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General Debate

Wednesday 5 October 2011 (advance copy) Hansard source (external site)

GoffHon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this

I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. For 3 years this National Government has been saying that maintaining New Zealand’s credit rating has been the mark of its economic success. How many times did John Key tell the country about the dire consequences of a credit rating downgrade? He threatened the country that this would lead to a 1.5 percent rise in home mortgage interest rates. Do members know what that would mean for a family with a mortgage of $300,000? It would be another $90 a week. Then he promised that if we downgraded—[ Interruption]

A disturbance took place in the gallery, and a member of the public was removed.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Members will take their seats please. I say a big thankyou to the security guard. Would the Serjeant-at-Arms please be involved and ensure that things return to normal. Thank you, Serjeant. Members may resume their seats. [ Interruption] I am on my feet. We have had enough interruption in the Chamber. The member of the public has been removed. Therefore, I call the Hon Phil Goff, who will commence his speech again. Thank you.

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

Mr Speaker—[ Interruption]

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Remember, honourable members, when we point one finger at someone else, we often have three pointing at ourselves.

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

Can I acknowledge the work done by security in preventing that sad incident and say that it is even sadder that the Prime Minister would have tried to blame that on the Labour Opposition. I think that is an absolute disgrace. [ Interruption]

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

I am on my feet. [ Interruption] I am on my feet. [ Interruption] I am on my feet. The practice of members engaging in heckling and a constant barrage of interjections is entirely intolerable in a debating chamber. This is not a public house. This is Parliament. Let us show some respect for each other. Courtesy is contagious, and we will all benefit if we abide by the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings.

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

For many years this Government has been saying that maintaining the credit rating—

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

It is not a lie, I say to Mr Henare; it is what the Prime Minister actually said across the floor of the House, and he should have withdrawn and apologised for that. What we have seen is two major credit rating agencies—[ Interruption] It was an appalling remark by the Prime Minister, and the ongoing barrage from the Government backbenches does not help that situation.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Would members leaving the Chamber please show some restraint and allow the speaker, the Hon Phil Goff, to proceed with his speech. Courtesy is contagious.

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

The downgrading of the credit rating of New Zealand—which blindsided the Government—by two credit rating agencies last Friday is a reflection by those credit rating agencies that they lack confidence in the economic management of this country.

Hon Members

Shame!

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

It is a shame. I hope that the election campaign will be conducted with a little more dignity than the Prime Minister showed in the Chamber earlier today. The truth of that credit rating downgrade is that it will hurt New Zealanders. It will add to the mortgage interest rates faced by home purchasers. It will add to the cost on all of us as Kiwi taxpayers for what we are paying for the increasing level of Government debt.

That increasing level of debt led Standard and Poor’s to that downgrading, because we have moved from a situation where the Government account was in surplus to a situation where the deficit on the Government account is now 30 percent. We have moved from a situation where this country was actually starting to engage in the process of saving through KiwiSaver and through the Cullen superannuation fund, which would have enabled us to meet the demands and the costs of an ageing population. But National cut KiwiSaver after it had promised the country before the election that it would not do so. This Government has failed to invest in the Cullen superannuation fund, though its well-being today depends on the return that we are getting on that superannuation fund, which it has now undermined.

I remember the Budget, and I remember John Key saying: “Phil Goff might not like this Budget, but Standard and Poor’s does.”

Hon Members

Ah!

GoffHon PHIL GOFF Link to this

Standard and Poor’s does! Well, clearly it does not. For the first time in 13 years this country has suffered a credit rating downgrade. That has happened for the first time in 13 years, and that comes 3 years into the term of this National Government. This National Government has no one but itself to blame for that situation.

You know, it is just not good enough, as John Key advised, that we would muddle through our economic problems. Muddling through is not good enough. It is not good enough when our economy has stalled—0.1 percent growth in the last quarter—when John Key said that we should be having aggressive recovery from recession. It is not good enough that the gap with Australia is growing. I say to Mr Power that if it is not growing, why is it that 100,000 New Zealanders—100,000 New Zealanders—have left this country permanently for Australia under John Key’s watch? Those 100,000 people have voted with their feet.

It is not good enough that inflation is at the highest rate in 21 years. At lunchtime today we saw the workers who clean our building, and they are on nearly the minimum wage. They are on just over $13.50 an hour. A lady there, Jane, talked of her dream of being able to properly care for her kids and grandkids. It was a dream that she cannot realise, despite the fact that each night she cleans the Prime Minister’s office. It is wrong that in this country people should be struggling—struggling—to put food on the table for their kids when they are working a full working week.

Every New Zealander deserves a living wage, and Labour will provide a living wage, with a $15 minimum wage rate. Instead of cutting the taxes on the wealthy—giving the top 150 wealthy people, including the Prime Minister, an extra $1,000 a week in tax cuts—we will use a capital gains tax to apply a tax on those who pay no tax on their income, so that all New Zealanders can get their first $5,000 free of income tax. For those families I met today, that will mean another $1,000 a year in their pockets, so that they can feed their kids healthy food. Cutting the GST on fresh fruit and vegetables by 15 percent will help them make that choice, as well. The choice at this election is very clear.

BoscawenHon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT) Link to this

I seek leave of the House to table charts of the American stock market Standard and Poor’s index, and the Financial Times index, showing the stock markets—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Where is the information from?

BoscawenHon JOHN BOSCAWEN Link to this

I am seeking leave to table the Standard and Poor’s indices for the US stock market, the Financial Times UK index—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Thank you. Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is none. The member may table.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for my confusion. There was an application from the member, to start with, to table, I think, three documents, including stock market indices for an undefined period. But then I think there were two other things. I think the member got leave for the first document, but not for the other two, and I wonder whether he wanted to finish.

