Questions and Answers – 25 August 2010

by admin on Wednesday, August 25, 2010 — 11:48 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

GST—Comparison with OECD Countries; Overseas Investment Rules—New Zealand – China Free Trade Agreement; Wages—Rises Compared with Prices; Health Services—Minister’s Statements
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




GST—Comparison with OECD Countries

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When he told the House on 9 February that New Zealand taxes consumption at a relatively low rate, was he aware that New Zealand had the sixth-highest rate of consumption taxation in the OECD as a percentage of GDP; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): When I made the statement that the Leader of the Opposition refers to, I was aware that 23 out of 29 OECD countries had a higher rate of GST or VAT than New Zealand. Only Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Korea, and Australia had lower rates of GST. My statement was therefore 100 percent correct.

Hon Phil Goff: In calculating the figure in the way that the Prime Minister has chosen to, has he taken into account that, actually, New Zealanders pay more GST, because there are hardly any exemptions, whereas most of the other countries, at the ordinary headline rate, have major exemptions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. It is called broad based – low rate, and it was designed by Phil Goff and his Government in 1986.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table the OECD statistics extracts that show that New Zealand, before the GST increase, has the sixth-highest rate of consumption taxes as a percentage of GDP.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I check? I seem to have a recollection that—

Hon Phil Goff: No, it is a different document from yesterday’s. Yesterday’s document was a bar graph showing that; this is the actual extract from the OECD.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise. It is an extract from an OECD document?

Hon Phil Goff: OECD statistics extracts.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Prime Minister push consumption tax, GST, up still further, when he had promised not to?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said some time ago, when I was asked whether GST would rise, it was in relation to covering deficits. That is not why we are raising GST; it is because we are also lowering personal income taxes. What I do know is that the last time GST was raised in this country—I think it was in 1989—by the then Labour Government, there was no compensation for anyone.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table this document, which states “National is not going to be raising GST”—

Mr SPEAKER: Before anything is quoted from the document, we need to know what the document is. What is the source of the document?

Hon Phil Goff: The source of the document is actually, originally, a video of what the Prime Minister said on television. This is from the New Zealand Herald.

Mr SPEAKER: We are not going to be tabling statements from videos.

Hon Phil Goff: Will the increased rate of GST take more from low to middle income people as a proportion of their income than from wealthy people?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not believe so, no.

Hon Member: What world did you live in?

Hon Phil Goff: Mr Speaker, I am sure that is not the world that you lived in; it was directed to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: It was the member’s colleague who interjected inappropriately.

Hon Phil Goff: What is the Government’s estimate of how much, in dollar terms, the increase in the rate of GST will add to the average price of a new home for a first home buyer?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that to hand. If the member wants to put it in writing, I can get it for him.

Hon Phil Goff: Would the Prime Minister think that if the average cost of construction is about $300,000, the extra price that a new home purchaser will be paying is about $7,000 to $8,000 extra in tax?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That may or may not be correct; we will need to work our way through that. What I can say is that the two most important factors in the affordability of a home for someone are interest rates and his or her after-tax income. Under a National Government—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Prime Minister answered the question by saying he did not know. That was the answer, and the rest of his answer is extraneous.

Mr SPEAKER: I do accept the point of order that it was a very, very tight question, and therefore there should not be further information given on it.

Hon Phil Goff: How many letters has the Prime Minister received recently like the one that I have in my hand, which was copied to me but addressed to him, saying the relentless increase in Government charges like accident compensation, road-user charges, and, soon, GST and taxes on property has put this man out of business, and he—Mr Key—is out of touch with the costs facing ordinary income earners in this country?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I get about 2,000 pieces of correspondence a week, so I cannot tell the member exactly. What I can say is that I have never had a hand-delivered note written by a member of my caucus telling me that I am “outski”; that is for sure.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table the letter that I have just referred to, in which the gentleman concerned said Mr Key has effectively put him—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a letter from a New Zealander, apparently. Is there any objection to that? There is objection.

Overseas Investment Rules—New Zealand – China Free Trade Agreement

2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: What constraints, if any, does the New Zealand – China free trade agreement place on the ability of the New Zealand Government to tighten the rules governing the sale of New Zealand land to overseas buyers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): In a number of free-trade agreements, as well as in respect of the World Trade Organization, New Zealand has committed to not changing the classes of investments that are subject to screening under the Overseas Investment Act. This means we will be able to continue to screen investments in those existing classes set out in the legislation—significant business assets, and sensitive land, including farmland. Chinese investors are subject to the same rules as everyone else. In all our free-trade agreements, New Zealand has

preserved the ability to alter some of the criteria and factors against which proposed investments are assessed, if that is deemed desirable by the Government.

Dr Russel Norman: Is it the case that rules governing the sale of land to overseas buyers from China in force at the time of the signing of the New Zealand – China free-trade agreement cannot be tightened without breaching the terms of the agreement?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not think I would agree with the member. He has raised a quite legitimate issue—that is, that if the Government were to alter the Overseas Investment Act, it would need to take account of the undertakings it had made in free-trade agreements. But I do not believe that those undertakings prevent a tightening of the rules.

Dr Russel Norman: In terms of the current review of overseas investment that the Minister referred to previously, and dealing with overseas investment in land in particular, has he considered the issues in relationship to free-trade agreements and whether those free-trade agreements place constraints on how we can change the Overseas Investment Regulations?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the Government were to make any change to the Overseas Investment Act, then, yes, it would certainly be checking that change against the free-trade agreements. My impression is that those agreements do not prevent the Government from altering, to some extent, the way that it screens incoming investment.

