INDEPENDENT NEWS

Questions and Answers - 18 February 2009

Published: Thu 19 Feb 2009 04:21 PM
WEDNESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2009
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Budget Policy Statement—Fiscal Outlook
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
1. PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to address the fiscal outlook outlined in the most recent Budget Policy Statement?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : In the Budget Policy Statement we outlined steps to limit expenditure growth, including dropping the unfunded priorities of the last Government, putting a cap on the growth of the Public Service, and advising departments there will be no new Budget bids apart from the priorities of the incoming Government.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: How is the Government’s tax cut programme funded?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government’s tax cut package, which was announced prior to the election, was funded by removing the research and development tax credit and making changes to the KiwiSaver programme that enabled the Government to pass through significant income tax cuts to many, many low and middle income New Zealanders without putting undue pressure on the fiscal outlook.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that he told the Finance and Expenditure Committee this morning that he had received no updated forecasts from Treasury since the Budget Policy Statement in December? And given that he said that officials have better things to do than provide updated forecasts on the economy, can he explain to the House why he does not place a greater value on accurate information?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The reason is that we place a great value on actually making decisions so that people will be protected from the sharp edge of recession, in order to get this economy ready for recovery. This Government is not making the mistake of the last Government, which believed that gathering information and making announcements amounted to doing things.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What is this Government doing to address the rapid rise in public expenditure that occurred under the last Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We will need to have greater efficiency and value for money in order to provide better, smarter public services for New Zealanders in a time of restraint. But as an indication of the momentum of Government spending built up under the previous Government, from 2004 to 2012 core Crown expenses will increase by over $30 billion—that is, from $40 billion to $72 billion. We will be looking for evidence that all that extra expenditure has actually led to better services for more people.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that following his appearance at the Finance and Expenditure Committee this morning he submitted a correction on a $30 billion error that he made in testimony to the committee, and that his correction statement itself contained further numerical errors; and when will that Minister lift his game on a matter of great importance to this economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did get one date wrong in my testimony—is it “testimony” these days—to the very powerful Finance and Expenditure Committee, but I have to say that unlike that member, this Government is not preoccupied with all the details; we are preoccupied with getting measures before the House, such as the extensive changes to the Resource Management Act. The whole community has waited 15 years for a Government to grasp the nettle and make those changes.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a document named Budget Policy Statement 8, which is an inaccurate correction by the Minister to the Finance and Expenditure Committee. This document has been released by the committee.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document.
Craig Foss: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: We are dealing with this point of order first. Is there any objection to that course being followed? There appears to be no objection.
* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Craig Foss: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I see that leave has been given, but the correct document has been presented today, not the one that may have been presented to the committee.
Mr SPEAKER: The document that will be tabled will indicate to the member whether the correct document has been tabled. He is most welcome to look at it.
2. Unemployment Rate—Increase
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Is he satisfied that the measures he has announced are adequate to stop the projected surge in unemployment?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The measures we have announced so far, and further measures that we will announce as economic events unfold, are designed to take the sharpest edges off this recession. Job losses would have been greater had these measures not been introduced, and support packages like the ReStart scheme will help to soften the blow of redundancy for many people, but they will not prevent an overall increase in unemployment over the course of this recession, and the Government has been very upfront in saying that. This is a very serious global recession affecting employment in every country in the world.
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister intend to set out clear and consistent criteria on which the Government will base its decisions on whether to bail out specific companies in trouble; if so, when will he publish these so that all companies that are facing difficulties are clear on where they stand?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has already made it clear that there would be a very high benchmark indeed for the Government to be involved in bailing out companies. Our preference is that companies look to the classical banking solution to their problems. That is not to say that the Government could not or would not get involved; we reserve the right to do that. I suggest that if the member does not think the Government should ever get involved, he should go back to the shop floor and tell New Zealanders his message.
Hon Phil Goff: What conditions will the Prime Minister place around, for example, financial assistance to companies in trouble, to ensure that New Zealand taxpayers’ money is being used to protect New Zealand jobs, not jobs that have been or will be transferred overseas?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member is jumping to conclusions in assuming there will be any bail-outs from this Government at this point. If there were any, then there would be conditions, of course, and we would expect New Zealand jobs to be maintained, but the member should not jump to conclusions.
Nathan Guy: What measures has the Government introduced to take the sharpest edges off this recession?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has taken a number of measures, and will continue to take even more, but at this point we have overseen the wholesale funding and retail deposit guarantee schemes, tax cuts will come in on 1 April 2009, and we have introduced a small to medium sized enterprise package worth $480 million. Can I say there has been an overwhelming response from the small to medium sized enterprise sector thanking us for that well-targeted package. We are bringing forward expenditure on infrastructure of $483 million, and my good colleague Mr English just made reference to the packages that will be delivered through the changes to be made to the Resource Management Act. There will, of course, be the Job Summit, on 27 February, and more measures may well come from that.
Hon Phil Goff: Does Mr English—his good colleague, I think he said—support his assurance to Fisher and Paykel Appliances that the firm would not be allowed to fail, or are Mr English’s comments, as reported in the Dominion Post this morning, just further evidence of his view that while Mr Key floats from cloud to cloud, Mr English makes the real decisions?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, no assurance has been given to Fisher and Paykel Appliances that it will not be allowed to fail. Those are the facts of life. Mr Mallard’s running around the press gallery, trying to tell its members that something was said on Radio New Zealand National that was not said, is just a further example that Mr Mallard makes it up as he goes along.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table this document, which says that Mr Key says allowing Fisher and Paykel Appliances to fail would be unacceptable.
Mr SPEAKER: Could I just check for the benefit of the House. Is this a press release?
