JUDY TURNER (United Future)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. When family life seriously disintegrates, to the point where children need to be relocated for reasons of safety, there is always a huge sigh of relief when a caring relative is found who is willing to offer his or her home and resources to care for the children.
Mrs S is one such relative. At 54 she was at the peak of her career, earning in excess of $60,000 and travelling the length and breadth of New Zealand to train clients. Her children had all finally left home. She had recently remarried, and she and her husband were making great gains in their savings towards what they planned to be their golden years of retirement. What Mrs S and her husband had not counted on was that her daughter would become a desperate drug addict who would have an unplanned baby, and who would leave the newborn baby girl in the care of her mother and disappear within days of the little girl’s birth. At first Mrs S reasoned that this situation would be a short-term problem, that her daughter would use the time out to get her act together, and would return to take up her parental responsibilities. Five years later it became evident that this was not to be the case.
Relatives like Mrs S, most of whom are grandparents, are some of the unsung heroes of our nation. Today, I would like to use the few minutes that I am allocated to make the
House aware of the plight of many of those caregivers, in the hope that I can begin to make a case for more substantial Government support for those people, who are numbered in their thousands.
Mrs S considers herself lucky, compared with the many others that she is now in contact with through the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Charitable Trust. Having raised her granddaughter from birth, she does not have the struggle that many grandparents have when they receive severely traumatised older children into their care. She has not had to contend with her daughter, or her daughter’s partner, threatening her with violence in order to stop her from applying for income assistance—which would alert the department to their false application for the domestic purposes benefit. She has not had to remortgage her home to cover costs, although there is nothing left of the retirement fund.
The personal cost to those grandparents is immense. Grandparents caring for their grandchildren find it difficult to sustain their own social connectedness. They are included less and less in the activities of their old friends, as it is difficult to participate in them with children in tow. They are often too old to fit in with their grandchildren’s friends’ parents. Other grandchildren in the family miss out on their share of their grandparents’ time and energy. There is an unavoidable inequity in the treatment of other grandchildren, and that can breed family tension.
Grandparents who are raising grandchildren live with a constant range of fears. Mrs S articulated those very clearly. She worries about the likelihood of the police turning up to tell her that her daughter has died of an overdose. She is worried that her daughter, who is still a serious addict, will one day drop off her subsequent children and walk away. She worries about her own health and what will happen if she cannot live long enough to complete the task of raising this child. Other grandparents fear the regular and erratic comings and goings and demands of the unfit parents of their grandchildren. Approximately 70 percent of those on the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Charitable Trust database—and that is by no means exhaustive in its content—have experienced expensive court cases, ranging in price from $8,000 to $15,000, in fighting their own children for the ongoing custody and safety of their grandchildren.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ)
: I want to review the illustrious recent career of a major non-producer on the Government benches, the “Minister of Justice Announcements” the Hon Mr Goff, who announces and then reannounces and reannounces programmes, instead of dealing with issues. We heard today about a pilot legal aid programme. That programme is an absolute trifle compared with the eligibility for legal aid review and report that we were supposed to have had 2 years ago. If we had had that report, we might not have some of the unfairness that we have at the moment to middle-income earners, some of the rorts in the Resource Management Act, and some of the scandals like the $1.3 million spent on the Tukuafus. We might, if this Minister was not a non-producer, have had the official victimisation survey that was due on 29 March last year, and we might have had a little earlier than 2 weeks ago the bill for the Independent Police Complaints Authority. The only thing that bill does is to put “Independent” in front of the name of the authority; it does nothing else that a little increase in budget would not have done.
How can we take Mr Goff’s vein-throbbing anger and his trembling passion as anything more than manufactured feeling? It is just a political performance, given that he dithers or does nothing to live up to his title—Minister of Justice—in one of the few areas where he cannot blame others for the miscarriage of justice. Mr Goff is the gatekeeper for the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. That prerogative, of course, protects one of our most precious heritages: the concept of innocence until proven guilty, and the concern that says it is better that 10 guilty people go free than one
innocent person be convicted.
There is a worrying conviction growing in this community that something sinister is happening in our justice system. There is a fear that we are getting more miscarriages of justice than one can just attribute to the random accidents that any justice system must have, because resources are not infinite. There is reliance on secret witnesses, uncorroborated evidence, and astonishing confessions to paid cellmates. Those are all signs of a political pressure for results, a sort of panic perhaps, or perhaps an understandable reaction to frustration on the part of the police that the courts and corrections department are losing criminals faster than they can put them in prison. It may be that there is a fear that the police’s frustration is sending us down that dark path of mysterious beatings of people in cells, or of the sort of cynicism and corruption known in Australia.
Why do the high-profile cases now almost automatically attract offender support groups? David Bain’s case is just the most recent example of that, but we have had many others since we lost our innocence over Arthur Allan Thomas. Members will remember the Donnellys, Peter Ellis in the Christchurch crèche case, and a number of rape cases—they go on. In all of that Mr Goff is our present fail-safe back-up. But he is sitting on his hands. In the middle of last year he announced that his favourite justice official, Professor Warren Young, would produce a report on how to review such cases. That report was due before the end of last year, and it is still not available. There is no sign of it. Perhaps it is available, but just not to the public. Perhaps it is undergoing the same process as the youth justice report, from which Professor Young is cutting out the bits that the Minister does not want to hear. Perhaps it is undergoing a reworking of the data, like the official victimisation survey due nearly a year ago.