BoscawenHon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT) Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was trying to save the House’s time. I will seek leave to table four separate documents in four separate points of order, if that would please the House.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Is there any objection to that course of action—

TremainCHRIS TREMAIN (Senior Whip—National) Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My understanding was clear that the way you moved that motion was that the first three documents had been put, and we agreed on those. Whether there is a fourth one is another matter, but I was pretty clear that three had been voted upon.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

There are three that have been agreed to. If Mr Boscawen has a further one, he should seek leave now.

BoscawenHon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT) Link to this

I seek leave to table a chart of the New Zealand Exchange index over the last 12 months, showing that the indices have dropped, and had we borrowed money to invest in New Zealand stocks, as the Labour Party is promoting, we—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is.

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) Link to this

Listening to the Leader of the Opposition go through Labour’s policies earlier really, really did reinforce the earlier comment made by the Minister of Finance that some people live in a little world that is in some sort of parallel universe. They are not aware that there has been a global financial crisis, from which the entire world’s economy has taken a battering. They think that somehow New Zealand’s figures should still be exactly as they were. They claim that if the Labour Party was in power, there would be nothing but sweetness and light. Then the Labour leader went on to document all the saving policies that would save this country if Labour were to get into power.

Let me deal with one item in the parallel universe. Right now this House—yesterday, today, and over the last week or so—has been listening to valedictory speeches from members who have chosen to leave this place before the next election. The sad thing about valedictories is that there is a huge number of Labour MPs who will not get a chance to give a valedictory, because they will not be here after the next election. No matter how many times their leader keeps promoting the failed policies that Labour trots out, it keeps dropping in the polls. I have copies of all the five major polls, and the averages of those. As Labour keeps wheeling out policy—and we hope Labour keeps wheeling out some more policy—down in the polls it goes.

Let us take Labour’s polling on, say, Sunday night in the TV3 poll. Now, TV3 polls are not normally very complimentary to National, so we do not ever look at it and say that the results are good.

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON Link to this

Sue Moroney laughs, but I can tell members that in the past the TV3 polls always looked like they had a bit of a bias towards the Labour Party. But let us go with it for the sake of the argument. It showed 26.6 percent support for Labour. That means that Labour would have 32 members coming back to this Parliament after the election.

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON Link to this

Yes, that many, I say to Mr Carter. Now, let us have a look at Labour’s list, because it is just a juicy thing to be looking at.

GuyHon Nathan Guy Link to this

Who’ve they got?

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON Link to this

Hang on; let us go through it. First of all there are 19 sitting Labour constituent MPs, of whom I think the majority will come back. I think there are a couple of doubts. In the case of Waimakariri, Clayton Cosgrove may have some real difficulties coming back. He is sitting on a very small majority of something like 390. If we want an indication of how worried Clayton Cosgrove is, let us look at what he has said in the past. Was he on the party list in 1999 when he first stood? No. Was he on the party list in 2002 when he stood? No. Was he on the party list in 2005 when he stood? No.

But more important, listen to what he said in the Christchurch Press about party lists. He said that staying off the party list gives him a choice not to be on the list, preferring to get a mandate from the people of his electorate to go to Wellington. He said it gives him a degree of independence from the party, and makes him directly responsible to his electors. That is what Clayton Cosgrove said. [Interruption]

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but I advise members that interjections should be directed to the member who has the floor. It is not a time to have a private engagement between members who do not have the floor and have a disagreement.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the debate, but I wish to ask you whether it is appropriate for the member Tau Henare to give a Mongrel Mob salute, or sign, in this House.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Speaking to that point, I call the Hon Tau Henare.

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

This is actually “hang ten” in Hawaii. [ Interruption]

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Members will come to order. I call the Hon Maurice Williamson to continue.

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON Link to this

But for this election, miraculously, after all that pandering and saying that he would not be on the list—that he did not need to be, and that he did not want to be beholden to the party—Clayton Cosgrove is on the list. This has to be the first example in history of a rat swimming towards a sinking ship rather than away from one—the first example in history.

But there is more. If we gave them the option of winning those seats—if we gave them the option of winning all the seats they hold, plus the three more that they will possibly take, it will mean that Labour will get 10 members from its list. There are no guarantees, by the way, but let us assume that Labour will take three more. Let us assume that Dave Clark wins Dunedin North, Megan Woods wins Wigram, and Phil Twyford wins Te Atatu. I do not know whether he will, but let us assume so. Even if that is the case it will mean that Labour will get 10 members from its list.

Those members should not be laughing over there. They should not be smiling. I have to say to Mr Stuart Nash that he is way outside the cut-line. He will be gone. When we took Labour on in the mid-1990s, when they were polling 16 percent, I remember making humour of that—

Hon Members

14!

WilliamsonHon MAURICE WILLIAMSON Link to this

No, no. At the time, Labour was on 16 percent. We made a joke about the movie The Sound of Music, because it had three songs in it that were appropriate. The first one went “I am sixteen, going on seventeen”—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Order!

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

The member will be seated.

FlavellTE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just check that we start the clock about the time I will start shortly, or was it started during Mr Williamson’s discussion?

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

The member will get 5 minutes as per normal.

FlavellTE URUROA FLAVELL Link to this

Thank you very much. Kia ora tātou. Yesterday in question time the Minister of Police when asked about the levels of recorded crime in New Zealand made an interesting statement. She said: “Frankly, focusing on someone’s race is not going to make it any better.” I think that is an interesting statement, with due respect to the Minister, because immediately I think it distances her from the Government’s policy direction, advanced by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Māori Affairs and given sign-off by Cabinet. I am talking about the drivers of crime policy, which is a whole-of-Government approach to reducing offending and victimisation, with a particular focus on Māori. The Māori Party would, I think, love to pretend that ethnicity is not an issue in the justice sector, but anyone can look through the Government’s own reports to know that this is simply not true.

