Te Hansard (ngā tautohetohe)
Ngā tautohetohe ia rā, ia rā
|Adobe's web site.|
Volume 610, Week 31 - Wednesday, 30 July 2003
Wednesday, 30 July 2003
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Business of Select Committees
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) : I seek leave for Rod Donald to be a member of the Commerce Committee for the purpose of its consideration of the Business Law Reform Bill, but without the right to vote on any question before the committee.
Mr SPEAKER: I presume there is no objection to that course being followed. There appears to be none.
Amended answers to Oral Questions
Questions to Ministers
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Immigration Service
1. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Immigration: What specific matters has she requested that Mr Andrew Lockhart, General Manager of the New Zealand Immigration Service, investigate, as reported in today’s New Zealand Herald, and why has she done so?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration) : I spoke with the general manager, Mr Andrew Lockhart, last night after I had spoken to the New Zealand Herald, and asked him to inquire into the allegations that had been raised by a reporter concerning a complaint made to the Ombudsman and responses from the New Zealand Immigration Service. I felt there were sufficient concerns raised by the journalist to refer the matter to the general manager, but I did say that I would need to know what the Ombudsman had been asked for. Prior to coming down to the House I was advised that the matter has been referred to the Secretary of Labour, and that terms of reference for the review are being drawn up today.
Hon Murray McCully: Given that Mr Lockhart was one of the recipients of the “We agreed to lie in unison.” memorandum, how could it be that Mr Lockhart was one of the officials who falsely advised the Ombudsman that such material was not held by the Immigration Service, and what sort of reliance would this House place on any report he might make?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member obviously did not hear the last bit of my answer to the first question. The matter has been referred to the Secretary of Labour. Terms of reference for the inquiry are being established today.
Hon Murray McCully: Now that it is clear Mr Smith lied to the New Zealand Herald on 12 December, and both Mr Lockhart and Mr Smith lied to the Ombudsman, has it occurred to the Minister that Mr Smith’s memo stating “We agreed to lie in unison.”, might be a very accurate record of her officials’ intentions?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I explained in the House yesterday, the conversation on 12 December was in fact an accurate answer to the question that had been put to Mr Smith. There is no confirmation as to the details of the issues relating to the Ombudsman. I would wait until the results of the inquiry before making those allegations here or anywhere else.
Rodney Hide: Could the Minister explain to this House why the public should have any confidence in her department when its top communicating expert said: “We agreed to lie in unison.”, when the Minister herself told this House that she had been lied to by her own staff, and when we now discover, courtesy of the New Zealand Herald, that the same department has lied to the Ombudsman; why should we have any confidence in this department when its staff appear to be a pack of liars?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not said that anyone has lied to me in respect of this matter. I have also asked for an inquiry into the question that has been raised in the New Zealand Herald this morning. I will await the results of that inquiry.
Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table the Hansard of the Minister’s answer on 15 October 2000, when she said that her officials had not told her the truth.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Iraq—Defence Force Deployment
2. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Has the failure of the United States - led occupation forces in Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction strengthened the Government’s view that it was right to reject calls from National and ACT to join the invasion of Iraq?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade) : New Zealand stands by its decision not to be involved in the invasion of Iraq. Nothing that has happened since has suggested that our approach—that any such action be multilateral and only as a last resort—was other than sensible.
Mr SPEAKER: If Mr Smith wants to interject on someone he should do it from his own seat and not move closer to a speaker. He has done it three times and cannot do it again. He can interject from his own seat.
Keith Locke: Does the almost universal Iraqi hostility to the occupation troops following the invasion of Iraq strengthen the Government’s position, which the Minister has just referred to, of favouring multilateral, peaceful solutions to problems like the Iraq crisis, and of giving a very strong mandate to the United Nations?
Hon PHIL GOFF: While multilateralism was not employed in terms of the decision to invade Iraq, I think it is becoming increasingly obvious that there would be real advantages from a greater multilateral effort to ensure that stability and reconstruction can take place in Iraq.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What is New Zealand’s current approach to the situation in Iraq?
Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand has undertaken actions that it foreshadowed before the conflict as being appropriate. We have provided humanitarian aid, we have contributed assistance to mine clearing, and we will help rebuild civil society under United Nations Resolution 1483 with engineering assistance and assistance to the Iraqi ministry of agriculture.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Is it his Government’s view that the world would be a better place were Saddam Hussein still in power in Iraq today?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Nobody would mourn the removal of Saddam Hussein per se. He was one of the bloodiest tyrants of any dictatorship in the world. But the peace was always going to be harder to win than the war, and that is proving to be the case today.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does he agree that the failure to locate Saddam Hussein does not mean that he never existed, and does he believe that, there having been the invasion, the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime is a positive or negative outcome from a New Zealand perspective?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Saddam Hussein certainly did exist, and he was the same Saddam Hussein who in the 1980s, regrettably, was supported by Western powers and armed by Western powers, notwithstanding that he had all the same characteristics that he has today. There are many dictatorships around the world that it would be ideal to remove, but the increasing realisation is that when one removes a dictator one does not remove the problems in that country; sometimes one simply magnifies them.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question: is it a positive or negative outcome, from a New Zealand perspective? That was a question to our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and he cannot answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did answer the question.
Paul Adams: Has the Government’s view that it was right to reject calls from National and ACT to join the invasion of Iraq been strengthened by the comment made on National Radio: “They”—referring to the US—“are at pains to say that both the Iraqi war - type decision and the nuclear policy are separate from how they treat trade.” by the National Party leader, Bill English, on Friday, 20 June?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have seen the comment made by Bill English from Washington, DC, in which he explicitly denied there are difficulties in the trading agreement with the United States as a result of either the non-nuclear policy we have pursued for many years, or, indeed, our non-involvement in the Iraqi war—[Interruption] Dr Lockwood Smith was part of that same delegation that Mr English was reporting on. I also saw the comment from Bill English saying—
Mr SPEAKER: I have warned, and will not warn again, about people who move closer to a person answering a question. They can interject from their own seat—there is no objection to that—but they must not move closer to the person answering. [Interruption] I have not heard the Minister’s final answer.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a longstanding Standing Order of this House that Ministers do not have responsibility for statements made by other political parties. My question to you is why you did not intervene, given that that was the third sentence we have had from the Minister that breached that Standing Order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister was asked to comment on the particular statement. He was perfectly entitled to do so.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been a longstanding custom in this House that if Ministers choose to refer to members opposite in answering their questions, they can expect those members to interject. I think it is unfair to rule that out.
Mr SPEAKER: Members can, provided that they do so from their own seat. That is the point I have made. There is a Speaker’s ruling to that effect. It will be upheld.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We perhaps have an unusual set of circumstances in that, while you are correct in your ruling, the fact is that Dr Lockwood Smith, in this case, has not moved his seat. Indeed, Dr Lockwood Smith and Dr Nick Smith have been sitting in those seats since the beginning of question time, and they were positioned there because of a whip’s instruction. It is not as though Dr Lockwood Smith has moved to interject; he has been sitting there, and actually asked his question from there. It seems appropriate that, on his getting the response that he did, he should be able to make comment across the House in response.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 123/7 made in 1996, stating that interjections are not in order at all during question time. I have allowed them to occur, but I am going to allow them to occur only in accordance with other rulings made by previous Speakers—rulings that go back as long as I have been in this House. Interjections can be made but they are to be made from the person’s seat.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This helps to explain the frustration felt on this side of the House. We have constant rulings from you that Ministers have answered questions whereas in fact they have not addressed what their own policies are, yet they are allowed to stand and talk at length about the policies and comments of another party. That might be fair enough, but in that case they should be asked to explain at length what their own comments and their own policies mean.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a political point the member is making, and we will see how the supplementary questions go.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a separate issue completely. I welcome your ruling, which reinforces that members may not move to a different seat to gain advantage in interjecting. I raise with you the issue that in numerous debates on legislation going through the House, other presiding officers in the Chair, acting on your behalf, have not upheld that ruling. Indeed, in many general debates we have seen Government members move to other seats to gain advantage when interjecting, and be allowed to do so. I have raised points of order in that vein in the past, but they have not been supported by the Chair. I respectfully ask that we have some uniformity in such decisions.
Mr SPEAKER: I welcome the member’s point of order, and I think the other officers have heard it.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister think that the anti-war stand that he has just articulated is compromised by our placing army engineers in a British military unit in Iraq, given the growing hostility of the Iraqi people towards the occupation troops and the almost daily targeting of them?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The proposed deployment of New Zealand Defence Force engineers is in fact in response to Resolution 1483, which was passed, I think unanimously, by the United Nations. These engineers are not part of the occupation forces. They are there to do the job that we said we would always be there to do, and that is to assist the civil reconstruction of Iraq. Clearly, putting civilian engineers in a situation that is still dangerous is not possible, but there is work, such as sanitation and water supplies, that needs to be done and that our Defence Force engineers can do and will do.
Keith Locke: Can the Minister assure us that if by chance our military people in Iraq do take a prisoner, that prisoner will not be passed over to United States jurisdiction, because of the clear mistreatment of prisoners by the United States administration there—the fact that they are not allowed access to a lawyer of their choice, and are subject to military tribunals that have the death penalty?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Our engineers will be there to do construction work. It will be no part of their task to take prisoners.
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Immigration Service
3. Hon MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Immigration: Is she aware, as reported in the New Zealand Herald, that the Ombudsman had requested, from New Zealand Immigration Service officials, material which should have included the memorandum which contained the words “Everyone had agreed to lie in unison,” and that New Zealand Immigration Service officials denied to the Ombudsman the existence of such material; if so, how does she explain these actions?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration) : I am advised that the Ombudsman responded to a complaint from Sarah Boyle, office of the Leader of the Opposition, that the New Zealand Immigration Service had declined to release any information on the individual concerned under sections 6(a), 6(d), and 18(c) of the Official Information Act. I can confirm that the Secretary of Labour will be inquiring into the matter. However, preliminary inquiries have identified that, as there was more than one person dealing with the matter—from the Office of the Ombudsmen and from the New Zealand Immigration Service—a communication breakdown could explain the different answers. However, I am awaiting a full report.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister accept that if both Mr Smith and Mr Lockhart did mislead the Ombudsman about the existence of that memorandum, this would be a most serious matter, and might very fully explain why Mr Smith wrote in his memo: “Everyone had agreed to lie in unison,”?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: My initial advice on this matter is that they were asked different questions, that Mr Smith in fact never had any direct dealings with the Ombudsman, and that in fact it was done through a third party, who had not prepared the media log. There is the ability, in this situation, for an explanation to arise out of the inquiry. I would like to wait until the inquiry has completed its work before I commented on it, and I hope that that member is prepared to apologise, if he has attacked the reputations of people unreasonably.
Deborah Coddington: On what date did she first learn that Mr Ian Smith had written to the Ombudsman stating that he had no record of correspondence or memoranda that commented on the Zaoui case?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is no such date, because I am not aware that Mr Smith wrote directly to the Ombudsman.
Hon Murray McCully: Are these words from the letter signed by Mel Smith, Ombudsman, correct: “I subsequently received advice from Mr Ian Smith” —of the Immigration Service—“that he has no record of any such information, nor is he able to recall any information of this nature.”, and is she disputing those words signed by the Ombudsman?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said to the New Zealand Herald reporter last night, it depends what question he was asked.
Hon Murray McCully: Is she aware that the Ombudsman’s officials interviewed Mr Smith on this matter, and that the Ombudsman, Mr Smith himself, spoke to Mr Smith, who is the spokesperson for her ministry, and that it was on the basis of specific assurances in the face of persistent Opposition requests that Mr Smith, Ombudsman, wrote saying that Mr Ian Smith had no record of such information and could not recall such information?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That is the subject of the inquiry. But my advice is that those investigations were conducted by email, and in fact the direct email link is with another member of staff from the New Zealand Immigration Service, who attached an email from Ian Smith. It depends on what Mr Smith was asked to provide.
4. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (NZ Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received of the success of Government literacy initiatives in schools?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education) : A literacy project in Otara and Mangere is making significant improvements in the reading skills of 6-year-olds, according to research I released at the school last week. The research is a watershed for literacy teaching in New Zealand and shows that professional development of teachers has made an enormous difference to student learning.
H V Ross Robertson: What was a key finding regarding those children in low-income, low-decile school areas and for the wider environs?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A key finding was that schools and teachers that are able to sustain high levels of achievement are the ones that track the progress of their students over time and use that information to adapt and target their teaching. The study also found that children can achieve, regardless of their socio-economic background, and that professional development should focus on raising teachers’ expectations of what their students can do. The study backs up what our Government has been focusing on in education. Although I realise we now talk about “reducing disparities”, this result is a clear win out of the closing the gaps initiative.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Government has been so successful in its literacy initiatives, why do the results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, released in April this year, show New Zealand children ranked 13th, which is second bottom of English-speaking countries, and having the longest and greatest disparity in literacy learning; and therefore how can the Minister describe those appalling results as “very pleasing”?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A number of factors should be taken into account. First, the long tail is a legacy of the National Government’s abandonment of poor schools. Secondly, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study includes a number of countries that measured children who were a year older than the New Zealand children, and that says something for the difference.
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Immigration, Minister
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Did she say “If there was an agreement to lie, heads would roll, absolutely they would”; if so, in terms of her ministerial responsibility, why did she say that?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration) : Yes, because the implication was that I was a party to such an agreement. I was not a party to any agreement. There was no such agreement. I have also been assured by the general manager of the New Zealand Immigration Service that there was no such agreement. I made the comment, because if I lost confidence in the service I would be able to refer that matter to the Secretary of Labour.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister not prepared to admit that this is a matter to do with her administration of her portfolio over a long period of time, that she has had an experience in the past where she claimed her officials were not telling her the truth, as late as 11 October 2000, and that her words bind her in this matter when she said on Television One last night: “If there had been an agreement to lie, yes I would have to resign.”, and that does not include whether she knew, because if she did not, she should have been fired for incompetence, anyway?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The advice I have received from the general manager was that there was no agreement to lie. I was not a party to any agreement to lie, and I stand by what I say.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister accept that if it is found that both Mr Smith and Mr Lockhart misled the Ombudsman as to the existence of information he sought from them, that those facts, on top of Mr Smith’s answer to the New Zealand Herald in December of last year, would be absolutely consistent with there being an agreement to lie amongst those officials?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, it would not be consistent with that, and it would not be inconsistent, either. I make the point that all employees of the Department of Labour have a responsibility to carry out their duties to the best of their ability. They are required to act with integrity in all matters. I take those obligations seriously.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why should anybody have confidence in the Minister’s recent statement that “heads would roll, absolutely they would” when on 11 October 2000 she stated in this House: “I was misinformed by the Immigration Service” and “I am not prepared to stand up to justify it when my officials have not even told me the truth.”; and how many heads rolled, absolutely rolled, during that fiasco?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I can certainly inform the member that I felt very bruised at the end of that experience. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the Minister might like to expand on that a little further.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am aware there were personal grievance issues arising out of that matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific and asked “how many heads rolled” as a result of that incident. Whether or not there were personal grievance matters, the answer does not point to the specific question, which was, “how many heads rolled”.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question in terms of the issue of personal grievance. I am not here to judge the answer. An answer was given.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point is that a person may have brought a personal grievance action and been restored to the former position. We just want to know how many heads rolled, and why does she not know?
Mr SPEAKER: I was going to invite the Minister to continue answering the question.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not know the answer to that question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the Ombudsman’s statement that points to his being denied disclosure of a very critical document, and, second, that no referral to the Ombudsman—at that level of any administration—would be brought to the Minister’s attention immediately, how can she now say, in any competent way as a Minister, that she did not know what was going on in her department?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It is true that on most occasions I am aware when a request has been lodged under the Official Information Act. On this occasion I was not aware that an Official Information Act request had been lodged or that there had been a complaint made to the Ombudsman. This is a matter I have raised with the Immigration Service. I am unhappy about that fact.
Hon Murray McCully: In the light of the Minister’s statement to the House yesterday that the original questions were responded to by the spokesperson from the Immigration Service and herself from her ministerial office, and that she claimed to be well briefed on this matter early in December, what responsibility does she take for the compliance of her officials with an Ombudsman’s inquiry that has lasted over 6 months?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There appears to be a non sequitur—the beginning of that question does not relate to the end—and I cannot see the connection at all. I was present in my office when the phone call came through on 12 December. The information I received at the time indicated that the individual from the Immigration Service had answered the question he was asked. If journalists do not ask precisely the correct question, then officials cannot be blamed for answering the question they are asked. I think the member should await the result of the inquiry of the Secretary of Labour on the other matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many suspected terrorists came into this country and were arrested and sent to prison in the 2 weeks prior to the Zaoui case, or the 2 weeks prior to 12 December 2002; more important, how can it possibly be that, although the Minister is informed in most cases about Official Information Act requests, this one, at a much higher level—a complaint to the Ombudsman—was not brought to her attention, and, that being the case, why should she not just resign for being utterly incompetent?
Mr SPEAKER: There were four questions there. Two were outside the scope of the original question. The last two questions were in order and the Minister may comment on those.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not aware of any other individual who was detained in the maximum security prison in the 2 weeks leading up to 12 December. In response to the second question, most Official Information Act requests that relate to an individual person are managed through a different section in the Immigration Service. The member can appreciate that lawyers and immigration consultants acting for people who have appeals and reviews, make requests under the Official Information Act on a regular basis. They are not referred to my office. This one should have been referred to my office, and I have raised the matter with the Immigration Service.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How could the Minister claim that Mr Smith has some sort of sanctuary in the question asked of him by the journalist when, in fact, the question was the other day and no other suspected terrorists had been picked up in the prior 2 weeks, so only one person could be the person who was the subject of the original inquiry; and why is she always a Minister who never knows what is going on in her department?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The answer to the first question is that the question that was put to Mr Ian Smith, as I understand it, was a question that was very explicit about it having occurred the night before. In fact, the individual concerned had arrived on 4 December.
Foreshore and Seabed—Māori Land Court
6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Associate Minister for Courts: How many applications for foreshore and seabed have been lodged with the Māori Land Court at each of its seven registry offices since 19 June 2003 and what areas are covered by these applications?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister for Courts) : Since 19 June 2003 there have been 16 foreshore and seabed applications in the Māori Land Court. One of these was received in each of the Takitimu, Waiariki, and Tairawhiti registries. Two applications were received in each of the Waikato and Aotea registries, and nine were received in the Te Taitokerau registry. It has not been possible, unfortunately, in the time available to compile a list of the areas covered in the applications, but if the member requires this information, then I am happy to provide it to him in response to a written question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Auckland Māori Land Court registrar has confirmed nine new applications for title, covering the areas of North Cape, Bay of Islands, Hokianga Harbour, Kaipara Harbour, Waitemata Harbour, Manukau Harbour, Papamoa Beach, Waihi Beach, and the Hauraki Gulf, does she stand by her press statement on the day following the Court of Appeal decision, that stated it was a narrow technical decision that would have no practical effect; and if hundreds of thousands of hectares and hundreds of kilometres is minor and technical, what does she think would be major?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The decision of the Court of Appeal was technical in the sense that it related to whether there was jurisdiction for the Māori Land Court to hear such matters. My understanding is that there were claims that had been lodged before that decision. They had been waiting to see whether there was jurisdiction for the court to hear it, so in that sense, yes, it was a jurisdictional issue, but not one of substance.
Martin Gallagher: In order that we can be crystal-clear, in terms of the law as it currently stands, do Māori applicants have the right to have customary rights in relation to the foreshore and seabed determined by the Māori Land Court?
Mr SPEAKER: That is seeking a legal opinion. There are Speakers’ rulings about that, but the Minister may comment if she wishes.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, and that was the issue that was determined by the Court of Appeal judgment. That was the matter that was outstanding.
Stephen Franks: Can the Minister confirm that the Government fears the agenda of the Māori Land Court hearing these claims; if not, why not—when she appointed to that court activist Caren Wickliffe after she claimed that our Government institutions were not legitimate, that Pākehā notions of property were not legitimate, and that we need a national Māori body politic, made up of iwi and hapū representatives, to exercise real and substantive self-government, and applauded a Fijian statement after the coup that said: “Without land you are not a Fijian. You should not exchange it, you should not sell it, and you cannot replace it.”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: This Government does not fear the Māori Land Court, or much else, I would suggest. The Government has total confidence, as I do, in the Māori Land Court. I was not the Minister who was responsible for those appointments, though I was consulted before they were made. In fact, it is the Minister of Māori Affairs who makes those appointments.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the Minister’s answer to my initial question, which asked about the areas concerned, the Minister replied that she had not been able to acquire the information in time for questions today—which was reasonable—but said that if I wished to obtain that information I would need to obtain it by way of a written question. I suggest that a more appropriate way forward would be for the Minister to provide the information to me as soon as it is available, so that I do not have to use up additional questions when the Government has not been able to answer.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no restriction on the number of written questions a member can ask—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: There’s a timing issue—
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said a “written question”. I heard her reply. I would expect the Minister to give a prompt reply, and she has just indicated that she will.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes, I am happy to do that. It is just that it takes some time to get all the applications in the areas, and to do the precise calculations.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting the statement that the Government would legislate to ensure that foreshore and seabed are owned by the Crown, when will this House see the legislation to implement that Government policy?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government is working assiduously on this issue, and will have an answer as soon as practicable. We hope that will happen not only in the fullness of time but early in the fullness of time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister had any reports from her department, or wherever, outlining the ACT party leadership’s attitude or the National Party leadership’s attitude on Treaty of Waitangi issues such as this; and how does it accord with the 2003 expressed policy from the same sources?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for the ACT party or the National Party, and therefore the question is too wide.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I just submit, though, that if she has received such a report from her department—it would be most unusual for a department not to submit it to a Minister—on the previous history of these events, then it is within the ambit of her responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. If she is asked: “Has she received a report on the policies?” she certainly can answer that question.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 128/6. The ruling was made by Deputy Speaker Gerard, and states: “If a Minister is asked a question about a report, or whether the Minister has received a report … The Minister, in answering about the report, cannot be hypothetical about what may or may not be the effects of another political party’s policy.” I would have thought that that referred to the exact question that was asked by Mr Peters.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Mr Peters asked whether any reports had been received, and that is a perfectly proper question to ask.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I have received no specific reports, but in preparation for the answer to this question today I noted the excellent speech made by the Hon Dr Nick Smith during the second reading debate on the Ngāi Tahu bill, which, I think, was a model of how there was cross-party support on these matters.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is where we now run into some difficulty. We have difficulty—and this point was made a previous point of order—getting Ministers to comment on their own policy, yet that Minister made a statement about previous National Party policy. She had already answered the question by saying, yes, she had received the report. That was all she was asked, and that is all she needed to say.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, but I did not take it as an offensive comment in any way. The senior Opposition whip is technically correct.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Presumably it is legitimate to ask whether a Minister had received a report on Government policy as it has been applied in the past, as it may differ from policy today. What is not, I would have thought, legitimate—and it may seem strange for me to raise this point—is to be asking for a report on Opposition policy, because, then, that is a wide open invitation to breach the Standing Orders and the rulings in relation to what ministerial responsibility is. I would have thought that it really is a matter of whether it relates to previous actions of Governments or whether it is on current issues of party policy.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, the member is perfectly correct.
Truancy—National Student Database
7. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree that a national database of school students would assist in identifying truant and transient students, as proposed in Labour Party policy for the last three elections?
Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister agree with his ministry officials who told the select committee that the best way to deal with consistent absenteeism was not to prosecute parents but was through collaboration with professional workers in the external agencies, and if the ministry is not going to be required to use the law, what is the point of having such a law?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Generally, I agree that that is right. They do, of course, on occasion use the law.
Jill Pettis: Does the Minister believe that the proposed database is in fact the be-all and end-all to fixing this problem?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I do not. One only has to look at the other side of this House to work out that turning up is not enough.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that was just designed to create disorder. He will withdraw and apologise for that last comment—after his first words.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Minister told Parliament yesterday that a national database was not Labour policy in 2002, when it was; that officials said a review on truancy would be completed by December last year, but it was not; and that they said there would be a report on database options by June this year, and there was not, are the Minister himself and his ministry getting advice from immigration officials on how to lie in unison?
Mr SPEAKER: That question is not in order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Minister said, quite categorically, that it was not Labour Party policy. That is a direct contradiction of what he said today. If that is not incorrect, what is it? I think the Minister should be accountable for giving such incorrect information 2 days in a row.
Mr SPEAKER: The comment “lie in unison” was out of order and should not be used.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not quite sure what redress I have when the member opposite makes up comments from yesterday. I was very careful yesterday to indicate that I was not absolutely sure on the matter. As has been clear from the question, I did not remember accurately but I did put some put real brackets around my answer yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: All I am saying is this: that is getting into an argument, not a point of order.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Minister’s answer yesterday. It was not part of the 2002 pre-election policy.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. Now, I apologise to Mr Alexander. I did not realise the member had not had the first supplementary question. I call the member now.
Marc Alexander: In the light of the Minister’s statement in the House yesterday that “one of the things we learnt in Government was that setting up massive computer systems without knowledge of how they were going to be used is not the best approach”, did he discover this problem in Labour’s first term; if so, why was the database still Labour’s election policy in 2002?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We have discovered quite a lot more in the past 12 months around schools’ ability to interact with central government agencies via databases. What is clear is that there are at least 700 schools that do not have that ability, and that is something I was certainly not aware of when this policy was put into the 2002 election manifesto.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree that the most important factor in managing truancy is not the keeping of a simple list of students, but rather their active engagement in education; if so, what is the Minister doing to provide support to returned students, such that they want to stay in school and not wag?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I agree with the basic premise behind the question. We do need to make sure that students are enthused about learning and staying engaged in education. That is why the Government is focusing on quality teaching and teaching that is effective for all students, regardless of their background. What is clear is that students who are doing well at school and are engaged and focused do not truant.
Marc Alexander: In the light of the admission to a select committee last week by Ministers Goff, Dalziel, and Dyson that their agencies failed Bailey Kurariki, a habitual truant, will he as Minister of Education follow this honourable path and admit that, in this case, there were and are things that the agencies under his control could have done better?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Certainly.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister explain why setting up a national student database to stop truancy is not a priority for the Government, yet legislation that stops our returned servicemen from smoking at their local Returned Services Association is?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer the first part of the question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is not a question of having problems doing the legislation; it is a question of schools having the means and the systems to interact with a national database. They do not.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister think it is appropriate that at least two-thirds of secondary students on the roll of the Correspondence School are considered at risk, when those kids have demonstrated an unwillingness to attend school and would therefore find it difficult to have the self-discipline to learn at home?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Again, I agree with the basic premise that underlines the question. The Correspondence School is not an ideal option for students at risk. The one point I would make to the member is that over the last few years, between 1996 and 2002, in both primary and secondary schools, truancy has dropped.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister expect truancy officers to do their job effectively, when their funding has not increased for 5 years and some truancy services, like the one in Patea, pay their staff from community grants to maximise the resources the ministry gives them; and is this what Labour meant in 1996 when it promised to adequately fund efforts to combat truancy?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that the problem in Patea is related to community confidence with the school. That is why, I understand, there are only about 80 children on the roll of the secondary school. It is a much wider issue than truancy there.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I seek leave to table the pages from the 2001-02 financial reviews that report the Ministry of Education statements referred to in my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Marc Alexander: I seek leave to table Labour’s education policy from the 1996, 1999, and 2002 elections.
- Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the coalition agreement between United Future and the Labour Party, which shows that at that point in time this matter was never raised.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that agreement. Is there any objection? There is.
Algerian Suspected Terrorist—Inquiry
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Will she hold a full independent public inquiry into her and her department’s handling of suspected terrorist Ahmed Zaoui’s arrival and stay in New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration) : No. Given that the matter is not finally resolved, and because security matters and other issues cannot be commented on publicly, it is not possible at this stage to hold such an inquiry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why should anyone have any confidence in an in-house whitewash inquiry, when the Minister previously described those people involved in this inquiry in the following terms: “It has let this House and this country down. I am not prepared to stand up to justify it when my own officials have not even told me the truth.”, and, moreover, when she did not know today whether any heads had rolled as a consequence of that; why would anybody have any confidence or trust at all in the inquiry, which she will have handled by her own officials?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not asked the border and investigations officers of the Immigration Service to conduct the inquiry. I have been advised today that it has been referred to the Secretary of Labour. The terms of reference are being drawn up as we speak.
Russell Fairbrother: Do any parts of the Immigration Act applying to Mr Zaoui prevent disclosure of any details of the case; if so, when did they come into effect?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. They came into effect on 1 October 1999.
Hon Murray McCully: When the Minister first had this matter raised with her by the New Zealand Herald, on Monday, why did she not seek a full and comprehensive briefing on the background, so that she could make a decision about the need for an inquiry at that point, or is it the case that she did ask for such a briefing and the department withheld important information from her?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There was nothing on the Monday night that required a request from me to the department for an inquiry. The issues that were raised last night with me, with the journalist concerned, raised questions about how an Ombudsman had been responded to. That was an entirely different matter.
Heather Roy: Is the real reason she will not hold a full, independent public inquiry because she is concerned that she will be found to be one of the people whom top immigration spokesman Mr Ian Smith is complaining about who did not stick to the original song?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have said to this House on more than one occasion, and will continue to say it, that I was not involved in any agreement to lie, and my department was not involved in any agreement to lie, and I will continue to say that until members accept that that is the case. The real reason I cannot have an inquiry into the matter is that it is not finally resolved, and, because of security matters and other issues that cannot be commented on publicly, as a result of legislation that came into effect on 1 October 1999, this is not an appropriate time for an inquiry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware of the following facts: first of all, the Immigration Service is part of the Department of Labour; second, on matters of national security a full public inquiry can hear such matters in camera, on application, where they are relevant to that inquiry; and, third, why would she go on weakly defending glaringly obvious liars and conspirators while denying New Zealanders the right of a full public inquiry into this whole dodgy, disgraceful affair?
Mr SPEAKER: Only two of those questions are to be commented on.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I am aware that the New Zealand Immigration Service is an arm of the Department of Labour; of course I know that. The second question, which I have been advised is the only other question I can answer, is very plain. With regard to the matter that the member raised, which has now completely escaped me—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will again bring the matter to the Minister’s attention.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Oh yes, the member raised the question of whether—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will bring the question again to her attention.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, no—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: She said the question completely escaped her, and I want to help her out.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have recalled the question now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: But I am getting sick and tired of this.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said that she has remembered.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The second question related to the fact that we could hold a full public inquiry in camera. It would not be a public inquiry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not a frivolous matter for the Minister to be trying to laugh away. The reality is that I asked whether she was aware that, in a full public inquiry or a commission of inquiry, if matters of national security are claimed to be part of the evidence, then that part of the evidence can be heard in camera. To then say that I was suggesting that a full public inquiry be held in camera, in total, is an absolute nonsense, and I wish you would take it seriously.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister could rephrase the answer that she gave, and I invite her to do so.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Given that the matter is not finally resolved, issues of security and other issues that cannot be commented on publicly are at the heart of the question that the member put to me, which was about my department’s handling of suspected terrorist Ahmed Zaoui’s arrival and stay in New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can matters of national security, if they are to be raised in this case, possibly be properly dealt with by the Department of Labour or the Immigration Service; how can she possibly give that as a reason she is not going to hold a full public inquiry?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I need to refer the member to, I think, Part 4 of the Immigration Act, which deals with matters of security. That part of the Act came into effect on 1 October 1999. It addresses issues of security.
Climate Change—Partnership, United States
9. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: What progress has he made in building a climate change partnership with the United States?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change) : Very good progress. Last week I met a United States delegation and we agreed on a number of new climate change partnership projects. These include work on climate change science; technology development; greenhouse gas accounting in forestry and agriculture; engagement with business; cooperation with developing countries; and climate change research in the Antarctic.
David Parker: Will these partnership projects with the United States include any work on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. The list of projects agreed with the United States includes further research into measuring and mitigating agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. This reflects the fact that the United States, like New Zealand, recognises the significance of agricultural greenhouse gases and the importance of finding ways to reduce them.
Gordon Copeland: Will the Government consider joining the climate action partnership between the United States and Australia, as an alternative way of addressing climate change, in the event that Russia fails to ratify and the Kyoto Protocol collapses; if not, why not?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The partnership to which the member refers is a research partnership between the US and Australia. New Zealand has a research partnership between itself and the US, and it has a research partnership between itself and Australia. We kind of are in there, anyway.
Rod Donald: What exactly is the value of signing a protocol with a country that refuses to commit to the Kyoto Protocol because it might hurt its economy—even though a viable economy would not be feasible if there were runaway greenhouse gas emissions—and that is prepared to see low-lying Pacific islands become submerged, simply because it wants to maintain its present lifestyles?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The United States and New Zealand of course have a different view on the Kyoto Protocol. The United States has decided not to ratify it. New Zealand already has, along with, I think, 101 other nations. However, the fact is the United States science base is very strong, very well informed, and very keen to collaborate with New Zealand, especially in addressing certain gaps. There is a bunch of oceanographic work in our southern oceans that needs to be done. There is a bunch of work that can be done with and for Pacific Island nations to help them manage mitigation.
10. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: What is the role of forensic investigation in solving crime and does he consider it to be important?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police) : The role of forensic investigation is to determine evidence. Where there is forensic evidence, I am advised that the police consider its investigation important, and I agree.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the Government’s $4 billion surplus, why has he allowed a critical bottleneck to develop in forensic examinations, with front-line police now having to wait up to 9 months for criminal evidence to be examined, and up to 2 years for the analysis of drug scenes; and what does he say to police and the victims of crime who regard his failure as justice delayed, which is justice denied?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: In all cases where the police have vital evidence, it is processed quickly. I told that member, in answer to question for written answer No. 6863, lodged on 16 July, that as of 1 July 2003 there were 59 samples in the DNA national database that were classified as “work in progress”. The national database receives an average of 875 samples per month.
Mahara Okeroa: What is the role of forensic investigation in solving crime, and does he consider it to be important?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Well, the obvious examples include fingerprinting, document examination, ballistics, computers, photography, and DNA. Local and international expertise is assessed as required. For example, in the double-murder Barlow case the ballistic examination was carried out in Germany.
Richard Worth: Against the background of the surpluses in the police budget, which the Minister spoke about yesterday, why is he not taking immediate steps to contract out forensic work and avoid the current delays in the prosecution of murder, burglary, and methamphetamine cases, or is this a case of his praying for the miraculous delivery of resources and dithering in the meantime?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: What I am praying for is an Opposition that actually knows that the work is already contracted out to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
Dr Muriel Newman: Exactly how many of the 23 homicides, 970 sexual attacks, and over 1,800 robberies and grievous assaults that remain unsolved are unsolved as a result of the backlog in DNA forensic testing by the institute?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: If the member wants that precise information I am happy to provide it. But I can say that all urgent work is done quickly by the forensic people. Less urgent stuff, or evidence that is not likely to present a solution, is not dealt with as quickly.
11. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour—Tainui) to the Associate Minister of Tourism: He aha ngaa kaupapa i te Kawanatanga. He tautoko ngaa mahi taapoi Maaori?
Translation: What is the Government doing to support and develop Māori tourism throughout New Zealand?
Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Associate Minister of Tourism) :Kei te whakatakoto te Kāwanatanga te rautaki ki te tau 2010 te pūtea $1,000,000 mō ngā tau e toru ki te tautoko i ngā rōpū Māori tāpoi kia tūai i roto i ia rohe, ia rohe puta noa i te motu. The Government has made a commitment to Māori tourism by implementing a key recommendation from the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010. This Government has set aside funding of approximately $1 million over 3 years to develop Māori regional tourism groups right around New Zealand.
Nanaia Mahuta: He aha ētehi o ngā taonga tūturu Māori e pai ana ki ngā manuwhiri tuārangi i tō rātou taunga mai ki Aotearoa?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What are some aspects of traditional Māori life that appeal to visitors from afar when they land here in New Zealand?]
Hon DOVER SAMUELS: Kei te maha ngā manuhiri e haere mai ana ki te whai i ngā tikanga Māori. Kei te whakamīharo rātou, ngā manuhiri, ki te ātaahua o ngā waiata me ngā mihi whakatau i roto o te reo Māori me te reo o ngā mātua tūpuna. Te tohu tēnei wiki, ko te kōrero i te reo Māori. Many visitors who come to New Zealand come for a Māori cultural experience. They show their appreciation when they are entertained by waiata and mihi of welcome in the Māori language—the language of our tūpuna. It is particularly significant this week to encourage our people to speak in the Māori language—this being Māori Language Week.
Metiria Turei: Kei hea tētahi wāhi marumaru mō te mana whakairo hinengaro me te mana ahurea Māori, kei whakahekea ki te tūranga o te tiki kirihōu?
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Where will Māori intellectual property and cultural rights be placed in the strategy to protect them so that their status is not reduced to that of a plastic tiki?]
Hon DOVER SAMUELS: Koia tēnā tētahi a ngā tirohanga a te rīpoata a te Kāwanatanga mō ngā āhuatanga e pā ana ki ngā tāpoi Māori e pā ana ki te iwi Māori. Nā, ko tēnā ko tētahi o ngā taonga e kōrero nei i roto o te rīpoata kei te whai i te Kāwanatanga. There is a report from Te Puni Kōkiri in terms of branding Māori and using a standard in terms of the presentation and production of the Māori tourism product right throughout Aotearoa.
Defence Force—Security Assets
12. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Defence: Does the Government have any plans to update the New Zealand public on the extent of New Zealand’s military and security assets by way of a white paper or similar document; if not, why not?
Simon Power: How much of the $2 billion of defence spending promised by the Government will be funded from accumulating depreciation, as noted by the former chiefs and reported in the New Zealand Herald this morning?
Hon MARK BURTON: I can assure the member that all of the long-term development plan will be funded from a combination of capital injections, available finance through—[Interruption]—I am sorry; I got an interjection from a very helpful colleague—from depreciation, and various other matters.
Simon Power: How much?
Hon MARK BURTON: I do not have the exact figures with me. I am happy to provide them to the member. But the key thing is, of course, that there is a long-term development plan, and it does lay out a comprehensive, systematic acquisition programme in keeping with the policy framework that this Government published in 2000.
Tim Barnett: Has he seen any other reports on the need to address the state of New Zealand’s military assets?
Hon MARK BURTON: Yes. In the New Zealand International Review, Simon Power, speaking personally, is reported as saying: “I acknowledge that the National and National-led Governments did not allow defence spending to keep pace in the 1990s.” Further, in relation to the effectiveness of our Defence Force, he said: “Courage is no substitute for good policy and appropriate equipment for that policy.” I agree, and that is why we put in place a coherent policy and implementation process.
Keith Locke: How does the long-term development plan, which the Minister has just referred to, help us develop assets for peacekeeping such as we are doing in the Solomon Islands at present?
Hon Mark Burton: What it does is ensure that we have an acquisition process that is rationally and logically based on the defence policy framework that was published in 2000, then outlined in the defence statement of 2001. There is a direct connection between what we are doing in the world and how we are going to do it.
Simon Power: How can the Minister expect us to take his reassurances seriously when even today the deployment of an Air Force Iroquois helicopter was not possible because of the breakdown of the Hercules transport plane?
Hon MARK BURTON: Unlike the member, I am not in the habit of attacking our Defence Force personnel when they are working on a very hard and full programme. I can say precisely, because the very upgrade programmes that are required to put in place the modernisation of the Air Force are in the long-term development plan. Tenders are being called for. That alone, the Air Force upgrades, will involve the expenditure of between $900 million and $1.1 billion.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (NZ National—Rodney) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would appreciate it if you would be prepared to reflect on the ruling that you appear to have imposed on the House today in respect of interjections being permissible only from a member’s own seat. The reason I raise the matter is this. During a number of debates in Parliament, it is common practice when the House is not full for members to gather, often around their whips’ desks, and speak from those points. It means that there can be much more interactive debate, and, what is more, if members were not allowed to interject from those points, they could not really take part in the debate. What that would mean is that members would have to sit in their own seats around this Chamber, and that would destroy the spirit of debate in the Chamber, because some members who wanted to interact in the debate would be forced to speak from way up the back of the Chamber. I am concerned that if you were to enforce that absolutely, it would be somewhat damaging to the spirit of the Chamber.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House) : My understanding of the Speaker’s ruling is that one should not move one’s seat in order to be able to interject better. I think the National Party was in some difficulty today because so few of its regular front bench were here that it needed to fill up those seats with back-benchers; otherwise, it would have looked terribly thin on television. In that sense, it seemed to me that Dr Lockwood Smith was moved forward merely to fill up some of the gaps left by his absent colleagues, and, therefore, had to interject from that position.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister, I am afraid, has gone a little far there—that was a reference to members’ absence. I think the member has raised an interesting point, and I am going to think about it. But I just want to say that Speaker’s ruling 123/7 states: “While interjections have traditionally been permitted during debate, they are not in order at all during question time.” I take a little more liberal view on that than some of my predecessors, and perhaps that is my mistake. I prefer, however, to allow there to be the odd comment, provided that it is not unreasonable. I did not think that the one comment made by the member concerned, the member who raised the point of order, was unreasonable, but another colleague of his had about four or five goes, and I thought that that was going too far. I will be reasonable about it, but I do not want to be too reasonable.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that there is probably an additional point that could be made, and it has to do with our using the advice of experienced members of the House. I think that on occasions like this it would have been more appropriate to invite one of the most experienced National Party members, Mr Williamson, to come to the front, rather than to have him in the gallery.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. I start today with a quote from the : “As time goes by and the Government gives no sign of stumbling, National’s position becomes desperate. Its members and supporters begin to despair that the party can pose a serious challenge to the Government, let alone restore the centre-right to power.”
Everyone knows, because history tells us, that the 20th century belonged to the National Party as the natural power of Government. What we have seen since 1999, however, is an already wounded National Party go into full collapse. First, National took out Mrs Shipley and replaced her with Mr English. The National Party was defeated in a second election. It has gone on to try Mr Don Brash. Unfortunately, he could not do much at all, so the National Party has turned to Mr Williamson, or at least he has turned to it, and advised it that it is not polling, not performing, and as a result, he is about to be thrown out of his own party. But what he did say is something that National is doing. Mr Williamson said that if National wants to get traction, it needs to focus and return to its core constituency.
The National Party today is more about focusing on other parties in this Parliament that are now its real enemies—New Zealand First, ACT, and United Future—rather than the Government. To survive, the National Party now has to fight off challenges from those three other centre-right parties. As a result, National has abandoned its mainstream position. Mr English, who once saw himself as a leader of a party that aspired to represent the majority, now looks for fewer and fewer supporters. He has slammed the door in the face of one group of New Zealanders after the other. Who amongst the Pacific Island community today would look to the National Party for leadership? None! Who amongst women would look to the National Party for leadership, apart from the wives of the people who are on the other side? Who amongst the new migrant community would look to the National Party? Who amongst young people would look to the ageing National Party? And who amongst low-income New Zealanders would look to the National Party? Absolutely none! As a result, National has got smaller and smaller by the day. Most noticeably, Māori can no longer look to the National Party, because they are explicitly no longer wanted.
It is this narrowing, desperate way of behaving by the National Party that has allowed it to begin to turn to using a platform in politics that any sensible mainstream politician would reject, and that is the politics of racism. The desperation for traction has seen Mr English prepared to try to rescue his party by setting one New Zealander against the other. He will divide New Zealanders so that he can try to survive.
Look no further than the foreshore debate, where Mr Cullen has reassured New Zealanders that the Government will act to uphold rights of public access to, and use of, the foreshore and seabed. The Government will also act to protect Māori customary rights, to the extent that they are not protected already. What we are looking for is a fair result for all to be achieved. What is the position of Mr English? Mr English has set out to inflame this issue by saying that Māori cannot be trusted and that they will block people from getting access to the foreshore. He has gone on to paint Māori as if they are about to claim every single grain of sand on our foreshore and stop people getting access to it.
All of us in this House have been a part of slanging matches in our political careers, but when we get to big issues all of us are expected to rise to the occasion. On occasions when our nation is at risk, when we are asked to put unity amongst New Zealanders first, and when we are supposed to identify our common purpose, that is when we become true politicians and true leaders. Mr English will be judged by history on the way he behaves on this issue. He will fail not just as a failing leader of a failing party. Mr English will fail as a New Zealander. That is how he will be judged.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) : “Mr Speaker, I wish to advise you that in accordance with my statement on Television One network news last night, I hereby resign my warrant as Minister of Immigration.” That is a quote from a letter that should have been on the Prime Minister’s desk first thing this morning.
That letter should have read: “I wish to advise you that in accordance with my statement on Television One network news last night, I hereby resign my warrant as Minister of Immigration. Ever since being appointed to that job I have struggled to grasp even the most basic understanding of immigration and population issues. Despite that, I have carried out Labour’s immigration policies in a diligent manner. I have brought in hundreds of thousands of people from the Third World and poured them into Auckland, where there are now serious social and physical problems. The Immigration Service, which I am responsible for, is run by senior officials who are either incompetent or corrupt, or both. I have been unable to detect that, even though I deal with them on a daily basis.
“One of my most embarrassing moments was during the Assignment television programme, when I vehemently denied the existence of immigration fraud. You will recall how I looked—like a startled possum caught by a headlight—when the programme recounted and demonstrated a number of very serious fraud cases.
“However, you must give me credit for sticking to the Government line that all immigrants and asylum seekers are noble people, and that the real problem is the racist attitude of New Zealand First. For the past 4 years, I have denied every claim that New Zealand First and the Rt Hon Winston Peters have made, despite considerable efforts to the contrary. I have repeatedly dodged, ducked, and dived away from every question raised in Parliament, even though it was my responsibility to be accountable to the people of New Zealand.
“However, I have been finally caught out over the arrival in New Zealand of a suspected Algerian terrorist, who is being kept here at the taxpayer’s expense—thus far, well in excess of $60,000. For some reason—I cannot explain it—an immigration official lied to the media about the suspected terrorist. That official was attending a Christmas party in my office at the time. Later, I also rang the media, but I cannot remember whether I told them the official was lying. Despite my best efforts in Parliament yesterday, I failed to explain why the official claimed that ‘everybody had agreed to lie in unison’. Later, in response to reporters’ questions, I foolishly said that I would resign if there had been an agreement to lie. The actual quote was: ‘if there had been an agreement to lie, yes, I would have to resign.’
“This morning a story in the New Zealand Herald revealed that officials lied to the Ombudsman, and now I am in donkey-deep. In Parliament this afternoon I tried to wriggle out of the mess I and my officials have created, by making a personal statement to the House. Unfortunately, New Zealand First was awake to my bluff and bravado, denied me leave, and I had to front up again in question time, with the disastrous results you are again aware of. Prime Minister, it is now obvious that I cannot continue as Minister of Immigration, because of my shortcomings and those of my officials. I will clear out my desk immediately. Yours sincerely, Lianne Dalziel, Minister of Immigration, until now.”
I want to table that letter later on. I will seek leave, and no doubt I will be given it. The letter is a model of latent honesty, of abject confession, and of the principle that I cannot quite remember, which says that people rise to their own level of incompetence.
Rodney Hide: The “Peters principle”.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The “Peter principle”; it is singular, I tell Mr Hide. Literacy was not one of his greatest talents, was it? I seek leave to table that very, very important letter.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a letter. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Attorney-General) : We have just heard a rather feeble attempt at humour. As one would say, the honourable member should not give up his day job—though we do know he seeks the cover of the night. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry. If members want to have a reasonable hearing, they will allow all members to have a reasonable hearing. I intend to do that today. I could not hear the honourable Minister. I ask her to continue.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I was just making the point to the Opposition that the honourable member who spoke before me should not give up his day job. But then I understand he has been working hard at night anyway, and therefore perhaps he can do both.
The Labour-led Progressive Government has just celebrated the first year of its second term with the publication of the highlights of our achievements. That publication demonstrates that we are not just a Government of useless words and slogans, but that we walk the talk and do what the Opposition National Party has been unable to do for this Government—that is, demonstrate what it stands for. It has been demonstrably clear to us all that the National Party led by, um, the honourable member opposite me, Mr English—still Mr English—has demonstrated that one cannot get credibility with the New Zealand public through a set of slogans. One of the famous slogans that reached no traction at all is that of the one standard of citizenship, which is frequently heard in connection with issues relating to the relationship between Māori and the Crown, and also with regard to the Treaty of Waitangi.
I have wondered why a man who has aspirations to lead the people of this country considers that he only wishes to lead about 20 percent of the country. Mr English refuses to acknowledge that we are now a changing society that requires a sort of leadership that will acknowledge diversity, be prepared to embrace and celebrate difference, and be prepared to represent everyone in this country, and that will not use that useless phrase of one standard of citizenship for a small group of people who are just like him—rather short, rather white, and rather narrow-minded.
I have wondered and reflected upon why it is that I hear from some members of the National Opposition that they do embrace a bipartisan approach to important issues relating to the treaty, yet at the same time we hear the contradiction of that coming from the Leader of the Opposition. I have wondered why Mr English has strayed so much from a path that I think summed up a very constructive approach to the treaty, which was given by the Hon Nick Smith when he gave his speech in the second reading of the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Bill. At that point he was talking about various approaches to the treaty. I think he is worth quoting, because it demonstrates how far his leader has strayed from that approach.
The Hon Nick Smith said: “Perhaps the easiest approach is to do nothing and to sort of pretend that it never occurred. Perhaps some have thought that if we forget about it for long enough, then it will just go away. The problem”, said the Hon Nick Smith, “is that it will not go away and it has not gone away.” He was talking about the treaty. “Alternatively”, he said, “we could take the Khmer Rouge approach—the year zero approach. We do not care what happened; we do not want to know what happened. We could take the approach that history is just irrelevant. The problem with that sort of approach is that we cannot divorce our future from our past.”—take note of that, I tell Mr English. “Furthermore, there is much that is rich and good”, said the Hon Nick Smith, “about both our Maori and Pakeha history. If we want to cherish and value that which is good, we also have to acknowledge that which is not so good.”
Then the Hon Nick Smith went on to the third approach, the approach that was adopted by previous National Governments. He said: “The third approach that is encompassed in this Bill is probably the hardest of all, but it is certainly the right approach. It involves acknowledging that some things were wrong and that some people goofed—maybe deliberately, maybe through ignorance. While we cannot fix it all, while we cannot unwind history, we can make amends. We can acknowledge that what was wrong is wrong, and that to try to put these things right is the right thing to do.” Do the right thing, I tell Bill English.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) : Is it not interesting that Nick Smith said more worthwhile and insightful things in that one speech than Helen Clark has said about the treaty in 4 years as Prime Minister of this country? No Prime Minister in living memory has shown less willingness—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There will be no more interjections from that quarter, at all. That member interjected in the second person. He will not interject again during this 5 minutes, either.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will not have a point of order raised on it. The member will be seated.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member had better have a new one.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to refer me to the Standing Order or Speaker’s ruling that states that a Leader of the Opposition gets special protection.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I can. Every person is entitled to have interjections made in the third person. The member knew he interjected in the second person. I rule in that way now.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No Prime Minister in New Zealand has shown less willingness than Helen Clark to face the responsibilities of being the leader of this country, which are to talk openly and courageously with the New Zealand public about the significance of the treaty and what the Government will do about it.
I am fascinated to find that the Government now describes the position National has taken as “inciting racial hatred”, because the person who first took that position was Helen Clark. She came out on 19 June and said: “We will legislate to ensure that the Crown has title to the beaches and the foreshore.” She is the person who said that first. That is not the only thing; Labour claimed that that statement had boosted her poll ratings. Yet now Labour members turn round and say that when National says that, I am inciting racial hatred. They cannot have it both ways. If the issue is complicated, why did Helen Clark not say that on day one? If there is an occasion to be risen to, why did Helen Clark not do that on day one, instead of doing what she did, which was to react with panic and more panic, and then back off to a position that she knew would rip the Labour Party caucus apart?
The problem for Labour is not that our message appeals to a narrow range of New Zealanders, but that it appeals to almost every New Zealander. That is the problem, and I say to those members that when people are out on the street in Nelson to protest that issue, one knows that most New Zealanders share the same view that we do. Nelson is not the redneck capital of New Zealand. Nelson has voted not just solidly but overwhelmingly for this Government in the last two elections. The Nelson Evening Mail was able to show that over half the people who marched were committed Labour voters. They are responding to our simple, positive message for New Zealand, which is that there should be one standard of citizenship.
In fact, the power of one standard of citizenship is precisely that it appeals to people from a wide range of cultures and beliefs. I have discussed it with the Korean, Indian, Chinese, and Pacific Island communities, and they all responded positively to the idea that they are regarded as citizens of equal value and worth in this country. I have discussed it with Māori, some of whom disagree with it and some of whom do not. Of course, John Tamihere disagrees with it. Who is inciting racial hatred, if it is not the man who goes out and says that the leaders of iwi who make that claim have psychiatric problems? I have never said anything as rude or insulting about people who are carrying out difficult and dignified roles of leadership in this country. I have never said anything like that.
