General Debate

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yesterday I rose and spoke on the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Bill. We have heard further this afternoon of the devastation and the destruction that was borne on Canterbury. The earthquake in Canterbury is probably the No. 1 natural disaster that has happened in my lifetime. There may not be another disaster during my lifetime that is as dramatic and that has such far-reaching consequences as what has happened in Canterbury.

On a similar note, later this afternoon the House will debate the first reading of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. I suggest that this bill is the single most important that has been debated in my short time in Parliament. I suspect it will be the most important bill that will be debated in my entire parliamentary career. This bill has major constitutional significance. It has the potential to alienate—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note that my colleague Darren Hughes, who is much more up to date with the Standing Orders, is not here. It certainly used to be against the Standing Orders for members to anticipate a debate. I am not sure whether we have abandoned that rule now, but in the past when something has been on the Order Paper for debate, the substance of it has not been able to be debated in the general debate.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is certainly right that in the past that has been correct. I am not aware of the Standing Orders having been changed to change that. So since that bill is on the Order Paper, it may be OK to refer to it, but to focus the entire debate on it is in some ways to anticipate the bill. I do not want to be too pedantic about it, but a point of order has been raised. I alert the member that to talk about the bill in very, very general terms is probably OK.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will talk about the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, an existing Act of Parliament, and the circumstances that gave rise to the passing of that Act.

Let me address the issue of the emissions trading scheme. I campaigned vigorously against it. In its simplest expression, one can look on it as a surcharge of $500 million per annum on electricity and petrol for all New Zealanders. That will create a huge pool of money, which essentially will go to subsidised forests. The Government, with the emissions trading scheme, decided to tax New Zealanders $500 million a year and give away that money. My colleague David Garrett will speak later this afternoon on something far more important than the emissions trading scheme and something of far greater constitutional significance.

The Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 came out of the case of the Attorney-General v Ngāti Apa . In essence, in that case some mussel farmers in the Marlborough Sounds sought a ruling on customary title. They sought a customary title, and the Court of Appeal ruling in 2003 overrode the decision in 1963 on the so-called Ninety Mile Beach case. What did the justices say?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Notwithstanding your ruling, Mr Speaker, after a minor diversion, the member has gone back to a speech that is now completely on the matter that is further down on the Order Paper.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I am talking about the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 and the circumstances that gave rise to its passing. I was talking about the decision made by the justices of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand in Attorney-General v Ngāti Apa .

Mr SPEAKER: I hear the honourable member on this issue. I must say that the Standing Order relating to the general debate is very broad. It does not preclude any topic being excluded from the general debate. Members traditionally talk about almost anything in the general debate. I do not want to start constraining too much what members can talk about. Standing Order 109 states: “(1) A member may not anticipate discussion of any general business or order of the day. (2) In determining whether a discussion is out of order, the Speaker has regard to the probability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable time.” The foreshore and seabed bill on the Order Paper will be becoming before the House very shortly. The member will need to be a little careful. He should not refer to the detail in that bill. As long as the member does not do that, I will not constrain him too much during the general debate.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will not speak about the detail of that bill, but I will speak about the circumstances that gave rise to the passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004. I would like to take this opportunity to say to National that the passing of the 2004 Act was of major constitutional significance. As Tariana Turia reminded me a short time ago, the ACT Party opposed the passing of the 2004 bill. Our reason for opposing its passing was that we believed in property rights. We believed that Māori should have the right to bring a customary claim, as the judges in the Court of Appeal said in 2003. The judges said that in order to bring a case for customary rights, one had to show continuous and exclusive occupation of land from 1840. The judges said that although Māori should have that right, the number of Māori who would be able to meet that test would be small, if any.

What did the Labour Government do at the time? It went out and confiscated the rights of Māori. It passed a law that denied Māori the chance to seek customary title. I will not discuss what is proposed—I will leave that to my colleague Mr Garrett to do so in less than an hour—but we have to be very careful about the consequences of passing and unwinding that sort of legislation. I say again that what gave rise to the 2004 Act was a ruling by Court of Appeal judges that one had to show exclusive and continuous occupation of that land from 1840. The knee-jerk reaction of the Labour Government was to pass the Foreshore and Seabed Act.