Let us take some of these for starters: the New Zealand Police and Ministry of Justice data tells us that Māori were four to five times more likely to be apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted than their non-Māori counterparts. The Department of Corrections report Over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system tells us that Māori were seven and a half times—seven and a half times—more likely to be given a custodial sentence, and 11 times more likely to be remanded in custody awaiting trial. It is not as if the system itself has not realised it has a massive issue in what the reports are calling the impact of discretion. A Ministry of Justice report identifying and responding to bias in the criminal justice system made two key recommendations: first, to develop responses that identify and seek to offset the negative impact of neutral law structures, processes, and decision-making criteria on particular ethnic minority groups—which is really just a flash way of saying that it is institutional racism—and, secondly, to enhance cultural understanding and responsiveness within the justice system, and to improve public accountability via monitoring and publishing data on rates of ethnic disparity. The outcome of this apparent discretion is tragically seen in the collective impact upon whānau of Māori being imprisoned at a rate of six times that of non-Māori—six times.

For the purposes of assisting the Minister to answer her own question—why focus on ethnicity—I will take a moment just to look at the role that discretion plays in the New Zealand criminal justice system. Opportunities for discretion to operate present themselves in situations from the decision to report an incident as a crime—I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just ask that if members are having a discussion, they could tone it down? I am struggling to hear myself in this very good speech that I am delivering to the Parliament of the land.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

I just advise members that it is a convention in here that if they wish to have a private conversation, they should do so outside the Chamber. It is discourteous to the member who is trying to address the House. We are all honourable members, and every member shall be given the opportunity to make a good speech. Thank you.

FlavellTE URUROA FLAVELL Link to this

I was talking about discretion, and opportunities for discretion to operate present themselves in a range from decisions to report an incident as a crime through to prosecuting decisions on whether an incident should even end up in court, and from the impact of jury discretion right through to sentencing and the decision to grant parole. Although discretion may be good in theory, there are some anomalies, and that is where we have some problems.

I will take members to two things that happened in my electorate of Waiariki—two cases. Here they are—Paul Quinn, whakarongo! In case one, at Rotorua: a 17-year-old was killed when he was hit by a jet ski at Lake Ōkareka. His two friends, both Māori, were found responsible for his death after one of their jet skis performed a manoeuvre that threw up water obstructing the other’s view. The two Māori boys were charged with operating a ship in a manner likely to cause unnecessary danger to persons or property, and they pleaded guilty in March 2011. They were sentenced in June, and discharged with conviction. They were discharged with conviction even though the judge admitted that they had done everything possible to right the wrong. During their court appearance the young men were supported by their families, the family of the boy who was killed, and their school. Their school principal told the court that the two were academic achievers who would do well in their futures. Both lawyers for the defendants pleaded for the young men to be discharged without conviction. That was case No. 1.

In case No. 2, in Tauranga, a Pākehā man was killed in the harbour after his Pākehā friend accidentally steered his boat into a beacon. The Pākehā man, like the two Māori boys, was charged with operating a ship in a manner likely to cause unnecessary danger to persons or property, and pleaded guilty. The person was discharged without conviction after paying a $3,000 donation to the Tauranga Coastguard and $500 in court costs. The judge in this case said that the donation and the fact of the defendant having accepted his responsibility for the tragedy carried a deterrent effect. He said that the defendant had paid a significant emotional price—both him and his family. From my perspective, both parties in this particular instance paid a significant price, so what is the real lesson here? Is it that money counts? In every other respect these cases are absolutely identical, apart from one thing—the ethnicity of those accused. All I ask is that we investigate this before we dismiss it.

CunliffeHon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) Link to this

This is the last general debate of this parliamentary term. It is the last week of this parliamentary term. National’s summing up of its achievements was heralded by the great Maurice Williamson. Where was the Prime Minister? Where was the Minister of Finance in a week when economic history has been made? It is also the last week of the school term, and I guess the public could be forgiven for confusing the two, because sometimes this place resembles a schoolyard brawl.

But, occasionally, we get the opportunity to rise above that, or we get it enforced upon us: a report card or two that do not come from within this classroom, but from assessors outside it. It is appropriate that this House reflects, in this week of all weeks, upon the report cards that have been given to New Zealand. Can we imagine, when Mr English gets home and opens his school report, that he finds he has a D—indeed, a DD? It is a DD based on an objective assessment not of national standards but of international standards—international standards that have been laid bare for all to see.

The first one is for total debt. He got a D for that because New Zealanders have borrowed too much and he has done nothing about it. The total level of debt is now close to that of southern Europe. This Government has put New Zealand in the company of the only one-quarter of OECD counties that have been downgraded in the last 3 years, the others being Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Italy, and the United States. That is the performance of this Government according to the international referee—the international assessment. The Government has got a D for not applying itself to the capital gains tax that could have solved that international debt problem.

The second criterion in the international standards is the current account deficit; the Government got a D for overdependence on commodity exports. It got a D for a widening current account. The Minister of Finance might like to spend his whole time in question time talking about previous Governments, but the fact remains that in his Budget the current account widens every year for the next 5 years to 7 percent of GDP in round numbers. That is the standard that he has been assessed upon. Forget parliamentary debate; just think about the facts this week. The public has access to an international assessment.

He also got a D for savings performance. That is hardly surprising after cutting KiwiSaver and starving the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. How was he going to get a pass mark on that one? The recommendation is that he apply himself to a strong savings policy like the other kids at school are bound to do. We will see whether he does.

