Today's questions concern: Maori Affairs Minster's Performance - Tertiary Student Participation - Chancellor Gate - Echelon Spying - Brian Edwards Contract - Telecommunications Competition - Criminal Records - INCIS - Infrastructure Auckland - Election Report - ACC For Self Employed - Te Reo In Primary Schools.
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.
Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 23 February 2000
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS:
Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:
Q: Has he enough support from his colleagues to achieve change for Maori given that the media reports that his performance is under Prime Ministerial scrutiny?
A: The answer to that is yes.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) How does he square that answer with a rumour that 8 out of 10 Labour Maori MPs want him replaced and that the PM is said to have said that if he makes another blunder he will be sacked.
A: I haven't heard any rumours and the source of them is probably ACT. I have the support of the PM and she has given a very clear indication of the government's commitment by establishing and chairing a "closing the gaps" Cabinet committee.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): Why did the PM intervene and stop the employment of a person in Auckland.
A: The PM is satisfied with my performance.
Helen Duncan (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: Is he satisfied with the proportion of young people undertaking tertiary education and training; if not, why not?
A: No I am not. Skill NZ briefing papers say that 25% of 14-16 year olds are missing out on training. This is the group that is most at risk. This is the legacy left by the National ACT bloc and shows how they ignore the interests of young people. The Government is committed to providing a wide range of opportunities for young people.
Q: Nick Smith (National): Can the government give an assurance it will at least match National's record of increasing tertiary participation of 8500 new students each year?
A: I can say that the participation rate grew at twice the rate under the 4th Labour government.
Q: John Luxton (National): What is he doing to lower the cost of tertiary education?
A: This government has moved in months to lower these costs.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: What briefings has he sought on the resignation of Victoria University's Vice-Chancellor?
A: I did seek a briefing from the Ministry of Education on this matter. The briefing notes concerned the regulatory framework. The paper confirmed that I as minister do not have a role in the employment of institution's CEOs.
Q: Nick Smith (National) Can he explain the way in which he sought that briefing, but when he was offered a briefing from the Chancellor he refused it?
A: As my six-year-old godson would say is your name Nick or thick? (Withdrawn with apology.)
Q: Nick Smith (National): Why did his office accept a briefing and then send the Chancellor away?
A: I can only repeat that the Chancellor came to see me. He offered a briefing. I declined. He left. This is it. I can also confirm that the leader of the opposition knew about and approved this settlement.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): How can he reconcile his failure to act on this given the government's position when in opposition on golden handshakes?
A: I can confirm for that member that the contract was written under her government. This government will do its best to avoid such payments.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Can the minister confirm that there is nothing in this contract that required a golden handshake?
A: I cannot confirm that because I haven't seen it.
Keith Locke (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Is she concerned that the European Parliament's Justice and Home Committee is today investigating whether the Government's Waihopai spy base is engaged through the Echelon network in commercial espionage against European companies; if not, why not?
Q: Is the government prepared to allow the NZ Parliament to conduct a review of Echelon similar to that being conducted in Europe?
A: Members of the Security and Intelligence committee may be interested in discussing the issue when they meet. New Zealand does not use information for commercial purposes and we have received assurances from our intelligence partners that they do not do so either.
Katherine Rich (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs:
Q: Does she stand by her answer to written question No. 1662, that "Employment policies, procedures and decisions are operational matters."?
A: Yes I do.
Q: Katherine Rich (National): How does she reconcile that with the fact that in December last year she directed RNZ to "resolve" a dispute with Brian Edwards?
A: My concern with RNZ was not a matter of contract details but of resolving something to a clear resolution so that the organisation could get on with business. I expressed a view to the CEO and the Chairman that the situation should be resolved.
Q: Roger Sowry (National) Did she at any time talk to Dr Brian Edwards in December of January?
A: I did not initiate any discussions with Dr Edwards but it is quite true that on a social occasion Dr Edwards approached me and I listened. I indicated absolutely nothing to Dr Edwards in response.
Q: Katherine Rich (National): Does the minister normally interfere in contracts or is it only when they involve friends if the Prime Minister?
A: I repeat that I did not sort out an employment contract matter I asked the board to "resolve" the matter.
David Cunliffe (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Laila Harre:
Q: What action is he taking to address competition issues in the telecommunications industry?
A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) The current environment in the telecommunications industry is not properly competitive. We said we will hold an inquiry and we will - it will be chaired by Hugh Fletcher and have two experts assisting. The objective of this review is to ensure that NZers are getting a fair deal.
Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Will the government take evidence from the OECD seriously or will it treat it like evidence to the ACC hearings?
A: I have know knowledge of ACC hearings. The light-handed approach in NZ is quite different from that in other countries. There have been longstanding concerns about this. We need this inquiry to sort these issues out.
Q: What are the levels of fees to be paid to those on this inquiry?
A: $1200 a day for the chair and $900 a day to the members. The sums are set by way of reimbursement of salaries. The amount of time to be spent is a lot less than those sitting under the previous government inquiries some of which were paid up to $2400 a day.
