Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by the answers given on his behalf to all my questions in the House on Thursday, 22 March?QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Hon Dr Nick Smith—Actions as Minister for ACC
1. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by the answers given on his behalf to all my questions in the House on Thursday, 22 March?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.
Kevin Hague: Given his answers that no further independent inquiry was needed into matters to do with ACC and that the Prime Minister had conducted his own investigation, what was the nature of his private investigation, and what evidence did this investigation consider?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The answer given on the previous day in the House was that the Prime Minister had considered this matter, along with Dr Nick Smith, in relation to the Cabinet Manual and the responsibilities of Ministers when it comes to conflicts of interest.
Kevin Hague: Did the Prime Minister’s private investigation ascertain whether his previous Minister, Nick Smith, had intervened in any other ACC claims besides Ms Pullar’s?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I cannot answer that question. What I can say is that the matter related to the former Minister’s handling of the case as it related to requirements in the Cabinet Manual. That was the Prime Minister’s primary investigation, and, ultimately, the Minister paid a very high price for the decision that they both agreed on.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you might have clicked at the point that I did—as the Minister said “On behalf of the Prime Minister,”. I think he might have meant that because he was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, he could not answer the first part of the question. It is relatively important, because otherwise the Prime Minister is on record as saying that he did not look into, or he did not know about, the other private matters.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the intervention from the member. If the Hon Gerry Brownlee wished to clarify that, he is welcome to do so, but he does not have to.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: For the sake of clarity, the second part of that question can be answered on the part of the Prime Minister, but I am not in a position to answer on the Prime Minister’s behalf on the first part of it.
Kevin Hague: Did the Prime Minister’s private investigation consider the 45-point list of serious legislation, guideline, and code breaches by ACC raised by Bronwyn Pullar?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not able to answer that question on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Kevin Hague: Did the Prime Minister’s private investigation look into who had leaked Bronwyn Pullar’s name to the media, and whether this leak originated in a Government Minister’s office or from ACC itself?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member keeps referring to the Prime Minister’s private investigation. From the answers that were given relating to the
primary question that is here today—answers given to all questions asked by that member in the House on 22 March—I think that is an interesting sort of leap for him to take. But in answer to the question, I am not able to answer that on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: We have a slight difficulty there in that the Minister sought a point of order that was not really a point of order, because the member asked a question, and the Minister has now answered the question in so far as he says he is not able to answer the question. But the member is entitled to ask his questions. He made it clear in his first supplementary question that the Prime Minister had made reference to an investigation in his previous answers, and the member is entitled to ask questions. Whether the Minister can answer them is another matter, of course, while acting on behalf of the Prime Minister. But that was not an appropriate point of order.
Grant Robertson: Has the Prime Minister asked the Minister for ACC, as part of his investigation, who she believes leaked the information about Bronwyn Pullar to the media?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Kevin Hague: Did the Prime Minister’s private investigation determine when the ACC Chair, John Judge, first learnt about the massive breach of confidentiality that had occurred, the potential involvement of the then Minister, and the very serious claims Miss Pullar was making about failure of good process?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are a number of questions inside the member’s question that I think conflate a number of different points along the way in this particular story. What I can confirm is that investigations were made into the propriety of the reference written by Dr Smith. It did not meet the standards that were set and expected, and therefore the Minister has resigned.
Kevin Hague: Given his response to these questions today and the fact that neither the Privacy Commissioner’s inquiry nor the police inquiry can possibly consider any of them, will he not support calls for an independent investigation into these wider matters, or does he have another reason for trying to prevent these matters from being independently investigated?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no attempt at all to hide anything in these cases, and I resent the member’s implication that that is what is happening.
Accident Compensation Corporation Board—Confidence
2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Does she have confidence in the Board of ACC?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): Yes.
Grant Robertson: When she told the media this morning that only herself, one staff member, chairman John Judge, and the chief executive of the ACC had the information about Bronwyn Pullar, which of these people does she believe leaked that information to the media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is not correct. What I said was that Miss Boag sent the information to me and one staff member in my office. I did not send it to anyone else. My staff member sent it to the chief executive of ACC and the chairman of the board, as I requested her to. It was not sent anywhere else from my office.
Grant Robertson: Given that answer, does she believe that board chair John Judge leaked the information about Bronwyn Pullar?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have asked Mr Judge, and he has denied the allegation.
