Thursday, 26 February 2004
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): Next week in the House priority will be given to the third reading of the Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Bill, and further progress on the Civil Aviation Amendment Bill and the Crimes and Misconduct (Overseas Operations) Bill. Further business will depend on what bills are reported back by Monday from the select committees. Wednesday is a members’ day, and it is expected that the Budget Policy Statement debate will be held on this day instead of the general debate. This is a 2-hour debate.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): Noting that next week is the last week before Parliament goes into its first adjournment for the year, can Dr Cullen indicate to the House whether we can expect to see the seabed and foreshore legislation tabled in the House during the first week back after the adjournment, or perhaps it would be sometime during that 4-week block.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): No, but I would be happy to organise a seminar for the member so he can understand the nature of the policy.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to seek clarification from the Leader of the House with regard to item No. 24 on the Order Paper—that is, the Conservation (Protection of Trout as a Non-commercial Species) Amendment Bill. I note it was reported back on 22 February 2001—3 years ago. I ask the Leader of the House whether the Government is going to withdraw this bill and do a U-turn on its policy, or will it leave it languishing at the bottom of the Order Paper?
Mr SPEAKER: I will not allow that to be answered. This is the time for a business statement. Conventionally, over the last 20 years, a member of the Opposition can ask a question, but to ask about that order of the day would be inviting any member to ask about any order of the day. There is a way to do that, by correspondence.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Question No. 1 in the name of Dr Brash was taken to the Clerk’s Office this morning and accepted as a question set down for answer by the Prime Minister. I appreciate that a Government can change the name of the Minister who will be answering a question, but in this case the provisional question sheet had the question addressed to the Prime Minister. About an hour and a half later the Order Paper turned up, and obviously there had been some kerfuffle, because the question was addressed to the Minister of Immigration. We understand the embarrassment the Government would naturally feel about the report—
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please come to the point of order?
GERRY BROWNLEE: The point is that although a Government may choose to send a question to another Minister, we ask whether it is reasonable to do that after a question has appeared on the provisional Order Paper. The real point behind this—and you will recall we had a incidence of this earlier in the week—is that the answers that are given today will not be given in the name of the Prime Minister, whereas the answers given last Thursday by Dr Cullen were given in the name of the Prime Minister. These are matters that should rightly concern the Prime Minister. I would have thought it reasonable that, although the Government may wish to have a stronger Minister answering these sorts of questions, this particular question should still be set down to the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: I shall deal with the first matter very briefly. Right up until the question is asked the Government can determine whether there is to be a change. This question was originally lodged to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister transferred it to the Minister of Immigration. Questions to Ministers are addressed to portfolios, not to individuals. It is true that no one holds the portfolio of Minister of Immigration at the moment, and will not do so until later this afternoon. However, there has been an Acting Minister of Immigration since the Minister resigned, and the Acting Minister is currently the Hon Paul Swain. Authority to that effect has been given to me. I refer members to Speaker's ruling 143/5: “Where an Acting Minister has been appointed, the Acting Minister is for all purposes the Minister and does not answer a question on behalf of anyone.” On that basis 37 written questions have been lodged to the Minister of Immigration during the course of this week.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have made the ruling.
GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, you have. But with respect, I think you have missed the point.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I have not missed anything.
GERRY BROWNLEE: The point is that there is a published question sheet for today.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. That was the very first point I made. At any time up until 2 o’clock when the question is being asked, the question can be transferred.
GERRY BROWNLEE: With respect, that is not the point. The point I am making is that although the Government can transfer a question, and there is no argument about that and we have not questioned that today, surely it is our right to make apparent who that question was intended for. Today the Clerk’s Office published a sheet of today’s questions, with this question addressed to the Prime Minister. That was withdrawn, and I have to say that is extremely unusual. Then the question sheet was reprinted and recirculated, with this question going to the Minister of Immigration, who, we now find, will be answering questions but not being held accountable for anything he says.
Mr SPEAKER: I have had provisional advice, and I stand by my previous ruling.
1. Dr DON BRASH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by the Government’s decision to accept an internal inquiry by the Secretary of Labour as an appropriate response to allegations that officials had agreed to “lie in unison”, and how is he able to reconcile Dr Buwalda’s finding that there was “no evidence that officials deliberately misled the Ombudsman” with the conclusions in the Ombudsman’s report released today?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes, both the Ombudsman and the Secretary of Labour found there was no evidence that officials were involved in any agreement to lie in unison. However, the Ombudsman did find that two officials, in respect of their duties under the Official Information Act, had “failed in different ways to display the professionalism and diligence required of public servants”.
I am advised by the Secretary of Labour that following his report he has already initiated disciplinary proceedings and performance management action. He has told me today that he intends to take the Ombudsman’s findings into consideration in determining any future action.
Dr Don Brash: Given the Minister’s response to that question, does he now wish to express regret that his Government did not allow the independent inquiry called for at the time by the National Party?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: In hindsight, an independent inquiry would have been better.
Martin Gallagher: What did the Ombudsman’s report state precisely and what action has been taken as a result?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The report was a severe blow for the conspiracy theorists in the Opposition. No evidence was found on any agreement to “lie in unison”, on any agreement whether Mr Zaoui had been detained. Besides commenting on the two officials, the report found that the manner in which the Immigration Service handled official information requests was sloppy. I have been advised by the Secretary of Labour that the guidelines for handling official information requests are being reviewed and that ongoing training will be given to ensure they are being applied.
I take seriously the obligations on the public service in respect of the Official Information Act, and have instructed the Secretary of Labour to report to me on the implementation of those guidelines by the end of March.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the $300,000-plus cost so far of having this terrorist in the country; the fact that three countries—France, Belgium, and Switzerland—have found him to be so, and got rid of him; and now with the independent Ombudsman’s report, and every other cost, what on earth is this man still doing in New Zealand?
Mr SPEAKER: It is a bit wide of the original question, but the Minister may comment very briefly.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am awaiting a recommendation from the inspector-general, and at the appropriate time I will make a decision.
Keith Locke: Was the secrecy surrounding Mr Zaoui’s presence here motivated by the same anti-democratic reason advanced by the police in a memo, 6 days before the “lying in unison” memo, stating there is “the political risk that he”—Mr Zaoui—“will try to gain some support by utilising the media”; if not, what was the reason?
Mr SPEAKER: That is getting very, very wide of the original question, which related specifically to an internal inquiry by the Secretary of Labour. I allowed the Minister to comment on Mr Peters’ question, which was also wide. I will allow the Minister to comment on this question, but I do not want it to go any wider.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just missed the first part of the question. Would it be in order to repeat it?
Mr SPEAKER: The very first part can be repeated.
Keith Locke: Was the secrecy or super secrecy surrounding Mr Zaoui’s presence here motivated by the same anti-democratic reason advanced by the police in a memo, 6 days before the “lying in unison” memo, stating there is “the political risk that he”—Mr Zaoui—“will try to gain some support by utilising the media”; if that was not the motive, what was?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may comment briefly.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, because they are not related.
Dr Don Brash: Noting that the State Services Commissioner previously has said that Dr Buwalda had done “a good job” in producing a report that had the hallmarks of “fairness and thoroughness”—a statement that is directly contradicted by the Ombudsman today—how can the House have any confidence in the inquiry by the State Services Commissioner into events involving the Prime Minister's own electorate office and the actions of one of her Ministers?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for the State Services Commission.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Ombudsman’s report make any reference to the fact that this man Zaoui had three hearings in respect of France, Switzerland, and Belgium, all of which found him a terrorist risk with regard to their populations; and what on earth is he doing in New Zealand?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is in order, because it refers to the report.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, the report made no reference to the matters the member raises.
Rodney Hide: In light of this report, which confirms at least the unprofessional behaviour of senior immigration officials when responding to an official information request, and to the Ombudsman, and given the series of scandals that have rocked the Immigration Service, including the “sex for visas” scandal that the department did not call the police in to investigate, does this Minister now accept that the department is scandal-ridden and out of control; and what will this Government do to give New Zealanders confidence in a department that is responsible for determining who will and who will not be a New Zealander?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may comment on two.
Hon Paul Swain: I do not accept the first part of the question. As far as the second part is concerned, both myself and the Secretary of Labour are working on those recommendations, so the public can have confidence in this important department of State.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect again on the question that Dr Brash asked the Minister—Michael Cullen was very quick to say there is no ministerial responsibility, that it belongs to Trevor Mallard. I have just looked at the question, and the first part, I think, does stand. You have given other members the opportunity to have parts of their questions heard by the Minister and answered. I suggest it would be only reasonable to let Dr Brash ask that question again, leaving out the last reference to the State Services Commission.
Mr SPEAKER: I am prepared to be generous on this occasion. If the reference to the State Services Commission is removed, then the member can ask the rest of that question. [Interruption] The part that refers to the administration under control of the Minister of State Services is not relevant. I am sure the member can adjust the question concerned.
Dr Don Brash: Noting that the State Services Commissioner has previously found that Dr Buwalda had done “a good job” in producing a report that had the hallmarks of “fairness and thoroughness”—a statement that is directly contradicted by the Ombudsman today—how can the House have any confidence in the Secretary of Labour?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two points. The first is whether it is the original question, and the second point is that a question about whether the House should have confidence in the Secretary of Labour, is a matter for the State Services Commission and for me.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am going to rule that the Minister can answer that question.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The House can have confidence in the Secretary of Labour. The reality is that both reports found no evidence. The two inquiries differ, in the sense that the Ombudsman has greater powers. For example, he can accept information on oath and is also able to proffer an opinion. The Secretary of Labour is required, in order to act, to have evidence and facts.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer may have been an address to the question, but I think the Minister needs to reflect on what he said. Has he said that it is OK to mislead the House and the public—
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. That is debating material.
2. JILL PETTIS (Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Labour: Has she received any reports on the Holidays Act 2003?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister of Labour): Yes. I see it has been reported that Dr Brash has now clarified his understanding of bereavement leave, which he had mis-termed “tangi leave”. He has now said: “I may be incorrect, but I didn’t make it up off the top of my head.” Is that another example of a National Party U-turn, or a cynical grab at votes using the race issue?
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister further advise whether she has received any reports on bereavement leave?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. I have seen reports from Richard Worth attempting to quantify bereavement leave as expensive for employers, based on an unlikely example of an employee attending a funeral almost every week during the year. It is another example of using race to cynically grab votes. The Holidays Act gives the same rights and confers the same obligations on everyone, regardless of race. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I can tell members that the reception for the Minister of Labour’s question is perfect outside this building. If members cannot hear in this building and they want me to ban all interjections during answers, then I will. I heard the Minister’s answer.
Hon Roger Sowry: To the outgoing Minister of Labour—
Mr SPEAKER: To the Minister of Labour. The member knows that he made a mistake.
Hon Roger Sowry: I am relatively new on this bench. Does the new Holidays Act 2003, unlike the Act it replaces, allow bereavement leave to be taken an unlimited number of times in a year, and can employees take the leave in instances where they are not related to the deceased but have some “cultural responsibility”, unlike the situation under the previous Act?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Act allows every employee to take 3 days’ leave on the death of a specified family member. There is also provision for every employee to have 1 extra day’s leave for the death of a person who is close to him or her. That, however, is at the discretion of the employer. Factors that are suggested may be taken into account are the closeness of the relationship and the significant responsibility someone may have. That would include any cultural responsibilities relating to that death. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is interjecting far too much, and it is all in the second person. I am not leaving anyone alone.
Paul Adams: What steps has the Minister taken that will help employers to comply with the conflicts and adverse administration ramifications, such as recording the specific details of each leave day taken by employees and engaging in complicated formulae to determine accurate pay rates, that the introduction of the Holidays Act 2003 will demand?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The department has sent out 150,000 information packs to employers. Certainly, we know from monitoring the call centre that queries have been coming in and have been answered, and the department is using all its resources to inform members about the implications of the legislation and how to make sure that it is implemented correctly.
Health Services—Waiting Lists
3. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Does she have any concerns regarding current waiting lists; if so, what does she intend to do about them?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Managing waiting lists remains a key priority for this Government, and we will continue to focus on issues as they arise. That is why we will soon be announcing a major new orthopaedic project, for example.
Barbara Stewart: What has the Minister done since 1999 to fix waiting lists, given that every day we are bombarded with stories such as: “Many gallstone patients in Auckland must now suffer at least four attacks of severe pain and vomiting in a year to qualify for surgery.”, and can she explain what she intends to do about this crisis?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I would like to specifically address the issue of gall bladders that the member raised in her supplementary question. Ten percent of New Zealanders have gallstones, and of that 10 percent, only 4 percent will have symptoms in any 1 year. A significant number of those people do not require surgery. My understanding is that accepted clinical evidence states that a single attack of biliary colic will not warrant surgery. It is usual and accepted practice to wait several months to a year to determine whether there are recurrent attacks.
Steve Chadwick: What are some of the actions that this Government has taken to address the issue of waiting lists?
Hon RUTH DYSON: Unfortunately, I do not have time to go through them all, but amongst other things, we have increased spending on health by nearly $3 billion; we have made performances of the district health boards publicly available; we are committed to an orthopaedic project to address the issues raised by the Orthopaedic Association to ensure that people get better access to major joint surgery; we have increased the number of radiation therapists in training across the 3 years, from 46 in 1999 to 104 in 2004; we have improved working conditions for health professionals through pay increases; and we have ensured a programme of replacement for new linear accelerators.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why are unacceptably long delays in treatment forcing men with prostate cancer to have to join women with breast cancer in travelling to Australia for private radiation treatment; after 4 long years, what will she do about it?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In addition to the points that I raised in answer to the supplementary question asked immediately prior to Dr Hutchison’s question, in 1996-97, 3,090 publicly funded cardiac procedures, for example, were delivered. In 2002-03, that number had risen to 5,333 publicly funded cardiac procedures. Another example is that in 1998-99, 34,555 people waited longer than 6 months for treatment. By 2002-03, that had dropped to 10,178 people.
Mr SPEAKER: There were far too many interjections, and the answer was too long. Interjections will be in the third person, not in the second, or members will not be making any more today.
Judy Turner: In light of the fact that Auckland cancer patients are still waiting up to 14 weeks for treatment, or have to travel to Australia, while the district health board desperately tries to fill 10 radiotherapy positions with overseas professionals, can the Minister give the New Zealand public an assurance that when the publicly funded radiation therapy trainees graduate at the end of this year, they will ignore offers of more lucrative positions overseas, and help to reduce waiting lists here, despite the fact that they are not bonded to work in New Zealand, and are even told in their recruitment brochure that: “Medical radiation therapy is an international profession. If you decide to travel, the world is your oyster.”; if so, why?
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was obviously a very long question. You may recall that the words “in the light of” were used at the start of that question. Yesterday you pulled up members on the Opposition side of the House for not starting a question with a question word. “In the light of” does not seem to me to be a question; it is a statement, as is “given”, and as are various other things that we get pulled up for. I think that although the Labour Party is relatively new here, it is getting on in time. We are halfway through this Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member. As a former teacher myself, I acknowledge his expertise in this area. I will now tighten up very considerably on that. The word “given” is not a question word, so that word will not be allowed in future. “In the light of” is not a question, either. Now we will have specific questions asked, and the first few words can be ignored. We will now have the specific question answered.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I am happy to do that. In relation to waiting times for the Auckland District Health Board, I agree with the member’s concerns, and it is true that the Auckland District Health Board is currently experiencing delays in radiotherapy treatment. It has an establishment of 50 medical radiation therapists, but has seven vacancies. I am pleased that all other centres are working to capacity, and are managing to commence treatment within the agreed time. The Auckland District Health Board has approved the purchase of a linear accelerator, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of this year.
Barbara Stewart: Why are New Zealanders in their thousands waiting for cancer treatment, knee operations, hip operations, heart surgery, and eye surgery, etc., with scheduled surgery repeatedly postponed with the explanation that: “There are no beds, so don’t come.”, or that they do not qualify under the “pain ranking system”; is it not a glaring fact that despite an extra $147.7 million in funding from the Ministry of Health, the Minister of Health is failing to provide basic care for New Zealanders?
Hon RUTH DYSON: In relation to the last point that the member raised, that is absolute nonsense, frankly. I recommend that the member, and others who share similar concerns, read the recommendations contained in the Health Workforce Advisory Committee’s recently published document. They outline that a significant lack of investment in both the infrastructure and training needs of our health workforce contributed to the current shortfall in access to treatment. That is why the Government has invested significantly more—nearly $3 billion more—in the health system, part of which will address the very skill shortage that caused the concerns raised by the member.
Barbara Stewart: Is the Minister concerned that the practice of referring patients back to general practitioners, in order to artificially shorten waiting lists, is also having a negative effect on the working conditions of general practitioners, and is contributing to an expected decline in full-time general practitioner numbers; if not, why not?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, because I have a far higher level of trust in the professionalism of our general practitioners than that member clearly indicates.
Barbara Stewart: I seek leave to table an article outlining the pain ranking system being used at the Waitemata District Health Board.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Barbara Stewart: I seek leave to table an article outlining a survey that shows that general practitioners are dissatisfied, and that their numbers are declining.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is.