The real enemy here is not Māori. The real enemy is a Labour Government that is now navigating without a compass. It has no map and no idea where it is going, because its paradigm of the treaty, invented in the late 1970s, has failed. Margaret Wilson, who has, apparently, dedicated her life to the theory of the treaty, is failing in practice. She is failing this nation. So is Helen Clark, and they will pay for that.
MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) : I want to reflect on the year since the election, and on an increasing worry I have with the Government’s performance, particularly in the light of some of the legislation that is coming through, which involves a lot of political correctness. United Future signed an agreement to support the Government on confidence and supply, but reserved the right to support or oppose its legislation on a case-by-case basis. Much of that legislation has been worthy of our support, but there is a perilous tendency creeping into Labour’s agenda, which is exemplified by ideas like the Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill that will be debated later today. There is a tendency for Labour to move away from its traditional role towards a self-anointed role as our moral guardian, and the more it does so, the more fearful I become. Labour is starting to inspire confidence in the same way that the Titanic inspires buoyancy. The trouble is that people voted Labour for its policies, not its prejudices. People vote for a Government that will reflect what they think, not tell the people what to think. While political correctness in Labour has increasingly become the norm, I have seldom found it in the individuals I speak with outside Parliament.
The smoke-free legislation is a classic example. The Labour MP promoting that bill has admitted that the Government will not make further changes to smoking laws for another 5 years. But what is it planning after that? Will it be a total ban on smoking? How else would one explain Labour’s refusal to contemplate United Future’s Supplementary Order Paper, which simply allows a venue to meet an air quality standard set by the Ministry of Health? Surely, it is about what we breathe, not what habits people have. The real goal is not to protect bar workers from second-hand smoke but to stop people from smoking altogether. It is supposed to be a member’s bill, but like the Prostitution Reform Bill, Labour will undoubtedly be voting as a party to avoid having to squeeze out yet another well-thought-out, considered, and decisive abstention.
I want to know how Clayton Cosgrove will walk into the Papanui Tavern and explain this bill to its patrons, or the Hon Damien O’Connor in the local pubs in his electorate? Does he believe that this ideology dressed up in legislative drag will have any currency with the punters at the Blackball Hilton, the Red Lion in Hokitika, or the Berlins Hotel in the Buller Gorge? Is it not really about an evangelical bunch of ideologues who think they know better taking away freedom of choice from grownups?
For each and every pragmatic solution, it seems that there is now an equal and opposite Government programme. Take the recent move by Labour to adopt as Government policy a civil union bill that aims to make homosexual relationships as close as possible to marriage in the eyes of the law. Who asked the people of this country if they thought that the nature of marriage should be changed? If there is some pressing need for that, someone in the Government had better tell the people of New Zealand. Last week the Ministry of Social Development released a report on the state of the nation. If members look up “discrimination” in the report, they will find the results of a survey in which everyday people were asked which groups they thought were being discriminated against in New Zealand. The group that people thought were discriminated against the most were Asians, followed by recent immigrants, then refugees. Then came people on welfare, Pacific people, and people who are overweight. Finally, well back into the pack, came gays and lesbians.
More reasonable people might ask themselves why these bills get precedence over the need to put more police on our streets, or for the sick to get the treatment they need without having to wait for hours, months, or years on the waiting list for operations. They might also wonder why these bits of legislation come before the establishment of a national student database to assist in the prevention of truancy, when that has been part of Labour’s manifesto for the last three elections. Guess what?—a pilot scheme for that will not be ready by 2005.
The answer is that Labour is not the party it used to be. There are some within Labour who think that minority rights override the rights of just about everyone else. Where are the demands for those kinds of radical social reform? Why are those so-called reforms being promoted ahead of measures that could benefit everyone?
The Care of Children Bill is yet another example. There is no doubt that our guardianship laws need a radical overhaul, but United Future will not support a bill that has clearly been hijacked by the thought police within Labour. Such an appetite for ideological purity is nothing more than a substitute for the inconvenience of reasoned thought. How is it that a father can be defined in such a sloppy way as to include the lesbian partner of a mother? Why, after a month in a relationship with a custodial parent, can a person apply for guardianship of a child? How is it that it takes 3 years in a relationship before one can claim one’s partner’s sofa under the Property Relationships Act, but only a month to take on a pivotal role in a child’s life?
What about the Corrections Bill, which is yet another piece of legislation badly in need of an overhaul?
Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek the leave of the House to grant that member an extension of time, so that he can continue and conclude his speech.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): No. That is not a point of order.
KEITH LOCKE (Green) : The Green Party’s opposition to the United States - led invasion of Iraq is being proved more correct with each passing day. We said before the war that there was no proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and we now know that Bush, Blair, and Howard constructed the war on lies about such weapons. One can fool people some of the time, but eventually one gets found out, and now the popularity of both Blair and Bush is plummeting. To their shame, National and ACT accepted the US and British claims at face value, and wanted us to be part of that war. To its credit, the Clark Government did not join the war, and it is to be congratulated on that.
The occupation of Iraq is going badly. American troops are being killed almost every day, and not just by Saddam loyalists as US spokespeople claim. It is now crystal-clear that while most Iraqis are glad that the dictator, Saddam, has gone, they do not want their country occupied by US and British troops. Many Iraqis are actively opposing the troops’ presence with massive street protests and military action. The occupying American troops are becoming more hated by the day, because they are regularly arresting, torturing, and shooting innocent Iraqis. They are acting like the worst cops on the streets of Los Angeles. Last week Amnesty International issued a stinging report on what it called the continuing failure of the occupation troops to uphold human rights in Iraq. Amnesty detailed unlawful detentions, torture, and killing.
Events are demonstrating why we should have no part of the US occupation of Iraq, yet we are about to send a contingent of Army engineers, who will be armed and embedded with the British occupation forces. It would clearly be much less compromising for New Zealand, and safer for the Kiwis concerned, if our help with the reconstruction of Iraq took a civilian rather than a military form. Kiwis are clearly in more danger of being targeted when they have uniforms and guns, and are operating alongside the hated occupation forces.
Then there are the military missions close to Iraq that have involved our frigates and Orions as part of the US-led maritime interdiction operation called Operation Enduring Freedom. Regardless of what the United States and New Zealand Governments might say about this operation, it is not really about catching terrorists, and neither the New Zealanders, the Americans, nor anybody else seem to have discovered any actual terrorists crossing the Gulf. It is all about projecting American power in the Gulf, particularly against Iran. Last week, President Bush attacked Iran for allegedly harbouring terrorists. That is an accusation that one has to be very suspicious about, because Mr Bush told lies about the relationship between the Saddam Hussein regime and terrorists like al-Qaeda.
What did a Kiwi pilot, who has been on an Orion in the Gulf, tell the New Zealand Herald last week? He said that the Orion crew did not know why the Americans were interested in some of the vessels that the Kiwis were spotting for them. It does not take a genius to work out that the boats the Americans would be most interested in paying attention to—and then harassing—would be Iranian boats, as part of the Bush drive against Iran. We should not be part of that, any more than we should be sending off a hundred or so Army people to Afghanistan to be part of Bush’s land war—the so-called Operation Enduring Freedom.
The fact of the matter is that American-led forces in Afghanistan and Iraq throw their weight around and act as if they have some God-given right to run the show. Sure, Kiwi troops have a reputation for acting much more correctly, but we will be part of the American show. If New Zealand forces capture prisoners in Afghanistan, how can we be sure that they will not be handed over to the United States forces to be mistreated, or even tortured, as prisoners have been—particularly when taken to Guantanamo Bay—and perhaps tried by military tribunals armed with the death penalty? We should not be part of this American war, which, outside Kabul, in practice is about supporting a bunch of pro-Karzai warlords against another lot of warlords. It is not the way to empower the Afghan people to enable them to determine their own destiny.
Trade Minister Jim Sutton said this week that the Afghanistan commitment was assisting his trade talks, but New Zealand, as a small, independent, peace-making country, should not prostitute itself in that way.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs) : I rise to rebut, very quickly, the speech of the outgoing Leader of the Opposition. There is only one party and one Government that can bring closure to matters of race relations in this country, and that is a Labour-led Government. That is for one reason, and for one reason only: we are the true representation of the real face of this nation. We have every stakeholder group represented here; we are not here for the vested interests of the few. It is important that when we embark on these debates, we understand what runs deep and bonds us all as Kiwis—the principle of fairness. On this side of the House, we have moderation, and on this side of the House we have been fair—in spades. That is what will deliver closure on these issues, and we will not tolerate the divide-and-rule politics that are being expressed on the opposite side of the House.
One of the most sacrosanct rights of members of this House is the right of free speech. The freedom of MPs to speak the truth as they see it has been a jealously protected right in our Westminster system over the centuries. It traces back to the epic battles for supremacy between the House of Commons and the British monarchy. Indeed, in New Zealand we have gone further. Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act guarantees freedom of expression for all Kiwis. But there is a clause missing; there is something that Sir Geoffrey Palmer forgot to include in that Act, and it is that all New Zealanders have the right of speech—unless they are members of the National Party. All members of Parliament have the right to speak the truth—unless their name is Maurice Williamson.
Let us look at what Maurice Williamson has done in order to get kicked out of the National Party caucus, leaking as it does now. Has he criticised major iconic elements of National Party policy? Well, Bill English certainly has. Was it Maurice Williamson who said that the Employment Relations Act was not that bad after all? No, that was Bill English, the Leader of the Opposition and leader of the National Party. Was that not a wonderful acknowledgement to the Attorney-General and Minister of Labour? After all the cant and rhetoric about the Employment Relations Act being the thin edge of the wedge to the establishment of a socialist State that we heard from the National Party when Jenny Shipley was leader, Bill English reckoned that it was not that bad. It was certainly not bad enough to repeal.
Was it Maurice Williamson who said that the Budget made sense? No, that was the honourable member, Dr Don Brash. Was it Maurice Williamson who wrote a series of newspaper articles criticising National Party policy? Actually, that was Gerry Brownlee. The fact that he did not understand what he was writing is not the point. The point is that he wrote them.
So what was Maurice Williamson’s great sin? He told the truth about the leadership of Bill English. He said what Kiwis everywhere are saying about Bill English. He said that in business, excuses don’t get accepted. In business, they don’t care if you have been working hard and putting out lots of brochures and material. If your sales are slow, you are not kept on. That seems fair; most Kiwis would agree with that. So let us see how Bill English’s sales have gone. Since becoming leader, his sales have gone in only one direction—down. He has not polled over 10 percent this year. Mr Williamson went on to say that if Mr English could not get sales up to 30 percent by Christmas—35 percent by mid-2004—he should go. That is a good key performance indicator.
So what was Maurice Williamson’s solution? He said that any such company would be looking to change the management. He said: “We did that to Jim McClay. We gave him a year, and then he got the chop; he wasn’t cutting it.” The amazing thing is that when we compare Jim McClay’s polling in 1985-86 with Mr English’s, the parallels with this year are amazing. In both cases, there are Opposition leaders polling less than 10 percent of the vote. In both cases, there is someone else whom the people would clearly prefer as leader, but whom the party will never choose. In 1986 it was Rob Muldoon, and, such is the bizarre nature of New Zealand politics, in 2003 the people want Winston Peters to lead them—the leader of “Dad’s Army”, the New Zealand First Party; “Captain Mannering”, all the way from Tauranga. That is how bad the National Party is.
Bill English will go down in history as the modern Jim McClay: he is a nice guy, he tries hard and does his best, but, as Maurice Williamson says, he does not cut it. National members are so angry because Maurice Williamson has uttered the unspeakable secret: the emperor has no clothes, which is a terrible thought. Bill English has no support. Why does National not want anyone to know that? Because it knows that Bill English is as good as it gets, and that has to be tough when one rocks up to caucus every Tuesday and has a Tory cup of tea in the break. It would be like visiting the village of the damned. There will be no ideas going on there and no policy.
JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) : Having heard the Leader of the Opposition speak earlier on, I now know why National fell to 22 percent in last week’s poll. What was even more revealing was the fact that when Mr English was giving his speech, there were only five National MPs in the House. I am telling Mr English that that is not good enough. When one is wanting to retain the leadership—and when the skids are under one as much as they are under Mr English at the moment—one needs the support of more than five MPs in the House; one needs 25 MPs in that sort of precarious position, and the National Party is in a very precarious position.
I have been a political junkie all my life. I have been interested in politics since conception, and this is the worst I have ever seen National in my whole life. It is stagnating in the polls. It is at the same poll rating now as it was at the election. It will get more desperate and make more erratic statements. In the meantime, it is trying to present the kind face, which in reality hides the cold heart. New Zealanders are not fooled, and the polls prove that the public recognises incompetence.
The National Party will get even more erratic, because even its own flock is saying things in the newspapers. At the Federated Farmers conference in Auckland recently—which is the last place one would ever expect to hear criticism of the National Party—a farmer leader said: “National will languish in Opposition for ever unless it stops taking us for granted and gets stuck in.” To which I say, get stuck in Mr English! Even his own flock has deserted him, and continues to desert him. He should show some leadership on the greenhouse gas emissions levy. Instead of looking for a crowd and then jumping in front of it, he should show some leadership about how important climate change is to the agricultural sector in New Zealand. Instead of just following, he should provide some leadership, because he is most certainly not doing that at the moment.
Mr English cannot be a Jekyll and Hyde; he has to stick to the line. He tried to paint a kind face back in 2001, showing what a caring chap he was, but he has to be consistent, because the public have woken up to him. He talked about National becoming too focused on money and not caring about people. That was the man who championed the Employment Contracts Act through the Social Services Committee. That was the man who was previously the Minister for Crown Health Enterprises, which saw the first surgery waiting lists. He was the Minister of Finance who cut funding left, right, and centre. Mr English might have forgotten the past, but the public of New Zealand have not.
I do not know why I am trying to help that party, but the situation is so sad that I actually feel a bit sorry for National. Having grown up in the 1950s and 1960s, when the National Party was the dominant party of New Zealand, I cannot believe what has happened to it now. The person who scares me the most in the National Party is Dr Don Brash. He creates in me a sense of being very afraid—not for me personally, because I will always survive, but for people who are not able to fight for themselves. I suspect that we do not have any worries about that in reality, but I fear that if Dr Brash ever got the chance, the poorer people in New Zealand would be absolutely decimated.
This is a party that has lost its way. It has no leadership; it is in a desperate situation, and it is only going to get worse. The public has recognised the National Party for what it is—incompetent, with no integrity or leadership, and certainly not providing any direction for New Zealand. Instead, it is mistakenly trying to create a divisive society, where people turn against each other, instead of being like this Government, which the public has rewarded with its support for providing a cooperative, cohesive, and caring society.
RICHARD WORTH (NZ National—Epsom) : I have viewed the debate about Māori claims to the foreshore and the seabed with increasing unease in the last few weeks. I suggest to members opposite that the position worsens as the Government dithers and the expectations of many in Māoridom rise. Since 19 June 2003, which is not very long ago, some 16 applications have been lodged with the registries of the Māori Land Court for hundreds of thousands of hectares of foreshore and seabed. The position has been worsened by blurred language from Government Ministers.
David Benson-Pope: Have they been granted?
RICHARD WORTH: No, not yet. The initial position of the Government was correct. It initially made an unequivocal statement that the foreshore and the seabed were the exclusive property of the Crown. The language then became confused. The phrases “Māori customary title to land” and “customary rights” were used interchangeably, but they are utterly different concepts. The Government perpetuated that error in question time today in confusing those two concepts. John Tamihere suggested that the Crown has already alienated the foreshore in many parts of New Zealand, and he used the ownership of Great Mercury Island in the Hauraki Gulf as an example when he appeared on a television programme. He confused the clear concept of riparian rights with ownership of the foreshore. Others have compounded that confusion.
Riparian rights run to mean high-water mark. Land carrying such rights is owned by Māori and non-Māori alike. Those rights that are clear title should not be expropriated—they are outside the scope of this debate. The foreshore is a different area of land. It is that part of the beach that is covered and uncovered by tidal flow. It starts at mean high-water spring tide, and it runs to mean low-water neap tide. From there, the foreshore becomes the seabed running out to the continental shelf. I suggest that unless the Government moves to deal in a clear and unequivocal way in respect of the claims relating to the foreshore and the seabed it will create a legacy that will bedevil New Zealand.
The issues are not difficult to resolve. The Māori Land Court should have no jurisdiction to determine the status of foreshore and seabed, and related waters. It is a court concerned with land, whose jurisdiction should stop at the mean high-water mark. It is wrong to allow the pending applications in the Māori Land Court to be advanced, because the danger is that property rights will be created that may then have to be expropriated. That is hardly a satisfactory circumstance.
Then, I suggest, it is important that Māori customary rights in respect of the foreshore and the seabed be maintained. Those rights can be recognised in two ways—first, by the Government accepting recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal, and, second, by direct Government negotiation with relevant Māori interests. What are those customary rights? They are clearly limited in character. They are founded on active use, but they may embrace rights of access, rights to take stone or sand, or other matters. In my view, they do not include rights in respect of marine farming. Those rights were taken away by the Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act of 1992. That statute, and the associated deed of settlement, resolved Māori claims in respect of commercial fishing. I would say that that position is clear from reading the legislation and noting its relationship with the Fisheries Act of 1996.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT NZ) : Today’s Dominion Post editorial makes a salient observation. It states: “When everyone from small, poor households to the Reserve Bank governor is expressing concern about local authority rates rises, it would behove local authorities to listen.” Over the past decade, local government rates have been rising faster than inflation. Rates are identified as a key driver of inflation, and that has been a prevailing situation for a decade or more. Inflation is sitting at 1.5 percent. We have a Fiscal Responsibility Act, and we have a band of inflation that we instruct the Reserve Bank governor to manage our monetary policy to keep us within. No such constraints are on local government. Rate rises are running at 4.5 percent, and they have been running at 4.5 percent over the past decade. It is an intolerable situation.
I turn to the Auckland Regional Council. I single it out because it has presented the community of Auckland with a rate increase of 34 percent, on average, and some are facing rate increases in the order of 650 percent. I have to say that I have some sympathy for the Auckland Regional Council. It is in a quite invidious position. It is not without fault but it has been backed into a very invidious position by this Government. This Government refused to amend the Rating Act—in fact, it did amend it in 2002, but refused to address the basic problem of levying property tax, putting taxes on property to pay for all manner of services that are not related to that tax. That has been a cry from local government for decades—to be fair, I would have to say under successive Governments. This Government had the opportunity to address that basic problem when it did the rating review in 2002, but failed to do so.
The Government compounded the problem with the Local Government Bill, which was rammed through the House, under urgency, earlier this year. What it has done is import into local bodies a whole new level and range of costs, under the name of participatory democracy rather than representative democracy. What it means is endless consultation, endless meetings, one cannot get decisions made, and ratepayers are just starting to be presented with those obligations. The reason I have some sympathy for the dilemma the Auckland Regional Council is facing is that we know that there have been deferred capital investments and deferred maintenance of infrastructural utilities—and it is undeniable that there is a need in Auckland for some fairly massive investment. But the situation is compounded by the fact that, sensibly, the Auckland Regional Council adopted capital value rating, and I commend that, whereas most of the authorities in Auckland—all but one, I believe—are still on land value rating.
It is further compounded by the fact that the North Shore local authority has differential rating. It charges business and commerce nine times more than residentials, on an ad valorem dollar basis in their rating. That is bizarre. On the one hand it says that it faces massive congestion and all the commuters go into Auckland City for their jobs, yet although the very things that could create the jobs on the North Shore, the industry and the commercial activities, are there, they slog them for rates at nine times the amount they charge for residential rates.
It is further compounded with the massive increase in land valuations on the North Shore. The valuations of some of those fine properties on Takapuna waterfront have escalated. The upshot of all that is the Auckland Regional Council has this massive task of investing in the transport system. But therein lies the problem. Why should property rates and property tax have to fund the services that some people have never used and have no intention of using? That goes right back to the failing of this Government to address the basic problem.
DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) : It is no wonder the member who has just returned to his seat was so derisory about participatory democracy, seeing it has been so harsh and cruel to him over the years. He has put his name on a ballot paper so many times but very rarely had ticks put beside it. Normally other candidates have been elected. It is no wonder he wants to shut up other people.
Hon Ken Shirley: How many elections have you stood in?
DARREN HUGHES: I have stood in only one election and I got more votes in that election than that member got in all the elections he has ever run in, and that is the way it will continue.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the addition to the Chamber of my friend Moana Mackey. It is fantastic to have as a Labour MP on this side of the House someone as talented and gifted as she is. I have been privileged to call her my friend over our years of involvement with Young Labour and I am now very proud to call her my colleague in the House of Representatives. I know she will make a big impact on this Parliament.
It is great to be a member of a party that is adding members to its caucus, not taking them away. One of the points of democracy is to try to build as many people around one, with talent and skill, to put ideas out to the country and to make a difference in New Zealand. The only thing that members on the other side of the House are good at doing is taking members away from their caucus. They are great at the game of subtraction, when the game of parliamentary politics is addition. We add; they subtract. We win; they lose. That is the problem they face, not just today but 1 year ago when they went to the people of this country and the National Party got the worst result of any major party in 100 years.
We have had 1 year since that election, and have we seen any turn-round in the ability and talent on that side of the House? No. Twelve months down the track there has been no improvement in the performance of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. They have gone backwards, not forwards, and that gives us time to focus on the achievements that we have been able to notch up on this side of the House. What are they? They are 1.7 million New Zealanders receiving access to primary health organisations and better health-care, and 800 extra teachers in schools and classrooms next year, because we are doing the work over here. Since we came to office, 156,500 extra New Zealanders are working in jobs around the economy. It is a fantastic record to be proud of in this Parliament.
A year ago new members of this House travelled with Mr Speaker to Government House to see him sworn in. On that occasion, after the Speaker had been given his credentials, he asked for a very important right. He asked the Governor-General for the right of freedom of speech for members of this House. Nothing is more important than the right of members to stand on this floor and say whatever they like and advance the ideas and the causes they believe in. But what happens if one is Maurice Williamson? If one is Maurice Williamson, it does not matter if that member has been here 17 years, that member’s right to freedom of speech that people have fought for and that we sent our Speaker to Government House to demand, has been withdrawn.
It is all very well to pay money for big billboards that say “One standard of citizenship”, but on behalf of Maurice Williamson I ask: why not one standard of membership in this Parliament? There should be one standard of membership in this Parliament, when anybody can stand up and speak his or her mind, when anybody can stand up and advance what he or she believes in, without fear of retribution by people who cannot take the arguments that are being advanced by that member.
It is an absolute outrage that that member lost his freedom of speech. What was he trying to do? He was not trying to attack the National Party. He was trying to help the National Party. Maurice Williamson was trying to say: “How can I make the National Party better and bigger? How can I make sure the National Party wins general elections, the point of having parties?”. That is what Maurice Williamson was trying to do. He said: “Let’s raise the bar of our performance. Let’s work together to do that.” Rather than front up to that challenge, National Party members said: “No, we can’t have somebody actually putting it to us like that. You go, and you lose your freedom of speech.” It is just absolutely amazing.
Maurice Williamson said: “How can the assistant tea boy be responsible when the captain and the first officer let the ship sink?”. One has to sheet the blame home squarely to the brat pack when it comes to that—that is, the four so-called political geniuses who were elected in 1990 when National had 47 percent of the vote, but under their political genius, expertise, and wisdom National Party members come to this Parliament with only 20 percent of the vote, and they think they are brilliant. They sacked the man who said: “Let’s try and get our vote up to 30 percent by Christmas.”
Those National Party members came in with 47 percent, took over the reins of the party, and now it has 27 percent. National Party members smugly sit along the front bench as though only they understand politics. They put up a billboard that stated: “One standard of citizenship” and tried to get on board with an issue that is dominating our minds at the moment. What happened? They went hard on the issue. They all tried to sing from the same song sheet, and after getting all that media exposure they went down in the opinion polls.
The more the National Party speaks out, the worse it gets for it. Mr Peters got the support when it was moving in the opinion polls, not the National Party. The National Party thinks it is so clever with regard to its campaign, even though it simply does not work. When somebody points out that the campaign is not working and that it is not getting the votes and support, the National Party says: “That’s very disloyal and would you mind leaving our caucus?”. It is an extraordinary thing.
JUDITH COLLINS (NZ National—Clevedon) : We always know we have Government members upset when they spend their entire speaking time attacking the National Party. If that is all they have to say they might as well go home.
The claims made by some Māori to take ownership of our seabed and foreshore is the biggest issue to face this nation for decades. The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, has dithered and slithered all over it. First she said that the Labour Government would legislate to protect the Crown’s interests, and thereby all New Zealanders’ interests. Then the Māori Labour MPs said: “Let’s not ruin our relationship with the few Māori who benefit from these spurious claims.” Now what do we have from Labour? Mahara Okeroa said: “Public access is a non-issue because it doesn’t exist.” That is worth repeating: “Labour MP says ‘Public access is a non-issue because it doesn’t exist.’ ”
On 22 June Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson said: “Ownership of the foreshore and seabed has long been considered to lie with the Crown.” That was the first position. On 25 June Helen Clark told Parliament that the Government has not said that it is bringing in law to extinguish customary title. She did not quite say what it was doing though. Parekura Horomia has probably best stated the position of this Labour Government when on 15 July he said: “I am here as a member of Ngāti Porou and as a Minister of the Crown. I can’t deny that.”—he probably wanted to—“I don’t want to distract from the hui. It’s not the place. There will be some talk here, and whatever comes out of the hui I’m sure it will be a Māori view.” That is what we are paying that man for.
As at this morning 50,000 New Zealanders have signed our on-line petition to keep our beaches, foreshore, and seabed exactly that—ours, for all New Zealanders and not just for one racial group or one privileged class. Access to our beaches, our foreshore, and our seabed is a basic right for New Zealanders. It is a defining right for New Zealanders. All New Zealanders have had that right assured and accepted for at least 160 years, if not for more. This is the one issue that is dividing this country.
Every time people like us in the National Party, the ACT party, and now United Future, come out and say that this is not good enough, what happens? We get abused by the deputy leader of the Labour Government and we are told that we are inciting racial hatred. No, we are not! We are saying to the people of New Zealand that we will stand up for them—that is, all New Zealanders: Māori, Pākehā, Chinese, Samoan, or whatever. If people are New Zealanders, then we are happy to have them and to tell them to use the beaches. That is what it is about. This Labour Government is driving a wedge into this country. It is pandering to a few at the expense of the many. The many always pay for just a few.
We all know that these claims are all about money. There would never have been any claims in relation to our beaches, foreshore, and seabed if it were not because there is a monetary claim in the wings. If we did not have an aquaculture industry we would not have a claim, and that is the truth of it. That is the sort of truth that the Labour Government cannot stand because it is the truth. It is not a big word; Labour Government members should be able to say it.
