What reports has he received in respect of the amended emissions trading scheme?
I have heard reports from the Greens that the amended scheme is insufficient to protect the environment, and reports from ACT that it would wreck the economy. The criticisms made by commentators are about equal in both directions, suggesting that we have got the balance about right. National campaigned on a balanced approach, and that is exactly what we are delivering.
What was the provision in the contract with Ngāi Tahu and other iwi that has led the Government to reach an agreement on carbon farming on the conservation estate?
The contract provision in the Ngāi Tahu settlement specifically required the disclosure of any information that would have a material effect on the properties selected. I reject the Opposition parties’ claims that the amended scheme is showing preferential treatment for Māori parties. Let us say that any forest or any other Crown property had been sold to a corporate—nothing to do with the Treaty—with the same disclosure requirements and a subsequent loss of value of between $70 million and $120 million. I do not think a member of this House would be so naive as to not expect that corporate to take, or consider taking, legal action against the Crown.
Is it correct that “Crown Law advice suggests ‘there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligations.’ ”, as claimed in Phil Goff’s press release yesterday?
No, that is not correct. The official advice was, and let me read it out directly: “Crown Law has advised that it cannot rule out the risk that there may have been a failure by the Crown to disclose relevant information as part of the property selection process. The disclosure provisions in the deed of settlement could have been breached.” It is on this basis that the previous Government agreed to try to negotiate a resolution of this issue with Ngāi Tahu, and it is a bit opportunistic for Labour to now criticise us for doing just that.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify—were the last two sentences from Dr Smith a quote from Crown Law?
The member will resume his seat immediately. The member will sit down immediately. I ask the member how he thinks it assists the order of the House for him to not resume his seat when I am on my feet calling for order. I invite the member to reflect, or he will be taking an early shower. I warn him that the abuse of the point of order system is something I will not tolerate.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am reluctant to intervene after you have ruled on my colleague, but I think there was accidental confusion from the Minister—
The member will now resume his seat. I realise he has been away from the House for a few days—[ Interruption]
I am on my feet. The reason why I chose to do that is that I do not appreciate members, even the Hon Trevor Mallard, thinking he can get away with that when I have made it very clear that the point of order process cannot be used in that way. He will not get away with that. That is the end of matter. I have ruled on it. I make it very clear, and if someone wants to leave the Chamber, it will be fine.
Why did the Minister just make the claim that he did in answer to last question, when it is very clear from the Crown Law opinion that “Firstly, there is, however, no evidence that any material information on the emissions trading scheme was withheld from Ngāi Tahu.”, and when the concluding paragraph makes it absolutely clear: “conclude that there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligations under the deed of settlement.”?
There are different views from the QC—not Crown Law; the QC who was commissioned by the previous Government. I say to the member opposite that the quote that I read—and I will read it again—is the official advice to the Government, and I will read it for the House’s benefit: “Crown Law has advised that it cannot rule out a risk that there may have been a failure by the Crown to disclose relevant information as part of the property selection process. The disclosure provisions in the deed of settlement could have been breached.”
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister is quoting from the official document, might it be tabled please?
Indeed, if the Minister was quoting from an official document. It is requested that that document be tabled if it is an official document.
Yes, just to clarify the situation. The quote I have came from a Cabinet paper. I do not have the Cabinet paper with me. I have the quote that was taken from the Cabinet paper. I am happy to table the piece of paper that I have in the House, if that is your wish.
An interesting issue has arisen. The Standing Orders, as I understand them—and I stand to be corrected here—actually require a document that is being quoted to be tabled; not just a passage from the document. Unless I am challenged, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which the quote is taken, when it is available.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yes, it is available. There is a difficulty, and I want to be very up front with the House. The normal convention in the release of such advice of Cabinet papers is that the Opposition first be consulted. I am assuming that members opposite are relaxed about the release of that Cabinet paper.
I was the relevant Minister at the time, and I would consent to that being released.