Early Childhood Education—Quality
4. LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Education: What steps is he taking to improve the quality of early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The Government is investing an additional $2 million in three new early childhood centres of innovation. The new centres, which will be in addition to the six begun last year, will strengthen the quality of early childhood education by encouraging provider collaboration, facilitating networks of learning support, building research capability, sharing information, and developing leadership.
Lynne Pillay: Why is the Government focused on improving the quality of, and increasing access to, early childhood education?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Early childhood education provides a foundation for future learning, and makes a significant difference to the way children develop and achieve later in their lives. Research shows that access to quality early childhood education has the greatest benefit for children who are least likely to participate, including those from low socio-economic, rural, Māori, or Pasifika communities.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister confirm that kōhanga reo funding is significantly less per student hour than kindergarten funding; and has the Minister heard from Dr Brash or Gerry Brownlee whether National would take immediate steps to increase kōhanga reo funding, to eradicate this race-based funding differential?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is in order. The second is not.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member is right—the hourly rate is lower. But the daily rate is higher, so the member is only partially right. I would not hold my breath waiting for Dr Brash to go into bat for Māori.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee has just about reached the edge of the tolerance level, as far as I am concerned. I have been pretty generous this week.
Rod Donald: How is the quality of early childhood education being improved at those centres that currently adjoin, or are based in classrooms of, schools that he is planning to close?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not think there are any early childhood education centres on the sites of schools due for closure, if one wants to be absolutely technically correct about it. I think it is probably a hypothetical question that we do not need to go into.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Would the Minister tell the House what the hourly student rate for kindergartens is, and what the hourly student rate for kōhanga reo is?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have those figures to hand, but I can confirm that the hourly rate for kindergartens is higher than that for kōhanga reo, and I confirm that the average daily rate is higher for kōhanga reo than that for kindergartens.
Foreshore and Seabed—Dual Title
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Will the Government be reviewing its foreshore and seabed proposal to ensure that there will be no dual title of public domain and customary title, given her answer last week that the Government’s proposals provide “methods of communication that are already provided for in the Resource Management Act”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice): No.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In that case, can the Minister tell the House which version of the foreshore and seabed policy the public should believe: the view expressed by Mr Mallard that the notion of rights that are not associated with the title is something the public does not understand, or Dr Cullen’s view that the concept is easy to understand, or even Tariana Turia’s view that Crown ownership would be a lot clearer for her people?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The policy is an iterative process, and in the fullness of time there will be one version that even the Minister can understand!
Russell Fairbrother: Will customary title in any way limit public access to the foreshore or seabed?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No.
Dail Jones: Why does the Minister not uphold the rule of law and await the Privy Council decision in the Ngāti Apa case on the foreshore and seabed before taking action—a process that would ensure all New Zealanders are treated equally before the law, and could result in a decision that makes New Zealanders’ angst of the last 8 months completely unnecessary?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The proposal to change the law encompasses more than the rather narrow point of appeal to the Privy Council.
Hon Peter Dunne: Can I take the Minister back to her original answer and ask her whether, in the light of that, she agrees with the statement made as recently as last evening on television by the Prime Minister that the Government’s policy will not see any exclusivity created with regard to the foreshore and seabed?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: That is correct. Nothing has changed.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why does the Government not simply accept the view of the majority of New Zealanders, both Māori and non-Māori, who want Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed, particularly given that Mr Mallard has said: “You never say never to Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed.”?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government is ensuring that the foreshore and seabed are clearly stated to belong to the people of New Zealand, and that includes all the people of New Zealand.
Dr Wayne Mapp: If it is the view of the Minister, as stated last week and, apparently, now, that the public domain title confers no extra rights on Māori than they already have under the Resource Management Act, why has the Government put the country to such uncertainty to create this new concept of public domain title, instead of staying with Crown ownership?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: What the Government is doing is ensuring that the foreshore and seabed belong to all people in New Zealand. The specific reference to the Resource Management Act relates to the involvement of all New Zealanders in that process. This proposal enables clear identification of who should be consulted in what circumstances.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given the Minister’s—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot do that. I refer him to Speaker’s ruling 142/6. Please start with a question word.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why is the Government—
Mr SPEAKER: I have called only Dr Mapp. I have made a new ruling, so I am going to be a little careful in how I impose it, but I thank the members who have raised the point. I refer them to Speaker’s ruling 142/6.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why is the Government persisting with this new concept, which apparently creates no additional rights other than Crown title, in light of the fact that Mr Mallard himself has said it is not something that the public understands?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The reason why the notion of the people of New Zealand is an important one is that it is an inclusive notion. For many, the Crown is seen as excluding some. The notion of the people of New Zealand includes the Crown.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First): In replying to a previous question, the Minister referred to a daily rate for early childhood education. I seek leave to table the pages from the Budget that demonstrate there is an hourly rate for early childhood education, and not a daily rate.
Document not tabled.
Marine Life—Exotic Marine Pests
6. NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Tainui) to the Associate Minister for Biosecurity: What recent progress has been made to protect New Zealand’s marine environment from incursions of exotic marine pests?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister for Biosecurity): An international convention has just been adopted, and it will require ships to cleanse their ballast with mid-ocean water while en route to another country. One ship’s ballast water can carry 300 species or more, and, uncleansed, it exposes New Zealand to the potentially devastating effects of exotic marine pests. New Zealand has been involved from the outset in efforts to find an international solution to that international problem, and has provided research and ideas leading directly to the adoption of the convention.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain how New Zealand has managed the problem of ballast water up until now?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: New Zealand already requires visiting ships to exchange ballast water before discharging in our ports. MAF Biosecurity checks over 3,000 international vessels a year, refusing permission for ships to discharge untreated ballast. However, the new convention will strengthen the ability of Government agencies to enforce that obligation.
Foreshore and Seabed—Customary Title
7. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Is the Government foreshore and seabed policy proceeding on the basis that either or both Māori ancestral connection or mana moana are enough to establish customary title over the foreshore or seabed; if so, why?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): Customary title will be able to be issued to recognise mana and ancestral connection—that is its purpose.
Stephen Franks: Why did the Deputy Prime Minister tell me and this House on 18 February that the Court of Appeal “did not suggest the amount of foreshore and seabed with which Māori had ancestral connections was limited to small and discrete areas”, when the court did not mention ancestral connection anywhere whatsoever; and does he now admit that a statement of that kind was technically misleading in the Dalziel sense?
Mr SPEAKER: That last part is out of order. The rest of it can be answered.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What the Court of Appeal said—and if the member checks his Hansard, I think he will probably find that I actually said this—was that it was their view, but obviously, of course, not a ruling—that the bundle of customary rights that might add up to something like freehold title would be very difficult to demonstrate and would be relatively rare. Of course, that is not the criterion that the Māori Land Court applies to the determination of customary land status.
Dave Hereora: What imperative informs the Government’s approach to the foreshore and seabed issue?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The proposed framework is designed to ensure that no new private title is issued over foreshore and seabed—a possibility raised by the Ngāti Apa decision—to protect public access, to recognise ancestral connection between tangata whenua and the foreshore and seabed, and to recognise and better protect customary rights.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why has the Government proposed the dual title of public domain and Māori customary title for virtually the entire coastline, which then allows Māori to apply to the Māori Land Court for customary rights, which might lead to commercial use, in light of the fact that the Court of Appeal said that customary title would be difficult to establish?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Court of Appeal did not refer specifically to customary title. It referred, as I said, to the bundle of customary rights adding up to something like freehold title. That was the primary statement it made in that regard. What, of course, it was asked to rule upon was whether the Māori Land Court has jurisdiction over the foreshore and seabed in terms of determination of land status, and what it ruled in fact occurred.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Government stand by its statement in its submission to the Waitangi Tribunal that “the new form of customary title will enhance the ability of whānau, hapū, and iwi to ensure their rights are legally recognised”, and does the Government remain committed to real and effective participation by iwi, hapū, and whānau in management and decision making in coastal marine areas?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, but I think what has to be clear is that the level of that participation will depend to a substantial extent on what the current practice is, and what the current level of connection is. The level of connection between Ngāti Porou, for example, and the management of the coastal marine area on the East Coast is clearly significantly greater than that of some other iwi in terms of what has actually been happening in recent times.
Heather Roy: When he said last week that he was “not aware of any hapū or iwi that has surrendered its association with foreshore and seabed”, and that “customary title already exists in the sense that the connection already exists unbroken since 1840”; if he was not claiming that that justified the Government plan to grant customary titles, what point was he making when no court has ever said this?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I was making the point, which I am sure the member would have been acutely aware of if she had attended the number of hui that I have on this matter, that Māori feel very strongly the continued existence of that mana and ancestral connection tying them to the foreshore and seabed. If members on the other side would simply grasp that essential fact, they would stop talking about policies that would try to eliminate that connection.
Stephen Franks: Can I therefore assume from the Minister’s answer that he accepts that no court has ever said that ancestral connection or mana moana justified customary title, and the sole reason is because Māori feel that is what they would like?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It would perhaps be helpful if the member actually read clause 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a serious issue, and I would ask you to consider how, in any way, shape, or form, the Minister’s answer addressed the question raised by Mr Franks. If he thinks the Treaty of Waitangi provides some explanation of this issue, then I think he should explain that to this House.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is a debating matter. I would be happy to debate clause 2 with the member outside, as I am engaged in an interesting debate with some Māori over the nature of clause 3.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Treaty of Waitangi has been expressly excluded by the Prime Minister as having a bearing on this matter and these titles. The point of order is that the Minister knows that and made no attempt to answer the question. He simply made a completely distracting and diversionary comment.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I thought the Minister addressed the question.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on that matter.
Rodney Hide: This is a new point of order. Is it then going to be the case that on any question where the Government does not want to answer on the seabed or foreshore issue—
Hon Parekura Horomia: Get it right!
Mr SPEAKER: That is the only warning today.
Rodney Hide —it will be taken as an acceptable answer to a serious and genuine question of public importance for a Minister just to say “read article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi”, and sit down?
Mr SPEAKER: No. However, I think the Minister has indicated that he will give a fuller answer to this, and that might solve the difficulty.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What concerns me is that in response to the question just asked, you said “No”. That is exactly what you permitted just a few moments before.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I am not immune to making mistakes either. Dr Cullen will now say something further.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your “No” referred to that being a sufficient answer on any occasion, not on that particular question.
Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely right. That is why I said what I said.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My answer was adequate. Before 1840 Māori had connection with all the foreshore and seabed of New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed certain rights to Māori under article 2. That connection remains unbroken from then to the present day. If members opposite are not prepared to recognise that connection, then any solution they come up with, however they phrase it, will ensure that there will be continued problems in this respect into the future.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over recent months I have observed a tendency in this House that every time there is an answer to a question that is less than fulsome you are being required to rule whether a Minister addressed the question. My understanding of the Standing Orders is that you are not obliged, or required, to rule on the quality or content of an answer, which could be seen to be at variance with the ruling that a Minister has addressed the question. It essentially becomes a subjective judgment.
Given the plethora of points of order on this subject every question time, I wonder whether it might not be in order for you to look again at the various rulings about what constitutes an answer and the quality of that answer—for which you are not responsible—and what constitutes addressing the question. It seems to me that you are essentially being placed in a no-win situation every time there is an answer of whatever quality or length and someone says: “I don’t think the Minister addressed the question.” You, as the impartial arbiter, are being forced to make a judgment that I do not think sits with your office.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the responsibilities of the office I have, but I think the member’s suggestion is a good one. I will look at that, and perhaps bring down a full statement to the House next week.
Conservation, Department—Assistance to Communities
8. GEORGINA BEYER (Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Conservation: Has he received any reports on the Department of Conservation’s efforts to assist communities during recent natural disasters?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Yes. We can all be proud of the efforts of departmental staff to assist communities during both the recent disastrous floods and the earlier fires. The Department of Conservation’s Wanganui conservancy has reported to me that it has assisted people affected by the floods with equipment and labour. One Department of Conservation team spent 2 days cleaning out flooded houses in the township of Waitotara, working with the South Taranaki fire crew.
Georgina Beyer: What has been the response of rural communities to the department’s firefighting efforts?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Farmers have been fulsome in their praise of the department’s firefighting, which saved lives and property. Robert Schikker from the Mount Somers community said that the philosophy of the Department of Conservation of hitting fires hard and fast basically had saved Ashburton’s bacon. He said if the Department of Conservation had not stop the fire, it could have travelled down the riverbed and threatened Ashburton itself.
Simon Power: Will the Minister confirm that he has done absolutely everything he can to ensure all steps have been taken to avoid a lahar from Mount Ruapehu, an event that, if it occurred now or in the near future, would add to the massive devastation already impacting on the Manawatu-Rangitikei as a result of recent flooding?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The primary question today was about fires and the recent floods, but I am happy to comment on that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am happy to comment on that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Please do so.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I myself—
Mr SPEAKER: I wish the Minister would answer the question. He was asked a question, and I want him to answer it. He should not have made that introductory comment.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am endeavouring to do so. I would like to point out to the House that I am not obliged to, but I am happy to.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now stand, withdraw, and apologise to me, then he will answer the question.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Please answer the question.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can assure the member that I personally visited the lahar site last year, that my staff are focused on this issue, and that the Government is taking every step it possibly can to avoid what is a natural phenomenon that has occurred many times before and will occur many times again.
Brent Catchpole: What discussions has the Minister had with other Ministers regarding the need for assistance for communities following the recent storms; especially, has he received any assurances as to the form and timing of that assistance, and, in particular, when the assistance will take place; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may answer two of them.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: As Minister of Local Government and Minister of Conservation, I am responsible for the operation of my own department in that area. Primarily, emergency response is the responsibility of another Minister. However, I can assure that member that the Government and Cabinet are very focused on those issues, and we are working hard on them.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. Given that the primary question did not clarify which natural disaster, will you accept a question about the floods in the Manawatu?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.
Brent Catchpole: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to reflect on the answer from the Minister to my question. I asked when such assistance would be in place. I do not believe he answered that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member actually asked three questions. The Minister answered at least two of them, and that is all he is required to do.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Government called for any reports on the extent to which the flooding and slips in the Manawatu might have been exacerbated by deforestation and land management in the catchment, and are there any plans for reforestation to limit the seriousness of any future disasters?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have asked the Department of Conservation to give me a full report on the impact of the recent floods, which, of course, were the subject of the primary question today. I am awaiting that report.
Small Business, Minister—Reported Comments
9. Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister for Small Business: Who was he referring to when he was talking about the “big end of town” in a recent speech, and does he stand by his statement that he is “getting a bit tired of hearing their knee-jerk responses and a tendency to view everything by way of victimhood, with the Government to blame”?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Small Business): Business New Zealand, the Business Roundtable, and yes.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does he realise that Business New Zealand represents 76,000 businesses in New Zealand, from the very smallest size and right across 54 industry groups; and, therefore, should he not be willing to accept its right to speak on behalf of small business, rather than to have him label it as a whinger?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Firstly, I have never labelled it as a whinger. Secondly, it is one thing to lobby Governments; it is another thing to become a political appendage to the National Party.
Darren Hughes: What feedback has he received from actual small businesses, and what are some of the steps this Government is taking to ensure that small businesses continue to prosper?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I have received heaps of positive feedback from people who, hands-on, have grown their small businesses. For example, Jane Stanton from the Seriously Good Chocolate Company was enthusiastic, and described the event as much needed and positive. She also said that the work already done to simplify tax and address compliance costs was helpful.
Mike Ward: What are the hard-working small business people the Minister referred to in his speech telling him about the negative impacts of the “big box” stores on businesses in their communities, and what steps is he taking to support them against the unfair competition from “big box” stores that locate on town fringes, where they enjoy lower rates and lower rents and undermine the town centres?
Mr SPEAKER: That is very wide, but the Minister may comment very briefly.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: We are grateful for all forms of advice.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has small business expressed any support for the proposed changes to the industrial relations law that Labour is currently trying to enact; if so, for which parts of it?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: A huge number of submissions have been made to the relevant specialist select committee in that regard, and I am awaiting the outcome of its considerations.
Hon Roger Sowry: Has the Minister received any support for the proposed changes to the industrial relations law that this Government is proposing; if so, which part of the law do small businesses support?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
10. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Customs: Has he received any reports that discuss the merits of his proposed border security levy; if so, have any of the report’s findings given him cause to reconsider whether or not to go ahead with the proposed levy?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): Yes, I have received a number of reports on the merits of the proposed levy. I am pleased to confirm that none of those reports so far have led me to conclude that the levy should be dropped.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree with the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report dated December 2003, where it states that on the basis of the Treasury’s own guidelines a policy of full or even significant cost recovery of the additional $20 million expenditure on supply of security from importers and export transport operators is unjustifiable; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I suggest that the member look at the beginning of the—sorry, the NZEI. Yes, I have read that report. I had the wrong one. I would just say to the member: one of the things that is said in the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report is that the second objective of the Customs Service is to provide an increased level of security over New Zealand’s trade, so trading partners are assured that this trade poses little or no threat to them. Then the report goes on to conclude that there is no mention in this paragraph about trade access. That is a ridiculous statement to make. The logic in that report is flawed in almost every respect.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was some confusion there. I wonder whether the Minister could confirm for us that he was reading the right answer to that supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member is just trying to be silly.
