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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today’s questions of the day concerned: Bail Bill Views Of Matt Robson – NZ Apples In Oz – PM’s Mistake On GE Commission Instructions – Christchurch Women’s Prison Kitchen – Primary Health Care Consultation - GE Moratorium And Deformed Sheep – Treaty Of Waitangi – Commerce Act – ERA And Contractors – Wine Box – Rodney – Special Education – Graham Kelly’s Conduct Inquiry.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 6 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.

Questions to Ministers


(Leave refused for Jeanette Fitzsimmons to introduce a bill on GE moratorium.)

Question 1.

Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What effect would the Bail Bill and proposed amendments have on the prison population?

A: The effect of the bail bill is to increase inmates by 213. This will cost $30 million in capital and $4 million in operational expenditure each year. While I was overseas I did not hear any particular radio report on the bill. Certainly the proposals are worthy of consideration and that is what I am doing.

Q: What will it take to persuade him that he is out of step with 92% of NZers?

A: I am not aware that 92% of NZers have been asked about the Bail Bill. But 100% of NZers want money spent effectively and wisely and that is what I intend to do.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Will the Minister introduce new measures to reduce the prison population?

A: Yes. Effectively targeting those likely to offend and broad socio-economic measures outside prisons to ensure there are fewer people likely to become criminals.

Question 2.

Rick Barker (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: Have there been any developments in the apple industry with respect to our trade with Australia; if so, what are they?

A: When in Australia last week I was assured by ministers a draft paper on apples would be issued later next month and that it would be available for consultation then. I was assured the decision would be based in science.

Q: When does he expect a final result?

A: A few months after the release of the draft.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National) When will he get a decision in NZ on trout based on Science?

A: I was able to assure the Australian ministers that all decisions hinging on disease risk assessment would be made on the basis of science.

Q: Will the market for apples in Australia be treated as part of the domestic market as with Kiwifruit?

A: From an technical point of view Australia is a separate country and we will have to abide by their protocols.

Q: What is he doing to enable organic apple exports?

A: First we have to get NZ apples accepted following that we can turn our attention to what apples might be recognised as organic. This morning I met with representatives of organic producers to discuss how to advance their objectives.

Question 3.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did her request in December last year to the Minister for the Environment asking her to initiate the work for an inquiry into genetic modification include a request that lesser options than a Royal Commission be considered?

A: A letter from me to the Minister late last year did in error make that request.

Q: If she had no idea why officials were considering a lesser level of inquiry. Will she now apologise to the 30,000 public servants who she impugned using allegations on this.

A: I had no idea that the mistake was made till February. I do regret that in late December I inadvertantly signed a letter. I had quite a lot on at the time and unlike some I do not claim to being infallible. If any offence has been caused an apology is offered. I made a mistake. I’m not in fallible. I am sorry.

Q: Why did she not apologise in February?

A: I could equally ask why it has taken 3.5 months to ask the question.

(Nick Smith - If the member was quoting from the letter one could ask for it being tabled.

Helen Clark - I am more than happy to table the letter because I do believe in transparency.

Nick Smith - I would like to table 12 OIA requests in which the PM refused to release that letter.)

Question 4.

Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What were his reasons for deciding to keep the kitchen at the Christchurch Women's Prison open?

A: It was important to keep the kitchen open as it provides an excellent opportunity for training and rehabilitation.

Q: What else could he expand if he got his hands on the rest of the $30 million destined to pay for the Bail Bill?

A: If I could get $2 million it would be good. If I could get 32 million I could do a great deal more. Up to 80% of inmates offend on release. We need to enable them to work and contribute to our society.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is this bureaucratic gobbledygook.

A: Most offiicals tell me we need more prisons. The evidence is that where we have programmes the recidivism rate is 10% to 20% lower. The benefits of prison training programmes are immeasurable. Training enables inmates to re-enter the work-force and contribute rather than re-offend.

Question 5.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she been informed of the concerns of health experts advising that proposals in The Future Shape of Primary Health Care, including the proposed changes to the funding systems for general practitioners and other primary health care providers, threaten poorer health outcomes for low income New Zealanders; if so, what modifications to her proposals does she propose?

A: Yes I listen to Morning Report to and I welcome submissions on the process of reforms we are undertaking.

Q: What changes does she intend to make to deal with the concerns of Assoc Prof Buckingham and others?

A: I just ask the member to read this document. It is a discussion document and that means we are happy to receive submissions on it.

Q: How long will it take to get the cost of going to a doctor to $2.