If that was not enough in this last week of term, as well as international standards, the Government got a dose of its own. It got national standards from the Auditor-General, no less. The answer to those national standards was not to try harder—“could do better”—it was that the Government has lost billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money because the Minister could not exercise the most basic routine oversight. What did the national standards assessors say? They said that the New Zealand Treasury was not even up to monitoring finance companies that it had guaranteed the loans of, because it did not want to intervene. Hang on, it had already guaranteed the loans! Money was flooding in to expand its debt books by a factor of 1,000 percent, and Treasury did not want to monitor it because it would have been interventionist. Is that not ideology gone wrong? What did the Minister of Finance do about it? In the face of this appalling lapse of governance, he did precisely nothing.

Did he believe that the market would solve all these problems? We had 10 finance companies go belly up. The most important was South Canterbury Finance. The Minister intervened there to make sure the Government did not accept a recapitalisation package that would have limited the taxpayers’ loss to $500 million. How much have they lost now? It is $1.2 billion—$700 million extra. At lunchtime, as Phil Goff said, we had the honour to attend a lunch paid for by Parliament’s cleaners. They paid for it and we enjoyed the lunch on them. They are paid $13.50 an hour and this Government lost $700 million because it believed in the righteous market.

CollinsHon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police) Link to this

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the contribution of my parliamentary colleague Allan Peachey, who has today announced his retirement due to ill health. I am sure many of us will know that Allan has suffered from ill health for some time, and I am sure we would all like to wish him well.

Amongst all the stories this week, there has been a fantastic story about the crime statistics in New Zealand. I would like to personally thank the New Zealand police and all the other contributors to bringing down crime in this country in the very tough economic times that the world has been going through. I congratulate the police in particular, and certainly the Department of Corrections, on their work in rehabilitation and all they have done to try to make New Zealand a safer place. Despite all the doomsayers, they have succeeded. We announced the crime statistics on Monday: a 7 percent decrease around the country. Of course, in some parts of the country, that figure was substantially more, and in some it was less. Actually every police district of the country recorded a drop in recorded crime per head of population. I think that is a fantastic result. That is, of course, on the back of the fact that we had a drop in recorded crime for the calendar year to the end of December last year, as well. That was about 6.8 percent. So we have had two drops in a row, which is a fantastic effort.

What response came from the Labour Opposition? Well, there were two responses, if members would like to know. I am sure members here would like to know. The first response was from the Hon Phil Goff, and that was that it was all his work, that he did it. Three years after Labour got thrown out of office it was all Labour’s work. Now, that is despite the fact that Clayton Cosgrove—who used to be the Labour Party spokesperson on law and order, before he went quiet a year ago—said when statistics came out in 2008-09 and crime had gone up about 3 percent, that that was all National’s fault, because we were the Government. Suddenly 3 years later, it is all Labour’s work. Well, it is not; it is the work of the police, the Department of Corrections, all of the other agencies involved in this, and actually it is also the work of this Parliament because we have given the police the backing and the tools, and we have said to them that they should get out there and do what they think is best.

Part of that is Policing Excellence, which is a fantastic programme. In fact, a comment was made today by Labour that members may not yet be aware of. It came from the de facto spokesperson on law and order, Mr Michael Bott, who apparently is standing against my good colleague and friend John Hayes in the Wairarapa. It is good to know that Labour now has a spokesperson on law and order. Mr Bott’s answer to the crime statistics coming down was this: “Reported crime is down because fewer people are being charged …”, and that is apparently all because alternative resolution is part of policing. In other words, it is smart policing work. Of course, Mr Bott is wrong. There is a huge difference. Mr Bott is supposed to be a lawyer. He says that reported crime and people being charged is the same thing. No, there is a huge difference. I say to members of the House and to those two people who will have read Mr Bott’s press release, including myself, that in respect of alternative resolution, when police use their common sense and discretion to deal with an issue straight away rather than clogging up the court system for a very minor matter and a slap over the wrist, that is all recorded as a crime too. It is an offence and therefore it is counted, and Mr Bott is wrong. But, no, he launched into a personal attack on my good self, using the nickname that Labour gave me—oh, what a shame—and then he went on to get it all wrong.

There has been a third response made all through this year by Labour, from the Hon Pete Hodgson. Week in, week out, I have had written questions about the Diplomatic Protection Squad and the costs of keeping the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, and dignitaries coming to New Zealand safe. We have seen in the House this afternoon an example of why we need to have those people here available to assist the Prime Minister. We have seen a Diplomatic Protection Squad member of the New Zealand Police today assisting in a very difficult situation. Frankly, nobody should resent the Diplomatic Protection Squad doing its job.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Can I just remind the member that there should be no comment on matters that happened in the gallery, according to Speaker’s ruling 8/4.

CollinsHon JUDITH COLLINS Link to this

Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. I think the Diplomatic Protection Squad does a fantastic job. I do not resent for one moment the fact that it needs to do its job helping to keep visiting VIPs, the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and anyone else safe. I offer my congratulations to the Diplomatic Protection Squad. I must say that I get the most fantastic responses from visiting VIPs about the work of the New Zealand police. I am very proud to be their Minister. Well done to them.

DunneHon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) Link to this

Yesterday I announced the decision to put a Gazette notice out in respect of three further synthetic drug products, likely to be synthetic cannabinoids, under the changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act that were passed by this House in August. I will take some time this afternoon to explain what is going on and what the next steps in this process are.

At the time that we put the changes through the House, with the cooperation, I acknowledge, of just about every party bar the Greens, they were to stop what is becoming a significant problem in New Zealand with regard to psychoactive designer drugs, synthetic cannabinoids, etc. They were also put through to give us an interim regime prior to putting in place the recommendations of the Law Commission next year that would shift the onus of proof to suppliers and manufacturers to demonstrate that products are safe before they could come on to the market. In the wake of that original piece of legislation I gazetted some 16 items, which effectively removed 43 products from the shelves at that time.