Hon. Peter Dunne (United NZ) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Does he support wiping clean the criminal records of people who have kept out of trouble for at least 10 years?
A: I believe the law should be changed so people convicted of less serious offences should be able to put their past behind them. I will propose a bill to do this.
Q: Peter Dunne (United): Why is this being proposed as a members bill?
A: I propose to put forward a bill to do this. I am also aware of two members who want to put forward members bills on this. If a members bill were to get in first then the government would pick it up. I believe that the time has come when the house will address this issue and address it positively. It is a shame that a bill doing this was stopped in 1998 by the then National Government.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): What effort will he take to address the fact that overseas jurisdictions would still require wiped records to be declared?
A: This Parliament cannot pass extra-territorial legislation. I am aware that many other countries have similar legislation and we would want to negotiate with those countries.
Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): How many people would have their records wiped?
A: I have been astounded at the amount of correspondence I have received on this issue. Last week I had a letter from a women aged 72 who was convicted of shoplifting at the age of 17. I think we owe people in her position a break. That lady felt that she had had to live for 50 years with the fear of having her record revealed.
Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: What plans, if any, are in place to ensure police are not hampered in their efforts to fight crime, through lack of the best possible crime fighting technology, now the INCIS computer is to be sold?
A: The member is incorrect, the INCIS computer is not being sold?
Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Given the unfortunate history of computer experimentation in police what is he doing to get it right in future?
A: I can tell that member that the police will no longer be involved in big-bang type experiments such as INCIS. The police will be developing a modular approach to crime-fighting applications. An example of this is the MPAS intelligence system being used in Lower Hutt and Wanganui. I support the police staying up to date with developments in DNA technology. The MAPs system allows police to identify hot-spots so they can deal with them.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): What response has he had from the Minister of Corrections on his proposals on DNA testing?
A: All my discussions with colleagues are successful.
Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: Does she accept the statement in the Auckland Regional Growth Strategy: 2050 document that Infrastructure Auckland will play a "critical role" in achieving the objectives of that strategy; if so, will she work with Auckland regional leaders towards achieving the strategy's goals?
A: I believe that at present infrastructure Auckland has a role as a critical source of funding for the growth strategy. As the review has not yet taken place I cannot predict its outcome. As a member of Parliament for Auckland Central I have been watching this government help Auckland and make progress. The PM Helen Clark is following the debate closely and does not need any advice until she asks for it. I am currently primarily working with regional leaders and developing a rapid transport system and dealing with traffic congestion problems.
Q: Is it the members intention only to provide advice when asked to?
A: I find that gratuitous advice often gets gratuitous replies. My responsibilities are to work with the PM to help Auckland to grow. I will do so.
Tim Barnett (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: What conclusions has she identified from the report by Mel Smith and Don Hunn on the conduct of the 1999 General Election?
A: The main conclusion I have identified is the failure of the previous government to take responsibility for the election.
Q: Tim Barnett (Labour): What will she be doing about it?
A: I have referred the report to a select committee which has begun an inquiry. The government will hear the committee's findings before it makes decisions. We must not have the shambles we had last year. I have read page 16 and the entire report several times. It is obvious that their was a failure of common sense by the previous government.
Gerry Brownlee (National) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has the Government made any decision to accommodate the concerns of Federated Farmers and self-employed New Zealanders over proposed accident insurance changes; if so, what decision has the Government made?
A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) Government members have indicated support for improving the scheme for self-employed.
Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Is this provision consistent with the bill?
A: There is no inconsistency one is a compulsory insurance. The proposal will allow self-employed people to purchase cover of a pre-determined reasonable level.
Q: Does he agree with David Caygill in a recent report who said that employers with 250 employees will be able to manage their own risk but that smaller employers may not be able to do so for some time?
A: I have not read that report. I agree with the concerns of 1000s of NZers that the 1992 legislation was fatally flawed and look forward to its burial.
Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Parakura Horomia:
Q: What progress is being made in promoting the teaching of te reo Maori in primary schools?
A: There is considerable demand for teaching in Porirua and we are providing it.
Q: Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) Question asked in Maori - Translation - what are the questions that follow on from the first and second schools in this area?
A: Answer in Maori - Translation - we the people do know the best tenor of the use of the language and if the crown were to remain in that area it will continue to improve.
Q: Georgina Te Heu heu (National): Will the Labour government match the National government's record of establishing 27 schools?
A: I know that we will surpass the performance of the National government in this area.
Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Is he worried about standards in Kura Kaupapa schools and will he establish standards?
A: Yes of course.
Q: Brian Donnelly (NZ First): Will he be establishing standards as proposed under the National/NZ First coalition?
A: Yes. But we also want to ensure that the Tangata Whenua understand the standards set.
Q: John Luxton (Labour): Are their any plans to make Maori a compulsory subject?
A: Personally I think it is a good idea but at the moment we are concentrating in other areas.