A: The document says it is forecast over a decades period. At the moment 15% of doctors are receiving money through capitation. We are not going to mandate all professionals to join this but over time it will happen.

Question 6.

Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister for Crown Research Institutes Pete Hodgson:

Q: Why does a publicly funded Crown research institute have an application before the Environmental Risk Management Authority today to create a flock of genetically engineered sheep when the Government says it wants to have a voluntary moratorium on some field trials?

A: The application was received in June last year. Both AgResearch and ERMA are complying with the law.

Q: Is the minister aware of animal welfare considerations given that AgResearch acknowledges the risk that animals may end up deformed as a result of this experiment?

A: If there are animal welfare concerns with experiments they will be dealt with by ethics committee and if not acceptable then the experiment will not proceed? This is a trial of sheep who can not produce a natural muscle growth inhibitant. The long term aim of the trial is to evaluate the effect of the gene which comes from a dutch cow on muscle development in general and in sheep in particular. This may have human applications in medicine too.

Q: Can he assure this is not a Clayton’s moratorium?

A: Yes and I can tell him what is in the moratorium, just not yet.

Q: Is he aware that excrement from the sheep will end up in the Waikato River?

A: In the past they have imposed earlabelling, tatooing and implant conditions on GE stock experiments. The stock will be housed inside a double fence. If that is not enough we could always rustle up a decent sheep dog too.

Q: Can the minister assure us this is not a plan to recruit more members to the Labour Party?

A: No I cannot.

Question 7.

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

Q: Would the Government include the Treaty of Waitangi in a written constitution for New Zealand?

A: At this time the government is not actively considering constitutional change. If it was then the Treaty of Waitangi would have a place in any consideration.

Q: Isn’t the truth that the government wants a written constitution and if not then why is the government sponsoring the conference?

A: The previous government and this government have contributed to the conference. The reason this government has done so is because it believes in free and open debate and freedom of expression. As a responsible government we are in fact encouraging a debate on the future of NZ. The treaty is a founding document in our society and its discussion is essential when considering the constitution and the future.

Q: What are her views?

A: My previous writings and thoughts on this are well read. I have only just arrived here in Parliament however. I should wait and observe and learn from the experience in this house before I write again on the subject.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green) What are her views on Tinorangitiratanga?

A: The contribution on that debate is happening not only at this conference but all over NZ in different places. We encourage that debate as there can not be understanding without discussion. I am flattered how many people have been reading my views on this. The article in particular that appears to be mentioned often is on the legal status of the treaty. It was a response to a query about what the legal status of the treaty was. I pass no opinion on whether the treaty should be enacted. In that article I observed that to change the current status this would probably be necessary.

Question 8.

H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Trevor Mallard:

Q: What action, if any, is the Government taking to strengthen the Commerce Act 1986?

A: The government is taking a strong stance against anti-competitive behaviour. We are going to protect businesses and consumers from it. There is a wide body of opinion that economic growth can be best achieved by encouraging companies to compete. We will create a positive environment for business growth where small and medium businesses can look to case law from Australia for assistance in dealing with anti-competitive behaviour. Clearly consumers in NZ have suffered as a result of anti-competitive behaviour for years. Under the law as present the Transalta Contact merger can go ahead and cost consumers an estimated 5%. Under the changed bill it could be stopped. As it is it can’t. We believe in competition whereas the previous government took decisions giving their friends monopoly powers.

Question 9.

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith to the Minister of Labour:

Q: Has she received any advice from officials on what impact the changes to subcontracting arrangements and fixed-term contracts in the Employment Relations Bill will have on the flexibility of the New Zealand workforce; if so, what was the advice?

A: The employment relations bill does not provide for subcontracting. I have received some general advice on the impact on contracters. I have some advice which I can read out if leave is granted. (Granted)

Provisions in the bill may reduce the incidence of employers in avoiding legal obligations to employees.

There is a risk if the wording is too tight then it will stop arrangements which are advantageous to both sides.

There are potential benefits for society from contracting and these have to be weighed up.

The bills provisions are designed to keep a balance in these competing interests.

(To Lockwood Smith) I assume the Film Industry has lots of fixed term contracts. Contracts of this kind are specifically mentioned in the bill and are permitted.

Q: How will provisions allowing employees to make a short term contracts into a long term contracts assist in encouraging employers to take people on?

A: What the bill attempts to do is provide people with choice. But that must relate to the intentions of the parties. If you want a short term contract that is allowed. All that is asked is that you clearly state your intentions in the contract. We are endeavouring at this stage to encourage people to make submissions on the bill. Once the bill has been enacted there will be information available through the labour department on how it applies.