Hon Ken Shirley: They’re strangers to it.
JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, Mr Shirley is quite right, they are strangers to it. The people of New Zealand have had enough. They will not accept deals or accept having their rights taken away from them. They will not accept this further splitting up of our country by a Government that will do anything to stay in power. This Government is quite literally selling our country down the river. That is what it is doing. It does not care about the future of New Zealand. Most of the people in it have never done a day’s work in their lives. As far as they are concerned they are quite happy for someone else to pay for it. This particular country is a country that has built itself on freedom—that is, on a freedom to walk our beaches and to use our beaches. Every person in this country lives within about 2 hours of the beaches. Every person in New Zealand has a right to get the food from the foreshore, and he or she will not be denied it.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.
Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill
DAVID BENSON-POPE (Senior Whip—NZ Labour) : I seek leave that not withstanding Standing Order 145(1)(b), the votes cast for each party on the second reading of this bill may include votes cast for the Ayes and Noes, and abstentions.
Dail Jones: I did not quite catch what the member said. I was engaged on something else, and it is obviously a very important issue.
DAVID BENSON-POPE: The leave is a consequence of the agreement at the Business Committee that allows a split vote by the National Party or any other party, should it wish to do so.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be none.
- Debate resumed from 25 June.
PITA PARAONE (NZ First) : Tēnā koe. As I mentioned earlier in this debate, the New Zealand First caucus has allowed its members to have a free vote on this bill. I have chosen to exercise my own vote in support of this bill, the reasons for which I have already declared to this House.
It would be useful at this point to look at the opinions of those who encounter the effects of tobacco use on a daily basis. I am not talking about those who work in the hospitality industry, but those who encounter the effects of tobacco use every day. I am talking about those who work in the medical profession, who have come out strongly in favour of this bill. In fact, 99.9 percent of those approached in a recent survey, amounting to over 1,000 doctors, supported the concept of smoke-free workplaces, including bars and clubs. I suggest that the reason they are in favour of smoke-free legislation is that they know, through their experience, the realities of the eventual effects of smoking on health. Every day in clinics and hospitals they see and treat people who have respiratory problems, cancers, heart disease, strokes, and so on, all of which are linked to smoking.
Passive smoking is now recognised as a causal factor in the onset of smoke-related illness. It is one thing to be told all these statistics; it is another thing to witness them in reality. Health professionals do so on a daily basis, and that is why one would be hard-pressed to find a health worker who is not in favour of limiting the opportunities for smoking and exposure to smoke, and of sending out a clear message that smoking is not conducive to good health.
The medical profession is not the only professional group that has come out in favour of this bill. Scientists are well aware of the harmful quantities of toxins in cigarette smoke. The hard evidence of the presence of such substances, which to most of us evoke lethal poisoning in detective stories, is a scientific fact. A scientific report on tests carried out on non-smoking bar staff after a normal shift revealed that their bodies had taken in cigarette smoke. So why, when most other workers are protected, is this group overlooked? Well, they will not be for much longer, and that is only fair and just.
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act employers are obliged to protect their staff and the public from hazards. It has been clearly established that cigarette smoke is a hazard capable of killing people. Therefore we need to act in a manner that is consistent with other legislation, whether or not we might agree with such legislation. Evidence from other countries where smoke-free legislation has been introduced shows that smoke bans have not adversely affected the hospitality industry. Having said that, I still have a number of concerns about the bill, not least of all being the freedom of choice for people to smoke when and where they choose.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) : Kia ora. I am very pleased to speak today in the second reading debate on the Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill. I would like to focus on a key element of this bill that seems to have become almost lost in the race by some to protect the so-called rights of smokers in this country. What about the rights of workers? This bill is not about only public health; it is about workers’ rights. The title of the bill highlights that. The bill seeks to enhance protections for workers in a wide variety of environments in which they work. The Smoke-free Environments Act of 1990 provided valuable groundwork, and many New Zealanders now take smoke-free offices for granted.
The 1990 legislation was successful in reducing workers’ exposure to second-hand smoke from 31 percent down to 21 percent in just 1 year, and since then we have seen a further drop to 17 percent. But that legislation, progressive though it was at the time, addressed only half of the workplaces in which second-hand smoke is a health and safety issue for workers. That half tended to be the white-collar office workers. What was missing, and what this bill incrementally expands on, is a universal protection for all workers, regardless of what type of indoor environment they work in. Those who work in factories, warehouses, schools, hospitality venues, taxis, shared work vehicles, and the like also have a right to work in a place that will not kill them by exposing them to the risks of second-hand smoke. If the Californian experience is anything to go by, the bill will, hopefully, have the spin-off of encouraging more people to adopt smoke-free environments at home for their children, as well.
The bill will provide 100 percent smoke-free protection in all indoor workplaces where two or more people work in a common airspace. It will include volunteers who work in these workplaces. It will include taxis, work vehicles, passenger lounges, internal areas of ships, trains and planes, marae, and other community spaces to the extent that they are workplaces and workplace cafeterias. The Health Committee has considered that some exceptions are appropriate, such as workplaces that are a private citizen’s home or a temporary residence. But separate indoor smoking areas for workers will go, and with them the need for employers to have a written policy on smoking in the workplace. Employers will still have to comply with health and safety legislation. The bill makes this explicit. Employers will have a duty to take all reasonable practical steps to ensure a smoke-free indoor work environment for workers and volunteers, and smokers themselves will have a duty to abide by the same rules.
Smoking is not just a harmless habit. It is a very serious health issue. Under the hazard identification code in the Health and Safety in Employment Act, tobacco smoke is a significant workplace hazard. Second-hand smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals, 200 poisons, and over 40 cancer-causing compounds. The sidestream smoke that others breathe in is actually more dangerous than the mainstream smoke that smokers inhale directly from a cigarette. Exposure to that second-hand smoke is a known health hazard that kills nearly the equivalent of our total road toll each year—an estimated 388 people. There would be an outrage if we did nothing to reduce our road toll because of the rights of a few dangerous drivers. Similarly, tobacco smoke, as something that fits the health and safety legislation’s top category of workplace hazard, cannot be tolerated or minimised. It must be eliminated entirely from the workplace.
We tend to think of bars, restaurants, and clubs primarily as places in which we can have a drink and a meal, and socialise. However, for more than 10,000 New Zealanders those hospitality venues are their workplaces. The 100 percent smoke-free workplaces policy proposed in this bill is about consistency. It will include those previously neglected workplaces and the workers themselves. The provision will also include sports clubs, Returned Services Associations, and recreational clubs if they employ workers or if they have a liquor licence. As the Health Committee found, there is overwhelming support for a level playing field for all hospitality venues. Hospitality workers should not have to choose between their job and their health, yet this is the situation for many because there is no level playing field for the health and safety rights of workers.
Hospitality workers are particularly vulnerable because they are exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke on a daily basis. I tell Mr Jones that non-smoking workers in hospitality venues breathe in smoke for up to 8 hours a day whether or not they like it. A 2001 study found that New Zealand restaurant and bar workers faced up to four times the exposure to second-hand smoke as compared with someone who actually lived with a smoker.
Employers also pay the cost of smoking through lower staff productivity, higher accident compensation premiums, and the risk of occupational safety and health prosecution for failing to provide a safe workplace. We as taxpayers pay, too. Our health system is burdened with unnecessarily sick workers and the estimated $200 million per year cost of all tobacco related illnesses. We also pay emotionally with the unnecessary pain and distress of loved ones falling ill or dying from the effects of second-hand smoke. So what is the answer? Well, last year the Irish Government, facing the same smoking and worker-health issues as New Zealand, commissioned an independent report from a working group of experts on the effects of second-hand smoke exposure. Their advice was very blunt. Current ventilation technologies are simply inadequate for protecting workers. They reported that, despite attempts by the tobacco industry to play down the possible danger from environmental smoke, the only viable way to ensure protection from the deadly effects of exposure to second-hand smoke was to have a total smoking ban on every indoor workplace.
If Ireland, California, New York, Sweden and Norway can live with smoke-free pubs, then why cannot we? The answer is increasingly clear to the rest of the world, too. An increasing number of Australian states and Canadian provinces are phasing out equal amenity provisions—or ventilation options, as they are called—in favour of 100 percent smoke-free environments. They are realising that having smoking and non-smoking areas in the same premises just does not work. It is about as useful as dividing a swimming pool into the peeing and non-peeing areas! Smoking in workplaces may have been tolerated in the past, but we now know a lot more. In the 21st century we know too much about the risks of smoking, and second-hand smoke, to let the practice continue.
Unions are behind the legislation. They know the value in protecting the workers. I have every sympathy for those smokers who continue to be addicted to nicotine. Most got sucked in when they were still teenagers—I was one of them. I take my hat off to those who have the courage and strength to succeed in quitting. Three-quarters of New Zealanders do not smoke, and we demand the right to have a smoke-free environment. Yet, strangely, time after time during the second reading of this bill, I heard members of Parliament stand and apologetically defer to the so-called “rights” of smokers to ruin the ability of the rest of us—the vast majority of New Zealanders—to enjoy a quiet beer and conversation with our mates down at our local, because of the smoke they endanger us with. I do not accept the claims made by the hospitality industry and the tobacco industry that business will decline if we can all enjoy smoke-free workplaces and hospitality venues. The experience from California shows that business increased after the introduction of smoke-free environments. I compliment the Health Committee on the work it has done, and I look forward to the passage of the bill through the House.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) : This bill will probably do more to improve the health of New Zealanders than any other bill before the House this term, and, as such, it should be supported by every member of this House. It is nonsensical for some parties to claim that this bill is somehow a conscience issue that should be voted on according to an individual MP’s conscience, when in fact it is a specific public health measure, and when there are no moral issues in the bill—none at all. Certainly, the bill is widely supported in the community—in particular, by the 75 percent of us who do not smoke and who are fed up with coming home from a night on the town, smelling like an ashtray, with our eyes and throats hurting, and our hair and clothes wreaking of smoke. Most people, including myself, are counting the days until we can breathe clean, unpolluted air in cafes, and bars and do not have to risk our health every time we decide to go out on the town.
It is nonsensical to claim, as some parties are, that it is not the Government’s role to intervene to protect people from harmful exposure to tobacco smoke. We have laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets, people in cars to wear seatbelts to reduce their risk of harm, and we expect the Government to protect us from exposure to cancer-causing substances, like asbestos and dioxin, so why on earth would we not expect it to take similar steps to protect us from the well-documented harm of second-hand smoke? The truth is that some MPs and parties in this House are sounding like King Canute trying to stem the turning tide. They are reciting discredited arguments from the tobacco industry, and using discredited tobacco-industry tactics to try to water down or defeat all or parts of this bill.
The tobacco industry has used every trick in the book over the past 4 decades to oppose every form of tobacco control and to try to influence our political process. It has flown in so-called independent expert witnesses to cast doubt on the harm of second-hand smoke, tried to conceal the evidence of harm from cigarette smoke, lobbied against legislation, objected to health warnings, and misled the public about the very real health issues involved in second-hand smoke. We know all of this thanks to an excellent report by two researchers—Nick Wilson and George Thomson—which has exposed the tactics the tobacco industry used in New Zealand. The report shows that the industry knew it was pushing a product that was addictive and a killer but, still, it spent billions of dollars trying to cover up the evidence of the harm of cigarette smoke so it could keep on selling its harmful, addictive product.
It is disgraceful that the industry was able to delay effective protection from exposure to second-hand smoke for so long, and in so doing contribute to hundreds—or, more likely, millions—of preventable deaths. But it is disgraceful, too, that some of those tactics are still being used today by opponents of this bill, who are doing the bidding of the tobacco industry by trying to water down or throw out this important piece of public health legislation. We can see the hand of the tobacco industry at work in frantic, last-minute lobbying, postcards we have been bombarded with, and MPs singing the tobacco industry tune—that property rights are more important than non-smokers’ rights, and that ventilations will somehow solve the problem of second-hand smoke, whereas compelling evidence has been presented to the Health Committee that they will not. It is galling, too, that a party that brands itself as being family friendly, and supported this bill all the way through the select committee, is now trying to throw out the central provision of this bill.
If smokers were harming only themselves with their habit, then the arguments of opponents would sound credible. But the truth is that every time a patron in a bar, or a club, or a Returned Services Association lights up he or she puts at risk the health of any other person who happens to be around, because two-thirds of the smoke from a cigarette is inhaled, then exhaled into the air, so that everyone in the room breathes in that smoke. Of course, we have been told that second-hand smoke contains 50 chemicals that are known to cause cancer. There is overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that second-hand smoke is a leading cause of death and disease, and causes about one person to die a premature death every day in New Zealand. The Heart Foundation estimates that people who are exposed to second-hand smoke increase their risk of heart attacks by about a third, as well as increasing their risk of the other fatal diseases that plague smokers. The foundation says that bars and places where smokers concentrate pose the greatest risk to passive smokers, because of the concentration of smoke in those places.
Armed with this knowledge, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to cigarette smoke’s harmful effects and allow thousands of workers to be exposed on a daily and continuous basis to those harmful effects. We must be honest and acknowledge that smoke-free zones in cafes and bars are simply not working, because smoke travels throughout an entire room, and, to continue the Minister’s analogy, I say it is like trying to have a non-chlorinated zone in a swimming pool by allowing chlorine only at one end. We must acknowledge, too, that hospitality venues are not just places to socialise but are workplaces for staff who have to work around the clock with smoking patrons continually. Nobody should have to risk their health to go to work, nor should workers be forced to choose between their health and their jobs. Yet we heard numerous heartrending submissions from workers who had had to do just that and whose health had been severely compromised as a result.
This bill will benefit everyone in society, including the hospitality industry. There are no high compliance costs—no building alterations are required, and employers, particularly those in the hospitality industry, can look forward to reduced staff sickness and absenteeism, and reduced chances of litigation. I predict, as others have, that the vastly improved environments in bars will actually mean more, not fewer, patrons. But there must be a level playing field in the implementation of the bill, and it must apply to all bars and clubs equally, and that is why the Green Party is vehemently opposed to last-ditch efforts to exempt Returned Services Association clubs from the provisions of this bill. That is absurd, and we must resist last-minute, pork-barrel attempts to garner votes from Returned Services Associations and other clubs, and we must have an across-the-board approach.
I would like to signal that the Green Party will seek to amend the bill so as to ban the sale of toys that imitate the act of smoking to anyone under the age of 18. Cigarette toys are being sold to children as young as 3, and those toys basically teach children how to become the smokers of tomorrow. I have here seven different toy products that have been sent to me from all around the country. There are squirting cigarettes, cigars—all sort of cigarettes, and all these products are designed to make children think that smoking is somehow cool and fun. Cigarette companies have long targeted young people in their marketing campaigns, knowing, as Philip Morris puts it, that today’s young person is tomorrow’s potential regular customer, and that the vast majority of smokers begin to smoke while in their teens. So if we are serious about trying to discourage our children from becoming the addicts of tomorrow, we must prohibit the sale of products like these, which are specifically targeted at young children, to encourage them to think smoking is cool and to get hooked at a young age.
I will also be seeking to amend the legislation in order to remove the penalties, infringement notices, and prosecution procedures that apply to individuals. We would prefer that we rely on social pressure, not penalties, for getting smokers to comply with the new law. Enforcement has not been an issue in other places, like California, for example, where there are no specific penalties, yet there has been 92 percent compliance after 1 year. I think we can expect the same high compliance rate here in New Zealand. Finally, we strongly support requirements that the bill require full disclosure of the contents of tobacco products, and that all of the more than 600 additives used in tobacco products—used to enhance the taste of tobacco smoke, numb the throat, and so forth, to make cigarettes more palatable for first-time users—ought to be disclosed on tobacco products.
DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) : It is a pleasure to rise in support of the Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill. This is a very important piece of legislation that has come before the House, and it is worthy of the support of all members. I want to pay tribute briefly to my predecessor, Judy Keall, who shepherded the bill through the select committee stage. I think the Health Committee’s report is a very good one. It has picked up on a number of the points that submitters raised about making sure there was a level playing field.
I am particularly interested in the provisions that, I believe, provide safeguards for young people, both as patrons of pubs, clubs, and cafes, and as workers in those venues. Often, young people work for very low wages and for very long hours in conditions that are very smoky. There is no doubt that that has an impact on their health. I think this bill is an important way of safeguarding young workers in the economy. That is one of the reasons that I will be supporting the bill. The other, of course, is that pubs, clubs, bars, and cafes are often frequented by lots of young people, and young people generally get addicted to cigarette smoking during their teenage years, or when they are under 18, and putting people into venues where it is very smoky of course has an impact on their health. When I go to such venues, see that they are very smoky, and look around and count the number of people who are smoking, I see that it is actually very few, and the point is that a very few people at those venues have a huge impact on the rest of the people there. I believe that this bill is about making sure that those venues are enjoyable for all New Zealanders, and about making sure there is clean air for all people who want to have fun recreation time in New Zealand.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (NZ National—Port Waikato) : I thank my parliamentary colleague, the member for Otaki, Darren Hughes, for giving me part of his speaking time. I think that very much goes in the spirit of this bill, which recognises the huge public health gains that can be achieved by its passing.
It is important to understand that National regards this bill as a conscience issue, and I am speaking as an individual rather than as the National Party. For me, the basic issue regarding this bill is one of freedom—freedom of choice about whether one has to partake of other people’s smoke. It is somewhat ironic to hear some of the spokespeople from the ACT party talking about loss of freedom. As I understand it, basic libertarian philosophy advocates as much individual freedom as possible, provided there is no harm to others—and second-hand smoke, unequivocally, does harm others. I would go so far as to say that the 25 percent of New Zealanders who do smoke impose on those around them, particularly their children, and diminish their freedoms. It is just not possible to move away or go to another restaurant if a child has been taken there by its parents.
As someone who has been a practising clinician for over 25 years, I have good reason to be deeply concerned about the issue of all New Zealanders having the freedom to breathe clean air. I spent 2 years in the United States as a pathology resident, and one of the most indelibly awful sights was the dissection of the lungs of heavy smokers, and I would recommend that activity if one wants to be put off. When I became a specialist obstetrician, I could not have had more clearly re-enforced on me the profound implication for a baby, both before and after birth, of having smoking parents. There is absolutely no doubt that babies and young children who are consistently exposed to second-hand smoke are deprived of achieving their full potential.
Stopping smoking and eliminating second-hand smoke in public places and at work is one of the most clearly identifiable public-health prevention programmes known. There is a whole raft of epidemiological evidence to support that statement. It is for this reason that the design of this bill is so important. Undoubtedly, the workplace-smoking issue is of high importance. The recent case in Australia—an employee of a Returned Services Association successfully sued because her unsafe, smoking workplace was considered to be the cause of her cancer—will inevitably have ramifications in New Zealand.
Many people working in the hospitality industry here are up in arms about the possibility of banning smoking in restaurants, bars, and casinos, and, originally, thought had indeed been given to having separate smoking rooms. But one of the quite outstanding examples of where this has been quite unnecessary—because banning smoking has worked in an opposite, positive, direction—has been the South Island smoke-free dining and accommodation guide. Last year I had the opportunity of visiting the Gresham Hotel in Dunedin, which has recently become smoke-free and has actually increased its patronage from something like 200 people a week to 2,000 a week. Bands play there free of charge because they like the environment.
One startling anomaly in New Zealand is that the Health and Safety in Employment Act is not being enforced. In fact, in 2001 the Occupational Safety and Health Service defined in its handbook that second-hand smoke is a significant hazard, capable of causing serious harm, and death. Theoretically, employers are required to identify and control hazards—including all hospitality venues. I think that there is a huge case for the occupational safety and health laws to be better enforced in New Zealand. The tobacco legislation is undoubtedly, in essence, about freedom of choice. If adults decide that smoking is what they want to do, and if they smoke in situations that do not impact on others, including minors, then that is up to them.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the work of Action on Smoking and Health. I realise that that group might not be popular in all sectors of New Zealand society, but it has relentlessly stuck to its guns on this issue. It has worked really hard to present the New Zealand public with quality information so that individuals can make an informed choice. I also acknowledge the big contribution made by the New Zealand Heart Foundation, and related organisations that have also worked very hard to see this bill progressed. Legislation like this is controversial. It does not suit everyone. However, I believe that in 20 years’ time the next generation of New Zealanders will be very glad that a huge effort was put in by this generation to help the majority of our children have the freedom of choice of a smoke-free environment.
NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour—Tainui) : For anyone who is listening to this debate, I point out that the bill provides specifically for the protection of workers, volunteers, and the public from the effects of second-hand smoke. I thank all the officials and advisers who helped the Health Committee deliberate over some difficult and challenging issues.
The intent of the bill should really be understood against the context of a whole lot of smoke-free legislation that has occurred. The Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 and the subsequent amendments, and the Smoke-free Environments Regulations 1999 provided that there would be a restriction on smoking in workplaces; required all workplaces to have a policy on smoking, and to review that policy annually; required that we restrict or ban smoking in restaurants, bars, casinos, public transport, and certain other public places, and also regulate the marketing, advertising, and promotion of tobacco products, and the sponsorship by tobacco companies of products, services and events; required that we ban the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 18 years; and required that we provide for the control and disclosure of the contents of tobacco products. In a sense, though, we all know what is reality in our communities: smoking kills. That is really what it comes down to. So, in that context, this particular bill to protect the rights of workers, I think, goes in the right direction.
I do not want to spend too long in this debate speaking on issues faced by the select committee, but I do want to highlight one point in particular. A lot of discussion came up in our select committee about whether to legislate for marae to be included within the ambit of this bill. Clearly, all submissioners said, and their advice to us was, that that would not be a positive step if we wanted to strike a balance between individual and collective responsibility. Also, the harder challenge for us all is to create an environment within our public health policy context where people voluntarily move to reduce smoking, and produce a voluntary ban. That is the best way to do it amongst our marae. Indeed, we heard advice from people involved in the Auahi Kore campaign and the Aukati Kai Paipa campaign, key workers on the ground who go amongst Māori communities and Māori people, and they said that people were doing it anyway. In fact, they were getting calls from people from marae asking how to become smoke-free.
Let us be realistic: how do we take some practical steps? That is the way to ensure that people take some individual and collective responsibility to reduce and minimise the effects of smoking amongst our whānau groups. The benefit is that we will have an environment that promotes health and well-being in its entirety, and that is really what we want to see. No one knows more than Māori women that the effects of smoking have hurt them tremendously. In fact, the rate of deaths as a result of smoking is an absolute travesty, with regard to the figures relating to Māori women. I comment on that aspect because I know that there were a lot of views around our select committee table to consider legislating to include marae.
One of the difficulties around that is that marae are places where there is no paid workforce. A lot of the people there are volunteers, and a lot of the work that happens there is on a voluntary basis. So, in terms of the strict provisions and context of this particular bill, it would be a farce to try to apply them to a marae context. But that does not mean that Māori communities and marae are not addressing these issues in a serious way. In fact, they are. When one visits a marae one will see signs saying: “He wāhi auahi kore” me “Kaua e momi paipa”, or things like that, and that demonstrates that we are dealing with these issues anyway.
I am concerned about those people—and these views were expressed amongst our select committee—who scratch the edge of racist sentiments in saying that we are providing one law for some and one law for others. In fact, this legislation provides a level playing field. All workspaces will be covered by this legislation, as they should be. I support that.
I also want to comment on some of the concerns of owners of bars and casinos, who said that if those businesses were included in this legislation, they would lose clientele. If one just walks down one’s main street—I have done it in Hamilton—goes in bars, and asks the people there about the smoking provisions, they themselves say that they are moving in this direction because their clientele want a more smoke-free environment. So I do not think that the intention of the bill is at odds with business. I think that the intention of the bill provides a safer workplace for workers, and that is important.
It also sends out a clear signal, in terms of public health policy, that we are really serious about encouraging smoke-free environments. As for all those places that are not covered, such as marae, I suggest that they are already dealing with this issue. This legislation brings a sense of urgency in terms of how we better deal with encouraging minimisation of the harm smoking causes amongst our families and our communities. I am also happy that schools and early childhood centres are included in this legislation. It is an important step forward.
Mr SPEAKER: According to the leave already granted by the House, there will be a party vote, but parties can split their votes.
|Ayes 76||Labour 52; New Zealand National 3; New Zealand First 4; Green Party 9; United Future 8.|
|Noes 39||New Zealand National 24; New Zealand First 9; ACT New Zealand 6.|
|Bill read a second time.|
National Certificate in Educational Achievement Moratorium Bill
Police Complaints Authority (Conditional Name Protection) Amendment Bill
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (NZ National—Port Waikato) : I move, That the Police Complaints Authority (Conditional Name Protection) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I am very pleased to speak to the first reading of this bill, and at the appropriate time I will move that it be referred to the Law and Order Committee for further deliberation.
The genesis of this bill partly stems from the tragic events that occurred when a police officer shot and killed Steven Wallace on the main street of Waitara in April 2000. What followed was extended purgatory not only for Steven Wallace’s family but also for the police officer involved.
I have lived in the United States, and have witnessed the social impacts of an armed police force there. I was close to two shootings. One incident involved an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot in the back while trying to evade his police escort in the crowded X-ray room of the hospital where I worked. The incident was avoidable and unnecessary. My experiences left me with huge respect for the conservative approach and extra risks taken by New Zealand’s generally unarmed police force.
This bill gives individual police officers who are involved in firearm incidents while carrying out their duty conditional name protection until the Police Complaints Authority investigation is completed. I believe that the legislation is now necessary after the High Court’s landmark decision on A Plaintiff v Over the last 60 years, there has been a convention in New Zealand not to name police officers involved in shootings while on duty. The court ruled that publication was allowed, and the , among others, published the officer’s name. In this bill, provided that the police officer meets certain conditions, name protection will last until either the Police Complaints Authority investigation is completed, or the officer is charged with a crime related to the investigation, or the authority permits publication, or a High Court judge rules that the public interest is best served by the name of the officer being allowed to be published.
This bill covers only Police Complaints Authority investigations involving police use of firearms. Because of New Zealand’s conservative tradition of police not normally carrying or using firearms, their lives are often put in added danger. Although the High Court ruled that “… there can be no right of privacy in respect of an action by a public officer in the course of his public duties in a public street …”, and that therefore the officer should not receive special protection, this bill purports that New Zealand police take on extraordinary risk in the course of duty, and it is only natural justice that they and their families are not further penalised or endangered by having their names published, at least until the Police Complaints Authority has released its findings, or they are charged with an offence. In a small country like New Zealand, where police take a conservative approach to firearms, there is, consequently, far more media attention when police shootings occur than happens in many overseas jurisdictions. This makes the police and their families particularly vulnerable.