Dr Russel Norman: If the Government were to decide that all sensitive land—defined within the Overseas Investment Regulations as farmland of greater than 5 hectares, for example—must remain within New Zealand ownership and could not be sold into overseas ownership, would that stay within the terms of the New Zealand – China free-trade agreement?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Certainly, from the Government’s point of view that is a hypothetical question, because we would not be considering the option of banning any overseas ownership of sensitive land. Sensitive land is a very broad category of land. It includes farmland, but it also includes quite small areas of land next to waterways, for instance, such as sections with commercial buildings on them.

Dr Russel Norman: How will his Government constrain the ability of overseas investors from China to buy land in New Zealand without tightening the overseas investment rules, hence potentially breaching the New Zealand – China free-trade agreement?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is unlikely—in fact, it is out of the question—that the Government would tighten criteria related to investors from one particular country. I do not think our free-trade agreements or our commitment to the World Trade Organization would allow that; in fact, it would not be sensible economically, either. We need to keep in mind that any investor coming in to buy, say, farmland in New Zealand has to pass the existing tests in the Overseas Investment Act. Those tests were laid down by the previous Government when it rewrote the Act. Any application that is in the pipeline now will be dealt with by the tests laid out in 2005 I think it was. If there was to be any change to those tests, the Government would signal that ahead of time.

Hon David Parker: What signal is his Government sending to the world when he is on record as saying that we need to relax the rules on foreign investment, while John Key has been saying just the opposite, or is this merely another example of the Government belatedly agreeing with the Labour Party position, as it also seems to be doing on savings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it is another example of the member’s shallow analysis and political manipulation of statements. The Government’s review of the Overseas Investment Act was always aimed at reducing the time, cost, and uncertainty of the decision-making process, and that continues to be an objective of the Government. In fact, we have achieved quite a bit of reduction in the bureaucracy associated with that process over the last 18 months.

Hon David Parker: When will the Minister release the long-awaited review of foreign investment, which was announced 17 months ago, or is this just another example of a Government that has polled itself to a standstill because it has no coherent plan?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it is an example of a Government that has been so busy with its bold and wide-ranging plan that this matter of lower priority will appear when we are ready.

Wages—Rises Compared with Prices

3. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Have New Zealand’s after-tax wages been rising faster than prices?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes. Since September 2008 real after-tax wages in New Zealand have risen 8.7 percent, in less than 2 years since that time. This calculation is based on Statistics New Zealand’s quarterly employment survey data on average weekly ordinary-time earnings. It is the same series that is used for calculating the annual adjustments to national superannuation. Treasury forecasts show that real after-tax wages are expected to grow by around 1 percent per year, each year over the next 4 years.

Aaron Gilmore: How has real after-tax wage growth in New Zealand compared with that of Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the House will be aware, real after-tax wages in New Zealand grew by only 3 percent in the 9 years from 1999 to September 2008. The comparable series for Australia shows that in that same period where real after-tax wages grew 3 percent in New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, in Australia they grew by 19 percent. It was 3 percent in New Zealand and 19 percent in Australia, and that record under the previous Labour Government is one of the reasons for the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does his figure that real after-tax wages have grown by 8.7 percent over the past 2 years include Labour’s 2008 October tax cut; if so, why is he taking credit for a tax cut he voted against?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It does include Labour’s tax cut, and we have always made that clear. The reason is that Labour did that tax cut only because we made them.

Aaron Gilmore: What has happened to real after-tax wages in New Zealand and Australia since 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said, since September 2008 real after-tax wages have grown by 8.7 percent in New Zealand. In the same period, real after-tax wages in Australia have grown by 4.8 percent. That is because Australia has had significantly higher inflation than New Zealand and it has had smaller tax cuts than in New Zealand. So the gap has actually narrowed slightly. However, we are not getting excited about it. The damage done by the previous Government is so significant it will take a good 10 years or so to really make significant progress in closing up that gap.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm that, based on figures he quoted last week, over his period in office real after-tax wages in the private sector have increased by only 1.3 percent, and Treasury says that the increase in GST will push inflation to close to 6 percent; if so, how many people does he expect will get a 6 percent wage increase next year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot confirm whether it is 1.3 percent but if it is, then in 18 months we have achieved half of the increase in the real after-tax wage that Labour achieved in 9 years. So 1.3 percent is pretty good.

Aaron Gilmore: What economic policies would put future increases in New Zealand wages at risk?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The policies that would put further increases in New Zealand’s real wages at risk would be the same ones that did so much damage to them in the last decade—that is, soaring Government spending, a withering export sector, a bloated Public Service, excessive borrowing for speculation in housing, and an economic policy that undermined the productive capacity of the nation. This Government has turned round all of those things.

Savings—Compulsory KiwiSaver

4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Has he ever ruled out compulsory KiwiSaver; if so, is that still his position?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I cannot recollect every statement I have made on New Zealand superannuation, having been involved as a politician in this issue for 20 years now. The Government has an open mind, and it has set up the Savings Working Group to explore all options, including Government savings, improvements to the tax system and its effect on savings, and the development of KiwiSaver.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why, then, did he tell a constituent less than 1 year ago: “I note your comment that KiwiSaver should be made compulsory or the contribution rate returned to 4 percent. The Government does not support either of these options.”; if so, when did he change his mind and decide it was an option worth considering?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will be aware that National put together a significant tax package in Opposition, which we implemented soon after we were re-elected, that included changes to KiwiSaver. The letter to my constituent accurately quotes the Government position, and it remains the Government position.

