. We know that Mark Burton has no idea of how to deal with it. Worst of all, we know that Damien O’Connor just cannot cope any longer. The justice sector, under this Government, is in total and utter disarray.
Let us look at the facts behind the disastrous and tragic events of the Burton case. The Parole Board released him back into society. That was not a smart move. But then the police told the Department of Corrections in November that something was wrong, that this guy was not where he was supposed to be, and that they were desperately concerned. On 5 December he allegedly breached his parole for the first time. Despite his history—escaping from
Pāremoremo in 1998—and despite the police warnings that trouble was on the way, what did the department do? It sent him a letter. This is the sort of guy who is going to race out to his letterbox at 11.30 every day, open it, and say: “Oh well, the parole service has written to me. I had better go and check in.”!
The Department of Corrections sent him a letter and then did nothing until 19 December. It gave this character a 2-week head start on the New Zealand Police. What did the Government do? It ordered another report. The department said that it had nothing to do with it and that it had done everything right. Well, there is no change there; that is what the department always says. The chief executive officer of the
department told the media that there are no plans to change the Parole Act—and then on Tuesday the Prime Minister said that there are plans to change the Parole Act. The chief executive officer has no idea of what is going on and has been left out of the loop completely. No doubt Damien O’Connor knew even less.
But did the Prime Minister say there would be changes made to the Parole Act? When one reads the Prime Minister’s statement one finds it is very carefully worded. She stated the Government has decided to give “serious consideration” to allowing the police to make a recall application. She gave no guarantees. She went on and stated, “it can be argued that the police should have the power to make an application for recall,”. Nowhere in her statement is there a commitment to put the Parole Act into order. Nowhere is there a firm undertaking to clean up the mess that occurred in December and January. It is just weasel words.
But I cannot let the Prime Minister’s statement go without saying something about the Greens. Green members are abstaining. Where are their principles? This is the party that fights for an agenda, fights for ideas, and tells its voters that it will not back off. Where are the major extractions of concessions of policy they have made? What I am sure of is this: Sue Bradford,
MetiriaTurei, and Nandor Tanczos did not fight to get into Parliament in order to abstain on issues they feel strongly about. Sue Bradford’s own member’s bill agenda indicates she is a person with firm ideas and principles. What is that party doing by abstaining? Either it should get on board and back the Government or it should get out, but its abstaining and being neutral is a disgrace. It is a party of Ashraf
Choudharys. We have seen a party of Ashraf
I would tell Green members not to come to this Parliament with all their righteous indignation about what other parties do, and with their carrying-on about how the Greens are above that, if they are prepared to be neutral on whether this Government should continue to survive. That is not good enough when those members have been elected to be the Switzerland of the New Zealand Parliament. They should either get on board or get out.
This Government is old, tired, and grumpy. The Prime Minister’s face has returned to that pre-1999, lemon-sucking contortion that we have not seen for 4 or 5 years, where the sort of forced smile we see on
Close Up has been replaced by the grim darkness of the “evil empire” coming to its last days of power. We on the National side of the House know that Labour’s time is up, that Helen Clark is gone, and that those tired, old Ministers—who will be driving around in their hybrid fuel cars shortly—have to get used to the fact that their time is done and that they did not get anywhere near delivering for New Zealand the type of vision, aspirational messages, and legislative drive that John Key and the National Party will bring after the next general election.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Education)
: I welcome all members back to the House. It is good to be back. It is good to hear young Simon Power, rested and able to scream for a whole 7 or 8 minutes. He obviously had a good rest over the holidays, running around the beach with the kids. Members can do that in the
Manawatū, by the way. On behalf of my comrade I can say if anybody is looking for a great holiday next year, Simon is an example. He is able to come back here refreshed having been in the
Manawatū. So he is a good example of where members might go for their holidays.
It was good to hear the Prime Minister. She was totally relaxed, she gave a fantastic speech, she set out a whole new vision of where we might go as a country as we take on the whole sustainability - climate change agenda. She talked about economic transformation, families young and old, and national identity. She outlined that the country, over the last 7 years, has been on a consistent roll of growth and opportunity. On the international stage we are well respected. It was fantastic to watch the Prime
Minister, resplendent in red, in this packed House talking about our country, which has a great, great future in front of it because of the Labour leadership.
It is great to see up close the National Party co-leadership, the English-Key team, here in the House. There is something like a bit of an uncivil union about it, though, I have to say. We have something old—Bill English retreaded through the whole system again. We have something new—Mr Key who has been here for only a few years and has rocketed through the ranks of the National Party. There was so little talent in front of them after all these years that he was able to come through in only 4 years. Is it not amazing that currency trading is somehow a qualification for being Prime Minister of the country? The party is so talentless that the others who have been here for a long time were not lined up for the job, and he came through just like that. The leader before him—who was so talentless, as well—rocketed through the ranks in about 3 years.
Anyway, we have the co-leadership of the two of them, and I have to mention something blue—Gerry Brownlee. Gerry Brownlee looks so sad. He looks a bit like a deflated balloon over there at the present time, I have to say. He has been muscled off the position he once held, dominating the Chamber with his large booming voice and his “Langeesque” presence. He used to rise frequently, brushing aside the old leader as we were asking who was the leader of the House. Gerry would rise, brushing Don aside, so he could champion the cause of the National Party. What an uncivil union!
What I have to say though is that we are asked to believe that this little mess is somehow a new start for the National Party. Don Brash has gone, pink shirts are in,
tiki T-shirts are OK, climate change has been discovered, nuclear ships are not too good, and poverty—poor people—have been suddenly discovered by the National Party, as well. But I say to the country that actually nothing has changed. Mr Key is as hollow a man now as he was before he was a leader of the National Party. He is surrounded by right-wing policies. He is surrounded by the same backers outside Parliament. He is surrounded by the same old tired faces of the National Party. Has anybody seen anyone look as tired as Nick Smith? I have to say that if that is youth, it is wasted on the National Party if one ends up looking like that. I think what I am going to have to do is take Mr Smith out for a few runs at half past 6 in the morning. For goodness’ sake, he needs to liven up and look a little bit like he is a youthful man full of the future and full of the rising sap of life.
National members are surrounded by the same old religious affiliations. Mr Key likes to say he is Brethren-neutral. But remember they loved his presentation. They sent him the emails. He cannot remember the emails. He is a little like Don Brash, who was a little fuzzy on the old memory. John Key cannot remember the emails, just as he cannot remember his position on the Springbok Tour. This is a man who in 1981 was a young man who played rugby at the local club, but when he—an active, rugby-playing young bloke in Christchurch, the site of some of the biggest, most violent protests in the history of this country—was asked on radio what his view was, he said: “I can’t remember. I can’t quite think of what I thought at that particular time.” He sounded like Brash—not much change there.
The fact that National has not changed is illustrated by the Unicef report. That report tells us about the National legacy from the 1990s. The data is from 1997 to 2003. It captures the impact of Richardson and Shipley. Key says he has changed things. He says the old days are irrelevant. But let us look at the style offensive—because that is all it was—on poverty by John Key. He started off with a speech about people who are poor, but then he got in the limo and went with the posse to visit the hood, as he probably understands it,
McGehan Close. He was hoping to see people in a seething mass of poverty, but he found, for example, that the young woman he took to Waitangi
had just come back from participating in the I Have a Dream programme—she had gone off from her school to live out that particular dream.
Mr Key then went round to Wesley School and offered it muesli bars it neither wanted nor needed. It asked him to go away and stop making it a political football. The programme fell over, he blamed the Government, and he cancelled the policy. This is a pattern that happened with the silver fern in Los Angeles, with the discussions about the mortgage levy, and with the whole thing about school breakfasts. Every time he gets it wrong he blames the Government, cancels the policy, and withdraws. This is inexperience. This is a man not ready. This is a man living on the edge. This is a man pushing the envelope. This is a man with nothing to say, so he just keeps moving and keeps the pictures rolling. He keeps hoping that people will not notice he has nothing to say.
John Key was asked why he would not do something real about poverty. What policy was National’s biggest single contribution on poverty? Does Mrs Wong know? Does anybody on the National benches know? National paid no attention to poverty in the 1990s. The Salvation Army told us that the single biggest contributor to poverty in New Zealand was market-related rents. Mr Key, the muesli bar kid, who went round with muesli bars to Wesley School, which did not want them and did not need them—a few muesli bars are Mr Key’s answer to poverty—was asked by Duncan Garner what he would do about market rents. Mr Key answered that they are still National Party policy.
If the National Party comes back, we will get the single biggest contributor to poverty with it. This is like the dark days of the 1990s. This is the same recipe from the hollow men who destroyed this country. If they come back, we will have tax cuts and cuts to services, the community will be on its own, and we will be back down the same dark tunnel. No doubt it will be done with more charm, no doubt it will be done with more style, no doubt it will be done with a pink shirt, no doubt it will be done with a
tiki, no doubt it will be done with people getting free rides to places like Waitangi, and no doubt it will be done with a charming face, but we will be in the same dark tunnel that National took us down before.
We are lucky, therefore, that we have a Labour Government. What a record. Since 2000 we have undertaken a programme relating to income-related rents, State houses, Working for Families, primary health organisations, minimum wages, and jobs. The programme has been huge. The difference has been huge. That is why we can say that the Unicef document is a historical marker of what National did to this country. Thank goodness for Labour, because we can now tell the country that new statistics are here. Under the previous National Government we were 23rd out of 25 in the poverty stakes. Now, under this Government, we are fourth in the OECD. Does anybody see any mystery about that? Is anybody not able to understand what the difference is?
I go back to the Prime Minister’s statement. That is the record. The Prime Minister outlined the future. This country, under a Labour-led Government, has a bright, real, optimistic, aspirational future suited to the kinds of young, lively, forward-looking, real New Zealanders who make up the Labour-led coalition and the parties that enable it to stay in power. We are New Zealand—look at Labour, the Progressives, New Zealand First, United Future, the Greens, and the
Māori Party. Then, wham, when we look at the members opposite we move into non - New Zealand. That is the past; Labour is the future. Thank goodness we are here.
PANSY WONG (National)
: I would like to clarify for the public who are listening to this debate that this is not a general debate. This is not the usual Wednesday general debate. These 14 hours are set aside for very serious debate. It is for us to argue, defend, and challenge the Prime Minister’s statement. The last speaker was the Hon Steve Maharey, the Minister of Education. He spent only 10 seconds on the Prime Minister’s
statement; he barely mentioned the Prime Minister. He is a seasoned politician, and I think he knows that her days are numbered. He does not want to be associated with the slogan-filled Prime Minister’s statement.
I make another observation. The Hon Steve Maharey, the leadership aspirant, talked about leading a young team, but I am afraid that apart from you, Mr Assistant Speaker—because you are sitting in the middle—when I look across the aisle I see a sea of grey hair and bald heads. It is really difficult for me to project about, and have empathy for, the Hon Steve
Maharey’s young, upcoming, energetic Labour team. I think he is dreaming. I agree with Prime Minister Helen Clark that Labour needs to remove a lot of dead wood.
But I want to put the record straight about what happened last Christmas. The Hon Steve Maharey mentioned how my diligent and effective colleague Simon Power had a break. He did not. He appeared daily in the newspapers in relation to the Department of Corrections and the horrific, despicable Graeme Burton tragedy that happened to an innocent family. Simon Power was there every day. The question is where was the Minister of Corrections, Damien O’Connor. When did he ever front up? I have good news for the Hon Steve Maharey. He is, indeed, looking at a young, aspirational team—National is the Government in waiting. Our Minister of Corrections will front up to the public, unlike Damien O’Connor who pointed the finger at all the other departments.