On 5 March 2003 the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General issued an opinion regarding the bill and its consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and I quote: “The bill raises a prima facie issue with section 14 of the Bill of Rights. The proposed new section 19A provides for a bar on the publication in any report or account relating to the investigation of the name of any member of the police involved in a firearms incident, or any information likely to lead to the identification of the police officer or his or her family. We consider this clause serves the purpose of enabling the Police Complaints Authority to carry out a thorough and unhindered investigation into the incident. As this is an important and significant objective, and a number of protections are built into the bill to protect the right to freedom of expression, this prima facie inconsistency appears justifiable. Although we consider the issues in this bill to be finely balanced, we have concluded that the bill does not appear to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act.”
My proposed amendment to the Police Complaints Authority Act does not represent a blanket escape clause for the police. If a High Court judge determines that the public interest is best served by the identity of the member of the police being published, name suppression would not apply. It is important that the facts surrounding an incident are accurately reported after rigorous investigation. That way, it is far less likely that a police officer or his or her family will be unfairly prejudiced in the heat and initial emotions that are generated at the time of a firearms incident.
Any judgment that a police officer makes is subject to review by his or her superiors, external legal experts, and, ultimately, by the courts, if necessary. Police are armed with batons, pepper spray, and, in some cases, firearms. All use of force must be reported and accounted for. Use of deadly force, whether or not resulting in a fatality, is always investigated and is always subject to close scrutiny by more than one agency.
Extensive psychological research has concluded that being involved in the use of deadly force is one of the most psychologically traumatic events any police officer can experience. Officers involved will often suffer prolonged post-traumatic stress disorder, require long-term counselling, and continue to experience after-effects for their whole lives.
There is almost always a public backlash when police use deadly force. Threats against police who have caused someone’s death or injury are an inevitable occurrence. If the officer’s identity were published, there would be a real chance of retaliation against either the officer or his or her family, or both, by criminals with a grudge against police, or by disgruntled members of the public, or by family or friends of the dead person. If an officer’s identify is publicly released in advance of a final decision on any criminal liability, it is probable that the officer will be forever associated with the event, however rightly and honourably the officer might have acted.
Recent events have shown that even if colleagues keep the officer’s identity closed, the media can become aware of it through other means, and will base the decision to publish on their own organisations’ priority, not on the well-being of the officer. In this bill, there is no question whatsoever of providing any police officer with an ability to hide from the consequences of his or her action. It is simply a question of society affording a degree of peace of mind to police officers that they will not be subjected to personal trial by media and public stigma, especially in advance of any conclusions as to liability.
I have had very strong support from my National Party colleagues on progressing this bill. The Police Association has been deeply concerned over the fact that not only its members are subjected to added ordeal by not having name protection, but also their families. In the Waitara situation the constable and his family literally had to move out of town and hide for a long period. While I acknowledge there is an important civil right for the media at issue, substantial harm can occur to police and their families when they themselves are not able to defend their position. I commend this bill to the House.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice) : The Police Complaints Authority (Conditional Name Protection) Amendment Bill involves the serious issue of if, when, and in what circumstances the right of free expression and the principle of open justice should be abridged. Under section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, everyone “has the right of freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.” Equally, the principle of open justice requires the conducting of criminal proceedings in public, with the news media having the constitutional right to investigate and scrutinise the circumstances of cases, and report what happens in court proceedings. Both rights are crucial in a democratic society, but neither is an absolute right. Although the principles set out should certainly be the norm, there are circumstances in which exceptions can, and should, be made. Section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act explicitly states that freedoms can be subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law that can be justified in a free and democratic society.
The issues that this bill responds to arose from the shooting in Waitara by a constable, whom the courts have subsequently found to have acted reasonably and in self-defence in the course of carrying out his public duties. Earlier, that same constable’s application for interim identity suppression had been declined in the case of A Plaintiff v . In that case, the High Court ruled that there was no legitimate privacy interest for a police officer carrying out a public duty, and in a public place. That seems to me a harsh judgment. An officer who, acting reasonably and in accordance with his public duties, takes the life of an offender, not only suffers the trauma of knowing that he has taken a human life but also has his name publicised throughout the media. Not only does that deny the officer and his family any right of privacy, but also it may subject the officer and his family to threats and harassment, and that, indeed, was the case in relation to that officer.
The media themselves have traditionally recognised the unfairness of this sort of situation. As a result, there is a longstanding convention amongst the major news media organisations that police officers involved in fatalities should have their names released only in exceptional circumstances. Generally, an officer’s name would be published only at the point at which disciplinary action was taken against him or her, or criminal charges were laid. I support that convention, and I believe that a police officer acting reasonably and in the line of duty is entitled to that protection unless and until there is sufficient evidence that the officer acted wrongly, and disciplinary action is taken or charges laid.
I had real concerns in the Waitara case when some media outlets chose to publish the name of the constable concerned without any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. The constable had already been forced to leave his home and the town that his family had lived in, because of threats to him arising out of the shooting. In 2001, in response to that situation, I asked the Ministry of Justice to prepare a proposal to provide name suppression in such circumstances, through legislation. I also made a point of meeting with a cross-section of media representatives in order to express my concerns and to indicate the policy response that I was considering by way of legislation. At that meeting, a clear undertaking was given by the media that the convention of not publishing an officer’s name unless the officer was charged or disciplined would continue to be upheld. The media now have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to do that on a voluntary basis. I believe that that would be a better outcome than the Government imposing constraints on the media by way of statute. However, if that outcome does not eventuate, and the convention is again broken, the option remains for me to seek executive and parliamentary approval for a change to the law.
I support this bill going to a select committee, because I believe that it is valuable for the issues surrounding the suppression of a police officer’s name to be debated, and for submissions to be invited and considered before a select committee. However, I do not support this bill going beyond that point, not simply because at this stage it is premature to advance such legislation but also because, as a vehicle for law change, this bill has some fundamental flaws.
If legislation were to be required, it would take a different form, and the proposal that I have advanced to the Ministry of Justice would involve, in the first instance, automatic suppression of the name of a police officer involved in a fatal accident for up to 20 working-days. For suppression to continue after that point, the officer would have to apply for a court order. The victim’s family would have the right to be heard on the application, as would the police and anyone else, including the media, with a public interest. Under legislation, the court would be instructed to consider and give due weight to, firstly, the risk to the physical safety and security of the officer and his or her family; secondly, whether, without suppression, the officer and family were likely to suffer an unwarranted invasion of privacy; and, thirdly, the public interest in our upholding law and order by protecting the police in the lawful discharge of their duties. In the event that the application for suppression was granted, it would, and should, be subject to an ongoing right by interested parties to apply for review on the ground of changed circumstances, and would be compulsorily reviewed if the officer faced criminal or private prosecution or disciplinary proceedings.
That would be a preferable approach to the approach proposed by Dr Hutchison in this bill. The policy and drafting flaws of this bill mean that it would not achieve its stated purpose. Firstly, the bill does not make it clear at what point name suppression would come into effect. It leaves a gap in time, between the incident and when it was notified to the Police Complaints Authority by the Commissioner of Police, when the name could be published. That is an oversight. Secondly, the bill does not cover all cases of death or serious injury as a result of police involvement. It is not clear why shootings, for example, should be distinguished from cases where death is caused by the use of a carotid hold or pepper spray. Why should that be treated differently? It is also unclear that the Police Complaints Authority is the appropriate body to determine name suppression. The primary role of the authority is to receive and investigate complaints relating to police misconduct or neglect of duty. Weighing up factors relevant to the prohibition of a police officer’s identity being published is more appropriately, in my view, a function of the court. No good reason is given in the bill as to why that function should be carried out by the Police Complaints Authority instead.
Notwithstanding those flaws, this bill is a useful vehicle for allowing debate over the issues involved. I believe that those issues are serious and should be debated. For that reason, I support its referral to a select committee.
RON MARK (NZ First) : That speech sounded like one of those “dollar each way” speeches that one often hears from Government members. The last time I heard a speech like that on a member’s bill, we later found that the real reason the Government was not supporting that bill was that it wanted to kick the bill into touch so it could bring in a bill very similar, and accrue for itself all the public kudos for having made a sensible law change. I say to the Minister that if those concerns are legitimate, and if they are true concerns held by him and his Government, what is wrong with those issues being covered during the select committee phase and incorporated into Dr Paul Hutchison’s bill? Why do we have do go through this—
Hon Phil Goff: Because at the moment we have an agreement by the media not to publish. That is the agreement.
RON MARK: So now the media runs Parliament. We have an admission from the Minister that the media have decided, behind closed doors—all the people in the press gallery are nodding their heads—to do a deal with the Minister. Excuse me for suggesting it, but I thought the rules of this land were written here, not in private little chat and focus groups, orientation sessions, or backroom dealings. But then, I guess we should not be surprised because from 1984 to 1989 backroom dealings with certain sectors of people who funded the Labour Party, were the norm.
As a result, we saw the sell-off of State assets and the rest of that. It is funny, but here we are buying them back again. What does that tell us? We know that people who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I would simply say—
Clayton Cosgrove: Tell that to Winston.
RON MARK: Tell that to Mike Moore, Phil Goff, Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, and a whole group of people who have been down this path before.
I would have thought that the bill would have a huge amount of sympathy from Parliament, because of the feelings that developed nationwide for the way in which Constable Abbott and his family were treated. It is all so ironic, is it not? Is it not funny that in a short space of time we can forget how we got to this situation? Let us not forget that the reason Constable Abbott came under such huge media pressure, the reason his family members were so affected that they were required to be moved to a secret location, the reason we ended up with a huge amount of debate in the streets, and the reason we are debating this issue in a member’s bill aimed at protecting law enforcement officers who find themselves in a similar position in future, is the very first reaction that came out of this Government’s mouth. Here is the irony: the people who supported Constable Abbott as a policeman going about his duty, were the members on the Opposition benches—
Hon Phil Goff: First of all you don’t want his name published, then you are the first member in the House to mention it.
RON MARK: Phil Goff feels it coming so he is chipping in already. He is trying to cut me off because he knows what I am about to say. [Interruption] He wants to pump it up, because everyone is listening. The reason he is chipping is that the people who leapt to the defence of Constable Abbott were the Opposition members in National, New Zealand First, and ACT. The very people who came in and assumed this policeman was a white guy and had committed a racist killing were the Government members themselves, and Helen Clark contributed to that media frenzy. I remind the Minister that the videotapes are in the archives of Television One. He should pull them out and watch them again.
Venom oozed out of this Government towards the police. The Government immediately assumed that the constable who shot Steven Wallace—and legitimately so—and killed him was a white policeman. On that basis we had all this rhetoric from the Government: “Oh, we’re going to have to look into this. It smacks of a race-based killing.” The Government was gobsmacked when it turned out he was a Māori, but it was too late. It had inflamed the anti-police feeling by not coming out firmly, categorically, definitively, definitely, and positively in support of the officer. It came out with that media frenzy and left a big, grey cloud out there.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police) : I think this bill should go to the select committee, and there will be plenty to talk about at that committee, rather than what we have just heard when someone tried—
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Did the bell indicate the end of my speaking time or was it the 2-minute warning?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Members’ bills have 5-minute speeches. It is the norm that the bell goes at 5 minutes. The member has had his time.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: It would be good if Ron Mark took some notice beforehand, rather than interrupt a speech, but he does not always do his homework, as has become very obvious in this House, so many times, with some of his misguided questions.
The issues in this bill are a response to what happened in Waitara when a constable—in self-defence, as it is now very clear—shot and killed a young person. Of course members of the media are always interested in these sorts of happenings. They are always very keen, but, until this case, have always acted very responsibly. One media outlet was not so responsible, and I think that that was all about trying to sell papers. It was a case of a struggling weekly trying to sell papers. That then made it so difficult for the constable and his family. We have to remember that when people go out tonight to protect the citizens of a town, they have to have some level of comfort. It is all about people taking a responsible view.
One trouble about this bill—and I daresay it will be looked at by the select committee—is that it refers only to shooting. But there are many, many possibilities of how death can be caused by a police officer, in the execution of his or her duty. We are lucky in this country—very, very lucky—that we have a police force that is largely unarmed, and we do not have what we see on many television shows of shoot-outs between the baddies and the police. They just do not happen here. I think that the media deserve a second chance. They need to be able to prove that they will act responsibly. In the case of “Constable A” his family became victims, and when one’s family become victims, one has to ask whether that is a fair go on the people out there defending the rights of other New Zealanders.
This bill addresses that serious issue, although we must also be conscious of the right to freedom of expression. Having worked for a newspaper many, many years ago, I know just how carefully and how jealously newspapers want that right protected. I think that that is really important. The whole case of Steven Wallace and the shooting was a tragedy. It was a complete tragedy, and there are no winners in these sorts of things—no winners at all. The Wallace family is a family that is grieving, as is Constable A’s family, and, even more important, the big police family, because about 7,000 police feel for Constable A. They do not want to see themselves in the same position. They do not want to see their names blazoned across the papers because they were out there protecting us. That is something, really, that we as a Parliament must look at carefully. So this bill will, I daresay, go off to a select committee. People will discuss it and I hope that it is not used as a point-scoring debate.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) : I rise for the ACT party to say, sorrowfully, that we cannot support this bill. It reflects the kind of opportunism and pitiful analysis that has scarred so much of our law, and this kind of response, although it is well meant, in effect has delivered over policemen—like the policeman we are so concerned about—to the threats of villains. The reason we are considering this bill is that villains no longer fear the law. Even policemen doing their duty can be harassed out of a town by a mob encouraged by the Prime Minister. In this country—
Hon Phil Goff: Oh, rubbish! Grow up.
STEPHEN FRANKS: Mr Goff says: “Grow up.” Mr Goff made a speech in which we did not know till the very end whether he was for or against this bill. Mr Goff tried to curry favour by saying how sympathetic he was, and then by saying he would not support it. Mr Goff, of course, has to try to curry favour, because this bill arises purely because the Prime Minister stirred up the hatred of the community in Waitara against the police. The Prime Minister encouraged the people of this country to think there was some sort of racist cover-up, and the best reason for publishing the name of that policeman, and for getting rid of the miasma, the smog, of suspicion was the fact that the Government and the establishment looked as if they were trying to cover something up.
That is the reason ACT is tougher on crime than any of the other parties in this House, and it is the reason that ACT cannot support this bill. We believe that the law must prevail, not expediency, not threats, the fear of insult, or the fear of a family who thinks that if it foams at the mouth and runs wild it can encourage everyone else to terrorise anyone at all.
This bill would be utterly unnecessary if the Government were able to establish the kind of respect for the law, for justice, and for the police that any healthy society would expect. It is a problem only because of the loss of control. Criminals and their families should be in fear of the consequences that this policeman has had to suffer. This bill cements in a situation where society is on the run instead of the criminals. It cements that in by saying that even the police have to hide from the community. A policeman who is doing his duty—and who is wearing his number on his uniform, because Sir Robert Peel established so many years ago that the police ought to be identified, that we ought to know who they are, and that they should be citizens, doing what any other citizen could do on behalf of us all—should not be afraid when he or she exercises the right of self-defence. That, indeed, was the court’s outcome.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What about the family?
STEPHEN FRANKS: The family is in the same position. If the family of a policeman is scared when a policeman does what any citizen should be able to do, then we have lost the game. There is no point in putting a band-aid over it by telling the media that they cannot report it; if the families are scared in Waitara today, they will be scared tomorrow when the New Zealand Herald cannot publish, because everyone in Waitara will know who the policeman is. This will not protect a single policeman’s family. The villains will know who it was. What we should be doing is spending the time of this House debating proper remedies for those who threaten justice, and for those who threaten the agents of justice who are acting on behalf of us all in the street every day, as we have said.
We do not sacrifice one vital freedom because we are not prepared to protect an even more vital freedom, which is the freedom of every one of us from being afraid of threats from villains. We should not leave it to the experts. Police should have freedom from the insult of swaggering criminals, but the police are afraid to exercise powers because they believe the Government will not back them up. They had to face the Prime Minister bringing down condemnation on them, and they had to then get the Race Relations Conciliator down from Auckland to try to calm the situation down, because the Prime Minister had stirred up racial hatred.
Ron Mark: That’s exactly right.
STEPHEN FRANKS: That is exactly what happened. ACT cannot vote for secret justice. We do not believe in name suppression now, which we believe is used mainly to protect the powerful. We cannot vote for this bill.
KEITH LOCKE (Green) : The Greens will oppose this bill because we cannot have two laws—one for the Police, and one for others. If there is special treatment for public officials, we will go down the path of two standards of justice, and the police are a category of public officials who have to have proper public accountability. I think it is particularly important in a democratic system for police to be fully accountable, and equal to every other member of the public, because of the powers that they have in our society. If we limit the justice applied to them, then, as we have seen overseas, we will be going down the track of more arbitrary application of those powers, possibly involving corruption.
We have an advantage in New Zealand at the present time in that our police force is one of the least corrupt in the world. I think it is wrong for Paul Hutchison to say that New Zealand is a special case, and that police lives are somehow in added danger because we have an unarmed police force. I think it is the opposite. Paul Hutchison went on to talk about the violence he had seen in America, and because the police are armed over there there is much more conflict, both in terms of criminals shooting police, and more violent actions taken by police against criminals—and often justly so. It is because we have a less violent scene here, and a better police force, without the same history of conscious murders by police of innocent citizens, that this proposed law change has gained some traction, contrary to the United States, where there was the Rodney King incident a few years ago. That involved the vicious beating of an innocent black person in Los Angeles by the police. It is quite clear that, in that situation, one needs to have all information available, and the names of the police officers involved in an extreme case like that should be out in the public space so that people can come forward with more information on those people who were later accused of the crime, and to overcome any corruption that does exist in police forces like that.
As I said, I cannot think of a Rodney King - type case here. The killings that have taken place here have not been of that conscious nature; they have been more accidental in their character. That is why we have a media convention in New Zealand not to publish the name of the police officer in such situations, because we do have respect for police officers when they accidentally commit such killings. However, there does need to be the potential for that openness to take place. In certain situations it can be useful for the name of a person who does the killing to be known, so that, just as with justice as a whole, witnesses can perhaps come forward with more information about the person or persons who did the killing, and I am referring there more to the Rodney King - type case than to any cases we have seen in New Zealand.
I think Phil Goff has referred to the particular provisions relating to the use of the Police Complaints Authority as the channel for restrictions on the publication of names, which is not appropriate in terms of the more neutral functions of the Police Complaints Authority. Moreover, the authority often has a very delayed reporting system. In my own case, I have been waiting for nearly 4 years for a result from the Police Complaints Authority. Should a name be protected for that length of time before there is any ruling under this bill by the Police Complaints Authority personnel? In other cases the Police Complaints Authority often waits for a coroner’s decision—as was the case in the Wallace case—and for other court cases to take place before it comes down with its own decision.
Other people have criticised the Wallace case, but I believe the way it evolved was a good example of our justice system. Private citizens did have the right to go through a court process, which I think was for the benefit of the whole community. As Stephen Franks said, the community knew who the police officer was—which was inevitable—and that may have assisted in taking that case to trial, in that the community would have known some of the background of that particular case.
I do think the police officer had some confusion as to the identity of the person who got shot, and the community helped to bring that to light.
- Debate interrupted.
MOANA MACKEY (NZ Labour) : “E mahara iho ana, he waka ka urutomo; he ika rere ki Hikurangi rā ia.” Ka maumahara hoki ki aku tīpuna, arā, a Hone rāua ko Wahine, a Elsdon rāua ko Zeta; haere e ngā mate, haere atu koutou i te huanui, i te ara kua papa tauria e te tapuwae kauika tangata. Takoto mai koutou i te urunga e kore nekehia, i te moenga e kore hikitia. Haere, haere, haere, whakaoti atu koutou.
Ki taku iwi a Ngāti Porou, aku mātua a Janet rāua ko Hone, taku tuahine a Erin, taku teina a Tūrei, ngā whanaunga, ngā hoa piripono, ngā mihi nui mō tā koutou tautoko mai i tēnei tamaiti, mokopuna i runga i tēnei huarahi hōu i tēnei rā me ngā rā kei mua. Ki aku hoa mahi hoki o Te Rōpū Reipa, te Pirimia Helen Clark, tēnā koe. He mihi atu tēnei kia koutou katoa. I te ika rere, mai i te tihi o Hikurangi maunga horapa ana ki te ao.
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[“I thought the canoe was securely moored, but it became like a flying fish to Hikurangi.” I think of my grandparents as well, Hone and Wahine, Elsdon and Zeta. Farewell the dead, depart on the highway, on the well-worn track. Lie there at the entrance on the resting place where you will not be disturbed. Depart, leave, go on your way for ever.
To my Ngāti Porou people, to my parents Janet and Hone, my sister Erin, my young brother Turei, to my relations and close friends, my special acknowledgments to you all for supporting me, your child, on this new pathway today and in the days ahead. I want to acknowledge my colleagues of the Labour Party as well; and to the Prime Minister Helen Clark, thank you, too. This is a greeting to you all. From the flying fish from the peak of Hikurangi, spread your net out to the world. Greetings, greetings, and greetings to you all.]
It is an honour to stand in this House and deliver my maiden statement. I pay tribute to all those who have gone before me and paved the way for my development and acceptance in this great House. In particular, I acknowledge the many women who have passed through these halls and the sacrifices they made to bring about the changes that have allowed me to stand here today and accept my place in this Parliament. I am proud to stand here as the 86th woman to be sworn into the House of Representatives.
While we, as women, have certainly come a long way in the 60 years since the election of our first woman member of Parliament, I fear that we may have become too complacent. New Zealand, with nearly 30 percent female representation in this Parliament, sits at 16th out of the 133 countries listed by the Women in National Parliaments sector of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I hope that by 2019, the 100th anniversary of the law change allowing women to stand for Parliament, we are a little closer to achieving 50 percent representation for women in this Parliament.
I believe that the next issue we must tackle on behalf of women is equal pay for work of equal value. After 30 years of equal pay law, women’s average total weekly earnings are still 23 percent lower than men’s earnings. In Labour’s 2002 election policies, we pledged we would develop a programme to promote equal pay for work of equal value and, where appropriate, introduce measures to address the gap between male and female wage rates. I pay tribute to the work done by the Hon Margaret Wilson in this area and the advances that are being made. This is no mean feat, as we are unfortunately operating in quite a different industrial environment from that which existed at the time of the short-lived Employment Equity Act of 1990. But I have confidence in the passion and commitment I have seen displayed by the women MPs and members of my own party on this issue, and I look forward to working with them to progress this cause.
As has become blindingly obvious to all over the last week, I come from a political family. For as long as I can remember, politics has been discussed and debated, and Labour Party meetings were, for me, as normal as going to school. Current events were routinely discussed at the dinner table, and punishments and curfews were always seen as a starting point for ongoing good-faith negotiations. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of being age 6 and marching with my mother in the 1981 anti-Springbok tour protest in Auckland. I can still remember the complex understanding I had of what that event was about. I remember my mum explaining in some detail the situation in South Africa, and then feeling the injustice of the situation fill me with anger. I was so incensed that, to the horror of my teacher at the time, I even talked about it at show-and-tell. I also remember the chaos when papa came, all the way from the coast, grasping prized tickets to the All Blacks - Springboks test match. Mum grabbed the tickets, put them in her mouth, and chewed them up. These are the moments that have stuck with me throughout the years—and papa did eventually start talking to mum again.
But my parents’ values and ideals were not limited just to the political arena. We were not a wealthy family, although we certainly had enough to put food on the table. Yet we never took for granted what little we had, and always knew there were plenty of other families who had far less. I always knew that I came from a privileged family. We did not have much money but my parents and grandparents loved me, encouraged me, and provided a stimulating learning environment, free from conflict and free from fear. The consistency of the messages I received in my upbringing, mirrored in the political activism that I observed, cemented the values and principles of the Labour Party in me from an early age.
Looking back at this period of my life, it was not an easy time to grow up in a bicultural household. At school I was constantly forced to choose between my two families. At the beginning of each school year it was required that for ethnicity I select one box only. I used to alternate between the two. I hate to think what I did to the statistics at that time. It was extremely confusing as a young child to be told constantly that I could not be both, when quite obviously I was.
Māori was barely spoken at all at my primary school, and I lived in fear of new teachers or replacement teachers who would come in and absolutely murder the pronunciation of my name. The teasing that always ensued meant that not only did I come to resent my name but also I would fake illness whenever I knew our regular teacher was going to be away, in order to escape the inevitable humiliation. Looking back now, I have to wonder how hard it was for the kids who actually looked different and whose customs and upbringing meant they behaved differently. If I felt marginalised because of my name, I cannot even begin to appreciate what they went through.
We moved to Gisborne when I was 7. Although the cultural environment was noticeably different, it was not until I started at Ilminster Intermediate, a fantastic school in Kaiti, Gisborne, that I even encountered te reo Māori in the classroom, and this continued throughout my studies at Lytton High School. It is hard to explain just what a relief this experience was. It validated a part of me that, until this point, had not only been ignored by the education system but discouraged. It comes as no surprise to me that, according to the 2001 census, people in my age group are the least likely to speak Māori of all the age categories. It is one of my greatest regrets that I cannot speak the language of my grandparents. However, what is encouraging and bodes well for the future of the language is that nearly half of all Māori speakers now are under the age of 25.
I firmly believe that the Māori language should be taught in all our schools, at least up to high school level. I cannot think of any reason that an official language of this country should not make up a compulsory part of the primary school curriculum. I certainly wish it had been that way in my day. People might have pronounced my name correctly, for a start.
Whilst at primary school I soon learnt that not all my peers, if any, shared an interest in politics. Trying to change a topic of conversation from what we were going to name our ponies, to the relative merits of the corporal punishment debate was always a lost cause. It did not take me long to work out that the only people willing to indulge me were the teachers, and with my already well-developed social barometer I realised that was not a good look. So I withdrew from political life at age 8½.
At the legal age of political consent I joined the New Zealand Labour Party, and while at high school I joined a group of my friends up and we formed the Gisborne Labour Party youth branch. The Hon Peter Dunne even came to Gisborne to present us with the Labour Party charter.
As is often the norm, university was the beginning of my serious political activism. The introduction of the student loan scheme, means testing of student allowances, and skyrocketing student fees made for a fairly volatile student body. The Government had campaigned on removing the $1,300 tertiary tuition fee, and it had. What it did not tell us was that it was replacing it with a $3,000 tertiary tuition fee. Student protests were well attended, although, not surprisingly, completely ignored. It was incredibly frustrating, and the media seemed intent on focusing on some random anonymous idiot who had spent his student loan on a holiday to Bali or a widescreen television, and ignoring the majority of us who worked all though university, sometimes to the detriment of our studies.
