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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions for oral answer concerned: Self Drive Car Charges - TVNZ Board - TV3 Litigation - INCIS Policeman's Departure - Royal Commission On GM - Skyhawks - Variation 17 And Ministerial Responsibility - Asset Sales - Accredited Employers - CEO Salaries - Australian Views On Defence - Sacking Teachers.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 16 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.

Question 1.

Hon. Ken Shirley (ACT) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: Was her self-drive ministerial car stopped by police last Sunday and impounded; if so, why?

A: The reason was that the driver was alleged to have committed an offence. The driver has been stood down from her current duties till the full facts can be obtained.

Q: Ken Shirley: Is it government policy to pay infringement fees, impoundment fees and towage fees for staff?

A: These matters are part of the inquiries that I have made. Irrespective of the outcome, any towage costs will be paid for by me.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Can the Minister assure the house that all proper procedures were followed with the release of the car?

A: I can advise that as far as I know the answer is yes.

(Disruption as a result of someone who should not have been in the chamber being ejected. Speaker - order - I have to say even after 33 years you can have something new happen in the house.)

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does she recall which MP had the highest travel account?

(Speaker - that question is not to be answered - Scoop notes that the answer is probably Richard Prebble.)

A: I am entitled to allow staff members to drive my car. I expect them to abide by the rules of the road and the law.

(Grant Gillon Alliance - leave sought to table articles about accidents to self drive vehicles - refused.)

Question 2.

Clayton Cosgrove (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What information has he received concerning the extent to which the Board of Television New Zealand was informed about the conditions of Mr Hawkesby's employment as a newsreader?

A: The board was informed before the contract was signed about the size and duration of the contract. Since the meeting on Monday two members of the board have denied this however.

Q: Bill English (National): Has he advised the PM of the potential costs of TV3 litigation?

A: Certain facts are in the public arena as a result of the release of the arbitration agreement.

Question 3.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did she receive any legal advice before reportedly stating that "enticement" was the "real scandal" in Television New Zealand's hiring of John Hawkesby?

A: No. I simply read the report of the arbitrator. I assume TV3 has read the report like anyone else and have not received any special advice on the issue of enticement. I was concerned that TVNZ scoffed at reports that it had been negotiating with John Hawkesby before he resigned from TV3. Any legal liability arises from TVNZ's actions and the ability of others to read the arbitration report.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Does the PM accept that her statement on enticement might impact adversely on the crown?

A: I advise the member to read the report of the arbitrator.

Question 4.

Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What role, if any, did Superintendent Kevin Marlow play in the failed police computer INCIS and its related CARD system?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf): The superintendent was business development manager prior to moving to a job in Intergraph. He was not responsible for INCIS but was an adviser on the project.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Is the minister concerned that this person trained for an MBA while working for the police and then left to take up a position with the CARD system supplier?

A: I do not know him personally but I understand he has an unblemished record of 29 years service in the police. Can I invite the member if he has any evidence of inappropriate behaviour to produce the evidence. I am advised that he resigned voluntarily and did not perf.

Question 5.

Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: Did she sign and approve a Cabinet, or Cabinet Committee, paper on the inquiry into genetic modification that included the option of not proceeding with the Royal Commission of Inquiry stated in the Speech from the Throne?

A: No.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Does she share the view of the PM that the option's inclusion was the fault of her officials?

A: I can understand why the Prime Minister was annoyed because the Royal Commission was the government's choice. The government will be considering terms of reference shortly and I hope to have the commission established by the end of March. The government believes that only the weight of a Royal Commission will win the trust of the participants involved.

Question 6.

Keith Locke (Green) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: How many times have New Zealand Skyhawk fighter planes been used in actual operations since they were purchased over 30 years ago and on what occasions?

A: RNZAF Skyhawks have never been used in actual operations.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Can the minister think of any occasions on which Skyhawks might be used?

A: Consideration of the Air Strike Force will comprise part of a wider assessment of NZ's defence requirements.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National): Does the Minister recognise the effectiveness of the Skyhawks as a deterrent and that the fact they haven't been used is proof of their effectiveness?

A: I can only repeat that the need for the force will be reviewed this year.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Is the government trying to sell the Skyhawks?

