Today’s questions of the day concerned: Tamihere Apology – Wine Box Tax Amendments – Tertiary Education Advisory Commission – Waipareira Trust – Fisheries Ministry Expense Claims – Gender Pay Equity – Oxfam And Aid For Education– Royal Commission on GE - Bulk Funding Contracts - West Coast Exotic Forests And Labour Pledges - EECA - Overstayers
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.Wednesday, 5 April 2000
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
(Leave to make personal statement from John Tamihere – granted.
John Tamihere (Labour) : Concerning remarks I made on March 29th. On reflection I regret naming and making remarks about three individuals. I apologise for doing so.
Speakers Ruling – on yesterday’s dispute over an urgent West Coast development package debate. The issue is whether there was opportunity to lodge an application for debate last Thursday before the house sat. I have seen evidence showing me clearly that there was. That said I will be liberal in my interpretation of standing order 376. I will not take a strict interpretation of this rule and rule out debates because they are not asked for immediately necessarily in future. Later – following question time - the Speaker again refused a request for a debate on the package.
Harry Dynhoven (Labour): Leave sought to table a paper on Transmission Gully referred to in question time yesterday– granted.
Sue Kedgley (Green): Leave sought to table paper on pig farming making it clear 49% of NZ sows are kept in sow crates not around 30% as referred to by the Minister of Agriculture yesterday – granted.)
Mark Peck (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: Has the Government made any announcements on tax policy today?
A: Yes the government is proceeding with tax credit amendments resulting in part from the Wine Box inquiry that have been languishing in a Select Committee since 1994 because of the actions of the previous treasurer [Winston Peters].
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does he accept that it was deferred because of court proceedings? And can we assume this means there is no intention to prosecute the Magnum transaction.?
A: No. The Magnum transaction is now in the hands of the Solicitor General having been referred by the IRD.
Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Has the Health Funding Authority made offers for funds to Auckland Healthcare and Pacific Health; if so, do those offers represent an increase or a decrease in the funding available compared to the year ending 30 June 2000?
A: All hospitals have received offers from the HFA, discussing them would be inappropriate at this stage.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Can she confirm that the offers reduce amounts available by $40 million and $20 million respectively to the two hospitals?
A: The member is, as usual, out of date. Since his meeting with officials last week new offers have been made. The member might also like to remember how negotiations took place under his control. An offer has been made but I am not prepared to talk about negotiations currently underway.
Dianne Yates (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: What has been the response of the tertiary education sector to the announcement that Norman Kingsbury has been appointed to chair the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission?
A: There were 250 people nominated for the appointment. His appointment has been very well received. We have full endorsement for the TEAC chair. There are over 200 submissions received on the role of the TEAC. The plan is to move to a more collaborative style on managing the sector.
Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Did her preliminary investigations into the Waipareira Trust include investigating the allegation that on the Trust there are "thieves and drug addicts"; if not, why not?
A: My inquiries have been into the processes followed by the previous government in contracting with the trust. Given the sums contracted they must have been happy with the composition of the trust.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is she aware that two trustees are being accused of conversion of a boat and is she serious when she says that her MP John Tamihere should be left alone?
A: I would welcome advice from the member about the timing of that event. I also note that allegations have been made concerning drugs concerning the Trust and that allegations have also been made concerning the ACT party and drugs.
Q: John Carter (National) Does she have a conditional resignation from Mr Tamihere on her desk?
A: I do not have a letter like that. On the basis that the previous government put many contracts the way of the trust I can only assume they shared the widespread public view that the trust had contributed greatly to Maori Development in Auckland.
Q: Has she read the NBR article on this and will she be asking for an explanation from Mr Tamihere of his admissions?
A: Yes I have. I have asked the HFA about these issues.
(Rodney Hide – leave sought to table a paper concerning the theft of a boat – granted.
John Carter – leave sought to table a newspaper article on a conditional resignation letter– granted.)
Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:
Q: Further to oral question No. 1, on 1 September 1999, and written question No. 4663 (2000), were any Ministry of Fisheries employees interviewed; if so, what were their names?
A: Following concerns about alleged abuse of expense claims by staff an internal audit was conducted. External auditors were then contracted to review this matter. Both audits concluded there were no irregularities in the expense claims filed and no further action was warranted.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Given that answer. Three people named including an Fisheries officer named Gregory Reid (sp?) – were these three interviewed and what did they say?
A: Whether these people were interviewed or not I do not know. All I know is an audit cleared a person of an allegation and that seems an appropriate place to let the matter lie.
Q: John Luxton (National) Could these allegations be motivated more by the actions of the person making the allegations?
A: No I can’t confirm that a compliance officer will be raked over the coals but that may happen….(the Minister appeared to know what Mr Luxton – the previous Minister of Fisheries - was referring too…)
Anne Tolley (National) to the Minister of Women's Affairs Laila Harre:
(Speaker – refused leave to the opposition Junior Whip – Gerry Brownlee - to make a point of order.
Roger Sowry (National) – Mr Speaker may I draw your attention to the fact that refusing to allow a whip to make a point of order is a new step.
Speaker: Perhaps I was a little hasty.