We are here today to debate the supposedly very important Prime Minister’s statement. We all know that the Prime Minister likes to quote the findings, etc., of international bodies. Let us take a look at the International Monetary Fund’s gross domestic product per capita ranking, which measures the economic status of a nation, and also at the World Economic Forum’s environmental index. It is interesting to see that there is a lot of overlap of countries that appear in the top 10 of both lists—for example, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Switzerland, and Austria. The message is that countries that score well in their environmental status also do very well in their economic performance. We must have good environmental policy. Good environmental status goes hand in hand with economic development. So now we know there is bad news for Labour, because the countries that do well economically also do well in their environmental status.
It is no news to the public that this tax-and-spend Labour Government has not advanced New Zealand towards its first slogan—the top half of the OECD—and it is only a matter of time before the new slogan of sustainability will also disappear. For the Prime Minister to take this opportunity to announce a policy of purchasing brand new, eco-friendly limousines for Cabinet Ministers is not a bold move. That expenditure is made by compliment of the taxpayer. The question that remains is how long this latest slogan about sustainability will last. The Prime Minister referred to “sustainability” 33 times in her statement. For us to guess how long this latest slogan will last might take us back for a moment.
I will take the public back to last year’s Prime Minister’s statement. What did she say last year? She said: “New Zealand in 2006 is, in many ways, a work in progress.” That is bad news. We have been one long work in progress for the last 7 years, and nothing has been resolved. According to the Prime Minister, the country is on a journey away from the old economy to a new one—to improved health, education levels, and living standards for all people, etc. But some would argue that the public has been taken for a ride, or to the cleaners, for its hard-earned income. We see that the ever-increasing tax revenue has not delivered much if we look at surgery waiting lists and the growing underclass identified by our National leader, John Key. He sets the agenda for this year.
Today the Unicef report ranks New Zealand in the bottom half of developed countries on two-thirds of the measures of children’s well-being. [Interruption] Well,
the Hon Mark Burton has become very annoyed when I say that John Key sets the agenda. Of course he does. Why else would the Hon Steve Maharey spend 8 minutes and 30 seconds talking about John Key and 10 seconds talking about the Prime Minister? This is the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement and I have had my observations confirmed. I noticed that the whole Labour bench went to sleep during her delivery, which probably explains why the Hon Steve Maharey did not have much to talk about.
Let us come back to the debate. Steve Maharey looked at this outrageous report on the status of New Zealand children. He said that it was wrong and that the data was out of date. But National members have news for the Minister, because National’s hard-working MP Judith Collins can tell him a few things. The data is not out of date. She can identify that the number of substantiated child-abuse cases has doubled from 6,000 in the year 2000 to 13,000 in 2006. The number of notifications of child abuse cases has risen from 28,000 in 1999 to 70,000. The Hon Ruth Dyson says that that is good news because more people are reporting abuse; I say that it is hugely bad news for New Zealand.
I have an email that I want to share with the House and the public. This email is from a photographer who says he has been working on a project for a year now. He is taking photographs of extreme poverty in New Zealand. The location is not overseas; it is New Zealand, in South Auckland. It will give me no joy when I eventually table those photos in this House. The fact that the Labour Prime Minister and her Cabinet are in denial gives me no choice but to bring those photos, when he has finished, and table them in this House. The photographer says that he cannot turn a blind eye and pretend there is no poverty and no underclass. He says he is so glad that John Key, the leader of the National Party, has raised this issue, because New Zealand has to confront and resolve this problem.
As John Key says, we have to do it together; National will not duck its responsibility. Next year we will do it as a Government, but right now in Opposition John Key has already taken up that challenge. He knows that the problem is urgent. He is not going to wait for 12 months. John Key, as leader, is going to confront those tough questions, and he aims to save that underclass.
Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Justice)
: I want to tell Pansy Wong that one does not confront the great issues and challenges facing our nation by donning a
tiki T-shirt, exploiting a 12-year-old kid for a photo opportunity, and calling that leadership. Those are cheap political stunts. I also want to tell Pansy Wong that, yes, she should be pleased—we should all be pleased—not about the increase in the number of cases of child abuse but about the fact that we are hearing about them, because when they are being exposed to the light of day they can be dealt with. That is something our society has to confront. I listened to one or two of the more informed commentators talking about the Unicef report, and the most intelligent comment was that these issues are for our society and our communities. I want to tell Pansy Wong that they are not issues for cheap, nasty point-scoring.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister observed that New Zealand today is a stronger, fairer, and more confident nation than it was 7 years ago, and it is. But the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, in detailing the Government’s achievements to date, also conveyed this Government’s determination and commitment to build on the good work that has been done. Yes, indeed, there is still a great deal more to do. But to see the sorts of stunts of the so-called revolving leadership of the National Party—donning
tiki T-shirts to go to Waitangi and pink T-shirts to go to the Big Gay Out, as though doing that is somehow a statement of policy and makes it connected to New Zealand and New Zealanders—shows that National is not only a party of hollow men; it is a party of
shallow men. One of my constituents who listened to John Key’s speech on Tuesday said to me on the telephone the other day that it was the most profoundly shallow speech he had ever listened to. “Profoundly shallow” is a new concept—one that I think bears listening to.
Pansy Wong wants to talk about substance. I came to this House in significant part because of the blight of unemployment on my neighbours—the blight of unemployment of the families of the good people of the central volcanic plateau. In the 7 years and 2 months that I have had the enormous privilege of serving as a Minister in Helen Clark’s Government, the unemployment rate in my community of Taumarunui has declined by 60 percent. In Tokoroa the unemployment rate has been reduced by 73 percent. In
Tūrangi it has been reduced by 87.5 percent, and in my home town of
Taupō we have gone from nearly 1,000 people whose lives were blighted by unemployment to 60—a 94 percent decrease.
Some 25 years ago, as a new resident in the town of
Taupō, I, along with some others, helped to form the
Taupo Employment Support Trust. Many good people have since been involved with that trust. Obviously, I moved on from my involvement in it as a foundation trustee. Those people have been involved in providing some of the best-quality training and support services to unemployed people in that community and that district for a quarter of a century. Recently, that trust wound up. Do members know why? It is because its purpose for existing—to support long-term unemployed people—simply did not require its existence any longer. It was a tough thing to decide for the current trustees. It obviously required winding up some people’s employment. They went on to other jobs, as well. But there simply was not a justifiable purpose for the
Taupo Employment Support Trust any longer.
That is the business that this Government has been about for the last 7 years. So, yes, I say to Pansy Wong: substance. I say to Pansy Wong that as a Government we have been about the people’s business. And, yes, there is more to do, because, frankly, if 60 people are still on the unemployment benefit in my home town, that is 60 too many. But that is what passes for real action and real activity that means something to the people of New Zealand.
I contrast that activity with the 10-minute superficial waffle that we heard the other day from the stand-up comedian opposite. He has already had the high point of his speaking career with his speech down in Christchurch. That speech was described by one prominent commentator as disappointing in its content and particularly disappointing in its delivery. What is more, we now know that it was Mr English who wrote that speech, not Mr Key. Mr Key said he spent the summer working on this masterpiece. Actually, Bill English is on the record as telling us he actually wrote the speech because Mr Key does not know about social policy. So this is the brave new leadership of the National Party! John Key did not spend the summer writing a speech, because he did not know anything about the subject. We saw just how substantial a leader he is with that shameful jaunt to Waitangi, with a 12-year-old child hauled along as a camera trophy. I think many thousands of New Zealanders felt ashamed to see a senior politician in our country engaged in such a stunt on a day that most New Zealanders wanted to celebrate their nationhood.
Many things have been talked about in the last short while in the wake of the release of the Unicef report. It is important that the issues raised in that report are looked at, are discussed, and are considered by New Zealanders. It is fair to say that the report, taken in its time from the mid-1990s through to the beginning of this decade, makes a fair representation of the way things were. But a great deal has been done since then. The Working for Families tax credits have substantially changed the material well-being of thousands of New Zealand’s families. By 2008 we will have reduced the percentage of
children living below 50 percent of the median income level from 14.6 percent to 4.5 percent. That will place New Zealand in the top four countries in the OECD alongside Denmark, Finland, and Norway. That is a case of the Government working on the serious business of the people—with New Zealanders for New Zealanders.
I have referred to the unemployment rate and the overall benefit rate. If one adds them all up one finds that 30 percent fewer New Zealanders—in actual numbers, putting aside population growth—are on all benefits. The total number of people who are reliant on any benefit is down by 30 percent. In regards to the Children’s Nutrition Survey we have heard cheap stunts again about child nutrition, but the survey carried out in 2002 found that 84 percent of 11 to 14-year-olds ate breakfast. That data, not used in the Unicef report released this week, would have put New Zealand in the top three.
Nathan Guy: More spin.
Hon MARK BURTON: No, this is a substantial research report. Spin is someone putting on a
tiki T-shirt and flaunting it around Waitangi because one thinks, for some reason, that a
tiki T-shirt and someone else’s child being towed around as a trophy is a demonstration of leadership, and then going down to the Big Gay Out and putting on a pink shirt because one thinks that that somehow proves one is identifying with that part of the community. Well, it does not.
Leadership is not about those sorts of stunts; it is about having real aspirations for New Zealand and for New Zealanders. It is about keeping one’s feet on the ground so that although one has the aspirations, one also has the ability to map out practical actions that will take New Zealanders towards the goals and aspirations that they share. That is the leadership Helen Clark has given as a Prime Minister: the ability to take a big idea and promote it, and to lead it, but also the ability and determination to map out the practical steps that we all have to take from day one, in order to share the responsibility of reaching the goals that New Zealanders have. That is what leadership is about. It is about as different to the stunts we have seen opposite as one can get.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: On 30 January John Key gave a speech that set a course in New Zealand politics and that continues to do so. John Key ripped the lid off a whole agenda that Labour did not want out of the jar. The beauty of that speech was that Helen Clark and her tribe cannot stop talking about it. John Key set the agenda for the Prime Minister’s speech this week, and we have 14 hours to debate the arguments that John Key wanted debated. Labour and the media initially said that the speech was short on substance and short on policy, yet now they have to concede that the speech was long on relevance and that it struck a chord with constituents, commentators, professionals, lay people, and volunteers who know that people are struggling. The Prime Minister may not care to know that people in this country find it hard to make ends meet because, although there are more people in work, they still earn peanuts compared with the costs they are forced to meet. It was John Key who led the debate about people doing it tough, and it is the Government that is responding to that speech; the boot is firmly on the other foot. Labour members did not want to rip the scab off that sore, because they know that keeping people poor, hopeless, and downtrodden will always leave them a constituency. There is an old saying: “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud and one saw stars.” Well, Labour wants its people to see only mud.
Take the elderly, for example. On 4 September, 365 old folk in Wanganui had their home help subsidy removed. Those oldies got an hour or so a week of vacuuming and washing done that eased their lives a bit. But that got the chop. The home care was done by neat people who had a relationship with the elderly—they called them by their first name, and they did it all for 10 bucks an hour. Ten bucks an hour was too much for that miserable lot sitting over on the other side of the Chamber. Well, what happened? The
oldies had to do their own vacuuming and window washing, hang out their own clothes on the line, and go to the shops for their groceries, and they started falling over, breaking bones, having heart attacks, and being hospitalised. Labour tells them to stay down and stop complaining.
Labour is slapping people down in education, too. It promised 20 free hours of early childhood education, but it cannot deliver. Now it hides behind the kindies and the crèches and says: “Well, it’s not our fault; those mean childcare workers want too much for childcare.” Labour says it is those workers who will not let us have it. Labour’s price for childcare in Wanganui is 98c an hour; now there are no takers and Labour blames the providers.