Clayton Cosgrove: What are the benefits for exporters from the proposed new border security arrangements?
Hon RICK BARKER: There are many benefits, but, most important, the proposed arrangements will ensure that exporters are able to comply with the security requirements of importing countries before their goods arrive at their border, ensuring a rapid and certain clearance of their goods, rather than uncertainties that may arise in costly delays. Second, and more important, exporters will be able to choose the port they wish to export from—all 13 New Zealand seaports or every airport—with unrestricted choice. This is a different model from what is being proposed by overseas countries, where some ports are secure cleared and others are not.
Shane Ardern: Is the Minister aware that all New Zealand’s export industries, which represent 70 percent of the country’s income, all of our shipping companies, all of our airline companies, and anybody else who is involved in exporting or importing, are 100 percent opposed to the $20 million extra tax this Minister will impose on them; if he is, will he do a U-turn on this stupid socialist tax?
Hon RICK BARKER: Mr Ardern, as usual, has things back to front. First, exporters are being requested to consider paying for $8 million, importers $4 million, and trans-shippers $8 million.
Shane Ardern: Add them up.
Hon RICK BARKER: In fact, trans-shippers are not New Zealand exporters. They are trans-shippers, they are foreign nationals, they are not New Zealanders, so it is not New Zealand business. I also want to say that I have spoken to many, many exporters who agree with the model being proposed by the New Zealand Customs Service, and support it.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister ever recall stating that increased border security was in the interests of everyone? If he does recall that, why is he imposing the charges only against cargo interests and carriers, and not funding it from Government coffers?
Hon RICK BARKER: Currently the Government meets over 50 percent of the costs of border security. This proposal is not entirely about New Zealand’s border security, it is about getting security clearance for New Zealand goods to enter overseas countries. If we do not have this prior clearance, then those goods will be held up on foreign borders, and will incur extra costs. This is about getting access to our foreign markets for those exporters, and it is therefore in the exporters’ interests to have this clearance.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Minister in agreement with the report from Capital Economics dated January 2004, which states that in regard to the proposed levy on importers there exists a “strong and incontrovertible public-good argument for general taxpayer funding, and very little case, if any, for taxing imports”; if not, why not?
Hon RICK BARKER: I have read the document by Capital Economics, and I would refer the member to the first part of it, which says that those who act on the basis of its recommendations do so at their own risk. It seems to me to be a disclaimer, and the member should take that into account before making any reliable statements on it.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a press release by the Minister where he states that border security is in the interests of everyone.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document, is there any objection? There is.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on 10 February: “The security of New Zealanders is also a core responsibility of government” applies to border security; if so, why?
Hon RICK BARKER: That statement is absolutely true, but this proposal is not about meeting New Zealand’s border security, it is about meeting the security requirements of those countries that import our goods. If we do not have this prior security clearance for them, then our goods could suffer significant delays and extra cost. This is absolutely in the interests of exporters.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister not agree that a key service outcome for the proposed border security initiatives will be enhanced security for New Zealanders from the possible actions of terrorists, who could, for example, bring in a bomb in an import container that could kill scores of innocent people in one of our major cities such as Auckland, and does he continue to say that the Crown has no responsibility for such a thing?
Hon RICK BARKER: Of course the Crown has absolute responsibility for that, and that is why we currently fund the New Zealand Customs Service and will continue to do so. Those elements are the responsibility of the New Zealand taxpayer, and we meet them. What the member confuses is that we are making a proposal to meet the security clearance issues for people who are importing our goods. Prior security clearance means our goods will get through their borders quickly and efficiently. Without it, they will not.
Gordon Copeland: I seek leave to table the document from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which states that this step is unjustifiable.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Gordon Copeland: I seek leave to table the report from Capital Economics Ltd, which states that there is an incontrovertible public-good argument.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Māori Affairs, Minister—Customary Title
11. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: What does he believe customary title confers?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs): No more or no less than that left to me and my whānau by my tūpuna.
Hon Ken Shirley: Trying to put some flesh on that answer—
Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is really inappropriate for people to laugh about language or issues they do not understand. That is highly rude and offensive.
Mr SPEAKER: I urge all members to take care when they are making any comment whatsoever about anyone else, and I think the point of order has some merit.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard you say that you thought that point of order from Tariana Turia had some merit. That challenges a member’s right to ask a question in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: No, please be seated. I was not referring to either the question or the answer. I was referring to extraneous comments made during the answer—not comments made by the member.
Hon Ken Shirley: In endeavouring to expand on the Minister’s reply, does he believe that customary title granted over the foreshore and seabed confers the right of special consideration, in matters such as resource management applications or marine permit applications, that other New Zealanders who do not hold those customary titles do not enjoy; if so, why?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No. I would ask that member and other members who like to deny their Māori whakapapa to read the deliveries that we have developed.
Hon Maurice Williamson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not often I take a point of order like this, but I have no idea what that answer meant. Maybe the translator from Māori could give us a better idea of that answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I heard the member’s first word, which was “No.” I think I understand that, and that was a direct answer to the question. The member said “No.” I heard the word “No”, and I checked that with an authority close to me. I heard him say “No.” You cannot get a more direct answer than that.
Mahara Okeroa: Why is the Government continuing to have discussions on this proposal?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The foreshore and seabed proposal is significant and complex. It is of major importance, especially to Māori, and certainly to all New Zealanders. We are committed to getting it right, rather than to assuming and making brash, divisive statements.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept that some of us in this House are very keen to understand what he means—[Interruption] Who said that?
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I heard an inappropriate comment from a member. I want that member to stand, withdraw, and apologise for it, and then he will leave the House. Please stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Mahara Okeroa: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Please leave the House.
Mahara Okeroa: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. There is no point of order. I have asked the member to leave, and he will obey my instruction.
Mahara Okeroa withdrew from the Chamber.
David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard the words uttered. I was close by, and the words uttered were: “Who said that?”. I do not understand the offence that could be taken from that.
Mr SPEAKER: I do, because I said there were to be no interjections during questions. I have given a warning already today, and my word will be taken.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister accept that some of us in this House are interested in knowing more about—as the question originally asked—his views on what a customary title confers, and could he then please expand on the answer he gave originally this afternoon?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the interests of consistency, before you call the Minister, I advise you that we had Dr Mapp interjecting. Does he get to stay in the House?
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear Dr Mapp interject. Did he interject?
Dr Wayne Mapp: I did not interject. I may have said something to my colleague.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the member interject. If he said he did not, I take his word.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am more than appreciative that a lot of people want to understand this better. So do a lot of Māori. A customary title enables the title-holder to participate in the Resource Management Act processes and to apply for customary right, which is a property right.
Dr Muriel Newman: What is the Minister’s response to the comments made today by the Treaty Tribes Coalition that the Government’s handling of the whole foreshore and seabed issue has made Māori and Pākehā bitterly angry, and is now “harming race relations, dividing New Zealand, and undermining the rule of law.”?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Kāre e tika e tū ake anō au i te whai takahia mō rātou mai i te motu. E tika ake anō tō rātou whakaaro. Kāre ki a koe e taea ki te pātai ki a wau he aha kē tōkū whakaaro mō tērā tino kōrero o ngā rangatira mai i te motu.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[It would be wrongful of me to stand up again and be discourteous to those from the land. What they think is absolutely right. It is not for you to ask me what I really think about that profound statement made by those chiefs.]
Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer did not appear to address the question that I asked. If the Minister would like me to repeat the question, I would be happy to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister did address the question, by stating that he did not agree with the comments. That was the interpretation of the first part of the answer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your Māori may well be better than mine—
Mr SPEAKER: It is not.
Rodney Hide: If Mr Cunliffe is going to sit there and chip—
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Cunliffe will leave the Chamber.
Hon David Cunliffe withdrew from the Chamber.
Rodney Hide: I did not hear the Minister say that he did not agree with the comments made by the Treaty Tribes Coalition. You have said that he did, and I am at a loss because it seems to me that we now have two replies.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance on this matter. I interpreted what the Minister said to mean that, and I therefore assess that he addressed the question. He most certainly did.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I understand from the Minister and from some of the other members in the House that the interpretation was not quite as full as it could have been, and I ask whether the Minister could have permission to reinterpret the comments.
Mr SPEAKER: He does not need it, but it would be helpful to all if he did.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is important for me as a Māori—understanding that those revered elders are in the gallery at present—not to respond to a testing question by a person like that that is really of tikanga relevance.
Mr SPEAKER: The member must not refer to people sitting in the gallery, because that brings them into the debate. The only people involved in the Chamber are the 120 members who are sitting here and who—I want to say—are entitled to sit here. I say to the Minister that perhaps he could rephrase his answer without referring to anybody in the gallery.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are now in a very difficult situation. We had an answer by the Minister of Māori Affairs in Māori. We then had an interpretation of what he said. Mr Mallard said that the interpretation of the answer was not a full interpretation, so we know that we have not heard the full answer. We then had the Minister of Māori Affairs offer in English what he said in Māori, which was completely different to the interpretation that we had. We have had three answers—all different—to the one question. How can that help the House?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That point of order—and my understanding is that Māori is a language that is capable of a range of interpretation into English, which is one of the problems with the treaty—is irrelevant, because you ruled the answer out of order and required the Minister to give a different one.
Hon Roger Sowry: This may be a new point of order. I will let you judge that, Mr Speaker. It arises out of this issue, and I think it is something you will have to go away and consider. We have a situation where a Minister has used, as is his right, the opportunity to give an answer in Māori. The interpretation has then been given and another member has said—or the Minister whispered to him—that the interpretation, to quote Mr Mallard, was not “as full as it could have been”. Permission was given—which did not need to be given—for the Minister to interpret his own answer. I would like a considered ruling from the Speaker on when the onus is on a member who speaks in Māori to correct an interpretation. We do get into a difficult situation—particularly in question time, when Ministers, if they give an incorrect answer, have to come to the Chamber at the first opportunity to correct it—when an answer is given in Māori and the Minister deems that it was not interpreted correctly. At what point should the Minister be required to give the correct interpretation?
Mr SPEAKER: The last point the member raised is a slightly new one. I will go away and think about that. He has asked me to do that, and I will certainly do so. The interpretation is not necessarily a full one. The Minister accepted an invitation to elaborate on it, not to interpret it, and no one is obliged to do that. But I will have a look at the whole issue over the weekend.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is really about procedure. Quite clearly, when the Minister spoke in Māori, he referred to a member on the Opposition side of the House in the second person. We know, when we speak in the House in English, that we are not allowed to use the second person because we are referring to you as the Speaker. We have a critical situation now, because members—and rightly so—are able to use the Māori language, and the same rules should apply.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any help on this. I ask the Minister of Māori Affairs whether he did refer to me in the second person in his answer. Could he indicate whether he did or did not do so?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I did refer to, and I mentioned in the interpretation, “that person”.
Mr SPEAKER: “That person”—not referring specifically to me as “you”? I accept that.
Hon Brian Donnelly: The point is that he used the term “you”.
Mr SPEAKER: If he used the term “you”, he was out of order, no matter whether he spoke in English or in Māori. But he said he did not.
Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to drag this on, but I seek clarification. In the Minister’s answer in English, he said that he would not respond to my question. I thought that the point of question time is that Ministers are required to respond to the question asked. I seek your clarification on that issue, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: This is elaboration. Perhaps if the Minister wants to make any further comment, he can do so.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is an important issue. I draw your attention to Standing Order 370(1), which supports the reasoning of my colleague Muriel Newman, in that the only answer she received was that the Minister would not answer, whereas Standing Order 370(1) clearly states: “An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” I would have thought that the issue in question here is certainly consistent with the public interest.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I repeat that the answer was ruled out of order, in any case, but even so, that judgment about what is in the public interest must lie with Ministers. No one else can make that judgment about what is or is not in the public interest in the nature of the answer. That has been clear at all times with regard to that particular Standing Order. If I can elaborate, the answer given related to the fact that persons in the gallery were responsible for the statement. Because of the member’s feeling and respect for those people, he would, therefore, not respond to the question. That was ruled out of order. Surely it is time to move on from an answer that has been already ruled out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I ruled that the Minister’s original answer did address the question. When he elaborated, that was out of order, and I ruled it so. This is going too far.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that in response to an earlier point of order by the Hon Peter Dunne, you indicated that you would consider the extent to which the Speaker can, or should, make a judgment on whether a question has been addressed. I ask you to consider the Deputy Prime Minister’s comment, and to give an indication as to whether that is an approach—or whether there is any element of that approach—you will favour. If Dr Cullen is correct in saying that the Speaker must leave it to the Minister’s judgment as to whether a matter is in the public interest—when Mr Horomia patently said that he will not answer a question as relevant for everyone as the question about the foreshore and seabed—then there is no meaning to Standing Order 370(1).
Mr SPEAKER: I have been asked by Mr Sowry to give a considered ruling to this, and I will over the weekend.
Hon Brian Donnelly: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to continue with the point of order that I was making before, because the Minister, when he was speaking in Māori, clearly used the Māori word for “you”. He then said in his translation that it was “that person”. My question—and I think we need to sort this out—is: do the rules that apply to us when we deliver answers in English apply in the same way when delivery is in Māori? The question is not a put-down, or anything else. It is purely and simply about getting clarification.
Mr SPEAKER: The answer is yes. I have already ruled that way.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that, with all due respect to members who have raised issues about who said what, and whether it was appropriate in one language or another, the real point is that the Minister told the House that he would not answer, because he did not want to offend people who are in the gallery. That cannot be accepted as an acceptable answer to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: That was his elaboration. I have ruled it out of order.
Gerry Brownlee: It was not an elaboration; it was a translation of the answer he gave to the House. Surely an answer cannot be: “I am not going to answer you, because I may offend people in the gallery.” Surely the Minister must now address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The original question was addressed, and I allowed the answer. The other matter was out of order, and I did not allow it.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have a very serious situation in front of us. The Minister himself said that the translation he gave in English was not full. He said something in Māori, and people who cannot speak Māori did not know what it meant. He was then invited by you, Mr Speaker, to give the full translation. He stood up and said that he was not prepared to give an answer, because of people in the gallery. I assume that that is not what he said in Māori the first time. I suspect that we have a Minister who is prepared to say some things in the House in Māori, and is not prepared to have them said in English.
Mr SPEAKER: The interpretation was given. The Minister then elaborated, and the elaboration was ruled out of order. He was not obliged to elaborate, so it does not affect his original answer, which stands.
Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the Minister’s response to my primary question, when he clearly stated that customary title does not confer special consideration to any holder that is not held by all New Zealanders, could he tell the House whether this whole issue is just one big smokescreen, and whether the country is tearing itself apart for no good reason, because of the duplicity and constant changes that his Government is making in regard to this issue?
Mr SPEAKER: There were about three questions there. The Minister will address two of them.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This Government’s policies are the same as they were before. It is being consistent to ensure that it recognises the rights of all New Zealanders.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you give us some clarification of the interpretation of the Minister’s response? The Minister made a comment in Māori, and it was interpreted. Then, during the course of the discussion, Mr Mallard said that the interpretation was not as full and as accurate as it should have been, and suggested that the Minister might give his own interpretation, which he did. That was then ruled out of order, so does that mean that the interpretation given by the interpreter now stands? I want to know what we are going to have in the records. What is correct, and what is—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. It does stand as an interpretation, and it addressed the question.
John Carter: Even so, the Minister has said that it is not a full and accurate reflection.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did not say that at all. Parekura Horomia did not say that at all.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave at this time to table two documents. One is a letter written by me to the Hon Parekura Horomia asking for a briefing from his departmental officials.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a reply from the Hon Parekura Horomia declining such a briefing.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Ken Shirley: I think that we have not resolved this issue. Could I make a helpful suggestion, Mr Speaker? You undertook to consider another matter over the weekend. Could I suggest that in response to question No. 11—and the various interpretations and lack of responses that we have had—you consider that over the weekend and listen to the Hansard tapes to see whether, in fact, the interpretation that you have just given to the House is the correct one. I understand there is considerable confusion, but it would be helpful if you would do that and report back to us next week.
Mr SPEAKER: This is a point of order and I am ruling on it. I have said that I will come with a ruling in answer to the question made by the Hon Roger Sowry. I refer Mr Shirley to Speaker’s ruling 34/5.
Ron Mark: I will try to be helpful, Mr Speaker. As I sit here as an observer, not partaking in any of the discussion, can I share with you an observation that you might bear in mind when you are making those deliberations? The first observation is that it is not often that we have an MP stand up and immediately make a statement in Māori and carry it on through. That tends to catch the parliamentary staff a little unawares. If that statement is lengthy, there is a possibility that the staff required to stand up and interpret may not, in fact, get the full gist of the message. I think on some occasions it is likely and very possible that we may not get an exact interpretation, and that makes it very hard for you as the Speaker to judge whether people have been outside the Standing Orders, because you may not have received an exact interpretation, which other people who are more fluent in Māori may have. That creates a problem.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for that helpful suggestion. I refer him to Speaker’s ruling 34/5. I will certainly consider what he is saying.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: You have referred the House to Speaker’s ruling 34/5. You did not tell us what it said. It says that, regardless of the translation given in the House, when Hansard is recorded a translation will be made for incorporation into Hansard. If, when the translation of the statement in Māori was made for Hansard, it were to differ from the translation given in the House, and that different translation were to be out of order, how do you then handle that matter when you have ruled that the translation in the House was in order, yet a translation that goes into Hansard may be out of order? How would you handle that circumstance?