Despite what some now say proves the failure of the legislation in that we have had to act again, I made the point then that this would be part of an ongoing campaign, and that if anyone doubted our determination then they merely had to test it. The suggestion was that if we ban this sort of range of products, then a new variant arises, we ban that, and we keep on going, and we keep on going, and one day someone will run out of energy. Well, yesterday’s decision demonstrated that we are not about to run out of energy. If the industry thinks it can reformulate, change names, repackage, or do whatever, they are welcome to do so. But we will catch them, and we will put in place the mechanisms to take those products off the shelves every time, until the permanent legislation is in place around the middle of next year.

But there is another dimension to this. I say this very clearly, because I think it will make it more difficult for those seeking to thwart the provisions of the amendment legislation. The exercise that led to yesterday’s decision was the interception of material at the border. In other words, it was not product that was being distributed commercially already; it had been intercepted by customs and police prior to getting to the point where it was available for distribution. That makes it that little bit more difficult for the suppliers here to get their supplies in, to reformulate them, and to put them out on the market. I am appalled by the determination of this industry to carry on, despite our equal determination to be better, or to match them in that respect. My strong advice to them today is to stop testing our patience, because we are determined, we are diligent, and we will stop every intervention that we find. The sooner they get the message in that respect, the better.

Up and down New Zealand there are parents, there are teachers, and there are community leaders who are very concerned about this issue. They have little tolerance for those who are seen, or who they believe seek to be seen, at the edge of the law, trying to manipulate it and twist it in this way. I think there is little tolerance in this House for that sort of behaviour also—that was evident during the earlier debate we had. Yesterday’s decision was a wake-up call to those people that we are on the job, and that when we become aware of products or substances that are being manipulated in such a way as to try to get around the prohibition, we will act and we will act quickly, and those products will be off the shelves within a matter of days. That is important for the people of New Zealand because there is a concern about what was seen to be an uncontrolled spread of these types of products.

I will make this point in addition: I have received a lot of correspondence from people saying: “It is all very well that you are cracking down in this area, but what about alcohol and tobacco? They are far more serious dangers to public health in New Zealand. Why aren’t you applying the same vigilance to those products?”. Well, the answer is very simple. In the case of alcohol, we have legislation before this House at the moment that moderates the conditions under which alcohol is made available and supplied, and that is the appropriate course of action to take. In the case of tobacco, there is a whole raft of legislative interventions that have been made over the years by my colleague to my immediate left, the Hon Tariana Turia, most latterly, and they control the use and the spread of that product. To say that because those items are on a different regime we should not take a strong action regarding synthetic drugs is, I think, an irresponsible point that completely misses the point at issue. I want to make the point that we are vigilant, and that we will continue to be so.

NashSTUART NASH (Labour) Link to this

First of all I pass on my regards to Allan Peachey. I wish him a speedy recovery and good health in retirement. I also pass on my thanks to Dennis Laplanche, the security guard who saved the poor individual from jumping down here, or from whatever he was trying to do. He has suspected broken ribs, and it is—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

I have just cautioned the previous speaker. Members cannot refer to events that happened in the gallery, and that is set out in Speaker’s ruling 8/4.

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

I also want to mention that when this happened John Key said: “You should be ashamed of yourselves; that’s down to you guys.” All I want to say is that I think Mr Key—

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Less than a minute ago, you told that speaker that he was not to refer to the—

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

But it didn’t happen in the gallery.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

There is a point of order on the floor.

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

—incident in the gallery. He has done it again. That is the third time.

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

I am referring to something that the Prime Minister mentioned when he was sitting in the House, right over there.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

The issue has been dealt with, but I again caution the member that he must not refer to something that happened in the gallery. There is Speaker’s ruling 8/4, and the member is warned.

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

Point of order.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

Mr Henare, I have already dealt with the issue, but I will hear the honourable member.

HenareHon Tau Henare Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It says in Speaker’s ruling 8/4: “A member is not in order in referring to what is happening in the gallery.” I seek your ruling on the word “is”—it says present tense.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

It does say present tense, Mr Henare, but can I say that in keeping with the situation that we have had in the House today, I think the ruling that I have made is entirely appropriate.

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

All I would like to say is that Mr Key actually said: “You should be ashamed of yourselves; that’s down to you guys.” when he was looking at Phil Goff. I say to Mr Key that I think he needs to take a good hard look in the mirror, and I will leave it at that. I say to Mr Williamson, to quote a former Governor of California: “I’ll be back.”

I would like to quote from an article by Gareth Morgan and Susan Guthrie. Gareth Morgan is a well-known economist and economic commentator in this country. He said: “At last we have arrived at the point where the most conservative proponents of market economics admit that the past 30 years, since Reaganomics and Thatcherism were unleashed, has resulted in a serious distortion of our tax regime. The only opposition to significant reform is now the ugly Hard Right rump, which favours jungle economics … It is indeed a revolution that has swept the world’s financial press as, finally, there’s recognition of the damage wrought from policies that have allowed greater and greater wealth disparity in most developed economies. … Taken together with so-called taxation reform that in effect has exempted the rich from tax on the credit-fuelled capital gains, we have ended up with a grotesque polarisation of wealth.” I would like to repeat that: “we have ended up with a grotesque polarisation of wealth.” Only Labour in this House has been listening to the IMF, the OECD, the World Bank, Warren Buffett, and the vast majority of tax practitioners in this country, and all but two OECD—

QuinnPaul Quinn Link to this

Comprehensive capital gains, Stuart, not cherry-picked! Read the whole thing.

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not too sure which Speaker’s ruling or Standing Order it is, but I am led to believe that a member cannot leave his original seat to come down to another seat and interject in the way that Mr Quinn just has.