Hon David Cunliffe: If savings options from the working group must be fiscally neutral, must increased savings, then, come from either households or businesses, or both?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is an iron rule about saving, and that is one can save more only if one spends less. That is how savings works.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Taking your advice from yesterday, I asked an absolutely straight question: given that the Minister had said that savings options must be fiscally neutral, must the savings, therefore, come from households or businesses, or both? The Minister did not address that either/or trade-off, at all. He needed either to confirm or not to confirm. It was quite simple.

Mr SPEAKER: Ministers have never been forced to confirm what members might like them to confirm. The member asked whether the policy was for savings to be fiscally neutral, and I think the Minister responded to that part of the question. He said that the only way that savings could be achieved was if spending was reduced, which seemed to agree with the first part of the member’s question.

Hon David Cunliffe: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the honourable member further.

Hon David Cunliffe: I appreciate that. The first clause of the question was not the question; it was the presupposition: “If savings options … must be fiscally neutral,”. The question then asked whether it must therefore be true that increased savings have to come from households or businesses, or both. He did not address the operative part of the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister’s answer pointed out that the only way savings can be achieved is if spending is less. I imagine that means spending right across the economy. The member has further supplementary questions to use if he wants. I do not believe that the Minister evaded the question. The answer may not have been exactly the answer the member wanted, but he does have further supplementary questions. In fact, I will let him ask a supplementary question before I accept one from the other side. No?

Chris Tremain: What impact has KiwiSaver made on national savings in recent years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I expect that the impact will be one of the issues debated by the Savings Working Group. There is no doubt that for some individuals it has increased their savings, but it is not obvious that it has made an immeasurable difference to national savings. In fact, it has become clear that during the period when the New Zealand Superannuation Fund was set up and KiwiSaver was set up, New Zealand ended up with record balance of payments deficits, averaging over 8 percent of GDP per year, and foreign liabilities climbed from $100 billion to $170 billion. That is why we believe that it is somewhat simplistic to think that higher household savings naturally

means higher national savings. That is not necessarily the case. That is why the Savings Working Group has to look at national savings—that is, savings by Government, households, and businesses, not just households.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister, then, confirm that one of his first acts on taking office was to reduce the level of incentives to save with KiwiSaver, and can he further confirm that the Government’s very serious net international liabilities are overwhelmingly driven by private dissaving and the building up of housing debt, which his Government has done precious little to address?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not claim to have addressed international liabilities directly. Certainly, the recession has had the effect of stopping household debt from rising. In answer to the member’s question about our cutting KiwiSaver, we have put fewer incentives into KiwiSaver, which means the Government has smaller deficits, and the net effect on national saving is neutral.

Hon David Cunliffe: If, according to the Minister, the Government is able to save on the public’s behalf, does he now take the position that the level of personal or household savings is irrelevant to the total national international debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Clearly not; as I have said before, national savings are made up of the savings of households, Government, and business. I have made the point a number of times that the Government borrowing from overseas lenders in order to look like we are increasing savings in New Zealand simply does not make any sense. It does not increase our national savings, at all. We end up with a bit more household savings, but with more debt owed to foreigners. Eventually, foreigners will stop lending us money so that we can pretend we are increasing savings.

Health Services—Minister’s Statements

6. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement “But when you are Minister of Health, part of making sure you know what is going on is making sure you are out there seeing things from a patient’s perspective”?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, as Minister of Health I regularly visit rest homes, hospitals, general practitioners’ clinics, and I speak with the public and patients.

Mr SPEAKER: Could I simply ask the Minister to repeat his answer for me,l because I could not hear it at all.

Hon TONY RYALL: Yes—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. On this occasion I would ask the Opposition, though they may be dazzled, to please keep the noise down so that I can hear what I am sure is an important answer to the Hon Ruth Dyson’s question.

Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, as Minister of Health I regularly visit rest homes, hospitals, general practitioners’ clinics, and speak with the public and patients.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did he not consider the perspective of 94-year-old St Kilda pensioner John Currie, who says nervous exhaustion through worry about the cuts to his home help have put him in Dunedin Hospital?

Hon TONY RYALL: I am aware of that case. I would say that the district health board has assured me that no one will be unsafe or forced out of his or her home because of the changes made to home support. I understand that the district health board has been in touch with Mr Currie, and other facts were revealed in the article today.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Which mental health patients did he seek out for their perspectives on the $5 million cut to community-based mental health services in Wellington this year?

Hon TONY RYALL: I think the people whom I have spoken to who are involved in mental health are very impressed that $174 million extra will be put into mental health services over the next 4 years.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What reports has he had in relation to the patients’ perspective on improved ambulance services?

Hon TONY RYALL: I can inform the House that as part of the Government’s $48 million extra investment over 4 years to support the national ambulance service, there are now an extra 100 paramedics on the health front line. This means more communities have 7-day-a-week, 24-hour reliance on volunteer staffers for cover reduced, and the average number of ambulances available both during the day and at night has increased. We now have extra paramedics in more than 40 centres throughout the nation—from Dargaville in the north, to Gore in the south—supporting better and safer front-line services for New Zealand patients.

Hon Ruth Dyson: What children and young people did he seek for their perspective on the fact that South Canterbury District Health Board is cutting its child and youth oral health services by $1.2 million this year—cuts signed off by the Minister?

Hon TONY RYALL: What is quite clear in the South Canterbury area is that they have had additional funding of $11 million in the last 18 months, and the district health board is improving frontline services for people in that area quite strongly.

Hon Ruth Dyson: If he is concerned about seeing things from the patients’ perspective will he use his ministerial powers on behalf of Otago and Southland patients to keep their neurosurgical services?

