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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions concerned the subjects of: Ill Treatment Of Children - Vote IRD - Greens And Mugabe - Foreign Ownership Of Fishing Quota - Anderton On Monetary Policy - Iraq Sanctions - GE Inquiry - Orion Upgrade - Heather Simpson - Plunketline - Margaret Wilson And The Employment Select Committee - Early Childhood Education - Select Committee Submissions.

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 3 May

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.

PENNY WEBSTER (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What action is he taking over evidence of children being ill- treated at the Cottontails Education Centre?

A: I have received a report from ERO showing children are at risk in the centre. Children are being ill-treated at the centre. Observations that children have been intimidated, force fed and inappropriate language has been used. The quality of the education programme is poor. Curriculum provision is inadequate. The Ministry of Education is investigating miss-treatment of children. A provisional license is in place that will expire at the end of the month. I have considered carefully the possibility of encouraging the Ministry to withdraw the license. I have not done that yet because parents representing 75% of the children there have asked me not to. Later this year I will introduce legislation to ensure that early childhood staff are registered and subject to vetting. Minimum standards of training will also be introduced. I am advised that the Wanganui office of the Ministry is involved in consultation with parents at this time.

Question 2.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: What advice has he received on the level of funding for the Inland Revenue Department for the coming financial year?

A: I have received two pieces of advice from the National Party that are contradictory. Annabel Young says the IRD has a funding problem the former Minister of Finance says it hasn't. Mr English was expressing a radical view and Ms Young a conservative one. I can confirm that National was planning to cut $30 million from the baseline for IRD for the coming year. That cut will not proceed.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Will the Minister be holding the IRD to its current funding?

A: No. The present baseline includes cuts. Those cuts will be reversed.

Question 3.

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

Q: How does she explain her denial yesterday that Dr Cullen had linked the Green Party's views on native logging with the policies of Mr Robert Mugabe, with yesterday's One Midday News which records Dr Cullen saying of the Greens "well, I assume they support Mr Robert Mugabe as well"?

A: Quite simply by suggesting that in future Mr Ryall compose his supplementaries more competently.

Q: Noting her comments in the Dominion criticising Dr Cullen and saying that a woman would not have made such remarks, can she explain how she described West Coasters as feral and inbred?

A: Can I refer the member to placards used on the West Coast that say "Bugger Labour" and "Up Helen". We believe that as a responsible government we should be moving to phase out logging in significant crown forests of significant conservation value.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): On reflection does she think she should apologise to West Coasters?

A: No.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Is the PM satisfied that the Minister of Finance correctly presented the Government's view on the sanctity of contract law to West Coast Mayors?

A: I am satisfied that Dr Cullen and Mr Anderton undertook to advocate the continuation of contracts at Cabinet.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Greens): Does the PM stand by her statement of October 15th on the contracts?

A: What needs explaining by Mr Ryall is how he arranged for contracts to be signed as part of a dying government. I also note that Mr Hilliard and Mr Ryall giggled about the contracts some time later.

Q: Damien O'Conner (Labour): Were her remarks related to a few West Coasters who undertook acts of vandalism? Or was she referring to the majority of West Coasters?

A: Obviously my comments were directed at those who poisoned trees and who committed acts of violence towards Dr Cullen and his press secretary and not at the majority of coasters who voted for the Alliance, Labour and Greens.

Q: Nick Smith (National) Will Labour honour the special West Coast pledge card?

A: Obviously what we are examining is the legitimacy of contracts and I would like Mr Ryall to be more frank.

(Nick Smith - leave to table an article quoting the PM saying Coasters are feral - granted.)


Question 4.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Will New Zealand-owned and administered companies be given priority to purchase fish quota held by Te Ika Paewai Ltd and currently being offered for sale, over foreign-owned and administered companies; if not, why not?

A: I am advised that the quota is not being offered for sale. Shares in the company are being offered for sale.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Has the minister received any reports calling for caution as the prospect of Judicial Review of the process is very real?

A: I have sought a range of advice on this issue. In this matter I intend to follow the rule of law and due process. I am satisfied that NZ's national interests will be protected because any sale would be based on a national interest test.