Mr SPEAKER: If it is out of order, I will come back to the House and announce so.
Refugees—Deportation, Sri Lanka
12. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Associate Minister of Immigration: Will he review his decision to allow the deportation of a 16-year-old Sri Lankan girl in light of questions being raised as to whether the plan he put in place for her care in Sri Lanka will provide for her welfare or indeed even exists?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Corrections), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Immigration: The Associate Minister of Immigration made a decision not to intervene in the removal process. The decision was upheld by the High Court. The Associate Minister has advised that he will not be reviewing his decision.
Keith Locke: Were any of the safe members of the girl’s family in Sri Lanka, who the Minister said could help her, contacted before she was deported; if so, who were they?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am not aware of the detail of that. I can confirm that the girl is in a convent and could be there for some time.
Keith Locke: Will the Minister offer the girl and her grandmother the right to return to New Zealand in view of the uncertainty about her future beyond the temporary accommodation she is in and the possibility that she will be separated from her—
Mr SPEAKER: Because we are in the last supplementary question, I want Mr Mark to stand, withdraw, and apologise for interjecting on Mr Locke—or whoever it was who interjected on Mr Locke. Who interjected on Mr Locke?
Ron Mark: I withdraw and apologise for interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER: Please ask the question again.
Keith Locke: Will the Minister offer the girl and her grandmother the opportunity to return to New Zealand in view of the uncertainty surrounding the girl’s future beyond the temporary accommodation she is in and the possibility that she will be separated from her grandmother, who is her prime support person?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Associate Minister has advised that he will not be reviewing the case.
Mr SPEAKER: I have received a letter from the Hon Murray McCully seeking to debate, under Standing Order 373, a recent report from the Ombudsman into allegations involving the Immigration Service. This is a particular case of recent occurrence involving ministerial responsibility, and I consider it does require the immediate attention of the House. I ask him to move accordingly.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National—East Coast Bays): I move, That the House take note of a matter of urgent public importance. This is a sad and serious day for the New Zealand Parliament. At 12.30 p.m. today, one of our Ombudsmen, Mr Mel Smith—a former Secretary for Justice and a very distinguished public servant—released a report that found that two officials lied to him as he carried out his responsibilities under the Official Information Act. He found that officials in the Immigration Service of the Department of Labour were guilty of actions that were unlawful and wrong.
The Ombudsman is a very important part of the fabric of our constitutional democracy. He is an important officer of this Parliament. In order to discharge our obligations as members of Parliament we depend upon the Office of the Ombudsmen, and we depend upon public servants within departments to deal honestly with the Ombudsmen. That did not happen on this occasion. All 48 pages of today’s report, and a number of pages of appendices as well, tell a very sorry saga of deceit.
At question time I was staggered to hear the acting Minister of Immigration tell us it was OK. He said that the report of the Ombudsman did find some people had lied, but it was OK because it had not been in unison. That is the new test we have from this Government. It is OK for State officials to lie; it is just not good enough if they lie in unison. They have to lie independently, apparently. I ask the Minister to reflect on what message he sent to the House in that response.
On 17 December 2002 a memorandum was circulated amongst about 300 officials—officials mostly in the Immigration Service but not exclusively. It said: “I was let down badly. Everyone had agreed to lie in unison, but all the others caved in. I was the only one left singing the original song.” Word got about concerning that transmission. Members of the Leader of the Opposition’s staff and I sought to track it down. A number of Official Information Act requests were lodged. One might ask how it could be that, in New Zealand in 2004, a memorandum could circulate amongst 300 public servants saying that everyone had agreed to lie in unison—yet nothing happened. No one blew the whistle. No one said to the Minister: “You’ve got a problem here.” I find it astonishing that that could happen in our public service, but it did.
So members of the Opposition sought to find out what they could. Many months down the track, and after many interactions under the Official Information Act, the Ombudsman was asked to carry out a review of the extent to which officials of the Immigration Service might have been deficient in their compliance with their obligations under the Official Information Act. For those who are uninitiated, that means the Ombudsman asked to see the files. He ultimately asked to see all the files so he could put a ruler over them to decide whether information can lawfully be withheld. With regard to the Immigration Service, there are genuine issues of confidentiality, and, in this case, of security, that would require some delicate judgments to be assessed. The Ombudsman in this case found that the documents the Opposition sought to source did not exist—or so it was asserted by the Immigration Service. He was told: “No, we have given you everything. Nothing more is in the cupboard.”
Rodney Hide: They lied.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: That certainly seems to be the case. They certainly lied. Maybe they did not lie in unison, although I have my doubts about that, but they certainly lied. Ultimately members of the Opposition and their staff managed to narrow down, with considerable specificity, the type of document sought—a media log. Because there has been a previous case involving media logs, it is well established that media logs are official information. There should have been no doubt at all as to whether they were handed over to the Opposition in the first place, and, in the second instance, to the Ombudsman when he came calling.
But that is not what happened. Finally, on 27 June the Ombudsman had to write to the staff of the Leader of the Opposition to say: “Look, I have spent months on this thing. I have asked them every which way for the media logs around this particular date, and they don’t have any. They don’t exist. So there is nothing more I can do as an officer of Parliament but say that I conclude my investigation.”
Remarkably, a few days later a memorandum turned up on the front page of the New Zealand Herald—the very memorandum we had been seeking under the Official Information Act. It was the very memorandum the Ombudsman had been told by public servants, including quite senior ones, did not exist. How could that happen? It is a most serious matter.
So the Ombudsman thought: “I have got no choice but to conduct an inquiry that gets to the bottom of this. Otherwise there is no point in having an Official Information Act; otherwise there is no point in having an Ombudsman.” What was at issue in the inquiry Mr Mel Smith has reported on today was whether we do have an operational Official Information Act in this country, and whether we have functioning Ombudsmen.
I am delighted to say that, as a consequence of the findings and the rigour in Mr Smith’s report, we have seen the guardian of those important institutions stand up to the task the Government did not care about, at all. When this memorandum turned up on the front page of the New Zealand Herald the obvious thing to do—and the Minister at least conceded this today—was to call for an independent inquiry.
We asked for an independent inquiry, but we were told to get lost. We asked whether the Secretary of Labour would acknowledge that he was fatally compromised, but he would not. Three times I wrote to the State Services Commissioner and said: “Look, this is just not going to wash. This is not good enough.” And three times the State Services Commissioner wrote back to me saying: “Get lost, I am quite happy for an in-house job to happen on this occasion.” He was quite happy to have an in-house job done by the Secretary of Labour, Dr James Buwalda.
Dr Buwalda did make some findings, on 28 June. This is what he said—he said some other things but it is germane to this debate to report only on his finding about the allegation that officials lied to the Ombudsman—“I found no evidence that officials deliberately misled the Ombudsman regarding the existence of the lie-in-unison memorandum.” That was the finding of the Secretary of Labour, Dr James Buwalda, in relation to the in-house job that was done. That report was a shabby whitewash—nothing more and nothing less than a shabby whitewash—and the Prime Minister let it happen, the then Minister of Immigration let it happen, and the State Services Commissioner let it happen, knowing that we were never going to see the facts. They wanted to sweep this matter under the carpet, and it would have stayed under the carpet had it not been for the fact that the Ombudsman was up to the task and said: “I am going to lift the carpet. I am not going to let the Official Information Act and the Office of the Ombudsmen be thwarted by these people in this Labour Government.” That is what Mr Mel Smith accepted as his responsibility.
So we have a report today, 48 pages in all, that makes the most serious findings any of us have seen against public officials in this country. It makes a finding against the immigration spokesperson, Mr Ian Smith, that he knew what was being sought by the Ombudsman and his staff over many, many weeks, but he decided not to hand over that information. It says in this report that he “deliberately dissembled”. For the benefit of those who do not have a dictionary handy, that means he lied. Mr Ian Smith lied to the Ombudsman.
In respect of the other senior adviser who was conducting the relationship with the Ombudsman, in his report the Ombudsman says that that person also knew what was being asked for by the Office of the Ombudsmen over many weeks, that he knew precisely what the point of the questions was, and that that person, too, lied. Further, this report said that under oath those two individuals gave answers that the Ombudsman, after mature reflection, expressly rejects. He says those officials lied to him under oath in the explanations they provided. The most careful, considered findings in this report are to that effect.
The Ombudsman, Mr Mel Smith, also turns his attention to Mr Lockhart—now the general manager, then the operations manager—of the Immigration Service. Mr Mel Smith is a charitable man and a very nice man. He hated doing this report. He hated having to find out what had happened in the public service he has served for his whole life. But he found, charitably in my view, that Mr Lockhart may have had something different in his mind when the Ombudsman called on him. The Ombudsman thought: “This matter is so important I am going to take the unusual step of asking the general manager to answer the questions already answered by the junior officials.” Mr Lockhart said: “No, no, we don’t have that stuff here.”, and his explanation was that he had not actually checked with the person who had the information. That was, at best, a dereliction of duty on the part of the man who is now the general manager of the Immigration Service. It was incompetent. It could be worse. I take the view that it is worse, and we will have more to say about it. The Ombudsman says: “I consider his omission to do so was unfortunate.” “Unfortunate” is about the kindest word I can think of.
The questions that flow from this report are these: how can it be that Mr Buwalda was allowed to do an in-house job to provide a shabby whitewash? Where was the Minister? Where was the Prime Minister? Where was the rest of Cabinet? They allowed that whitewash to occur; there is no question about it.
I say to the House today that the person who wrote that shabby whitewash, Dr James Buwalda, must resign or be sacked. That chief executive of the Department of Labour does not have the confidence of this Parliament. He made a big call in deciding not to have an independent inquiry. He made a bigger call in deciding to clear himself and all his officials. The Ombudsman’s report today says he was wrong. It says his officials did lie to the Ombudsman’s office—a direct contradiction of what Mr Buwalda himself reported in his report some months earlier. Dr Buwalda must go.
Mr Lockhart must go. In this most sensitive area of New Zealand administration, he cannot enjoy the confidence of this House. Mr Wintringham has a question mark on himself. Three times he turned down the request for the independent inquiry that even the Minister today admits should have occurred, and Mr Wintringham must ask himself why.
Every possible institution broke down on this occasion. The Prime Minister failed in her responsibilities. The Minister failed in her responsibility. The chief executive of the Department of Labour failed in his responsibilities. The State Services Commissioner failed in his responsibilities.
Thank God for the Ombudsman! This whole matter would have been lying under the carpet—where this Government was prepared to allow it to be swept—were it not for the efforts of Mr Mel Smith. I say that all members of this House owe Mr Smith a true vote of thanks today. He performed what for him was a most unpleasant and painful task. I thank him for it. I suggest that all members thank him for it, and they should remind this Minister of his responsibilities to sort that place out.
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Immigration): Let me begin by saying that the Secretary of Labour has my confidence. He will not be resigning, and he certainly will not be sacked.
I think most members would have picked up the irony of the righteous indignation of that member, who was the Minister of Tourism, and it is important to remember that when he was the Minister of Tourism he threw his weight around. He interfered in statutory boards. He tried to get rid of them. That resulted in messy and huge costs to the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of those payments were considered to be illegal, and after all that, having said he had done nothing wrong, 6 days later he resigned from the portfolio of Minister of Tourism. So no one believes in that righteous indignation. That member has no credibility whatsoever in this House when talking about the ethics of the public sector and the public service.
There are two important things to say right at the outset. First, it is critical that the public have confidence in our Government agencies and, second, it is important that the Official Information Act is respected. That Act is an important plank of our democracy. The Ombudsman’s report is thorough. It addresses both of those issues, and certainly my job is to ensure that the recommendations are acted upon.
I want to begin by saying that I accept, in full, the report of the Ombudsman into the actions of the department into the Official Information Act complaint. I also say that I am pleased the Ombudsman found there was no evidence to suggest that anyone was involved in any agreement to lie in unison in respect of media inquiries about Ahmed Zaoui. Those were the accusations and allegations of the former Minister of Tourism, Murray McCully, but the Ombudsman states in the report: “I have not seen or heard any evidence that suggests or indicates that any person or persons, as officials in the NZIS, was involved in any agreement to lie in unison.” That was also the finding of the Secretary of Labour. Both reports agree on that.
The Ombudsman did go on to say, however, that he thought there were problems with the internal processes for the handling of Official Information Act requests. That is absolutely right, and I take seriously, as I said, the obligations of the Public Service in respect of the Official Information Act. I have been assured by Dr Buwalda that these issues are being addressed, and I will return to those in just a minute. I have instructed the Secretary of Labour to report to me on the implementation of the recommendations by the end of March.
It is true that the Ombudsman is critical of two staff of the Immigration Service. However, neither the Ombudsman nor myself are responsible for employment matters within the New Zealand Immigration Service, because, unlike Mr McCully, we do not wander around and throw our weight around in areas where we are not entitled to do so. The responsibility for these matters lies with the Secretary of Labour, and I understand he is addressing disciplinary and performance issues relating to this matter.
It is important to say that the secretary has already started addressing some of the matters raised in the report. He advises me he is concluding a review of guidelines for the handling of official information. Once the review is completed, ongoing training will be given to staff to ensure the guidelines are effectively applied. The secretary has made it explicit to the department’s managers that they must actively oversee the work of people involved in responding to Official Information Act requests. Where classified information is involved, managers must ensure that people with appropriate security clearance handle those requests. The secretary has also made it clear to all staff that no inappropriate material should be included in any communications originating from within the department, and that managers are responsible for monitoring that rule.
As far as the two officials mentioned in the report are concerned, the secretary advises me that he had already initiated disciplinary proceedings and performance management action following his own investigation last year. He will now take the Ombudsman’s findings—the report today—into consideration in determining any further action to take.
This is an important report. It goes into details. It does state there was no lying in unison, but it certainly criticises two officials. The Secretary of Labour indicates that he has also accepted that, in full, and that he will be acting on those recommendations. I have asked him to report to me, particularly in relation to the Official Information Act report, in March.
Apart from the indignation of the former Minister of Tourism, Murray McCully, I have accepted this report—given that the events in the Ombudsman’s report pre-date both my appointment to the portfolios and the appointment of Dr Buwalda as Secretary of Labour. This report presents an opportunity for us to deal with the recommendations, and provides both of us with an opportunity for a fresh start.
DAIL JONES (NZ First): That Minister was totally incapable of defending his ministry in his first effort in this particular type of snap debate. He had 15 minutes, I think, to speak, and he did not even get the bell, as far as I can recall. He is totally incapable of defending a department that is an absolute shambles. This Minister already indicates he is totally incapable of defending it. This Minister has thrown in the towel already.
Here we have a very lengthy report. One would think that the Minister would have taken the time to read it. It was very clear to all of us in this House that we would be having a snap debate on this issue. He has obviously been thrown in at the deep end and, despite having been in Cabinet for all this length of time, he is totally incapable of defending the indefensible—the Immigration Service; the “Department of Dissembling” would be a polite term to have used in this report. It has a bunch of dissemblers, it seems, and this Minister cannot unravel the dissemblance. One would wonder whether we need a full inquiry now into the way in which the Immigration Service is run. This Minister, will all the experience he has had during the last few years in Cabinet, clearly is incapable of defending this department. Despite the fact that the Ombudsman was looking at this matter, the Immigration Service is still playing, well, silly games—I suppose I would say that in this House, to be polite—with the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said in his report: “In my opinion, as disclosed by the facts and the evidence given to me, there was an omission by the Department of Labour to provide me with information required by me for the purpose of my Official Information Act report.” As far as New Zealand First is concerned, the Rt Hon Winston Peters has constantly asked questions of this department. Time and time again, day after day, we have been making sure that the massive immigration to New Zealand—of 50,000 or 60,000, and more, which was promised by this Labour Party—would be reduced. We have been successful in making sure that that figure has now been reduced, on the last 3-monthly basis, to about 17,000, and we are aiming to get it down further. The Rt Hon Winston Peters and we in New Zealand First have been very successful in that respect.
However, we have been asking constant questions, and one wonders about the quality of the answers that have been coming to New Zealand First in this House from the Immigration Service to the many questions that have been put. We have alleged corruption in various aspects of the running of the department, and we wonder whether some of the answers that we have been getting are similar to the answers that were given to the Ombudsman, and are part of this inquiry and of yet another inquiry taking place into the department. How can we rely on the Immigration Service to give accurate answers? How can we be certain that all the questions asked by the Rt Hon Winston Peters have had proper replies? How can we be certain that information has not been withheld? How can we be certain that the correct information was given? How can we be certain that the House was not misled in one form or another by answers from the Immigration Service? Even now, in this Ombudsman’s report, we see the service clearly being castigated for leaving out information and not giving the Ombudsman the proper information to enable him to carry out his inquiry.
