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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions concerned: Fast Ferries - West Coast Accord - West Coast Development Negotiations - Waipareira Trust - Fishing Asset Sales Overseas - West Coast Jobs - Student's Message To The Government - Reserve Bank And Employment - Petrol Prices - Labour Productivity - Solomon Islands - Employment Statistics - Timberlands Financial Review.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 30 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.

Ian Ewen-Street (Green) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: Does he stand by his decision to take no immediate action to slow down the fast ferries in the Marlborough Sounds despite a report which finds that ferry wash poses an "undesirable" level of risk to human life; if so, why?

A: Last week I visited the area. The decision to take action in this case does not lie with the Minister. The power lies with. I am meeting with the MSA next week to impress on him the need to deal with this.

Q: Ian Ewen Street (Green): Will he take responsibility for any deaths due to his lack of action?

A: The Harbour Master is looking at this and the council is looking at a bylaw. I am taking the matter up with the Maritime Safety Authority. A group has been convened by the MSA to consider this matter. There are more than navigation issues at stake here and I am working closely with the minister of Environment and the Minister of Conservation on this.

Q: Doug Kidd (National):Isn't the minister really washing his hands of this while the Minister of Environment is left "stunned" at the lack of action?

A: I am not washing my hands of this. The previous government ignored the problem altogether. It is not a simple matter of reducing speed as when that is done the wake is increased.

Question 2.

Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she agree with her 1995 statement "Labour supports the principles and intentions of the West Coast Accord"?

A: Labour Policy has changed since 1995. It does keep up with the times.

Q: Why did the government tell mayors this morning that it would legislate across the accord and would not enter into good faith negotiations with the Mayors on the issue?

A: I haven't been briefed on the meeting but legislation would have to be a possibility.

Q: Is the West Coast Accord dead?

A: As anyone reading Labour Policy would see Labour believes the time for the exception granted in the accord has passed. That is the exception to the rule that allowed unsustainable logging on the West Coast to continue. In terms of Labour Party policy not only has this matter changed since 1995 it has happened many times since 1990

A: When will the Rimu overcut be stopped?

Q: The unsustainable Rimu overcut is a disgrace. I am waiting for advice on this issue.

Question 3.

Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What was the nature of the offer made to West Coast mayors today?

A: The Deputy PM and myself discussed a $100 million deposit to be put in a development trust for the West Coast. The West Coast Mayors sought further advice and have agreed to an officials meeting on it in May.

(Point of order Roger Sowry: That must be the ultimate patsy question. The member that asked it was actually at the meeting - I ask for leeway in terms of interjections.

Speaker - I decide that and the answers will be heard in silence.)

Q: Will the 100 million be instead of the regional development programme across the rest of the country?

A: No it is quite separate and the West Coast will have independent access to all the other programmes this government will be offering.

Q: Nick Smith: Will the government legislate across the accord?

A: The PM did not say that.

Q: Does this have the effect of making West Coast people beneficiaries?

A: No it means the West Coast will control the trust in the same way that the Chatham Islands controls its trust.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green) Will the government be prepared to consider options other than those presented today?

A: The government regards the Mayors as the responsible elected people for the government to deal with.

Q: Peter Dunne: Now he has mentioned the Chathams is it $100 million GST inclusive or exclusive.

A: The money will be GST exclusive - if applicable.

Question 4.

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

Q: Further to her answer to oral question No. 10 on 14 March, what are the details of the allegation of wrongdoing against the Waipareira Trust that she has received and what further action, if any, has she taken to investigate the truth of these allegations?

A: The allegations were those tabled on 14 March. The member advised me after I asked about them that there is no way in which his action could bring him or the party into disrepute. I accepted that assurance. Now however. Because the flow of allegations from the member I have asked for advice from all government departments contracting with the Trust on whether they have any concerns about the handling of money?

Q: Does she accept that her refusal to investigate the original accusations she received was not good enough? And does she stand by her members allegations that the people who made these accusations are theives liars and drug addicts?

A: I am always reluctant to investigate allegations which are received anonymously. I asked the member about the allegations and he denied them. I am not aware of any events alleged to have occurred in the time of this government. I also note that the previous government contracted with the trust for a long time and had no concerns.

Q: Was the money used to make the Rugby Club look solvent in order for it to apply for a Lotteries Board grant?