Waverley High School has been in a Labour electorate with a Labour MP for 9 years and under a Labour Government for 7 years. Things have been going downhill for Waverley High School—for nearly 10 years, the Ministry of Education says. But it finally did something for the school last year. There are 11 teachers at that school, who all get two management units each, which means that they teach for 3 and a half days a week—and there are only 65 kids. The ratio of teachers to pupils is one teacher to eight pupils, and rocket science should be done even with average students and average teachers, but the school is failing all round. The Education Review Office says that 50 percent of the kids can be truant on any one day, but there are no records of any child ever being reported to truancy services, at all. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority says that there is evidence of teachers and children cheating on National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams and assessments, and now the school is not allowed to administer any NCEA assessments, at all. Labour has failed the community of Waverley. Two-thirds of schoolkids at Waverley Primary School go to intermediate and high school by bus because anyone who can afford to send their kids to any school other than Waverley High School does so. The rest go to school half the time. There is another slap.
Labour is slapping down people in terms of law and order. Labour knows that it can easily profile the mother of a prison inmate. She was young and probably a teenager when she had her first child. She left school with no qualifications. She is low waged or on a benefit. She smokes tobacco and is probably addicted to alcohol or some other substance. The father of her baby, if she knows him, is from the same demographic as she is. Once people have been in jail their children have seven times the chance of following them to jail in years to come. Labour knows that if those people vote at all, they vote Labour, so they are taken for granted. There are 7,500 inmates in our prisons today. Eighty-three percent of them have drug and alcohol problems. How many of them got on a drug or alcohol course in jail last year? One hundred and seventy-four out of 7,500. Labour does not care.
Prisoners should come out of jail better than when they went in, but Labour does not want that, either. Eighty percent of prisoners do no study or work; they do nothing while they are in jail. In Kaitoke prison there was a shoe factory that employed about a hundred inmates a year. Most had never worked. Anecdotally, the prison officers tell me that none who worked in that shoe factory ever came back to prison. That, in itself, saved millions of dollars. But it was shut down in 2003 because it did not make a profit. There is another slap.
Liam Ashley was a boy who had been looked after in a special school for kids with problems. Then he reached the ripe old age of 16 and there was nothing for him—no dough in the education system for him. There was nothing to protect this vulnerable young man. He was put on a work programme where he rubbed shoulders with other little
Fagins who exploited and manipulated him, and he got into trouble with the law. He ended up in a prison van, where he should not have been. He was handcuffed to a
violent murderer, locked away, and killed—and nobody said sorry. Nobody in the Government has put up a hand and said: “This is my fault, I was responsible.” In fact, the only person who has done that has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Then we have Graeme Burton, a man who was in jail for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. He escaped and was recaptured. He showed no sign of remorse or concern and came up for parole. He was told that he would not get it, but a year or so later when he came up for parole he jumped through the hoops and was given parole on strict conditions. He broke the conditions, and the Department of Corrections and the police knew about it. He was going nuts and beating the hell out of people, robbing people, acquiring guns, and taking drugs. What he was not doing was reporting in. He was not keeping appointments and behaving like a person serving a life sentence. That is what escapes the commentators on this issue. Graeme Burton robbed, beat up people, armed himself, and murdered—and, thankfully, was eventually shot—while he was serving a life sentence. Who is in charge of people doing life sentences? The Minister of Justice is. He has just finished speaking; he did not mention the case, as far as I can recall. The Minister of Justice, the Minister of Corrections, and the chief executive officer of the Department of Corrections are in charge. Burton has pleaded guilty, but no one in charge has said sorry.
Labour has slapped down people on welfare. Labour’s policies are hell-bent on achieving statistical benchmarks whereby people are pushed into jobs that are not suited to their skills, hopes, or future. Kids are leaving school without hope, ambition, and desire—not to mention without the NCEA. Sally is a beneficiary in my electorate. She was encouraged to think of where she would like to work if there were no barriers. She could not see past working at her local cinema. When she was further encouraged to think beyond just getting enough cash to see her through the day, she began to visualise a life where she was working with children, perhaps living in a flat in Wellington, perhaps studying, perhaps getting rid of her current dead loss relationship, and actually achieving some of those goals lost long ago. She was given work experience at a local school and she did well. After a month or so when the school was contacted it said that she was great, that it loved her, that the kids loved her, and that it did not know what it did without her. She looked into education papers and teacher training and suddenly saw a life that was not reliant on a hand-to-mouth benefit or the State. Sadly, this Government—with its lack of vision and flexibility, and which is meant to put its money where it is needed—gave her a job. This constituent of mine, after almost finding a way out of the cycle, is once again back on a benefit and working part time at the Warehouse, where she had to go or lose the benefit. Her teacher training papers sit on the dressing table at home, where suddenly it all seems too expensive, too impossible, and too far away. There is no more job at the school, no more teacher training college, and no hope. There is another slap.
Trinder was an old music-hall comedian. If I do my best Peter Brown impression, maybe I can do an impression of Tommy. He said: “What’s the Labour Government ever done for the working man? Promised him everything, given him nothing, and before he gets it they take it away from him.” Tommy
Trinder said it as a joke, but it is the reality for our people doing it hard in our country. It is no joke.
Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector)
: Kia ora,
talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings to you all. Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. Today is special because it is the seventh anniversary of my giving my maiden speech, and I stand to say how proud I am to be a member of this wonderful Labour-led Government.
In the Prime Minister’s address to the House on Tuesday, she said that New Zealand’s future is dependent on long-term sustainable strategies for our economy,
society, environment, culture, and way of life. She went on to say that those strategies have to be driven by strong leadership and sound policies. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have provided the strong leadership, and the Labour-led Government has developed and implemented a wide range of sound policies. The results speak for themselves. The Labour-led Government has made huge inroads into the poverty problems it inherited from National. We have made major investments in social policies, such as Working for Families, and there have been seven increases in minimum wage rates, lower medical fees, and more Modern Apprenticeships.
Since Labour came to power, 62,000 fewer children are living in households claiming a main benefit. Child poverty rates fell from 27 to 21 percent in the 3 years to 2004. Working for Families is predicted to reduce child poverty by up to 70 percent. There are 2.1 million Kiwis in paid employment—an increase of 340,000 since 1999. Unemployment is now down to 3.7 percent. As of June 2006 there were 9,171 Modern Apprenticeships—13 percent more than in 2005—and 123,302 industry trainees overall. Two thousand three hundred workers have completed their Modern Apprenticeships since the year 2000.
I plan to speak today about the challenge of sustainable strategies for our families and our communities. The different approaches the Government and the Opposition have taken to social policy are based on two contrasting world views and two contrasting political philosophies. The Government’s approach is to support the development of strong independent families and communities that contribute to the social and economic development of a strong independent nation.
In contrast, there has been a lot of talk from the Opposition about charity, and some politicians have recently discovered poor people who apparently deserve our charity. In the English language we have the expression: “As cold as charity.” The idea that charity is a loveless gift given to the deserving poor comes out of the 19th century liberal tradition in which the rich were encouraged to give some of their private wealth to the poor, no matter that their accumulation of wealth had created poverty and inequality. This patronising act of charity reinforced the gap between the rich and the poor. It individualised giving and it broke up communities. It is interesting how old ideas are recycled. It is not surprising to me that the inheritors of the liberal tradition—the neo-liberals of today, whose accumulation of wealth has created poverty and inequality—are talking about charity and making visits to the deserving poor in their mean streets. It saddens me to see that the noble idea of true charity as a loving gift has been debased.
The scholars amongst us will know that the word “charity” has its origins in the Latin “caritas” and the Greek “agape”. Closer to home, in
Māori it is “aroha”, in Samoan it is “alofa”, in Tongan it is “ofa”, in the Cook Islands it is “aroa”, in Hawaii it is “aloha”, and it translates as “a loving gift”. In each of these languages the idea of charity is bound to the concept of love and selfless giving.
It was in 1935 that the first Labour Government established a system of social security provided by the State to support those in need. Michael Joseph Savage referred to social security as “applied Christianity”. Social security provided citizens with entitlements so that they did not have to beg for charity from the wealthy in their times of need. Today there are many programmes funded by our Labour-led Government designed to address the causes of poverty and to empower citizens and communities to stand tall and help themselves. The Labour-led Government is committed to supporting strong, healthy, independent, and sustainable communities—that is the Kiwi way.
Recently the Government launched the new Charities Register to increase transparency of charitable organisations and to strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the charitable sector. It will do this by ensuring that only genuine charities gain registration—that is, those organisations that advance religion, relieve poverty, or
have a purpose that is otherwise beneficial to the community as their main purpose. Charitable organisations that are putting love back into charity deserve our support. Gone are the days where people have to beg for charity. But if the Opposition gets a chance to implement its economic and social policies, where privatisation of Government services and private charity are the preferred approaches, we will see a return to the social problems of the 1990s.
It is easy to forget the impact of the economic restructuring of the 1990s on
Māori, Pacific people, women, and ordinary working people. In 1999 the economics professor Carl Davidson noted: “… the Pacific Island workforce has been more damaged by economic policy changes than any other group in New Zealand. The sharp decline in the economic status of the Pacific Island community in recent years, through unemployment and the reduction of social welfare benefits, has had profoundly negative effects. Cultural dislocation is no longer offset by reasonably high incomes; welfare dependency has damaged their collective sense of self-worth; and there has been an overall deterioration of their standards of living and their physical and psychological health.”
The Labour-led Government has done much to turn that round, and turn round the impact of the economic and social policies of the 1990s. Working for Families will have brought at least 130,000 children out of income poverty. Latest figures show that unemployment has dropped to 3.7 percent. The latest December quarter 2006 benefit figures show that 62,735 fewer children are living in a household that claims the benefit. The Fruit in Schools programme gives 57,000 students access to fruit and nutrition, after being extended to 268 schools from October last year. Our challenge now is to build on those achievements and sustain them in the future. We have seen a huge change in our communities, with more people than ever before moving into work.
Importantly, these gains are shared with all regions of New Zealand. This has happened on the back of sound management of the economy, leading to strong economic growth. Unemployment benefit numbers in my Mana electorate have fallen by 20 percent in the last year. The drop is further evidence of a strong economy across New Zealand and across the regions. Times are better because people are getting off the benefit and into work. We have had good jobs growth and an overall reduction of people on any kind of benefit. The labour market is still tight, but our local economy is in good shape.
I want to end on this note. When people are in work they participate in the community, they contribute more, and they add to the social capital. I am very, very proud indeed to be part of a Labour-led Government that has turned the policies of the 1990s round. Yes, we have more work to do, but I am proud.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Members are advised that the United Future party is splitting its call. For the benefit of the members involved I will ring the bell with 1 minute remaining.
JUDY TURNER (Deputy Leader—United Future)
: There were a number of noble signals from the Prime Minister in her statement this week that will, if delivered on—I say “if”—begin the small steps on New Zealand’s journey towards environmental responsibility, the small steps towards a tertiary sector that is better aligned with the needs of the workforce, the small steps towards sentencing reforms, and the small steps towards an improved national identity.
The Opposition has rightly countered that noble intentions do not an outcome make—that is true. However, I am interested in some of the issues not signalled in the Prime Minister’s statement that I believe need attention from this Government this year. At the risk of sounding like a dripping tap, I bring to the attention of the House the plight of kinship caregivers and, most importantly, that of grandparents raising
grandchildren. These people step into the breach and foster family members. The status and circumstances that led children to have this need of foster care are exactly the same whether it is a non-family member or a family member who will care for them. Yet family members are expected to do the same task with substantially less financial support than all other caregivers.
United Future welcomes work by the Ministry of Social Development that has begun, but urges the Minister to make sure that these people, who have waited for a very long time for an improved outcome, see something that works in their favour.
Parents who choose to stay at home to raise their children are given some sort of recognition and support by this Government only if they are not partnered. United Future is pleased to announce that as part of our supply and confidence agreement with the Labour-led Government, background work that would need to be done on the issue of income splitting is being advanced. A tax system that takes into account how many mouths are fed from an income gives due recognition to the contribution of both parents when it comes to the raising of children.
