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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions concern: Maori Assembly - Credit Ratings For NZ - Statements About CEOs -Electricity Consumption - Jobs Machine - Airways Corporation - Maori Spectrum - Americas Cup Taxation - ILO Conventions - Consumer Representation On Codex And ANZFA - Defence Policy - Student Loans - Alexandra Floods

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 02 March 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. Georgina te Heuheu (National) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she see any merit in a consultative assembly being established for Maori, such as the Canadian Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended for Canada, and such as the Finnish and Norwegian Governments have provided for the Saami people?

A: The government will not be establishing an assembly for Maori as it is for Maori to decide such matters for themselves. When talking to the member for Hauraki I was referring to a paper which will enable better coordination between government agencies to ensure Treaty obligations are met.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What mechanism will Maori use to show they want an assembly?

A: That question by definition cannot be answered. It is for the people to decide.

Question 2.

Mark Peck (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any reports from Moody's Investor Service on New Zealand's credit rating outlook; if so, what did it say?

A: I have received a Reuters report from yesterday saying that the fiscal stance of the new government raises no concerns about NZ's soverign debt rating. The BPS next week will forecast a series of growing surpluses.

Q: Bill English (National): When will the Minister say something positive about the NZ economy?

A: The NZ economy is growing strongly in the short term to sustain this in the long term it will require new, sound government policies.

Question 3.

Dr Muriel Newman (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Has he received any information or advice, either written or oral, about what he can or cannot say regarding chief executive officers within his portfolio responsibilities; if so, what was that advice?

A: Every minister receives advice on this from the SSC?

Q: In view of the minister's constant criticism of Christine Rankin and the chances of her winning a personal grievance proceeding against the crown. Will he resign if she receives a big payout?

A: I do not hire or fire CEOs I have a role in arranging the purchase of services from departments. I have received a range of advice from a range of people and I appreciate that advice.

Q: Is the CEO of WINZ meeting the ministers expectations with respect to the handling of student loans?

A: I have once again said that there will be an evaluation of the Student Loan scheme and that after that accountabilities will assigned where they ought to be.

(Point Of Order - Trevor Mallard - Labour - at half way we are 48 seconds ahead… [in the Americas Cup] - Speaker - that is not a point of order, but I am sure members are interested.)

Question 4.

Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: What response has her ministry received to the free phone 0800 number established to give electricity consumers an easy means to share their experiences in relation to disconnections, disputes, meter accuracy, and switching electricity companies, and what does her ministry intend to do with the information received from consumers?

A: The utilities we all use everyday are a major concern. I have instructed officials to get information from consumers on electricity suppliers. Currently our hotline has been receiving 400 phone calls a day. Line charge increases are the single biggest issue. Some on low incomes say they cannot afford electricity anymore and complain that the National government's policies are a complete failure. The cost of running this line is approximately $250 a day. I will continue to listen in this democratic way to all our consumers.

(Roger Sowry - National - the minister's answers are longer than the Black Boat's lead.)

Some complaints concern farmers who had their electricity cut off so they could not milk their cows - this nonsense must stop. We will be critically examining these complaints to see whether National's promises concerning falling power prices have been met. If they haven't then I am sure our government will develop an excellent policy response.

Question 5.

Hon. Bill English (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Since he has said the Ministry of Economic Development's test of success would be the number of jobs it provided, how will he, in his capacity as Minister responsible for the economy, be able to tell whether the so-called "jobs machine" is actually generating new jobs or not?

A: We will continue to review the policy and programmes of the new Ministry to ensure they meet objectives. I have many reports one quoting Bill English saying that a co-ordinated approach would be needed to ensure Southland gets a fair slice of the pie. The benchmark we should use would be to try to better the results in employment forecasts produced in the BPS next week.

Question 6.

Peter Brown (NZ First) to the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: How much has been paid to employees, including senior management, of Airways Corporation by way of redundancy, resignation or termination payments in the 12 months to the end of January 2000?

A: I do not routinely hold that information. In the Airways Annual Report it is shows that total costs of restructuring - over two years - has been $11.8 million.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First) Does he attribute morale failure and several recent near misses to management failure in Airways?

A: Any reported breakdown in management function would be of concern to me.

Question 7.

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: Does he regard the arrangements entered into to ensure Maori have an input into the management of a parcel of high frequency radio waves as a model for dealing with other resource claims by Maori?

A: No.

Q: Is that so because he knows that NZers would be outraged for Maori to receive access to resources ahead of other NZers?