Hon TONY RYALL: As the member well knows, all of the South Island district health boards are aware that they have to fix the situation at Otago-Southland. In the last term of the previous Government three neurosurgeons left the hospital. We know that a patient recently explained that she had had three locum neurosurgeons in 4 months. The district health boards cannot agree on the service network across the South Island. They have asked the director-general to arbitrate. An independent panel is looking at this case. I have to say that, like the people of Otago-Southland, I have to be convinced that they do not deserve good-quality neurosurgical services.

Truancy—Progress in Combating

7. HEKIA PARATA (National) to the Minister of Education: What progress has been made on the Government’s commitment to tackle school truancy?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): This Government is committed to addressing school truancy. I am happy to report that focused action and a boost in funding—that is, for the Non-enrolment Truancy Service—have reduced the number of students not enrolled in school from 3,416 in January this year to 2,192 today. That is a fantastic reduction of 36 percent. In addition the time taken to re-enrol students who have not attended school for the past 20 days has also decreased by 14 percent over the last year. This is a fantastic start.

Hekia Parata: What other work is under way to support schools to manage student attendance?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am pleased to advise that last week the Ministry of Education released long-requested guidelines for schools on the management of non-attendance and, where necessary, the prosecution of parents who fail to ensure that their children attend school. The ministry will also fund schools to undertake such prosecutions where necessary. Schools have been asking for this for years; this Government has listened to them and acted.

Defence, Associate Minister—Performance

8. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Defence: Did he raise concerns about the performance of the former Associate Minister of Defence with the Hon Rodney Hide; if so, did he inform the Prime Minister about those concerns?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence): In reply to the question, may I say this: no, I did not have concerns about the former Associate Minister’s performance. However I did have concerns about inappropriate language in two documents generated from the former Associate Minister’s office, which I did raise with Mr Hide. It was not necessary to raise those issues with the Prime Minister.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Was he: “informed by a National Party activist that ACT Board Member Nick Kearney has a copy of” a Cabinet paper entitled Defence Assessment dated 2010, as the former Associate Minister of Defence wrote last week; if so, did he advise the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I actually have asked Mr Kearney about that, and, no, he does not have such a document. I am absolutely confident that there has been no inappropriate treatment of documents held in the former Associate Minister’s office.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Did he or his staff raise any security issues regarding ACT Ministers or their staff with the Prime Minister or his staff; if so, what and when?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: There was an occasion when I was given some information by Mr Hide, which is now in the public domain. I ensured that that was raised with Ministerial Services.

Hon Pete Hodgson: What might he have said to his former Associate Minister of Defence that caused—

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will help the member by saying he surely cannot have a question that asks what a Minister might have said. The Minister either said it or did not say it.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: He could have said “What did you have for lunch today?”

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the assistance of the honourable Leader of the House, but this is a point of order. Members these days are entitled, under the Standing Orders, to ask questions that are speculative like that, as long as they are not outrageous. They must not contain any outrageous content, and I ask the member to be careful of that. I think we should hear his question.

Hon Pete Hodgson: What might he have said to his former Associate Minister of Defence that caused her to write on a document dated 17 August: “The Minister of Defence believes Rodney Hide has passed this paper on and he is upset that he could not trust a Ministerial colleague to keep a paper he gave him to himself.”?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Nothing of that nature was said. In fact, I received a phone call from somebody else.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Was his former Associate Minister of Defence broadly correct when she wrote on 17 August: “Rodney Hide also told Wayne Mapp that he wanted me removed from my Associate Defence Minister role. Wayne Mapp told me, subsequently, he protested vigorously about that saying that we (Mapp and I) were an effective team and I was well regarded by his colleagues in the Defence Force.”? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I simply could not hear that question at all. Because I could not hear the question with the level of interjection, on this occasion from National backbenchers, I cannot determine whether the question was in order. I ask the member to repeat it, but I ask him to keep it short and to make it no longer than is necessary to make the question clear. It should not contain further material than is necessary to make the question clear.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Was his former Associate Minister of Defence broadly correct when she wrote on 17 August: “Rodney Hide also told Wayne Mapp that he wanted me removed from my Associate Defence Minister role. Wayne Mapp told me, subsequently, he protested vigorously about that saying that we (Mapp and I) were an effective team and I was well regarded by his colleagues in the Defence Force.”?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I have no ministerial responsibility for anything in an internal document from the ACT Party, but I can say the Associate Minister and I had an effective working relationship.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Acknowledging that the last part of the question was answered, I take issue with the idea that the Minister of Defence has no obligation to address a question about comments made around him by his ex – Associate Minister. Of course he is responsible.

Mr SPEAKER: A serious and interesting issue has been raised. The Minister has responsibility for statements in respect of defence made by the Associate Minister; there is no question about that. The question here is whether the document that is being referred to contains information written in the capacity of a person as Associate Minister of Defence. Maybe I need to seek a little further advice on that. At the end of the day I have to be guided by Ministers as to whether they have ministerial responsibility, but then the balancing issue there is that I cannot allow Ministers simply to claim that they do not have ministerial responsibility for something that they do have ministerial responsibility for. On this occasion I probably have to take the Minister’s word for it at the moment and undertake to look into the matter for the honourable member, because I do not want to rule incorrectly on something that has some significance. Ministerial responsibility is important; Ministers are responsible for what Associate Ministers say in their capacity as Associate Ministers. As to what they say in their capacity as ordinary members of Parliament, I am not clear about that. I undertake that I will look into the matter further and come back to the honourable member. If, in fact, I need to come back to the House, I will do so; otherwise I will come back to the honourable member.