Grant Robertson: Given her statement to the media that she has ruled out herself and her office as the source of the leak, will she rule out board chair John Judge or chief executive Ralph Stewart as the sources?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: This information that was released to the media is information belonging to Miss Pullar and Miss Boag. If either of those people wishes to make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner, then I would support them in doing that. It is not for me to speculate as to who released it. I am simply saying that I am 100 percent certain that it was neither me nor anyone in my office—100 percent certain; absolutely.
Grant Robertson: Does she accept that by ruling out herself and anyone in her office and saying that the email went only to John Judge and Ralph Stewart, she is implicating both of them in the leak?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No.
3. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Economic Development: What actions is the Government taking to increase employer confidence to hire new workers?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): For businesses to hire more workers they need confidence that they can compete within New Zealand and internationally and that the Government provides a regulatory and economic environment that supports their competitiveness. That is why the Government is undertaking a large range of actions to encourage businesses, including returning the Government’s books to surplus by 2014-15, which will help keep interest rates lower for longer; building the transport links exporters need to get their goods to market; and undertaking reforms of the Resource Management Act. Progress is steady, with economic growth in 10 of the last 11 quarters. By encouraging confidence, businesses will feel secure when taking on new employees. They will be able to earn the necessary revenue to sustain their growth.
Ian McKelvie: What forecasts has he seen of job creation as the economy recovers over the next few years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There have been several forecasts demonstrating that New Zealand businesses will create a significant number of jobs as the domestic and world economies recover. For example, the most recent Department of Labour Short-term Employment Prospects forecast 39,300 jobs to be created per year over the next 3 years. What the Government is determined to do is provide an environment that encourages the growth of competitive businesses.
Police—Briefings and Reports
4. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Has he received any recent reports or briefings from the Police?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Acting Prime Minister): No.
Denis O’Rourke: Did he not receive any briefings or reports on the police investigation into the teacup tape-recording prior to yesterday’s announcement that no charges would be laid?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Any matters relating to the investigation into the unlawful taping related to the Rt Hon John Key’s role as leader of the New Zealand National Party, not his role as Prime Minister. Therefore, there is no ministerial responsibility on this issue.
Denis O’Rourke: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Denis O’Rourke’s question.
Denis O’Rourke: Was it just a coincidence, then, that he happened to be overseas, unconcerned, when the police announced that no charges would be laid against the cameraman concerned?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Denis O’Rourke: Is he embarrassed that the findings of the police into the matter do not stack up against his bravado about a police investigation during the election campaign?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I did not catch the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question, please.
Denis O’Rourke: The question was: is the Prime Minister embarrassed that the findings of the police into the matter do not stack up against his bravado about a police investigation during the election campaign?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility in this matter.
Hon David Parker: Has he been advised that it is improper for him to say of Mr Ambrose, or of any other person accused of wrongdoing—to quote the Prime Minister—“At the end of the day, his
actions have been deemed unlawful.”, when no finding of wrongdoing has been made and Mr Ambrose has no way of defending himself?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility in this matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: If there is no ministerial responsibility for this question, who was the Solicitor-General acting for in the court?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no responsibility for these matters in this House.