I draw the attention of the House to two cases that could be our equivalent of those terrible British cases concerning the Guilford and Bradford defendants, where public confidence in justice took such a terrible hit. In one case Mr Peter Hartley has satisfied me that there is a strongly arguable case that three men have spent the best part of a decade in prison, on the basis of false complaints from a woman who has since been convicted for attempting to have two more men falsely charged on similar fantasy evidence. Mr Hartley had to bring the prosecution of the woman privately, because the police refused to do it. Eventually, the Crown solicitor took over the case and secured two convictions. That is a startling success. It is certainly startling that the Minister urged me to ignore that case on the basis that the man was just a scumbag. If those three men are the victims of similar perjury, Mr Goff’s indifference for a year will have exposed the Crown to huge sums of avoidable compensation.
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs)
: That was the most disappointing speech I have ever heard from the ACT party. It had no passion, no substance, and no anything. I can explain why that is to members. It is because the ACT party is sinking into a pit of slime, sleaze, and controversy. The ACT party needs to front up to this Parliament and to say why its members are not prepared to do a full day’s work. The ACT party needs to front up to this Parliament and tell it why it is drawing nine salaries and nine sets of expenses, but is not casting nine votes at all.
I have examined the record from the Clerk, and I shall go through the voting record of the ACT party. On the Taxation (Annual Rates, Maori Organisations, Taxpayer Compliance and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill ACT cast five votes. That means that the ACT party had only three MPs in this House, and was drawing salaries for nine. Again, the record shows five votes, and on some occasions—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There are two matters that need to be considered. The first is that it is inappropriate for any member of Parliament to refer to the absence of members of Parliament at any point, and that
member should desist from doing so. The second is that he has alluded to matters that have been subject to an investigation from the Parliamentary Service Commission and that were part of a press release or of press conference information given by the Speaker this morning, and they are ongoing matters in that investigation. It would be unwise to allow the member to continue with the nonsense that he currently wishes to perpetrate.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I refer to the first part of that point of order. Of course members are allowed to refer to the voting records of the House. It has been a tradition in New Zealand for many, many years that members have indicated situations where parties have been lazy and have not had their full complement of votes cast, and issues like that. The other point the member was attempting to make was that we should somehow pretend that matters are not under investigation, and that is not the case.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I just make the point to everyone that there will be silence during points of order. Members cannot speak about the absence of a member from the Chamber, but they can speak about the voting records, as the member has said. Mr Brownlee’s second point was a debating matter.
Hon RICK BARKER: It seems that all through the taxation bill the ACT party was casting five votes, which meant that it had only three members in the precincts of Parliament. When we get to the Racing Bill, we find the ACT party was a bit more excited about it.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. The member cannot say that. He referred to the absence of members from the House.
David Benson-Pope: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. As you so correctly ruled, the voting order is a matter of public record. Clearly, when there is a vote in the House the whips are not entitled to vote beyond their entitlement. So mentioning the actual vote and the consequences of that—to wit, the membership in the House—when no individual was named must be in order.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I shall give members another warning that they should be silent while points of order are being made. I wish to rule on this matter. When the member called the number voting for ACT, that did not necessarily mean that anybody was absent from the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. While the comment you have just made is technically correct, it is not out of order for members to indicate the effect of the Standing Orders, which is that when a party casts five votes, there may be as few as three people here in the House. For members to say that is not out of order.
John Carter: There has been a long convention that the absence of members from the House is not referred to. If we get to the stage where members are using all sorts of convenient or devious ways in which to do so, then I am afraid that the convention will go out the door. I suggest to the House that it may well be better to move on and not to refer to the absence of members, because it is something we have not done in the past and it would be useful for us to continue to not do so in the future.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: It may be all right, but what Mr Barker actually said was that members had been absent from the House. I ask Mr Barker to keep to the spirit of not referring to members being absent.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could it be that Mr Barker has now had 5 minutes and his time has expired?
Hon RICK BARKER: I want to carry on with the voting record of the ACT party, and to say that the ACT party cast only five votes on the taxation bill. When it got to the Racing Bill the ACT party pulled up its pacers—it was obviously more excited about the Racing Bill—and cast six votes. On the Television New Zealand Bill the ACT party started by casting seven votes. In the 79 votes taken since the start of this session, the ACT party has not once cast nine votes. It has cast five votes seven times, has cast six
votes eight times, has cast seven votes 38 times, and has cast eight votes 26 times. The ACT party is drawing expenses for nine MPs, but has not cast nine votes. The ACT party should explain to the public why it is voting down below nine and still drawing the full amount for nine MPs. If one was in business and was being given payment for nine things, but only delivered eight, that would be deemed to be fraud.
The political right in this Parliament is in terrible disarray. Not only does ACT have all sorts of internal problems surrounding it but it is the only party on the right that has a clear line on what we should do in Iraq. The ACT party asked this Parliament to vote on Iraq and even though, unusually, it got Parliament to vote on that, ACT only cast eight votes. In comparison, the National Party has now had three positions on Iraq within the matter of a week. Last week the National Party said that there should be a UN resolution. This week the National Party said that that does not matter now, and we should simply support the US. But when pressured about whether that meant New Zealand should commit troops, the National Party would not answer. The National Party goes any way that it thinks the wind is blowing, or is to its convenience.
