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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today’s questions of the day concerned: Helen Clark And The West Coast – April 1 Tax Changes – Constitution Conference – Pig Rights – West Coast Development Package – Government Super Fund – West Coast Jobs – Korea – Heather (Minister) Simpson – Prison Population – Rodney Council – Transmission Gully.

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 4 April 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.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National) to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Will she be taking up the invitation of the West Coast member, Damien O'Connor, reported in yesterday's Press, that she should visit the region to talk to the people affected by the Government's policies?

A: Not immediately.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National) What can West Coasters do to get her to listen to their views when she accuses them of being not democratic and then refuses to talk to them?

A: Perhaps I should answer that with a question. What can I do to convince the people of the coast that an election was held last year and that the parties that won all campaigned openly on ending beech logging. I have too many invitations to accept them all.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green) When she visits the coast will she visit the rimu overcut?

A: An important part of any visit to the house would include a visit to the disastrous effects of unsustainable logging. The call for Mr O’Conner’s resignation is ridiculous. Any other member who returned with a $100 million development package would

Q: Can’t she understand that the coast wants jobs?

A: There are in the CAN some elements who will never be happy without beech logging.

Question 2.

Clayton Cosgrove (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What response has he received to the Government revenue and expenditure policies which came into effect on 1 April 2000?

A: The response has been very positive. Grey power was very happy. My mum is still happy. Judged by the opinion polls the higher taxes were also popular widely though not by the leader of the opposition who said it would slow her in her plans to purchase a property.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): If the policy is so popular then why has the government had to introduce new pieces of legislation to make sure people pay their tax?

A: The kinds of criminals and tax evaders that the member supports are always finding new ways of avoiding taxes.

Question 3.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: Is she concerned that the political neutrality of the judiciary is being undermined by their participation in the Constitutional Conference in the Legislative Council Chamber where issues like the desirability of homelands for Maori are likely to be advocated?

A: No I am not concerned. I understand the conference will provide a forum to which members of the judiciary are qualified to contribute. I respect and apply the principle of the difference between the judiciary and the executive. Members of the judiciary like others are entitled to freedom of expression provided they always conduct themselves in such a way as to respect their office and maintain their independence. I understand this is a conference of constitutional matters and I see no problem in the Chief Justice or anyone else attending.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Will the member tell us what are the limits of political views judges are able to express?

A: No.

Question 4.

Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Does the Government share the Green Party's abhorrence of the treatment of 25,000 sows in New Zealand that are housed in dry sow stalls for four months at a time where they cannot move or turn around; if so, will he make clear to the pork industry that the dry sow stall must be phased out?

A: The government recognises the Green party’s concerns and is confident that the Animal Welfare Act of 1999 will positively address this issue. This legislation was supported by the Green Party in the select committee.

Q: Does he agree that 50% of the industry has already abandoned the practice and why will the rest not be forced to follow suit?

A: The matter has gone further than the member indicates. The number of farms using this practice has been reduced from 92% to 32% over the last two decades.

Q: Why have we not followed the UK where they have outlawed this practice?

A: The government is aware of the UK legislation. No other European state has introduced this measure. We are monitoring its progress.

Question 5.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Will the Ministry of Economic Development be conducting a "comprehensive socio-economic impact study and report into the effects of (the Government's) indigenous forest policies on the communities of the West Coast" as unanimously called for by over 4,000 people on the West Coast on Saturday; if not, why not?

A: No. The government is going to implement its pre-existing policies on forests. The government is also going to help the coast become a social and economic power house.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Noting that the fact the minister said he would go anytime, when will he go to the coast and debate the issues with coasters?

A: I have made clear publicly that I will attend a meeting on the West Coast after we have heard back from the West Coast mayors on the $!00 million proposal.

Q: Damien O’Conner (Labour): Can the member assure support for other industries subject to the RMA?

A: The West Coast has to be among one of the luckiest in the country. Not only to have the best member but also to have access to the regular $100 million that all other areas will have access to. This fund will hand over sovereignty and resources for the West Coast to solve its own problems. The government is still measuring the total impact of the package. We will hear back from Mayors on May 1.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Does he agree with the Dominion editorial?

A: If I had had read all the editorials of the Dominion and had taken their advice I would not be where I am today. The reality is that the investment from this capital base can provide over $250 million in investment over the next 35 years any other region would accept it with open arms.

Question 6.

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

Q: What action, if any, is the Government taking to improve the performance of the Government Superannuation Fund?

A: The government intends to introduce legislation to enable the GSF to balance its portfolio. The savings from this in contributions from the crown as employer could be between $14 and $44 million a year.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Will the fund be investing offshore and if so will the planned main super fund for everybody else be able to invest offshore?

A: It is anticipated that the fund investments will be done along normal commercial lines I anticipate that some will be invested offshore as with any superannuation fund.

Question 7.

Phil Heatley (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What economic analysis was undertaken by Treasury leading to the claim by the Deputy Prime Minister that "I would be surprised if the $100 million offered to the West Coast ... did not create at least 2,000 new jobs."?

A: None.

(Speaker moved to Question 8 because no one called.

Roger Sowry - the member was on his seat asking for a supplementary.