A: No. The government is not trying to sell the planes. Ernst and Young have been contracted by the NZDF to assess the possible market for the planes, but they are not at present for sale. I await eagerly the advice of Hon Derek Quigley as a first step in developing NZ's future defence requirements.

Q: Has he seen the comment from the Centre of Strategic Studies about the use of air support in combat environments?

A: Yes I have.

Question 7.

Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is she satisfied with the performance of all her Ministers?

A: I am satisfied that Ministers are developing their skills as quickly as can be expected.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Is it appropriate for her Minister of Environment to express strong views on Variation 17 in Wellington when she runs a risk of being both player and referee in the dispute?

A: The member concerned is the member for Wellington Central. I will consider the issue.

Q: Is she happy with staff of Ministers?

A: We can all make mistakes with staff.

Question 8.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has the Government made any recent decision with respect to state asset sales?

A: The government has rescinded sale instructions concerning Genesis Power's Waikaremoana scheme.

Q: Bill English (National): Why does he think the government needs a mapping company?

A: Recognising how frequently members of the opposition get lost I think it is useful for us to own a mapping company.

Question 9.

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

Q: In the matter of workplace accident compensation and rehabilitation, is it Government policy for the entire scheme to be delivered through a single public fund model, with any new private insurance arrangements for workplace accident cover having no effect after 1 April 2000?

A: Yes.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Does it then concern the minister that lots of companies think they can offset premiums by placing some risk with private insurers through the accredited employers scheme?

A: No. The accredited employers scheme will continue but there will also be a public scheme. The Insurance Council unfortunately has declined to talk with us about the accredited employers scheme. Others however, including Federated Farmers, are continuing to have useful discussions.

Question 10.

Georgina Beyer (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: What changes, if any, did he make to the proposed State Services baselines for 2000/2001?

A: I have proposed to the Minister of Finance that he remove a provision for an automatic increase for CEO salaries. This is a signal of a new frugal approach by the government. We want to insure that any future pay rises for CEOs are clearly justified.

Q: Roger Sowry ( National): Is he sure the government will be able to continue to attract good people?

A: We haven't always done so in the past. We want to build a public service that people want to be part of. The previous approach has driven dozens of public servants away.

Question 11.

Rt Hon. Simon Upton (National) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What conclusions did he draw about the state of the trans-Tasman relationship as a result of his recent consultations with his Australian counterpart, Mr Alexander Downer?

A: In a press conference following joint meetings last month Mr Downer described the relationship as warm and friendly. "This is a new government in NZ….and we think it is a government we will do very good business with," he said.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Is it his view that the Australian government will be wholly indifferent about our decision to not have F16s and fewer frigates?

A: His straight forward answer on F16s was that he was happy either way, F16s or no F16s. Mr Downer was also very complementary about our contribution to East Timor.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Repeated Simon Upton's question above…

A: He said it was neither here nor there whether we purchased the F16s or not. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity.

Q: Simon Upton (National): So in his view Australia is completely indifferent on whether we have F16s or not and only two frigates?

A: What he did say was that he was disappointed with the defence cuts which took place under National. What he made clear to me was that how we configure our defence spending is something for us to decide.

Question 12.

David Benson-Pope to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What measures are in place to ensure teachers who have been dismissed because of misconduct do not get re-employed in other schools?

A: Unless convicted of a serious offence or the trustees pass on information to the Teacher Registration Board then there is nothing to stop teachers moving on to damage education at successive schools. Later this year I will introduce legislation which will require mandatory reporting of teacher misconduct to the board or its successor.

Q: Nick Smith (National): What support will he give to the STA to balance the power of the NZEI and the PPTA in personal grievance proceedings?

A: We will look carefully at this issue.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT) In light of the strengthening of the teacher unions what measures will be in place to ensure incompetent teachers are removed forthwith?

A: I think it is obvious from the three attempts at that question that we needed measures in place four years ago.

Steve Maharey Personal Explanation: On 8th February I was asked about Victoria Vice Chancellor and a meeting with the Chancellor. The meeting was in fact on the 13th of January not the 17th of January as I replied. This is the first opportunity to correct this answer.

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