It appears, as I understand the Standing Orders, that the paper should be tabled when the Minister can get it.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just need to check this point, because it is important: the Crown has reached an agreement in principle with Ngāi Tahu—
No, it is not; it is an important point. There is legal advice—not in that paragraph but in other parts of that document; not in that quote, but other parts of that document—that might be prejudicial to the Crown’s interests. Mr Speaker, are you requiring that even those passages in that document, which may be prejudicial to the Crown’s interests, must be tabled in the House?
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is highly desirable that this whole issue gets taken off-line and dealt with—[ Interruption] Let us be clear. The convention is that one Government’s Cabinet papers—[ Interruption] That is quite right—the Standing Orders do make some provisions about documents that the Minister has in the House with him. The difficulty here is that the quote was from a document clearly from a previous Cabinet, and the member will know well the convention is that documents like that are released only with the permission of the previous Cabinet. The former Minister has said that he is comfortable with releasing that. I think it would be wise if all parties have a look at the entire document before we proceed down this particular track. I want to add further that I do not think the Standing Orders were ever put in place to defeat some of the principles that enable executive Government to operate in a country like this.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The points raised by the Leader of the House are actually red herrings. Standing Order 367 is very clear. It states: “Whenever a Minister quotes from a document relating to public affairs a member may, on a point of order, require the Minister to table the document. …” There is only one exception in the Standing Order and that is if the document is confidential. We have heard the genesis of the document. It is a Cabinet paper from the previous administration. The previous Minister consents to tabling it, so does the Opposition spokesperson. There is simply no objection or practical reason why the Minister’s offer to table the document should not be accepted.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 367 also states—and it is very important—that “unless it is of a confidential nature.”
That is right; let me finish the point. In respect of confidentiality, we would normally use the test of the Official Information Act. The Official Information Act makes it quite plain that those documents that would pose risk to the Crown by their release should not be released.
No; let me make it plain. I commit to releasing the part of the Cabinet paper that I quoted. I will check with Crown Law as to whether there are any other parts of the document that would not be released normally under the Official Information Act as per the provision in Standing Order 367. [ Interruption]
I do not need any further assistance on this matter. I thank members, because it is an interesting issue that has arisen. I kick myself for not having been quite as familiar with some Speakers’ rulings as perhaps I should have been. Three Speakers have addressed this issue previously: Speaker Harrison in 1979, Speaker Kidd in 1998, and Speaker Hunt in 2000. Speaker’s ruling 138/1 argues that in fact if the Minister has the entire document and quotes from it the Minister can be required to table the entire document. However, the Speaker’s ruling states: “If an extract or portion of an official document is quoted, the Minister can be required to table that extract or portion only and does not have to go away and procure the whole document for tabling in the House.” I blame myself for not having picked up on that earlier, and that would seem, I must say, to show my earlier ruling was not valid; it was incorrect. What the Minister should be required to table is the document from which he quoted today. I ask the Minister to do that. I think the discussion has been an interesting one, and I thank members who have contributed to that worthwhile point of order.
What advice has the Minister received on the valuation of the agreement with some iwi, and how does that compare with statements made by Charles Chauvel on Sunday that it will cost taxpayers $50 million per year, that that is a very conservative estimate, and that it adds another $2 billion to the cost of National’s emissions trading scheme amendments?
Officials advise a total value of $25 million, compared to the valuation of Ngāi Tahu’s loss and claim, undertaken by the previous Government, of between $70 million and $130 million. This $25 million value is sensitive to the price of carbon and is based on $25 per tonne until 2013, and $50 per tonne thereafter. The $2 billion claim by Mr Chauvel is almost 100 times the official advice, and for him to describe the claim as very conservative makes Labour look hysterical and financially illiterate.
Has the Minister seen Brian Fallow’s conclusion that his changes to the emissions trading scheme tell polluters not to worry about the cost of emissions because someone else will pay for almost all of it; and how is it fair to make taxpayers carry 84 percent of the cost of his emissions trading scheme, as the Sustainability Council calculates?
No, I do no agree with that analysis. I point out to the House that the scheme we are implementing in New Zealand is very close to that of Australia. I say to commentators like Mr Fallow and the members opposite that if they want to make those criticisms of this Government’s scheme, they must make all the same criticisms of the scheme that is being put in place in Australia.