All those efforts by the Rt Hon Winston Peters have gained success. The New Zealand First Party has ensured a reduction of immigration to New Zealand; thereby the Labour Party has admitted its mistake at the last election in allowing too many people to come into New Zealand. Labour has admitted that mistake. At least we can give Labour some faint praise. It admits it was wrong at the last election, and it has finally realised the situation. May I say in passing, having dealt with Lianne Dalziel at the select committee and on the immigration legislation, that she did put a lot of effort into what she was doing. It is sad that matters ended in the way in which they did, but that is the way things go in Parliament. I still have to wonder what other information—information that should have been forthcoming to us in New Zealand First—did not come to us as a result of the way in which the Immigration Service is still behaving, and still requires some form of inquiry.
On page 24 of the report the Ombudsman said: “In my opinion the manner in which Mr Smith was treated by the media was likely to have remained in his mind. He was also asked about his comment of 17 December 2002, which read: ‘I was let down badly. Everyone had agreed to lie in unison, but all the others caved in, and I was the only one left singing the original song.’ ” That is what this is all about. There seems to be some sort of consistency between one person saying that he was going to be left singing the original song, and lying in unison. When I first heard of the situation that arose with the former Minister of Immigration, one of my first thoughts was—well, to be quite frank, I got the wrong phrase in my mind; I was thinking of the litany of lies, which was the Air New Zealand one. What should have gone through my mind was “lie in unison”. I thought: “If they have done it once, have they done it previously?”. All I can say is that the Immigration Service really needs to pull up its socks. In the report the Ombudsman said: “I express no opinion on Mr Smith’s reasoning behind his comment.” Once again, as other members have said, this Ombudsman has been extremely fair on the department—much too fair, I think. A judge might have been slightly tougher on reaching a conclusion. I think ombudsmen are too fair generally, because that is the nature of their work. If a judge had been looking at this type of information he or she may have reached a conclusion of a different kind that might not have been as sympathetic to the department as the Ombudsman has been.
The Ombudsman went on to say: “However, it seems to me that the comment was patently unwise or inappropriate, in that if it reached the public domain it was liable to result in the type of difficulty for the Department of Labour and Mr Smith, as in fact has resulted. For this reason, in my view, it was reasonable to expect Mr Smith to have remembered it in the context of persistent inquiries by Ms Boyle in May 2003.” It is strange, is it not, how a statement like that could have been forgotten by Mr Smith? How could he have forgotten a statement where he said that everyone had agreed to lie in unison? Who did he mean by “everyone” when he wrote that down? Of course, one immediately thinks of the former Minister of Immigration, who is not here to answer, but why would he have written that down? Clearly, the Opposition was totally justified in ensuring that there was an inquiry into the way in which this immigration division is behaving. It is disappointing, of course, that when we get a report like this on a department, someone does not put his or her hand up and go. If we look at what happened in the United Kingdom with the BBC, we see that when it got a report that was totally unsatisfactory, people put their hands up, and off they went. The next person down did the same, as well—but not in New Zealand. People can even get castigated, even by the Ombudsman—
Hon David Cunliffe: What’s that word?
DAIL JONES: That is what might happen to the member if he does not watch out. I know the word the member was thinking of. People can be castigated by the Ombudsman, who is a very gentle person, yet they can still hang on to their jobs in New Zealand. That is another case of where this minority Labour Government will not follow the usual rules of a Westminster system and make sure that the departmental people concerned walk. It is no use the Minister saying: “Oh, the people lower down are not my responsibility, and I have no responsibility for what they do.” The Minister has the responsibility for saying: “You go.” In fact, if the previous Minister had been here, that Minister should have been the person walking, along with some of her co-workers, as well.
On page 41 the Ombudsman used the words: “Omissions are unfortunate and indicate a failure to treat my personal inquiry with the importance that it merited.” Those are strong words from our Ombudsman. They are very, very polite, but they are very strong. Unfortunately, the inquiry was not treated with the importance it merited; information that was required was not given, and there was dissembling. How many other dissemblers are there? It makes one wonder just what the plan was, and how many people have got off scot-free. New Zealand First has been concerned for a long time with the way the Immigration Service has been run. This report gives full justification for New Zealand First’s concern and attitude about this very unhappy debacle, and a full inquiry is required to make sure it is run properly in the future, and, preferably, with a change of Government, as well.
KEITH LOCKE (Green): I rise on behalf of the Green Party to try to dig a bit deeper into the problem that this report exposes. The report does expose very serious weaknesses and problems, not only in the Immigration Service but in other departments that the Immigration Service was mentioned as working with, such as the Department of Corrections, Customs Service, police, and the SIS, which were all involved in the Zaoui case, right from the time Mr Zaoui arrived on 4 December as a former member of Parliament trying to claim asylum in our compassionate country. That report shows, partly, the terrible way in which he was treated.
It is clear from the report that the request from National Party researcher Sarah Boyle was not handled at all well by the Immigration Service, and there was a clear attempt not to provide all the information and to treat a lot of it as very secret and secure, and say: “Let’s consult those other departments and the police etc., etc.” It wanted to hide what was going on with Ahmed Zaoui, because it is one of the most shameful chapters in our history. The real story is coming out bit by bit, after Ahmed Zaoui has been rotting in jail for 14 months, completely unjustly. The real story is coming out and will continue to come out as time goes on. It was within that context of the Immigration Service trying to keep things under wraps that the atmosphere from Andrew Lockhart at the top, the manager, infected people like Ian Smith, who came out with that “lie in unison” quote.
What happened with Mr Zaoui was that it was secret for a while, but then the New Zealand Herald got on to it and repeated the information from overseas, from Algeria and France, and slanders against Mr Zaoui that were circulating internationally at the time. It came out in the documents provided to the Immigration Service that the police were retailing all those lies from the Algerian regime, too. For instance, in the immigration papers discussed in the select committee there was an explanation from Jon White, New Zealand’s assistant police commissioner for counter-terrorism, as to why they were advising that Mr Zaoui be held as a high security prisoner. It stated that he was wanted on an international warrant related to terrorism and he had been sentenced to death in Algeria—that is the regime in Algeria that has killed tens of thousands of people and has sentenced 1,500 dissident democrats to death in absentia so that they do not go back into the country. That was being retailed by a head police officer for counter-terrorism. There was only one international warrant, as I found out in written questions to the Minister of Police, and that was from the Algerian regime. It is disgraceful what was happening at that time, and that was in a letter circulated, including to the Immigration Service, on 6 December, a couple of days after Mr Zaoui arrived. It is absolutely disgraceful.
A few days later, on 11 December, the National Bureau of Criminal Intelligence produced a memorandum that stated that Mr Zaoui was considered a senior member of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), a terrorist group, which the Refugee Status Appeals Authority has proved definitively he has had nothing to do with and is an opponent of. That 11 December document, as it has been publicised, also used the Larouche website—an extremist American group—took information from that, and retailed it in the 11 December document. Then it said two outrageous things. It said there was a risk of Mr Zaoui trying to instigate relationships in New Zealand to assist him in gaining legal residential status in New Zealand. Why cannot an asylum seeker work with others, including myself, lawyers, and communities, to achieve that sort of thing? That police document also stated that there is also the political risk that he will try to gain some support by utilising the media. There is a basic right under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act that anyone in New Zealand can speak to the media.
The document also stated there has been a total media blanket in relation to that individual, and that is the context in which Ian Smith and the Immigration Service took up the “lie in unison” and tried to prevent information from getting out. It was all under wraps—why he was put in solitary confinement in Paremoremo prison. That is an absolute disgrace. Just before the “lie in unison” thing was written, I went to see Mr Zaoui in Paremoremo prison. It was absolutely disgraceful. He was not given the right to have a lawyer of his choice. He was assigned a lawyer that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority later found was inadequate. He was in solitary confinement, shut out, and they were trying to keep it all in total secrecy so that he could not even get proper legal representation.
When I first went to see him he had a bare cell, and he was not allowed to have a copy of the Koran, or any writing materials. His radio did not work, etc., etc., and I had to push very strongly at that time—as MPs do when they visit prisons to look at the condition of prisoners—for him to have appropriate support there. For doing that—and it is in the media logs; it is very interesting the way it is portrayed in those media logs of Mr Ian Smith—I was attacked, and the Immigration Service seems to glorify that. Mr Smith stated that Green MP Keith Locke was told off in Parliament by the Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel, for getting into high security Paremoremo prison in Auckland and raising the hopes of suspected terrorist Ahmed Zaoui. Ms Dalziel accused Mr Locke of breaching an MP’s powers under the Penal Institutions Act. I was doing my job as an MP. That is the problem, and I think that is one of the reasons why that Minister is no longer Minister—she did not accept the rights of MPs to go into prisons, and she did not accept the rights of MPs to raise the disastrous situation of people like Mr Zaoui at that time, in the media. It is disgraceful that as a result of this cover-up—the information is only starting to come out, bit by bit—that Mr Zaoui was forced to spend 8 months suffering in solitary confinement, which caused him extreme mental distress, as has been shown by the psychologists who have visited him. The original police document shows they did not want people to go in—it is in the original police document that all visitors should be monitored, etc.
Failures have been exposed across the Department of Corrections, the Immigration Service, the New Zealand Police, and the Security Intelligence Service, in this case. It is good that the Ombudsman has now agreed—on Matt Robson’s initiative—to inquire into the handling of this case by the Customs Service, the Department of Corrections, and the Immigration Service. I understand there is also a Police Complaints Authority complaint being lodged. The Security Intelligence Service is under big scrutiny now.
I have put in a request for the Ombudsman to look at any role that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade played in this exercise, too. That is the Government agency that should be more skilled in knowing what is going on in Algeria and the repressive nature of that regime, and countering the misinformation that has been used against Mr Zaoui and was quite rightly discredited by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, which said he should have refugee status. One thing that comes out of this whole sorry episode is that the one person who has integrity, who is shown to be honest in this whole thing, is Mr Zaoui himself, in that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority clearly described Mr Zaoui as truthful, uncontrived, and candid, even when the evidence might prove to be disadvantageous.
What needs to happen out of this, if we look at, particularly, the exchanges with Andrew Lockhart and Mel Smith, the investigator in this report, is that Mr Lockhart should go, too. He should no longer be in that job. It is a very sorry tale. When we look at the media log, we see that it is just so biased and distorted the way things are presented. Mr Zaoui is only now, as a result of the release, finally, of the Security Investigation Service accusation against him being informed of what they claim to have against him.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT): On behalf of the ACT party I would like to join with other Opposition parties in Parliament this afternoon, and express our outrage when we find the contents of this report of the Ombudsman to Parliament—a report upon the actions of the Department of Labour—with regard to an Official Information Act complaint by Sarah Boyle of the office of the Leader of the Opposition. I would like to commend Murray McCully, who took up the cudgels in this case, and pursued it, and ensured that this Government was not able to just sweep it under the carpet, as is its wont. I believe that Murray McCully has done a very good job. Really, what we see in this Ombudsman’s report vindicates the position that he was calling for, from the outset. In fact, all Opposition parties were saying that we needed an independent inquiry.
Did we get it? No, we did not. This Government has developed a culture of cover-up. Is it any wonder that the Government departments take their lead from the Government? That is the culture it is instilling in our public service. That is the real threat, and the real regret, that we should all have. It was not long ago that New Zealand rated right up the top of international ratings for being corruption-free. We were right up at the top. It was recognised that the integrity and honesty of our Parliament, our politicians, our public servants, and the public sector at large, was the best there was in the world. We have slid down that ranking, and we should be asking ourselves why. It is because of reports like this. It is because of Ministers telling lies to the public of New Zealand. Sure, they lost their job, but what it really does is erode the integrity, the honesty, and the standing of the public sector at large.
When we have elected representatives who tell lies, we have a problem. We have Government departments that take their lead from politicians, and start misleading, or spinning to the point where the facts are muddled. The Ombudsman used a wonderful word in his report: dissemblers—dissemblers of the truth, is what he said. That is damning language from any Ombudsman, to call public officials dissemblers of the truth. But that is exactly what the Minister of this same department under investigation did. She dissembled the truth. She deliberately misled. She lied to us in this Chamber, and lied to the people of New Zealand. Sure, she lost her job. She should have lost her job.
We know that the Prime Minister had this report when she fired Lianne Dalziel. In other words, she knew that she could not cover it. Her first instincts were to try to protect Lianne Dalziel. The Prime Minister herself engaged in a cover-up. Her first instincts were to join in this culture of cover-up, and sweep it under the carpet. It was only later in that week when she learnt this report from the Ombudsman totally blew the veracity of the Minister and the officials that we saw this double backflip. We had a double backflip from the Prime Minister on this issue. And we have seen a number of double backflips from the Prime Minister. I think she should join our gymnastics team in Athens, with the way she has been behaving in recent times.
Pita Paraone: We want to win gold.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY: Yes, perhaps we will keep her out of the gymnastics team. But certainly, in terms of double backflips, this Prime Minister and this Government are lowering the standards to something that is totally unacceptable.
I would also like to commend the thoroughness of the Ombudsman’s report. Mel Smith is unquestionably being tested in doing this work, and he has passed the test. He did not buckle or sweep it under the table. He has put it in very clear language, and he must be commended for that. But there are serious concerns when it is known that officials Mr Lockhart and Mr Ian Smith—not to be confused with Mr Mel Smith, the Ombudsman—are both in serious trouble; as is, I believe, the head of that department, James Buwalda. He had the opportunity to call for an independent inquiry, and it was suggested that he should. Opposition members made it quite clear that that was the standard we expected. But, oh no, he said: “Leave it all to me. I will do an internal inquiry and all will be fine.”, and he reported back that essentially all was fine.
Well, it is now known that it was not fine, and I believe that Mr Buwalda has done himself serious damage. Who tests the heads of departments? It is the head of the State Services Commission, Mr Wintringham. But unfortunately, in this instance, Mr Wintringham does not come out in a very good light, because he also strongly resisted the proposals that we should have an independent inquiry. He did not want an independent inquiry into his public service, so he resisted that.
I think there are lessons in this report from the Ombudsman for many people from the Prime Minister down, because it becomes a culture. I am seeing it with this Government, and the country is seeing it with this Government. Its spin and distortion of the truth, and its propensity to mislead is starting to erode and corrode the trust that the people of New Zealand have in it, but also, moreover, the integrity of our public sector at large. I observe that the Prime Minister with the “paintergate” affair was a classic example—signing a painting that she did not paint, initially trying to pretend that she had, and then saying: “Oh, it does not really matter.” Actually, those things are not little things.
Hon Rick Barker: Talk about immigration—
Hon KEN SHIRLEY: Those things do matter, I say to Mr Barker. They do matter. Honesty, truth, and trust cannot be compartmentalised. They are absolutes, and this Government is failing the test at every turn.
Now, I was somewhat disappointed in this debate with the new Minister, Paul Swain. He is fresh to job—an action man on the spot who will sort it all out, read the recommendations, follow them, and sort it all out. But what did he do in this debate? All he did was attack the messenger, Murray McCully. He spent most of his speech attacking the messenger. Is that a Minister or a Government that is listening and responding to the recommendations of the Ombudsman? I do not think so. His natural instincts, which he gets from the culture of his Cabinet and his Prime Minister, is to spin it and try to mislead, obfuscate, and pretend that some other truth prevails. That is what he did in this very debate, and I certainly found that very disappointing. I am sure other Opposition members would have found that very disappointing.
I say to the Minister that it is not an acceptable standard. The Minister cannot try to blame the messenger. When one is caught out like this, one has to admit it, front up, and do something about it. That is the harsh reality. I think this Government is in trouble. The public of New Zealand think this Government is in trouble, and all its spin doctoring is not working for it any more.
MARC ALEXANDER (United Future): I rise on behalf of United Future to speak in this urgent debate regarding the Ombudsman’s report into the “lie in unison” memo. This whole episode arose in December 2002, after a New Zealand Herald editorial criticised the lack of information released by the New Zealand Immigration Service about Ahmed Zaoui. In response, a media adviser with the department, Ian Smith, wrote a memo stating: “I was let down badly. Everyone had agreed to lie in unison, but all the others caved in and I was the only one left singing the original song.”
Claims by the Opposition parties in this House of a cover-up were greeted with the release of the Department of Labour’s own internal report into the matter last September. That report cleared staff of a conspiracy. It noted that Mr Smith had shown poor judgment in making the “lie in unison” statement, and that he was being sarcastic and humorous. It also cleared staff of deliberately trying to mislead the Ombudsman, when they assured him that the memo did not exist. Clearly it did exist, and so today we have the Ombudsman’s report into whether New Zealand Immigration Service officials deliberately kept the memo from him.
The last time the House looked at this issue, it was a snap debate in response to the release of the initial report by the Secretary of Labour. At the time we made the point that the chief concern for United Future was that people must be able to have a degree of faith in the operations of the public service and, particularly, that they should maintain due respect for the law. In this case, we are dealing with the Official Information Act, the very legal mechanism that allows for transparency, which made New Zealand a world leader in facilitating open government.
Although we were not convinced that the circulation of an email to 300 people qualified as a conspiracy, we were concerned that officials did not respond appropriately to the Ombudsman’s request for information under the Official Information Act. Today’s report by the Ombudsman has found that two Immigration Service staff members, including Mr Smith, failed to display the professionalism expected of public servants; that their actions were contrary to the law and wrong within the context of the Official Information Act; and that there was a deliberate attempt to avoid reference to the real information being sought. However, he could not find sufficient evidence to conclude that there had been a conspiracy to deceive the Ombudsman.
