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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions concerned: Superannuation - West Coast Rimu Logging - Kiwi Bank - Broadcasting Advice And Policy - Rape Pardon - Broadcasting Quotas - Parallel Importing - ERB And Jobs - Waikato Health Computer - Dover Samuels On Frequencies - Nuclear Veterans - Health Board Appointments - ERB Submissions

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 24 February 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.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS:

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question 1.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any advice on ways of funding New Zealand superannuation in the future?

A: Yes. I have received a great deal of advice. Advice from Bill English was raising taxes, running a deficit or cutting entitlements. In the words of the Leader of the Opposition this is radical conservatism.

Q: Bill English (National): When will he be able to answer any questions at all on detail of his scheme?

A: I am sure that when I am it will get him going, get him going like I knew it would. I will be happy to work on a way to ensure funding for a scheme which provides funding for universal superannuation from age 65. Even in last years budget documentation there has been discussion of prefunding for super. ACT should understand this.

Q: Bill English (National): When will he release any of the advice he has been given?

A: I would be happy to meet with the member at any time and take him into my confidence on advice I have received.

Question 2.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement of 23 March, in response to a supplementary question from the Green Party to oral question No. 9, that "This Government was clearly elected on a pledge to stop native logging, and we will carry out that pledge."?

A: With respect to indigenous forests of significant conservation value, yes over time.

Q: Ryall (National): Does the PM share the view of her deputy Dr Cullen that the Green's attitude is like that of Robert Mugabe?

A: That of course is not what Dr Cullen said. The government has moved very quickly to stop the Beech scheme from proceeding.

Q; Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): What will the compensation be for if the Rimu logging is to continue?

A: The money is an adjustment package and relates to loss of opportunity.

Q: Peter Dunne: Is the government breaking its policy?

A: The government has made no such decision. The Labour Party policy said that logging would cease once existing contracts had been finished. Questions remain around some of these contracts and we are considering these.

(Tony Ryall - leave to table a transcript quoting Michael Cullen saying… "yes well I see they support Robert Mugabe as well" - granted.)

Question 3.

GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What progress is being made towards the establishment of a Kiwi bank?

A: NZ Post is preparing a business plan for a Kiwi Bank. The plan is being developed on the basis that there will be no contribution or subsidy from the taxpayer. It will also be required to have lower costs than foreign dominated banks.

Q: Grant Gillon: Why hasn't it been referred to Treasury and the Reserve Bank as suggested by Max Bradford?

A: The government does not need the permission of treasury to pursue its policies. Treasury will get an opportunity to consider the business plan. The Reserve Bank will in due course receive an application for a banking license.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Who will run the risk in the Kiwi Bank?

A: The Business Plan will be scrutinised carefully and no decision to proceed will be made if there is considered to be any risk.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): What is his response to banking expert Dr Tripe?

A: The reality is that he doesn't seem to have considered the economies of scale involved in the existing network of branches which already have their overheads paid for.

Question 4.

KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs:

Q: Is she satisfied with the quality of advice she is currently receiving?

A: Yes I have established a capable group of officials to prepare policy papers on broadcasting.

Q: Can she explain how then she knew nothing of plans to hire an advisor for her?

A: Like Oliver Twist I did ask for more.

Q: What are the priorities for broadcasting?

A: Two high level policy papers are being prepared one on transmission related issues and one on broadcasting policy objectives.

Q: Does she agree with Wille Jackson that nothing has been done so far?

A: I would prefer to talk to Mr Jackson personally about this.

Question 5.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Why did he advise the Governor-General to reject an application for the exercise of the Royal prerogative of mercy on behalf of Paul Dale, Jason Dale and Callum MacLeod?

A: The Court of Appeal on appeal has upheld the conviction. There needs to be new evidence to grant a pardon. The retraction in this case is regarded by both police and the Ministry of Justice as unreliable. When questioned by police the victim said she signed the retraction under duress of being killed if she did not do so. A tape has been provided from a man with a long list of offences it contained no evidence that officials considered compelling in relation to this case.

Question 6.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs:

Q: What progress has been made in implementing Labour's manifesto promise to introduce format specific quotas as soon as possible on radio and free to air television to increase the level of local content?

A: I announced the work programme on 11 April. It includes work on local content quotas.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does she believe that if she has a minder she will be able to deliver?

A: I am perfectly confident in the group of officials being able to develop the policy we require. I will be working with the industry to achieve format specific quotas.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Is the government still committed to mandatory quotas, and is it due to a WTO case on this?

A: We stand by our need for quotas. Our confusion arose because we were offered voluntary quotas. When you need to do more than just sell of TVNZ it takes time to assemble the personnel.

Question 7.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United NZ) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Is it Government policy to ban parallel importing of books and CDs for up to two years after their release; if so, when will it be implemented?

A: Trevor Mallard on behalf: The policy was announced earlier this year. As a result of the policy changes provided the US Embassy has announced that NZ has been taken off the watch list for countries who provide concerns over international trade.

Q: Why is the government pursuing a policy that will force a leading NZ e-commerce company offshore?

A: Quite a lot of e-commerce companies in NZ already have staff overseas and are doing quite well.

Q: How will this support NZ arts and culture?

A: This government wants to protect property and copyright laws to help local artists. We could never compete with the level of joblessness under the last government. But I can ensure the member that the government's initiatives to close the gaps will ensure jobs for Pacific Island peoples.