Hon Rodney Hide: Does he believe that the issues that the Minister raised with me were appropriate to raise with me, and does he believe that I handed the issues that he raised entirely appropriately? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A serious question has been asked. This is a matter of some substance, and I think the Minister should be given the courtesy of being able to reply on it.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very interested in what this answer will be, but just so that we are clear I ask you for clarification. Are you ruling that this Minister has ministerial responsibility for the behaviour of Rodney Hide?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no—not at all. The Minister was asked about whether he felt that his comments, his advice to another Minister, had been treated appropriately. As a Minister I think he has certainly a reporting responsibility for that. I do not think that is unreasonable.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do acknowledge the possibility that the Minister of Local Government has an interest in this or that aspect of defence, but it is more likely, it seems, that in Mr Hide’s conversation with the Minister of Defence, Mr Hide was acting in his capacity as the leader of the ACT Party. The Minister of Defence has no responsibility for that.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Rodney Hide.

Hon Rodney Hide: The Minister clearly was acting as the Minister of Defence. The Minister of Defence raised issues with me. I am asking as a member of Parliament whether he believed he did the appropriate thing as the Minister of Defence by raising them with me. And I am asking him as the Minister of Defence whether he believed that my response was entirely appropriate. That is a question from a member of Parliament to a Minister.

Hon Member: We’re not interested.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not care which member of the Labour front bench is not interested; I as Speaker am interested. I think the point made by the Hon Rodney Hide is not unreasonable. What he has asked, as a member of the House, is whether the Minister of Defence feels that what he said to him as the Minister of Defence was treated appropriately. The Minister is not being asked to comment on something that a member of Parliament has said publicly—that would not be his responsibility—but simply on whether his communications were treated, in his view as Minister of Defence, appropriately. I realise that there is a fine line with these things, and I acknowledge that I am not finding this to be absolutely easy, but I think that is a reasonable question for the Minister to be asked to respond to.

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: To the extent that they were related to my areas of ministerial responsibility, yes they were dealt with appropriately by both myself and Mr Hide.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In respect of the issue that you may report back to the House on, it seems to me that the Minister, in response to that question from Mr

Hide, actually showed that he had ministerial responsibility in respect of the earlier issues. If it was within his responsibility to answer that question from Mr Hide, how can that be different from the answers that he was asked to give in respect of Mr Hodgson’s questions about other comments made to him in his capacity as Minister?

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Rodney Hide, but I do not want to take too much further time on this.

Hon Rodney Hide: I appreciate that. Mr Speaker, the questions that I asked were actually about the behaviour of the Minister of Defence, and were about his opinion on whether he thought the response of someone else was appropriate. The question that the Opposition was asking was actually about a document that the Minister of Defence had no hand in preparing.

Hon David Parker: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not want to spend more time on this. I have undertaken that I will look into the matter. I am satisfied about that last question; I think that the Minister of Defence has responsibility for what he says to other members, and that to question him on whether he is happy with the way they have treated that information is not unreasonable. The Minister certainly has responsibility for anything that the Associate Minister says as Associate Minister. What I want to look into further—because this is an important matter—is whether a document being referred to was prepared by the Minister as Associate Minister or as a member of a political party. We well know in this House that there is a difference between a Minister acting in his or her role as Minister, and a Minister acting in his or her role as a member—in some cases the leader—of a political party. I think this issue is important enough for me to satisfy myself on the basis of the proper way of looking at it. I do not want to give an incorrect ruling to the House; I promise the honourable member I will investigate the matter. If it is important for the House, I will come back to the House on it; otherwise, I will come back to the member.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for that clarification. I suppose the point I was trying to make is that the point that Mr Hodgson was making was not about the source of the quote that was being put to the Minister, which was the subsequently prepared document. He was actually questioning the Minister in respect of the statement as recorded in that document, which was put to the Minister in his capacity as the Minister, according to that later document. So it is not the later document—that is just the source of the information.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is simply relitigating the issue. I have acknowledged that I need to satisfy myself as to the status of such a document. Whether it quotes anyone is irrelevant if the document does not relate to a Minister. If it relates to a private member, especially in respect of political party matters, then I suggest that, on the face of it, it is not a matter for which a Minister can be responsible, even if such a document quotes the Minister. If a Minister says he or she is not responsible for what that document contains, then that would, on the face of it, be the end of the matter. But I want to look into it, to make sure that my instincts are not wrong. They may well be wrong, and I am prepared to accept that I may be wrong. I will certainly come back to the member who asked the question, and if the matter has importance for the House I will come back to the House on it.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot imagine what the point of order is. I ask the Hon David Parker to be careful not to keep wasting the time of the House.

Hon David Parker: Perhaps I did not explain myself clearly. The point I was making, with respect, was that what I think you have to consider does not relate to the source of the document that Heather Roy prepared, which is a subsequent document. The underlying issue that the Minister can be questioned on, in my submission, is the quote in that document, which is a quote of her earlier statement to the Minister of Defence. My submission is that the question for you to consider is whether the statements that Heather Roy said she made to the Minister are within the responsibility of the Minister—not the later document.

Mr SPEAKER: That is precisely what I have indicated I am prepared to look at further.

Hon Rodney Hide: Is the Minister of Defence satisfied that the concerns that he took to Ministerial Services were handled with the utmost professionalism, integrity, and competence by Ministerial Services?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I passed them to Ministerial Services. Of course, they have their own standards as to whether they are appropriately handled. I cannot actually speak on behalf of Ministerial Services.

Blue Cod Fishery, Marlborough—Reopening

9. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: What recent announcement has he made about the blue cod fishery in Marlborough?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture): Yesterday I announced the start of public consultation on the Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod Management Group’s plan for reopening the fishery. The fishery was closed in October 2008 for 4 years due to sustainability issues and it is not due to reopen until 1 October 2012. However, in March last year I asked the group to develop a sustainable management plan for this fishery to enable it to be reopened sooner, if possible. It has now reported back with a number of specific recommendations and it is seeking public comment on these over the next 6 weeks.