Nevertheless, those findings are troubling, and lead me to make a couple of points. The first concerns the actions of the departmental secretary, both in stating that he found no evidence that officials deliberately misled the Ombudsman, and then in refusing an independent inquiry—particularly given that we now know that such an inquiry would have put that first assertion under some strain. My belief is that in that situation—which periodically arises within the public service, where departments are perceived to have made mistakes, or even indulged in conspiracies or illegal actions—it is best for all concerned to situate any subsequent inquiry with an independent person or body.
Some might argue that Dr Buwalda displayed the classic public service ethos in defending his department, but with that comes the responsibility for the damage to its credibility if that defence turns out to be unjustified. We have seen a number of recent cases, such as the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services’ treatment of Ron Burrows’ call regarding Coral-Ellen, and the rape and conspiracy claims against the police, which are being investigated independently. I do not think that the use of independent inquiries in any way suggests mistrust in the entities involved, but is instead a healthy sign that concerns about departmental actions are treated seriously, that our system is responsive, and that the outcomes of any inquiry have legitimacy and credibility. I would have thought that that is what Government departments would want, as well.
I want to turn briefly to the matter of the Official Information Act request. There is a clear need for the Immigration Service to treat those requests with the respect they deserve, and I note that the secretary has made a commitment that those processes will improve. Parliament needs to make sure that that issue is followed through, and I suggest that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee look at it specifically when it examines the department in its financial review and scrutiny of the vote. I ask the department’s officials what concrete measures they have implemented, in order to comply with the law in that regard.
I am sure that all MPs, and quite a few interested citizens, have had variable responses to their Official Information Act requests of Government departments, but in my brief experience, the agencies that take it seriously often seek clarification of the information required of the person making the request. If the Immigration Service had done that in the first place, we would not be talking about this issue today.
I close by talking more generally about the attitude that got the department into the mess in the first place—the need to spin, or conceal, information in which the public has a legitimate interest. Over the past two decades, we have the seen the rise of public relations and media management in politics at the expense of directness. Although propaganda is by no means new, it disturbs me that it has become almost a compulsory feature not just of political offices, but of Government departments as well. In the instance of the Zaoui case, and the case involving the Sri Lankan teenager, we have come to the point where there is good reason to believe that Government agencies feel the need to win the war of public opinion on any and every issue. To my mind, that is not the job of public servants, but the preserve of their political masters.
Political public relations is not used to promote the national interest, or to keep the electorate informed. It is used to make politicians look good. How much time and resources would have been saved if the department involved had stuck to its traditional role?
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister for Courts): I want to compliment Marc Alexander on a thoughtful presentation, and to say he has raised a number of sensible issues that deserve thorough consideration—unlike the speaker before him from the ACT party. I noted that there was some irony in the fact that the ACT member went on about corruption. He did not talk about Fiji, or ACT members having outstanding GST, or a whole range of other issues, and I found it somewhat ironic that he made accusations about others of the very things that they themselves are guilty of.
I contrast that with Marc Alexander, who has looked at the issues very seriously. I do take his point about the need for openness—this Government accepts that. There is no question about that. I accept the point he raised about having independent inquiries, but he would also have to acknowledge that, from time to time, Opposition parties will call for royal commissions of inquiry etc., believing that the bigger an inquiry is and the more status it has, the more justification it gives to the accusations being levelled. In dealing with inquiries, I make the point to Mr Alexander that there has to be some sense of proportion. The inquiry being conducted has to be in proportion to the issue at stake.
The issue at stake here, in terms of the New Zealand Immigration Service, is the claim by the National Party’s chief strategist, Murray McCully, that there had been an orchestrated campaign to “lie in unison”, and that it was not only amongst staff of the Immigration Service, but had links to staff in Parliament Buildings and parliamentarians—it had links everywhere—and there was this huge orchestrated cover-up campaign. The point is that Mr McCully has to accept his own words and his own decision. He said on Morning Report that he would accept the report of the Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman has been very clear. He said: “I have not seen or heard any evidence that suggests or indicates that any person or persons, as officials in NZIS, were involved in any agreement to ‘lie in unison’.”
So the basic claim by Mr McCully has been proven to be incorrect. Mr McCully stated that there was a conspiracy—an orchestrated campaign—to lie in unison. I repeat: the Ombudsman found there was no agreement to lie in unison. Mr McCully said on Morning Report that he would accept the Ombudsman’s finding, and that is what the Ombudsman has found.
To be fair, the Ombudsman has also directed his attention to two individuals, in particular. I want to say that it would be wrong of this House to make comments about the employment status of individuals. That lies with the chief executive, who is responsible for those individuals, and we want to make sure that they are treated fairly under the law, and that their position is not prejudiced. If Parliament starts making decisions about who should or should not be employed in the civil service, then we will have some problems in this country.
I think the report is timely, and is very good, and I am sure that the Immigration Service and the incoming Minister of Immigration, Mr Paul Swain, will take the issues very seriously. I restate the point that the Ombudsman found there was no agreement to lie in unison. Mr McCully’s basic thesis was that there was an orchestrated conspiracy to cover up, and no such cover-up has been found, at all. It is a welcome report.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: Mr McCully is wrong.
Hon RICK BARKER: Mr McCully is wrong. The issues raised by the Ombudsman are serious, and the Government will take them into consideration and deal with them.
Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore): This matter is like Watergate—it is the cover-up that gets people, not the original offence. That is precisely what has happened here. Officials told orchestrated lies to the Ombudsman. Precisely that sort of thing happened in the Watergate affair. Do members know what people say about Watergate? They say that it was a third-rate burglary, but that it brought down a President because people lied to the investigators. In this instance, that is exactly what happened.
The lies that we are concerned about—the ones that are the subject of this report—were those told to the Ombudsman himself. That is why the people who told them will have to go. It is worth thinking about the fact that this was an inquiry by Parliament’s man, the Ombudsman. He is a fundamental protector of our democracy. As he stated in this report, his role is a constitutional one. It surely behoves anyone who gives evidence to the Ombudsman to be truthful. That did not happen, and certain public servants lied to the Ombudsman over an extensive period of time. For months they lied—from March through to April. The situation was so serious that the Ombudsman rang the general manager of the Immigration Service, and even that extraordinary step did not change the pattern. The truth still did not come out, even though the Ombudsman had put the general manager of the Immigration Service on notice. The Ombudsman said he wanted to be told the truth about what had happened, and asked the general manager to make inquiries. Even then, the truth did not come out. It was only in July, when the relevant email document about “lying in unison” was made public on the front page of the New Zealand Herald, that the Ombudsman clearly knew that, on the face of it, there had been a lie. What was the Government’s response in July? Did it hold an independent inquiry?
John Carter: No.
Dr WAYNE MAPP: No, it did not. Was it asked to do so once? Yes. Was it asked twice? Yes. Was it asked three times? Yes. On each of those occasions, the Government refused to hold an independent public inquiry. The Minister knows that that was a serious default, and he acknowledges it.
I am particularly concerned, as are members of all the Opposition parties, about the culture that has, unfortunately, developed. I refer to some of the Ombudsman’s findings about very senior members of the department—in particular, about the general manager of the Immigration Service, Mr Lockhart. Let us remember that Mr Lockhart was the person whom the Ombudsman had specifically rung. On page 41 of the report, the Ombudsman states: “I consider his omission to do so”—make the inquiry—“was unfortunate, and indicates a failure to treat my personal inquiry with the importance it merited. An Ombudsman does not usually or lightly seek a personal confirmation of a Department’s position.” The general manager was put on notice, and he is now the man who is in charge of the Immigration Service.
I can detect a pattern that has occurred, from Government members’ speeches. The Government is trying to sheet home accountability to the lower officers: the two people who were shown to have specifically lied to the Ombudsman. But I am concerned about the culture of the department. More senior staff members did not go out of their way to assist the Ombudsman, even after a personal telephone call, and even after the manager signed letters to the Ombudsman stating that everything had been properly disclosed, when clearly it had not—although perhaps the manager, at that point, had been deceived himself. Later on, in April, when put on notice, the general manager did not make the essential inquiries that we would expect of senior civil servants. I say to the Government that it will not be sufficient to sheet home responsibility to the two lower-level public servants—one of whom has left the department, in any event. More senior staff members are accountable, and must be held to account. We will be looking to the Government to do that.
This whole issue raises the question of how a culture develops in a department and affects not just lower-level officials but the most senior members of the department, whereby they believe they are not accountable to the person appointed by this Parliament to be accountable to it for the actions of the public service—one of the fundamental protections of our democracy. We have to ask whether that was because of the example of Ministers. Was there a sense of arrogance that enabled Ministers to ignore basic principles of accountability, so that when they were asked for an independent inquiry on the most cardinal of issues—whether people had told lies—those requests would be just brushed off lightly, and considered to be deserving only of an internal inquiry? Even back then it must have been clear that lies are a career killer, and we now know that Lianne Dalziel has suffered that particular fate. The issue is that the precise thing that should have concerned Lianne Dalziel last year was the very fault that she committed last week: lying publicly. She was not concerned about it because she simply did not understand how serious it was. She did not understand that last year, in relation to her department, and then she made the same error herself.
I do not believe that the Prime Minister gets off lightly on this issue. It became clear on Tuesday during question time that the Prime Minister knew last Wednesday that Ms Dalziel had—to use the euphemism—misled the public, and that she was attempting to mount what is known as a technical defence. That is exactly what the Prime Minister did last Thursday. She knew of the facts in the telephone call of last Wednesday, and tried to defend her Minister on Thursday. The Prime Minister’s public excuse is that it was only when Mr Brownlee exposed the untruthfulness to the New Zealand Press Association that she was required to act. That tells us that the Prime Minister acted only when it was made public to the entire nation that the Minister had lied and had to go. But, in truth, the Prime Minister knew on Wednesday that the Minister had given the document to TV3. So we have an extraordinary culture that has developed.
I will conclude on the point that this matter should be a salutary lesson to all members of the Government, to the public service, and, dare I say it, to Ministers in future Governments, as well. There is only one standard: “Thou shalt not lie.” That does not mean: “Thou shalt not get caught out.”; it means: “Thou shalt not lie.” We expect that standard from those people. The people who are implicated in this process—not just the lower officials, but senior officials—must be held to account. The Opposition parties will expect that. When we are in office we will conduct ourselves according to a higher standard of truthfulness than this Government has conducted itself. That is the test that has been laid down. Mr Smith has done a service to this nation by exposing the problems in the department.
The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: I move, That the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill be now read a third time. The bill contains changes to the Resource Management Act that are necessary to support the Government’s energy and climate change policies. The bill provides a stronger directive to recognise the benefits of the efficient use of energy, and the value of renewable energy as a lower greenhouse gas - emitting resource. It is about being smart in our use of energy, and about being smart in our choice of energy sources. The Resource Management Act is New Zealand’s principal legislation for ensuring the sustainable management of resources, so it is important that energy and climate change matters be given appropriate recognition within it. These changes will not result in our skylines being peppered with wind farms. Clearly all activities administered under the Resource Management Act are assessed against a suite of sustainability principles. This bill simply clarifies, within the hierarchy of decision-making criteria, the importance of not wasting energy, and of recognising the benefits of lower greenhouse gas emissions from renewable energy sources.
The bill also requires people to have particular regard to the effects of climate change. That is simply good risk management. Changes in typical rainfall patterns, a sea level rise, and potential flooding could place infrastructure and people at risk. To support that provision, the New Zealand Climate Change Office is currently developing a range of material to help councils to identify and plan for the risks associated with climate change.
Finally, the Government has chosen to control the impact on climate change from greenhouse gas emissions at the national level. By removing the ability for regional councils to also apply controls, this bill removes the potential for duplication and unnecessary costs to occur, and the potential for local controls to conflict with national objectives. The Government remains committed to ensuring that New Zealand has a sustainable energy industry, and to taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I commend this bill to the House.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country): I rise to speak in opposition to the third reading of the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill, and I do so for a number of reasons. The first reason is that this legislation will create a huge amount of uncertainty at the local government level. It was interesting to listen to the Minister’s opening comments, when he said that this bill would bring sensible legislative structure to the use of renewable resources. When one looks at the detail of the bill, and at the definition of what the Government means by that, then one can only conclude that the bill will do the exact opposite of what the Minister suggested it would do, in the sense that local government will not know what the legislation means. Surely, councils will end up employing consultants, lawyers, and goodness knows what other people to give them advice on it. That is just for one reason: the legislation will create uncertainty.
The real truth behind this bill is that the Government went overseas and ratified the Kyoto Protocol ahead of our major trading partners, in order to give the Prime Minister the opportunity to tour the world and promote herself for a position to take up after she is no longer the Prime Minister of New Zealand—which is likely to come faster than she thought it would. I think she thought she had a bit of time still to go as Prime Minister. So we may see a hastening of further trips around the world, and more of this kind of legislation.
The reality is that this legislation will not achieve its stated objectives, and we oppose it for that reason. The Resource Management Act clearly does need reform. The work that Owen McShane did prior to the 1999 election identified 12 areas of reform that were needed to the Resource Management Act. The previous National Government decided at that time to put most of those recommendations through a select committee process. Unfortunately, at the change of Government the incoming Minister put a red pen through all those recommendations, and they were not carried out. Had they been carried out this legislation would, most likely, not have been necessary. The big mistake, of course, was that this Government ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and that action has brought this legislation to the House. Ninety-two local government authorities will now have to sit down with all their various consultants and advisers, and try to figure out a way forward under this legislation. That certainly will not help, in any shape or form, with regard to the sensible use of renewable energy.
It is interesting to note from the various contributions throughout the debate that the Green Party has been all over the place on this issue. That is not unusual, but it is a little inconsistent when we are debating environmental legislation. On the one hand, the Greens support the notion put forward by the Minister of Conservation that there should not be a hydroelectricity dam built at Card Creek—the Dobson Dam—because of the significance of that area, in their view. I have visited that area; it is 200 hectares of gorse. Clearly, gorse is a new significant plant, so the Greens oppose that dam! Then, on the other hand, the Greens give support to the Government when it comes to emergency electricity generation in New Zealand. In the eye of an energy crisis they support diesel generation, using imported fuel in diesel turbines, being put in place. I think it would involve running a 747 aircraft engine on diesel. The Greens lend support to that notion, but will not allow a renewable energy source to be put in place at Card Creek on the West Coast of the South Island, where the rainfall is reliable and regular, and where there is an energy shortage. That dam would make the West Coast self-sufficient. To me, opposing that makes no sense.
At the same time as that proposal is not supported, there are huge restrictions in the same legislation, the Resource Management Act, that are stopping the huge resources of New Zealand coal—not Indonesian coal—from being developed and used in a sensible way. I ask the Minister what we are trying to achieve here. And if that is not sufficiently confusing to the people who may be listening to this debate, there is more. This bill makes reference to the discharge of greenhouse gases. That sounds pretty logical. If we adhere to the view that greenhouse gases are altering the environment and we want to bring a halt to that, then I guess that follows on. But how does that square with stopping hydroelectricity development, and at the same time allowing diesel electricity generation—allowing the importation of Indonesian coal into New Zealand for electricity generation—and putting a brake on further exploration for gas in areas like Taranaki? We can understand that the wider New Zealand public may be a bit confused about that. I am sure the Minister will take another call and disabuse people of some of their confusion, by giving a full explanation of how that ridiculous situation could have come about.
At the same time as all that is happening, this legislation will also add another complete layer of cost on to those out there in industry and business who are trying to get on with creating the wherewithal for New Zealand to develop in an environmentally sustainable way, and in a way that would use renewable energy. That would be a sensible solution to some of the energy problems that New Zealand has. I am completely at a loss as to how the Government can, with a straight face, apply these double standards up and down the country when it comes to resource consents and the development of renewable sources of energy.
The definition of renewable energy that the Government has inserted in clause 4 of the bill is, in itself, debatable. It mentions geothermal energy. As yet, I have not seen any scientific paper that states that geothermal energy is a renewable energy. There is quite a deep debate as to whether geothermal energy is a mined energy—the same as coal or any other kind of fossil fuel. I do not know the answer to that; the Minister may know. I am interested in hearing the Minister’s view on that. I am interested in hearing from anybody with a science background who can clear that up for me. To me, if we put a bore down into the earth and allow an energy source to surface, and if we use that energy source in such a way that it is not re-injected into the earth in its original form—which, of course it cannot be, because that would be perpetual motion—then that is mining, not a renewable energy source. I am interested in the explanation of that. To a layman, it does not make any sense. I see Ministers and other members of the House nodding in acknowledgment of that notion. I would be very interested in the answer to that question.
I was not on the Local Government and Environment Committee— I admit to that—so I do not know what was debated in the select committee. But I know, by looking at the minority report of the ACT party and the New Zealand National Party, that there was a huge amount of discussion around a number of issues, and that nobody could actually agree on them. That is why there is a substantial minority report on this bill, and is why I put it to the House that this legislation is flawed, wrong, and inconsistent.
