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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Chilean Relations – Press Secretary Contracts – Antibiotic Superbugs – Economic Development – Napier Health Centre – Growth And Job Forecasts – Kindergarten Teachers – Moutoa Gardens Conflict Of Interests - Science And Innovation – TPK CEO Reports To PM – ACC Investments – GE Possum and Stoat Control – Truth In Sentencing – Te Waipareira Trust.

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 14 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.

Chris Carter (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What were the main benefits from her trip to Chile in the last few days?

A: The visit to Chile enabled me to meet formally and informally with key leaders in Latin America and to express NZ’s support for the democratic process in Chile. At my formal meeting with the new President yesterday I suggested we proceed to begin negotiations on a time-line towards moving towards a free trade agreement. He undertook to give the issue his early attention.

Q: John Carter (National): Did she lobby editors to ensure that sycophantic reporters such as Victoria Main of the Dominion accompanied her?

(Speaker – that question is out of order…. the word sycophantic that is….because it is an ironical expression.)

A: I understand that it is not unknown for PM’s to make it known that they would like coverage of overseas travel and the last one did.

Question 2.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National) to the Minister responsible for Ministerial Helen Clark:

Q: Is she, as Minister responsible for Ministerial Services, committed to good faith bargaining for both employers and employees?

A: Yes.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Isn’t it a fact that the Minister’s spin doctors are spinning in public. Can she confirm she is not living up to standards.

A: Of course not, and I have asked Ministerial Services to negotiate in good faith. However negotiating in good faith does not mean everybody gets everything they want. It would be inappropriate for a Minister to interfere.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Would it be appropriate and an example of good faith bargaining for a Press Secretary to be informed of her sacking by her replacement ringing up to ask her when she was leaving?

A: No it would not. One of the issues with staff has been a clause that was standard under the previous government. This clause is now to be reexamined.

Question 3.

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

Q: In view of the spread of antibiotic resistance and superbugs in New Zealand hospitals, does she have any concerns that about 1.2 tonnes of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is used in human medicine, is sprayed on to fruit and vegetables every year; if so, does the Government intend to put a stop to this practice?

A: I am extremely concerned about the use of antibiotics that may compromise our ability to treat human diseases. For this reason officials have been instructed to brief ministers on the use of antibiotics in horticulture and agriculture.

Q: Mark Peck (Labour): What is she doing about this?

A: The pesticides board meets this month and I have asked that in general the use of antibiotics be investigated and as quickly as possible.

Question 4.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Does he have any concerns for the impact on New Zealand's economic development should the Government borrow money to top up the Government's proposed superannuation fund; if not, why not?

A: Yes. The Minister of Economic Development is concerned about issues that impact on Economic Development.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does the Minister accept that using surpluses to run up a pension fund is the equivalent to more government borrowing?

A: What is important is the extent of the fund and the way it is invested. We are studying these things. I have a paper from the ACT Party that states that with the “magic of compound interest” you can save enough in three years not to have to save again. I am concerned about this – clearly the looniest scheme I have ever seen.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What is the government’s plan, to repay debt first or not?

A: This government is concerned that the debt of this country has been increasing for a long time. We are trying to ensure that we do not contribute further to this problem.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Is he receiving advice on this or is he relying on the advice from Dr Cullen’s treasury advisers.

A: The Minister of Finance and myself work closely together on these matters.

Q: John Luxton (National): Which departments are advising on this?

A: Treasury and my own ministry are both looking at these matters.

Question 5.

Geoff Braybrooke (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received any reports on the cost associated with the Napier Health Centre; if so, what do those reports say?

A: Yes I have. CCMAU reported that the lease of the health centre is costing $1.2 million a year for 13 years for the lease of this building. This is a very high cost.

Q: Who authorised this?

A: Ultimately it was the Ministers of finance and Treasurer who made this decision by not making any funds available to build premises. It cost $11 million to build the centre and at the end of the lease period if we had taken up all the options in the lease we would have paid for its development cost three times.

Question 6.

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

Q: What does the Budget Policy Statement project for both economic growth and job growth?

A: Projections for economic growth and job growth are listed in the BPS.

Q: Bill English (National) Since these projections have changed little since previous forecasts when will his forecasts include additional growth promised by himself and Jim Anderton?

A: These figures will be updated in the budget and I hope that in the out years we will see significant improvement on these figures. To achieve “job-rich” growth we need a combination of policies. (To Jeanette Fitzsimmons…) A lack of growth would be the best way not to increase employment.

Question 7.

Ann Hartley (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: What steps has he taken to fulfil the Government parties' pre-election promises to return kindergarten teachers to the State sector?

A: The Employment Relations Bill includes provision to return kindergarten teachers to the state sector. This is just one indication of this government’s commitment to quality early child-hood education.

Q: Ann Hartley: What has been the response of teachers?

A: Unanimous support. Employers of teachers are also working through things with us very well.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Why were the unions present when the government met with the Kindergarten employers? Is it because the unions and government are one and the same thing?

A: This government is consulting with the sector together and is not doing what the previous government did – namely say one thing to one group of people and nothing to the other.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green) When will the government implement pay parity with primary teachers?

A: Over a period of time that will occur. This term we will negotiate a timetable and develop benchmarks. That is far more than anyone else was offering.

Question 8.

Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: Does he stand by his statement to the House on 1 March, in relation to the Moutoa Gardens discussions, that "It is important to ensure that Ministers are clear on what capacity they are actually acting in."; if so, what steps is he taking to ensure that such clarity is achieved?