Hon Phil Goff: It is a statement. It might be from a blog site. Let me clarify it. It is headed “NewZealand”—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down. Leave is sought to table a document from a blog site. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Nathan Guy: Has the Prime Minister seen any other reports of measures to address growing unemployment?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I have seen other measures, and members will be relieved to know that I do not look just at blog sites to see those measures. I have seen a report from Ruth Dyson, who said last year, when the largest quarterly decline in employment for 19 years had taken place: “Oh well, I don’t think that this is bad news at all, actually.” I have also seen a report from the Opposition finance spokesman, who apparently is developing his own suite of measures to address growing unemployment. He said that New Zealanders will be delighted to know that he intends to release that report some time before the next election.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister telling the House that his comment quoted on NewZealand.co.uk that letting Fisher and Paykel Appliances fail would be unacceptable is therefore inaccurate?
Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member should read out the whole quote. The question was whether, if an offshore company—I think it was in reference to—wanted to come into New Zealand, we might look at changing the rules. The answer was that I think failure there is unacceptable. No assurances have been given to Fisher and Paykel Appliances that it will not be allowed to fail. That does not mean that the Government does not reserve the right to look at whether there are things we can do.
Hon Phil Goff: How many companies are on the list of businesses that the Prime Minister referred to on 21 January as being those that the taxpayer could be asked to bail out, how much is he prepared to spend on bailing out such companies, and where will he draw the line between which companies will be bailed out and which companies will be allowed to collapse?
Hon JOHN KEY: There is no list of companies to bail out; there is advice from Treasury of sensitivities within the market and challenges that companies could face. There is no long list of companies to bail out.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table a document that is headed “Key has business bailout list”. Is the media wrong again?
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just seek clarification again. Is this a press release the member is seeking to table?
Hon Phil Goff: This is an article written by Vernon Small for the Dominion Post.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave to table a press release. Is there any objection? There is objection.
3. Resource Management Act—Reforms
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
3. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast-Tasman) to the Minister for the Environment: What advice has he received regarding the need to streamline and simplify the Resource Management Act?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) : There is a very strong consensus across the public and private sectors that reform of the Resource Management Act is long overdue. The advice of the Ministry for the Environment, the Department of Conservation, the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Fisheries, the Ministry of Transport, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Te PuniKōkiri, and Treasury was that they all supported substantive reform. Local Government New Zealand and numerous councils have also strongly advocated for change. There has been a similar chorus from private sector organisations representing the farming, forestry, fishing, manufacturing, construction, and tourism industries. Comments from environmental organisations, such as the Environmental Defence Society, have also acknowledged the need for reform. Many of these groups noted their frustration that the previous Government refused to heed such advice.
Chris Auchinvole: Has the Minister received any reports on the time it takes for councils to write or change their resource management plans?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have. The latest report is from October 2008. It identified that 17 years after the passage of the Resource Management Act five councils still do not have an operative plan. It further showed that the average time to complete the planning process under the existing law is 8.2 years. I know that this is the average, and that the current law requires a complete plan review 10 years after the plans become operative. The process for plan amendments is similarly cumbersome: the average time is just over 3 years.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister really believe that community participation in the resource consent process causes unnecessary delays; if not, what guarantee can the Minister give community groups that their participation in the decision-making process will not be limited by the proposed changes to the Resource Management Act?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government is being quite up front and is saying that there needs to be a careful balance between community participation and efficient decision-making. When it takes over 8 years for a council to make a plan, this Government makes no apologies for saying that that is too slow and that those processes need to be changed.
Chris Auchinvole: Is the Minister aware of examples of where the health of the environment has been seriously compromised by the cumbersome planning processes of the Resource Management Act?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I am. Most MPs would acknowledge that freshwater management has been poor, particularly in Canterbury, where it has been under very significant pressure. Environment Canterbury first issued a draft regional policy plan on water in 1994, but got stuck in multiple rounds of public consultation until the plan was notified in 2004. This plan has triggered more than 8,000 submissions. Those hearings are not due to be completed until the end of this year, and the plan is then expected to face multiple appeals. The earliest likely time the water plan will become operative is 2013—20 years after the process began. I am bewildered that the Opposition MPs who are calling for an improvement in water management practice oppose the very measures that will enable us to make those improvements.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I timed that answer; it was 1 minute long.
Hon Members: Hurrah!
Hon Annette King: It was against the Standing Orders, and it is not acceptable to this side of the House that Government members clap when they break the Standing Orders. A short answer is required under the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a perfectly valid point, and senior members in the Government know they should not be making noise during a point of order. The honourable Minister has been giving fairly lengthy answers, but they have been very informative—I will acknowledge that—and have given the House significant information. But I ask that he be a little briefer.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I timed that point of order and your response; it was 1 minute and 10 seconds. If the Opposition members are keen to progress matters, they should sit down and listen to the answers for a change.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That comment is a bit rich. You might have noticed, Mr Speaker, that since the change in Government, question time takes a lot less time than it used to. One half of the reason for that is that Mr Hide is no longer raising points of order. The other half is no longer with us.
Mr SPEAKER: Everyone, including me, understands the importance of brevity for the House to get on.
Chris Auchinvole: Can the Minister assure me and the House that his reforms will address the problem faced by my constituents in the Buller District, where a protest group acted irresponsibly in trying to block a council decision, had costs awarded against it by the Environment Court, and simply wound up its incorporated society, leaving a bill of thousands of dollars for ratepayers?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes. The member highlights a very real problem that has also cost the ratepayers in the Western Bay of Plenty $300,000 and the ratepayers in Otago more than $250,000. I note that Opposition parties have cried foul over the proposal to allow the Environment Court to require security of costs, saying that this undermines the fundamental right to object and appeal. These parties seem to have no regard for the ratepayers who actually end up having to pay the bill.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister aware of the recent Environment Court decision regarding the Waitakere Ranges and the Waitakere City Council, whereby the Environment Court ensured that there were much fewer subdivisions in the Waitakere Ranges, hence protecting them for the people of Auckland and protecting the environment; that that was only possible because people could appeal the district plan to the Environment Court; and that the Minister is taking away the right to take that kind of appeal?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The reality of changing appeal rights is that it cuts both ways. It is true that some appeals that environmental groups might want to pursue will be constrained. But equally, so too will be appeals from developers who want to proceed. I note that the mayor of Waitakere City, Bob Harvey, an ex-president of the Labour Party, who is very passionate about the protection of the Waitakere Ranges, has strongly endorsed the Government’s reform package because he thinks that it will work better for areas like the Waitakere Ranges.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister realise that in that case the Environment Court overruled the Waitakere City Council plan because the council wanted to have a certain number of subdivisions and the Environment Court said that it had to have less, and that therefore it is not surprising that the mayor might support the kind of changes the Minister is making? Surely both sides of this House want to protect the environment and protect the Waitakere Ranges—does that not mean giving community groups the right to challenge district plans when they undermine environmental values?