Speaker - after allowing Mr Brownlee to make his point of order – “that is not a point of order as I suspected”.
As ruled I will allow the question down to the word sector.)
Q: What steps is she taking to draft legislation to force the promotion of women into senior positions in the private sector, (DELETED WORDS: “as described by the Prime Minister in last night's Evening Post?”)
A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf…) The government is committed to assisting women in the public and private sectors. This government is against the manner in which the last government’s Cabinet only had one woman in Cabinet. Unfortunately when the present leader of the opposition was the Minister of Women’s Affairs she repealed the Employment Equity Act.
Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): When will equity in employment legislation be introduced as described in Alliance policy?
A: When the Green party gives active support to that policy, its implementation will be agreed to.
Keith Locke to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: Does the Government support Oxfam International's Global Campaign for Education to enable the 125 million children currently out of school world-wide to get a full primary education; if so, what will be the Government's contribution to this campaign?
A: The NZ Government does support Oxfam’s objective. It is not directly involved in the global campaign though it is funding Oxfam NZ to provide education and assistance in Bougainville.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): Will it increase the proportion of overseas aid focussed on basic education?
A: No NZ will not send a NZ minister to the conference in Dakar later this week. We do not determine the level of aid that goes into basic primary education. This is a matter that is under consultation at present.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:
Q: Has she been informed of any directions given to her officials by the Prime Minister, the Office of the Prime Minister or the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet regarding the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification?
A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf.) – Yes I received a report from the PM asking me to initiate work on an inquiry and moratorium and I passed that on to officials.
Q: Nick Smith (National): Why will the minister not release the instruction issued to officials on this?
A: There is no great secret in the intention to set up a Royal Commission - that was contained in the Speech from the Throne and he is quite free to read that. The Royal Commission will consult with the public in a way that allows everybodies views to be addressed to the Commission.
Q: Green MP: Will the voluntary moratorium stop field trials?
A: The government will be announcing the conditions for a voluntary moratorium in due course. The details of it will be made clear when they are finalised.
Q: ACT MP: Are scientists are leaving the country because of this?
A: Yes it is true that there are NZ scientists who are leaving. It is also true that a lot of scientists in NZ that have foreign accents. This appears to be a pattern among scientists.
Helen Duncan (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Why does Parliament have to pass legislation to end bulk-funding of schools rather than allowing them to complete their contracts?
A: Because bulk funding contracts have no end date Margaret Austin and David Caygill stated their intentions to abolish bulk funding before the 1993 and 1996 elections. I wrote to all schools on this in June last year. We will not be breaking the contracts in Government, it will be a decision for Parliament. In the house last night the National Party said the contracts should be allowed to lapse.
Q: Nick Smith (Natioanl) Will the Minister please table a contract which shows there is a three year review period?
(Speaker – that is not a question.)
A: I am happy to send for and table a contract. – as the member knows schools can break the contracts, but the government cannot.
Phil Heatley (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Will the Government be offering the West Coast perpetual cutting rights and control of Timberlands West Coast exotic forests, as provided for in Labour's package for the West Coast; if not, why not?
A: No. The $100 million cash payment is more durable than the forests which is an asset which by its nature contains risks.
Q: Why does the package break five pledges in the Labour Party’s election pledge to the coast?
A: I know of no special West Coast pledge card.
Q: Will the government assure West Coast saw-millers that they will have access to exotic logs from the coast for processing?
A: I note that previously Timberlands contracted with a Christchurch sawmill.
Q: Green MP: Can he give an assurance that West Coast exotic timber will be processed on the coast and if not why not?
A: Clearly logs logged on the West Coast will be logged by West Coasters. I am not sure that legislation could assure that these were processed on the West Coast.
(Phil Heatley - National - leave sought to table pledge card – granted.)
David Cunliffe (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:
Q: Why has the Government decided to support the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Bill sponsored by Jeanette Fitzsimons?
A: The government is committed to energy efficiency. Labour supported the bill when it was first introduced 18 months ago. I am happy to say we have worked with the Green Party to improve the bill. The bill will constitute EECA to continue and expand its excellent work. EECA had previously been subject to continuous review. Standards for appliances lower the life-cycle costs of those appliances. If these had been introduced earlier we would have already achieved gains.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Is he confident adequate funding can be secured for EECA?
A: Yes I am confident there will be resources available to meet the requirements in the bill. I note however that on the issue of climate change the issue is coming on fast and that additional resources may be required to enable NZ to deal with this issue.
Q: Max Bradford (National): Will the minister confirm that my comment on the EECA bill being “Stalinist” applied to it before it returned from the Select Committee?
A: Yes. I can also confirm that the member voted for it.
Hon. Marie Hasler (National) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziell
Q: What assurance can she give overstayers who have applied for residency that their cases will be dealt with on the same basis as the Mila family case?
A: None. Overstayers cannot apply for residency.
Q: In the interests of the decision being seen to be fair when will she explain the reasons for her decision?
A: I have received no application from the lawyer of the family involved to explain my reasons, nor from the news media save in such a manner as would require me to breach my obligations under the Privacy Act. I have asked for a briefing from the department presenting options for dealing with the “overstayer problem”.