Denis O’Rourke: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. A point of order has been called.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to reflect on whether that answer answered the question as to who the Solicitor-General was acting for—whether it was the leader of the National Party or the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question was certainly a specific question. It simply asked who was the Solicitor-General acting for. In terms of the actions of the leader of the National Party at the time of the election campaign, that is certainly not a responsibility of the Prime Minister. Subsequent events are perhaps less clear; I am not sure. But the Minister answering on behalf of the Prime Minister did not really address that particular issue: who the Solicitor-General was acting for. I invite the Hon Gerry Brownlee, if he can—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I take you to the primary question, which was in the name of Mr O’Rourke: “Has he received any recent reports or briefings from the Police?”, to which the answer was “No.”, because that could be very general. Mr O’Rourke then took it specifically to the socalled teapot incident. That is not a matter for ministerial responsibility. Therefore, any other question that might flow out of an answer like that would seem to be irrelevant in the circumstances.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact that the Prime Minister said there was no ministerial responsibility for any of this matter, effectively, is the very point that can be asked about, him having made that point, and that was exactly what I was doing. The Solicitor- General does not go to court—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is getting into the substance of the issue now. It is a tricky situation the House finds itself in, because there is no doubt that the police investigation was not a responsibility of the Prime Minister. The issues surrounding that were the responsibility of the leader of the National Party, not the Prime Minister. We have had this debate in this House many times before, so that is quite clear. The difficulty I am in as Speaker is that I cannot second-guess Ministers when they say matters are not their responsibility. That is a difficulty the Speaker has. I can understand why the member is asking the question. The question was a very straightforward, clear question. There was no imputation or anything. It was a straightforward, clear question. But the Minister, replying on behalf of the Prime Minister, and saying there is no ministerial responsibility on behalf of the Prime Minister leaves the Speaker in a difficult position, because I am not in a position to really judge that. That is why I really have to accept the Minister’s view of that. And I really cannot, happily with advice, start disagreeing with Ministers over issues of responsibility; unless I have very, very good knowledge, I am getting into very dangerous territory, I think.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Prime Minister still believe that the tape-recording was a “very serious matter” given the police decision not to lay charges?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility for this matter in this House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it might help the House, for the sake of clarity. Although I am not prepared to answer on behalf of the Prime Minister questions that relate to this matter, because it was a role for him outside of his responsibilities as Prime Minister, it is worth noting that the leader of the National Party had his own legal representation in this matter, not the Attorney-General, as alleged by Mr O’Rourke.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is getting into—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you put me in that position.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are starting to get beyond what points of order allow. I realise that this is a sensitive issue and it is on quite tricky ground. That is why I have been careful not to rule too quickly on matters. But if I remember correctly, the Hon Trevor Mallard asked about the Solicitor-General, not the Attorney-General. I accept, though, the point the Minister is making. I fully accept the fact that matters relating to the teapot tape are not matters that are the responsibility of the Prime Minister. That is very clear. The other matter I am less clear on, but I totally accept the Minister’s advice on that matter because I have got to be careful to second-guess Ministers on such matters.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to disagree with you on the ruling that you have just made. Although the original incident was certainly as leader of the National Party, since that time—including as recently as yesterday—the Prime Minister has, while being part of a trip to Korea, commented and been quoted as Prime Minister on this incident.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point of order is absolutely correct, as I understand the situation, and the Prime Minister can be questioned on those matters.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This is no different from some of the hoops that a previous Prime Minister was put through on two occasions when Ministers outside of her immediate Cabinet were engaged in various issues that took them into a role as leader of their parties and she responded outside of this House as leader of the party, although at all times she was Prime Minister. That is how it works. There is nothing clever in what Mr Mallard—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I was happy to listen to the honourable Minister until that point. He should not comment. The point the Hon Trevor Mallard was making was that he accepts that the actions of the Rt Hon John Key as leader of the National Party about the teapot tape and any referral to the police were not the responsibility of the Prime Minister. However, the Hon Trevor Mallard has made a point that the Prime Minister has released under the Prime Minister’s name comment on the matter in public by way of public statement. As to the Prime Minister’s comments in respect of those comments or statements, the Prime Minister can be questioned on those statements he has made, because he put those statements out under the name of the Prime Minister, and he can be questioned on those matters that he has commented on as Prime Minister, not as leader of the National Party. That is very clear.
Denis O’Rourke: Has the Prime Minister sought or received any information on how many elderly New Zealand First supporters died during the course of the police investigation?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is so far from the primary question as to be ruled out. Supplementary question, the Hon David Parker. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear the Hon David Parker’s question.
Hon David Parker: Does he believe that it was proper for him as Prime Minister yesterday to say in respect of Mr Ambrose: “At the end of the day, his actions have been deemed unlawful.”, when no such finding of wrongdoing has been made, and Mr Ambrose has no way of defending himself?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is an interesting suggestion. Perhaps I should say that I cannot answer that on behalf of the Prime Minister; I have not seen those statements.