The other issue I am keen to see progress on, which is also part of the supply and confidence agreement that United Future has with the Labour-led Government, is to look at the age at which tertiary students are assessed against parental income to determine whether they qualify for a living allowance. They are the only group in New Zealand that currently has to borrow to live. A young person who is on the dole will not be income tested against his or her parents. However, if that person decides to go to university or polytech and build a future for himself or herself, parental income will be brought into question. I think that is grossly unfair. Our agreement is that we will see some definite tracking down, at least, of the age at which young people are assessed against parental income.
I am really pleased, finally, to note that today in question time the Minister Ruth Dyson expressed her willingness to look seriously at the need to establish a Child, Youth and Family complaints authority. I say to the House that that situation demonstrates the advantage a minor party has in having a positive working relationship with the Government of the day. Not only do we get to see policy gains through our supply and confidence agreement but we also have the opportunity to respond to current issues and to be listened to and have our ideas considered and advanced.
Like most members in this House I get a steady stream of letters every week from families who have some complaint against the actions of Child, Youth and Family. As members of Parliament we do not have the resources to investigate and find out whether these complaints are valid in any way. But most of us would recognise that somebody should perform this role. We also support and call on the Government to better resource the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, which works at investigating those issues as they pertain to children. The complaints authority that we are calling for would pertain to adults who have complaints.
GORDON COPELAND (United Future)
: Like my colleague Judy Turner I do not intend today to dwell very much on the content of the Prime Minister’s statement to the House, but rather to look at some of the things she did not mention that United Future believes are very, very important to the future of New Zealand, and should therefore not be overlooked. For example, no mention was made in the statement about the growing problem of housing affordability and, indeed, of rental affordability in New Zealand. These issues need to be urgently addressed. The data produced over the last couple of months indicates that much of this is driven by a combination of land supply shortage, and ever-higher
subdivisional and new home building costs imposed by local authorities.
The economic equation is very simple. If the supply of land is greater than demand for land, then land prices, and, therefore, new housing and rental prices, will moderate. But when demand for new housing and new accommodation outstrips the supply of land, those prices will rise steeply. That is exactly what we have seen happening in New Zealand over the last 3 or 4 years. This is a tragedy for New Zealand and its families. Many families no longer share in the Kiwi dream of owning their own house, but instead are relegated, through a failed policy response to this crisis, to long-term rental situations.
Mention was made of New Zealand’s balance of payments deficit and the high interest rates in New Zealand, by both the Leader of the Opposition, John Key, and the leader of New Zealand First, the Rt Hon Winston Peters. However, neither of them mentioned the possibility of a currency union between Australia and New Zealand. Such a union should be explored, because it has the potential to create an effective 25 million - strong domestic market for New Zealand businesses and manufacturers and, because of the centralisation of monetary policy that would follow, to cut interest rates for New Zealand businesses and families. However, when invited to look at this by the Australian Parliament, Dr Michael Cullen was very quick to dismiss it. I urge him today to think again. It is an issue that needs to be explored.
Keeping safe in our communities from growing levels of violence was also mentioned in passing by the Prime Minister, but in my opinion without any evidence-based policy response that would be directed not at the symptoms but at the actual causes of our growing crime statistics. Frankly, I do not expect to see much change in the present situation while so many of our children are being raised without a dad at home, or while they can go through the New Zealand educational system without learning very much about the basic values of honesty and good citizenship.
It is time we looked at the causes of family breakdown and began to address them through a constructive policy response. Tariana Turia of the
Māori Party mentioned that 53 percent of
Māori males are now leaving the secondary school system of New Zealand without even basic qualifications. The latest information I have is that that figure almost exactly corresponds with the percentage of
Māori children in New Zealand who, sadly, are growing up without a dad at home. The evidence of longitudinal studies internationally shows that while that situation persists, then failure in health and education will also persist. There is a direct correlation to whether there is a dad in the home, for reasons that will be obvious when we think it through. We need to get down to causes. We need to begin to build a fence at the top of the cliff. We have had too much policy that just brings another ambulance to the bottom of the cliff.
The Prime Minister mentioned safety on the streets and the Government’s priority to ensure that gang-related violence is eliminated. I wonder whether she has been to the Northcote area of Manukau. During my work on the prostitution law review I visited that area, and I was amazed to find a cocktail of prostitution, drugs, and gang activity all happening without any police presence on the ground. It is shameful to think that the only police who visit that area do not get out of their patrol cars, because they consider it to be too dangerous.
During 2007 I will continue to work on delivering key items of United Future’s confidence and supply agreement, for the benefit of New Zealanders. This will include the finalisation of plans to manage wild animals in New Zealand, such as deer, chamois, thar, and pigs—something that has been an issue in New Zealand for many years. I will also report back to the Government on our review of the Prostitution Reform Act, having regard to the street soliciting, under-age involvement, and the location of brothels. In conjunction with the Government we will also make further progress on the issue of water quality, with particular reference to agrarian runoff, and negotiate a
public walking access along rivers and lakes. We will continue to make solid gains for New Zealand, using the power of three.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration)
: Tihei mauri ora!
tēnā koutou katoa, o
ngārōpū o te
motu. I say welcome back to school to all the other parties here. It is good to see our colleagues here, and I say happy New Year to them.
I think it is good to be back in school, and to see all the friendly faces of the support teams. It is good to see Allan Peachey back in one piece. It is good to see our colleagues in the
Māori Party, the Greens, New Zealand First, United Future, and of course my Labour colleagues. It is fantastic to be back on the team, in a very positive and upbeat mood at the start of a great year—a great year because it is great to be here in Government. It is great to be here serving the people of New Zealand.
I had a marvellous holiday. I do not know about the rest of you, but I took the family to the beach and we had some friends come in. I thought that Kiwis, wherever I met them, were in good humour. People were enjoying the sun—when it finally arrived. They were enjoying spending time with their families, and they were enjoying the fact that more of them were feeling secure in their jobs and good in their schools. I thought there was a very, very positive mood around New Zealand.
As I was lying there on my backside with my feet up, my cold beer in one hand, I asked myself, when I really thought about it, what it was that Kiwis wanted. I think, coming down to it, it is really very simple, is it not? They want a decent job so that they can provide for their families. They want to know they have a good school nearby to educate their children. They want to know that if their kids get sick or they get sick, there is a good public health system they can rely on. And they want to know that the beaches they enjoy swimming at, and the clean water that they drink, will be here not only for them but for their tamariki and their mokopuna. At that level, it ain’t complicated.
But the question before New Zealanders now at the start of this year, and in this debate on the Prime Minister’s statement—her vision—is the same question that we ask ourselves on the beach: which of the major parties here before us has the record to deliver on that vision to ordinary Kiwis? And that is not hard, either. Despite the millions that our opponents are able to spend on fancy consultants, focus groups, slick packaging, sound bites,
MySpace, the reality is that we have been doing the mahi, we have been doing the work. We have put 300,000 people into jobs. We have cut the unemployment rate by 68 percent since we inherited the situation that Ruth Richardson and her friends left behind. In relation to my colleague Winnie Laban, I do not think I have heard a better or more eloquent exposition of that legacy in a good long time—kia ora, talofa,
fa’afetai lava to Winnie.
So that is the choice before us. Is it a Government that has a proven record—it has the track record to prove it—and is committed to all the people of New Zealand, but particularly those who need a handout, who need an opportunity? Or do New Zealanders want to take the risk of somebody who cannot really decide, it seems, whether he is “Helen-lite” or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? There will be more on that in a moment.
I thought the Prime Minister’s speech earlier in this debate was extraordinary. It was extraordinary in its boldness and it was extraordinary in the breadth of its vision. I find it very difficult to understand how anybody could now say not only that Helen Clark is not a seasoned and pragmatic deliverer of change, but that she lacks vision. It is said of the leadership of the best leaders that when the job is done, people will look back and say: “Hey, we did it ourselves.” The job of leaders is to anticipate the way the world is moving, then to respond to the power given to them freely by the group, by the tribe, to
move the group forward, and to face the future in a way that benefits all. Is not that the way Helen Clark works? Is not that the hallmark of this Labour Government?
Of course the world is changing. Of course it is getting more difficult and more complicated. As if globalisation, the rise of east Asia, the post-9/11 terrorism, and everything else was not complicated, for the first time since the cold war the doomsday clock has gone forward again. We understand that, once again, we are grappling with the possibility that the human species has the power to cause its own extinction. That is not an overstatement. I have seen some really serious research that predicts that by the time we take account of the slowness of the world’s political systems to respond to the reality that is climate change, and by the time we take into account the 50 to 100-year lag that exists from when we stop or reduce our emissions, to the climate of the planet rebalancing, it could well be too late. The Arctic tundra could thaw, the ice caps could have melted, and that in itself could release enough extra carbon into the atmosphere to continue the warming effect beyond our power to stop it.
If people are saying there is a rebalancing towards green issues in that statement, I say “amen” to that. It is not enough to get people in jobs. It is not enough to build good hospitals. It is not enough to have good schools. We have to have a planet that will sustain us, now and in the future. If that is not bold—to reflect the reality of that challenge in public policy from the Treasury benches—I do not know what is. I am proud to be a part of this Clark-Labour team. I am very proud to work with a team like Helen and Michael whom New Zealanders know not only have the vision but have the pragmatism and the management skills to deliver.
But, as I said, there is a contrast. On the other side of the House we have a man who I think is best described on the letterhead of the very apolitical and wonderful Business and Parliament Trust that I was flicking through. Here are the ways some people are described on the letterhead. These are the people who are on the trusteeship: Dr Pita Sharples CBE, MP, JP—a good list, I think—Mr Lindsay Tisch MP, JP; and Mr John Key MP, TBC. TBC seems to ring a bell with me. He is TBC, is he not? What do we know about him? He trumpets the fact that he was once a State house boy. I do not hold that against him. I am rather proud that he has made it. But what I cannot stomach is that this man who was the beneficiary of State intervention is dedicating his life to stopping other kids from getting the same chance. He is trying to sell the veneer that somehow he has discovered poverty, when we have been working on it for two decades, and that that is news.
Hon Member: We’ll report him to Bill English!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Ah, the co-leader, the Dick Cheney of the National Party, the power behind the throne, the man who never smiles when the others clap for John Key.
The paradox of John Key is twofold. In the first place he cannot afford to answer the question of whether he is really “Helen-lite” or whether he is really Don Brash in drag. Once the voters work that out, some of them will not vote for him. If any of them work it out, he cannot afford to lose that segment and still get into Government. That is why he is engaging in the age-old trick of multi-segment marketing—telling one thing to one group, turning up in a pink T-shirt at the Big Gay Out, and then telling
Investigate magazine that nothing has changed, that he stands for the same hard right agenda that Nicky Hager exposed in
The second paradox of John Key is that Kiwis have to decide whether the fact that he got a hand up at the start qualifies him to take that hand away from others who need the hand up now. On that, I think the public’s answer will be resounding when they work out the question. It will be resounding. If it was good enough for John, it is good enough for us. If it is good enough for his kids, it is good enough for our kids. When they look
around they may well say that it has something to do with the Greens and the planet. They may well say it has something to do with New Zealand First and its contribution to economic nationalism. They may well say it has something to do with United Future and its contribution to the future of the family. They may well say that the
Māori Party has done something to lift their aspirations for their people, just as
Māori MP colleagues have in the Labour Party. They will say that the Labour Party has delivered, and they will also say that the National Party is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The next contribution is from the
Māori Party. There will be two speakers, Hone Harawira and Te Ururoa Flavell, with 5 minutes each.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Tēnātātou te Whare. E Shane,
kaua koe e
wareware ki te
pakipaki mai a te
[Do not forget to clap at the end of my speech, Shane.]