Colin King: What were the objectives of the Blue Cod Management Group?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I support lifting or relaxing the closure early so that we can start fishing for blue cod again when we know that it is sustainable. It is important to me, though, that any management plan would see the fishery opening, either wholly or partially, sooner than 4 years; would be easy for fishers to understand; would be straightforward for the Ministry of Fisheries to police; and would require some sort of reporting so that the success of the opening can be monitored. The members of the Blue Cod Management Group did an awful lot of work and an awful lot of consultation, and on behalf of the community I thank them for their work. I look forward to the community’s response to the proposals.

Department of Labour—Statement of Intent

10. CAROL BEAUMONT (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: Does she agree with the statement in the Department of Labour’s current statement of intent: “New Zealand’s continued wealth will depend on the skills of its workers and how firms and industry support New Zealanders to work to their best potential. This is one of the biggest long-term challenges facing New Zealand’s labour market and economy”?

Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): Yes.

Carol Beaumont: In the light of that answer, has the skills forum launched by the Prime Minister in October of last year held its second meeting yet, at which it was supposed to set a work programme; if not, is the skills forum likely to meet and set a work programme by the first anniversary of its launch?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: The member may be surprised to hear that it is not always necessary to have regular meetings and lots of strategies. This Government is about action. The skills forum meets as and when required. In fact, the Government has refocused the skills forum to deliver some very tangible improvements.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask members to be a little more courteous. It was extraordinarily hard to hear the Minister’s answer.

Carol Beaumont: What message is the Minister sending about the importance of skills, when papers prepared for the Cabinet strategy committee discussion about establishing the skills forum noted “an understanding that the Government will not be proposing a significant new work programme or allocating new money to initiatives”?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think the message we are sending is very clear, especially when one notes that education in skills is one of the Government’s six main policy drivers under our economic growth agenda.

Carol Beaumont: Does the Minister agree that increasing the skills of our workforce is an essential element of improving productivity and closing the wage gap with Australia; if so, why is there no skills forum to speak of, no new money for workforce skills and training initiatives, and no comprehensive Government programme for skills development and workforce training?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: The skills forum, as I said before, meets as and when required. If the member had read my letter dated 12 August 2010, she would know that a significant amount of work has been, and continues to be, undertaken across the Government to address issues about the supply of, and demand for, skills, including implementation of the tertiary education strategy; implementation of a targeted review of qualifications; implementation of Youth Guarantee scheme trade academies and new trade academies; implementation of the Youth Opportunities package, including Job Ops and Community Max; launch of the Skills Highway website, which, I note, since July has had over 3,600 hits; establishment of the Employer Champions Forum—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!


Carol Beaumont: I seek leave to table a letter from Minister Wilkinson to Minister Joyce in which she says: “I aim to hold five further skills forum meetings this year, which are currently being diaried. The first of these is likely to be scheduled—

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.

Carol Beaumont: I seek leave to table the page from a briefing to Minister Wilkinson that notes: “Cabinet strategy—

Mr SPEAKER: Is this apart from the briefing to the incoming Minister?

Carol Beaumont: No, it is a Cabinet strategy committee discussion. It is a page from a briefing to Minister Wilkinson that notes: “Cabinet strategy committee’s discussion on 19 October about ‘how much to use the new skills forum, with Ministers concerned not to raise expectations amongst social partners, and an understanding”—

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.

Carol Beaumont: I seek leave to table the draft key points and actions from the 17 December 2009 skills forum meeting, among which is the suggestion that the forum “should include as an aim higher wages, higher skills, and a productive economy”.

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.

Alcohol Abuse, Reduction—Alcohol Advertising

11. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Is he confident he can reduce alcoholrelated harm and youth binge drinking if the liquor and hospitality industries continue to spend $73 million a year promoting alcohol?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Yes.

Sue Kedgley: Has he seen research that 90 percent of 5 to 17-year-olds in New Zealand see at least one television alcohol advertisement every week, and that this exposure predisposes them to

drinking, well before they are 18, and are not his reforms doomed to fail because they do nothing to reduce the saturation advertising of alcohol?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The Minister is aware of the research the member refers to. He is also aware of international evidence that is remarkably inconclusive on the impact of liquor advertising. With regard to the second part of the member’s question, I point out that the Government has adopted stage one of the Law Commission’s recommendations by extending the existing offence of promotion of excessive consumption to off-licences, and by making it an offence to promote alcohol in a way that will have a special appeal to those under the purchase age.

Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that alcohol sponsorship of sports, clubs, rock concerts, and other events helps to embed alcohol brands and products into the everyday lives of young New Zealanders; if so, why is his Government doing absolutely nothing to reduce alcohol sponsorship?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No, I cannot confirm that. It is a matter for those who undertake such sponsorship to indicate what their motives are. I have indicated in my primary and supplementary answers the steps the Government is taking in response to the Law Commission’s report on the sale of liquor, which we believe will have a positive impact.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is Creating Intoxigenic Environments: Marketing Alcohol to Young People in Aotearoa New Zealand, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, which documents the exposure of young New Zealanders to liquor advertising.

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.

Sue Kedgley: The second document is the Regulation of Alcohol Marketing: A Global View, published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, which shows that alcohol advertising predisposes young people to drink.

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.

