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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's Question Time covered the following subjects: Hauraki Gulf Park Land - ACC Select Committee - INCIS Inquiry - @Work Insurance - Restaurant Endorsement By MPs - Industry Development - Our Health Our Future - Sky Hawks And F16s - State Housing - Tariffs.

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 10 February 2000

The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised some days after the event.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

Grant Gillon (Alliance) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: Does the Government intend to propose an amendment to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Bill to ensure that the whole of Takapuna Point is transferred into the proposed park and is available for the public use and enjoyment of all New Zealanders?

A: Much of the land will go into the park on the passage of the bill. Local Authorities are very supportive of the inclusion of the land in the park.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National) Why did the current government fail to support the amendment of Nick Smith - substantially identical - that was proposed last year?

A: The SOP circulated today in relation to this legislation is far from identical I can assure you of that. The greatest difference between the bill as it is now and as it was before relates to how the Treaty of Waitangi is dealt with, there is also the transfer of more defence land, and there were also some complex matters. The bill will enable an integrated approach to the area. We are still working through some issues with Iwi. A large number of their concerns have been addressed. There are some things even now that may be less than ideal - but this is a good model for the way forward.

Question 2.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What did she mean by her comments, as reported in the Dominion of 8 February, that "the chorus at the select committee [on the Accident Insurance (Transitional Provisions) Bill] was predictable"?

A: I meant exactly what I said.

Q: Jenny Shipley: Did the PM predict that a woman who had lost her husband in a forestry accident would turn up and say she is pleased with the way she was treated by her new insurer. Or did she predict that the Salvation Army would say they preferred their new insurer. Or that the Richmond Fellowship would say the same thing. And will she change her plans in relation to these genuine concerns.

A: While obviously having sympathy for those who suffer in accidents I have no doubt that many workers could also be brought to the committee to say how they have not been treated well by the new system. The chorus of the National Party is entirely in tune with the Insurance Industry. They sung it all last year in election year and lost. My understanding is that accusations made by Ken Shirley concerning Hazel Armstrong are incorrect.

Q: Jenny Shipley: Is the Select Committee just a sham then?

A: I take it just as seriously as the National government did when it rammed through its hotly contested changes in various areas.

Question 3.

H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Why did the Government take the decision to cancel the Commission of Inquiry into INCIS and what is he establishing in its place?

A: The Commission of Inquiry was heading towards blowing out to $7 million with lots of very expensive QCs involved. The current inquiry under Dr Small will be far more efficient.

Q: Ross Robertson: Is Dr Small being paid too much?

A: Dr Small was one of three commissioners involved in an earlier inquiry, and we wanted continuity. Dr Small's fees are half of the fees charged by the previous commission established under the previous government.

Q: Brian Neeson (National): Since the agencies most under scrutiny in any inquiry would be the Police, Treasury and the State Services Commission is it not highly predictable that they would come up with cost reasons for not holding an inquiry?

A: Under this government issues are decided by Cabinet. Not by Police, not by Treasury and not by the State Services Commission.

Question 4.

Gerry Brownlee (National) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:

Q: What does he expect ACC to do regarding the level of accident insurance premiums over the next three years, since @Work New Zealand has said that premiums are likely to fall significantly further in year two?

A: I expect premiums to be maintained below the present average risk-weighted weight.

Q: Gerry Brownlee: Is it now clear that @Work Insurance can achieve far better outcomes?

A: Evidence that a state agency can deliver benefits is most obvious in the managing down of the tail which is being done entirely by the ACC.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Does he believe @Work when they say they can deliver lower premiums?

A: I am confident either agency could manage premiums down in the future.

Question 5.

Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is it Government policy to endorse, commercially or otherwise, private companies competing with other businesses in this country?

A: While there is no government policy on this matter it is raised in the Cabinet Manual and is discouraged.

Q: What action will she then take to bring her junior whip into line for endorsing a restaurant - and to assure us that the Labour Party is not receiving any pecuniary advantage from this arrangement?

Speaker: The PM has no ministerial responsibility for this please rephrase the question.

Q: Does she support actions of a Government Member of Parliament endorsing one private business over others.

A: While I would not encourage endorsements I have seen the adverts in question and I do not think MPs should get too precious about these matters.

Question 6.

Max Bradford (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What did he mean when he said, as reported in the Dominion this morning, that the Government's new economic development programme would "get a lot wrong"?

A: When this government embarks on its development programme we are looking for innovation - this means taking some risks. There is one thing worse than getting some things wrong and that is getting everything wrong while doing nothing - which was the record of the last government.

Q: Max Bradford: How much of the $100 to $200 million has been provided for getting it wrong?

A: By the response of the business and regional communities of NZ who want to co-operate with this government in this policy that member should ponder how he lost 10,000 votes at the last election when he presided over the decline of the regions of New Zealand. In August last year Max Bradford announced a picking tall poppies initiative.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): How much wrong is too much wrong?

A: Whatever the government invests will be every single dollar more than ACT would have invested. There will be some risk in the investments made by Enterprise New Zealand. But we only need a few successes to make this country indistinguishable from that presided over by the previous government.