The Prime Minister flagged a number of good ideas in her speech the other day, but, in allowing her Government to support Transit’s mind-numbing decision to refuse to allow the
Māori flag to be flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on Waitangi Day, she also flagged her Government’s support for petty bureaucracy, small-mindedness, and blockheaded racism. I say this because Transit and the Government have allowed us to be shown up by no less a country than Australia, for heaven’s sake—Australia, which we like to look down our noses at in respect of its horrendous treatment of indigenous people and which treat their tangata whenua as either sports heroes, artists, or drunks.
Shame on us, then, when a former Australian Commissioner for Indigenous Affairs can say at Waitangi that he is surprised
Māori are not afforded the same rights as Aboriginals. I say this, because his views echoed those of thousands of others stunned at Transit saying that only national flags could fly on the bridge, when we can all remember the Loyal flag flying proudly from the bridge during the America’s Cup campaign. I had to laugh when I saw Brian
Rudman’s article in the
New Zealand Herald when he stated: “If it’s acceptable to fly the flags of such remote and democratically challenged countries as Albania and Lebanon atop the bridge to mark their national days, then how can flying the de facto
Māori flag alongside the New Zealand ensign on Waitangi Day be deemed inappropriate?”. He said: “If I were in charge, I’d go further. I’d hijack that
Māori tino rangatiratanga flag as our new national flag and fly it over the bridge—and elsewhere—permanently, posting the borrowed British naval ensign we’ve made do with for too long back to the admirals in Whitehall.”
hīkoi crossed the bridge in 2004 amid the howling protests of the rednecks, the fools, the foul-mouths, and the bigots there were no problems, no injuries, no traffic jams, no hassles, and no arrests. For all the foul weather, the day went off like a dream. So flying the flag on Waitangi Day should have been a no-brainer, a measure of our maturity as a nation, and a recognition of the partnership of which Waitangi Day speaks so eloquently. In the end, it flew with pride all over the country, except from the harbour bridge. Next year, hopefully, it will also fly with pride from the bridge that joins the nation’s finest electorate, Te Tai Tokerau, to the nation’s most boisterous,
In truth, the flag was not the only thing being ignored by the Crown on Waitangi Day. Indeed, I can recall a comment from a Minister of this very Government who said: “The omission of any reference to the Treaty would be interpreted by
Māori as indicative of a less than whole-hearted commitment to the principle of partnership …”. My, my, my, how those words have come home to roost, for here we are in 2007 and what do we see? We see that same Government now voting to delete Treaty references, taking the Treaty out of the school curriculum, dropping
Māori appointments to
Government bodies, and denying
Māori the right to the due process that all other Kiwis enjoy.
Māori the right to fly their flag on Waitangi Day is symbolic of this Government’s flagrant denial of
Māori rights and refusal to honour the Treaty of Waitangi. It was with that background of heavily politicised debate around the Treaty that I floated the idea of a Treaty Commissioner at Waitangi on 6 February 2007—an idea supported by Mr Shane Jones of the Labour Party. As a guide for that role, I looked to the late Laurie O’Reilly, Commissioner for Children from 1994 to 1998, a man who vigorously defined the role of protecting and promoting children’s rights. That is the role I see for a Treaty Commissioner: to protect and promote the rights of the Treaty and to encourage us all to uphold the Treaty as the very foundation of our nation—and I quote the Prime Minister herself, who said: “The basis of constitutional Government in this country is to be found in its founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.”—to honour the vision of those who signed the Treaty, to promote the Treaty’s commitment to partnership, to support
Māori rights to control all authority over their treasures, to ensure that Waitangi Day is meaningful to all citizens, to review any decision made in respect of the Treaty, to raise awareness and understanding of the Treaty, to be an advocate for the Treaty, and to promote the proper application of the Treaty in legislation.
The Treaty of Waitangi is this nation’s most revered and treasured document—indeed, our most important constitutional manuscript. Given the intensity of the debate that continues to rage around its validity, I would humbly suggest that a commissioner to protect and promote its interests is an idea whose time has well and truly arrived. Kia ora.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Happy New Year to you and to everyone else. Ka nui te mihi ki a
If we were to apply National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) standards to the education system, the results would be as follows—Mr Peachey will appreciate this—“Unit Standard 756/3: Has demonstrated an ongoing ability to address the under-achievement of Maori students. Grade: Not achieved—no evidence.” The 1960 Hunn report revealed the failure of the Department of Education to provide equal educational opportunity for
Māori. In 2006, the UN special rapporteur described the “underlying institutional and structural discrimination that
Māori have long suffered.”, recommending an urgent need for more resourcing in
Just for members’ benefit, “Unit Standard 978/2” reads: “Demonstrates an ability to provide robust analysis of Current Maori Educational Under-Achievement. Grade: Achieved with merit.” Last year the 2005 Education Review Office annual report identified some 20 percent of students currently not succeeding in our education system. It stated that 53 percent of
Māori boys leave school with no qualifications, compared to 20 percent of
Pākehā boys—awesome! School-leaver qualification figures show that only 9 percent of the
Māori boys who left school in 2005 had university entrance. Only 47 percent of
Māori school-leavers finished school with qualifications higher than NCEA level 1, compared to a massive 74 percent of European and 87 percent of Asian school-leavers. Such results are vividly demonstrated in recent league tables, in which New Zealand earned the second-highest level of relative educational inequality across the entire OECD. The scoreboard is profoundly affected by socio-economic status and ethnicity.
Here is another one: “Unit Standard 478/2: Demonstrates an ability to engage all students fully in the Education System. Grade: Not achieved with merit.” Today the Unicef report revealed that we are the lowest ranked out of 25 OECD countries for actually having kids in school between the ages of 15 and 19. The 2006 report on
truancy highlights that truancy rates have climbed since 2004. The truancy rate for
Māori is now double that of Asian and European rates. We are talking of a 15 percent absence rate for
Māori, compared to a 10 percent absence rate for Europeans.
Here is one more: “Unit Standard 945/2: Has shown willingness to be responsive to Maori demands for education by acting on negative statistics to address Maori under-achievement. Grade: Not achieved.” The quest to learn for
Māori children is being stifled by an arbitrary close-off policy designed to keep the cap on numbers of schools being established as kura kaupapa
Māori. The door has also slammed shut for
kōhanga reo. We are told that 20 hours of free early childhood education does not exist for
kōhanga reo because, despite the fact that the whakapakari training package has been approved as a recognised New Zealand Qualifications Authority qualification, that qualification is not recognised for the 20 hours’ free early childhood education policy.
Yet evaluations of
Māori-medium education prove that outcomes in community and
whānau engagement are optimistic. Achievement outcomes are also positive. In 2005
Māori students in year 11 who were attending schools in which the medium was
Māori had a higher rate of attaining NCEA qualifications than did
Māori in other schools.
As my colleague Tariana Turia referenced in her speech earlier, the strategy is one of containment—a long-term social experiment. Well, the guinea pig is not an indigenous species to this land, and we will no longer accept being subjects for someone else’s gain. If we are truly to be responsive, why, when the Education Amendment Bill came to this House, did the
Māori members of Labour not speak out about the changes that would impact on Te
ngā Kura Kaupapa
Māori? So what is the overall assessment? “Grade: Not achieved.”
There are strategies, and there are excellent exemplars and mentors, that can make a difference. The challenge for the Government is to step up to the mark. There is also a raft of pilot programmes that do not succeed. The
Māori Party believes that for our future to be bright we must develop and advance kaupapa
Māori education options. If the State is unable to react with answers that have long been discussed by
Māori educators and
whānau, then perhaps it is time for the State to admit defeat. But there is a willingness to ensure, and a vested interest in ensuring, that the outcomes are far better than what this report card could ever achieve. Kei roto
ingāringaringa o Te Ao
hiahia, te kaha, kia tae atu
ai Te Ao
ngā taumata o te
Whakahokia te mana ki Te Ao
[The desire and capability for
Māori to achieve in education is in
Maoridom’s hands. Give that autonomy back to
Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Minister of State)
rito o te harakeke, kei
Whakatairangitia, rere ki
uta, rere ki tai! Ka
kī mai koe ki
ahau, he aha te
mea nui o
kī atu ki a koe, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata, e! If one takes the heart out of the cabbage tree, where will the bellbird fly? It will look to the sea; it will look to the heavens. If one were to ask me what the greatest thing on this Earth is, I would say it is people, it is people, it is people.
I am heartened by the welcome from my colleague David Cunliffe to all the members who have come back from a good holiday. Is it not beautiful to enjoy the great outdoors of Aotearoa—to be able to go out diving and fishing, to come back with one’s quota of kina, and to lie on the beach? Certainly, those days are very memorable for myself. Friends like Ron Mark, with his lovely lady, Chris, also came up to enjoy lying on the beach. Is it not beautiful to be able to enjoy the New Zealand lifestyle and the way of life that New Zealanders know how to enjoy? For me it was a most enjoyable holiday.
It was as I was lying there in my bikini, enjoying the sun of the far north—
Shane Ardern: Didn’t you feel sorry for the other people on the beach?
Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I just say to my honourable friend that I wear a topless one. As I lay there enjoying the sun and getting a bit of a suntan, a chap passed me and threw a publication in my face. I said I did not want to read anything more about the agendas of Parliament, the Standing Orders, or what we will do in the select committee. I was there to relax and enjoy a New Zealand holiday. But he said to read it. So I just picked it up and looked at it.
The publication was interesting, because I read some quotes that went something like this: “All of the square buggers in the leadership have decided to put the brakes on everything because they have got some clever bloody strategy, I suppose, of which I’m buggered if I know because they certainly aren’t telling anybody. Quite frankly, it’s pissing me off. They are trying too hard, in my view, to prove that we can be as dull and lifeless and conservative and as boring as everybody else, and I think that’s the death knell for the
Now, who said that? I wonder who said that. Well, if I look here, I see that the quotes were made by the member for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira. That is what he said. I thought to myself while I was lying at
Matauri Bay beach in my bikini that the last thing I wanted to hear were quotes from Hone, yet somebody thrust them at me. The gloves are coming off. The quotes are in some magazine of Derek Fox’s. It quotes Hone saying it would be the death knell of the
Māori Party if it kept up those antics.
But I am standing here to make a contribution to the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement. I am interested in the underlying messages she portrayed to this Parliament about the need for strong leadership and for driven strategies for our economy, our society, our environment, our culture, and our New Zealand way of life. That inspires me—as a red-blooded Kiwi, that inspires me. I looked at a number of the statements that were made, and I want to relate to them.
We talk about economic transformation. When I came into this House in the late 1990s—in 1999—I used to drive through a lot of our rural towns, starting in
Kaitāia and going down through Moerewa, Kaikohe, Kawakawa, and Whangarei. I noticed at that time that all the windows of the shops were boarded up. There was very little activity. People were depressed and suppressed. On television every night we heard that farms were being sold in fire sales, and that the unemployment rate for
Māori was nearly 21 percent. We cannot imagine it now. I think the rate of general unemployment was something like 11 percent.
Well, let us look at today. I invite members of this House to drive around the far north, starting in Hone
Harawira’s patch up in
Kaitāia, and to see how well people are doing.
Nau mai, haere mai!
Hon DOVER SAMUELS: Haere mai! There is the invitation. Haere mai,
[Welcome, climb up, come aboard!]
I remember the old vintage car rally up there. Some of our colleagues were amazed at the economic transformation, which was real to the people. It was not just something out of a dictionary. It was not an argument or a debate by intellectual economists. They saw with their eyes that they could not even rent a shop or an office space in any of those towns. Members should come to Moerewa. People used to bypass Moerewa. I know that Mr Deputy Speaker knows Moerewa very well, and Kawakawa. If members come there now they will see people out on the footpaths having coffee. One can see the uplifted spirits of ordinary New Zealanders.
To me that is what it is all about. These are the tangible things that have been achieved by this Government, and the majority of New Zealanders relate to it. New
Zealanders do not relate to a lot of the humbug that goes on in this House on many occasions, but they relate to the ordinary things that people enjoy out on the street.