Solicitor-General—Appearances in Court Relating to Prime Minister’s Interests During
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Attorney-General: How often has the Solicitor- General appeared in Court representing the Crown in cases involving the interests of a Prime Minister during an election campaign?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): The Solicitor-General does not appear before courts on behalf of the private interests of Ministers. The Solicitor-General’s role
involves appearing before the courts on behalf of the Crown. The Crown is constantly involved in litigation, regardless of whether there is an election on. The member may in fact be referring to a case called Ambrose v The Attorney-General, which was the subject of an earlier question. It may help if I say this: the Solicitor-General became involved in that case because the Attorney-General had been named as a defendant by Mr Ambrose. The Prime Minister was represented by his own legal counsel. The proceeding was an application under the Declaratory Judgments Act, and paragraph (2) of the statement of claim named the Attorney-General as defendant and what they call default contradictor. Section 9A of the Constitution Act says that the Solicitor-General can perform a function conferred on the Attorney-General. The Solicitor-General in the case submitted that although the Attorney-General is not the appropriate default contradictor in applications under the Declaratory Judgments Act, in the context of this particular application he was properly named, because the relief sought, if granted, would have impinged on the prosecutorial discretion and prerogative powers of the Crown. Those points were noted by Her Honour when she delivered judgment some days later.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A very long answer, but my question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is unnecessary under a point of order, and the member knows that. In fact, if the member is going to say that his question was not answered, as I understand what the Minister said he pointed out that the Solicitor-General does not appear in cases involving individual Ministers. If I understand what the Attorney-General said, the Solicitor-General appears on behalf of the Crown, and the Attorney-General went on to explain why the Solicitor-General became involved in this case—because of Ambrose, if I understand what the Minister said, naming the Attorney-General in the proceedings in some way. That was a very full answer to the member’s question. Clearly, the Solicitor-General does not appear on behalf of Ministers.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept your first reprimand. It is clear from the question that I am aware that the Solicitor-General represents the Crown. My question asks: “How often has the Solicitor-General appeared in Court representing the Crown …”; that is in the question. Then it goes on to say: “in cases involving the interests of a Prime Minister during an election campaign?”, and that has not been answered.
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as the member is saying his question is simply asking how often the Solicitor-General has appeared in court representing the Crown, involving matters relating to an election campaign, I accept that maybe that point has not been answered clearly. If the Attorney- General wished to make any further comment on that, that would be helpful.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I referred to Ambrose v The Attorney-General, which was such a case.
Hon David Parker: What was the point of principle that was so important that it justified the use of the power of the State against the media during an election, including the execution of search warrants and the Solicitor-General appearing in a court case, and is now so unimportant that Mr Key is dropping his complaint?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The point of principle was elaborated by the Solicitor- General in his submission to the court. It was a multifaceted answer. I choose to focus on what the Solicitor-General submitted, and that is that although the Attorney-General was not the appropriate default contradictor in general applications under the Declaratory Judgments Act, in the context of this application he was properly named because the relief sought, if granted, would have impinged on the prosecutorial discretion and prerogative powers of the Crown. That is the important point of principle.
Hon David Parker: Will the Solicitor-General intervene on behalf of any other New Zealander who considers their privacy breached, or is this special privilege reserved for National Party Prime Ministers campaigning in Epsom?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I will avoid the temptation to comment on the special privilege point. The Solicitor-General has intervened, and will continue to intervene, in matters that
affect the public interest. It is not possible to outline all the circumstances in the future where those conditions may apply, but that is the sole criterion in determining when there is a Solicitor-General intervention.
Hon David Parker: What advice has he received from the Solicitor-General about lessons learnt from the public release of last night’s taped conversation between President Obama and President Medvedev, and what was it about John Key’s and John Bank’s conversation in Epsom that made it more sensitive than a conversation between the Presidents of the United States and Russia?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have no responsibility for answering questions on behalf of Mr Key as leader of the National Party, nor Mr Banks as the candidate for Epsom, nor Mr Obama, nor the President of Russia.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a statement made by Assistant Police Commissioner Malcolm Burgess, in which he makes it clear that Mr Ambrose’s actions were unlawful.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this just a media statement?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This is a media release by the police—clearly, not read by the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is sufficient. No, we do not table media releases.
6. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development: Why is the Government reforming New Zealand’s welfare system?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Today the House will have the first reading of the Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill. The Government spends more than $7 billion a year on benefits, and that is more than $20 million a day. Thirteen percent of the working-age population—that is, one in eight—receive a benefit, and 220,000 children live in benefit-dependent households. We are making these changes as currently the system leads to significant long-term benefit receipt for many people, and we know the outcomes and the trap that this can lead them into.