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Nick Smith, if you can make sense of that question.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to seek your advice on your comment. I understand that you have been a very fair Speaker, and everyone across the House recognises that. You do a very good job, but I found that comment from you unnecessary. It undermines your role as the manager of good behaviour in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for her genuine point. I accept that I was perhaps unfair, but I was making the point that the member should be asking a question, not making a small speech. Dr Norman made a significant speech there that would make it extremely difficult for a Minister to give a sensible answer. A point of order was raised before about the length of the Hon Nick Smith’s answers, which I agree were a bit long, but he was informative and clear in what he was saying. Questions also need to be brief and to the point, and that question went way too long; I was almost at the point of standing and sitting the member down, simply because the question went on and on.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government’s intent in the reforms is to reduce the times and delays of the resource consenting process and not to change the overall balance between development and the environment. For that reason, we are not making any changes to the key tests that are provided for in Part 2 of the Resource Management Act.
4. Company Bail-outs—Criteria
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What criteria is he developing, if any, in relation to Government assistance for companies in financial trouble?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Government assistance could take many forms, and clearly there would be a high hurdle for any assistance. Our primary method of supporting the corporate sector is to ensure that the banking system is sound. All companies should look to all commercial options before considering any approach to the Government, and we have consistently said that any Government assistance would be a last resort.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to reflect upon the question and the answer. The question did not ask what forms of assistance would be available, but what the criteria for assistance would be. Apart from making a passing reference to a high hurdle, the Minister did not outline any criteria or whether any criteria were being developed. The question was very specific about whether criteria were being developed—yes or no.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the member, and I accept that he has raised an interesting point of order, but I cannot judge the quality of the answer. The Minister in answering the question gave one criterion, and that is that it is a high hurdle. I cannot judge whether that is a good quality answer. The honourable member has the chance to delve further into that matter with supplementary questions, and I invite the Hon David Cunliffe to do that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has the Minister been surprised at the very cautious reaction of a range of business leaders to the Prime Minister’s possible bail-out of Fisher and Paykel, and in his view could this lie behind the Prime Minister’s clarification today that what was unthinkable—to allow a business to fail—on Monday does not now constitute an assurance?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I am not surprised at the cautious reaction. I think anyone would be cautious about the Government taking steps to assist a business in a recession, and that is why the hurdles for any assistance have to be very high.
Craig Foss: What steps has the Government already taken to provide assistance to companies and businesses?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has supported a very significant programme of fiscal stimulus to the economy that will inject around $9 billion, which the Government will be borrowing, into the economy over the next 2 years. We have also announced a package that directly affects the compliance and tax obligations of a whole range of businesses. Just last week we announced that we were bringing forward $500 million worth of infrastructure. Businesses are fully supportive of the Government’s regulatory reform programme, which is intended to lighten the load on businesses and build confidence for them to invest with such steps as the changes to the Resource Management Act, which are now well under way.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister have any advice as to the costs to, say, Fisher and Paykel of the removal of the research and development tax incentives, and can he confirm that it was the Government’s own policy that in part lies behind the Prime Minister’s quasi-assurance that the company should not be allowed to fail now?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may be surprised to know that many firms have much more challenging issues than the abolition of the research and development tax credit. I might say that in discussions I have had with firms, a number of them have told me that they spent more on the consultants they employed to work out what their company would be able to claim than they would actually be able to claim. One firm paid $70,000 on consultants who told it that it would be able to claim $20,000 in deductions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm whether he has provided any advice to the Prime Minister in relation to any Securities Act implications from his statement that the company could not be allowed to fail and whether that constituted an assurance that was material information in the market place?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would not want to confirm any version that member gives of what the Prime Minister may have said. The Prime Minister is knowledgable in these matters and takes expert advice on them.
5. Surgery, Elective—Waiting Lists
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
5. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) on behalf of Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What advice has he received in relation to elective surgery and waiting lists?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) : I have received a number of reports, and in total they are an indictment on Labour’s failure and manipulation of hospital waiting lists. In order to reduce waiting lists, the number of people receiving elective surgery needs to grow faster than population growth. From when district health boards were set up in 2000-01, to 2007-08, the number of patients receiving elective surgery each year on average did not even meet population growth, let alone population ageing. It is undeniable that if waiting lists had not been reorganised to hide the numbers, and thousands of patients had not been culled, waiting lists would be much greater today.
Dr Jackie Blue: What other advice has the Minister received in relation to elective waiting lists?
Hon TONY RYALL: I have received advice that in relation to the two waiting list systems some district health boards may have not been disclosing the full numbers. In particular, I am advised that many district health boards hold people in their individual patient management systems and do not submit this information through to the national booking system. They are therefore not officially counted.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Can the Minister confirm that like the figures he quoted for district health board deficits, when he forgot to recognise that there are two sorts of deficits—cyclical and structural—the figures he has just reported confuse individuals on elective surgery with case rate numbers, discharges, and cost weights; if not, which figures was he quoting?
Hon TONY RYALL: What is quite clear is that that member fails to realise that elective surgery simply failed to keep up with population growth during the term of the Labour Government, and if we look at the elective discharges we will see the evidence there. The member should be embarrassed, because under her Government the health budget doubled and fewer people were getting elective surgery on a real basis.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What impact on access to primary healthcare—generally the route to elective surgery—will occur as a result of the Minister’s planned removal of the cap on general practitioner fee increases?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has no plans to do so.