That means the ACT party should be in a great position to fill the vacuum left by the National Party on the right of New Zealand’s political spectrum. But the ACT party is in no position to do that. Why would anybody vote for the ACT party if it cannot deliver in this House the number of votes it is given? Why would anybody give the ACT party its vote if he or she knew it would not deliver nine votes? If people decided to give the ACT party a greater mandate, they could never have any confidence that it would ever cast its full log of votes.
I think it is a disgrace that in terms of the 79 votes taken in this Chamber since this House has reconvened, the ACT party has not once cast its full list of nine votes. The ACT party continues to take approximately $110,000 per MP for all nine of them, and does not cast nine votes. I want the ACT party to explain to the public what it is doing bludging on the taxpayer. I want to hear ACT members get up and say why they are taking all those expenses, and all the support that goes with that, but not delivering their nine votes in the House. All the voters in New Zealand—all two million-plus taxpayers—know that when they vote for a person or a party to represent them in this House, they expect that person or party to be in this Parliament casting votes on their behalf. The ACT party has taken 145,000 votes and is only using approximately 120,000 of them in this House today. It is taking the full expenses—$110,000—for nine MPs and is only delivering the work of sometimes seven, sometimes six, and sometimes five MPs.
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam)
: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The speaker who has just resumed his seat has expressed a degree of outrage about the lack of work, apparently, by some MPs. As a $160,000 MP he has spoken only once in the House this year. I seek leave for an extension of time for him.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is not a matter for a point of order.
GERRY BROWNLEE: I sought leave for there to be an extension of time granted to that very expensive Minister, who has contributed very little to the House in the last 4 years.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: As the member knows, he cannot seek leave for that on behalf of someone else.
KATHERINE RICH (NZ National)
: What a shambles of a speech that was—just like the shambles that the present welfare system is in. Labour had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the welfare system—to change things when the economy was doing well—and it blew it. I am not the only person to say that. John Tamihere agrees with me. He said: “The time to change the welfare system is when things are going well.” Labour has blown it. Where have all the hīkois gone? Members
may remember that back in 1998 members of this House hīkoi-ed up and down the country. They were outraged by poverty. They were outraged by disadvantage in this country. Now the silence is absolutely deafening. Where have all the hīkois gone?
This week the Child Poverty Action Group released a report. It said that under this Government child poverty has gone up. Steve Maharey travelled the country, talking with absolute outrage about the use of food banks. What has happened to food bank usage? Under his watch it has gone up, and now he is totally silent. Radio New Zealand asked the Minister to front up to talk about the Child Poverty Action Group report, and he would not do it—he would not front up. It is a group that Steve Maharey personally snuggled up to during his years in Opposition, but now, when he is the Minister, he will simply not address the issues.
But let us look at some of the members who are addressing this issue. I want to bring up some of the comments of John Tamihere, an excellent member, who has been bold enough to make some points about welfare; to challenge the Government and say that its old-left and statist views of welfare will simply not work. I ask members of the House who has more credibility on welfare: somebody who has been a bit of an academic within a university situation, or someone who has worked at the coalface, at the front line, of welfare delivery? I can tell members who the general public would listen to.
Tariana Turia has made some comments about welfare, as well. As a result of the Child Poverty Action Group report she had this to say: “The statistics of child poverty are shocking, and the prospects look even worse.” Well, I say to Tariana Turia that I agree with her. Under this Government things will not get any better, as the Government has relaxed rather than improved the welfare system. This Government has had the best economic conditions in a generation, and still Treasury is predicting 30,000 more beneficiaries by 2007. This Government has had the best conditions in a generation, and still the numbers on the invalids benefit are increasing at such a dramatic rate that even the Ministry of Social Development does not know why that is the case.
Let us look at the progress, or lack of it, that has been made at the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. The Mick Brown report was announced with much fanfare. That report made some quite clear recommendations about what needs to be done within the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. Today we find out that there is a secret-squirrel evaluation going on that even members of the Social Services Committee are not aware of—another review. It will not do much. The time for reviews, committees, and discussions is over. People are expecting that unallocated case list to be reduced to zero. That was one of the points that the select committee made. Why has that Minister made no progress in terms of implementing the Mick Brown report?
Hon Trevor Mallard: This member used to have potential!
KATHERINE RICH: That Minister has had 2 years, and only 15 of those recommendations are even close to being completed. The last figure I saw showed that 1,400 children were waiting for this Government to give them a social worker. Who knows: there could be a Delcelia Witika or another Olympia Jetson waiting in that line. While we are on the subject of Olympia Jetson, where is the Government’s review? Where is the review of that disastrous case? It is supposed to have been released by now, but we have not heard about it. This is a lazy Government. All it has done is relax the welfare State. I predict that the numbers will go up. Explain to me why the numbers on the invalids benefit are predicted to skyrocket. Why is the cost of the invalids benefit going to double on your watch? It will double from $600 million to $1.2 billion by 2007. Well, I ask you. Nobody, even within the Ministry of Social Development, has
been able to explain that.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member is not to bring the Speaker into the debate.
KATHERINE RICH: This is just predictable. Labour talked the talk, it snuggled up to the social sector groups, but I tell members that Labour is certainly not delivering, and things are about to change.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation)
: After listening to that member I again thank the good fortune of this Government to have such an Opposition. I tell this House that I support Bill English. I think he is a great leader of the National Party—
Simon Power: What’s this member doing about dogs?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Unlike Mr Power, Mr Brownlee, and perhaps Mr Smith, who sit opposite me in the House today, I think the Leader of the Opposition is doing a great job—as, of course, is his front bench. I would like to share with members why I think Mr English is doing a fantastic job. I love his inconsistency.