(Richard Prebble: The member appeared to be quoting from a document will she table it.

Wilson: No I was quoting from the answer to the question. I did not have the document with me. I wasn’t quoting directly from the document but from a summary.

Speaker: Is the minister prepared to table what she was speaking from.

Wilson: I am perfectly happy to table the answer.

(Speaker – Rodney Hide put on last warning….)

Richard Prebble: We have a minister who asked for leave to quote from a document. Leave was granted. If you quote from a document she should table it. If she hasn’t then she has trifled from the house

Speaker leave was granted to read part of a document. And that is what happened.)

Gerry Brownlee: - later after question 10 - Hansard called for…)

Question 10.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Minister of Revenue:

Q: Has the Commissioner of Inland Revenue approached the Solicitor-General for an opinion on the winebox issues; if so, why?

A: Yes the commissioner of Inland Revenue stated last year that he had sought an opinion on the transaction from Crown Law?

Q: If that is correct then why has an Auckland Lawyer been hired (named), a junior barrister with no experience in tax to advise them on this?

A: I have no idea who has been engaged but I can assure the member that the Solicitor General is very experienced.

Q: When will advice be received on Magnum?

A: I do not expect to receive advice on this. The Acting Commissioner will receive that advice.

Q: Will the minister outline the principle that has not been addressed by current law?

A: In the US where form takes a second place to substance the US finds it necessary to have this kind of provision to stop foreign tax credits. So we need it too.

Question 11.

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

Q: Is it correct that yesterday was the last day of the statutory consultation period in relation to the Review Authority report on the Rodney District Council, leaving the way clear for the Minister to now make her decision; if so, why has she delayed that decision?

A: It is extremely important that I receive all advice before I make a determination. The deadline for advice was Wednesday. I would hardly call two working days to finalise my decision a delay.

Q: Will this require a pointless byelection? And why will she not deal with it today before recess so the house can deal with it?

A: If I were to decide that legislation were needed then I am advised that legislation would be brought in in early May – this is what officials advise.

Q: When could residents hold an early election for the eight seats?

A: The nature of that question is designed to pre-empt the decision making process I am involved in. I will wait and advise Cabinet and Rodney Council first and then that member once a decision has been made.

Question 12.

David Benson-Pope (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziell:

Q: What progress, if any, has been made towards reviewing special education policy?

A: I am announcing a review of aspects of the policy this afternoon. I can inform the house that Dr Cathy Wiley an eduicationalist of high standing has been asked to report back in July.

(Trevor Mallard tried to stop bulk funding question from Nick Smith
Speaker - that is not a point of order.)

A: This is about special education. And while the principles in Special Education 2000 may be sound the fact is people have been left distressed in the implementation of it from one end of the country and this government intends to listen to people.

Notification is needed to be made by September to schools in order to implement changes for next year. I am satisfied that there is enough time to conduct this review.

Q: Will qualification to school entry be by the size of mortgage?

A: There is an exemption to zoning rules for special education schooling . Can I also say this government supports choice.

Q: Ian Ewen Street (Green): Will the review address the question of mainstreaming students with special needs?

A: The review will put an emphasis on finding the best possible outcome for the student and lots of factors will be taken into account.

Thursday, 6 April 2000

Questions to Members


Question 1.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Chairperson of the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee Graham Kelly.

Q: Will he step aside from the chair when the committee discusses the motion to remove him as chairperson?

A: No.

Q: How then can he guarantee that opposition members will get a fair hearing if he acts as both judge and as the person in the dock?

A: If there is a complaint about a breach of standing orders then the member should say so or put up. If the member knew procedure then he would be aware that the chair is not entitled to stand aside for such a reason.

Q: Will he give an assurance that the sort of offensive behaviour as that of Dr Lockwood Smith has exhibited will not be allowed?

(Speaker - Question not allowed.)

A: I mentioned in answer to an earlier question that if the chair stands aside then the deputy chair cannot rule on this matter. I cannot explain the National Party’s attitude in this matter.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is the chairman prepared to take as his guide the conduct of John Tamihere. If it is okay for him why not for you?

A: Only moments ago I had the confidence of the committee I see no reason why that is not the case now.

(Gerry Brownlee – when it came to discussion of the MMP select committee earlier this week you stood in the house and removed yourself from the house as you believed that you were inappropriate to be in the chair as you were being discussed. Does your notification to the house constitute a ruling? And does it bind the chair of a Select Committee.

The answer to the question is no. And this is a matter that can be pursued in the committee itself..)


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