Dr Jackie Blue: How can it be that the health vote has basically doubled from $6 billion to $12 billion, yet fewer people in real terms get elective surgery?
Hon TONY RYALL: That is an astonishing $6 billion question. The facts are that under the Labour Government the health vote nearly doubled, fewer people in real terms were getting elective surgery, thousands were culled from hospital waiting lists, and the new lists did not count all the people. Although the new Government has inherited many worrying failures from the previous Labour Government in the public health system, including the track to financial crisis I outlined yesterday, elective surgery and manipulation are at the forefront of Labour’s failures.
6. Otago District Health Board—Dismissal of Chair
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
6. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Why did he dismiss the chair of the Otago District Health Board?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) : While Mr Thomson was chair of the Otago District Health Board, the single-biggest fraud in the history of the New Zealand State services was taking place; $17 million was defrauded. This is about accountability.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Has the Minister seen the transcript of an interview this morning with the new chair, Mr Millar, who, when asked whether he would have done the same thing as Mr Thomson said yes, and when asked whether Mr Thomson’s handling of the issue was proper said yes; if so, why is the Otago District Health Board in a better place today than it was before he sacked Mr Thomson?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes. I think it needs to be recognised that Mr Millar was commenting in the context of managing ongoing board relationships.
Dr Jackie Blue: Has the Minister seen the recent statement by Mr Hodgson that Mr Ryall only wants to install his own man in the job; if so, whom has he appointed to the role of chair?
Hon TONY RYALL: I have seen those comments from the former Minister of Health, and I can confirm that I have appointed Mr Errol Millar. Mr Millar was first appointed to the Southland District Health Board in 2002 by Annette King. He was reappointed to the Southland District Health Board in 2004 by Annette King. He was then appointed to the Otago District Health Board in 2007 by David Cunliffe. He was also made the chair of the Airways Corporation in 2001, when appointed by the former Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Mark Burton. Then he was appointed deputy chair of the Civil Aviation Authority in 2007, by the then failed Minister of Transport, Annette King. This matter is not personal, and it is not political.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Has the Minister seen public comment today contrasting the actions of Mr Thomson, who immediately acted on a tip-off of illegal activity, with those of the person who was the responsible Minister 10 years ago when the illegal activities of the “goon squad” in Christchurch were at their height, but who did nothing to stop them and did not resign; and does the phrase “double standards” come to mind?
Hon TONY RYALL: While Mr Thomson was chair of the Otago District Health Board, the biggest single fraud in the history of the State services in New Zealand was taking place; $17 million was defrauded.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Why did the Minister ignore the result of the October 2007 elections, when Mr Thomson and all five other board members were re-elected by an Otago public that had full knowledge of the fraud case, and might that be why he is now viewed by many people as being prone to misjudgement and prone to arrogance?
Hon TONY RYALL: Well, I have to say, having that claim from Pete Hodgson is unbelievable, is it not? My primary accountability relationship as Minister of Health, as that member would be aware, is with the chair.
7. Corrections, Department—Parole Management
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
7. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has she received on the department’s management of offenders on parole?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections) : I have received an alarming and damning report from the Auditor-General, which identifies serious deficiencies in the management of offenders on parole. I am extremely concerned by the findings of the report, and staggered at the extent of non-compliance, especially as the audit took place after Karl Kuchenbecker’s senseless murder, when one might have expected that those responsible had learnt from failings of the past.
Simon Bridges: Did the previous Minister make any assurances regarding the management of offenders on parole?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes. The previous Minister of Corrections, the Hon Phil Goff, claimed that his Government had made “extensive changes” and “quickly moved to deal with deficiencies in the system”. He gave assurances that action had been taken to improve the management of high-risk parolees, that enforcement had been strengthened, and that there were new requirements for home visits. Unfortunately, these requirements were among the many identified by the Auditor-General as not having been complied with.
Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister confirm that last June the Wellington Coroner, who looked into the case of the murder of Mr Kuchenbecker, stated that the then Government had moved quickly to deal with the deficiencies that had come to light, and, as a result, he had no further recommendations to make for necessary Government action.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I can confirm that assurances were given to the coroner. Unfortunately, they were not kept.
Simon Bridges: What other assurances did the previous Minister make regarding the management of offenders on parole?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: After Mr Kuchenbecker’s murder, Mr Goff said: “we must learn from failings which occurred during this tragic episode.” Mr Goff gave assurances that changes had been made and lessons had been learnt. But these promises were meaningless, because Mr Goff clearly did not check that the changes were actually being complied with. I have already asked the department to confirm that compliance checks are taking place, and I will be demanding ongoing reports to confirm compliance with requirements.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Will the Minister of Corrections guarantee—given that she failed to do so when asked yesterday—that National will fund additional probation officers and prison staff to ensure that staffing keeps pace with the workload created by the increasing numbers being dealt with by the Department of Corrections, as Labour did when in last year’s Budget it funded an extra 89 probation officers, which the department had requested? Will she guarantee that? She failed to give any guarantee yesterday.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The member who asked the question will be aware that there is a thing called a Budget, and that he should wait for it, but I will say to him that it is very important that the probation service is properly resourced. He would have heard me say yesterday that I agree with every one of the recommendations made in the Auditor-General’s report. I note, however, that the Auditor-General stated that “recruiting more probation officers will not fix all the problems my staff found.” Clearly, more is needed.
Rahui Katene: What action can be taken to lift the performance of service managers in particular, to address the finding that 63 percent of the parole plans for offenders did not contain all the signatures required for the plans to be signed off?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: One of the matters that I have asked the State Services Commissioner to come back to me on concerns what can be done to restore the public’s faith in the parole system. I am sure that is one of the issues that will be addressed in the reply.
David Garrett: Has the Minister yet received a letter of resignation from Mr Barry Matthews; if not, is she still, as she said in this House yesterday, “confident that Mr Matthews is fully aware of how seriously I view this issue.”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have not received such a letter. I say to the House that I am not prejudging who might, in fact, be accountable. In fact, I am saying that there may be one or more people accountable.