We soon found out, once we left university, that not only did we have to start our working lives in serious debt but also the debt was significantly larger than expected, due to the interest that had accrued while studying. I am proud that Labour has already reduced the immense burden of tertiary education costs for students by introducing a fairer loan scheme, freezing fees, and increasing access to allowances.
Access to quality education and training is a key priority for this Government, and I acknowledge the excellent work done by my colleague the Hon Steve Maharey in this area. To this end, the policy I am most proud of is the Modern Apprenticeships scheme. It is changing the lives and futures of more than 3,000 young New Zealanders, and filling the skills gaps that threaten to choke economic growth. The commitment to increase this number to 6,000 by the end of the year is a fundamentally important policy initiative for young New Zealanders.
I became involved in Young Labour, the youth wing of the Labour Party, around this time as well. I stayed in the organisation until 2000. During that time I became acquainted with such political heavyweights as Darren Hughes. I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today, were it not for the experienced networks and friends that Young Labour brought me.
I currently reside in Lower Hutt, having moved to Petone in 2001. In that same year I became involved in the Hutt 20/20 local body campaign and was elected to the Petone Community Board. The Petone Community Board is a never-a-dull-moment affair, as I am sure my community board colleague Murray Smith would agree. Anyone who thinks that local government politics is boring has obviously never been to one of our meetings. The meetings are sometimes a tad long—Murray—but obviously the Petone Community Board is the magical portal into this place, so I will not complain.
I do wish that local government matters were subject to the same public scrutiny as central government politics. Some of the most important decisions concerning our environment are made at local government level, and in many cases these decisions are being made by people with extraordinarily scary agendas, in my opinion.
It is time to swing the lens of the microscope that focuses so intently on central government over to local government once in a while. After all, it is also publicly elected and just as publicly accountable.
It has not been the easiest time to be a young New Zealander. Growing up in the 1990s sucked. The politics of the right made it a particularly divisive and destructive period, and coming from somewhere like Gisborne where workers, students, and families were particularly vulnerable, it was felt even more acutely. Families at the bottom of the heap struggled to cope, and the pressures placed on those families throughout those years are now being seen in our youth offending and youth suicide statistics. It is hard to find the time to teach your children how to cope with life and all its challenges when you are quite simply not coping yourself.
New Zealand’s youth suicide rate is a national tragedy. Too many of our young people, particularly our young Māori men, are taking their own lives through anger, frustration, and despondence. I certainly do not profess to have the answer. However, consistency of message is extremely important. It is difficult to get the message across about asking for help when you need it. It is not an indication of failure or weakness, and does not make you a burden on anyone, but we have politicians attacking people for doing just that by receiving State assistance. I am proud of our social welfare system and the safety net it provides for those who need it. I believe that when it comes to providing for your family it is not only your right to receive assistance, should circumstances get you down, but also it is your responsibility to ask.
This Government is also committed to helping people make the transition into paid employment, and under this Labour-led Government we have seen the unemployment rate at a 15-year low. The hangover from the 1990s is still being felt now. Nine years of having your rights and concerns ignored by those who make the rules, has resulted in a seriously apathetic young population. More young people than ever are struggling to find their identity and to feel they have the power to control their own lives. It is one thing to be reviled, but it is far worse to be invisible. Too many of our young people feel invisible, and that is a tragedy.
In a global world it is even harder to find your feet. It is incredibly depressing to think that we live in a world where some multinational companies have more power than some Governments. It perpetuates a sense of futility. I am proud to stand here as part of a Government that understands the importance of New Zealand’s role as a member of the international community, but is not afraid to stand apart from others and take a stand where we believe it to be appropriate. New Zealand’s independent voice will not be lost in the melting pot of international politics, and this message is an important one for our rangatahi youth.
It is much easier to find your place in a global world when you have a strong sense of identity at home. This is why the work of the Labour-led Government, since 1999, in support of the arts, culture, and creative industries has been so vitally important. The arts give voice to our culture and our heritage, and embody what sets us apart from the rest of the world. Many people on the other side of the House have voiced strong opposition to the Government’s spending in this area. There is a saying about knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and that is particularly pertinent in this instance. With a stronger sense of cultural identity, young New Zealanders will be much better equipped to find their place in the world. An important facet is the need to have a stronger focus, at all levels of schooling, on teaching the history of our country, as a priority. While this is not a problem unique to New Zealand, the highly politicised nature of issues pertaining to Māoridom makes our particular case far more urgent. Fear is a powerful political motivator, and fuelled by ignorance it can create explosive conditions.
New Zealand is entering a challenging phase of its political development. We are told by many that we should be afraid—afraid of treaty claims, afraid of immigrants, and afraid of science. I do not want to say much on the immigration issue, except to say that Kiwis enjoy the freedom to go and work or play in just about any country in the world that takes our fancy. We consider it a basic right. That cuts both ways. I welcome the diversity that comes with the arrival of new cultures in Aotearoa and I refuse to be told that I should be afraid of it.
I was at high school when the National Party was elected in 1990. It promised it would not cut weekly pay, weekend pay, or pay received for overtime. As it turned out, that was one of the first things to go. The introduction of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 was one of the darkest days in the history of New Zealand’s industrial relations. I remember at the time that I had an after-school and weekend job working for a less-than-model employer. He actually danced around our workplace when the law was passed. Before the Governor-General’s signature was even dry on the new legislation, he had cut penal rates and adopted what would soon become the signature “take it or leave it” stance on contract negotiations. Although a lot of what he did operated outside the law, even under the Employment Contracts Act, he often commented that the huge shift of power towards the employer, which was embodied in the Employment Contracts Act, was indicative of a change in culture in industrial relations and that justified his actions.
That experience precipitated my first contact as an employee with a union. I have been a strong advocate of unions ever since. The 1990s were an exceptionally difficult time for the union movement. A generation of young people entered the workforce under the shadow of the Employment Contracts Act, and, tragically, that became the norm. Trying to organise workers to stand up for themselves was difficult, when in many workplaces rocking the boat or wearing your union colours on your sleeve could perceivably result in missing out on promotions or being labelled a troublemaker. More and more workers were casualised, as employers saw the opportunity to save money by having a flexible workforce, and work conditions decreased until most companies had contracts that, for the worker at the bottom of the heap, merely reflected what was required by law. The mantra: “If you don’t like it there are 10 others lined up outside who would jump at the opportunity” reverberated around the workplaces of our nation. Most astonishing of all is that some parties would have us go back to this situation.
The introduction of the Employment Relations Act in 2000 heralded a new era in employment law. According to opponents the world was going to end and unions would run wild across the country, crippling every industry with expensive strikes. But, after all, unionised workers are just reasonable people who, collectively, simply wish to be paid fairly for the work they do and be able to support themselves and their families with dignity. It strikes me as only fair that if a company can have a whole team of lawyers looking after its human resource interests, without anyone raising an eyebrow, then I should be allowed one union organiser.
This Government has done much to improve the working conditions and rights of workers in New Zealand. It seems to me that if you want to talk about family-friendly policies, then ensuring your loved ones can be reasonably expected to return home each night would be at the top of my list. There is no doubt that New Zealand families are under greater strain than in previous times. Longer working hours and less career stability no doubt lead to high stress levels and strained personal relations, which impact negatively on family dynamics.
In my short working-career I have worked in both the private and public sector science industries. When I decided to study science I never envisaged it would become such a controversial area. It is true that the science community has never really had to be that accountable to the public before, but I do not believe that that is simply because it has not wanted to. I have taken great umbrage at the portrayal of scientists as unscrupulous and unethical. Many of these men and women have spent their working lives on research and technology that they believe will make a difference in their field. I am sure we all partake of scientific discoveries on a regular basis and silently thank the individuals or groups whose hard work and innovation have made our lives that little bit easier.
During the election campaign I found the genetic engineering debate extremely frustrating. There was a tendency on both sides to tell only half the story, which meant that meaningful debate was impossible. You had to be for or against with no shades of in-between. I believe there will be developments in gene technology that will be of hugely positive benefit, just as I have no doubt there will be those that I would not touch with a bargepole. I believe the Government’s decision to proceed with caution, following the advice of the royal commission, is the sensible thing to do. We stand to improve hugely the health of our people, our biodiversity, and our environment; and we deserve that choice.
There are people whom I wish to acknowledge. To Graham and Janette Kelly, I wish you every happiness in your new life. Graham played an important role in the extremely difficult part of our party’s history, and I will not forget what he went through. To my friends, many of whom are here today, I thank you for your support and for not thinking I was a total loser for being so politically active. To Phil and “Goff office”, thank you for your friendship and camaraderie over the last year. It has been a pleasure working with you all, and at least my food supplies are now safe from Phil’s late-night forays around the office. To Labour Party members the length and breadth of Aotearoa, particularly my Petone posse and the Gisborne gang, especially Pat and Sue who are here tonight, thank you for the faith you have shown in me. It is your hard-working commitment that keeps this proud organisation strong. To my Labour colleagues, I look forward to working with you all, and especially acknowledge the support you continue to give to the youth sector of our party.
To my family and whānau in this House—Bill Gudgeon, David Cunliffe, Doug Woolerton, and my cuzzie from the coast, Parekura—I am proud to serve alongside you. To our Prime Minister, the wonderful Helen Clark, you have always supported the development of younger members of our party, and I stand here as a testament to your faith in the youth of our organisation.
To my family and whānau, you have made me what I am, for better or worse. To my grandparents who could not be here in body, Nanny and Papa, Grandpa, and Maudey, I know you are with me in spirit. To my brother and sister, Turei and Erin, this means I am officially the best! To my dad, John, thank you for all your love and support, and can I just reiterate you are still under strict media embargo. To my mother, hereinafter known as Janet, I would not be standing here today if it were not for the respect I have for you as a parliamentarian, a mother, and a friend. Just taihoa with the embarrassing stories and we will get on just fine. To my extremely tolerant Kelvin, who does not even like politics, thank you for being my rock in what has been a roller coaster of a year. Kia ora mai koutou katoa.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Police Complaints Authority (Conditional Name Protection) Amendment Bill
- Debate resumed.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (NZ National) : I am pleased to stand in the first reading of this bill. Over the last 60 years, as we all know, there has been a convention in New Zealand not to name police officers involved in shootings while on duty. That convention has been observed by all and sundry. However, it has been thrown on its heels with the recent decision of A Plaintiff v in which the court ruled that publication of a certain police officer’s name was allowed. That ruling has now motivated my colleague Dr Paul Hutchison—I was going to say “the Hon”, but he is certainly an honourable member—to propose a bill now that brings legislative authority to the issue, which, as I say, for the last 60 years has been observed as a convention in the public domain.
Part of the rationale for this bill, as my colleague has already said, in a country as small as New Zealand, is the issue of the public backlash that is likely in a situation when an officer is involved in a fatal incident. Of course, that backlash is more likely now than it was 60 years ago, as television brings into our living rooms nightly even the smallest detail of events that occur in the country on a daily basis.
The bill gives individual police officers, who are involved in firearms incidents while carrying out their duties, conditional name protection—until the proposed Police Complaints Authority investigation can be completed. I do stress that this is conditional name protection, and of course that is as it should be. We must never forget that they are public officers carrying out public duties in the public domain. But in any particular incident, while activity surrounding that incident is going on, it seems that the public interest would not be diminished at all by the fact that under this legislation we would have statutory proposal for conditional name protection. I want to stress that point. It is conditional protection only, as I say, until the Police Complaints Authority investigation has been completed, the officer is charged with a crime related to the investigation, the Police Complaints Authority permits the naming of the officer, or a High Court judge rules that it is in the public interest for the officer to be named.
I believe that the necessary protection of the public good—the public interest—in ensuring that it has purview over public officers carrying out their duties in public places is still maintained. That is important because one does need this balance between public interest and private interest to be struck in any activities of public officers. I think the necessary safeguard is there; the protection is conditional only.
The incident that gave rise to the case that went before the courts showed us in a fairly descriptive manner why this legislation is necessary. I commend my colleague for bringing the proposal to the House, and I commend those who will support it and who will see the common sense in this matter. I stress once more that this is conditional protection only, and in that sense it provides a proper safeguard and a proper balance between public and private interests.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour—Hamilton West) : I will not take too long, but I would first like to acknowledge the author of this bill. Members’ day is good evidence that individual members of the Parliament, through the members’ ballot system, do have an opportunity to introduce legislation and have it considered by the House, which then determines whether it should go on to a select committee. In this case, as I am sure everyone will be aware, this side of the House will be supporting this bill going to the select committee.
The bill attempts to address the serious issue of when, and under what circumstances, the right of free expression and the principle of open justice should be a bridge. As we are well aware, the catalyst for this bill—and for the discussion that will be held in the select committee—was the tragic circumstances that arose from the shooting of Mr Wallace in Waitara by a constable whom the courts have subsequently found to have acted reasonably and in self-defence in the course of carrying out his public duties. I note that the Minister’s speech, which I think deserves some emphasis, made the point that in a general historical circumstance an officer’s name would be published only at the point at which disciplinary action was taken against him or her, or when criminal charges were laid. The Minister strongly supports that convention and believes that a police officer acting reasonably and in the line of duty is entitled to that protection, unless and until there is sufficient evidence that he or she acted wrongly, to the extent that disciplinary action is taken against him or her
In respect of the Wallace case, the Minister stated his real concerns about some media outlets choosing to publish the name of the constable without there being any evidence of his wrongdoing, particularly when he had already been forced to leave his home in the town where his family lived because of threats against him arising out of the shooting. I note the Minister’s request to Ministry of Justice officials to consider a proposal to provide name suppression in these circumstances. I would think that a select committee analysis of this bill will make a good contribution to the debate of the public interest being served in terms of the issue about at what point and in what circumstance one releases the name of, in this case, an alleged offender. What we saw in this case was a very unsatisfactory situation of trial through the media. Although, understandably, some attention was given to the terrible tragedy and pain to the family of the victim of the shooting, I cannot begin to imagine the absolute pain and anguish that was visited upon that policeman’s family. This situation potentially, dare I say it, faces members of the New Zealand Police Force every day, every hour, and every minute. They do not have to travel too much of a journey before they can be cast in that set of very unfortunate circumstances.
So, without further ado, I lend my support to this bill going to the select committee. Clearly, as previous speakers have outlined, that does not guarantee that Government members on that committee will support the bill in its present form. Indeed, some believe there are a few flaws in it. However, we believe that it will serve as a very useful and very constructive vehicle for debate over the issues. For that reason, the Government supports the bill going to the select committee.
Just in the spirit of being magnanimous, which of course I always am, I acknowledge my colleague Dr Hutchison—in the sense that he is a Waikato member of Parliament—for his work on this bill and for introducing it. Hopefully we will have some very useful hearings and debate in the select committee around this very important issue.
MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) : I also wish to acknowledge the work of Paul Hutchison in bringing this bill to the House’s attention. United Future will be supporting this member’s bill to select committee, with caution, to consider an amendment that will allow for conditional name protection when police officers are involved in a Police Complaints Authority investigation that involves a firearms incident, while on duty.
This bill outlines that the Police Complaints Authority will have the discretion to prohibit the publication of a police officer’s identity when an investigation is taking place. The bill does not require that the names and identities of officers continue to be protected after the Police Complaints Authority has released its findings, or if the officer is charged with an offence. We note the bill allows this protection to be forfeited in certain circumstances. United Future supports the proposal that, in some instances, name protections may, and should, be revoked. We believe this helps the credibility of the Police Complaints Authority, and it acknowledges that every case and investigation will be different. It will help ensure public confidence that all investigations will have a transparent process. The bill provides that name protection may be revoked only by the Police Complaints Authority, or a High Court judge, or when an officer is charged with an offence related to the investigation.
What this bill has not detailed is the certain conditions that need to be met in order for an officer to be eligible for name protection in the first place. We consider that the criteria for name protection are an important and essential part of the bill. The criteria need to be outlined and included to make the bill transparent and accountable. United Future will support this bill to the select committee, because we want to deliberate on the details of these conditions. We will want to identify exactly what these conditions are, when they are administered, and who will be eligible for this protection. We will want the opportunity to consider public submissions. United Future will be looking to provide an assurance to police that justice will also be served to them if they are involved in a firearms incident. We consider that name protection gives officers and their families the right to innocence until proven otherwise.
In recent police history, the Waitara shooting—which has been mentioned by other members—became a very well-known case. As a result of a fatal shooting by a police officer, New Zealand experienced its first private prosecution of a police officer for murder. This officer, without name suppression—he was initially known as constable A—became known as Constable Keith Abbott. His family bore an incredible hardship during the trials. With their identity known and well published in Waitara, and nationally, they were persecuted and threatened. His wife had to leave her job as a nurse, their kids had to leave their primary school and kindergarten, and they were under protective custody. Eventually, they left Waitara, losing $15,000 on their house, and moved to an undisclosed location. This is not right. An officer’s family is not meant to suffer when he acts in the line of duty. The magnitude of the suffering was made more apparent when Judge Chambers indicated to the court the suffering the family had endured.
We support the member’s bill, which wants to ensure that these circumstances do not happen again. We also want to avoid an increase in private prosecutions of police officers. This bill and subsequent submissions are a positive way to deliberate and consider this further. United Future agrees that public confidence should not hinge on the naming of the police officer in any investigation. We believe the system needs to have credibility, and we believe that the Independent Police Complaints Authority Amendment Bill is already addressing this issue. With increasing confidence in the system, the public may draw less on the need to identify and avenge an officer who is being investigated and more on the actions of the offender.
We support this bill’s referral to a select committee and look forward to the discussion and debate.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (NZ National—Port Waikato) : I do wish to thank my National Party colleagues for recognising the importance of this bill and for giving me advice and support, and I also wish to thank other parliamentary colleagues from the Labour Party, United Future, New Zealand First, and the Progressive Coalition for seeing fit to support the bill being at least referred to the select committee. I also thank all colleagues for their thoughtful arguments, and am pleased and somewhat relieved to see the level of support this bill has engendered. I also thank the Police Association—in particular, Mr Greg O’Connor—for his helpful input and the background research.
The general public and the media are not required to put themselves in dangerous situations as part of the course of their duty. In the case of the media, I acknowledge they do put themselves from time to time in dangerous situations, but that is not a requirement. There is a real added risk in a small country like New Zealand that police officers, and their families, could be endangered if their names are published in relation to an incident. That was clearly illustrated at Waitara. That family literally was forced into hiding for many months.
Some time ago Stephen Franks of ACT wrote: “If anyone is proposing changes that would, in an unhappy future, hide some secret police execution squads, ACT will ensure it doesn’t get an easy ride in Parliament.” He said: “The remedy is to regain control of the streets and reinstall respect for the law generally.” That aim is valid, and has been attempted for the last 160 years in New Zealand. [Interruption] But there is no silver bullet with regard to law and order, and I put to Mr Franks the analysis of Judge Becroft from the Youth Court that breaking cycles of disadvantage and early intervention are absolutely parts of the jigsaw puzzle. They are absolutely vital to ensure that we do have control on the streets, and, indeed, reinstall respect for the law generally. I would debate that issue with the member for ever.
I note that both the Hon Phil Goff and the Hon George Hawkins queried why this bill confines itself to police shootings. I believe that the Hon George Hawkins answered that question when he said how lucky we are to have a largely unarmed police force in New Zealand. It is that fact that makes the responsibilities and dangers of the New Zealand police absolutely different from other jobs. To Keith Locke I reiterate that police officers take on quite different roles from the rest of the public. It is because of those different roles, and the consequences that stem from them, that this bill is introduced.
Clearly, the civil rights issues around this bill are most important. It is reassuring that the Ministry of Justice concluded its scrutiny of this bill in the following way. It stated: “Although we consider the issues in this bill to be finely balanced, we have concluded that the bill does not appear to be inconsistent with the Bill of Rights.” Furthermore, it went on to state: “We consider the bill also serves a significant and important objective by preserving the integrity of the investigation by the Police Complaints Authority. Restrictions on the coverage of the incidents will provide the authority with an opportunity to conduct its investigation into firearms incidents unhindered by heightened media interest created by the public disclosure of the officer’s identity. Clearly, the personal safety of police officers and their families is also an important objective.”
I once again thank my parliamentary colleagues for their thoughtful consideration of this bill, and would be very pleased for their support for it to go into the select committee process.
|Ayes 97||Labour 52; New Zealand National 24; New Zealand First 13; United Future 8.|
|Noes 16||ACT New Zealand 7; Green Party 9.|
|Bill read a first time, and referred to the Law and Order Committee.|
Death with Dignity Bill
PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) : I move, That the Death with Dignity Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time it is my intention to move that this bill be referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee. At this moment, though, I want to start by telling the House what this bill is not about. It is not about euthanasia. Euthanasia is defined as the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable, painful disease. There is no mention in that definition of who will administer it, and no mention of whether the patient wants it, requests it, or is even aware that it is happening. This bill is not about any of that.
This bill is about voluntary euthanasia. There is a world of difference between the two. This bill is about me being able to make a decision for myself—not my wife, not my doctor, not my family, not the hospital; nobody but me being able to make a decision for myself. Equally so, it is about every adult New Zealander being able to make a decision for himself or herself—nobody else; just the individual adult New Zealander. But there are two provisos. Firstly, the individual must be of sound mind and be able to make a rational, easily understood decision. Secondly, he or she must be terminally and/or incurably ill. Those are the two provisos before somone can make that decision.
The people we are talking about may be few in number, but they could well be experiencing much pain—much pain at a very vulnerable stage in their lives. Equally so, they could have lost most of their independence and be on the verge of losing it all. Or they could be in the category where the pain is controlled, but their bodies are disintegrating before their very eyes. So what do they have to do? Under this bill they have to get a medical practitioner’s agreement that they are in such a condition. Then they have to get the agreement of a second medical practitioner who agrees fully with the first diagnosis. Then they have to get the agreement of a psychiatrist to say that they are of sound mind and not suffering from a mental illness, like depression, and that they are capable of making a rational decision about their own future. Finally, they have to see a counsellor, whose responsibility is to outline the full implications of their request, so that he or she can ensure that patients know what they are requesting to happen. Under this bill the medical practitioners, in particular, have to ask patients whether they have consulted their family. That is mandatory. It is not mandatory, for very good reasons, that patients have to consult their family.
So if that is whom we are talking about, how many people are we talking about? The state of Oregon in the USA has had similar legislation for 5 years, and in that 5 years 128 people have taken advantage of death with dignity. One hundred and ninety-eight applied, but only 128 went through with it—that is, 60-odd percent. That tells me that for 30-odd percent the stress was removed from them, and that that was sufficient. Oregon is a state with a population of about 3.5 million people. We have 4 million people, so we can expect somewhere around 30 people per year to want to take advantage of this legislation.
What is this legislation? First and foremost, it stipulates the criteria a patient must go through—that is, the two doctors, a psychiatrist, and a counsellor. That is a very important part of this bill. Secondly, the bill provides for an advance directive, whereby fit and able people can make their views known in writing. So should they become inflicted with some dreadful disease and not be capable of making a decision, they could have made the decision beforehand. If they are injured in a car crash or contract Alzheimer’s disease or some sort of illness, so that they cannot make a decision, then the decision that they made some years before—or some time before—must be accepted. That is the second important aspect of this bill. The third important aspect is that I am not asking anybody here in the House to make the final decision. This bill, should it pass all stages, will go before the public of New Zealand, so that the public can make the decision by means of a binding referendum. That is what New Zealanders want on this type of issue. It is controversial but it is also sensitive, and it is very, very delicate.
I believe that everybody who has led a decent, law-abiding life is entitled, when their time has come, to die with dignity—to die in the comfort of their friends and family, and not to die a suffering, lingering death. That means not only being pain free but also dying in a peaceful and dignified manner. Currently, the medical profession will tell us that it cannot address the concerns of everybody. In a letter it produced the hospice association, which opposes this bill, stated: “However, when the storm calms”—that is, this debate—“the fact remains that pain and physical symptoms can be treated adequately by hospice specialists for the vast majority of patients.” This bill is to help the people who are not embraced by those words “vast majority”. Principally, this bill is aimed at assisting those folk. I am a firm believer in the hospice movement. I believe it does a great job, and I have the utmost admiration for the people who work in the industry. I support the industry being funded exceedingly well. I do not see this bill as being in conflict with the hospice movement but as compatible with it.
Another concern that comes up from time to time is that voluntary euthanasia will lead to euthanasia. There is no will for euthanasia—I outlined right at the beginning of my speech what euthanasia is all about. There is no will amongst the public, amongst politicians, or in the political world to introduce euthanasia, and the protections in this bill for the patient are pretty stringent. If they not stringent enough, then the select committee can make them tighter.
Finally, I would like to address a concern that I wrestled with for a long time: is this bill compatible with Christian beliefs? I pride myself, if that is the right word, on being a man who has lived his life with Christian values.I found out I was a Christian when I was an 18-year-old cadet in the British merchant navy, in a storm in the North Atlantic. It was a huge storm, with waves as big as one could imagine—probably bigger than this Parliament House—and the ship started to break up. I found out then that I believed in God. So it was important to me that this bill was compatible with those beliefs, and I believe that it is. I am conscious that the apostle Paul once said “And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” In the modern Bible that word “charity” is changed to love. When asked what were the most important commandments, Jesus said the first two: love your God, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. I say to people with Christian beliefs that they can support this bill. I ask them please not to let their faith blind their compassion.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) : I rise to oppose this bill, accepting the modus operandi and integrity of its parliamentary proponent. I oppose this bill for a simple reason: one of the strongest presumptions in our law is the presumption against taking a life. Our own Crimes Act makes it quite clear that the taking of a life is culpable—that is, if one takes a life, that is examinable by the rest of the community as to its purpose and intent. We as lawmakers have for the whole life of this Parliament now set a high threshold around the taking of life. I oppose this bill because it lowers that threshold. I do not believe that the proponents of it have mounted anything like a strong enough case that the threshold around the assumption against taking a life should be lowered.
The effect of our law, in the case of those people who find themselves in extreme circumstances, is predictable and straightforward. If one is involved in taking a life, then the circumstances of that will be examined. It will be in the hands of the Crown as a prosecutor, the police, the courts, and ultimately, juries made up of New Zealanders, to then dispense justice. As we look back through the occasions on which that has happened, at the cases that are commonly discussed in respect of voluntary euthanasia, we find that juries of our peers do make decisions according to reasons that they give as mercy, justice, compassion, and forgiveness. So it is not the case that our system of law is unable to distinguish one intent from another when it comes to taking a life. It is able to make those distinctions. It is able to determine whether compassion and mercy were involved, or revenge and hatred. That is why we should not lower the threshold against the taking of a human life, and that is the fundamental basis of my opposition to this legislation.