Tim Macindoe: How will these changes target Government support to those who are most at risk of long-term dependency?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This bill makes comprehensive changes to reform New Zealand’s welfare system, placing greater work obligations on beneficiaries, targeting support particularly for those young people who are on a collision course with long-term welfare dependency, contracting with providers to wrap around support, and encouraging and helping them to get into those jobs, which they find so hard to get to. We need to, and we simply must, do more to help those young people who are at risk instead of picking off those who are at the other end of the spectrum.
Tim Macindoe: How will this legislation improve support for those on welfare to achieve independence?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This legislation will also enable greater work preparation and work availability obligations, alongside those incentives. For example, for sole parents we are introducing a benefit run-on payment. This is for those who find employment before their work obligations require them to, acknowledging that it can be really tough to be on benefit and go into work and for there to be a gap. So they can keep their benefit by it being reduced by $100 a week until it is all gone in that run-on period.
State-owned Energy Companies—Minister’s Statement About Chief Executives’ Salaries
7. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What did he mean regarding public sector CEO pay increases when he said “There’s a couple of bigger pay increases, I think three with the energy companies, which will be probably related to the share float that’s coming”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): First of all, it is important to distinguish between the core public sector, such as Government ministries and departments, and the wider State sector, including State-owned enterprises where chief executive officer salaries are set by the boards of those companies. So the Minister’s comment, in that context, was speculation. The board of each State-owned enterprise will consider a range of factors in setting the remuneration for its respective chief executive. This includes company performance, the competitive environment, competition for chief executive talent across, for example, Australasia, and the potential for greater accountability under the mixed-ownership model, while being mindful of the need to control costs. That is what the Minister was referring to. In his full quote he went on to say: “Looking across the rest of the public sector pay, chief executives are being quite restrained. You might see there is quite a lot of them where their salary has actually dropped.”
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: If energy companies are paying higher executive salaries due to the Government’s privatisation agenda, will Kiwi families not ultimately carry the cost, through higher power prices, for things like those salaries and other far larger additional costs as part of the privatisation agenda, like the estimated $200 million fee for sale?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member raises an interesting question, but it appears to me at a cursory glance at the history of this matter that actually chief executive officer remuneration has risen much more considerably over the previous 8 or 9 years before this matter was even contemplated, and also in fact that at that stage the retail electricity prices jumped considerably as well.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why is there no guarantee at all in the Government’s asset sales legislation in respect of an increase in those power prices as the result of privatisation, and why is it that the Electricity Authority has not taken the time to investigate the impact of privatisation on power prices?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand has a very strong regulatory environment nowadays in the electricity market with the Electricity Authority, which, as the member points out, this Government put in place. I think if he looks, he will see that there has been a more competitive electricity environment in the last 2 or 3 years than in the previous 8 or 9 years, under a previous Government whose brand name escapes me at this time.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Has he seen the Ministry of Economic Development data, which shows that in 84 percent of lines company areas, privately owned electricity companies have the highest retail charges, and, nationally, privately owned electricity companies charge 12 percent more on average than State-owned enterprises, which may suggest that the public ownership of energy companies is currently acting to hold prices down? Has he seen those figures? Does he have a reaction to them?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am not aware whether the Minister of Finance has seen those particular figures or not, and on his behalf I have not seen those particular figures. But again I would comment that we have a very strong regulatory environment in New Zealand, and have had very limited power price increases in the industry as a whole. We also have a situation where we encourage customers to evaluate prices between different companies and make switches, and that seems to be operating very effectively
Jami-Lee Ross: What recent trends has he observed in remuneration increases for chief executives of energy State-owned enterprises?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have observed two distinct trends in total remuneration. In the 3 financial years to 30 June 2011 the average chief executive officer remuneration increase for the four energy State-owned enterprises—Genesis Power, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, and Solid Energy—totalled around 13.5 percent, or an average of 4.5 percent a year. However, in the 8 financial years previous to that, to 30 June 2008, under a previous Labour Government, the average chief executive officer remuneration increase for these four companies totalled 190.7 percent, or an
average of 23.8 percent per year. In the same period, retail electricity prices jumped 72 percent. Fortunately, these trends have not continued.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. A point of order has been called, and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: To assist the Minister, I seek leave to table the Ministry of Economic Development quarterly survey of domestic electricity prices November 2011, which substantiates my point that in 84 percent of lines company areas, privately owned electricity companies have the highest retail charges.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Schools, Building Projects—Public-private Partnerships for Hobsonville Point Schools
8. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: What announcements have been made about the first school property public-private partnership in New Zealand?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Associate Minister of Education): Yesterday I announced that Learning Infrastructure Partners are the preferred bidder for the first school property public-private partnership in New Zealand. The Ministry of Education has entered into negotiations with Learning Infrastructure Partners. If successful, the consortium will design, construct, finance, and maintain the new Hobsonville Point primary and secondary schools for the next 25 years. This is an important milestone in the process towards completing negotiations for the first school property public-private partnership being developed in New Zealand.
