Today's questions dealt with the following subjects: Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Payout - WINZ Bungle - ACC And The Insurance Council - Regional Development - Accredited Employers Programme - Ngawha Prison - Brian Edwards Salary - International Criminal Court - Wellington Council Adverts - West Coast Development - Ethnic Radio - Plunketline - Thanks To The Speaker
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.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith (Nick Smith) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: Can he confirm that the first discussions he had with the Chancellor of Victoria University regarding the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor were on 13 January 2000?
A: Yes. Russell Marshall offered to brief me on the 13th of January. I declined his offer. On the 16th of December Russell Marshall spoke to me concerning the resignation of the then Vice Chancellor. No other conversation occurred. In two faxes on 9th and 15th of February the Chancellor has made it clear that no-one in the Government was briefed on the payout conditions.
Q: Nick Smith (National):What explanation can he give to this letter to the SSC saying he has had discussions with the Attorney General and the minister about these matters?
A: The explanation is that it is wrong. As I have already said the Chancellor has unequivocally informed the leader of the opposition that neither I nor any other ministers were briefed on any settlement.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Why didn't he tell the Vice Chancellor on December 16h about the attitude of the government to golden handshakes?
A: No occasion arose on which to raise the matter.
Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Is he satisfied with Work and Income NZ's handling of student allowances since he took over; if not, what is he doing about it?
A: I assume the member is referring to Student Loans. WINZ assumed responsibility for this on 1 January and no I am not satisfied.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Back to allowances - how can he explain that there are students in his electorate with no food, no power and no toilet paper because WINZ have repeatedly paid an allowance into the wrong bank account?
A: (More about loans.) The problems have arisen because Mr Sowry and his colleagues failed to introduce these policies properly last year.
Q: Did the Minister accept WINZ's statement in its briefing in December that it was prepared to deal with any problems that might arise?
A: I am aware that there may be problems in the post-graduate area for allowances and that these are being addressed.
Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has he facilitated any meetings between ACC and representatives of the insurance industry regarding the proposed repeal of the Accident Insurance Act 1998?
A: I have attempted to do so without success.
Q: Why hasn't he succeeded?
A: While the Council sought consultation it was concerning a mandate. Later now they want to discuss the accredited employers programme but on an unacceptable time scale (Complicated answer expressed in confusing manner but this is thought to be the affect) . The contradictory letters are more for Mr Chris Ryan of the Insurance Council to explain than for me to do so.
Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Has he received any reports which indicate the level of support for the Government's regional development policies?
A: My mail at over 600 letters each week is overflowing with enthusiasm about improved investment in regional development. I recently visited Dunedin and found lots of people thirsty for the policies of this government. As it so happens I have a report from John Carter saying that the new government's policy provided a great opportunity for Northland. I would like to thank the member and the National Party for their support. Of course all good local members would be supportive of good policies in their electorate. Buller Council has only found 165 good ideas so far - the rest of the West Coast councils probably have more good ideas - I look forward to seeing them.
Gerry Brownlee (National) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen :
Q: Having confirmed, in reply to oral question No. 9 yesterday, that it is Government policy for there to be no new private insurance arrangements for workplace cover after 1 April 2000, what did he mean when he said that within the Accredited Employer Programme "there may be some limited possibilities with that"?
A: The government is likely to develop a new Accredited Employers Programme - the details are likely to be developed externally from the main bill. I have invited the Insurance Council to talk about this with the ACC - they declined the invitation. Underwriting will be a function of the central provider. Their will be a role for external providers in top up insurance.
Nandor Tanczos (Green) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Will proposals for a new regional prison in Northland proceed despite the reported withdrawal of Ngati Rangi trustees from a deal involving their land at Ngawha; if so, why?
A: (Phil Goff on behalf) The withdrawal of land offered at Ngawha does not affect the proposal. The plan is to site the facility on adjacent land not on that offered by the trust. The facility will proceed because there is a need for it in the region.
Q: Nandor Tanzsos (Green) Will he make a commitment not to use compulsory purchase powers to acquire land as threatened by Corrections officials?