Sue Kedgley: I further seek leave to table a CD that contains a series of recent television advertisements for liquor.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think we are going to table CDs.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am curious at the ruling that you would not allow MPs to—

Mr SPEAKER: The member may be curious, but I have ruled.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is the right of MPs to raise questions with you, and to bring—

Mr SPEAKER: It is not the right of members to dispute the ruling of the Speaker. The member will resume her seat.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it your ruling that it is not permissible to table CDs in this House?

Mr SPEAKER: I will not table CDs like that—no, indeed not.

Hon David Parker: Oh!

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on that. The member may not like it, but that is fine.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just seeking clarification of your rulings. When you say “CDs like that”, what is the nature of the CD that makes it not table-able?

Mr SPEAKER: The Standing Orders provide for the tabling of documents, not for the tabling of CDs. If members want CDs tabled, they will need to change the Standing Orders.

Hon David Parker: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I am struggling to understand the point of order. I say to the Hon David Parker that I have extended the courtesy of listening to his points of order earlier today. I will listen, but I want the point of order to be very clear.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider carefully whether a document has to be a piece of paper in order to be tabled, because that is not my understanding of the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: It is the way I have interpreted it, and that is the way it will be.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to take into consideration your comment to David Parker, and that you gave him the courtesy of listening to his points of order, but that in my view you have not given me that same courtesy. I would like you to give that serious consideration, thank you.

Mr SPEAKER: The reason why I have not is that the member was directly questioning my ruling, and that is not acceptable.

Alcohol Excise—Industry Input

12. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Justice: What role did the alcohol industry play in ruling out an increase in excise duty, bearing in mind the Ministry of Justice analysis notes “a rule of thumb is that a 10 percent price rise results in an approximately 5 percent decrease in consumption”?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: None.

Rahui Katene: Does the Minister agree with this morning’s Dominion Post that “The Government, as it did when deciding not to reduce the drink-drive level, has opted for the immediately popular course rather than what is best for a country with too many binge-drinkers.”; if not, how will the serious harm caused by binge drinking be addressed?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No, I do not agree with the Dominion Post. I note that the Government has adopted 126 of 153 recommendations from the Law Commission. It is making changes to the laws regarding bar hours, off-licence trading, liquor advertising, and the minimum purchase age. I think those changes would constitute a pretty comprehensive response to the situation.

Rahui Katene: Does the Minister stand by his comment that “the pendulum has swung too far towards relaxation of alcohol laws.”; if so, how can the Government justify the continued liquor exemptions for canteens run by the police, the Fire Service, and the Defence Force, permanent charter clubs, and Cosmopolitan and Working Men’s Clubs?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I cannot comment on the Minister’s reported comment, although I personally would agree with it. With regard to the second part of the member’s question, the focus of the Government’s response to the Law Commission’s report has been to deal with those areas that are deemed to be of prime concern in terms of the binge drinking habits of young New Zealanders. The circumstances that she mentioned simply do not relate to those situations.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does he agree that a minimum price regime would directly target cheap alcohol, which is preferred by heavy and young drinkers, without having a big effect on moderate drinkers; if so, why did he not include that in the package yesterday; if not, why did he say so in the Cabinet paper?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The Government has responded to what is seen as one of the prime areas of alcohol use by young binge-drinkers, the ready-to-drink, or RTD, mixtures, with changes to the maximum alcohol content and to the number of standard drinks in a container. We see that as being an appropriate response to the circumstances that the member has outlined.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question specifically referred to targeting cheap alcohol, which is preferred by heavy and young drinkers. The Minister turned to a completely different subject. My question was on price, which was related to the primary question; his answer had nothing to do with price, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Peter Dunne.

Hon PETER DUNNE: The point I was alluding to in the answer was that ready-to-drinks are a common drink used by young people. By changing the alcohol content and restricting the size one will have an impact on price, which was the point the member was raising in her question.

Mr SPEAKER: I confess that I did not pick up the exact intent of the member’s question. Because the member was serious about her question, I will invite her to repeat it so that we can all hear it very carefully.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does he agree that a minimum price regime would directly target cheap alcohol, which is preferred by heavy and young drinkers, without having a big effect on moderate drinkers; if so, why did he not include that in the package he announced; if not, why does he say so in the Cabinet paper?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No. With regard to the second part of the question, a number of international studies are around at the moment—and I refer the member to what is going on in Scotland at this stage—where the jury is still out on the impact of those measures.

Question No. 11 to Minister

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to refer you to Hansard, Volume 660, at page 8723, where Mr Phil Goff sought the leave of the House to table a DVD in which the Prime Minister was discussing GST. That leave was put to the House, there was no objection, and the document—the DVD—was tabled under your ruling.

Mr SPEAKER: I am trying to say to the honourable member that the House is getting back into the habit of wasting time on tabling documents. I am trying to get some control over that, and I do not want to see the House tabling DVDs, CDs, or whatever. The Standing Order provides for documents to be tabled for the information of members. If members want to widen that to table other things such as CDs or DVDs, they will need, in my view, to change the Standing Order. That is the way I am interpreting it. If, in fact, I have today deviated from what I have done in the past, I apologise to the House, but I believe that I am acting with good intent.

Metiria Turei: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I am happy to talk to the member about it privately, but I do not want to take the time of the House on something so trivial. Let me say why. The Standing Orders provide for the tabling of documents on the rare occasion where members of this House would benefit from information being made available to them by the tabling of documents. A practice has developed over the years where members make a political statement in asking a question, and when the Minister makes a political statement in return, the member seeks leave to table a document to prove that his or her political statement was correct. That is not how question time should be conducted, and I am not going to support that kind of approach to question time. I will check for the honourable member exactly when that ruling was made, but I do not want to go back to the previous practice. Members will recollect that there have been times when members have sought to table all sorts of things in this House. I have managed to constrain tabling to documents that are not readily available to members. I do not want to see it expanded again with attempts to table DVDs, CDs, and that kind of thing.