Nikki Kaye: What will be some of the benefits of having a school property public-private partnership?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: This public-private partnership model will give boards and principals more time to focus on student achievement by transferring property management and responsibilities to a private partner. Evidence shows that educational outcomes improve when school leaders are able to focus their time and energy on education rather than administrative matters such as property management.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: What safeguards will he require in the contract with Australian company Programmed Facility Management to ensure that it does not cut corners or provide a poor quality service in order to maximise its profits, as has occurred in some public-private partnership examples overseas?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I understand there are many successful models overseas, but the member can be assured that the ongoing and final negotiations of the contract will contain clauses that the consortium must deliver to a good standard, required as per will be open in the contract when it is announced.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Independent and Police Inquiries
9. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Which of the investigations now under way in ACC—the Malcolm Crompton–led investigation into privacy issues or the Police investigation into alleged blackmail—will deal with the disclosure of former ACC Minister Nick Smith’s letter regarding Bronwyn Pullar to the media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): I am not convinced that either investigation is likely to deal with the disclosure of this letter, as Dr Smith released the letter himself to the media following confirmation from Ms Pullar that she was happy for him to do so. However, if the Privacy Commissioner or the police wish to look into this, then that is a matter for them.
Andrew Little: How did a communication from former National Party president Michelle Boag about her involvement in Bronwyn Pullar’s case, and intended only for the Minister, get disclosed to the media, including social media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is a matter that I would like to know the answer to. However, any people who send me information about ACC can expect that I will send it straight to ACC. That is what a Minister does.
Andrew Little: Does she believe that it is appropriate for Ministers or their staff to disclose to the media, including social media, personal information held by departments, agencies, or Crown entities about people who criticise the Government?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Certainly not.
Andrew Little: What assurance can she give ACC claimants who are finding decisions on their claims frustrating and difficult that their concerns are being taken seriously by ACC, and that they too will not find their details leaked to the media, including social media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am very concerned about the privacy issues. That is why I asked for a report from ACC—I made sure that that was available for the public to see on the website a few days after the leaked emails—in terms of the information that Ms Pullar had, and she had put out to the Dominion Post. I was very concerned about that. That is why I am very much obliged to the Privacy Commissioner for the work that she is doing to, in fact, lead this inquiry into the privacy issues around ACC. I actually think it is extremely important that this issue be dealt with properly.
Child Pornography, Internet—Government Initiatives to Address
10. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What progress has the Government made to combat the trade of objectionable images of children?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Last week I announced that the Department of Internal Affairs censorship compliance unit has been working with Microsoft on the development of PhotoDNA, world-class technology designed to make it easier to identify images that exploit or endanger children. This technology will allow investigators to process data more efficiently, as well as re-examine the methods they use to review the images. The trading of objectionable images of children is abhorrent, and as a Government we will be doing all we can to stop it.
Jacqui Dean: How else is the Government contributing to international efforts to combat access to objectionable images?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Department of Internal Affairs is very active in pursuing and prosecuting individuals who participate in the possession and trade of child sexual abuse images. This includes close cooperation with enforcement agencies, both in this country and overseas, to close down sites and rescue children. By way of example, Department of Internal Affairs officials recently identified offending and notified the United Kingdom police, who rescued two children and apprehended the perpetrator all within 48 hours of the initial detection. We should be very proud of the work that this unit does to keep children safe.