Question 7.

Martin Gallagher (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What steps will the Government be taking to begin to address the problems identified in the Our Health Our Future report?

A: We are committed to addressing the matters raised in this report. We will address resources to key areas to address the shocking statistics in the report issued yesterday. This report will be a foundation document and a valuable resource for this government. From here we can address our priorities where they are most needed.

Q: Dr Paul Hutchison (National): Will she be taking Lakeland Health's advice that they could more effectively deliver the Hepititis screening programme than the Hepititis foundation?

A: What I can say is that we are committed to early detection of diabetes. We know that if you do detect it early you can treat it. The government previously was prepared to leave that issue on the back burner and we now have more sick people than we would have had, and greater cost as a result.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): What will she do about diet?

A: One of the big issues in this report was nutrition and diet. It is one of the key population health goals to be taken to the community for consultation over the next few months.

Question 8.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: How does he reconcile his statement on Morning Report yesterday that the Government is "not actively trying to sell the Skyhawks to anyone" with the report on Television New Zealand news at 6pm last night that New Zealand diplomats have confirmed that talks are underway with the Philippines over that country's purchase of the New Zealand Air Force Skyhawks, or does this mean the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not advised him that diplomats are negotiating to sell the Skyhawks?

A: The Government is not negotiating the sale of the Skyhawks. Under the previous government the Air Force began to scope the level of interest in the Skyhawks, this was well known. There was a much publicised flight of a Phillipines politcian in one of the Skyhawks following APEC.

Q: Why are opposition members able to find out that the US are offering to buy the Skyhawks or the Philippines when the Minister is kept in the dark, or is the real explanation that even if the F16s were free they would be refused because the PM and her government are strongly anti-American?

A: I can assure the member that no negotiations are underway by any official with any mandate. The government regards the future of the Skyhawks as being dependent on its decision on the F16s and on its defence priorities. I cannot instruct officials to stop doing something they were never instructed to do in the first place.

Q: Peter Dunne (United): Does he mean to say that no discussions are underway with anyone about the Skyhawks?

A: There are no discussions underway between myself or any member of the government with anyone else concerning the sale of the Skyhawks.

Question 9.

Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council of Ministers agreed that arrangements for mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food would be finalised in March this year; if so, will the timetable be achieved?

A: A decision is expected at the May meeting in Canberra.

Q: Sue Kedgley: Does she think these delays are intolerable?

A: In principle a decision was made by Australasian Ministers to label foods in October last year. A report on cost implications is due back in March. If labels are signed off in May I think a reasonable deadline will have been met. One of the problems that happened just before Christmas related to Australia's decision to look at food in a "whole" way. This has delayed matters and has been the subject of conference calls.

Question 10.

Tony Ryall (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs:

Q: How does she explain telling the Listener that the Government is not going to publicly say it would accept a smaller dividend from Television New Zealand and telling OnFilm magazine that she will consider trading off a smaller dividend from Television New Zealand?

A: The full answer given the OnFilm question was as follows. We will be looking at that tradeoff but it will take place over time. The first step will be laying out a charter for Television.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Can she explain how she wants to pay for better quality programming?

A: One option being considered is allowing TVNZ to retain more of its profits. The mechanism for accomplishing the government's goals has not yet been determined but what is clear is that this government is prepared to invest in delivering quality TV. I understand a meeting of the board is being held today - I do not know the agenda. (She was asked whether she knew if heads would role today.)

Question 11.

Tim Barnett (Labour) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: What reports has he received on serious housing needs in New Zealand and what action will he take as a result of those reports?

A: Briefing papers from officials show problems in housing. It is our intention to bring rents for low income families down to 25% of their incomes. State house sales have been stopped. The previous government's policy has been characterised by overcrowding and other problems… (interrupted by speaker.)

Q: Sue Bradford (Green) What will he do about the housing crisis in Northland and the East Cape?

A: The government's response is to set up special housing action zones. The current schemes are not working - we are working with the people in those areas. An increase in state housing stocks in these areas will increase jobs in those areas. We are aiming to ensure that low income families have affordable rental accommodation. We also want to assist low income families into home ownership and we have the policies to deliver that. This government will not ignore the poverty that exists in our communities.

Question 12.

John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Does he see any benefits to regional development of maintaining tariffs; if so, could he specify them?

A: The Labour Alliance Government policy on tariffs is to freeze not reduce them. Our policy is not to do what the National Government did last year when it slashed car tariffs it squandered $300 million in revenue and destroyed 10,000 jobs.

Q: John Luxton (National): Why then did the government do nothing to stop tariff reductions late last year, is it because he does not want to be seen as one of those with "rocks in his head" as described by the Minister of Trade Jim Sutton?

A: Mr Luxton could not see that the regions in New Zealand were in decline and that is why he is sitting over there and I am sitting over here. People in the textile industry have told me that they believe the National government wrote them off.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What is he doing to convince his Labour colleagues to impose an across the board 5% tariff?

A: The Alliance in this government is accorded respect and enormous advantage in terms of what we have accomplished.


ENDS

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