A: I have not heard those allegations before. The HFA is one of the agencies my department is contacting to inquire as to whether it is happy with how its money was transferred into the wrong account. I have heard that money was paid into a wrong account and was paid back - and quickly, with interest. I await advice form the HFA on this.

Q: Will she give us an assurance we will get to hear the results of the inquiries she is making?

A: This government believes in accountability. I will not be seeking to hide any concern from any departments. I notice however that over the last 10 years there have never been any serious concerns notified.

Question 5.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has the Overseas Investment Commission received any applications in the last six months from Te Ika Paewai Ltd to permit a level of foreign ownership in Sealord's fishing interests; if so, who authorised the application?

A: The OIC has received an application from the company. It was supported by BIL and the Maori Fisheries Commission.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Is the OIC aware of any consultative process with respect to Te Ika Paewai's application prior to the application?

A: The OIC granted permission conditionally on it meeting the requirements in the legislation pertaining to it.

A: Winston Peters (NZ First): Could the minister make the position very clear. Am I to understand that the company lodged an application with respect to some other party owning quota? And was it at any time that the OIC agreed to consent?

A: The answer yesterday was about a different application. This is a more recent application.

A: This was an application form the Company for assurance it could to continue to hold quota so it could engage in a "clean sale process".

Question 6.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Does he believe 2,000 additional new jobs will be created on the West Coast as a result of the economic development package announced?

A: As long as the Labour Alliance coalition government is in power and pursues the development programmes we are committed to yes.

Interjection: Go to the coast.

A: I will go to the coast anytime.

A: I will be surprised if the development package does not result in more than 2000 jobs. There are many things underway on the coast which involve new jobs on the coast. The $100 million package will ensure it has a better time than it would have had with National or with National and Act.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green) Can the minister refer to any jobs that have been lost on the beech scheme other than Kit Richards?

A: I know of no jobs being lost on the Coast at the present time. I do know that if the government had kept on the path it was on it would be a lot worse.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT) Will he accept the invitation to go to the rally in Greymouth this Saturday?

A: I have more things to do with my time than to go to ACT rallies on the West Coast.This government is dealing with the responsible authorities for the coast. We are going to deliver them the most significant development package of all time.

Question 7.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education):

Q: What is he doing to ensure that the views of students are heard by the Government?

A: This week the government introduced a bill to give students representation in their institutions. This will ensure they are heard.

Q: When will they see lower tertiary fees?

A: Some already have - dentistry students. We are dedicated to lowering fees as fast as we can.

Question 8.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she received any advice from her department to suggest that the Reserve Bank's understanding of the operation of the labour market is significantly different from other mainstream New Zealand forecasters?

A: I have not sought advice on their expertise in Labour Market research.

Q: How can she then accuse the RB Governor of having a one-sided view. Or is this more bullying of anyone that disagrees?

A: The Governor is perfectly entitled to comment on whatever he likes. He had not sought a briefing on the ERA and that was my point. My expectation of the RB is that it will conduct an anlaysis of the ERA in an sensible and balanced manner.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Is there any evidence that low wage environments result in low economic growth?

A: I have seen no such research.

A: To Max Bradford: I am capable of answering the questions myself. I have no doubt whatsoever that the RB will conduct a proper inquiry. Officials from Labour will be meeting with the RB for the first time tomorrow to discuss the matter.

Question 9.

Grant Gillon (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Is he concerned that regional development is being affected by higher petrol prices in the regions; if so, what actions is he going to take to address the situation?

A: I am concerned about the wide differential in petrol prices. I have also seen an explanation reported the that the difference in prices is nothing to do with transportation costs but is simply due to the fact that people are willing to pay more for it in the regions. I find that remarkable especially in Northland given that most of the petrol is made in Northland. Average petrol prices have risen 22 cents in the last few months as oil prices climbed. Crude prices have now fallen greatly. Petrol prices have not fallen enough.

The reality is that since I have been talking about this there has been public criticism and the prices have been coming down. The more we do it the better it will be.

Q: Has he heard from the Commerce Commission on their investigations?

A: I am aware that they are waiting for an interpretation form the High Court on predatory pricing concerning Carter Holt Harvey. And that this has an impact on the possibility of oil companies also being in breach.

The Minister for regional development and for lower petrol prices welcomes the helpful contributions of all members.

I did not suggest that the goverrnment was not concerned with Kyoto. I just said there is no point in allowing multi-national oil companies to exploit the people in

(Transcript of interview tabled.)

Question 10.