QuinnPaul Quinn Link to this

The particular ruling the member refers to refers to advancing one’s position for the purpose of interjection. I think it is well acknowledged that my beautiful baritone voice carries magnificently across—

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

The member is referring to Speakers’ rulings 63/1 and 63/3. I tell Mr Quinn that the rulings go on to note that when a person does move to facilitate interjection, if that interjection continues and it becomes overriding, the member can be asked to go back to his or her original seat to interject. I have not done that yet, but I am listening.

NashSTUART NASH Link to this

Only Labour has a plan to truly reform the tax system. Only Labour has a plan to ensure that all New Zealanders pay their fair share of tax. Labour will put money back into the pockets of all New Zealanders, not only the very wealthy. Labour will make the first $5,000 tax free, we will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and we will take GST off all fresh fruit and vegetables so that every New Zealander has the chance to make healthy choices. Our tax reform will allow us to pay off debt and keep our State assets. National’s plan includes keeping a flawed tax system and selling State assets. Labour will reform the tax system, making it fairer for all. Labour will never ever sell State assets, we will never sell our power companies, we will never sell Air New Zealand, and we will never sell Kiwibank.

In New Zealand under this National Government we have seen tax cuts for the very wealthy, paid for by an increase in GST for everyone. In fact, the increase in GST was done even though John Key stood in front of the people of New Zealand and said he would not increase GST—and he did. He promised he would not, and he did. So all New Zealanders paid for the tax cuts for the very wealthy. Let me give the House an example. Someone who earns $1 million a year—and about 700 New Zealanders do—received a tax cut of $1,000 a week. Someone on the median wage in Napier received around $11 a week. That is very definitely not enough to cover the increase in the cost of living. That simply is not fair at all.

ParataHon HEKIA PARATA (Minister for Ethnic Affairs) Link to this

Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker. Otirā tēnā tātou katoa. It has already been mentioned this afternoon that this is the last week of this Parliament. It has given me cause to think back to December 2008 when I had the honour to deliver my maiden speech, and to reflect on whether my aspirations, as articulated at that time, have shown some meaningful gain over the 3 years of our Government. In December 2008 I talked about quality citizenship, I talked about the characteristics of that, and I talked about my hope that we would be able to deliver real and substantive change that would allow us to experience quality citizenship. I also talked about one of the significant challenges to our achieving that, which was the disease of dependency, the very kinds of policies and philosophy that characterise the other side of the House, and the sorts of things that this Government came into power having to deal with the legacy of.

Our Government in this 3 years, I am proud to say, has been able to focus on sustainable and systemic change. I want to give just a few highlights, in fact, and these are the facts that give the lie to the kinds of assertions that are often made by members on the other side of the House. In respect of the economy and the cost of living, this Government has seen that floating mortgage rates are now about half of what they were under Labour. Three-quarters of all earners now pay a top tax rate of no more than 17.5 percent. After tax, the average wage has increased 7.4 percent in the past year, keeping wage growth well ahead of inflation at 5.3 percent. What did we see under Labour? Well, I think New Zealanders are sick of the litany of statistics that peppered that administration, but the statistics were all heading in the other direction.

In education we will see 12,500 places for 16 and 17-year-olds by 2014, including those in our trade academies and service academies—eight trade academies this year and 13 more in 2012. By 2014, 4,500 students a year will get practical skills, and $550 million per year for the next 4 years will go into early childhood education. We are spending $14 billion on health this year. That is the most ever. There will be a thousand fewer back-office staff but 800 more doctors and 2,000 more nurses.

ParataHon HEKIA PARATA Link to this

I am being asked how many. The news is so good that it bears repeating: 800 more doctors and 2,000 more nurses. That is translated into 27,000 more elective procedures a year compared with the number in 2008. There will be 500 more procedures every week, and we have a target of 4,000 extra procedures a year. There will be 1,800 more doctors, nurses, and midwives signed up to our voluntary bonding scheme in hard-to-staff areas and specialties, and we will have 200 more places at medical schools by 2013.

What did we have under Labour? There was another litany of failures, including 30,000 patients culled from hospital waiting lists. Some patients waited up to 15 weeks for cancer radiation treatment whereas under this Government we have now hit the world benchmark, with the time from seeing a specialist to getting treatment being within 6 weeks. What we saw under Labour was 9 years of lost opportunities. What we have seen under this Government is 3 years of hard-fought-for opportunities when we have been in a world with a global financial crisis.

Here in New Zealand we have suffered our own significant setbacks, in terms of the Canterbury earthquakes, the loss of life at Pike River, and the failure of some of our financial and insurance institutions. Notwithstanding all of those challenges, this Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister John Key, has been able to leverage as many positive and optimistic opportunities out of those as possible. Why? Because we are a Government focused on building a brighter future. We have an unassailable belief in the power of the potential of individuals, their families, and their communities. We completely understand that it is businesses that build growth and productivity, and with that growth and productivity we can look forward to better jobs and higher incomes for more New Zealanders.

HagueKEVIN HAGUE (Green) Link to this

The date of 26 November marks election day for us, but I want to talk about an anniversary that will occur 1 week before then, on 19 November. That will be the anniversary of the first explosion in the Pike River coal mine.

From my kitchen window I look out to a view of the Paparoa mountains, and I am conscious every day of the 29 men who still lie underneath those mountains, entombed in the mine. I am conscious of the efforts that still need to be made to recover the bodies and remains of those men in order for their families to find some kind of closure, and in order for my community—the West Coast community—to reach some sort of closure. I reflect on the sad history here—and I referred to some of that in question time today—of Pike River mine management being told in December that it was politically unacceptable to refer to “recovery”, being given the impression that recovery was no longer on the agenda, and being given only half of the resources required for a recovery operation.