Question 8.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What consideration did she give to official advice that the Employment Relations Bill is likely to cost jobs and harm the economy?

A: I carefully considered all advice on the bill including that from officials.

Q: Max Bradford (National) Will she listen to advice from the CTU that there are likely to be more strikes as a result of this bill?

A: I will listen to all advice. The advice from the Employers, from officials, unions and especially from the Select Committee once it has been received. Evidence on job losses is not clear cut on this. Some evidence indicates that the Bill might achieve greater productivity.

Question 9.

NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King :

Q: What advice has she received on the competency of the Health Waikato Shared Medical System computer system and how does this reflect on the quality of the decisions made by the board of Health Waikato?

A: I regret to inform the house that Waikato Health has cancelled its contract with SMS at a cost of millions.

Q: When were warnings given and what was the cost?

A: The government was warned in December 1998 when Bill English was warned that the SMS system had less than 50% of what they already had. They were warned by a resigning director, staff and members of the public.

(Bill English asked to withdraw interjections - "tell the truth, tell the truth" - he did so)

I have received advice on board members involved in the decision making. The directors involved have been asked to resign. Margaret Evans signed the SMS deal.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons: What would have the $9 million wasted on this have provided?

(Speaker - that is too wide of the original question.)

Q: Does the minister accept that the Health Waikato Board has performed well financially?

A: The real villains of the peace are the previous government which believed in a hands off approach with allowed for 22 different health IT strategies from 22 different hospitals.

(Annette King: Leave sought to table three letters from people warning of problems with the system.)

Question 10.

Dr The Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: Did he, as reported, raise at yesterday's Cabinet concerns by Government Maori members over privatisation of radio spectrum; if so, what was the outcome?

A: No. I raised issues on how Maori would be involved in spectrum and broadcasting. I did not raise issues of privatisation because the government has no intention of privatising the airwaves.

Q: Does he agree with Trevor Mallard or Willie Jackson on this?

A: While I acknowledge Mr Jackson's viewpoint, Cabinet has considered these issues from a number of viewpoints.

Q: John Tamihere (Labour): How is the minister dealing with issues raised by Maori members?

A: We have had a number of meetings to assist Maori Members with these issues.

Q: How will he ensure benefits accrue to all Maori?

A: We will not allow this to benefit just a few Maori. A number of Maori have put their hand up and we will treat them all equally.

(Later after question 11 leave was granted for Nandor Tanczos to ask another question.)

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Does the government have any intention to give effect to WAI776?

A: The government has a position on the recommendation and has rejected it. But it has taken on board the minority view of the Tribunal that it should protect and market Maori Culture and that is what it is doing.

Question 11.

GEOFF BRAYBROOKE (Labour) to the Minister of Veterans' Affairs Mark Burton:

Q: Why has the Government given a one-off grant of $200,000 to the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans' Association and for what purpose will the grant be used?

A: We have given the grant in fulfilment of our policy. The response was immediate and fulsome. The promise was originally made by Mr Peters. Neither Jim Bolger nor Jenny Shipley fulfilled the promise. I have also received a letter from the Veterans saying very generous things about Helen Clark, NZ First, United, The Greens, Jim Anderton and Geoff Braybrooke. By contrast it describes the National Party's treatment of it as "deeply humiliating".

Q: Winston Peters: Will the Minister confirm that the National Party claimed that the case was weak?

A: In fairness I can't answer the last part of the question. I can confirm it was part of the coalition agreement of the previous government.

Q: Is the government committed to the ongoing support of children of War Veterans?

A: I am expecting the latest research on this to be particularly informative. And if National wants to claim the credit for that research then why did it not

(Documents tabled by the Minister…

Max Bradford - will the Minister also table advice from MFAT and Defence on this issue?

Speaker - that is not a point of order.)

Question 12.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why has she failed to meet her self-imposed deadline of 11 April to announce the appointment of members to the transitional district health boards?

A: We have to pass legislative changes before the boards proper will be formed. We are already making appointments to boards however.

Q: Why have the appointments not been made by 11 April?

A: I was told before I called for nomination lists by the opposition that there would be no interest. We have received over 2000 nominations. We now have a short list of 200 people. We will be appointing people over the next few months. The original Cabinet paper had the 11 April date in it…. Do they want an answer….

Q: Richard Prebble: If she is looking for the best and brightest will she give an assurance the lists will not be taken past the Alliance and Labour caucuses?

A: The appointments will be made by Cabinet.

QUESTION TO MEMBER:

1. From RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Chairman of the Labour Select Committee Graham Kelly:

Q: (Paraphrased) When is the closing date for submissions on the Employment Relations Bill?

A: The closing date for submissions is May 3.

Q: Richard Prebble: Has the Committee received any submissions from the PM on owner-drivers? And will he extend the date to allow owner drivers to address issues raised in a PM's press statement?

(Speaker that question is not in order.)

Q: Max Bradford: Given that he has arranged for Unions to be heard during the day. Will he give an absolute assurance that the Employers Federation will be heard during the day?

A: People who want to make submissions at particular times will have their requests considered by the committee.

(Margaret Wilson - leave for personal explanation - granted

I stated in answer to a question on the Constitutional Conference previously that we had assisted the conference. No financial contribution was made by the government because the offer was not taken up.)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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