Q: Peter Dunne (United): Does the Minister support delegations made to the OIC on this matter?

A: I am in the process of talking to the Ministry of Fisheries about revoking these delegations.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) When will this be revoked?

A: Very very soon.


Question 5.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: When he made his reported comment that the Reserve Bank would be operating "erratic and destructive monetary policy" that could cost jobs, was he stating Government policy?

A: I would like to thank the member for his question. The precise phrase I used described the erratic and destructive policy of the last government. Mr English should say whether he supports higher interest rates or not.

Q: Bill English (National): How does he reconcile that with coincident comments made by Dr Cullen in Japan that the Government supports the monetary policy framework that saw rates rise?

A: I can't confirm that that is exactly what the minister said. He is suggesting that is not what he said. In this Coalition Government parties are allowed to state their disagreements and advocate their own policies.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does he agree with monetary policy as it has been conducted since his government took office?

A: This government renegotiated the Policy Targets Agreement with the Reserve Bank. The responsibility for that remains with the Reserve Bank and the Reserve Bank will be held responsible for that.


Question 6.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What reports, if any, has he received on the effectiveness of economic sanctions against Iraq?

A: Sanctions were imposed on Iraq to force compliance with disarmament requirements. The sanctions have not worked and have been unevenly enforced. They have been used by Saddam to scape-goat the West. And they sanctions have extracted an enormous cost to the people of Iraq while the elite remain untouched. NZ is bound by the UN Resolution 687 to support sanctions. NZ is working on two fronts. Firstly we are trying to assist humanitarian goods to get through to the people of Iraq. Secondly we have taken a set of initiatives to try to target smart sanctions against the political elite in Iraq. When the UNSG was NZ we had a long discussion on this and he supports

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Can he guarantee that no more NZ Frigates will be sent to the Gulf?

A: There are no plans to send frigates back to the Gulf. Up to 500,000 children under the age of five have died in Iraq due to lack of adequate medical supplies. Two senior UN officials have both resigned this year. Earlier another senior official Dennis Halliday resigned earlier. Smart sanctions would be designed to prevent travel by members of the elite and to freeze assets of the elite.

Question 7.

Dr The Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: When was she informed that the letter from the Prime Minister asking for options other than a Royal Commission of Inquiry be explored was "a mistake" and the request was "in error"?

A: Mid January.

Q: Why then did her office on the 2nd of February advise the media that a less than full inquiry was being actively considered.?

A: The press secretary was merely at that time commenting on what they knew of work in progress.

Q: Were her officials advised in early January that the letter was in error?

A: Yes.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Can the Minister confirm that the same date as that comment was made by the press secretary, that the PM said the Greens should check their facts before making public comments?

A: No I cannot confirm those facts.

Q: Simon Upton (National): How was she advised that the instruction was in error?

A: I became aware there was an error when I saw the early drafts of the paper.

Q: Peter Dunne (United): How was it that the work programme in February was proceeding in error after she knew it was in error for several weeks?

A: Because the government's preference for a Royal Commission was reflected very clearly in the papers being drafted.

(Nick Smith - leave sought to table a document released under the OIA today, a letter from the Ministry of Environment instructing officials to continue work on a lesser inquiry - granted. The PM later took offence at the fact that this letter was dated 2nd January not 2nd February as implied.)

Question 8.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: Can he confirm that the arms manufacturer Raytheon's best and final offer for the new Orion electronics is the $445 million price shown in the briefing papers released by the group Just Defence; if not, what is the correct figure?

A: (Helen Clark on behalf) No I cannot confirm sums being considered in commercial confidence especially when the government has not considered this matter.

Q: Will the government be considering cheaper alternatives?

A: A paper on this matter has yet to come before the government. The government will want a very good explanation for why substantial sums are being asked for.

Q: Has a decision in principle in favour of this project been made?

A: No.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Can the minister confirm that this is contract goes to the heart of our relationship with Australia?

A: I can confirm that the previous government approved this project in principle in 1998, allocated it priority one status but did not fund it.

Question 9.

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

Q: Does she stand by her denial to the House in a reply to supplementary question to oral question No. 8 on 1 March that the Prime Minister's office was involved in the delay in the release of the document The Future Shape of Primary Health Care?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) Yes I do. Cabinet decided that it would approve the final shape of the document. When it was finalised it was released.