The bill sets out a process by which we can validate the taking of a life. I have to say that no process is good enough to be free from the pressures, the envies, and the hatreds to which any human being can be prey. No process is good enough to be free from that, and if the House wants to look to a process that it has tried to construct in the past to achieve those ends, then it can look at the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act, because it has a remarkably similar process to this one. It includes experts, doctors, consultants, and references to mental health, and everyone knows that it has become a conveyor belt to abortion. MPs need to keep in mind that if that is the track record of this Parliament’s capacity to devise a process to protect the vulnerable, then we have failed utterly. As a Parliament we just simply turn our faces from the failure of that legislation, because it has now become a social norm that abortion is acceptable. That is 25 years on from when the legislation was passed, and I say we could stand here in 25 years’ time and say exactly the same thing about the process in this bill.
I shall comment on a couple of aspects of the bill. The first is the use of the term “incurably ill”. I can remember a chilling moment in the last debate on television about euthanasia when one of the proponents of the bill, Michael Laws, a former MP, was asked about the case of a dreadfully handicapped 14-year-old child and whether his legislation would include that child, to which he answered truthfully “yes”. At that moment he lost the debate. “Incurably ill” in this bill “means a medical condition which is generally accepted by the medical profession as seriously impairing the person’s quality of life”—how subjective is that—“and unlikely to be capable of cure, either at the present time or in the reasonable future”.
I have sat as a constituency MP recently with the parents of severely autistic children. If one wants to hear heart-ripping stories of the sadness and destruction of quality of life, then one should listen to those parents. Any medical practitioner would find it almost impossible to say that a seriously autistic 14-year-old of the type that I have been dealing with lately has not had a seriously impaired quality of life, and, as much to the point, has not seriously impaired the quality of life of the people who love and care for him or her. Those children are certainly not capable of being cured. So this is not a bill whose scope is limited to the aged or the terminally ill in their later years.
This bill, in terms of the definition of “incurably ill”—the term used in the bill; the definition I have quoted from the bill—includes anyone who has a seriously impaired quality of life, and who may not be able to be cured. I say to this Parliament that if we go down that track we make the most vulnerable people in our community even more vulnerable, not because they are being put under pressure to take part in death with dignity, but simply because we have made that possible. How will they feel? What protection will the most vulnerable people in our community believe they have, if we make it possible that two medical professionals, a counsellor, and a family can say to them that they have a seriously impaired quality of life? Do we imagine that pressure will never come on them? Of course it will! The vulnerability is not just about the process of making the decision, but about the ripple effect this legislation will create simply because it makes death with dignity possible.
I turn to the term “informed decision”. What is an informed decision from a person whose judgment, by definition, is impaired by incurable illness or pain, or by the fact that he or she is close to death’s door and is causing real distress to the people around him or her? This bill is a comfort for the living, not a ticket for those who want to die—because that is always how the argument arises. Someone says “It is because I feel distressed that I want death with dignity—because it gives me discomfort to watch the pain.” Well, pain is part of life, and watching it is part of our humanity. Many of us have become more human for watching it, whether or not we liked doing that.
This bill is about comfort for the living. Let us not pretend it is about the dignity of those who have gone, because they have gone and we have different views about where they have gone to, depending on our beliefs. I do not think it is a duty of this Parliament to remove the basic presumption against taking a life, in order to give comfort to those who encounter the very human experience of watching suffering.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister for Racing) : I did not come to the House to speak on this bill, but I am going to take the opportunity to do that, given that I am here and that I feel quite strongly about it. I firstly acknowledge the integrity and the intent of this bill from Mr Peter Brown, someone who in my view has respect in this House from all parties. He has put this bill forward through personal beliefs—for what he believes are good intentions. I stand up as someone who has stated publicly that I oppose the bill. I oppose it on a couple of basically simple assumptions, I guess.
I will go back to the first one, and that is that Parliament provides a very complex process to give us comprehensive, complicated, but, hopefully, consistent law that does everything we can to protect life—human life, animal life, and vegetable life through conservation measures. Parliament spends a lot of time debating and arguing to preserve life in all its forms. I cannot understand that we can, as humans, make a judgment on when someone else should terminate that life. We do so for animals and we do so for vegetables, but when it comes to human beings I think we, thankfully, appreciate that that is a call that is very, very hard to make.
While Mr Brown is putting up a proposal that says we are allowing self-determination for when one should end his or her life, in the end the ending of someone’s life—for the most part, just about every time—will depend upon assistance or judgment or influence by other people. We have different experiences in our lives—that is why we have different opinions on things. I am just a simple farmer. I have had a lot to do with death and euthanising animals. If one spends enough time around a farm one appreciates that even in the lowest moments of an animal’s life, there is somehow some inner strength, an inner determination, that drives animals to live, that drives beings to live. If members have tried to destroy perhaps even the life of a plant, sometimes they would be amazed—
Stephen Franks: A possum!
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: —a possum—at the resilience of the plant, but especially of the animal, to want to live, to remain alive. But there is something that I cannot quite understand. While as a farmer I have had different experiences in life, I was at one time working in a mine when unfortunately someone thought it wise to end his own life by pouring petrol over himself. I came along about half a minute after that horrible event. A person had put out the fire, but we had in front of us a person who was dying, and we were doing our best to try to keep that person alive. I will remember every detail until the day I die, and I am sure many of us can share an experience like that. The inner being of that person was something that lived right until the final moment, making noises, groaning, wanting to live, wanting to express some inner feeling about wanting to remain a being.
There are many people who suffer, and, like many people, we have seen those around us suffer with cancer and go through different forms of treatment. Some people, through the action of doctors, take chemotherapy and are pushed to the limits of life to kill the unwanted cells, and then brought back to life through other drugs, it is hoped allowing just the life of the good cells and allowing the destructive cancer cells to be destroyed once and for all.
Through all those processes people go through highs and lows and go through different forms of suffering to be at a stage in their own lives where, perhaps, given the choice, they might choose to end their own lives. Perhaps, given the choice, relatives might think it best that those people no longer live.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) : We are hearing tonight Parliament at its best, because we have a very fine bill put up by Mr Peter Brown. Whether one is for it or against it, Mr Brown’s motives are honest and true. We have heard two very good speeches tonight against the bill. I want to speak in favour of Mr Brown’s bill, as a matter of principle and as a matter of personal experience. The principle is this. I believe that we, not the State, do own our own body and our life. I believe that if we choose to we can end our life. It is obviously the most drastic decision that a person can take, but one can do that. I believe that it is an affront to deny people who want to end their life the dignity of ending it in a way that is humane.
That is what our current law does. Of course we have to have a sharp line between suicide and murder, and this bill has that. That is why I support the bill. I ask members at least to send it to a select committee and hear what the people have to say.
I want to raise a memory of a man whom many members knew—Martin Hames, who died last year on 8 August. If Mr Brown’s bill had been the law, Martin Hames would still be with us, I am sure. He would not have needed to take his own life, as he did. He had Huntington’s disease. He discovered in 1979 that his mother had it. He did not marry, because he had a 50 percent chance of getting it, and he was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. He had watched his mother die a terrible death—a death where one loses one’s mind and loses control, to the extent that one cannot swallow.
Martin Hames loved life. He loved independence. He could not stand the thought of ending without the ability to swallow. Last year he prepared everything. He swallowed a whole lot of pills and he passed out. He had bought new pyjamas, and he had a note pinned to his chest saying “Please do not resuscitate”. The ambulance came, and they resuscitated him. He came to in hospital, and they said to Martin Hames that he had septicaemia in his legs and they wanted to take them off. He said: “What would happen if you don’t take my legs off?”, and they said: “You will die.” He said: “Well, good, because I have Huntington’s disease.”
They gave him some pain relief and pushed him off to the side in Wellington Hospital, and he spent the day dying. I dreaded going to see Martin Hames and saying goodbye to a very special friend, but one of the greatest things I have ever done is seeing a man dying with dignity. He told me, when I went in there, and he told all his friends—from Treasury, from Michael Cullen’s office, people from across the political spectrum who had worked with him, and from the National Party—that he was having a good death. He used to call me “Boss”, and he said: “I’m having a good death, Boss, because I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity to say goodbye to all my friends.” He had that chance.
We all went in there and, rather than feeling sad, I felt great to see a man who could face his death with such generosity and love of life and friends, and who had been dealt a cruel hand but was not complaining. Martin slipped away that night.
He had written a great book called The Crisis in New Zealand Schools, and he was well on the way to having written a second book, on the Treaty of Waitangi , which would have benefited us all. But he never got to finish it. We do not know whether Martin could have lived for another 10 years, working and writing, because he had to take his own life before it was taken from him.
MIKE WARD (Green) : While I will largely speak in favour of the Death with Dignity Bill, I want to make it clear that the Greens do not have a party position. Views range from the strongly supportive, to the belief that it is inherently and ethically wrong to kill another human being, even for the alleviation of suffering as this bill proposes. Some believe that the prohibition on the intentional killing of another person is the cornerstone of our ethical, moral, and medical codes, as well as of our law and social relationships, and that it would be dangerous to weaken our prohibition on intentional killing, or weaken the fundamental moral, ethical, and legal values that underpin that prohibition. They believe that it would undermine our respect for the sanctity of life and blur the line between lawful and unlawful death.
While acknowledging that people yearn for a peaceful and easy death without prolonged suffering, and want to be able to decide on the manner of their death, they believe that those arguments are not sufficient reason to weaken society’s prohibition on intentional killing, especially when palliative care has advanced to the point where the vast majority of people do not need to suffer unbearably, and when patients can already decline lifesaving treatments if they wish. They point out that inquiries into voluntary euthanasia in the United Kingdom, Canada, New York, and Tasmania all reached the conclusion that it was not possible to frame adequate safeguards against non-voluntary euthanasia in law, and decided against voluntary euthanasia.
I share the belief that life is important, but it is interesting that we tolerate the debilitating effects on the quality of life of poverty, loneliness, and disability, yet should someone look like dying, we start to take care. We must ensure appropriate palliative care, but we should take all other possible steps to ensure that people want to go on living. But if, in spite of all our efforts, a person still wishes to die, the issue is whether that person should be able to choose to die. If we believe that there are any circumstances where that is a reasonable choice, we must make it possible for people to make the decision and carry out their wishes, supported by the medical profession and the people they care about. As the law stands, deciding to die, and involving anyone else in the process—that is, having someone else help a person to die, having friends and family around as that person dies, and having someone knowingly provide the means for a person to die—subjects helpers and witnesses to the likelihood of criminal action.
As the law stands, people are unlikely to seek the kind of counselling that might persuade them that they have other choices. They are unlikely to discuss their plans with family or friends, because of the legal and emotional trauma and the risks that involving others may pose. As the law stands, even if a person is able to take his or her own life, dying must be a lonely prospect. It is unlikely to be death with dignity. Families in these circumstances are deprived, perhaps, of the opportunity to make their farewells, and left with the thought that maybe there was something more they could have done or circumstances they could have avoided.
There are risks. Some of the risks exist now. As the law stands, people may choose to die, simply because their care is inadequate. Bringing the issue out into the open and discussing it is likely to draw attention to their needs and ensure that the pain is controlled, etc. If taking one’s own life becomes possible, will the elderly feel obliged not to become a burden on their families, and shuffle off before their time? I cannot deny that that is a concern, but it is not a new concern. It is an indictment on where we have come to as a society that our elderly should ever feel that they are a waste of space and a burden. If folk who feel like that and are contemplating ending their own lives have their motives subjected to the scrutiny that this bill provides and have their concerns allayed, that will have been a worthy outcome.
This bill is about voluntary euthanasia, and putting in place the independent safeguards necessary to protect both the dying and their families. I suspect that most people will continue to cling to life with all the tenacity that human beings have always exhibited, but perhaps it is time to acknowledge that life is a terminal condition, and time that we put as much attention, compassion, and energy into the quality of our dying as we do into keeping people alive long after they have ceased to value the quality of that living.
This is one of those issues on which it is appropriate to have a decision by referendum, but that does not negate the role of Parliament or the public through the select committee process to frame legislation that addresses the fears and concerns of the proponents, as well as the opponents, of voluntary euthanasia. How and when we die is an uncomfortable issue for most of us, but that should not undermine our compassion for those who have accepted their own mortality and who would choose to die with dignity in the presence of the people they care about.
GORDON COPELAND (United Future) : I rise to speak on the Death with Dignity Bill. I cannot say those words without my mind immediately going to the little nun from Albania who devoted her life to taking the dying from the filth and squalor of the streets of Calcutta into a specially prepared home where they were lovingly washed, clothed, and cared for until the last moment of their lives. As the news of her work spread throughout India and then throughout the world, Mother Teresa was asked repeatedly why she had made the decision to undertake such work. Her reply was simply that it was so that those people could die with the dignity that should be accorded to all human beings. Can any of us forget her passing, just a few weeks after the funeral of Princess Diana, when monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers came to a funeral organised by the world’s second-most populated nation to honour one of the great saints of our age.
I can say without fear of contradiction that if Mother Teresa were here tonight, it would be to plead with us not to vote for this bill; for, in spite of its title, the truth is that this bill does not point the way towards death with dignity, but to physician-assisted suicide. A similar plea would be made to us by the thousands of doctors, nurses, and helpers who make up the worldwide hospice movement. They, too, have devoted their lives to the palliative ongoing medical care of those whose conditions mean that they are approaching the end of their lives. I know that to be true, for I have received many letters from them, couched in the most moving terms, asking me to vote against this bill.
Indeed, this bill is a contradiction of all that they stand for. They tell me that they employ their expertise in ensuring that people are able to die with dignity. They tell me of the enormous progress they have made in controlling pain, and ask us to give our support to their attempts to kill the pain—not, by deliberate action, to kill the patient.
History will also be our judge tonight. Three and a half millennia have passed since this world received the gift of the Ten Commandments through the Jews. One of those commandments states, simply: “You shall not kill.” This bill breaks that commandment. Two and a half millennia have passed since the emergence of the Hippocratic oath, which specifically states: “I will use no medicine to kill my patients, even if requested to do so.” This bill breaks that oath.
The importance of the Hippocratic oath cannot be overstated. It was the gift of the Greeks to civilisation. It set the physician aside as a person whose sole vocation was to heal, and never to kill. Prior to that, what in those days were called witchdoctors had carried within them the power to heal and to dispatch, so that they were regarded with a mixture of awe and fear but never with trust. The Hippocratic oath changed all that, and it is fundamental to the trust and esteem in which we hold the medical profession today. That trust will be breached and lost for ever should this bill become law. People, and particularly the elderly, will once again begin to fear the doctor.
This bill is dressed up in attractive and emotional clothes. The reality, however, is set out in clause 4, which authorises a medical practitioner to “assist” a person to end his or her life by “the administration of a substance to the patient”—in other words, a lethal injection or similar.
The New Zealand Medical Association strongly opposes this bill. According to both Paul Rishworth, co-author of the book The New Zealand Bill of Rights, and to the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, this bill is contrary to the right not to be deprived of life, which is enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. On behalf of all those I have mentioned, and of the many other thousands of New Zealanders of like mind, I, too, now tonight enter my plea in this Parliament for members to vote against this bill.
GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) : It is with pride that I take a call on this member’s bill, which I intend to support going through to a select committee. From thereon I am torn, but I believe that this bill deserves the dignity of at least being debated. I believe that this country is ready to have this full debate, and for the bill to have the scrutiny of the select committee process to proceed, so that, maybe, once and for all, we could settle this matter in a fully discussed way—albeit I understand we could dispatch it from this House tonight, never to be seen again for many, many years.
I also acknowledge Peter Brown for his courage, commitment, and what I believe to be humane intent in bringing this bill forward toward the House. It takes a great deal of courage to deal with a matter as profound as this, and, considering we have recently had a conscience debate issue, I would have to say that between that matter and this one, this, of course, is the more profound at the end of the day. It is not often that anyone would like to be given the opportunity to decide whether he or she wishes—and excuse the expression if I offend anyone—to play God in these matters. I am sure they are matters that will be traversed if this bill is successful in going through to the select committee.
Knowing that there are many people on both sides of the argument who have much to say, I believe that the country is mature enough, in the social and moral advances it has made so far, to be given the respect to be able to join in this debate, rather than for the debate to be the personal preserve of those of us who sit in this House. For example, I am looking forward to hearing from the palliative care sector, and from the medical sector. I know they have a lot of stuff out there now, but I really want to hear more. I also look forward to hearing from those who are in full support of the bill already—right through to the conclusion of this bill being successful—who will promote it as a humane issue.
In conclusion, I add the very important point that Mr Brown made in his speech, which was that this is not euthanasia; this is voluntary euthanasia. I would like to think that, as a person who I believe is humanitarian in my approach to life, and who indeed believes in human rights, I might have the personal choice to make my own decision about those matters when the time comes. However, that may not be the case for everybody, and I have heard some very good points made already this evening in that regard. But we will not get to the bottom of this, really, until we have a full and open public debate.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) : My mum and dad got engaged immediately prior to my dad going off to 5 years of active service in World War II. When he returned they got married, and over the years five little Donnellys came out. But at the wedding was a mate of my dad’s who had gone through the same years of service in the same arena of war as my dad had, and he became more or less like an uncle to us children. As a young child I can remember my mother telling us of the awful experiences he had had to encounter during the war. He told my mother of the nightmares he still had as a result of those experiences—ex-servicemen do not often talk to people other than ex-servicemen about those things. They were experiences of having his men, on more than one occasion, trapped under burning tanks, with no possibility of escape but facing an agonising last few hours—minutes, whatever it was to be—of life as they pleaded with him, their officer, basically, to shoot them. My dad’s friend had reacted to their pleas. He had shot his men. I can still remember reflecting on this story of the dilemma that had been faced by a man, who, as I say, had become like an uncle to us children. The question I asked myself then, and the question I ask myself now, is: did he do the right thing in shooting those men, his friends, under those circumstances? Every time I have come to the only possible conclusion: yes, he did.
I ask Bill English, who said we should just sit and watch those people suffering, whether he believes that my dad’s friend should have watched his men suffer all the way to their deaths. People may ask what that has to do with this bill. It has everything to do with this bill, because this bill is about people caught in exactly the same situation, with no hope of being saved, doomed to a torturous, agonising demise, and pleading for someone to bring the suffering to a close. People will say that a different morality prevailed during the war. I dispute that. Rules may change, but the moral principles do not. After all, war is a human construct, and to those who come to this issue with an absolutist, moralist viewpoint, I ask why would the Omnipotence—whatever that Omnipotence may be—presuppose a differential morality around a human construct, when, presumably, the Omnipotence existed before humanity.
I have a fundamental suspicion about absolute laws of morality, because it would seem that, when they are applied rigidly, around the fringes we inevitably end up with injustices. We have only to reflect on the hundreds of millions who have died over the centuries in wars over absolute commitment to religions that uphold the sanctity of human life. Because of my upbringing—and it was the same upbringing as that of Damien O’Connor and Bill English—I have a strong belief in the sanctity of human life. But I do not have that to such an absolute extreme that would condemn my father’s friend. I say that laws that force people to undergo horrendous suffering and indignity do not uphold the sanctity of human life. They are the very antithesis of that principle.
I had long been persuaded that the answer to the suffering of people with terminal illness was better palliative care. Upholding the sanctity of human life demands that we provide the best possible level of palliative care. I have little time for Michael Laws, but I can understand his bitterness towards those who voted against his bill and then did nothing to raise the level of palliative care in this country. In fact, many of them allowed the resourcing of palliative care to be diminished. No one who works in the area of palliative care, however, has been able to provide me with an assurance that even with the best treatment we are able to provide we can ensure that such care will catch all circumstances. There are still some who are doomed to an undignified, agonising death, and it is for those people that I will be voting for this bill to go to the select committee. If, through the select committee process, I can be convinced that palliative care can catch all, I will reconsider my position.
I commit myself at this point in time simply to vote for the bill to go through to the select committee. That is the right place for the issue about palliative care to be vigorously scrutinised in a balanced, public debate. It is also the place where the regulations to ensure that the law does not spread its intended coverage are robust and tight. We hear evidence from the Netherlands, and we want to make sure that that scenario will not be able to be repeated in New Zealand, if what we hear is true. I hope that I do not have to draw people’s attention to the fact that it will go to a binding referendum.
Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) : I think that I, more than anybody else in this House, have had more experience with people when it comes to death and dying. As a nurse, as a doctor, and especially as a geriatrician who worked in the hospice movement, I dealt with death and dying every day of the week, and I cannot support this bill. There are people who are admitted to hospices who say: “I want to die.”, but what they are saying is: “I want the nausea to go away. I want the pain to go away.” When one treats them, they want to continue to live.
As a geriatrician I dealt every day with people who felt they were a burden to their family. I dealt with elder abuse, and I dealt with people who were slowly dying—and a slow death is never easy. But I remember when my own father died of cancer, and my favourite aunty. When I look back at the days I spent at my father’s bedside, I see them as being probably some of the best days. I spoke to my father probably more in the last 2 weeks of his life than I had in the 20 years before, and I value that immensely.
We must remember that this bill is about active euthanasia. This is about actively taking a person’s life. It is not about passive euthanasia. We heard about Martin Hames, who made the choice not to have treatment and die—that is passive euthanasia, and it happens every day in our hospitals and in our homes, when people say: “I do not want to be treated any more. I do not want the antibiotics. I do not want the operation. I want you to let me die.” That is passive euthanasia, and it happens. This is not passive euthanasia; this is active euthanasia. It is about actively taking a person’s life.
It is a doctor’s ethical responsibility to save life, not to take it. The Hippocratic oath reinforces that. To ask somebody else to take a life is a line we should not cross with regard to active euthanasia. Euthanasia is described in the dictionary as the act or practice of killing someone who has an incurable disease or injury, or assisting that person to die. How does one define “incurable illness”? How does one define an advance directive? Advance directives are very dangerous. When does somebody lose his or her mind? When is the actual day when somebody no longer recognises his or her family? I have dealt with people with dementia for years. One day they may recognise their family, and the next day they are not so good. When is the day one is going to kill them? That is an extremely hard decision. It is easy to think about this bill in terms that do not come down to the practical realities of what one is doing.
When Michael Laws first put up his bill in the 1990s I, like many people, thought: “Well, maybe there is justification in this.”, but when we look at the issues, and at what we are actually doing here, and at the line we are crossing, we see that the answer has to be emphatically no. Members have heard the arguments about the slippery slope, and they have validity. When it is acceptable for a doctor to take a life, one is crossing a line. When it is acceptable to say, “This person no longer knows who they are. This person left an advance directive. This elderly person has said to me that they want to die.”, one crosses a line.
Does the line of incurable illness include mental health? Does that include somebody who is severely depressed, but who can become well again with appropriate treatment? If it does, this bill should never go any further than this House tonight. One has to think about what it would be like to hold the hand of one’s mother or father and watch them being given a lethal injection, and think about how one would feel for the years ahead. The price is too high for this bill to proceed.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (NZ National—Pakuranga) : I think I am probably the longest serving of all the MPs here tonight, other than you, Mr Speaker, and I have been through a number of conscience votes. I have always been on the libertarian side, and I will be again tonight, by supporting this bill. But I have some questions that I want answered, which are to do with whether this legislation can be abused. If it can be, how do we tighten it to make sure that it cannot be, because my rights finish at the end of my nose, and do not go further into other people’s purview.
I think that the concept of somebody wanting to terminate his or her own life because of incurable agony, and the pain and suffering that is going to go on for a limited time before he or she finally dies, is a perfectly legitimate issue over which an individual should have a right to make a decision. But I think there are some issues about both overt and even covert pressures that may come on a person.
There are clearly the covert issues of elderly people, who are suffering and in pain, going towards the end of their lives and worrying about whether they are eating up the assets of their children, to whom they would like to leave some inheritance. Even though the kids may not be placing that pressure on them, it may finally get to them, and they might say: “Look, I know I could hang on for some time. I can bear the pain, and the morphine is keeping me OK, but I’m going to whittle away my kids’ inheritance to a point where it’s nothing, so I’m best to trundle off.” I would like to know that we can make sure that that process could not happen. I would also like to make sure that the overt pressure that can be put on somebody—with people saying things like, “Come on, it’s time you got out of here because you’re just suffering, and we would like to get the inheritance.”, or whatever—could not happen.
But, having said all that, I believe that this is a question about the principle of an individual’s right to choose. I have been involved with some family members who have been in excruciating pain, and who have had all the palliative care one could possibly offer. They have been doped to the eyeballs with morphine and other things, and still, only weeks from death, they have been just screaming out for it to be ended. Members should think about that, and think about it for themselves. I am happy to put my hand up right now for that right to choose if I were in that situation of excruciating pain, knowing there was an end coming. That is not what Dr Lynda Scott was talking about—she spoke about someone who might have a mental illness that could be cured—because that is not right. I agree with her on that. But people who are going to die—and a lot of those cases are very clearly identifiable—and who will last for only a certain amount of time, should have a right to say what they want.
So I will be voting for the first reading of this bill, and then spending quite a lot of time listening to the debate, as I think every member of this House should. This is bigger than any of the conscience votes that I have faced before—selling wine in supermarkets, homosexual law reform, or anything else. This is much bigger. This is something that goes right to the heart of what we, as humans, believe we really are, and what makes a society decent, or not. As long as I am convinced, through a fairly elongated process and then through a referendum, that there are the necessary protections and safeguards in the bill, and that we watch it carefully as it goes through, I will probably be persuaded to support it right to the end. I will not give that commitment yet; I will certainly listen to the debate.
One thing I want to raise with members of this Parliament tonight is the fact that this sort of stuff goes on now, and if members do not think that it does, they have to be living in cloud cuckoo land. If members talk quietly and privately to some medical practitioners, those practitioners will say that they have allowed people to just slip away, or even assisted that in a non-acknowledged, “nod, nod, wink, wink” way, because it was the time that the person, who was going through simply excruciating agony and pain, wanted to go. I would want to know that that option existed for every human being. I can tell members that my mum and dad, who are still alive and in their 80s, have said that that is what they would want if they ever got to a position where they were in shocking agony and pain—and what a ghastly decision it would be for an individual to make. What a shockingly ghastly decision that would be! But, if in the end the proper processes were there—with medical practitioners making the right interventions—and if we had put the necessary safeguards in place, there is one fundamental freedom that we should always protect for an individual. It is the right to make that final decision. I will be voting for this first reading.
PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) : I would like to start my reply by addressing a few of the queries. With regard to the query raised by Gordon Copeland about the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, I have to say that the Ministry of Justice advised the Attorney-General that there may be some conflict with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act in one aspect of the bill. The emphasis is on the word “may”. I sought a legal opinion, and I am told that that is not true. With lawyers, I am meeting the honourable member, Margaret Wilson, tomorrow afternoon to discuss it. I believe that my case is a good deal stronger than the Ministry of Justice’s case.