A: I do not believe the majority of NZers will have the same attitudes as the member opposite.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Why has no Maori member of this house had the airwaves issue discussed with them?

A: The Maori caucus has had a number of meetings about this issue and we are of one mind on it.

(John Carter: Mr Speaker - Willie Jackson advised the committee this morning that he had not been consulted… How do we find out which statement is correct? Speaker - ask another question.)

Question 8.

H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: What changes, if any, have been made to tax administration which could assist the Prada team if it returns to New Zealand in a future America's Cup campaign?

A: With Team NZ about 400m ahead at present I am happy to be able to look forward to the next challengers series.. Having been approached by Prada last week on the matter I am also happy to say that we will be happy to ensure that challenging syndicates in future get prompt treatment as they have in the past.

Question 9.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What International Labour Organisation conventions does the Government propose to ratify and what steps will she have to take to ensure this happen?

A: The introduction of the Employment Relations Legislation will help us to move towards ratifying conventions 87 and 98, we will also be considering convention 182. These conventions are considered part of the ILO's basic core conventions.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green) What will she be doing to rescind the compulsory work for the dole scheme?

A: My colleague has said we intend to repeal that this year. We are presently bound by 48 out of 182 ILO conventions. We are also considering convention 169 concerning indigenous people.

Question 10.

Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: Is there an urgent need to restore consumer confidence in national and international food regulatory authorities; if so, will the Government ensure that a consumer representative is included in the New Zealand delegation to the forthcoming Codex meeting in Japan on the evaluation of the safety and nutritional aspects of foods derived from biotechnology?

A: When we eat and drink we are all consumers. So we are all vitally concerned about these issues. I am advised that MAF is reviewing its 1996 policy on Codex. It is this review that will consider this issue.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Will the minister apply this to NZ regulatory policy as well?

A: I have had conversations with the Minister of Health concerning consumer representation on ANZFA. I hope that a review of this issue will be in place when membership for ANZFA next comes up for review.

Q: Why has the minister done this?

A: I have done this in order to establish principles for consumer representation in order to consider it at every level.

Question 11.

Dr Wayne Mapp (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: Did he discuss the concept of "single strategic entity" with the Australian Minister of Defence during his visit to Australia?

A: No. However I can say that Minister Moore did outline his view in those terms and said that it was typified in the relationship in East Timor.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National) Why does the PM refuse to say that a threat to Australia is a threat to NZ?

A: I can only repeat that the relationship with Australia is our most important defence relationship.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Can the minister explain how we could be a single entity when we have several different views on a range of issues in foreign affairs including disarmament?

A: No.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ) Can he confirm he was given a draft communique the night before and rejected it?

A: No. However a communication was made to an official suggesting a joint communique and I responded that such a thing would be inappropriate in the circumstances as it was supposed to be an informal meeting.

Question 12.

Dianne Yates (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What has the Government done to ensure faster payment of loans to students?

A: Yesterday I signed an order to allow WINZ to release living costs as soon as loans are approved. Normally funds are released only after a seven day "cooling off" period. This has improved turnaround payments for students by a week. I have had to take this action because there have been delays in making payments to students.

Q: Belinda Vernon (National): Can the minister confirm that changes to the scheme made in December may have been part of the problem?

A: One of the most popular things this government has done since taking office has been to lift the interest charge on student loans during studying.

Q: Brian Donnelly (NZ First): Why did he not insist on testing in January?

A: He should ask that question to a government he was once part of. We have received 20 reports on aspects of improving the Student Loans handling services. The previous National ACT bloc did not trial this service an that is why we have the problems we do today.

Q: Trevor Mallard (Labour) Can the minister confirm that 40% of calls to the call centre were being lost last week and that this has now been improved?

A: I could not explain in the time available all the things we have done to improve the situation.

Q: Why does the Minister refuse to acknowledge that he was told on the 20th of December last year that as a result of changes to the Scheme WINZ would not be able to guarantee service?

A: I can confirm that WINZ has raised the issue and that the introduction of a very popular policy did increase the number of phone calls.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Gerrard Eckhoff (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee Jeanette Fitzsimons:

Q: When does the committee propose to hear the petition from the people of Alexandra concerned at the three major floods which have occurred over the last five years?

A: The petition requests that we have an inquiry. The committee is aware that a review of flood hazards was released last week. We also expect another report in the middle of the year. We intend to wait till we receive that report before holding an inquiry. The committee is not an appropriate place to determine liability.

Question 2.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Law and Order Committee:

Q: As submissions on my Truth in Sentencing Bill closed on 9 July 1999, when will the committee report the bill to the house?


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