Q: How can she explain then how heavily involved Heather Simpson was in the draft (quoted from a document)?

A: I believe it is inappropriate for politicians to use staff members of a Minister in that way. Everything that happened was appropriate. The government was unhappy with the first draft of the document, that was why it was changed.

(Wyatt Creech - leave sought to table documents - refused.)

Question 10.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What benefits does the Government expect from restoring the 24-hour Plunketline service?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) The Ministry is very proud to have reinstated the service. Our research shows the service is very helpful to children - who are not predictable.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Can the minister confirm that the National Government was the first to publicly fund Plunket?

A: I can confirm that National cut the help-line and then after a petition of 60,000 NZers it half-heartedly agreed to partly fund it. In contrast to the protestations of the previous government it only cost an extra $285,000 to fund the service 24 hours a day.

Question 11.

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

Q: Is she willing to appear before the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee to explain and discuss the Employment Relations Bill?

A: I have the utmost confidence in the committee to hear submissions without my help. Opposition members may correspond with me easily and I have no desire to waste the time of the committee.

Q: Max Bradford (National) Can the Minister confirm she is a chicken?

(Speaker - asked for the comment to be withdrawn…
Max Bradford - I withdraw.)

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First): Would she be prepared to address members of the committee on the bill.

A: Yes. I am happy to meet with any member who has good faith on this issue.

Q: Can she confirm this is the first time in Parliament's history that a Minister has refused to appear before a committee?

A: I understand that Ministers have from time to time in the past declined to appear before a committee. That said under standing orders if I am summoned I would be only to happy to appear.

Question 12.

LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What action has the Government taken to close the gaps in early childhood education?

A: Following intense and informed lobbying from the member, from Taito Phillip Field and from Mark Gosche I announced a $3 million cash injection into the Early Childhood Grant scheme. This measure will assist in closing the gaps. Half the money goes to the PI scheme and half to the general scheme.

Q: Winnie Laban: Why is the funding increase needed?

A: For too long MPs have seen early childhood groups meeting in unsuitable accommodation. The groups have their deposits….. (cut off by speaker).

Q: (National) Can the Minister give an assurance there will be no job losses as a result of the announcements he has made on early childhood education employment?

A: I can assure the member that there will be an increase in workers who will be paid properly. We think the grant scheme will assist 20 centres and 250 children immediately. The previous government was prepared to allowed these groups to meet in basements. Without making any budget announcements I think the PI community will be satisfied with how it is funded in the future.

Q: Can the minister confirm that over the last decade there are 1000 new early childhood centres?

A: No. I can confirm however that

(Michael Cullen - leave sought for the Leader of the opposition to ask a question.

Speaker - no you can't do that - today we had 63 supplementary questions, an all time record.)

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Question 1.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Chairperson of the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee :

Q: Has the committee resolved, in a public session, to ask Treasury to appear before, or to present a submission to, the committee on the economic impact of the Employment Relations Bill?

A: No.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Can the member confirm a resolution has been put before the committee….

(Speaker - members are prohibited from referring to closed proceedings.)

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Can he tell the house if Govt members have been asked to oppose a motion to call the Minister before the committee?

(Speaker - the chairman is not responsible for that in his capacity as chairman.

Gerry Brownlee (National) - could the Speaker please explain what the chairman's role is? It concerns me that the chairman has a greater obligation to his party than to the committee and the house.

Speaker - No that is not the case.)

Question to Labour Minister Margaret Wilson granted by leave:

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): In considering whether to appear before the committee did she consider seeking advice from the former Minister of Defence Max Bradford who refused to come before the Defence Committee, then tried to give evidence in secret and then gave evidence that was of no use?

A: No it hadn't occurred to me to seek advice from Mr Bradford on this but I may do so now.

Question 2.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee:

Q: When do submissions close on the Education Amendment Bill?

A: Monday May 8th 2000.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Noting submissions were only advertised just before ANZAC day would the time for submissions be extended?

A: I can't pre-empt decisions of the committee but this is on the agenda for the committee tomorrow.


SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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