The next thing I want to talk about in this House is the issue of leadership. This has been a wonderful debate about leadership. The Tories—the Nats—have been flying the flag in terms of their new leader. But I sometimes wonder whether I am suffering from some sort of amnesia or Parkinson’s disease, and I will tell members why. It is because 6 months ago in this House they were praising and clapping Don Brash. He was the messiah of the Tories, of the National Party, of the conservatives. How did he become their messiah? The day of the resurrection was at
Ōrewa when he walked over the backs of the
Māori nation—when he said to the
Māori nation: “We will abolish the
Māori seats if we become the Government.”
At that time I never saw one Tory get up and disagree with Don Brash—not one; not even the MP from “Ngāti Helensville”. He never said a word. It was witnessed by this House and this nation that every National member thought that Don Brash was the messiah. What has happened? That was only 6 months ago—happy New Year, merry Christmas—what happened? The National members say “Hallelujah”. They stabbed poor old Don in the back for saying things that they really agreed with him about in terms of the
Māori seats—separatism, different laws for
Māori, blah-blah-blah, it goes on.
But National members have a new leader. They have changed the colour, changed the stance, and changed the words. He began to like the
Māori people, to the extent that he accepted the invitation by Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples for a poisoned
kūmara dinner. Look at the change and at what has happened within a period of 6 months! Even my whanaunga Hone does not believe it. I think he is the only one in the
Māori Party who does not believe it.
Ron Mark: The gloves are off.
Hon DOVER SAMUELS: I do not know about the bloody gloves, but I have something here that my whanaunga Shane has just passed on to me about my
whānau. It states that my
whānau in the north know that the
Māori Party leadership cannot be trusted. It is
pōkeno, devoid of substance, like an empty calabash—hollow. Who knows, maybe the hollow men have taught them.
Dr Sharples and Tariana Turia prostrate themselves,
tāpapa [stooping], or is it
kūpapa , at the feet of John Key. They sing a waiata—“Pearly shells by the ocean”—about the foreshore and seabed, hoping that their feeble seabed bill will be supported but
kāhore , there has been a change in position again. At one time “JK” supported the
Māori Party, or said that National would support the
Māori Party in terms of repealing the seabed Act. What happened? Merry Christmas, happy New Year, there was a different change, a different flop, and they were talking to the wrong person. I turned on the TV and National members were saying: “Oh, we are not going to support Hone Harawira with the foreshore and seabed bill. All those conservative
Pākehā who supported us at
Ōrewa would crucify us. Pai
kare, we have to change this around, let’s do another flip-flop!”.
Nā reira kei te mihi atu ki a
tātou katoa. I can see you waving your
pōkarekare [agitated] hands at me, Mr Deputy Speaker, so it is time for me to sit down.
tēnā koutou, happy New Year. Kia ora mai
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tamaki)
: I begin by thanking David Cunliffe for his words of welcome; I appreciated them. I also appreciated that the Minister would quote Ronald Reagan on leadership—well done!
Hon David Cunliffe: I think he quoted someone else’s quote!
ALLAN PEACHEY: Ha, ha! This is the first time in 7 months that I have risen to speak in the House. Through the efforts of outstanding medical attention and the love and support of my family, I am back, and very grateful to be back.
I ask how dare the Prime Minister stand in this House and issue this statement claiming that after 7 years of her Government this is a fairer nation than it was 7 years ago. They are 7 years that for too many New Zealanders have been marked by mean-spiritedness, by the strangulation of initiative, and by the abrogation of individual responsibility. How dare she enter this House and claim that in the last 7 years educational achievement has been up? How dare she say that in the opening paragraphs of her speech? Yet we had to wait eight long, boring, tired pages before she got to the real point and admitted that a significant minority of New Zealand children are failing in our schooling system.
Let me tell the Prime Minister about that minority—it is 30 percent of our children. Thirty percent of our children are failing to achieve the minimum literacy and numeracy standards in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Does the Prime Minister not remember that in 2005 the Education Review Office reported to this House that 20 percent of New Zealand children were not experiencing success at school?
It was interesting to question the chief executive of the Education Review Office in the select committee and ask for the evidential base for that number. It did not have one. It turned out that it was basing it on international statistics. Well, if the Education Review Office had taken the trouble to talk to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority it would have discovered that nearly 28 percent of children are not experiencing success at school. That is what the standards-based system of assessment enables us to do—to measure whether children are learning. When one adds those children who are allowed to fall through the system who do not even get to level 1 of the NCEA, one is talking about nearly one-third of our children.
The Education Review Office might have taken the time to talk to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority about Waverley High School. There has been no improvement in achievement for the children at Waverley High School. I have here the Education Review Office report of late 2005. This is what it states about NCEA achievement: “Those students who stayed on at school gained commendable results … compared with the national average for a decile 2 school.” In 2005 the Education Review Office said that about Waverley High School. When challenged, it said to read between the lines. Well, I have read between the lines, and it still says the same thing to me: “Those students who stayed on at school … gained commendable results compared with the national average for a decile 2 school.”
Now we find 12 months later that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has banned Waverley High School from assessing NCEA. We discovered that teachers had been handing answers to students, accepting incorrect answers, and giving credit for work that had been plagiarised. The Prime Minister should never come into this House again and claim that education achievement is up, when that is what is happening in our schools.
Shane Jones: That was an isolated example.
ALLAN PEACHEY: I suggest that some of the members opposite listen. They should just remember that from Northcote to Invercargill those members lost their seats. They lost their seats because they lost touch with the people of New Zealand. They should not forget that.
I ask the Prime Minister what is fair about a nation when too often the street that a child lives in decides whether he or she gets to go to a good school. It too often decides whether children get to learn. Sometimes it is even one side of the street or one end of
the street. And before members opposite mock that comment, let me just remind them what the head of the Education Review Office said to the select committee last year in response to questioning from myself in the presence of the Minister. The Education Review Office admitted that it does matter what school a child goes to. Some children will learn because they are in a good school that makes them learn. Other children have no chance of learning, because they go to a bad school.
I ask the Prime Minister how that makes New Zealand a fairer or more just nation. What is fair about life in those communities where up to 90 percent of the children actively avoid the local school? Where is the fairness in that? What is fair for families who are trapped in Government sponsored poverty, or to use the words of the man whom every New Zealander now recognises as the Prime Minister in waiting, John Key, families who are on this Government’s sponsored path to the underclass—sponsored by a Labour Government.
Let me tell the Labour Government that I see in my electorate of
Tamaki day after day the people whom Labour have traditionally looked to for support. They have had enough. The Government has taken them for a ride once too often. The Government has asked them to live in crime-infested streets for too long. They are sick and tired of sending their children to schools that the Government says they must send them to, regardless of whether they are schools that make them learn.
Why do some children live in families that are being denied the initiative, the opportunity for self-reliance, and the opportunity for self-responsibility by the State? Maybe it is time the socialist democrats over there took a hard look at themselves and asked whether that really was the vision of Michael Joseph Savage. Why are some families being denied simply by Government diktat the opportunity of sending—
Hon Damien O'Connor: It won’t help
ALLAN PEACHEY: Well, I tell that Minister that he should get the Department of Corrections in order before he starts telling me about education. What is fair about a Government that leaves New Zealand children trapped in crime-infested streets? What is fair about a society where too many children have to survive in such streets just to get to school each day? They have to join gangs and get the protection of a group, or fight with their fists, just to get to school each day. What is fair about a situation when they get to school and it is more important for the school to find an excuse for why they do not learn than to ensure that they do learn? What is fair about that?
What is fair about children who are trapped in a school about which the Education Review Office makes comments to the effect that the school’s NCEA achievement shows that in general
Māori students are performing below national means? Of another school it comments about “the ongoing defiant behaviour of many students in most junior classes”, and states: “the negative learning environments in many rooms prohibits effective teaching”. What is fair about that?
There is nothing fair about the Prime Minister’s statement that New Zealand is a fairer nation than it was 7 years ago. The only fair thing about it will be the judgment of history. The only thing that is fair is that history will record that what the Prime Minister has said in this statement has been nothing more than the great lies of the early
21th century. History teaches us that the great lie of political leaders must not go unchallenged. We on this side of the House will not allow the Prime Minister’s statement to stand unchallenged and uncontested.
JILL PETTIS (Labour)
: Thank you, Mr Deputy
Speake, and welcome to you at the beginning of this parliamentary year.
There have been a couple of comments made this afternoon about Waverley High School. Waverley High School is in an area which I have had the privilege of representing. Waverley High School has had problems for many years. A number of
rurally based primary and secondary schools have had issues that have been avoided for too long. Although difficult decisions have to be made about the long-term educational opportunities for young people who live in the smaller towns in provincial New Zealand, this Government is not afraid to make them. Difficult decisions will have to be made—and have been made since Labour has been in Government. Educational opportunities for children are the key factor in any decision that will be made. I am somewhat mortified by the sanctimonious crocodile tears from the National members this afternoon, given that they failed to do anything when they had the opportunity to do so.
At the beginning of the week we had the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament. This was a speech that was very forward-looking and was designed to set the agenda on issues of critical importance to New Zealand. The Prime Minister set out those plans and her speech let all New Zealand know what this Government wants to achieve for all New Zealanders—not just the minority.
In contrast to the Prime Minister’s positive, forward-looking, inclusive, and aspirational statements, Mr Key said very little about National’s plans when he gave his speech on Tuesday. In fact, Mr Key says very little about anything of substance, at all. When the hard questions are put to him by the media—and we have free and open media in New Zealand, which do ask inquiring questions—he very rarely has an answer. The question that was put to him, which is of a great deal of interest to me, was the one about his view on the 1981 Springbok Tour. The fact that he cannot remember what his view was in 1981 is absolutely remarkable when my children, who are much younger than Mr Key but were certainly at school when the 1981 tour was on, have a very clear memory of what their views were on that issue, even while they were at primary school.
Mr Key also does not have an answer for what National’s policy is on the critical issue of housing. He is assiduously avoiding responding to the question of what National is going to do about market rents. What is National going to do about its housing policy? Is it going to sell 11,000 more State houses—like it did when it was in power last time? Is it going to reimpose market rents? The National members have suddenly gone very quiet over on that side of the Chamber. In fact, National sold every single State house in the Wairarapa, which meant that there was no Government provision of State housing in the Wairarapa at all.
The other interesting thing about being in Parliament is that one gets to observe people very closely and not just hear them on the wireless. One gets to see the whites of their eyes, so to speak. One of the fascinating things about watching Mr Key over the last 2 days is that when he is sitting next to Mr English he is smiling with his mouth; he is controlling the muscles of his mouth but he is not smiling with his eyes. That is very, very revealing. Anybody can put on a forced smile with their mouth but the eyes have it. The eyes are the window into people’s souls. Mr Key knows that Mr English, who is sitting right beside him, is not his best friend. It reminds me of Mark
Antony and Caesar. Mr Key may be trying to avoid the hard questions now but he will not be able to avoid Mr English’s ambitions forever. We all know the film
The English Patient but we do not know the patient Mr English.
I also want to speak this afternoon about the critical issues that were referred to in the Prime Minister’s statement to the House. Those critical issues include climate change. We all know that John Key is a climate change denier. In fact, he avoids talking about this issue at every available opportunity. The world is talking about climate change; I tell him to go on to Google and have a look at what the leading newspapers of the world are saying. The world is talking about climate change but Mr Key is denying it.
One of the things that we also heard yesterday was the release of the Unicef report on child well-being in New Zealand. That report is made up of information that is not current but I still thought it was interesting to read. New Zealand has come a long way since the data the report was based on was compiled. It draws on 2001 data, and we have had a Labour Government for the last 7 years and considerable progress has been made, including rising incomes, increased employment, and fewer people who are now reliant on a benefit.