I love his diversity and wide-ranging views on issues. Let us take Iraq. It is an issue that is No. 1 in the House at the moment, for obvious reasons. What is Mr English’s view on Iraq? Last week he and the National Party supported a UN resolution to take action. Yes, that was last week. But yesterday it had all changed and he was for unilateral action. What about troops? Yesterday, New Zealand troops should go to Iraq, according to Mr English. What did he say on
Morning Report this morning? He said that he was not sure whether they should go. Is that not great?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Flip-flop.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is a case of “Mr Flip-Flop”. He makes politics so interesting. It reminds me of his fascinating observations about Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom. We might remember that just before Christmas Mr English, the leader of the National Party, a party that had supported Operation Enduring Freedom, called for the withdrawal of New Zealand troops participating in that action—one that the Government strongly supported—but, of course, within 24 hours he flip-flopped again. He was again in favour of Operation Enduring Freedom.
What about the Treaty of Waitangi? Recently I attended the gathering at Waitangi, as some members of this House might remember. Although my singing ability might not have been wonderful, at least I was consistent while I was there. I called for people to work together to build a better future. What about Mr English? He told us in the
New Zealand Herald
on the morning of Waitangi Day that he would go there to give a serve at Te Tii Marae. He would tell off those people for not letting non-Māori media on to the marae. I sat there, along with my colleague Darren Hughes, the Hon Margaret Wilson, and a few other MPs, and we waited with a little bit of trepidation, because there were some pretty radical people sitting on that marae. We all waited, and Mr English got to his feet, gave a very creditable mihi, thanked the people for their welcome, and praised the Treaty of Waitangi—but he did not mention anything about journalists not being allowed on to the marae. He also did not talk about the treaty creating two types of citizenship, or some of the other issues that we have heard from him in this House.
I enjoyed reading later that day the opinion piece that Mr Gerry Brownlee had written on the treaty. At least Mr Brownlee had some consistency and some logic to his argument. It was not one that I agreed with, but at least it was consistent. I think Mr Brownlee has stuck to those points, unlike his leader, of course, who seemed to be absolutely mesmerised by the welcome he had received at Te Tii Marae. He was very charming and welcoming to the people, and I am sure he left a very favourable impression with the Harawira family—not one, of course, that he had led the people of New Zealand, the public who read the
New Zealand Herald, to expect. It was pathetic!
I was reminded, too, that Mr English had said before Christmas that he would lead a crusade against the Local Government Bill. I, as the Minister of Local Government, had the privilege of seeing that bill through this House—[Interruption] The crusade? Well, I am afraid the crusade was rather a fizzer. It was something that had never been mentioned once during the election campaign mid-year. Once again, it was a case of Mr English talking tough but doing nothing. I am pleased to say that the Local Government Bill passed before Christmas, just as the Government had said it would.
My colleague Mr Barker spoke earlier about the sleaze in which the ACT party is being mired. ACT has a real opportunity, because the National Party has been pathetic—hopeless. That has been well recorded in the media by journalists whom one would not normally think sympathetic to the Government, but all and sundry in this country have been saying how pathetic the National Party is. Who could argue with them? ACT has an opportunity, but it is mired in sleaze, as Mr Barker has pointed out. We have had the charming ACT party congress that occurred last weekend. I sort of thought of it as the ninth party congress, a rather Stalinist event, where Mr Rufus Dawe, an old veteran of World War 11, got up and tried to challenge the party line on involvement in the war in Iraq. He was howled down, called a pig, insulted, and so on. I thought it was very reminiscent of actions in the Auckland Central electorate when Mr Prebble was its MP.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green)
: I would like to talk about a subject that may not be of great interest to members in this House, but I can assure them it is of deep interest to the consumers of New Zealand—that is, country-of-origin labelling, or, rather, the lack of it, in New Zealand.
Even though New Zealand is a food-producing nation, we import hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food, including, for example, more than 30,000 tonnes of meat from countries such as China, Canada, the United States of America, and Australia. Our meat imports have absolutely rocketed. In 1998 New Zealand was a net exporter of meat to Australia to the tune of $10 million. Now, we are a net importer of meat from Australia to the tune of $78 million. The point is that if consumers were to wander around a supermarket, as I have done, they would not find a single label to identify whether the meat they are about to purchase has been imported from China, Australia, or wherever. That begs the question: where do all these hundreds of thousands of tonnes of meat that we import actually end up? The answer, of course, is that they all go into our supermarkets and are sold as unlabelled fresh meat, or are processed into meat products like the one I have here. It says on the label “Made in New Zealand”, even though the pork in this product actually comes from Canada.
The reason for this grossly misleading and deceptive practice is that there is no requirement for mandatory country-of-origin labelling in New Zealand. There is in Australia and in Europe, and it has been introduced into the United States and Canada—but not in New Zealand. Surely it is an absolutely basic consumer right for us to know what is in the food we eat and where it comes from. This is so particularly for meat products, which may contain residues of growth promotants and other things not used in New Zealand, such as the pig growth hormone widely used in Australia. Astonishingly, our Government is vehemently, implacably opposing this basic consumer right, and it has been involved in a prolonged, secret fight with Australia over this issue. Australia has mandatory country-of-origin labelling, and because we are harmonising our food standards with Australia’s, we should be introducing the same mandatory labelling that Australia has. But, no, our officials are even threatening to opt out from the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code on this issue, or seek a variation, to avoid country-of-origin labelling.