A: The owners are in voluntary negotiations at present. At the moment there are no plans to use the Public Works Act in Ngawha. The facility is being proposed in Northland because there are currently 300 inmates housed from the Northland region in prisons in Hawkes Bay and Wellington. This is unfair on the families of inmates and inmates.
Katherine Rich to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs :
Q: Does she agree with the reported comments of the Prime Minister regarding a television presenter's salary that "there is public revulsion at the level of income"?
Q: Katherine Rich (National): Does the revulsion extend to Brian Edwards who received $120,000 a year for one morning's work a week, or does revulsion not extend to friends of the government?
A: The salary paid to Mr Edwards is an operational matter for RNZ.
Q: What is she doing to stop the revulsion?
A: Appointments to the board are underway. I expect public service expectations and ethics to be aspired to by TVNZ.
Q: Is it because Brian Edwards is a friend and adviser of the Prime Minister?
A: While not wishing to get involved in operational matters I would add that there are very different job descriptions.
H V Ross Robertson to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: Does the Government intend to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; if so, why?
A: Yes. We have recently completed discussion with NGOs and affected agencies. The government supports an international criminal court to send a signal that theire will no longer be impunity to crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute will be tabled and referred to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Legislation will be introduced to provide for new crimes of genocide and to provide facility for investigation.
Richard Worth (National) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:
Q: What consumer affairs issues did she believe were at stake when she indicated she would instruct her officials to undertake a Fair Trading Act investigation into the Wellington City Council over variations to its resource management plan?
A: I was approached by concerned Wellington consumers who complained about the adverts. I sought the views of the Consumer Affairs Ministry and was advised that the Fair Trading Act probably did not apply because the Council was not a trader in the capacity of these adverts. I was advised that this matter could be dealt with by the Advertising Complaints Board and I passed this information back to the concerned consumers. Consumers who approached me were most concerned about the way Frank Kitts Park was dealt with in the advert.
Q: John Luxton (National): Did she make public statements on this to curry political favour or because she misunderstood her responsibilities?
A: I sought to be as helpful as my capacity allowed.
R Doug Woolerton (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson :
Q: As the Government has moved to cease the selective logging of native forest on the South Island's West Coast, what measures will it implement to immediately replace the resulting lost employment and economic opportunities?
A: The government is committed to providing alternative opportunities for economic development. Consultations on these have begun.
Q: What is he doing about downstream effects on furniture manufacturers.
A: We have not yet announced plans with rimu to which the member appears to be referring. I hope we will be able to make announcements about West Coast development in the next few weeks - this depends in part on the West Coasters.
Q: Nick Smith (National): What representations has he received from Damien O'Connor?
A: The MP is an assiduous advocate for the West Coast and he has been actively involved in all aspects of West Coast policy.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): When will the government do something about rimu?
A: The government has a policy to end native logging on crown land. This will happen on the West Coast as soon as is practicable. No announcement on timing has yet been made.
Pansy Wong to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs George Hawkins:
Q: Has he, in his ministerial capacity, engaged in any consultation with ethnic communities on proposals for a quota system for New Zealand broadcasting?
Q: The Minister of Broadcasting has met with ethnic communities about their needs and they will be taken into consideration. The government is investigating ways to assist ethnic communities to broadcast in their own languages.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is it government policy to strengthen the English Language - if people want to listen to Radio China why don't they do it somewhere else.
A: I would have thought the member would have learnt his lesson in Howick.
Steve Chadwick to the Minister of Health:
Q: Why has the Government decided to fund the 24-hour Plunket Line service?
A: We have implemented our policy in the quickest time possible.
Q: When will the service be available?
A: The service will be available for the 1st of May. The cost is $280,000 and we think that is money well spent. Prior to National reluctantly agreeing to fund it it wasn't funded directly by National. The previous National Government - Bill English - said in this house Punketline has never been publicly funded and never will. Government's have been funding Plunket for generations. This government has no hesitation in funding plunket.
(Gerry Brownlee : We the opposition are happy that there has been order in Question Time over the past week. Given that the quality of behaviour has improved could you suggest to the governemnt that the quality of answers also be improved.
Speaker Jonathan Hunt: The last sentence somewhat spoils the effect of that. I too have been very pleased with the standard of questions and answers.)