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Health, Minister—Confidence

Wednesday 28 March 2007 Hansard source (external site)

Key4. JOHN KEY (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does she have confidence in the Minister of Health?

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Who will be held accountable for knowingly signing the contract with Dr Bierre, a man whom the district health boards knew at the time they signed was using inside information, and a man whom the Prime Minister has described as duplicitous, and whose behaviour, she believes, may border on criminal?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

Clearly, the board is accountable. The first task right now is to secure lab services while the Government considers what other inquiries might be made.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Is it correct that Dr Bierre’s impropriety in remaining intimately involved in the deliberations leading up to the selection of the lab service provider when he had an absolute conflict of interest lies at the heart of the problem, yet while he was doing that he was directly and personally supported by his close friends National MP Dr Paul Hutchison and—his running mate for the board—Dr Jackie Blue?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

I can absolutely confirm that to be the case. Indeed, when one looks at Dr Bierre’s letter to Dr Paul Hutchison, one finds it clear that Dr Hutchison had suggested that Dr Bierre write to him soliciting a letter to Wayne Brown. It is further clear from my investigations that Dr Bierre acted as a scrutineer for the National Party at the Onehunga Primary School booth in the 2005 general election.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Why should the New Zealand public have any confidence in a situation where the same people in whom the Prime Minister is saying she has no confidence at all—and whom she is refusing to express confidence in—are now being asked to sort out the contracts and the mess that she seems to be blaming them for getting the public into?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

The court has provided a very clear direction of what should happen, and that is that the boards should go back to the drawing board on a tender.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

Madam Speaker—[ Interruption]

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Please be seated. There is a practice growing that when some members rise to ask a supplementary question, comments are made of a personal nature that are certainly not conducive to the keeping of order in this House. Every member in this House is entitled to ask a supplementary question without that sort of comment from any side of the House.

CullenHon Dr Michael Cullen Link to this

What percentage of the Labtests Auckland consortium shares did Dr Bierre have and at what price, and what did he and his partners gain from this involvement?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

The court judgment reveals that Dr Bierre was given 15 percent of the Labtests Auckland consortium shares, for a total sum of $83,000. The contract value, of course, over the 8 years of the contract was half a billion dollars. It is further noted in the judgment that Dr Bierre had contributed none of the $17 million of working capital to establish this service. The court judgment also makes clear that in the consideration of what proportion of the shareholding Dr Bierre should have, the key attributes he was said to bring to the consortium were his position on the Auckland District Health Board, which provided excellent lines of communication of information, and his being a major influence in the restructuring model for pathology services provision. This is a man Jacqui Blue was proud to have scrutineering for her at the 2005 general election.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

If the Prime Minister thinks the appointees cannot do their job properly, and if she thinks Mr Bierre is such a bad individual, why is she entertaining his possibly being able to enter into a new contract with the district health boards?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

I would like this answer to be listened to in silence because I want to be very careful that I do not say anything that invites judicial review. Any such direction from me on who should be considered for the contract could well invite judicial review. I note from the judgment that the plaintiff is no longer seeking a remedy that Labtests Auckland not be able to tender, and that the court in fact ruled that the unfair advantage Labtests Auckland had gained was overcome by the process being started again. The court further ruled that the very public nature of the proceeding had now effectively neutralised Labtests Auckland’s advantage.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

How can she have confidence in the Minister of Health, who told the House yesterday that he has no objection to the Auckland regional district health boards giving a multimillion dollar contract for lab services to someone whose behaviour she has suggested could be criminal?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

I was here yesterday and I am not sure I heard anything along those lines, but I would repeat the answer I just gave: for either me or the Minister to indicate whom a tender should now be awarded to runs the risk of a decision made following such a direction being judicially reviewed.

KeyJohn Key Link to this

Can the Prime Minister tell the country who will be accountable for this fiasco, given that her own appointees signed a contract with Dr Bierre knowing that he had inside information; whom will she be holding accountable, and when will she be determining that?

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

As I said, the board is accountable. Both the Minister and I have declined to express confidence while there are new arrangements to be put in place from 1 July. We will be considering what further investigations are to be made into the quality of the advice on which the board acted.

HutchisonDr Paul Hutchison Link to this

I seek leave to table a reply by the Minister of Health, Pete Hodgson, where he directly thanks Dr Paul Hutchison for being the first—

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There—

HutchisonDr Paul Hutchison Link to this

—to point out a conflict of interest to the Auckland District Health Board, and where Justice Asher says—

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Please be seated. The rule is that when members seek leave to table documents, the documents are to be identified; a speech is not given to describe what is actually in the documents. I have noticed the practice has come about for, in effect, people of all parties to, in fact, make speeches. In future I will be cutting them off. The document has to be identified, but it does not have to have a full explanation after it. Was there any objection to the tabling? There was objection.

ClarkRt Hon HELEN CLARK Link to this

Can I then seek leave to table the letter from Dr Hutchison to Mr Brown, the chair of the Auckland District Health Board, which, having pointed out the conflict of interest, then states that Dr Bierre—[ Interruption]

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Please be seated! I do not need any assistance from that side of the House. I was rising to make the point.

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

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would like you to review the ruling that you have just made, and question whether in fact there was interruption during the point of order from the Prime Minister, and what the remedy for that is. It is not usually, I think, a fourth general warning. Mr Brownlee obviously led the interruption, but at least six of his mates were screaming during the point of order. That is outside the requirements, and, in the last week, many of us have been required to leave the Chamber for a lot less.

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Yes. I know that the member is right. But I would also say that the Prime Minister was going on to describe the document as I was rising to my feet. Now, everybody knows what the rules are. Points of order are to be heard in silence. When points of order are made to table documents, a brief description only will be given in future; if members continue, they will be leaving.

HutchisonDr Paul Hutchison Link to this

I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Just as a question of clarification, how many times is it possible for one to table the same document?

WilsonMadam SPEAKER Link to this

Well, these matters, as I am sure the member knows, are with the leave of the House.

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