To justify this extraordinary opposition to what is simply a basic consumer right, the
Minister for Food Safety said in question time that we did not need that labelling because we have the Fair Trading Act. What utter twaddle! If that were the case, why would we have percentage labelling? Why would we have genetic engineering labelling? Why would we have nutrition labelling? All that the Fair Trading Act does is enable the consumer to take a case to the Commerce Commission. It does not give consumers the basic right that they are entitled to: to know what is in their food and where it comes from.
The second reason the Government gives for opposing country-of-origin labelling is stated in an official paper, which I will be tabling. It says that there is “virtually no demand for this information in New Zealand”. How can that be? In 2002 a survey was undertaken of New Zealand consumers, and it found that New Zealand consumers—surprise, surprise—do want country-of-origin labelling. They do want it, so how could officials come up with this statement that we do not want it?
The other astonishing thing is that many of the officials who are writing these papers and engaging in this war with Australia in a particular food standards committee—and who are vehemently opposing country-of-origin labelling—are from the Ministry of Food Safety, which is a department charged with promoting consumer choice through accurate and meaningful labelling. That is the second statement of purpose of that department. So how can officials who have a duty to promote consumer choice, and accurate and meaningful labelling oppose mandatory country-of-origin labelling, which would give consumers the right to know where their food comes from? It is absolutely preposterous! The Minister for Food Safety is the Minister in charge of the department that is required to promote accurate and meaningful labelling. The Minister therefore has a duty to ensure that happens.
DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South)
: In recent days and weeks much attention has been given to the activities of the ACT party, which were highlighted by its pretend suspension, as referred to by my colleague, of a member of its caucus, where it deliberately followed a course of action designed to ensure that it kept $110,000 of party funding for a member whom it claimed to have disowned the same day.
Now that the ACT party is so discredited, it is little surprise to learn that it is considering a name change. What is it planning to call itself? Liberals! We know that ACT members have been toying with the “l” word. Catherine Judd and Roger had a look in the dictionary and they were dismayed. Liberal means: “giving, or giving freely; generous, open-minded, not prejudiced, favouring moderate political reform”. I do not think so! It is not the ACT party, is it? ACT members have determined that henceforth they will call themselves the “Littorals”—that is, with two “t’s” and an “o”; not “Literal” with one “t” and an “a”, because the whole country knows only too well that one cannot believe a word any of those members say. That would not have done, anyway, as it is too close to the word “litter”, with two “t’s”—an invitation to descriptions of ACT and its policies as a foul brood, or rubbish, junk, and refuse. That is too close for comfort. So they will call themselves the “Littorals”. For those members who are unfamiliar with the word, let me elaborate. “Littoral” means things to do with the seashore.
Jill Pettis: Why?
DAVID BENSON-POPE: I hear the member ask why that name. Is it because, like any populist party, its members believe that perhaps every New Zealander has had at least one happy experience at the beach—unless, I suppose, they were there with Rodney Hide? Could it be because everything ACT members do smells fishy? Could it be “Littoral” because when the hard questions come they clam up? Could it be because their party’s political tide is rushing out, or because, when asked to spell “integrity”,
they are all at sea? Could it be because their leader, almost a “Pebble”, is on the rocks, or could it even be because their aspiring leader is named after a fish, or, perhaps, because their whole caucus is desperately grasping for “paua”?
Those are all perfectly good reasons on their own, but none of them are the actual reason for the name change. The real reason, of course, is their extraordinary preoccupation with seafood. Like all seafood, when it goes off, as that party has done, the stench is unparalleled. I hear my colleagues ask: “Preoccupation with seafood?”; let me explain.
At Christmas we learnt of the activities of the Pipi Foundation. It has been a while since Christmas, and those pipis are certainly starting to smell now.
The first week of March told us what was happening in Pipitea Street. Nine, or is it eight, salaries and budgets totalling half a million dollars, designed to enable MPs to be available to the electorate, are being massaged to provide money for ACT party activities inside Parliament. The office furniture was moved in only after that rort had been revealed in the media. That “Pipitea” is starting to smell rather a lot, as well.
The third “pipi”, for those members not familiar with the German language, is the pipi of the little boy’s room—clearly, an area in which Mr Hide, from the revelations in the
New Zealand Herald, has some interest and expertise. I do not know “wai” the heck he does, but he clearly does. We would all prefer Mr Hide not to tell us about the smell.
I think we should all thank that party and its members for making it so abundantly clear to our community what they have to offer New Zealand. What a fine kettle of malodorous fish: besmirched by a humble bivalve, pickled by a pipi, and munted by a mollusc. We are delighted on this side of the House, as are all New Zealanders, to see that those people are finally all washed up.
SHANE ARDERN (NZ National—Taranaki - King Country)
: Never before in the history of New Zealand politics has there been so little delivered by a Government that had so much. If members want an example of that, they should go back to the speech made by the Prime Minister at the beginning of this parliamentary session, on 11 February. She told the media, before she gave the speech, that it would be boring. A Prime Minister who had overwhelmingly won her second mandate in an electoral process in a democratic society told the media that her speech at the opening of this session of Parliament would be boring—and she was dead right! Her own colleagues struggled to keep their eyes open for the duration of the speech, when they were supposed to be attentive.