That evidence before the Royal Commission on the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy was given further credence by the Government’s decision in January to transfer responsibility for the mine from the police to the receiver. The receiver, of course, is bound to some strict statutory rules that require it to work in the interests of shareholders, meaning that the recovery of bodies would occur only incidentally to a commercial decision to reopen that mine.

Clearly, the Government has rethought that, and I pay tribute to Bernie Monk and to the Pike River families for having achieved that Government rethink. The Government has indicated that it may well tag the mining licence to require the recovery of bodies, if that is acceptable, and that it may well contribute to funding the cost of that recovery operation. I give notice to the Government that I will be looking at the small print in those undertakings, because it seems to me that, given the Government’s track record, it may well look to escape from the commitments that the families believe have been made to them.

One of the other issues is the payment of creditors, and there has been some progress on that front, too. There has been a very belated and very partial payment to creditors. That is better than nothing, but it is still far short of adequate. It still needs further work.

I want to praise the Government for its action in establishing the royal commission of inquiry. As far as I can see—and I have been present at around one-third of the hearings so far—the royal commission appears to be doing an extremely good job of its task of attempting to discover the causes of the disaster, and related matters. I do not want to canvass those same issues. I just express my deep sorrow that the Government decided not to fund the Mines Rescue service to be able to participate fully in that process. I believe that that is also indicative of the Government’s attitude towards this issue.

I want to focus in particular on the issue of regulatory reform. As this is the last general debate on one of our last sitting days here in this House, in this forty-ninth Parliament, I want to reflect on the particular courses I have been following in the House in question time. I believe that this disaster has demonstrated the inadequacy of our infrastructure for mine safety, and I praise the Government for its action in instituting the High Hazards Unit. I believe there is still some progress to be made on the reinstatement of check inspectors in mines, and the High Hazards Unit is a good start.

But I believe that the Government also needs to take action now on regulatory reform, and not wait until the royal commission reports. We have heard a catalogue of woes about this mine: inadequate drainage, unsafe drilling practices, unfamiliarity of managers with mine layout, inadequate evacuation drills, no fresh air base, and, above all, this disastrous emergency exit that is impossible to use. The regulatory framework that has allowed those issues to develop in that mine is what guarantees safety in other mines.

QuinnPAUL QUINN (National) Link to this

Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou e te Whare. In the general debate last week, comment was made from this side of the House about the fact that gone from the Labour Party hoardings was the brushed photo of their leader. There was not any acknowledgment of someone called Phil Goff, who apparently is the leader of the Labour Party. In fact, they are all running. I do not know, I am not too sure, but I have heard on good authority that even in Mount Roskill there are no photos of Phil Goff. I have not vetted that for myself, but I have heard it on good authority. Of course, this week Labour Party members have realised that going it alone in one’s own electorate and running a constituent campaign does not work either. So what have they decided to do? Well, they have decided to climb on the bandwagon of the All Blacks. Now we see these banners saying something like “When things look black, we’re at our best.” Do members know what? If they were to substitute the word “back” for “black”, then they would be right. When someone, or the community, or someone whom Labour members do not like looks back, looks them in the face, and confronts them, then they are at their best. Do members know what that best is? It is nasty, nasty politics. That is what we get from them. We look at them, we front up to them, we have them on, we challenge them, and what do they do? They get nasty. They get very nasty.

Let us have a look at some examples. The most recent one is Darien Fenton, who said of Sir Peter Leitch: “I choose not to buy stuff from those who support Tories” and that he is a sycophant. She accused him of sucking up to the Prime Minister. Well, hello! When did I hear her talking about that when Sir Peter Leitch was entertaining Helen Clark?

Let us have a look at Clare Curran. She said she has“had a gutsful of the white-anting of Labour from both the right and the left of politics.” She then climbed into the Greens for encroaching on Labour Party policy—GST off vegetables and food. This is the Greens’ policy, which Labour has pinched. Labour has no ideas of its own.

NashStuart Nash Link to this

What? Maurice! Help him out, Maurice.

QuinnPAUL QUINN Link to this

As for Mr Nash, I will come to him in a minute. The fact of the matter is that we have all heard the story about rats and mice and sinking ships. The problem with the Labour Party is that talent is being sacrificed. That is the problem with the Labour Party. Their talent is being sacrificed. Let us look at Kelvin Davis. On current polling Kelvin Davis ain’t going to make it, and neither is Stuart Nash, who has a few hiccups but has promise and some talent. It is just a pity he does not quote on the floor of the House the full Gareth Morgan quote about a capital gains tax. Gareth Morgan is on record as saying that a capital gains tax works only if it is comprehensive and not cherry-picked. It is about time that Stuart Nash faced that. If Labour is going to have a capital gains tax at all, it cannot cherry-pick. Every authority tells us that.

I see that Mr Mallard has arrived. Let me quote from the Dominion Post in March. He is the member who said he would not be standing again for Parliament if Labour is not going to get into Government.

Lees-GallowayIAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) Link to this

It is a little bit ironic hearing from Paul Quinn about list spots. “Mr 58” is so respected by his own colleagues that he is dead last on their list of MPs.

I want to talk about a serious issue, rather than talk about polls, signs, and list spots. The major arterial road that links Manawatū to Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa is the Manawatū Gorge. Since 18 August that road has been closed due to a series of slips that have continually piled more and more rocks, debris, and mess upon the narrow, winding, two-lane road that traverses Te Āpiti. Yesterday we heard the news that the road is expected to be closed for at least another 2 months. That is close to 4 months that Palmerston North and the Manawatū will have gone without a primary transport link to the east.

That is bad enough, but even more disheartening is the knowledge that once the clean-up is completed, further closures, both of the minor and regular nature that we have become accustomed to and on the massive scale of the current closure, are inevitable. With the exception of 2 days of snow, which managed to find its way even into the city centre, the weather events that have precipitated these slips have not been remarkable. It is simply the nature of the terrain and the road that without substantial investment the continual closure of that most important piece of transport infrastructure is unavoidable.