John Carter: And done by Labour.
SHANE ARDERN: And it was introduced by Labour, so that should not surprise us. This legislation is wrong, is confused, is inconsistent, and will not bring any clarity to local government. It will bring a lot of confusion, and it will not achieve anything that it sets out to achieve. Somebody just said it is a typical “Parekura-ism”, and I think that is probably about right.
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): It is with great pride that I stand and speak in the third reading debate of the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill. In the time I have been sitting here and listening to colleagues, I have had the opportunity to do quite a lot of research on this issue, and I have been able to come up with some salient facts that I think may help the understanding of members in this debate.
The first important point is that this bill supports the Government’s well-established renewable energy, energy efficiency, and climate change policies, which are very, very important. It also ensures the efficient use of energy—which, I am sure, all members support; even Mr Carter over there—and the benefits of renewable energy, and the effects of climate change are flagged for those working with the Resource Management Act.
John Carter: That’s what Harry Duynhoven just read out.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Well, no—he might well have talked about some of these things, but I am also trying to create a bit of an overview, hopefully, with a little more passion.
The bill also removes ad hoc local decision-making on the control of greenhouse gas emissions, which are better managed at a national level—I think everybody agrees with that. The Government is certainly committed to a sustainable-energy future for New Zealand. This requires a balanced portfolio of energy efficiency improvements and a transition to renewable energy resources, and I think most members would agree with that. So this bill is about enacting part of the long-term strategy that enables New Zealand to achieve all those ends. Our policy will also deliver a more productive, internationally competitive, and environmentally sustainable economy, which I am sure all members also agree with.
There are some objectives to the bill. We want to give greater weight to the value of renewable energy, as I have said, and to clarify that energy efficiency should be a consideration regardless of the energy source. We want to give greater weight to considering the effects of climate change—for example, addressing the increased flood risk. Given the events of last week, we do not have to talk too much about that in this House.
We want to address issues like rising sea levels, which, of course, affect our Pacific neighbours—
Hon Ken Shirley: Where? Name one.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: —well, the Pacific actually—and changes in typical rainfall patterns. I know that the member for ACT will probably talk about some voodoo science, but I think that is all well established.
We also want to remove climate change as a consideration when local authorities consider industrial discharges of greenhouse gases. Those are best addressed through a national mechanism, which I think the Minister of Energy has pointed out on a number of occasions.
This is very good piece of work. It is an extraordinarily good bill. It has been through a long process, and I am extremely proud and privileged as a member of a good, hard-working Labour Government to support its third reading.
JIM PETERS (NZ First): I am very pleased to follow the Minister, who has just talked about a good, hard-working Labour Government and a well-established energy policy. That takes my mind back to the debate that took place on 10 May 2000. Mr Hodgson said this: “I do not have time to go through it, but I do want to say that the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill, which I hope will soon pass into New Zealand law, and the strategy that derives from it, and the attention that we will be able to pay to mandatory environmental performance standards, and the like, will make a significant contribution to that climate change strategy.”
I want to go back to the mandatory environmental performance standards, which on 10 May 2000 Minister Hodgson said were about to follow in this “well-established” energy policy. I turned to the actual bill—which was well supported by the Government, being a member’s bill—and saw that it states in clause 11 that “a strategy must be consistent with any national policy statement for the time being in force under the Resource Management Act 1991.”
Are those the elements of a “well-established” energy policy? I think not. When I go back to the bill’s opening narrative, I see it states that it will aim for energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, and planning for the effects of climate change. That language is very similar to that used by Ministers and members of the Government in the year 2000. What do we have in the year 2004? We have more pious language, more platitudes, no clear definition, no consistency, and no clarity for those people who have to work under the Act.
So when we come to the third reading debate, the question has to be asked: does the bill achieve its purposes? Does the bill give councils and practitioners—not the least, potential holders of resource consents—guidance in implementing these legislative provisions, should they be passed? Does the bill add further information? Does it impose further compliance costs upon councils and potential applicants? In other words, is this going to be an effective bill on behalf of this “hard-working” Government? The answer has to be a very clear no, no, no.
This bill does none of those things. Instead, it introduces an element of uncertainty at the very time we are—and we were last year—again at the very forefront of an energy crisis. It does that for two reasons. First of all, it does so because of a rigid adherence to renewable sources only. There has been no ability in the last 4 years for non-renewable resources—and gas and coal are the main ones—to play any real part in Government planning and thinking.
I was one of those who heard the chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee say that some of us in the House must have been talking to coal sources. I can assure our committee chairperson that I have talked to no coal sources. But what I have done, along with other members of the House, is to look at the total structure of where we are with regard to energy generation in this country—not the least because some of us are engaged in looking at the Waitaki River catchment. What we see at the present time is a very haphazard, fragmented approach. There is no coherence in our energy policy, despite the recent Act—
Hon Harry Duynhoven: Yes there is.
JIM PETERS: The Minister says otherwise. I say again that people out there in the field know that I am right—there is no coherence in our energy policy. There has been no determination to really explore the options and sources of our energy policy, and this bill is a very inadequate apology for one small segment of our potential energy policy. I am very hopeful that between now and whenever the election falls next year this issue can be well debated, because the failure of the Government—
Hon Dover Samuels: Ha, ha! We will be here.
JIM PETERS: There may be laughter and joy over there, but the failure of the Government to really pursue the alternatives—the options—will be a heavy one for New Zealanders to bear in the future with regard to higher energy prices, higher generation costs, and no long-term ability to plan.
Companies such as Genesis Energy said in their submissions that natural gas and coal would be an important energy source for at least the long-term and foreseeable future. When we examine the options—and only one of them is inherent in this bill—and look at the high cost that could yet be paid in the case of Meridian Energy’s Project Aqua, the high cost of transmission from the South Island with outdated lines, the high cost therefore to the end-line consumer, and do not seriously consider a policy that allows modern, high-technology coal stations to be sited in, for instance, the Auckland region at a cost, but not one comparable to the high cost of inter-island generation, then we have to wonder whether the Government has really thought about generation both for the present and future.
The other issue I want to bring back to members’ minds is this: this bill contains no decent, proper definition of the effects of climate change at all—we have had a pass-off. If one looks at the Resource Management Act, one sees some comment there about those effects, but they should have been effectively spelt out in this particular bill, and they were not. More than that, there was certainly no attempt—nor could there be—to adequately convey what benefits were to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy. Nor were we supplied with the comparative value of the benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy, as compared with the development of energy from non-renewable sources. They were just not there.
So throughout the bill we have had a Minister who should have worked towards a national policy statement, to give mandatory guidance to those who operate and work under the Act. He should at least have talked to us about environmental performance standards, if that was to be the desirable end of the bill—in the Government’s mind—with regard to the end use of energy. Instead, none of those things eventuated. The Ministry for the Environment told us in recent years it would develop national policy standards, but eventually it did nothing at all. Therefore, I say again that this policy—the strategy of 2001 as developed from the Act of 2000—and this slight interference with energy generation in this country, will not be good enough.
I say again that the Government had the opportunity just over a year ago to seriously look at the Resource Management Act and produce a consistent Act. It did not take that chance, and we are going through these two potential Acts—one here, the other with regard to the Waitaki River valley—without any overarching purpose and policy.
New Zealand First is very mindful of the fact that we have energy needs, but we do not support this Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill. The bill reflects the Government’s unfounded optimism in the continued value of adherence to the Kyoto Protocol. It reflects an unfounded belief in the long-term benefits of a renewable energy source, as opposed to those that are non-renewable. This bill is not sufficient to meet the continuing needs of power generation for us today, or in the future, and therefore should not proceed.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green): This debate has been characterised, like all debates I have heard in this House on climate change and the Kyoto Protocol, by an ostrich-like determination to ignore the evidence for human-induced climate change. A couple of years ago it took the form of denial that the climate was, in fact, in any way changing. That is no longer tenable, and most New Zealanders can see for themselves that climate variability has increased. So these days the argument is: yes, climate is changing, but human activities have no influence on that change, and therefore there is nothing that we ought to do about it. Well, 10 years ago now, the Governments of the world got together to find the best scientific minds in climatology, and form an inter-Governmental organisation to pursue exhaustively the science of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contains the best minds of the scientific community around the world—some thousands of them, and they have been working for a decade. But those who want us to do nothing will not accept the findings of this august panel, and they want to look elsewhere.
Yesterday we had advice from Mr Ken Shirley that sea levels are not, in fact, rising, despite the advice of the world scientists. It was really interesting that as I left the House yesterday a member of the public who was in the gallery came up to me on the way out and introduced himself as a scientist. He said that I might be interested in the latest paper in this week’s issue of Nature. One could not get much more prestigious science than Nature, so I looked it up. This is a satellite measurement study that sets out to resolve the contradictions between previous different ways of measuring sea-level rise that had come to different conclusions. It has resolved the nature of the uncertainty between those predictions, and it has confirmed the upper measurement that globally the world’s oceans are rising by 1.5 to 2 millimetres a year.
I ask those who will not accept anything that Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control writes, anything that is published in Nature or science, or anything that derives from Europe—and that seems to be the general feeling around here; that is, all of those sources are totally discredited—whether they will accept the word of the Pentagon. Will they accept the word of the Global Business Network? Last week the Observer made public a report by Peter Schwartz, a Central Intelligence Agency consultant, and the former head of planning at Royal Dutch Shell Group, and the other author, Doug Randall from the Global Business Network.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: Well-known networkers!
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS: Absolutely! One could say a lot of “pinko-greenies”. That report was suppressed for 4 months by the Bush administration because its findings were so devastating. That report stated that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy. It states: “The threat to global climate stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism.” That is something we have been trying to tell anyone who will listen for quite some time. It states: “Climate change should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern. An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.”
If there are two groups in the world that President Bush and his administration listen to, they are the Pentagon and the oil industry, and here we have both of them advising him that climate change is a more serious threat to the security of America than terrorism. In the light of these statements, this bill is timid and lightweight. It does a little bit of good; it potentially does a little bit of harm. That gives us a difficult decision to make at the end of this debate. Elevating energy efficiency and renewable energy to the list of matters to which Resource Management Act decision-makers must pay particular regard is a little bit of progress. That progress is weakened a bit by the inclusion of geothermal energy—which is often not renewable, and we still do not know enough about it—and the inclusion of hydro, which is renewable from the point of view of the water, but, unfortunately, not from the point of view of the braided rivers that it runs through, or the black stilt and rare native fish that live in it. So renewability is a problematic definition, depending on what one applies it to.
Jim Peters was absolutely right when he said that despite my energy efficiency legislation that went through in the year 2000, we still have almost no energy standards, we have no national policy statements, and energy policy is still not particularly coherent. We have to admit that the present Minister inherited some ghastly problems from the previous administration, and he has spent a lot of time trying to fix those, but we are just about running out of time for that and we do need to see a coherent national energy policy in New Zealand. I look forward to discussing this further with Mr Peters, perhaps in our select committee.
However, this bill also does another thing that is somewhat positive in that it allows councils to plan to mitigate the effects of climate change. Local government itself asked for that, and it may well help Rangitikei and others planning to limit the repeat of the flooding that has happened recently and the slips of recent days. Substantial guidance has already been produced by the Ministry for the Environment to assist councils that want to know what the effects of climate change are likely to be and how to mitigate them. I do not agree with Mr Peters that the effects of climate change should have been listed in the Act, because I think there is still quite a lot of uncertainty around that and we need to be able to adapt that advice in terms of the best and latest science.
However, this bill may also do some harm, and that is what gives us a difficult decision in terms of how we will vote in a few minutes. The power of regional councils to control greenhouse gas emissions has been removed, yet the Government refuses to legislate for the national instrument that ought to replace it. Of course, a national economic instrument is a much better way of controlling greenhouse emissions. We have always acknowledged that, but we now face the real possibility that there may never be one, especially in light of the refusal to accept my amendment yesterday, which would have linked the coming into force of the removal of the regional powers to the coming into force of a national economic instrument to replace them. Instead, we will have a gap, which, at best, will be 3 years, but possibly will be for ever.
The decision for the Greens is not easy. On balance, we have decided that we will vote for the bill in recognition that section 7 improvements are worth having, and that we will double our efforts to shift some taxation off income and wealth generation and on to carbon and other forms of pollution in the form of a carbon tax so that there will be a national economic instrument to take the place of the regional council powers.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs): I seek the leave of the House to make a personal explanation. This afternoon following a point of order I stated that I had not used the term “you” in Māori in answer to a question. I have now listened to a tape and realised that I was mistaken. I had used the Māori term for “you”. I apologise unreservedly to the House for my error.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT): The ACT party will certainly be opposing this Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill. Members just have to go to the first paragraph of this legislation brought to this House by the beleaguered minority Labour Government to see that the bill introduces measures to support the Government’s climate change policy package. If members ever wanted a reason or justification not to support this legislation, that is it. This Government’s climate change policy package has been nothing but a disaster from day one. There is another aspect of the bill—and the Government keeps wheeling it out; I think it is called the “salami technique”. The Government keeps cutting off a slice and presenting to the Parliament, and each new one is worse than the one that came before. It certainly does not address or solve any problems associated with the energy situation and the environmental consequences of that in this country, or anywhere else for that matter.
I shall correct one point the Green spokesperson Jeannette Fitzsimons made before she resumed her chair. She specifically criticised me for saying that there is no hard scientific evidence of sea level rises. I will quote the reference, and I invite all members to go into the website. The Proudman oceanographic institute has kept sea level records throughout the Pacific for 50 to 60 years. I know that there is a site at Tuvalu, Honiara, and most of the Pacific atolls and islands. There is no significant sea level rise measurable in any of those sites. Yet, in spite of that, because of the political beat-up, Prime Ministers have gone to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, wrung their hands, and said: “We’re all going to be washed out and we’re going to have to move down your way.”, and comments like that, yet there is no evidence to support that.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons gave a scientific reference. She referred to an article in the Nature magazine—I think it was the latest publication—that had evidence that the sea level was rising at 1½ to 2 millimetres a year. The United Nations model says that it should have increased 3 metres by now. Yet the only thing she can measure is 1½ millimetres, which is the thickness of two fingernails.
Let us do a quick calculation. If the sea level is rising 1½ millimetres year, do we need to rush off the coast? No, because it will take 750 years to rise a metre. At that rate, assuming that it is a constant rate—and of course it is not; all water bodies fluctuate, so there are variations. It will not always be up; it will be going down at other times. Certainly, the climate is changing. It always has been changing. At the peak of the last ice age, between, say, 25,000 and 15,000 years ago, the sea level was 200 metres lower. Are we saying that about a world population of half a million people, and the equivalent number of Neanderthals who were around at that time, were causing this? They caused a sea level rise of what is 200 metres lower than it is now, to the current level? But no, the Greens have a Nature magazine article—alarm, shock, horror—that states that the sea level is rising at the pace of two fingernails a year. Even if it assumes that it is all constantly rising, and not fluctuating, which it clearly is, then in 750 years it would be a metre higher. Someone said to let us start building the arks now. That is unbelievable hogwash that this Government has swallowed, hook, line and sinker. There is no question of that.
Then, of course, we have the Kyoto Protocol. I was a member of a New Zealand delegation in 1992 that went to the Earth Summit conference in Rio de Janeiro. I was there. I said: “This is nuts. Don’t sign. Simon, don’t do it, boy; don’t sign.”, but he had his pen out. He was determined to sign it, because it made him feel all warm down under. They were determined to sign that fundamentally flawed Kyoto Protocol.
The interesting thing is that scientists tell us that even if the protocol is fully implemented, it will not work. In 100 years’ time, if the protocol is fully implemented, at best it would buy us 5 years of change. It is grossly unfair. Only OECD countries, of which New Zealand is one, have to do anything. We have a huge commitment, and Simon Upton and this Government were prepared to put on the thickest hair shirt and say “We’ll show the way. We’ll lead the world. We’ll tell them. We’ll save the planet.”
How much does New Zealand actually contribute to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? It is 0.2 percent. Yet we are wearing the thickest hair shirt and running round saying that we single-handedly will shoot ourselves in both feet and save the planet while we are about it. What absolute rubbish! This bill is just another step along that foolish pathway. It is crazy and it bears no examination whatsoever to say that it is nonsense. There are 45 prominent scientists in the United States alone who have signed a petition, effectively saying that the Kyoto Protocol is absolute hogwash. Yet this Government roars off. What is the problem? It is captured by geopolitical agendas. It is the bureaucrats who rush off to meetings every 6 months all around the world; they confer, discuss, and then ask where it is spring, in time for their next meeting, and that they will go there. They spend fortunes going to those meetings.
Often the recommendations of scientists are totally overturned and distorted by the bureaucrats and the politicians. I have to tell members that this so-called human induced climate change industry is self-perpetuating, and it is out of control. It is not to say that there are not serious issues. There certainly are serious issues, but the Kyoto Protocol is not the answer, it will not solve them, and what New Zealand will do by ratifying it, is shoot itself in the foot. We will suffer more than any other country. Our steelworks and our cement works will close. What will they do? Will it make any difference to the world’s climate? Not one bit! They will go off to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand, wherever, where they have no obligation whatsoever. China, with that roaring growth economy, has no obligation whatsoever. India is under no obligation whatsoever. The whole of South America has no obligation whatsoever. Australia and the United States were sensible enough to say that they do not want a bar of it. Yet little old New Zealand roared out there, put on the thickest hair shirt, and said that we are right into it, we are going to lead the charge, and we will save the planet.