Speaker - I will allow the member Rodney Hide the opportunity to ask a supplementary the member did not call.

Roger Sowry – we have new members in the house and we should treat them fairly and evenhandedly.

Speaker – had the member risen I would have called him. Did the member rise?

Heatley – I was half way rising Mr Speaker ….much hilarity…

Speaker – I think it was slightly less than half way.)

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT) does the member believe the $50,000 per job is an acceptable cost?

A: I do not know. I am very hopeful that the aims as laid out by the Deputy PM prove to be true.

Question 8.

Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What were the principal objectives of his visit to Korea last week?

A: I was the first member of the new government to visit. I addressed an APEC forum. I impressed on Korea the importance of the relationship for NZ.

Q: What were the issues raised with Korean officials?

A: I pressed Korea to allow processed deer velvet. I took up the case for peaches and nectarines and I discussed the beef market.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Did he discuss the Korean minimum wage in Korea?

A: It is only by allowing developing countries to trade that they can raise their standard of living and the wages paid for labour. Korea expects to have 30 million people on-line by the end of next year.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is there any connection between his visit and the outbreak of foot in mouth disease?

(Speaker – question ruled out of order.)

Question 9.

Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is she satisfied with the quality of policy advice officials are providing to Cabinet; if not, what has she done about it?

A: For the most part I am.

Q: Has se established a clear understanding with all CEOs as required in the Cabinet Manual to allow Heather Simpson to rule out pieces of unacceptable advice?

A: Of course I have given Miss Simpson no such instruction. I must observe that many of our departments have been run down and do not have sufficient resources to provide proper advice.

Q: Does she agree that Minister Simpson’s actions are undermining the relationship with the public service? (Speaker - use of Minister Simpson ruled out.)

A: Most certainly not. I do believe in contestable advice though and if the previous PM did not use Mr Doug Martin’s advice then he should wonder what he was paid for.

Question 10.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (Labour) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard:

Q: What action will she take to promote the Government's Heart of the Nation plan?

A: This government has a vision for vibrant arts and culture. We expect sustainable employment and economic growth. Hamish Keith has been appointed to convene a national plan for the sector. We have clearly signalled our intention to provide support for the sector. We have cancelled the contestable funding for the Historic Places Trust. We are also looking at the impact of parallel importing on the sector.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Given her government’s opposition to the use of consultants, why did it appoint a luminary such as Tim Hazeldine to do this and not rely on officials advice?

A: This government does not commission advice from its own people on what to do to people out there. This is an exercise involved in drawing up a strategic plan. We are asking the creative sector for advice on what they need.

Question 11.

Stephen Franks (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What steps is he taking to ensure that there will be adequate prison capacity to accommodate the potential increase in prison numbers if the Bail Bill becomes law?

A: Work has been done on this. If the bill is passed in its proposed form we have estimated the number of cells needed.

Q: Stephen Franks (ACT): Does he prefer criminals to victims?

A: Between now and eight years hence in 2008 we will have done lots of things to reduce prison numbers and the public will be pleased with that I am sure.

Q: What would the cost of ACT’s Truth in Sentencing Bill be?

A: The bill would increase the population by 55% and cost $838 million over three years – more than the entire police budget. I stand by the comments I have made that the most appropriate policy is the most effective. I will continue to speak to that. Home detention is a promising new form of sentencing. At present there is legislation covering that and I will ensure a close eye is kept on it.

Q: What steps is he taking to reduce the prison population?

A: We are making steps in the social and economic spheres to prevent the cause of offending. We are also working on restorative justice. There is no secret that there is a rational debate going on in government concerning bail laws.

Question 12.

Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:

Q: What is her response to the announcement by the remaining Rodney District Councillors that they intend to appoint new councillors rather than filling vacant positions through by-elections?

A: The local government act does allow for appointment of councillors as well as their election. However no matter what the intention of the councillors is, electors of the Rodney District can force a ballot with a call from 5% of electors.

Q: Grant Gillon (Alliance): When will the minister make a decision?

A: The consultation process is 20 working days. This expires on Wednesday. It would be inappropriate for me to make any comment prior to the Cabinet meeting next Monday. I have not publicly supported the actions of either the resigning councillors or the surviving councillors. I will be acting as appropriately on recommendations received after Wednesday. I am currently working through a number of submissions on this. There are a range of options possibly. I will be announcing my decision on Monday and not before.

Tuesday, 4 April 2000

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon. Peter Dunne (United NZ) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee Harry Dynhoven:

Q: When will the committee consider my petition, co-signed by 24,155 others, calling on the Government to set aside the funding to enable the construction of the Transmission Gully highway?

A: The committee tabled a submission from Transit on this in March. It will be dealt with in due course.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Isn’t the real reason the petition has not been addressed is that the Minister has shelved it while he gets wider policy in this area in order?

A: Mr Dunne has long advocated lower taxes. Now he is asking for special treatment to a project in his area. We have a number of other statutory duties to comply with before we get to the petition.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Has he had any submissions from the member for Wellington Central on this?

A: I do not see any submissions before me from the member but then I have none from the former member of Wellington Central either? We have carried over 7 petitions from the last Parliament into the new Parliament.


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