Rahui Katene: Does the Minister agree with Ombudsman Mel Smith that “A risk averse approach to granting parole, which lessens the chance for critical media headlines, will condemn some prisoners, who would pose little risk to the community, to longer terms in institutions and in my view the potential for rehabilitation is lessened.”; if so, what will she do to protect the interests of those low-risk prisoners?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: My primary concern in the management of parole is the safety of the public.
8. Emissions Trading Scheme—ACT Confidence and Supply Agreement
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
8. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he intend to honour the terms of the 2008 confidence and supply arrangement with the ACT Party concerning the emissions trading scheme; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues) : Yes.
Charles Chauvel: What is the Minister’s view of last week’s reported comments by Mr Peter Clark, Chief Executive of the forestry management and marketing firm PF Olsen Group, that the National Government has “quietly swept that [part of the coalition agreement] under the carpet. What Rodney Hide has to say about that I don’t know,”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The confidence and supply agreement with ACT provided for the establishment of a special select committee to look at climate change. I note that that committee has been established, that its terms of reference have been agreed, that submissions have been called for, and that its important work is progressing. I also note that the confidence and supply agreement provided for the repeal of the thermal ban. That occurred prior to Christmas. In respect of the delay, I say that I and my colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Mr David Carter, issued a press release last week announcing delays to aspects of the emissions trading scheme process in respect of forestry—all as provided for in the confidence and supply agreement.
Craig Foss: Is it still Government policy that New Zealand should be a world leader on climate change; if not, what is the new Government’s approach?
Hon David Cunliffe: Good question!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is a very good question. The irony of the previous Government’s policy of being a world leader on climate change is that the only thing on which we seemed to lead was the fastest growth of emissions of any developed country in the world. As far as the policy of carbon neutrality is concerned, I say that emissions figures reported to the United Nations show that emissions during the Labour term of office went up by 12 million tonnes greater than what they did under the previous Government of 9 years. It is this new Government’s view that climate change is incredibly challenging. Our objective is to ensure that New Zealand does its fair share as a developed nation in addressing this global problem. Frankly, that will mean doing a whole lot more than the last Government.
Charles Chauvel: Apart from relying on a recession in the economy to get carbon emissions down, what are the Minister’s plans to achieve that end?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government has a suite of measures to address climate change. Tomorrow I will be introducing an amendment bill for the Resource Management Act. Let me explain to the member opposite why that is so important. During the course of the last Government, every year there was a decline in the proportion of renewable energy. In fact, under the previous Government there was a trebling in the amount of electricity produced from coal. By amending the Resource Management Act National intends to make renewable energy more viable so that we can do a whole lot better—that is just one of many measures we will be taking.
Charles Chauvel: Does his Resource Management Act amendment propose, then, to reverse the recent decision of the Supreme Court, which stated that climate change was not a relevant consideration when consenting generation for electricity?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The irony in that question is that the previous Government passed an amendment bill—[Interruption] No, the previous Government passed an amendment to the Resource Management Act, and that amendment specifically removed the element of climate change being considered. The previous Government introduced and passed a bill to specifically remove climate change from being considered under the Resource Management Act. It is National’s view that the most important thing we can do under the Resource Management Act is to provide timely processes for renewable energies, so that we do not get projects being delayed for 6 years, 7 years, and—in some cases—over a decade. National is confident that with those changes we will actually see an expansion of renewable energy and some show of us meeting the target of 90 percent renewables.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not been involved at all in this question but a number of us would be extremely interested to hear that last question answered. Is the Government going to reverse that change to the Resource Management Act?
Hon Member: Yes or no?
Mr SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the member cannot insist on a yes or no answer. My concern was that the honourable Minister’s answers are too long. They have to be reduced in length.
John Boscawen: Why does the Minister not save jobs in New Zealand by immediately repealing the emissions trading scheme until after the Kyoto II meetings in Copenhagen later this year?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is not the Government’s view that we would serve New Zealand’s interests well by simply backtracking. It is the Government’s view that an emissions trading scheme is the right answer. The problem is that the legislation last year was rushed. Officials have noted that there are mistakes in it that will have to be corrected. It is subject to the review that is undertaken by the select committee. It is the Government’s preference to amend the emissions trading scheme so that it better balances New Zealand’s economic and environmental interests.
9. Education Review Office—Review Process
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
9. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister responsible for the Education Review Office: Has she made any changes to the way that the Education Review Office will review schools?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister responsible for the Education Review Office) : Yes. I have asked the Education Review Office to identify schools that are performing consistently well, and from 1 March this year these schools will now be reviewed every 4 to 5 years. These schools will have shown that they are capable of reviewing their own performance and processes and that they are able to use this information for the benefit of their students. This Government is proud to recognise that there are many high-performing schools in the education sector that should be able to get on with the business of providing high-quality teaching and learning experiences for their pupils.
Aaron Gilmore: What reports has she seen on support for these changes?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have seen a report from the New Zealand Educational Institute lauding the move and applauding the Government for “creating a high trust model which will be welcomed by those schools and they will appreciate the show of confidence.” I have also seen a typically confused report from the Labour spokesperson on education, Chris Carter. In one line of his release he states that the policy may have some merit, but in the next he refuses to support this high-trust model. The question for Opposition members is very simple: do they support a review system that lets our best schools get on with the job of teaching or not?
Hon Chris Carter: Will the Minister assure the House that extending the review periods for some schools will not affect the Education Review Office’s staffing numbers and resources, given her recent commitment to enhancing support for struggling schools?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This policy is not about changing the number of jobs at the Education Review Office. It is about ensuring that the resources of the office are focused on schools that are not performing consistently and that really need the support.