Never before has there been a Government that has had so much going for it. Never in my farming career, which is now 25 years old, have I seen the stars of high commodity prices around the world, of favourable weather conditions, of favourable interest rates, and of favourable exchange rates line up in the way that they have. Despite the Government, that is what has happened. The Government has had all of that income. I have to say that the sunny weather is over. The golden weather, for this Government, is now over, and it will have to start to front up. In the speech made by the Prime Minister, which she had told the media would be boring, she never referred to the chook that has laid the golden egg—that is, agriculture. Not once did she refer to the industry that has helped this Government so much.
There is an expectation in society that Labour Governments deliver on social issues. There is an expectation that we will get a Labour Government from time to time—God forbid—and that when we do get it, it will deliver in the social area. What have we had so far from this Government? We have certainly had no delivery in the social area. If members look at what has happened in that particular area, they will see that child poverty has gone up. Who would have credited it, with the best economic circumstances in a generation, and with a Labour Government running the country in its second term?
How could it be? How could the Government mismanage the only area where it has expertise? And when it comes to expertise, Labour’s certainly is not broad. If we look at the front bench, we see that it is mainly made up of academics, teachers, and people from a social services background.
In the area where the Government has expertise, in the area where we would expect it to deliver, what do we have? Child poverty has gone up. What has happened in the area of housing? We have unprecedented waiting lists for State houses. People are trapped in poverty traps such as we have never seen in the history of this country. We would have to go back well before my time, way back to the 1930s, to find a time when as many people were dependent on the State, and were totally locked into that and could not get out. The reality is that there are people from within the Government’s own ranks who know this. The Hon John Tamihere said so.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Who?
SHANE ARDERN: The Minister who is heckling from the other side of the House would do well to listen to what John Tamihere has to say. Some of what he has to say makes a lot of sense. I suspect that Minister over there actually knows it, but will he do anything about it? Never in your life!
Members should look at what has happened in the health sector. They should look at the situation at Taranaki Healthcare, where two chief executives are being paid quarter of a million dollars.
Jill Pettis: Who appointed the board for a second time?
SHANE ARDERN: The member for Whanganui is bleating over on the other side of the House. The fact is the chief executive who was there was laid off while he was away on his honeymoon, and to this day the claims against him have not been substantiated. He is on $250,000 a year, plus another one is flying in from Christchurch once a week, at a cost of $1,000 a week for travel and accommodation. My secretaries are asking for more time so that they can handle the flood of people queuing up outside my offices because they cannot get good health-care in Taranaki - King Country.
Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Minister of State)
: Kia ora. I want to talk about something quite different. I want to talk about the privilege accorded to members of Parliament to make comments in this House under privilege. Quite clearly, that is a kawa and a protocol that has evolved over many years, and should be protected diligently in terms of the context.
In the last 2 days I have witnessed allegations and attacks upon a Māori organisation—namely, Māori Sportscasting International Ltd. It is an organisation that is well known for its integrity right around Māoridom in terms of its ability to broadcast sports occasions right throughout New Zealand in te reo Māori. When I hear the verbal abuse from Rodney Hide and the unsubstantiated allegations that have been made against a company and against individuals who have no recourse in terms of answering those allegations, I think it is time to look at the issue of parliamentary privilege.
I am standing here today to inform this House, and to defend Hemana Waaka and his company, in terms of the allegations made by Rodney Hide. His name is not “Harmony Waaka”, but “Hemana Waaka”. Perhaps Rodney Hide could go to a kōhanga reo and learn Māori so that he can pronounce “Te Māngai Pāho”. Perhaps he could take some lessons from his colleague Donna Huata. She is certainly more prominent in Māori than he is. Some of the allegations that Mr Hide has made against that company are completely outrageous.
Then he has tried to imply things somehow, in some way, simply because my colleague John Tamihere and I got an invitation sometime in June last year to attend a function. I want to read to the House what the invitation said: “Māori Sportscasting International, Te Reo Whakapaoho Takaro o Te Ao Ltd, requests the pleasure of the
company of the Hon Dover Samuels at our inaugural awards and dinner, to be held at the Lakeside Convention Centre, Boardwalk Room, Montgomery Street, Mangere, Auckland.”
I know that many, many members of this House and many Ministers receive such invitations. Would it be prudent, would it be protocol, for me to say: “Sorry, I can’t go there.”? Would it be prudent for me to ask: “Who’s going to pay the bill?” before I even respond? We all know that we receive hundreds and hundreds of such invitations, and we reply accordingly.
In this event, we went. We went to the presentation of the awards. At those awards there were a number of prominent Māori, including the late Sir John Turei. He was there, and he was there to support the kaupapa, and this company, and this firm in terms of its ability and its desire to uplift our young people in this profession of broadcasting sports in te reo right throughout this country. I say to Rodney Hide that I fronted up. I fronted up and I supported it. I fronted up along with my colleague John Tamihere, red rosette and all—and I would have worn two if I had been asked. Let me say that there is nobody who is going to stop me from wearing a Labour Party rosette at any function that I desire to go to.