A: Yes I do. Discussions are being facilitate by TPK. Where ministers are involved it is simply in a peripheral capacity.

Q: Murray McCully (National): How can he reconcile Tariana Turia’s apparently contradictory statements on her involvement in this?

A: My colleague has assured me that she has not taken part in the specific discussions. She was there as my associate and she was there because it was appropriate. It is in the interests of the nation that issues such as this be dealt with a dealt with properly.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Is it a fact that Tariana Turia was removed from discussions last week? And if so under whose direction?

A: I can assure you that she was not removed but that she has withdrawn from the process – but she still maintains a close interest in resolution of this issue.

Question 9.

Clayton Cosgrove (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: How will the Science and Innovation Advisory Council promote science and innovation?

A: The council will among other things raise the awareness of science and encourage investment. It will report directly and regularly to the PM.

Q: What evidence suggests this will work?

A: There is ample evidence from overseas that such initiatives like this work to boost awareness of science and technologies role. The previous government thought studied indifference was enough which may be why R&D investment in NZ is so low.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Will the council have representation on the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering?

A: No it will not. It will not be a representative body. It will be a group of wise people who can provide good advice to the PM and explain things to the public. There will be issues of interface between the council and Industry New Zealand once that body hits its straps.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Will the council equate innovation with genetic engineering?

A: GE is a small part of innovation. I have no doubt that the council will entertain itself with that matter if it wishes and if it doesn’t then that is fine too.

Question 10.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has the chief executive officer of Te Puni Kokiri made direct reports to her this year; if so, what has been the subject?

A: I have had discussions with the CEO on a number of occasions. I expect to have several more.

Q: Did the reports she received cover criminal conduct allegations concerning Aotearoa Maori Rugby League and the misdirection of over $200,000 in health funds in the Te Waipareira Trust?

A: Anonymous information concerning this was forwarded to me I passed this on to Mr Tamihere and received an explanation. One should always be careful about anonymous allegations. These allegations would be defamatory if printed. It is true that over a number of years the Waipareira Trust has received a lot of public funding. It is surprising that any problems here have not been uncovered as part of the normal audit process.

(Winston Peters - leave sought to table an audit report into the Trust….granted…
Richard Prebble – leave sought to table a document containing serious allegations…. granted.)

Question 11.

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

Q: Is he satisfied with the investment practices and policies of the Accident Compensation Corporation?

A: Yes.

Q: Does the Minister recall a time when the employers contributions were trebled after his former colleague Sir Geoffrey Palmer said the fund was insolvent?

A: Yes I do recall the National Government running down the account.

Q: Is the minister confident he will not have to come to the house and say the same thing.

A: Yes because I am not a member of a National Government and I am not intending to run down the account.

Question 12.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: Will the Government be stopping any field trials by Landcare Research associated with the biotechnology programmes into the control of opossums and stoats?

A: ERMA not the government is responsible for this. That said the government has announced that during the life of a Royal Commission a voluntary moratorium will be negotiated. However some field trials may be allowed under that moratorium. I am aware of Landcare’s initiatives and believe they are important.

Q: Does he agree with HortResearch that the only species that will benefit from a moratorium will be possums?

A: HortResearch is not doing possum research, but yes I believe the statements would have been substantially correct if they had been made. This country is yet to engage in a debate on the importance of GE to our future.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green): Why will the Minister not instruct researchers not to engage in viral research and confine themselves to developing baits in their laboratories.

A: To the best of my knowledge there is no virus research going on in New Zealand. There is research into carrot contraceptives – with the carrots being grown in the US. These need to be tested in field trials because possums do not breed well in captivity.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

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

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

A: The report back date is June 30. The timetable will be determined in relation to the other work-load of the committee. The committee has received 20 submissions on this bill. There are four other bills, eight petitions and four financial reviews before the committee, all of which are considered to have greater priority by those who have promoted them.

Question 2.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:

Q: Is the committee, as part of its review of Te Puni Kokiri, examining the department's review of the financial performance of voluntary Maori organisations that receive taxpayer funding?

A: Over one third of the time of the committee has been spent on that and the inquiry is now concluded.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does the member feel that he should stand down as chair of that committee given that very serious allegations have been made concerning his involvement in the Waipareira Trust?

(Speaker…. That question is possibly out of order if the inquiry is finished….
Richard Prebble…. He hasn’t reported back on that matter at all….
John Tamihere…..How relevant is this as a supplementary? And secondly at the end of the day our committee hasn’t reported back yet and until it does then the matter should not be discussed…
Speaker… will the member answer whether he intends to step aside…)

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Repeated the question.

A: Absolutely not.

Q: With respect to the inquiry will the member give this house an assurance that the review by TPK of his trust is a thorough one?

A: Yes.

(John Tamihere: Leave sought to make a personal explanation in relation to Question 10 and allegations from Mr Prebble….. granted.

Firstly I would like to acknowledge the support of the Waipareira Trust and to state that the Trust is solid and solvent.

Secondly I can give an unequivocal assurance that I have not been involved in any activity that has resulted in my receiving personal pecuniary gain. Nor has there been any misappropriation. The trust is involved in lots of work Sometimes some things can go wrong but the trust is still solid and will remain solid.

Richard Prebble: Leave sought to table a document on the current financial situation of the trust….granted.)


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