In fact, 115,000 fewer people are reliant on a benefit under a Labour Government. The Working for Families package saw $1.6 billion going to help low and middle income families. Market rents have been abolished by this Government, and income-related rents of $417 million a year provided, to help families. The Primary Health Care Strategy is reducing the cost of going to the doctor, and prescription charges are much, much lower under a Labour Government. Those people who are eligible to go to the doctor for reduced cost are now spread across a much wider age group.
Given the release of the Unicef report, I do not see how anybody cannot support the bill of Sue Bradford from the Green Party to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act. The Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill is a forward-looking bill, and she was very brave to introduce it. I commend her for it and I certainly support the work that she has done on it. The public mood and attitude towards the repeal of section 59 is changing quite considerably. A lot of the scare tactics that have been used by those who are opposed to it are now starting to lose any credibility. I want to give thanks to Sue Bradford for her bravery and her forward-thinking actions. I want to thank groups like
Barnados, EPOCH, the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Plunket, Save the Children New Zealand, Unicef, and other kindred organisations that have done a huge amount of work on this. This bill will not criminalise loving parents.
Hon Tau Henare: Yes, it will.
JILL PETTIS: It will not criminalise loving parents, at all, because the retention of section 59 actually provides children with less protection against assault than adults are provided with. If we really care about children then why are we saying they are entitled to fewer rights? I do not understand that. There is no logic to it at all. Supporting this bill will send a powerful anti-violence message to society and encourage social change. We have had significant social change brought about in this country by the introduction of legislation, and some of that legislation was very topical. I urge this House to support Sue Bradford’s bill.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I thank Jill Pettis for her words of support for our colleague’s very courageous legislation, which we sincerely hope this House will pass shortly.
The Greens welcome the commitment to sustainability and to reducing our carbon footprint that was made in the Prime Minister’s statement. We eagerly look forward to seeing those fine words and commitments being put into reality. We look forward to the Government abandoning literally dozens of policies that are manifestly unsustainable—for example, allowing millions of chickens to be fed antibiotics continuously when they are not sick, and allowing millions of hens and pigs to be kept in cages and sow crates, in transgression of the Animal Welfare Act—and finally making a commitment to truly sustainable agriculture and organics, for example, so that we have more than a pitiful 0.24 percent of our agriculture in organic production.
We welcome too the Prime Minister’s remarks about reinforcing and celebrating our national identity. But we want to ask why a Prime Minister committed to enhancing our national identity is trying to ram through legislation in this Parliament—the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill—that will undermine our sovereignty and national identity.
If this highly controversial and, indeed, sinister legislation goes through the House, New Zealanders will wake up in a number of years’ time and discover—I am sure to their horror—that we have transferred control of entire industries from this Parliament to an offshore, Australian-dominated organisation set up under Australian legislation, headquartered in Australia, and staffed primarily by Australians. They will wake up and discover to their horror that an unaccountable and unelected managing director—who I am sure will be Australian—has unprecedented and sweeping powers to make regulations that have the force of law in New Zealand but without ever having come to this House.
They will wake up and find to their horror that herbs and therapeutic products that have been used safely for centuries have become illegal. For example, 250 herbs that a local Chinese herbalist uses, and that the Food and Drug Administration has approved, are not permitted in Australia and will become illegal in a number of years if this bill goes through. New Zealanders will wake up and find a heavy-handed pharmaceutical regime being used on low-risk traditional herbal remedies. They will be horrified and will ask how this happened.
We have John Howard coming over here tomorrow to exert intense pressure on our colleagues in the National Party, including John Key, and to try to twist their arms—
Hon Tau Henare: It’s the Labour Party. Use your power.
SUE KEDGLEY: They have got the Labour Party sewn up; they are now putting pressure on members of the National Party. The Australians will issue veiled threats to National Party members and say that if they do not pass the legislation, they will throw their toys away and not allow any more trans-Tasman integration. I appeal to John Key to withstand the manipulations and pressure from the Australian Prime Minister and to listen to business and consumers, who are united in their opposition to this sinister legislation.
This legislation is a case study on how to undermine democracy, on how to remove decisions away from this Parliament, on how to make decision making ever more remote, and on how to make this Parliament ever more unaccountable to New Zealanders. If this legislation goes through, there will be nothing really that any MP in this House will be able to do if he or she objects to decisions that this offshore entity will make, because we will be told: “Sorry, we have signed a treaty. You’ll have to go off and appeal to someone in Australia or to the unelected and unaccountable managing director.” I plead with the National Party, the
Māori Party, and the New Zealand First Party to come to their senses, to support New Zealand sovereignty, and to oppose this bill.
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green)
: When I heard the Prime Minister’s speech, my first reaction was to think that nothing shows that Green ideas have come of age more than to hear them expressed repeatedly in the Prime Minister’s statement at the opening of Parliament. She was absolutely correct when she said that New Zealand’s future is dependent on long-term sustainable strategies, and that also we face increasing pressure on our trade and tourism from competitors who are all too ready to use against us the distance our goods must travel to market. She said that by lowering our carbon footprint we strengthen our position against that kind of protectionism. The obvious question is what are we doing to reduce our carbon footprint.
Jeanette Fitzsimons has already pointed out the stupidity of the Government’s road-building extravaganza. Why on earth would the Government, at the same time as it is saying that we must lower our carbon footprint, be so determined to build masses of new roads, especially when we consider that transport emissions are the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand and that a fraction of the road-building budget would have an enormous impact if it were spent on rail, shipping, buses, and other transport modes?
Of course, New Zealand’s single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is not transport; it is actually methane from farm animals. Is the Government any more committed to reducing agricultural emissions than it is transport emissions? Au contraire! The State-owned enterprise Landcorp Farming Ltd is currently in the process of clearing 25,000 hectares of carbon-fixing forest near Reporoa and turning it into pasture for dairying. It kind of negates the Prime Minister’s proud announcement of the investment to develop 30,000 hectares of permanent forest on
NgātiPorou land on the East Coast. It is kind of like the sequestration square dance: “Take your partner by the hand. One step forward, one step back. Plant some forest and clear more land.” It is just bizarre.
But let me move to a warmer note. I was very pleased to hear the Prime Minister acknowledge the real importance of waste minimisation in regard to the environment. Of course, it has particular implications for climate change because of the methane emissions from landfills. She said that the Government will work with the Green Party on refinements to my Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill, which is currently before the Local Government and Environment Committee. She said that the Government wants effective legislation for some form of waste levy to help fund better waste minimisation infrastructure, and I welcome that.
She also expressed support for that legislation to include provisions for a regulatory backstop for product stewardship. These were very important statements, and I welcome them wholeheartedly. In particular, product stewardship, or the related concepts of extended producer responsibility, is vital if we are to reduce our waste mountain in this country, because it means that business has to take responsibility for the waste generated over the life of their products—that is to say, businesses have to start internalising the cost of their waste rather than externalising those costs and forcing ratepayers and taxpayers to pick up the tab. This is what is happening to date in this country and is why we have no way of getting on top not just of recycling waste but of minimising the amount of waste being generated in the first place.
Particularly interesting around product stewardship is that what is actually a cost when it is externalised on to the ratepayer often becomes a source of significant saving in a business when extended producer responsibility is introduced, because waste, by its very nature, is an unnecessary cost. So I welcome the statement of support for the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill. I welcome the Government’s new-found commitment to sustainability, and I very much look forward to seeing them work with the Green Party in making that commitment real.
Just in the last few seconds before I finish, I want to say that I think it is important, in light of the discussions around sustainability, to reflect on the people who first raised these issues decades ago—people who suffered ridicule, harassment, discrimination, physical attack, and, in some countries, even murder, including by State agencies, simply for trying to wake people up to the realities our planet is facing today. So, lastly, I pay tribute to those brave and hardy souls who forged a path for us all. Kia ora.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Minister of State)
: Kia ora, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Ngā mihi o te
tauhōu ki a koe,
otirā, ki a
[Greetings of the new year to you and indeed to all of us.]
You know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I actually came into the House shortly after Dover Samuels had launched into his brilliant speech, and as I was thinking about what he was saying I became a bit envious. He talked about lying in the sun on the beach in the far north, soaking up the summer with his friend Ron Mark. It makes one think that this is a wonderful country. It really is, when two people from opposing parties, and opposing
political viewpoints, can actually spend some time together in rest and recreation in the north, just relaxing. Yes, I am quite envious. But it shows that we are certainly a developing and vibrant nation.
I also heard some comments made by the
Māori Party member Hone Harawira in terms of his observations around Waitangi Day. I have a lot of observations to share, too, and it is really about who we are as a nation. I did not attend the Waitangi Day celebrations; I very rarely do. The reason is that I attend my own in Tauranga Moana, where my people signed the Treaty of Waitangi. I do not go up north and trample over the mana of the
Ngāpuhi just to make my point. I do that from my strength back in Tauranga.
Hone Harawira talked about the flag-flyers, the protesters, and the Auckland Harbour Bridge. I have come to the view, after observing the Waitangi celebrations this year, that protesting is actually out of fashion. People do not really want to do it any more, because the protesters of old are now the entrepreneurs of
Māoridom. They do not march to Waitangi any more; they drive up in their BMWs, their limos, and their new cars. They still look pretty aggressive and pretty sharp, but they have done very well under this Government. “Ngāti Helensville” is well aware of that—he is actually one of them.
I will talk a little bit about how we celebrate Waitangi Day in Tauranga Moana. The Waitangi Day celebrations started on our mountain some time in about 1986. Those celebrations have continued ever since, year after year. They started with just a handful of us—10, I think, at the most—and over time we sent out invitations to the wider community to come and join us to celebrate. Over time the numbers have grown. But this year I observed a very unusual thing. A number of ethnic groups came to help us celebrate, to share in our celebration of being a nation, to get up in public to speak about who they are and where they come from, and to actually say thank you to the tangata whenua for the opportunity to come to this country in search of a better life—because that is what most of us are looking for.
I listened very carefully to the National Party member Allan Peachey’s speech. I welcome him back and I am glad to see him well. His speech was very similar to the tone of his new leader’s speech. Although the National Party is known for its splits and divisions, it is now known for being a party of discovery. National members have discovered that there are poor people in this country. It is unbelievable, but they have just discovered that there is underachievement in this country. They have just discovered that the health statistics in this country are not the best. Where have they been?
A lot of what we inherited as a Government in 1999 was because of the mean policies of that party when it was in Government in the 1990s. But now National members are in denial, as well. They do not know anything about poverty in the 1990s. The food bank is a good example. It was established in the 1990s during the time of a National Government.
Hon Tau Henare: They’re looking for a regional director, Mita Ririnui!
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Did I hear that interjection from the person who was, at that time, a member of the New Zealand First Party and the Minister of
Dave Hereora: He lost his discipline, though.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: He lost his way, as well—as well as his memory. He came back here, and now he is condemning the party that trained him in the art of being a Minister. Well, the things one sees in Parliament! I have a lot of time for that member, because, unfortunately, his wife happens to be a whanaunga of mine. Well, one cannot choose one’s
whānau; that is what they say back home.
I will touch on the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament earlier this week. It has shown, as has always been shown since 1999, that not only does this country have a strong Labour-led Government but also it has very, very strong leadership. It has leadership that is not frightened to tackle the hard issues. It is not afraid to tackle the challenges of dealing with the hard issues. The nuclear debate is a very good example of that, and our nuclear-free policy is still in place. The world admires this little country at the bottom of the Pacific Basin for its nuclear-free stand.
Our stand on the sustainable management of the environment is another courageous move. While most countries around the world are in denial, this country is facing up to the challenge and facing up to the threat. All we can hear from that side of the House is cynicism, because it is in denial. In fact, National members will discover, as our neighbouring leaders have discovered, that we do face a real threat to the environment as a result of greenhouse gases. But this Government has a very impressive record of achievement since 1999.