I put the same challenge to Rodney Hide in terms of fronting up. Yes, we fronted up. Yes, we can understand that there was a certain amount of funding that went to the organisation that paid for that dinner, but I want Rodney Hide to front up about the rort that he conducted in Fiji. He inspired people to go to a conference in Fiji at which New Zealanders got ripped off to the extent of $10 million, whereas what we are talking about here is $5,500. Yes, that is a lot of money, but members should compare it with that figure of $10 million in relation to Rodney Hide. He has not fronted up. He has not fronted up to the New Zealanders who were ripped off, whom he ripped off, and whom he encouraged to be ripped off.
Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive)
: Yesterday Parliament had the opportunity to talk about the possible implications posed to the multilateral trading and diplomatic order by the US Republican Party’s decision to invade Iraq in order to install yet another regime change in that country, in the face of the opposition of the united community of nations. We do not know for sure yet, but Tuesday’s announcement in Washington could turn out to be a watershed in the evolving management of relations between nations, pointing to some big changes in the way in which nations have dealt with each other during the past half-century. The Progressives hope that the pro-war party will, at the last moment, step back from the brink of what could turn out to be a serious blow, at least in the short term, to the United Nations system, which promotes diplomacy and conflict resolution ahead of war.
It is too early to assess how much damage the Iraqi issue may have done to political relations between some of the world’s largest economies: the US on the one hand, and Germany, France, and China on the other. If that damage is as significant as some fear, however, it could in the short term also flow through into other areas of multilateralist endeavour, such as the work of the World Trade Organization. GATT, the predecessor of the World Trade Organization, was originally planned to be an integral part of the UN system to help rebuild a shattered world after the Second World War, and to be at the service of the world. A cold war political stand-off ensured that GATT, as it was, did not get off the ground until very much later. The cost of delaying the original formation of GATT—which later became the World Trade Organization, a distorted version of GATT because of its dogmatic, right-wing, free-trade policies—damaged the ability of the world to reduce international barriers to cross-border trade in agricultural goods.
The delay in creating a fair world-trading system through the cold war period
continued to disadvantage developing countries unfairly at the cost of lives and living standards. The cold war trading system also disadvantaged New Zealand because it meant that our competitive advantages were not allowed to fully flower as they would have done if the world had adopted fair trading rules whereby our agricultural exports could flow, without barriers, to consumers in the richest economies.
No one, it would be fair to say, was surprised by the ACT party’s stance in favour of war yesterday. What was surprising to us was that National fell into line with ACT, as the two parties increasingly adopt the same set of core values and policies. For over half a century, under first past the post, Labour and National seemed to have had an unwritten understanding that on foreign policy there was a need to stick reasonably closely within the ambit of international law and the multilateral system. The National Party’s support for so long for the war in Vietnam and for apartheid strained that, of course. But, as the only two parties of Government, both fully understood the importance to New Zealand, as a small, trading nation, of the UN and a rules-based trading system.
Yesterday National turned its back on that, and highlighted an important political development. National is no longer a major party. Any pretence to it being the natural party of Government has gone. It is no longer a governing party in waiting, an alternative Government. National today is one among six minor parties operating within the MMP electoral system. It is one of the five Opposition minor parties. In the vote for war, National and ACT garnered just 35 votes out of the 120 available.
What that meant is that in the critical test of foreign policy alone, National is no longer in any position to hope to lead a Government in New Zealand. Its hopes of leading a Government may be real, but the hopes are not credible. It is not credible to imagine a senior party in Government that is not able to implement a coalition foreign policy compatible with the policy of the leading party of that Government. Foreign policy is a critical responsibility of any party that hopes to lead a Government. It is not possible to imagine a National-led Government after yesterday’s vote, because it is not credible to imagine a Government in which the major party has a foreign policy that is at odds with those of all its potential coalition partners. Coalition partners will have as many, or more, seats in Parliament—as in the present Parliament—than the major party in Government. One cannot reconcile the approach of New Zealand First and United Future with National’s rejection of multilateralism. No such Government, led by National, is therefore possible as no Government can ever not have a foreign policy.
National’s recent adoption of ACT’s key values and policies on economic, regional, and industry development is another serious indicator that National’s hopes of one day leading a future Government in New Zealand are diminishing. Nearly all New Zealanders want to see a growing economy creating more high-wage, high-skill jobs. The overwhelming majority applaud the Labour-Progressive Government’s programmes to address market failures practically, in order to promote and facilitate our economy’s performance.
Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Minister of State)
: I seek leave to table a communication statement from Hemana Waaka, the director of Māori Sportscasting International, stating that the function was not for political reasons, and that some of the suggestions made by Rodney Hide are incorrect and fabricated.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui)
: Democracy requires a cohesive and coherent Opposition, but, sadly, in this country the Opposition is fragmented and failing. It is all about the place, with no direction, and is certainly not in a position to make any long-lasting decisions about the future of the party or the country. The
Opposition is bereft of any vision, and most certainly has no policy. It is torn by an ideological struggle. It is trying to “out-right” ACT.
Poor old Don Brash, brought in as the new boy wonder, keeps on wanting to take us back to the glory days of the 1930s. We all know the tragedies that occurred then, with the major Depression that this country and the world were in. As I have said before, Mr Brash is an intelligent man, but he ain’t no politician. He has lots of lessons to learn. One of the first things he needs to learn around here is that all questions are rhetorical. He should not ask questions in this place if he wants to know the answer. That is not how it works around here. He should get up to speed. I will never be able to understand why he gave up such a good-paying job to come here, where he has no future. Quite frankly, he is going nowhere.