10. Schools—Staff-pupil Ratios
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
10. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Why has she scrapped the planned improvements to staff-child ratios, which were to be implemented on 1 July 2009?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : As the member was advised at the Education and Science Committee this morning, studies of staff to child ratios are inconclusive as to whether there is any one correct staff to child ratio for early childhood education and care. The focus of this Government is that additional money spent on early childhood services should be directed towards increasing participation amongst groups that have ingrained low participation rates. I was not convinced that the proposed increased ratios would meet this goal.
Sue Moroney: Does the Minister agree with the Ministry of Education’s statement in its annual report that the quality of early childhood education is linked to the level of the qualifications of the staff; and can she assure New Zealanders that she will maintain and improve the use of qualified teaching staff in this sector?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The difficulty is that there was no plan from the Opposition’s previous administration to ensure that the additional teachers needed for this change were there. A lack of qualified teachers would threaten the sustainability of some teacher-led services and limit the development of early childhood education in areas of high population growth.
Allan Peachey: What advice has the Minister received on the impact of going ahead with the planned ratio changes?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have received advice that suggests that the planned changes to ratios would have required an additional 1,150 teachers. Despite the previous Government knowing about the size of the teacher injection needed to meet this policy by 1 July 2009, no plans were in place to ensure that this number of additional teachers would be ready. It is another case of promise and hope from the previous Labour Government.
Sue Moroney: Which organisations representing parents or educators did the Minister seek advice from before she made the decision to scrap planned improvements to staff-child ratios in early childhood education?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The previous administration left the books in such a poor state that we have had to make some hard decisions. So we promised a reduction in the staff to child ratio for under-2-year-olds from 1:5 to 1:4, and we will deliver on that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very, very direct question: “With whom did she consult—parents or educators?”. The question was not addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to answer the question. The question was very clear and asked which organisations were consulted. I think that the question deserves an answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I stated in my answer to the substantive question, studies of staff to child ratios are inconclusive as to whether there is any one correct staff to child ratio for early childhood education and care. That answer is drawn from a range of advice.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I ask you to ask the Minister to answer the question—not to repeat what she read out. She should answer on which organisations she consulted with. That is exactly what she was asked.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think you have to be careful that we do not get into a situation where people asking questions use the Standing Orders process—or the letter of the Standing Orders, to some extent—to ask for interpretations that simply cannot be given by the person answering or accepted by the person asking the question. In other words, if we think about the answer that the honourable Minister just gave, we see that she essentially said that any analysis is inconclusive. It may be Labour Party practice to consult on inconclusive analysis, but that thought just would not enter the heads of most people.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will listen to the Hon Dr Michael Cullen.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I am not quite sure what Mr Brownlee was trying to add to the discussion by way of that last point. If one is asked what organisations one consulted with, a perfectly legitimate answer is “None.”, which I suspect is, in fact, the answer. That answer should be given. To go off into some fantasyland about what studies have been done and what they mean seems to indicate that the Minister is probably relying upon official advice.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I have heard sufficient on this point of order. It is an interesting point because the question was very clear. The issue for me, as Speaker, is how closely the answer relates to the primary question. The primary question asked why the Minister has scrapped planned improvements to the staff-child ratios. There is no reason to believe that the Minister could not know who was consulted on the matter. It seems to me that an answer to that question is deserved because there is public interest, unless the Minister considers it not in the public interest to provide an answer, and I will totally support the Minister if she says that. But I believe that the question is clear—it relates very clearly to the primary question. The House will listen to the answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I will repeat what I said in answer to the last question. I took a range of advice, including from the ministry.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister has given an answer.
Hon Steve Chadwick: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister could repeat her answer. We could not hear it; it tailed off at the end.
Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the Minister to repeat her answer. I confess I did not hear the last part myself.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I said that I took a range of advice, including advice from the ministry.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table a document entitled The Continuing Contribution of Early Childhood Education to Young People’s Competency Levels, in which the authors identify the importance of improving staff to child ratios in the sector.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member seeking to table an academic document?
Sue Moroney: It is a research document.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Chris Carter: I seek leave to table a document showing that the previous Labour-led Government increased early childhood spending by 281 percent, from over $400 million—
Mr SPEAKER: I would like to understand what the document is.
Hon Chris Carter: It is a document put out by the previous Government just before the last election, showing—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The tabling of documents is a serious procedure and it will be heard in silence. But I warn the member that if the document does not exist, he risks misleading the House. Leave is sought—
Hon Chris Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: We are dealing with the first point of order.
Hon Chris Carter: Speaking to that point of order, I want to assure you I have such a document and I will be tabling it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It arises out of the ruling you just gave, which was very interesting. I wonder whether I can inquire whether Mr Rodney Hide yesterday tabled the document that he claimed to have.
Hon Rodney Hide: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I will listen to the honourable member.
Hon Rodney Hide: Of course I did.
Mr SPEAKER: I wish to find a particular document, which at the moment for some reason is not on my desk. I seek the assistance of the Clerk. Forgive me, honourable members, for taking time to find what I want to say about this.
The honourable member has raised a very serious issue. I note the contribution from the Hon Rodney Hide that, in fact, he did table the document. I want to make this clear statement to the House. I remind members that the rules for tabling documents have changed. I have indicated to members that where leave is granted for a document to be tabled under Standing Order 368, it must now be provided to the Clerk by the end of the sitting day. Where a member seeks leave to table a document, the Clerk should not have to discern whether the document that has been provided is, in fact, the document for which the House granted leave. It should be evident on the face of it. The purpose of tabling a document is to inform debate by making available to members documents that otherwise would not be available. Members cannot use the procedure for tabling a document simply to make a political statement. If members seek leave to table a document that does not exist, they run the risk of misleading the House. I draw members’ attention to Speaker’s ruling 142/4, which says that if the House grants leave to a member to table a document and the member delivers a totally different document to the Clerk, the member deliberately misleads the House and commits a contempt.