Hon. Bill English (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she agree with the study on New Zealand's productivity prepared by Diewert and Lawrence for her department, which shows that, taking into account employment growth, productivity grew 2 percent per annum from 1993 to 1998 while growth was 0.1 percent per annum in the previous nine years?

A: We see a range of studies on productivity performance and they are contradictory. I am advised that there is some criticism of the study referred to. Using Household Labour Force data the difference in growth is negligible to that over the previous nine years.

A: To Bill English: Your question is probably worthy of an examination or academic study. I am prepared to wait and see what the results of the legislation are.

A: I am aware that a recent Australian study shows productivity growth of 2.5% This is ahead of the questionable data that shows growth of 1.9 since 1993. I note also that Australia is implementing employment reforms similar to those contained in the ERA.

A: I do not profess to have psychic powers.

(Max Bradford - leave to table a chart showing NZ productivity growth romping ahead of Australia - granted.)

Question 11.

Martin Gallagher (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: How serious are the ethnic tensions in the Solomon Islands and is the situation likely to deteriorate further?

A: There have been ongoing ethnic tensions since late 1998. It is estimated that over 20,000 people have been forced to leave and around 40 or 50 people have died. There are now two highly armed groups. The situation is highly volatile and could deteriorate at any time.

Q: What can NZ do.

A: We have been able to support in policing and refugee assistance. A former NZ policeman is presently the chief of police. The NZ Army is building community police stations and giving support to a multinational police assistance force.

Q: Could NZ act swiftly if necessary with Australia and PNG?

A: There are no formal plans to intervene in what would be a civil war. NZ is working with the countries he has mentioned. Some of the conflict is criminal. We are talking to our neighbors about how to get the parties talking to each other.

Two days before I was in Honiara there was a significant riot. Then two days ago a Guadacanal man was killed allegedly by the rival "eagle force" grouping .

Q: Has there been a request for urgent assistance.

A: I met with the PM while I was there and we had discussions about how we as a country could assist. We made the strong statement throughout discussions that the groups needed to resolve the ethnic conflict internally. There needed to be a will for there to be a resolution. We said we could provide the circumstances to allow it to happen if there was a will.

Question 12.

Bob Simcock (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she have confidence that her department will be able to accurately track employment figures under the Government's proposed industrial relations policy?

A: The implementation will make no difference on tracking employment figures.

Q: Did she comment on advice that the best estimate of job losses in a report was a guess?

A: As I recall those comments were made in the context of the minimum wage debate and have to be seen in that context.

Q: Will she be directing the department to analyse the effects of the act?

A: This government is of the view that evaluation is extremely important. We will assess both quantitative and qualitative research on the impact of the law. I am aware of a Women's Affairs report on the impact of home workers and I am seeking advice as to how we can measure what happens in that group.

A: Predictions are always very difficult especially when they are about the future.

A: To Max Bradford: There was a great deal of advice collected in preparation of the bill. I am struggling to remember the research he recalls to.


(Gerry Brownlee - I have waited till the end to put this. You refer to standing order 80. I need to refer to 372. It has been difficult on a number of occasions this afternoon for the opposition to refrain from interjecting . It would be helpful that there responsibilities under 372 should be adhered to in order to this state of affairs to remain.

Speaker - In the 30 years I have been here I have never seen an opposition happy with Ministers answers.)

Thursday, 30 March 2000

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee:

Q: When will the committee complete its financial review of Timberlands West Coast Ltd?

A: The Primary Production Committee is still reviewing Timberlands. The committee is required to report back no later than July 19 the committee intends to meet this deadline.

Q: Given his description and public views on this subject. Why did he vote against the formal inquiry into Timberlands put to the committee this morning?

(Speaker - the member may not answer that

Nick Smith - my understanding the member wants to answer the question

Damien O'Conner - I'll take leave myself to answer question - granted.)

The committee considered the motion laid down by the member of the committee and considered that there was no more opportunity. The committee welcomes any more questions that may be asked concerning Timberlands and sustainable native forestry.

(Winston Peters - Now he has put this into play can we ask him further questions on his conduct in the committee.

(Speaker - with the houses' leave we can yes.)

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Will the member be advocating travelling to the West Coast to hear their views on Timberland financial review?

A: No.

Q: Winston Peters (National)Given the views on the Accord and his clear public statements - why does he not to the right thing for his constituency and resign and stand on this matter?

(Speaker - The member need not answer this question….I Move Government order of the day….)


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