I respect what Maurice Williamson said—I thought he hit the nail right on the head. It is happening now, and there are some hard questions to be answered. I want them answered as well, and I hope the bill addresses those questions, but I respect the abilities of the select committee to address them in more thorough detail than I have done. I want to point out that if we do not pass this legislation, the people we are talking about will not just sit down and suffer in silence. Many of them might, but some of them will go out and commit suicide and die in a horrible, undignified manner. That will happen if they cannot get the friendly doctor who will help them out of their situation that the Hon Maurice Williamson referred to. It is happening now to some degree, and probably more than we actually think.
All the recent polls taken in this country show a high level of public support for this legislation, ranging from 62 percent to 82 percent. One poll conducted by Massey University showed 73 percent support for this sort of legislation. This is a controversial issue, a delicate issue, and a sensitive issue, but the public have a right to talk about it. In an hour and five minutes we cannot possibly condemn the public to silence. It will not go away. I ask members to please send the bill to select committee. Please let the folk we are talking about, and the people who are concerned for them, have their say. I am on the side of the suffering. I will leave it to others to say, “let them suffer.”
Sending this bill to the select committee is not binding on any member. Any member can change his or her mind later on. It is simply democracy in action—letting the public have a say about a controversial, delicate, sensitive issue. That is all the public wants at this stage, and I think that is a reasonable request. I urge all members to find compassion in their hearts—to the degree that they want to let the people that this bill will embrace talk to the select committee, make a submission, and discuss this issue publicly and openly. That is what I am asking at this point in time. I am not asking people to put a stake in the sand and say that they are with this bill for ever. I am—I believe that something has to be done for these folk. I have looked at the issue and wrestled with my conscience for quite some time, but I am asking members to think now of these people in a friendly and compassionate way, to allow them to come to the select committee and make their views, and the opposing views, known.
I want to conclude by saying to the Hon. Bill English that this bill is not about children, at all. It is only for adults. If the bill needs to be tightened up to say that, then so be it.
|Carter C||Hawkins||Peters J||Ward|
- Motion not agreed to.
Sex Offenders Registry Bill
Mr SPEAKER: Will members please be silent. I call Deborah Coddington.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: If that is the case, I suggest that we have to have silence in the House. I suggest that members who are interested in this bill stay and sit in their seats, and those who are not interested in it leave; otherwise, it is a hopeless situation for the member who has been called to speak on an important bill, and is entitled to be heard properly.
Mr SPEAKER: I agree with the member. I have said I have called for an investigation into this. It will be reported to me at 9 a.m. I am very, very angry indeed. This is a fault that should not have occurred, but the member is perfectly correct. From now on there will be no interjection whatsoever, because every member has the right to be heard.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I really have to ask that it be more than that. A United Future member is holding a conversation, and, obviously, is not listening to you, because every word that she has just said has gone over the air. For members’ own protection, members who are going to sit in the House should be silent until all the microphones are no longer live; otherwise, some member will be extremely embarrassed to discover that his or her conversation has been broadcast.
Nearly 10 years ago, as a journalist I stumbled into an area of crime about which I had very little knowledge. It was a crime that was protected by a cone of silence. It was criminal offending that, if it occurred on the other side of the world, in a country like Belgium, where little girls were locked in a basement for days to be sexually abused and die, the newspapers here would be filled with horrifying reports and photographs, but if it happened next door, in New Zealand suburbia, we would turn our heads the other way and would not want to know. I was writing a book called Keeping Kids Safe, and I had commissioned a press agency to clip from the national newspapers any stories relating to accidents that children had suffered. I tossed these clippings into boxes roughly filed in alphabetical order. Then in 1996 I decided to put the book together. I discovered that the box marked “S”, for sexual abuse, had increased to several boxes.
As I went through these clippings my horror increased as I realised that the same names had kept reappearing over those past 6 years. I knew, as a parent, that if I saw a name in the newspaper 1 year, I would not recognise that name 2 years later, when that person had been released from jail and gone back into a job where he or she had easy access to children and was trusted. If members read a name in the newspaper today, the name of someone convicted of an indecent assault on a young child, do they expect to remember that person’s name in 3 or 4 years time? Sex offenders are not just grubby old men in raincoats loitering in parks, around the swings and slides. They run scout and cub groups. They are church leaders, schoolteachers, justices of the peace—pillars of the community. They organise youth groups, and they take children away on camps. They join computer clubs, and they take young members home on the pretext of playing computer games. They know where to find young children who are vulnerable, often lonely, and too trusting.
I did further research and I discovered that rapists, not just paedophiles, were repeat offenders, and were getting off far too lightly in terms of sentences, and were then being let loose on an unsuspecting community. I could not let this matter rest, and I published the 1996 Paedophile and Sex Offender Index. I naively thought I would get just a few snotty reviews from the civil liberties brigade. I had no inkling of the torrent of abuse that would descend on me from almost every area of New Zealand society. I was sued, and I was accused of driving sex offenders to suicide. I received death threats. I had to hire security guards to follow my youngest child home from school when I could not collect her.
My critics seemed to believe that the perpetrators of these crimes were just poor, misguided souls who sometimes wandered on to the wrong side of the law, but who merely needed a little bit of counselling and understanding. I believe that it is this attitude that has allowed paedophiles, rapists, and sex molesters to carry on with their behaviour with little fear of being caught. There are no excuses for this behaviour. There is no room in my heart for these people. To express any form of sympathy for them makes a mockery of what I feel for their victims. Offenders are not victims, and they should not be considered as such when they appear before the court. Today, the victims are the people whom the justice system should be protecting. Every time we lock our doors at night, walk our children to school, worry when they are late returning home from sports practice, or enrol in self-defence classes, to a certain extent we become victims ourselves.
Members might ask why I embarked on, and continued, this project, which at times made me feel like the most hated woman in New Zealand. Why did I keep fronting up to interviews and talkback programmes, when I was accused of self-promotion? It was because I had had such a flood of feedback from men, women, and children who had been victims of sex crimes, and who had finally found someone who was prepared to stand up and say that we are not doing enough to protect people from sex offenders.
If people want to take out a mortgage, buy something on hire purchase, or borrow money, they have to submit to a credit check to make sure they can be trusted with other people’s money. Every day Baycorp runs something like 15,000 such checks through its system. Why can we not have such a system for those who want to be trusted with other people’s children? When Kate Alkema was murdered on the Hutt River bank, the police investigating the crime estimated that there had been something like 60 sex attacks in that area in the past 2 years. If 60 swimmers had got into difficulty at a beach in a 2-year time-span, there would be signs everywhere warning the public about dangerous tidal rips. Why can we not give women information about sex offenders, so that they can try to keep themselves more safe? If members knew that a repeat dangerous offender, like Taffy Hotene, had been released on parole in their neighbourhood, would they let their young daughters walk home in the dark from a bus stop? Kylie Jones’ family in Auckland was not allowed this information, because Taffy Hotene’s right to privacy was considered more important than Kylie Jones’ right to life. Every time I hear of a rape or a murder my blood runs cold, because so often the name of the accused is someone who is in my book or in my records.
So what will my bill do? Well, it is only one facet, but a major part none the less, of a strategy that I believe this Parliament needs to implement to protect the community from sex offenders. The bill as it stands is sparsely written, and deliberately so, because I think it is important that the public do have their input into, and their say on, this legislation. In essence, the purpose of this bill is to establish a registry of persons who have been convicted of sexual offences, and to include mechanisms to keep the registry up to date so that the police have reliable information available to them at all times on the whereabouts of sex offenders. Despite what many people believe—and someone even came to me today to state this—the police currently do not have access to a national database of sex offenders. It is very ad hoc, and at times has even been as hit and miss as someone just walking past the senior sergeant’s door, hearing a name being spoken from within his office, and recognising that name as someone who had been locked up or arrested several years ago and had got out again.
A fundamental principle underpinning this bill is that protection of the privacy of sex offenders must give way to protection of the public from such offending. In other words, the community’s interests come first. I believe that the bill maintains a balance between these competing concerns, because it does not apply to offences and offenders in the distant past. As the bill is drafted at the moment, it does not go as far back as I would like, but I have deliberately had a bill drafted that is not too extreme, so that, hopefully, it will not be voted down in the early stages, and so that people can have more input at a select committee. The bill strictly limits access to the registry. This database should be seen as a crime-fighting and law enforcement tool. There are strict penalties for misuse of information, and offenders can access their own files to correct erroneous information.
I believe that this is legislation whose time has come. The climate has changed considerably since I published my book in 1996. I believe that the New Zealand public is ready for this law.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice) : The Government has foreshadowed major changes in dealing with child sex offenders, and it will support this bill going to the Law and Order Committee as one aspect of a series of measures that are necessary to minimise the risk of sexual offending, particularly offending by paedophiles against children.
This bill proposes a registry so that police have reliable information on the whereabouts of sex offenders. I think the outstanding feature of the register is that it requires those who are categorised or covered by the bill to regularly update the police on addresses. I think, however, that the important decision made by the author of the bill, Deborah Coddington, is that this register ought to be available for the purposes of policing, and available to relevant agencies, but not publicly available, which would allow the names and addresses of sex offenders to be published with wider public access. I think there is a very good reason for doing that. Where the names and addresses of such offenders are known, it does tend to promote vigilantism, and is counterproductive to working to prevent reoffending by sexual offenders, because the most likely way of promoting further offending is to drive those offenders underground and out of contact with the control and support mechanisms—the supervision mechanisms—that are necessary to keep them from reoffending. So I welcome Deborah Coddington’s acknowledgement of the need to avoid those particular outcomes.
We certainly do need a proper database for those who are serious and recidivist sex offenders. The police currently collate such information in collaboration with other agencies, but it is fair to say it is not systematised, and there is room for improvement in practice. Indeed, in acknowledgment of that, a pilot scheme was started at the beginning of this month in Dunedin, where there is interagency management of child sex offenders during their parole and supervision period. There is collaboration between the various bodies and full sharing of information. I expect that that pilot programme will be successful, and if successful it will be rolled out across the country. That will considerably improve the management of sex offenders in the community.
Up-to-date information about known offenders and where they live, however, is, by itself, of somewhat limited use. It may help the police to solve crimes more quickly, and it is worthwhile for that reason alone, but what it does not do is act to prevent future offending. Prevention requires the active management of sex offenders in the community, and that means a combination of controls such as supervision and court-reporting requirements, and availability of, and support in undertaking, regular counselling and relapse prevention programmes. That is why the Government is now working on ensuring the maximum effectiveness of the police database, as part of a wider package of measures to ensure that the risk posed by recidivist offenders is actually minimised.
I think one can properly categorise sex offenders into various tiers of risk. The top tier—the worst offenders—are much more likely today to receive preventive detention. The circumstances in which preventive detention can be imposed by a judge were significantly extended in the Sentencing Act passed last year. Preventive detention is a penalty that is a lifelong sentence. It is a sentence that now applies from a younger age, to a much wider range of offences, and without the need for an offender to have previous serious offences in order for that sentence to apply to an individual who has offended seriously. It allows for any offenders, if and when they are ever released back into the community, literally to be controlled for the rest of their natural life through reporting and supervision, and allows for the possibility of recall if behaviour indicates that the offender is at risk of reoffending. It is a draconian sentence. It is a sentence, however, that gives full control, and gives priority to the safety of the community where that very clearly is justified.
Currently, however, there is no active management regime for the second tier of sex offenders. These people are also habitual offenders, and, under the principle that when one has served one’s time, that is the end of one’s sentence, there is too little attention given to the identifiable likelihood that those individuals will go on to offend again, if they are not managed appropriately in the community. The register does not, on its own, address that gap. That is why the Government has proposed an extended management regime that would allow authorities to exert control and monitoring over that tier of offenders for up to 10 years after their release from prison. The legislation will be introduced before the end of the year, and I hope the select committee will consider that bill alongside Deborah Coddington’s bill. This is a radical change in control and supervision of offenders. It is, however, a change that has been implemented recently in the United Kingdom and in Canada, and I believe that it is a change that is merited because, again, priority must be placed on protection of the community from people who are known as habitual offenders.
Those offenders who are subject to preventive detention, therefore, or subject to the new, proposed extended supervision regime, would be required to keep their whereabouts notified to relevant agencies. That would be a standard condition of their release. This bill’s provision for collecting and maintaining up-to-date information, therefore, would not be relevant to those two groups of the most serious offenders, because that information would already be routinely required. A register, however, may be useful in implementing similar tracking requirements on the next tier of sex offenders. My view, at this point, is that it ought to apply to relatively serious or recidivist offenders, but not to offending that is minor or that is deemed to be one-off offending.
In considering the establishment of any registry, a key issue is balancing the benefits that the registry may deliver, in terms of crime prevention and crime resolution, with what the registry may involve in terms of the resources required to put it together. Costs would depend on how a registry was implemented, and how accessible it needed to be and to whom. This bill, as the author has indicated, is not prescriptive in this regard, and I think that is a sensible approach, but the select committee will have to give some consideration to what the implications for various agencies’ information systems might be.
Sex offenders, and, in particular, child sex offenders, have an appalling effect on their victims. They cause traumas that blight the lives of children for years to come. We need to consider today regimes that address and minimise that offending far more effectively than we have done in the past. Tougher sentences to deal with the worst offenders are now available, and, as we saw in the sentencing of Nicholas Reekie, are being used. But sanctions imposed after the offence has been committed are less valuable than measures that are effective in preventing offending. Cooperation and information sharing between agencies are essential to the proper management of those at risk of offending, and we have begun that process. Extended supervision of those who have offended and are at risk of doing so again is essential, and the Government will act in an unprecedented way to ensure that happens. A register of offenders, to ensure an effective and up-to-date database, could also be an important aspect of management and control, and for this reason the Government will support the referral of this bill to the select committee. I look forward to the consideration of the bill alongside the legislation proposed by the Government, which will be in this House before the end of the year.
JUDITH COLLINS (NZ National—Clevedon) : The National Party supports this bill going to the Law and Order Committee, and I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Deborah Coddington on the bill and on the drafting of it.
There is no excuse for rape. There is no excuse for rapists continuing to prey on the vulnerable, and genuinely destroying the lives of people for whom there can never be any true redress. Unlike property crimes, unlike a lot of crimes that, as a lawyer, I have seen in my practice, there can be no insurance against rape. No amount of money can compensate a rape victim, and I hazard to state there would be very few rape victims who are not, on a daily basis, reminded of the crime committed against them. They will never go away. Unfortunately, we live in a society where there are, in fact, rapists—sexual offenders we call them now, but they are rapists—people who abuse children, who abuse the elderly, and who abuse others. These people are almost always likely to be recidivists. I am sorry if that offends the civil libertarians here, but those people almost always will be recidivists. It takes a certain mindset to commit that sort of offence against another human being.
I welcome the fact that we will be looking at this issue. I am almost certain this bill will pass through to the select committee. I hope that it will not, as a bill, become watered down by concern for those who are, in fact, rapists, recidivists—the sorts of people whom none of us would wish to have living anywhere near us. As a mother, I can say that the greatest fear for most parents would be that their child was the victim of a sex offence. It would, for many people, be worse than death, and that is because of the inhumanity it displays. People like Jules Mikus prey on women; they, prey on women with young children. Yes, we now find that he himself, as a child, was the victim of a sex offence by his own father. Of course, sex offences that are just left to rot like that will often have a bad result further on down the track. What actually happens in cases like his is that very, very innocent, young lives are destroyed, and no amount of work that this Parliament can do will ever bring back their innocence. It is a shame, and a shocking, shocking situation.
I welcome the comments from the Minister of Justice about the work of the police under this bill. I am concerned, however, that our police are already under-resourced and will not have the resources actually to follow up on this work. I fear that the concerns expressed by Deborah Coddington and others in relation to this bill will come to pass—that is, that the police will be asked to keep registers, but will instead spend a tremendous amount of time, as they do now, pulling drivers over for faulty backing lights and faulty brake lights. I fear that they will not be given the resources or the power actually to do their job. That is a concern, and I hope the select committee is able, when it looks at this bill, to make recommendations accordingly. I am pleased to commend this bill to the House.
DAIL JONES (NZ First) : New Zealand First will support this bill going to the Law and Order Committee. The idea of doing something to ensure that we can keep track of sex offenders when they finally come out of prison is a very good one. As the previous speaker has said, those of us who practise law and who come across sex offenders realise that once people are sex offenders they almost certainly continue to be so. It seems to be something in their system.
One of the saddest aspects of sex offending is that it is sometimes encouraged by other members of the family. The worst case I had was a case where a stepfather had interfered with a child, and his wife and his stepmother both criticised the child for telling the school that she had been interfered with. The grandmother had been interfered with, the mother had been interfered with, and they felt that it was part of tradition that the child also be interfered with. That was no excuse, of course. Strangely, the probation officer thought the defendant should be released on probation, but I started my submission by suggesting that the sentence should be at least 5 years, which Justice Thomas, as it happened, agreed with. We have to be realistic sometimes. It is strange how probation officers can see cases like this and somehow feel that people like that offender should be excused because of the situation in the family. We almost wonder whether we can ever resolve sex offending, when sometimes victims from the past, like the grandmother, virtually encourage it, and castigate new victims for revealing what is happening to them. It is a dreadful situation.
Time and time again, when one appears in court for sex offenders, one knows that they will go to jail, obviously, but one also knows that nothing is going to happen in jail to stop them from being sex offenders when they come out. It is a terribly hopeless feeling when, as counsel, one knows that something should be done, and the judges know that something should be done, to try to get rid of the problem of sex offending, but, ultimately, all that we can possibly do as a society is to have something like the Sex Offenders Registry Bill so that at least we have a warning as to where these people are. In a way, it is just a cheap way for Parliament to try to resolve the problem. The problem ought to be resolved before the event. But once the event has happened, something should happen in the jail system to try to have this problem reduced, and something should be done in the sex offender’s family so that when the sex offender is released he—and it is usually a he—does not go into an environment where sex offending is par for the course. It is a tragedy that there are sections of our society where we see that happen. People often say that lawyers do not know what is happening in society, but lawyers really go down to the bottom of the barrel many times, and there would be many lawyers with stories worse than the one I have just recounted.
It is interesting to see that Australia also is setting up a paedophile register. That worthy journal the Cairns Post, of Friday, 4 July 2003, indicated that the Australian justice system is setting up a register: “Ministers meeting in Melbourne pledge to develop complementary legislation for the registry of convicted paedophiles. The Federal Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, welcomed the agreement.” I look forward to there being cooperation between New Zealand and the Australian states to make sure that people who offend here do not feel they have a safe haven in Australia to go to, and vice versa. Australian sex offenders should know that the Australian registry is available in New Zealand, if possible, so that Australians do not come over here and start conducting their dreadful behaviour in New Zealand.
As I said, New Zealand First supports this legislation going to the select committee.
MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) : On behalf of United Future, I welcome the introduction of this bill, and commend Deborah Coddington for bringing it to the House. Along with other legislation, like the Victims’ Rights Act, we are now seeing a tide turning and a shift to a new paradigm—a paradigm where victims are now able to start putting forward legislation to protect themselves, and this bill forms another part of that. I do not wish to name some of the paedophiles and sex offenders. It would be a roll-call of evil, and they should not be given the spotlight, which is something I am sure they enjoy secretly and quietly.
Sex offenders are not just criminals in the normal sense. They are not like burglars or any other form of criminal. They have an ingrained characteristic that cannot be taken out, any more than axle grease can be taken out of a baked cake. As such, they constitute a threat and a continuing threat to the public—to the vulnerable, the innocent, and the children.
The Sex Offenders Registry Bill has as its purpose: “to establish a registry of sex offenders to assist the police in their investigations of sex offences, to reduce sexual offending, and thereby contribute to public safety.” It is a noble purpose, and if it does no more than just place a database in the hands of the police so they are able to access the information, it will do a lot.
Although I understand the sparseness of the bill, and the intent of that, I believe that we must strengthen it through the select committee process. In particular, I think that clause 5, which deals with people who have been convicted of two or more sexual offences, needs to be broadened. We need to look at the pattern of offending. We need to look at the risk of reoffending by these individuals, and at added safety, if parole should ever be applicable to them.
Also, when it is time to look at the ability of the sex offenders registry to do what it is supposed to do, we should perhaps think about widening the scope of the legislation to allow accessibility to those most at risk. It is a way of warning them about the predators in their immediate vicinity. I am suggesting that schools, kindergartens, and day-care centres have access. I suggest that those who are most vulnerable have access to information to help protect them. It is right, of course, that the police should be the first repository of this sort of information so that they may act on it, but I think that, as has already been stated, people who have children would like to know what precautions they ought to be able to take if there is an offender in the nearby vicinity, in the vicinity of a nearby school, and so on. People who have children and who live near where offenders are residing also have reason to be forewarned so that they may be able to help protect their children.
On behalf of United Future, I thoroughly commend the introduction of this bill. I look forward to its introduction to a select committee and to being able to work with Deborah Coddington, to strengthen the bill, and to invite public submissions. I am sure the public will see in this bill another branch towards victims being allowed to protect themselves, whereas in the past legislation has failed to do that.
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) : I rise to speak on behalf of the Green Party on the Sex Offenders Registry Bill, and to inform the House that the Green Party will be supporting this bill to a select committee. Like all members in this House, Green members are concerned about crimes of rape and sexual violence, and we find them abhorrent.
I have to say though that we support the bill with some sense of caution. There are a number of issues that we think need to be seriously addressed in the select committee, and we hope that the committee will take them very seriously. The Minister of Justice has already referred to some of the dangers inherent in such a register in terms of the dangers of vigilantism and the possible detrimental effect it could have on rehabilitation. I say that not from some ideological point of view, but because I think it is the concern of all of us to reduce reoffending and the number of victims in the future. It means that we have to take very seriously the question of how we promote rehabilitation very seriously.
The Minister also mentioned that the register on its own was of fairly limited use, and we think that is the case. The police already have access to a certain amount of information through parole records and their own records, so we are not clear how useful this register will be. We look forward to hearing the police submission at the select committee, so that the details of how it will work can be worked through.
The Greens also have a number of real concerns about the specifics of the bill. I would like to foreshadow to the House that we may not be able to support the bill through subsequent readings if some of those concerns cannot be addressed by the select committee. We have concerns about who the bill applies to. First, let us remember that this bill does not just talk about the Mikuses, the Reekies, and such people. It covers offences like incest between a brother and sister, whether of whole or half-blood. That is not to say that we support incest—we certainly do not—but I am not sure that those are the kinds of offences that Deborah Coddington was intending to cover with the registry. I understood it to be concerned with serious sexual offences.
Of course, section 136 of the Crimes Act talks about conspiracy to induce sexual intercourse, and anyone “who conspires with any other person by a false representation … to induce any woman or girl to have sexual intercourse with any male who is not her husband.” That could cover quite a large host of things, and again while I am not saying that those are acceptable behaviours—they certainly are not—I am not sure that those are the kinds of things that Deborah Coddington wanted to cover. I think that the committee needs to look at those things quite seriously.
We also have concerns about who the bill applies to in terms of including people who have not been convicted of an offence, but who have admitted an offence while being questioned by the police and have been cautioned. Again, there are questions about the seriousness of the offence and how likely people are to reoffend. Also, there is the power the police have to bargain an admission when they are in a position of power. So I think that those things need to be looked at. It is our belief that that particular part of the bill contravenes the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, and we think the select committee needs to look at that.
I guess our concern is that the bill represents a very blanket approach. Marc Alexander talks about the need to look at patterns of offending in people, and I think that is true. The bill is a fairly blunt instrument, and in that sense it may not fulfil the hopes of its author, although I understand very clearly the very real considerations that have driven Deborah Coddington to put the bill forward.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) : I want to express the support of Deborah Coddington’s ACT colleagues for this bill. We believe she is doing what she came to Parliament to do. It is what she said she would do to achieve the changes directly that she was crusading for as a journalist—throwing sunlight into dark corners and trying to make sure that there is more sunlight in a lot more young lives.
We are against name suppression. We believe that it shelters the well-connected, that it does not contribute to upholding the law, and that it does not uphold our traditions of open courts and transparent justice. Convictions are in open court. If a reporter is present at a sentencing, it can be recorded and reported for ever, but if the justice establishment gets away with that formal process and a conviction is not reported, the system clams up thereafter to protect the guilty. There is no right to a criminal record, even though every entry in it might have been delivered in open court. So ACT has reservations. We are concerned that this bill is not reopening justice, it is not Megan’s Law, and it does not supplant Deborah Coddington’s book. It really helps the police and law enforcement only, because only officials approved by the Minister are able to have access to this register.
Why then do we support the bill when it is so limited? Why do we run the risk of exhausting Parliament’s ration of attention to this issue? Because it is a start—it is better than where we are now, and it might take New Zealand society back in a more healthy direction. It is a hesitant recognition that all of the social work, all of the counselling, all of the insiders’ claims of “Just leave it to us, we know what we’re doing”, and all of the official resources will not restore the assumption of trust that New Zealanders had in their fellow New Zealanders. Trust will not be restored until the community as a whole has active, informed confidence that the entire community shares the abhorrence of crime, and of this particular kind of crime. We need to tell offenders that it is not condoned.
Those offenders nurse some very strange delusions. One paedophile, whose parole application I had to think about earlier this week, said that he was just expressing his affection for the 6-year-old boy he had anally violated. This register says to those offenders: “Don’t delude yourself. Society is not secretly condoning your vice by giving you secrecy. Justice will be open.” Although this bill is only a start, ACT is delighted to be able to support it.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) : I thank all parties for supporting this bill. Believe me, there are hundreds and hundreds of people out there who will be thanking them, too. I especially want to thank the Hon Phil Goff, who, I believe, has done a huge amount as Minister of Justice to move towards protecting people in society from sex offenders. This is only the first stage of the bill, and I hope that it continues on a steady, strong passage through the House.
I want to conclude with another aspect to the advantages of this bill. When similar legislation was passed in Ontario, Canada, in the year 2000, I was emailed by a recidivist sex offender there who told me that he was one of the first people to register on its registry because he was sick of going to jail. He could not trust himself not to reoffend, but he finally felt that he could get on with his life. He knew that people were watching over his shoulder all the time, and that was a huge deterrent to his reoffending. I keep in touch with him, and to date he has not reoffended.
On the issue of various degrees of offending mentioned by Nandor Tanczos, all I can say is that to victims of sex abuse, they are all serious. I recommend that this bill be referred to a select committee.
- Bill read a first time, and referred to the Law and Order Committee., referred to the Law and Order Committee
- The House adjourned at 9.51 p.m.