Following the granting of leave to the Hon Rodney Hide to table a document yesterday, Mr Hide provided to the Clerk a series of documents, rather than a particular document. The practice of manufacturing a document after leave is granted does not meet the requirements of the Standing Orders. I am aware that this is not the first time this practice has occurred. I am prepared to be lenient on this occasion, as the rules have only recently changed. But in the future I will not tolerate the practice of using the procedure of seeking leave to table a document to make a statement, and if leave is granted, manufacturing a document to fit the leave after the event.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take it, then, that that means—as you have shown your practice to be—that no newspaper-type clippings should be tabled, because they are readily available from other sources. Does that also mean that printouts of blogs, which are easily accessible by the public, would also be outside the requirements you have just outlined?
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a good point. Unfortunately, I cannot rule on the type of documents that members seek leave to table. I have made it very clear, I think, in handling such leave being sought that where members seek to table press statements I try to elucidate the fact that it is either a printout from a blog or a press statement, and let the House make its own judgment. There is nothing outside Standing Orders about that, but the member raises a very good point. Members should desist from seeking to table press statements, because it is not in the spirit of the Standing Orders that they should be raised. I will do everything I can to expose for what they are members who are seeking to table press statements, but I cannot rule it out.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take it from your ruling previously that, in your view, Mr Hide manufactured those documents after leave had been sought and that that is a practice you will not countenance in future.
Mr SPEAKER: In fact, on that occasion, it was not that the documents were manufactured—genuine documents were tabled—but that leave was sought to table one document showing something. The House generously gave leave for that purpose. Instead of one document showing something being tabled, a series of documents were tabled. If one went through them one may have reached the point that the honourable member was trying to make. Had leave been sought to table a range of documents, then that would have been a different matter.
That was not the first occasion that this has happened. I am aware of another member from another party seeking leave to table a document, when it seemed to me that the document that was tabled at the end of the day had been generated on a computer during the course of the day and clearly did not seem to me to have existed at the time that leave was sought to table it. This is a serious issue and I want to stamp out this practice. It is in the interests of the House, because it is just wasting the House’s time.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have to say that I take grave exception to your statement that I manufactured documents. I sought leave to table documents. The first document was a press release in the name of Sue Kedgley. How on earth could I manufacture—as you alleged in your statement—a press release put out by Sue Kedgley? I consider that to be very serious. I did not manufacture that document; Sue Kedgley produced it some time ago, and I tabled it. The second document I tabled was a newspaper clipping reporting MetiriaTurei complaining about the police operation on University of Otago students. Again, I did not manufacture that document. The two documents showed precisely the point that I sought leave to table them for. What did I manufacture?
Mr SPEAKER: I have allowed the member time because I understand well why he may be concerned by the way I have described the situation. Had the member sought to table two press statements, there would not have been a problem. The House could then have made a decision about whether it gave leave to table those two press statements. I invite the member to show me his Hansard to demonstrate to me that he sought leave to table two press statements. I do not believe that Hansard, in fact, shows that.
That is the point I am making: that the House was not given the opportunity to make a judgment about whether leave should be granted. The House was led to believe that a document existed showing two positions on the same document, which is what the House gave leave to table. I am not prepared to debate the matter further. If the honourable member wishes to bring me his Hansard showing that he sought leave to table two separate press statements, then I will apologise to him in the Chamber.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all I thank you for that very helpful clarification and ruling; I think it was very much needed. I suggest that if the House is to be clear about what it is giving leave to table, then the title, author, and date of the document really need to be stated when leave is sought. Otherwise, a member may well go and find a document that is broadly related to the topic, and nobody can say that that was not the document he or she had in mind. I invite you to rule on that question, too, please.
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member makes a perfectly good point. She will notice that when members are seeking leave to table a document, I allow more time for members to describe the document than perhaps has previously been the case, because I want the House to be able to make a valid judgment about the document. She may also note that if it is not clear exactly what the document is, I have been seeking further advice from the member to assist the House. The member makes a good point. If members could make it more clear exactly what the document is, then we can be more certain that that document is what is tabled by the end of the day. I will do my best to support the honourable member in achieving precision in that area.
I hope we do not take further time on this issue right now. I think it is important for the House, and I appreciate the spirit in which members have taken this ruling. We should come back to question time, though, which we departed from. We were dealing with question No. 10 at the time but it is finished because leave was sought for a document to be tabled.
11. Forests—New Plantings and Emissions Impact
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
11. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: How many hectares of new forest does he expect to be planted during the 2009 season, if any; and how will these plantings impact on New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions in 2020?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues) : I am advised that through the Afforestation Grant Scheme and the East Coast Forestry Project, 3,235 hectares of additional indigenous and exotic plantings are expected this year. This planting will assist in meeting New Zealand’s 2020 emissions target, but insufficient data exists on the types of species to have an accurate estimate on what the carbon capture would be in that year. I have no advice about the level of private sector plantings.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Minister concerned that, apart from the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative he has described, 7 million tree seedlings grown in nurseries last year in preparation for a boom in planting under the emissions trading scheme remain unsold and have no prospect of going in the ground? Some 7,000 hectares of forest will not be planted, because of investor and landowner uncertainty over his Government’s review of the emissions trading scheme.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note that between 1951 and 2004, 34,000 hectares of trees were planted every year; over the last 5 years there has been huge deforestation. The worst 5 years ever have been the previous 5 years. I accept there is some uncertainty as the Government works through its changes to the emissions trading scheme, but I assure the member and, more important, forest investors that this Government is committed to carbon credits for forest owners, and they can have confidence that those credits will be transferred in good time so that plantings can occur and we can reverse the appalling record of the previous Government.
Shane Ardern: Has the Minister received any reports or advice on what caused the collapse in forest plantings during the term of the previous Government and the record high levels of deforestation, particularly given that the previous Government throughout much of its tenure was supported by the Green Party?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There were three factors. Firstly, there was a wave of deforestation in response to the deadline of 1 January 2008, whereby the previous Government provided a perverse incentive for people to cut down their trees. The second factor was the relative economics of pastoral farming, particularly dairying, and forestry, which resulted in a greater level of investment in farming. The third factor was the uncertainty created by the previous Government’s flip-flops on policy. It firstly said that foresters would get carbon credits—
Hon Jim Anderton: Flip-flops?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —then Mr Anderton, who has interjected, changed his mind and said that they would not get carbon credits. Two years later the Government changed its mind again. That sort of uncertainty destroys investor confidence and is one of the reasons that New Zealand’s forest estate declined over the last 5 years.
Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister aware that as a result of his Government’s so-called suspension of the emissions trading scheme, which the forestry sector had actually entered into, the Forest Owners Association says that New Zealand has lost one deal worth more than $100 million worth in plantings, the Kyoto Forestry Association says that New Zealand has lost new forestry investment worth over $125 million, and the New Zealand Stock Exchange has sold its carbon registry business to an offshore owner, blaming the uncertainty caused by the Government’s suspension; how is all this in New Zealand’s interests at a time of recession, when we desperately need inwards investment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I hate to plagiarise my colleague Bill English, but hearing Labour lecture us about forest plantings is a bit like Jack the Ripper talking about domestic violence. This Government will change the record on forestry. I invite members opposite to consider that forestry is a long-term investment. It is an investment whose horizon is likely to be about 30 years. I invite members opposite to constructively engage with the select committee on the review of the emissions trading scheme, so that we can get long-term certainty. The last point I make is that the emissions trading scheme, according to officials, has mistakes in its forestry provisions, and they will need to be amended regardless of any policy changes from the new Government.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen his own ministry’s projections of New Zealand’s future net greenhouse gas emissions, which show a huge spike around 2020 as today’s forests are harvested; and what will he do to ensure that those 7 million seedlings go into the ground this year so that they will be big enough to offset that carbon loss in 2020, instead of just blaming the previous Government when he is responsible for the current lack of certainty?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I point out that we have little control today over the extent to which emission levels are offset by forestry in 2020, because it depends on what trees were actually planted in 1992. There is that spike because the previous National Government, from 1990 to 1999, caused a huge amount of new forest plantings, and those trees will be harvested in the 2020s. Regardless of what any future Government might do, that peak will be there. Underlying this, though, is the trade-off; the trade-off in terms of our taking our time to do the review of the emissions trading scheme properly, and the long-term gains of doing it right, compared with the short-term uncertainty arising from the review. I think the Government has that balance right.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister acknowledge that trees planted this winter would be just the right age to offset that peak in 2020, and that is being delayed; and will he also acknowledge that the 7 million unwanted seedlings sitting there today represent one of the best shovel-ready job schemes he could find in a recession?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What surprises me about that member is that for the last 9 years, when she was part of a Government, she did not so much as raise a finger when there was a chainsaw massacre of trees, yet she is demanding action from a Government that has been in office for less than 3 months. I ask that member to reflect on the record of the previous—
Hon Members: Answer the question!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Members opposite should simply reflect on their record on deforestation—the worst of any post-war Government. I assure them that this Government backs the forest industry. With the work that David Carter is doing with that industry, I have confidence in its future.
Hon Jim Anderton: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is bad enough to hear a lengthy answer to a question; it is worse when the lengthy speech does not even address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not blame the honourable member for his concern, because answers have been too long—I must say to my friend the Hon Dr Nick Smith. But the dilemma was that the question asked whether the Minister would “acknowledge” something. Where a question asks that, it is very difficult to expect a precise answer.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister knows very well that the Greens have never been part of a Government, and did not contribute—
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister then answer his own 2007 questions to the previous Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues: “What sort of incompetent Government is it when it . . . cannot tell foresters who are about to contemplate planting trees in June, July, and August of this year whether they will get credits for those trees? . . . when this very day nursery and forestry contractors are making decisions about whether to plant commercial trees this season; . . . can he not see that that is critical to their making investment decisions . . .say to the Minister that they do not want options or discussion papers but a simple answer:”—do we have an emissions trading scheme, or not, Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Hon Dr Nick Smith answers, I ask members that if they expect Ministers to give brief answers, could they please focus the questions a bit more.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have made plain to that member and to those who want to plant trees that this Government is committed to providing carbon credits for them. I stress again that forestry is a long-term investment. Over the last 7 years we had the previous Government saying that foresters would get carbon credits, then it said that they would not get carbon credits, then it changed its mind a third time and said that they would. That is not a way to encourage long-term investment, and that is why I would encourage all political parties in this House to build consensus around this issue of forestry so that we can restore confidence to that industry.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave—bearing in mind, Mr Speaker, your ruling about the tabling of documents—to table a document, in light of the Minister’s exaltations to members on this side to take their time and participate in the scheme. This document is a media release from Nick Smith and David Carter saying that the select committee—
Mr SPEAKER: Can we please hear what the document is. The member is taking a long time.
Charles Chauvel: This is a press statement—
Mr SPEAKER: It is a press statement.
Charles Chauvel: —indicating—
Mr SPEAKER: From what?
Charles Chauvel: —it is the Ministers’ press statement—that Nick Smith expects the select committee to report back in April.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. Leave is sought to table a press statement from the Ministers. Is there any objection? There is objection to that course of action.
12. Copyright Act—Implementation of Section 92A
[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Commerce: Does he intend to respond to public concerns expressed about the implementation of section 92A of the Copyright Act, which comes into force next week; if so, what will be his response?
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Commerce) : Yes; I respond by saying that I am mindful of the concerns that have been expressed by the public in relation to this provision coming into force. As the member will be aware, industry representatives are currently working on a code of practice to help implement this law, which was passed by the previous Labour Government.
Clare Curran: Will the Minister delay the implementation of section 92A of the Copyright Act due to the concerns of Internet service providers, Internet users, and rights holders?
Hon SIMON POWER: At this stage, I have confidence that the discussions that are occurring between the various parties will produce the code.
Clare Curran: Given the Minister’s party’s support for this legislation at its time of passage, will he amend the legislation to assist in developing workable guidelines to implement the policy; if not, why not?
Hon SIMON POWER: The Government will do everything it can to assist the implementation of the code between the parties concerned.
ENDS

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