Prisoners, Reoffending—UK Ministry of Justice Report
11. DAVID CLENDON (Green) to the Minister of Corrections: Does she agree with the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice report that states “there is no evidence that, on average, prison is more cost-effective at preventing reoffending than community sentences.”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): I would note that the quote in the primary question refers only to the UK justice system and comes from its National Audit Office, and I am not prepared to make a judgment on the effectiveness or otherwise of the prison system in the UK. I am advised that there is no strong New Zealand evidence either way regarding the costeffectiveness of prison over community sentences with regard to reoffending. But one thing I do know for certain is that people in prison cannot reoffend against members of the public while they
are in prison, and over 70 percent of the people in our prisons are there for violent, sexual, or drug offences. Those people are dangerous, and our priority is to keep communities safe.
David Clendon: Does the Minister agree that more spending on drug and alcohol treatment, mental health services, rehabilitation, and reintegration programmes and less on incarceration would deliver better social and economic outcomes for New Zealand; if not, why not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I repeat: this Government is firstly committed to keeping the public safe from dangerous offenders. However, we are also committed to reducing reoffending, and we are working on a range of ways that we can do that, but there is no one silver bullet to reduce reoffending.
David Clendon: On what basis did the Minister decide to spend $900 million on a new prison in South Auckland while spending only a fraction of that amount, a few million dollars a year, on rehabilitation and reintegration services?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I presume the member is referring to the new prison to be built at Wiri. We do need a new prison in Auckland to cater for the population growth in Auckland. We currently house about 1,000 Auckland prisoners outside of Auckland, in other parts of the country. We do need to upgrade the prison network itself so that rehabilitation is easier, because the actual physical construction and design of prisons aids with rehabilitation. We also need to make sure that we have adequate beds in case of another disaster like the Christchurch earthquake, when we had to move prisoners out. We also need to make sure that—forecast figures are just that, and currently we are tracking above the forecast figures.
David Clendon: Can the Minister tell us how the building of a $900 million, 960-bed prison will help reduce the rate of Māori incarceration, currently accounting for 51 percent of the prison population, making Māori in New Zealand more likely to be incarcerated than African-Americans in the United States?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The actual building of Wiri itself—as I said, there is no silver bullet to address bringing down the rates of reoffending, but there is a huge range of work under way at the moment to improve Māori offending rates, like the Drivers of Crime work that this Government has been working on for the past 3 years. There are currently five Māori focus units. There are two Whare Ōranga Ake in prisons, and the private contract for Wiri does include a particular focus on reducing reoffending for Māori.
David Clendon: I seek leave to table a document, a report from the National Audit Office in the UK to the House of Commons Justice Committee dated February 2012 and entitled Comparing International Criminal Justice Systems.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen the commentary from the group Rethinking Crime and Punishment on the report referred to in the primary question, indicating that if she were to reach an imprisonment level of 150 per 100,000 people she could save $200 million a year in the Department of Corrections budget, and, if so, what is her view of that group’s recommendations?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have not seen that group’s recommendations. However, as I stated previously, firstly this Government is determined to ensure that those dangerous people are locked up and the community is kept safe, but we are also committed to reducing the reoffending rate, and that is why the contract to build the new Wiri prison has a huge focus on the performance of that prison in terms of reducing reoffending.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a summary of the recommendations of the group Rethinking Crime and Punishment on the National Audit Office report referred to in the primary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Broadband Initiatives—Involvement of Huawei Technologies
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Prime Minister: Why has the New Zealand Government taken a different decision to the Australian Government with regard to security matters relating to Huawei’s involvement in broadband projects?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Acting Prime Minister): As has been the longstanding practice of this House by successive Governments, I do not intend to comment on matters of security.
Clare Curran: Has he been briefed on the reasons for the Australian Government’s decision to ban Huawei Technologies from tendering for national broadband network contracts, and, if so, has he taken any action since to instruct relevant Ministers to re-examine New Zealand’s taxpayerfunded broadband contracts with Huawei?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There has been no such instruction.
Clare Curran: Can he guarantee the security of the new broadband network in the light of decisions to award Huawei supply deals with the Government’s partners for the ultra-fast broadband scheme in an equipment deal last year with Chorus?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We take network security very seriously. The Government works with all suppliers and operators to address any security concerns that may be identified and is committed to working with operators and suppliers to protect the integrity and confidentiality of New Zealand’s telecommunication networks.
Clare Curran: How many visits to Huawei’s Chinese headquarters in Shenzhen have occurred since November 2008 by National Cabinet Ministers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to answer that question on behalf of the Prime Minister.