I heard in the House yesterday afternoon some statements from Chris Finlayson, who is now the National spokesperson on Treaty negotiations. I wondered to myself why the Hon Tau Henare or the Hon Georgina te Heuheu did not get the job. Anyway, Chris Finlayson got the job, and he spoke very eloquently in the House about the history and performance of the National Party when it came to Treaty negotiations. That performance was quite impressive. But I have to say that the National Party of old is gone—the Doug Grahams, the Jim
Bolgers, the Doug
Kidds. I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you are the last of them. The men with integrity have gone. The National Party of old has gone. I do not see any of them there, at all—I even had some admiration for Jenny Shipley. But when the party is full of divisions, what does one expect?
National members say the Government is slow when it comes to Treaty settlements, yet they have opposed every settlement we have brought not only to this House but also to the select committees. They have made no effort to contribute positively to the settlements; they have just opposed them. Why? Because they are opposed to the achievements of this Government.
I look forward to the challenges of the future. Twenty-four settlements are currently on the table. We settled three in 2006, and we have settled 17 over the last 7 years—that is an impressive record. The challenge for Tau Henare is whether he is able to take off his National Party hat—which was once a New Zealand First hat—and think about the
Māori people out there, the iwi,
whānau, that are anxious to have their settlements resolved and to get into a developmental mode. I wonder whether he can do that. Well, it will be an interesting sight to see.
In the area of health, huge gains have been made. We are a lot wiser and more intelligent now about
Māori health statistics. We know, through working with
Māori communities, where the needs are and how to address them. In other words, this Government is designing policy based on evidence, not on slogans. The achievements out there in the community are testament to all the good work that this Government is doing.
I heard Allan Peachey talk about the underclass kids. Well, he wants to think—[Interruption] Paula Bennett was tailgating John Key when he was running around South Auckland. It looked as if she was lost—Takapuna was in the opposite direction. Nevertheless, it is good that the National Party has discovered poor people, because closing the gaps and addressing inequalities affect the very people we have been talking about for the last 7 years and designing policies to assist.
PAULA BENNETT (National)
: It is a pleasure to rise today to speak to the House. Actually, today is a special day for me; it is my daughter’s birthday. It is a moment of
reflection at some level, and I was thinking that she is an adult, well and truly now, at 20-years-old. I was thinking about that and about how it has not all been smooth sailing—as it never is for a parent. There were those nights when I lay awake worried about her future and the occasions when I over-reacted and panicked as a parent in times of normal illnesses. Also, there were some of those teenage moments that test every bit of patience parents have. But I am incredibly proud of the woman my daughter is today.
That got me thinking about things, and I thought, you know, the Prime Minister just does not get it. She will be trying to follow in John Key’s footsteps today and convince some of the people in
Ōwairaka that she does understand, but she does not and she simply cannot. She used to at least try to. She did not always get it, but she at least tried to get it. In the old days we saw her at least making a bit of an effort to try to get it. Now she is tired, and her Government is tired. Her statement of intent just proved the Government is tired. There are no new ideas, and the only thing Government members know how to do is to stand up and attack, and to attack John Key. “Criticise John Key” seems to have been the key message over the last few days. I can understand why the Government is worried about him. I have stood next to this man in the last few weeks as we have visited places like Barnardos,
McGehan Close, and west and South Auckland—and he gets it; and it is not false, it is not forced, and it ain’t rhetoric.
Today was another example of a Government in pieces and a Government that does not get it. Its members know they simply cannot deliver on their promises. Let us talk about the fact that there will not be 20 free hours of early childhood education for thousands of 3 and 4-year-olds, and the Minister knew it before he announced the policy. Where do we start on this one? Through the Official Information Act we have Ministry of Education papers proving that the Minister knew that even if everything went perfectly with the Government’s promise of 20 free hours, and even if all early childhood centres were bought in, there would still not be enough places for the 92,000 eligible children.
Colin King: Simple!
PAULA BENNETT: It is simple.
Colin King: It was a hoax.
PAULA BENNETT: It was a hoax. Even if everything went according to plan there would not be enough places. So the Minister cannot offer 20 free hours for all 3 and 4-year-olds on 1 July as promised; he simply does not have enough places.
Then, we get to the interesting stuff. The ministry’s forecast predicted that centres covering 47 percent of the country had little or no capacity. So as the Minister went out on a promise—a promise of 20 free hours to all 3 and 4-year-olds—he knew that his own ministry’s forecasts, his own papers, were saying the ministry would be unable to deliver. Its own documents predicted that 14 percent of centres in New Zealand would not offer 20 free hours. That is what the ministry predicted.
But it gets worse, and now we are starting to deal with the realities. The Early Childhood Council’s survey has found that few centres intend to offer the 20 free hours. They are worried about the quality of the service they will deliver if they are to accept this low offer that they simply cannot deliver on. Thirty-one percent of centres said they definitely would not be offering the service. The Minister stood in the House today and said that there would be 20 free hours for all 3 and 4-year-olds. Yet again he is perpetuating a myth and imposing a cruel hoax on those parents who are relying on those free hours and needing them. Forty-six percent of early childhood centres are still undecided, and only 22 percent answered yes to the question of whether they will be offering free early childhood education in their centres. This one really got me. A centre in
Whakatāne was quoted in the paper the other day as asking which centres in their
right mind would say yes to a scheme, when they have to take money out of their own pockets just to make it run.
John Key was right to raise South Auckland as an area of particular concern. Fewer than a quarter of the early childhood centres in Manukau City said they would take up 20 free hours, whereas three-quarters of them have not said they would. This is an area that we can look at and perhaps think that this is where the most need is for those 3 and 4-year-olds. Without a doubt there are more families struggling there than there are in many other places in the country. This is the place that will not be able to offer this service and deliver on a very ill-thought-out promise. The people are struggling. But then, perhaps the Prime Minister has not visited there lately. She might be a bit worried about bumping into Taito Phillip Field. She does not want to come across that sort of problem.
I want to talk a little now about why those centres are not taking up this offer, because it would be a great one for the Minister and the Government to run that they are not taking it up because of money in their own pocket, and everything else. But all we hear from the people in those centres is that they cannot maintain the quality of service with the amount that the Government is offering. For them it is about the quality they can deliver to those 3 and 4-year-olds. They are saying that the rates will not even cover costs, let alone allow for an upgrade in equipment, a pay rise for staff, or anything else. It will not even cover costs, and, as such, quality has to decline.
Then there is the administration of the system—but they turn round and say it will be a nightmare, with the huge costs associated in just administering it and making sure they can deliver it in that way. It is quite interesting to read about it in the papers as well, because the ministry and the Minister have no idea how they will monitor the $140 million they are putting into the scheme. The ministry went to the Minister and said: “We’ve looked at all of this and we’ve absolutely no idea how we can monitor where that $140 million is going, how it is going to be spent, and what we can do.” What did the Minister say? The Minister must have said: “Let’s wing it and hope that nothing much happens and no one notices, because at the end of the day we’ve made it up this far. We’ve made it up as we’ve gone along, and this is a great promise to put out there. We knew it would get us a few votes. We don’t actually need to deliver too well on it. It’s free, and free sounds good, so that will get us some votes, if we can even do it.” The Minister has said he knew we could not do it. Then there was the question of how the $140 million going into the sector could be monitored. With the centres saying: “Well, we’re really worried about the quality.”, he says: “Nah, don’t worry about it. Make it up as you go along, and we’ll just wing it.” Parents will say no to winging it. They deserve better, and their children deserve better. So there are no monitors, no measures, and the Minister does not seem to be taking any responsibility.
Then there is the doozy—the one that Mr Key raised today—the optional charges, the volunteer payments. The Minister is desperate to simplify this issue, but it is not about a zoo visit. Some of it is not about whether the children go for a visit to the zoo, and whether the centres can do more. It is about actually delivering on the quality they currently have. Centres are saying they cannot deliver on the rate that is being offered and that they would need some sort of top-up payment from parents to make it work. The centres are saying: “However, there’s not enough security of income to be relying on a volunteer payment, so as such we will not be taking up the scheme, or we will be cutting our services.”
One centre rang the other day, and the woman I spoke to was just so distressed. She had been working in the industry for so long. She said: “I have worked it out that I would need to let three teachers go. If I am to accept this offer, I am going to have to let three teachers go and I am concerned about the effect that that will have on the quality
of service that I offer to 3 and 4-year-olds and under.” If they cannot do volunteer payments and they will not take up optional charges, what else might the centres do? The Minister suggested that they charge 1 and 2-year-olds more. They could make up for what they were not getting for the 3 and 4-year-olds by charging the 1 and 2-year-olds more. So one mum turns up in her car and puts her 1-year-old on her hip to walk around to the centre and another one turns up with a 3-year-old. They look at each other and that mother with the 1-year-old knows she is subsidising the one with the 3-year-old, just so that the Minister can try to cover the shortfall. There is no doubt about it and there are papers available under the Official Information Act stating that the Minister did that. It is all about quality, so accepting the offer is just not going to happen.
To recap quickly, we have volunteer payments that are not going to happen, high compliance costs, a drop in quality of care, and a Minister who cannot deliver on a promise.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call in support of the Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week. I want to do two things. First of all, I pay tribute to my former colleague Helen Duncan who passed away last week. Helen was certainly an inspiration to me, as she was to many members in this House, and I record my extreme sadness at what was really an untimely passing. Second of all, I wish all members in this House a happy National Lamb Day.
Today marks the 125th anniversary of one of the most significant milestones in the history of New Zealand’s meat industry. It acknowledges the agricultural pioneers William Davidson and Thomas
Brydone who, 125 years ago, were responsible for the arrival of 5,000 refrigerated sheep carcasses in London on 15 February 1882 in excellent condition, 98 days after leaving New Zealand. We should all reflect on just what they have done for the economy of this country. The Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, appropriately described them as unsung Kiwi heroes. I think we all agree that they should get the recognition for what they have done for this country. What they did has meant that New Zealand could move its product into Europe. It is hard to quantify how much we as a country in 2007 owe to this innovation of the 1800s. It is amazing, when we consider it.
The sheep and beef industry contributes $5 billion a year to this economy and today’s anniversary is a timely reminder of how New Zealand has always been at the forefront of change and innovation in the primary sectors. The fact that we are distant from our markets has always been used against us, but we have always been smart enough to see the writing on the wall and to adapt ourselves accordingly. That is why the Prime Minister’s address was so crucial. Even if people do not care about climate change and saving the planet, and even if they do not care that generations down the track may not be able to farm in this part of the world—if they do not care about all that and they do not believe in climate change—they probably do believe in the fact that we will suffer the consequences of being locked out of these crucial overseas markets if we do nothing. We can see that this is already happening, with big chains in the UK announcing that they are going to list carbon miles. This challenge is already upon us, so even if people do not care about the actual issue, maybe they can recognise that we need to move ahead and take this seriously.
Was not the reaction of National MPs during the Prime Minister’s speech interesting when climate change and sustainability issues were raised? They were completely dismissive; it was a joke. They laughed, because at the end of the day I suspect that a lot of National MPs are not really committed to this issue except that it is becoming one of public concern. It is becoming a hallmark of this English-Key leadership that they are telling people what they think people want to hear. In 2005 Mr Key said he thought climate change was a hoax and was suspicious that global warming even existed. Now
he is saying that he has always believed in it and wanted to do something about it. We are going to get used to this because Mr Key is modelling himself, quite shamelessly, on David Cameron. David Cameron, the UK Conservative leader, has come out on climate change. He even rode a bicycle to work but his ministerial car followed behind him.
The other person that Mr Key appears to be modelling himself on is Mr Mark Latham from the Australian Labor Party. If members do a check on Mr Key’s famous speech at Burnside, they will find that a lot of it was taken exactly from Mr Latham’s speech to the Australian Labor Party conference. So every time Mr Key stands up and says anything we have to ask who said it first and whose idea it was previously.
- The House adjourned at 6 p.m.