One of Palmerston North’s strengths, one of our comparative advantages, is its central location in the lower North Island. Because of its geographic location, businesses such as Foodstuffs, Progressive Enterprises, EziBuy, and service providers such as Enable New Zealand have located their distribution centres in the city. Palmerston North has a growing reputation as an important distribution hub for the lower North Island, being easier to access than Wellington, and within short travelling times of both coasts, the capital city, and north beyond Taupō. Our central location also makes us the perfect place to host sports events and conferences. We have successfully bid for, or created, a number of cycling events, even though our bid to be the home of the cycling centre of excellence was unsuccessful.

Economic development in the Manawatū is dependent on quality transport infrastructure. The ability of our region to play to the strengths our location gives us is heavily reliant on central government playing its part. Central government is not playing its part. Steven Joyce’s roads of national significance policy means that we in the provinces are totally overlooked. It is all about the urban centres and it is all about roads. Regions and rail do not get a look-in. While the Minister is busy building his holiday highways in the north, the Manawatū Gorge remains closed. The Manawatū - Wanganui region has about 10 percent of New Zealand’s roads but we get just 3 percent of the funding. That simply is not good enough.

There is no easy solution to the Manawatū Gorge problem. Building a tunnel or a suspension bridge are gold-plated options that have been considered in the past and they have been passed over. It is possible, though, that the solution lies in upgrading both the Pahīatua Track and the Saddle Road, both of which are struggling under the weight of the additional volumes of traffic, which are now at such levels that travelling on both of those roads is incredibly dangerous. The Tararua District Council spent $1 million just trying to convince Steven Joyce to take exactly that action. The mayor said at the time that after submitting that proposal she felt completely fobbed off.

Speaking of money spent, clearing the road is conservatively expected to cost well in excess of $1 million, and Palmerston North is losing $60,000 a day in lost economic activity and lost productivity. Investing in transport infrastructure for the Manawatū would help avoid these ongoing costs. Investing in transport infrastructure for the Manawatū would help the city of Palmerston North play to its strengths, and help grow our region’s economy. But National has tunnel vision. Under its policy, provincial transport is neither significant nor a priority. We need to change those priorities. The only way to change those priorities is to change the Government, and the only way to change the Government is to vote Labour on 26 November.

HenareHon TAU HENARE (National) Link to this

I got it wrong, I say to Trevor Mallard. It is not “hang ten”; it is “hang loose”, so I say “Mahalo to you too, brother.” Clayton Cosgrove said earlier on this afternoon that he wanted to reflect. Well, OK, let us reflect. Stuart Nash says he wants to be like the Terminator—“I’ll be back.” The fact of the matter is that in the next Terminator movie, the Terminator dies. So if the member wants to be like that, I tell him to go right ahead.

I want to talk about working-class heroes, and one of those working-class heroes I love is the Mad Butcher—“Go the Warriors”—who to me is a true New Zealand working-class hero. He is not the sort of working-class hero in this picture, who drives around in a flash as Mercedes-Benz, and parks outside the office of Nicholas Jermyn Shirtmakers. Here is the thing. Look closely at this picture. What does it say? It says “Chauvel, Labour”. It is a Merc. It is a brand new Merc. But here is the thing. He is not even driving his own car. He has somebody else to drive it for him. Talk about Driving Miss Daisy.

How dare Darien Fenton have a go at our man—and he is our man—from New Zealand, from South Auckland, the Mad Butcher. I can understand that. I can understand being in Opposition and faced with the appalling travesty that is about to happen on 26 November. Well, it is not a travesty; it is actually good luck. Actually it is not luck; it is just good—it is just good. Labour is at 26 percent in the polls—

HenareHon TAU HENARE Link to this

Absolutely—no. 40 in the polls. Our 40 is the equivalent of 15 in the Labour Party. So who goes? Who goes from the Labour Party? Who does not get to have a valedictory? Well, we know it is Stuart Nash. And I feel sorry for that member, because he has actually done a lot—OK he has not, but he is a nice man. There is Carmel Sepuloni, who I think is talented, but she is not coming back either. There is Steve Chadwick. Well, she has been here for a while, so she can go.

Then there is Iain Lees-Galloway. Now we have just heard from Iain Lees-Galloway. He wants to put a tunnel under the Manawatū. He wants to put a tunnel there so there are no more slips. My goodness me! That is not going to get him in. I have two words for Iain Lees-Galloway—two words.

Hon Member

Bye-bye.

HenareHon TAU HENARE Link to this

No, the two words are Leonie Hāpeta. They are two words that will continue to play on that member’s mind.

Then there is the very, very unpatriotic Phil Twyford. He has the gall to open up an office across the road from me. I can handle that. I wave out to him every morning I go to work, but I have flags on my office: New Zealand flags, All Blacks flags, and flags of all the nations of the Rugby World Cup. And what does he have on his office? Nothing—nothing but an ugly red picture that has been photoshopped, and one that we know has been photoshopped. So I say to Phil Twyford: if you want to come to Te Atatū—not you, Mr Assistant Speaker Robertson, though, actually, I know you would like to come to Te Atatū. If he wants to come to Te Atatū and represent the people of Te Atatū, then he had better be patriotic about his country. He had better be patriotic about his nation, because I tell you what: it is a pretty bad look. To not even be able to find the turn-off to Te Atatū—that is another little lesson I want to leave Mr Phil Twyford from the Labour Party. They will all be gone on 27 November.

MallardHon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought the traditional time for valedictories was 10 minutes.

RobertsonThe ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson) Link to this

That is not a point of order, and the member knows it.

The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.

Speeches