Our salvation may be that Russia probably will not sign it. It might, but I do not think it will. If Russia does not sign it, it will not come into effect. So we are putting in place all these measures that are in this legislation, for no reason whatsoever. If we look at our energy sector we are saying that we cannot use coal. We know that our gas is running out. We know that we do not want to dam, modify, and harness, all our remaining wild rivers; we will not have nuclear energy, because this Government has a mantra on that. Coal—we have enough coal to last us 1,000 years of full energy use. Our Southland lignite deposits alone are equivalent to 50 Maui gasfields. Yet this Government puts its head in the sand, pulls the hood over its head, and says: “Oh no, coal is bad.” Modern technology makes coal a very cost-effective energy source, and a relatively clean one. Germany has just commissioned a 3,000-megawatt new coal station.
LARRY BALDOCK (United Future): I begin first by thanking the officials for their assistance throughout the passage of this legislation. They have worked very hard for us. I also thank fellow select committee members, who at times engaged in vigorous debate, as we worked through these issues.
The speaker before me said there were some serious issues that needed to be addressed. He presented a very good argument, and was able to eloquently and entertainingly put forward some statistics, but I would not like to rest my future on his statistics. He admitted that there were some serious issues, but did nothing to address them, at all. United Future will support the third reading of this bill because we support renewable energy use. We think it is sensible. We think it should be promoted in New Zealand. It makes good sense.
We support the efficient use of energy. This bill makes some progress in encouraging that in New Zealand, and we think that is worthy of support. We also support common-sense planning for the potential climate change effects that could come. No one is trying to say that we know everything that will happen. No one would have predicted the storms that have hit this country this year. I think the speaker before me admitted that there were some serious climate issues around the world, and it is sensible for us to do what we can to prepare for that. For that reason, United Future will support this bill.
This bill is not the Kyoto Protocol bill. That legislation was passed through Parliament earlier in our term, and United Future clearly opposed signing up to or ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, because we do not believe it is an appropriate response to the serious issues that face us. But this bill is something entirely different. It is a common-sense, moderate approach to some of those issues, and we will be supporting the third reading.
This bill will not save the planet. No one is trying to suggest that it will, but it will move us in a sensible direction, and help us with our policy here. First, this bill requires that local councils plan for the effects of climate change, and we believe that with some appropriate guidance from the Climate Change Office, councils will be able to do that sensibly throughout the country. If we do some serious planning for those issues now, it may result in the saving of property in the future, and potentially even the saving of lives. We are happy to support that.
Second, this bill attempts to level the playing field with regard to renewable energy projects. We believe that is a good thing to do. It is not always easy to get consent for renewable energy projects, because they often affect the communities in which they are located. This bill seeks to give a bit of assistance in that process—not really an advantage, but simply a levelling of the playing field—so that they will be able to compete and get the consents they need, in order to deliver New Zealand more energy on a renewable basis. We think that is good.
We also welcome the fact that the bill no longer requires that regional councils take note of the effect of the discharge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is good news. It may not be what the Government entirely intends, and it certainly is not what the Green Party wanted from the bill—which is why Jeanette Fitzsimons tried to move her amendment in the Committee stage yesterday. She thought it would be tied to the carbon charge, and therefore the two would come into effect at the same time. We do not believe that regional councils should ever have been taking note of the effect of greenhouse gas emissions, and we are glad to see that this bill will remove that requirement.
This bill creates a window of opportunity for us in New Zealand. It could be a very long window, depending on how long it takes the Government to complete its climate change proposals. We hope it will eventually alter its strategy and recognise that the emission of greenhouse gases is not the most pressing thing that faces us as a nation, and that we should be looking at alternative forms of energy that might have greenhouse gas emissions, but save some other environmental situations we have in our country.
A year ago I went to Europe to look at some of its energy production. I was astounded to find that Europe relies a great deal on waste-to-energy. It incinerates a great deal of its waste and turns it into energy, and I welcome the fact that this bill may remove one further impediment to that process being developed in New Zealand.
I know that there are companies that have some very good proposals for how they could deal with the waste we produce. In fact, we produce so much waste in New Zealand that it could almost be called a renewable energy resource. It is something we seem to develop every year, and is not likely to go away. I have seen reports where companies have suggested that we could build three plants in New Zealand and incinerate all our waste, after recycling as much as we can from it. Those plants could incinerate most of our waste, generate 300 megawatts of electricity for us, and get rid of those unsightly landfills around the country that do no good for anybody.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: They need a bit more vision—
LARRY BALDOCK: Yes, the member is right. It is still not a lost cause. The technology is much improved, even since the Meremere days, and it is something I believe we should look at very seriously. Three plants located around the nation would take care of our waste and generate 300 megawatts of electricity for us.
When I was in Germany, I also looked at a sewage treatment plant that incinerates its sludge after completion of the treatment process, and is able to generate 80 percent of the energy needed to run the plant. Now, we just would not get a consent for that under the current requirements, because of the greenhouse gas emissions that would come from it. But New Zealand does have a problem with sewage sludge, because we do not know what to do with it. For a while there, we started spreading it around the garden, thinking it was good fertiliser, until we found out what was in it, and its concentrations of dioxin.
I think it is excellent that perhaps we now have an opportunity to see some of that technology brought into New Zealand or developed here. We have the expertise here, and some of our sewage treatment plants might be able to look at adding on incineration to get rid of the sludge and produce energy for the nation, as well.
Perhaps now that greenhouse gas emissions will not be considered, we may also be able to look at coal-fired generation, which I believe is something that we should be doing in New Zealand, as well. I have to congratulate the Associate Minister for Energy, Harry Duynhoven, because while we were here yesterday, debating furiously about this bill and talking about coal a great deal, he was up the road actually opening a fantastic plant that is a pilot project in coal. Apparently, it was also started with $6 million from the Government to CRL Energy, for which I commend the Government.
This is the beginning of the kind of technology we need in New Zealand, where coal can be burnt efficiently and in an environmentally safe way. Ultimately, it may lead to technology able to sequester carbon dioxide, and we will be able to burn coal without any effect at all as far as greenhouse gas emissions go. So I commend Harry Duynhoven. He may have a broken arm at the moment, but he was quicker than the rest of us—he was up the road doing something effective for New Zealand in opening a plant that will be of great benefit to us.
The Kyoto Protocol, as I said earlier, is pretty much dead and buried, and we welcome that. The speaker for the Greens, Jeanette Fitzsimons, said that 10 years ago some of the best minds in the world got behind this protocol and developed it. It just escapes her attention that some of the best minds in the world live in Australia, the US, and Russia, and they have rejected this strategy as a means of addressing the concerns that face the world. Initially perhaps, the Russians saw it as a bit of a windfall, but they have since realised that if they want a developing economy, signing up to the Kyoto Protocol could be the worst thing they ever do.
But as I said earlier, we do not support this bill because it is the “Kyoto Bill”—we support it because it is a common-sense, sensible strategy. It has some advantages for us in New Zealand. It is not the entire answer, but United Future will be happy to support it in its third reading, and then address our attention to other important matters for the nation.
Hon Chris Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): Before I come to your point of order, Mr Carter, I would just remind members that throughout this debate there has been reference to a certain member in the House—good-natured, of course. I ask members to please remember their obligations to the guidelines on the correct address for members in this House. It was good-natured, so I did not want to pull the speakers up.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave under Standing Order 343 to give a personal statement to clarify an answer I gave to a supplementary question on Question No. 8 today regarding the Ruapehu lahar.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): Leave has been sought for that course of action. Is there any objection?
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want a point of clarification. This is the second one in half an hour. Could we have an indication of how many more are coming today?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): No, it is quite clear. Leave has been sought. We are aware of whom it is coming from and of the nature of it. Is there any objection? There appears to be none.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Today I said that the Government is taking every step it possibly can to avoid what is a natural phenomenon. I would like to clarify that I intended to say that the Government is taking every step it possibly can to avoid harm from what is a natural phenomenon.
DAVE HEREORA (Labour): I rise in support of this bill, and I suppose it is with a slight disappointment that I have heard the comments from the ACT member, especially those surrounding ACT’s position, which is that this is another step along a foolish pathway. That suggests to me that the ACT member does not support well-established climate change and energy policies. More important, he does not agree with a platform or basis for the national coordination of controls on greenhouse gas emissions. I think that is a must in our society today. The bill also ensures that the efficient use of energy, the benefits of renewable energy, and the effects of climate change are flagged for the attention of those working with the Resource Management Act, and, importantly, provides for national leadership, clarified roles, and reduced administration, compliance, and participation costs related to energy and climate change matters. Furthermore, it gives greater weight to the value of renewable energy and clarifies that energy efficiency should be a consideration, regardless of the energy source. I commend this bill to the House.
BRIAN CONNELL (National—Rakaia): The Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill is muddled and confusing. It will prove dysfunctional in its application to the energy sector and, consequently, it will slow down infrastructure development in that sector just at the point when it should be speeding up. That will prove to be critical. When the lights go out across New Zealand, I will leave it to Pete Hodgson and his cohorts to face up to the angry public of New Zealand, and to tell people why providing a photo opportunity for the Prime Minister was more important than having a viable electricity sector. That is what this bill is really about, is it not? It is a rearguard action to cover this Government’s determination to rush headlong into ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, regardless of the implications and consequences of that to the productive sector of New Zealand.
That this legislation will impose additional costs on councils and ratepayers, I have no doubt. This bill requires councils to plan for climate change, although there is huge uncertainty as to its causes and effects. Temperature and rainfall models at a global—let alone a national or a local—level are scenarios, not predictions. Mr Shirley has already made the point, but it is worth repeating, that there are 17,000 highly regarded scientists worldwide who say that the models underpinning man’s role in global warming theories are seriously flawed. How, then, are councils meant to plan for global warming with any confidence? The answer is that they simply cannot do so. We cannot even agree on that at a national, let alone an international, level. Much money will be spent on consultation, consultants, and reports, but the progress will be nil. This legislation will not make a jot of difference to climate change, and therein lies the rub. What is certain is that the productive sector will be frustrated. Working through the Resource Management Act process right now is a nightmare, but compared with the requirements of this bill, it is a cakewalk. One of the biggest constraints on business in this country is certainty with regard to electricity supply. The cost of that supply is, of course, important, but a guaranteed constant supply is absolutely essential. It goes to the very heart of whether a business is prepared to invest its capital. Unless our environmental rules are simplified, that very confidence will be shattered.
I have no doubt whatsoever that we are experiencing a period of global warming. It is not the first and it will not be the last, despite all the do-gooders who preach the gospel of doom, gloom, and destruction, etc. That will not make a bit of difference to the process. What I am not convinced about is man’s contribution to global warming. Whatever one’s view on that, the problem is outside New Zealand’s ability to alter. For goodness’ sake, New Zealand’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is 0.02 percent. When we put the issue in that context, we have to wonder why the Government decided to make global warming New Zealand’s problem. Why sign up to an agreement that our major trading partners think is utter foolishness and, therefore, disadvantage our productive sector? The Government’s answer, of course, is that we have to do our bit. Is that not a noble concept? What a pity it is that the Government did not apply that rule when it came to doing our bit with regard to our contribution to security across Australasia. The Anzac spirit is dying, and I lay the blame for that squarely at the feet of the Labour Party. The cost to New Zealand of thumbing our nose at our best friends will be counted in the billions of dollars, and it is something I deeply regret and apologise for on behalf of all Kiwis.
Who will pay for this type of legislative nonsense? The Government’s first response was to try to tax farmers—or, more specifically, their animals. That did not come to pass, and it was the first of the major U-turns that has characterised this Government over recent weeks. It was the first sign that people in this country are sick and tired, and have had a gutsful, of this poll-driven Government. The people of this country have lost confidence in this administration, and this type of bill will do absolutely nothing to restore their confidence in it.
Clause (3)(a)(i) of the bill deals with the efficiency of the end use of energy. To my mind, that is totally illogical. The bill’s message is that we do not really care how efficient we are at generating electricity, but we will thump people for how they cook their toast or vacuum the house. The bill limits the options for how we are to generate electricity. It may not do so directly, but it does so by its emphasis on renewable energy sources. We all know that we have an energy crisis, but if people dare to mention the burning of coal to generate electricity, they are branded as heretics. Green Party members, I believe, would probably try to burn them at the stake for doing so, if they could find a non-polluting, tree-hugging, hippy kind of way to do so. We have 800 to 1,000 years’ worth of coal reserves in New Zealand—enough to solve all our generation problems—but we cannot have even a rational debate about it. Despite the advice to the contrary that the Green Party offered yesterday, I say emissions from the burning of coal can be reduced by up to 50 percent if we use the right kind of technology. I believe it is about time that we started embracing that, and doing something about it.
The water options for electricity generation are also running out. The much-vaunted Project Aqua will not solve the problem. By the time it is built, the demand for electricity will be outstripping our supply, so the question we must ask ourselves is what we will do then. Will we destroy another river? Or will we use wind generation? Can members imagine tens of thousands of noisy, and yet to be proven, windmills dotted across our landscape?
Jim Peters: Tens of thousands?
BRIAN CONNELL: OK, let us allow that there would be 5,000 windmills, not tens of thousands. Actually, I do not resile from that figure. I believe that there would be 5,000, or maybe 10,000, windmills. Who knows? That is just the problem—we do not know.
Hon Ken Shirley: We will be just like the Netherlands.
BRIAN CONNELL: Yes, New Zealand will look just like the Netherlands. I would rather support a few discreet coal-fired plants, located exactly where we need them, than put up with the noise pollution from windmills.
The Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill is in fantasyland. It will not make a positive contribution to climate change, but will simply be another bureaucratic nightmare. It is not a salvation; it is a distraction. The bill will not change global warming outcomes by one iota. In my opinion, the quicker that this legislation is consigned to the rubbish bin, the better it will be. National does not support this bill. This bill has as much chance of getting National’s support as the Prime Minister has of getting the support of her Māori caucus.
LINDSAY TISCH (National—Piako): I spoke during the Committee stage, and made National’s position very clear. This bill is nonsense. It takes away opportunities for investment and growth, which are criteria that National believes are important to grow the economy. The worst thing with a bill like this is that it stops initiatives from people who would be prepared to invest in infrastructure. Two issues come to mind with regard to infrastructure—roading, and energy. Under this bill, we would not have the energy resources to grow the economy, and that is something that National opposes. In this case, the bill does absolutely nothing. It ties up, and adds to, the bureaucracy, red tape, and regulatory creep that we find with compliance costs—especially under the Resource Management Act.
I spoke in the Committee stage about Solid Energy. Solid Energy runs the coalmines in my electorate at Huntly. We have an opportunity because there are enough coal reserves for over 1,000 years, as Mr Shirley has identified. Why are they not being used? They are tied up because this Government, with its Resource Management Act and all its consents, is stifling the opportunity to be able to use those coal reserves for the benefit not only of that community, but also of the whole country. That is what is happening because this Government has its mind made up, and it should not be happening. What happens in reality is that thousands and thousands of tonnes of coal comes in through the Port of Tauranga, through my electorate, and is stored overnight.
Hon Harry Duynhoven: We heard all this the other day.
LINDSAY TISCH: That is right, and this is important, because if this Government took notice of what we say, we would not be in a position of having to import coal when we have coal sitting on our doorstep. It is ridiculous. We export coal from the West Coast of the South Island to Japan, and we bring in coal from Indonesia to Huntly to fuel the Genesis power station.
That is how this Government operates. It has absolutely no idea of what makes the world go round. That is the sort of stupid, stupid decision that this Government gets involved in. The Minister said—when he heard me say this the other day—that it was important that the Government keeps hammering home that these things are important. Until this Government learns that it is stifling investment and initiative with this sort of stupid legislation, National will continue to vote against it and fight against this sort of nonsense.
It was interesting that the United Future member spoke about going to Germany and seeing where they use sewage to generate some energy. Of course, the greenhouse emissions that come from that would never be allowed in New Zealand. Two years ago I was with a delegation that went to Wollongong, just out of Sydney, where we saw something similar. In Wollongong, rubbish is brought into a great compacting operation and a recycling set-up that I have never seen before. It showed great initiative and great opportunities, and we saw that it was being utilised to provide power to the city. That company was looking to come into New Zealand because it believed it could take care of a lot of New Zealand’s waste.
It is already in Italy, and it saw that there was an opportunity to come into New Zealand. But, no, it would not come here, because this Government, with its resource management legislation and prescriptive interpretation of everything that ticks, makes it impossible for a firm like that to make that investment in New Zealand. This Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill shackles investment and shackles opportunity, and National, as it did in the Committee stage, is voting against it.
A party vote was called for on the question, That the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Bill be now read a third time.
New Zealand Labour 52; Green Party 9; United Future 8; Progressive 2.
New Zealand National 25; New Zealand First 13; ACT New Zealand 6.
Bill read a third time.
The House adjourned at 5.59 p.m.