Hon David Cunliffe: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not intend to take the matter further. I will hear very briefly from the Hon David Cunliffe, and then Metiria Turei, and that will be the end of it.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In support of your previous ruling, it might assist the progress of the House if, in giving further consideration to this matter, you consider whether the content of the medium—whether it is a DVD, a document, or a piece of paper—might advise and inform your ruling. In particular, you might consider whether the particular content might not be available to members in any other form—for example, a recording or a television clip that might not normally be available to the House. Your

consideration might conclude that that would be in keeping with certain legislation that deems that the technology-neutral approach should hold in such matters.

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): Mr Speaker, given that you already have once this year allowed for leave to be sought to table a DVD, I would ask that until the issue is considered by you, perhaps in discussion, you continue to act on your precedent and allow the seeking of leave to table the CD I have, given that it has information that it is of use to the House, import to members, and relevant to the question concerned. If your ruling or the Standing Orders are to be changed, we would then do that later, but there should be equal treatment by you of all MPs and their right to seek leave to table documents in this House.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I do not want to prolong things, at all, but I think the Hon David Cunliffe made a good point: it does go to the question of content. The DVD that has been quoted today as having been allowed to be laid on the Table of the House by the Hon Phil Goff clearly involved the engagement of a politician, and therefore was of moment to the House. This CD is a collection of television ads, and if people want to see them, they should turn on the button of their TV.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not intend to take any further time on this matter today. I have ruled on the matter, and that is the end of it. I am happy to give consideration to my ruling today, but I do make it clear that a document is a piece of paper. If anyone wants to check the dictionary definition of “document”, he or she is welcome to do so. What is more, if there is information on a video clip, it is easy to get a transcript of what is said on it. I do not want to see this House wasting more time on members’ tabling all and sundry. The House wastes quite enough time on the political point-scoring of tabling documents. That is not what this House is about. This House in question time is about asking good questions.

Accident Compensation—Rehabilitation Rates

5. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What initiatives has the Accident Compensation Corporation undertaken to improve rehabilitation rates, and what reports has he received on the success of these programmes?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): Over the last 18 months the corporation has been working very hard to improve rehabilitation rates, with more effective triaging of claims; specialist case management, such as the Recover Independence Service; and the National Serious Injury Service. New services have also been developed to improve rehabilitation outcomes, such as Stay at Work, and Better at Work, and the comprehensive vocational rehabilitation service. Those changes have delivered a dramatic turn-round in rehabilitation rates across all of the accounts of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), which consistently show improvements at the 3- month, 6-month, 9-month, and 12-month rehabilitation reporting times.

Michael Woodhouse: How do those rehabilitation rates compare with the record of the last 6 years?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: When I look at the 6-month rehabilitation rate, it shows a decline from 86 percent in 2004 to 85 percent in 2005, 84 percent in 2006, 83 percent in 2007, and 82 percent in 2008. Over the last 18 months we have been able to undo at least 4 years of that trend, with a 3 percent improvement in those rehabilitation rates. I point out to the House that a 1 percent change in the rehabilitation rate changes the liabilities by $500 million. That is one of the reasons we have seen such a dramatic turn-round in accident compensation.

Michael Woodhouse: How confident is the Minister that ongoing improvements in rehabilitation rates can be achieved?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am confident, because the board, the management, and the staff of ACC throughout New Zealand recognise how important rehabilitation is to both claimants and levy payers. All members of this House should welcome the improved rehabilitation, which enables

people to get back to work and get their lives back to normal after an accident, and that is why I think everyone in this House should congratulate ACC on the significant improvements.


Sale of Liquor (Objections to Applications) Amendment Bill—Report-back Date

1. Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) to the Chairperson of the Social

Services Committee: When will the Sale of Liquor (Objections to Applications) Amendment Bill be reported back to the House?

KATRINA SHANKS (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): The committee’s report on the bill was presented this morning.

Hon George Hawkins: Why did it take over 2 years for the committee to reach a decision?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a matter for the chair. The decisions of the committee are not the responsibility of the chair.

Sale of Liquor (Objections to Applications) Amendment Bill—Submissions

2. Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Labour—Manurewa) to the Chairperson of the Social

Services Committee: How many submissions did the committee hear on the Sale of Liquor (Objections to Applications) Amendment Bill?

KATRINA SHANKS (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): Technically, the bill is no longer before the select committee, but I can inform the House that 10 submissions were heard.

Hon George Hawkins: How many oral submissions were not heard by the select committee, and what was the reason for that?

Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure that asking how many oral submissions were not heard can be a logical question. If they were not heard orally, they were not oral submissions. The second part of the question is out of order because the reason that the submissions were not heard is not the chair’s responsibility; it is a matter for the committee. I therefore have to rule the question out of order.

Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill—Submissions

3. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial

Relations Committee: When will the committee hear submissions on the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Bill?

DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East): The committee has not called for submissions on that bill yet, so it is not possible to say when submissions may be heard.

Hon Darren Hughes: On what date during the term of the previous Government was this bill to lift the driving age referred to the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for consideration?

DAVID BENNETT: I would have to refer back to the minutes to see the actual date, but the report back date of the bill is 24 December.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The chairperson did a very good job of repeating my question back to me telling me what I had asked him. I was still aware of that because it had been just a momentary second since I had asked him. I asked him the date at which the bill was referred to the committee.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that the member asked a fair question, but the chair of the committee does not have that particular information with him. It is not unreasonable that he does not answer.

DAVID BENNETT: We do have date, just reflecting on it. It was 18 October 2007.


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