The other tragedy about the National Party is that when Bill English took over, 21 percent of New Zealanders had him as their preferred Prime Minister. Whoopsie! What has happened since he got into a position of leadership? His support is now at 6 percent. Mr English has even been surpassed by that other chameleon of the House. Now he does not even command the status of Leader of the Opposition in the polls—something that most leaders of the Opposition have done since democracy first began in this country. In another whoopsie, he has already conceded the next election by saying that this Government already looks like a three-term Government.
I have another piece of advice for Mr English, which is the old saying: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer.” He has a few enemies in his party alone, who are not making complimentary statements about him, at all. The tragedy is that the current leader of the National Party has no credibility. Everybody knows he is ineffective. Some of my best friends are Tories—we are very liberal on this side of the House, and we have a wide selection of people whom we meet from time to time—and they very quietly say that they are sure he is a nice bloke, they are sure he is decent, but he ain’t no leader, and he has to go.
This is not radio with pictures, but one just has to look at the picture on the faces of most National MPs to see that they are embarrassed. Poor old Roger Sowry has no other mission in life but to raise points of order, and talk about four-lane highways from North Cape to Bluff. It is just vacuous—and I am not just talking about Roger Sowry.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Beaten by Judy Keall, beaten by Darren Hughes.
JILL PETTIS: He has been beaten by several people over several years.
Hon Trevor Mallard: He likes it.
JILL PETTIS: Masochism runs through many people. The other irony in this House is the ACT party. Have members ever seen such a farce as that party? It is the party that was going to be the perk-buster. It was going to clean up everything. I constantly look for Rodney Hide on the wing of the plane each time I get on, but he is not there. Here it is—
Hon Dover Samuels: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have we got a doctor in the House? I think the member for ACT has passed away. I am serious; he has been still, and his eyes are closed.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: No. Please be seated.
JILL PETTIS: For a moment, I thought the member was serious. The tragedy of the situation with the ACT party is that it styled itself as the perk-buster of New Zealand—“We live a squeaky clean life.” But all the rorts that those members have been involved in are now being uncovered—painful as that is. It says so much about that party. One of the most despicable things that the party has been involved in just lately is the verbal assault on one of its long-serving members, Rufus Dawe.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First)
: Much has been made of the voting record of ACT during this particular session, but the real test of ACT’s integrity will come next
members’ day, when a vote will be taken in this House on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement Moratorium Bill. As we well know, ACT campaigned against the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) in the election. It said then that it would get rid of the NCEA, and we well know that it has been anti it ever since. We well know that Donna Awatere Huata has been ACT’s most vocal opponent of the NCEA, so she will most certainly want to vote for her bill. The ACT whip carries Donna Awatere Huata’s vote, and the question will be whether ACT will use it. Will there be a vote of nine? That will be the test of ACT’s integrity. If it does not give a vote of nine, we will have to question the integrity of ACT.
But that is not really what I want to speak about. I will start my speech with a quote, which is arguably the most famous in New Zealand’s educational history. It reads as follows: “The Government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that every person, whatever the level of his academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right, as a citizen, to a free education of the kind for which he is best fitted, and to the fullest extent of his powers.” Members on the other side of the House will know that that quote is attributed to Peter Fraser, who was arguably one of our most capable Prime Ministers—albeit the words were written by Clarence Beeby on his behalf. Those words really articulate the fundamental philosophy upon which our education system has rested since they were printed in 1939. It needs to be recognised that Peter Fraser was a Labour Prime Minister. For nigh on 50 years Labour was a party of economic and social equality, and greater educational opportunity was one of the main means of achieving that.
I will compare Peter Fraser’s vision with the decision this Labour Government has made over the NCEA fees. The facts are very simple. Research by the Poverty Action Group shows that in 2002 many children either withdrew from, or did not even enter, the NCEA because the costs were too great. Costs for school qualifications have been rising steadily since this Government got in. For example, in the year 2000 it cost $25 to do four Sixth Form Certificate subjects; the cost was $75 in 2002, and it will be $150 in 2003. What did this caring Government do, with this research available to it? It doubled the cost in 2003, which means it will make the problem that much worse.
I commend Government members for being very, very honest on this one. I go on about this issue like a cracked record; once New Zealand First members get their teeth into something, we do not let go—and I can tell the Minister I will not let this one go. Ever since I first began raising this question, members on the other side of the House have been embarrassed. Their body language has shown it: they fidget, squirm, and look away. They are certainly embarrassed. I commend those members for the honesty they demonstrate through their body language, because the decision made by the Minister of Education is clearly wrong.
I see the Minister of Finance is here, and he must have also been involved in the decision. It does not fit the fundamental philosophy of the Labour Party, or what this Government espouses. Who will be hurt by this decision? It will not be the rich people—they will come up with the dough. It will not be the beneficiaries, because they have to pay only $35. It will be the parents who are working class, but on low incomes, who are hurt. Those are the people who will have to come up with $150. It will hurt the children of parents of larger families. Māori and Pacific Island families will be hurt.
I challenge the Minister to front up and say: “We got this one wrong.” The Prime Minister did it about the painting; she said: “I got this thing wrong.”, and she did not lose any respect for it. I challenge the Minister to say: “We got it wrong, and we are going to fix it.” The Minister should get up and say: “Yes, we got this one wrong. We are going to fix it, to bring the fees down, by pumping more money into the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.” Even if the Government brings the fees to the same
level as last year—though it should go lower—it will earn our respect.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.