Today's questions of the day concerned: Compliance Costs For Employers - Cullen's Skeletons - West Coast Logging And Mugabe - Nuclear Non-proliferation - Lump Sum ACC Compensation - GE Labelling - Cancer Inquiry - Honeywell Prison Contracts - Fingerprinting Children - CYFS Funding - Bee Mites - Early Childhood Education.
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.
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Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Does he still believe that it is part of his "economic development role to take some responsibility for reducing compliance costs"?
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Is there any connection between the increase in unemployment and fears of increased compliance costs?
A: I am concerned about any increase in compliance costs. Given that the previous government found costs too hard to deal with this government will deal with them.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): How does he square the ERB
A: The reality of the ERB is that the costs of employment should be shared fairly. The ECA put costs onto the lowest paid workers.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Will he take on board concerns from employers on increases in compliance costs in the ERB?
A: I have met with a large number of business leaders in recent months and I am addressing these concerns. It is part of my job to reduce costs in the ERB but costs are inevitable in any civilised society. Most businesses are opening too many letters from National and ACT whinging about the results from the last election. National and ACT could reduce compliance costs by stopping sending useless letters.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (Labour) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:
Q: Does he have any concerns about the way in which the Fiscal Responsibility Act 1994 has been implemented?
A: There appear to have been problems in the completeness of reporting in the last three fiscal updates. Costs were not made clear in those updates. The IRD had a baseline cut of $30 million. Police had a cut. CYPS also had cuts.
Q: Bill English (National) Did Treasury Officials break the law or has he read page 91 of the Prefu?
A: Once you get as far as the fine print on page 91 you do find lots of sackings described as a new risk. The total shortfall in the prefu comes to $200 million. There is no mention in the prefu of the risk of lost revenue from IRD from the IRD cuts.
Q: Bill English (National) Can he confirm that the prefu did describe the pressures in the police budget and $600 million for increases in expenditure each year?
A: If the minister is admitting he planned a post-election spendup then I invite him to do so.
Hon. Maurice Williamson (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Does he stand by his statement that, in relation to the West Coast logging contract, "There may be people in this Parliament who believe one should just willy-nilly rush in, close off contracts which have been signed, not honour them, not offer compensation. That is essentially the Robert Mugabe approach to commercial law."; if so, is he prepared to name those people today?
A: I would be tempted to refer back to the Clyde Dam empowering Act. My responsibility as Finance Minister includes maintaining our reputation as an attractive destination for investment. In doing so I need to uphold the rule of law.
Q: Maurice Williamson (National) Is one of the people he was referring to Trevor Mallard on Bulk Funding in Schools who has cancelled more than 800 contracts without compensation?
A: I am informed by the Minister of Education that there has been more than adequate compensation in that respect. The government policy is clear there will be an end to logging on the crown estate the question is when. There may be occasions when for the avoidance of doubt Parliament makes clear that no compensation will be payable.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green) Does the Minister agree the government could cancel the Rimu contracts now?
A: As the member correctly said on radio this morning the package is not a compensatory package and I thank her for making those comments. Where there are existing jobs involved in those contracts the government must move very carefully.
Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control Matt Robson:
Q: What positive contribution did New Zealand make at the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held in New York?
A: The UNSG made it clear when he was here that Nuclear Disarmament talks had stalled . In New York the five Nuclear states were under pressure from 182 non-nuclear countries. In the leadup to the conference the Russian Parliament ratified the CTBT. The spotlight now falls on China and the US to ratify the CTBT. There was a positive response from New Agenda countries to NZ's positions. NZ was approached at the conference and asked to chair the important committee on negotiating nuclear disarmament. I accepted that. 182 countries at the conference are in the majority obviously. The five nuclear states need to adhere to the treaties they have signed. The second thing that has an influence is that the New Agenda grouping is working towards building a majority among the non-nuclear states. The position we have been advancing on a Southern Hemisphere free of Nuclear Weapons is gaining support around the world. Many, many countries are looking at the problems in international law to implement the nuclear free zone. The positions the nuclear powers are likely to pick up are that all of them do not want the national missile defence system the US is pursuing. Secondly the ability to delink the missile defence system is being pursued so China will be able to negotiate on reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles.
Hon. Ken Shirley (ACT) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: Is it his intention to reintroduce lump sum compensation for measurable impairment resulting from all accidents?
A: The government is identifying entitlements. Lump sum compensation is in both Labour and Alliance policies and is being considered. The exact extent of coverage is still being worked on.
Q; What type of claimants may be entitled to lump sum claims?
A: People who have suffered serious permanent loss of faculties will be assessed on the AMA scale. The exact level of sums claimable has not been determined. One of the key considerations in the development of the policy is to ensure that the entitlements will be able to be covered within existing premium ranges.
Q: Will the minister increase entitlements for casual workers?
A: Yes indeed we are looking very carefully at this and will deal with the issue of casual workers.
Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Will the time she gave to the House earlier this year, that labelling of genetically modified food is expected to be "finalised and signed off in May this year", be met; if not, why not?
A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) No. The timetable will not be met and the reasons have been outlined in a briefing to that member, and have not changed.
Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Given this further delay when will labelling be introduced?
A: The government is committed to working with the Australian government on labelling and that has been a contributing factor in the delay. And yes the minister will be meeting with the Australians prior to the 28th of July meeting.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): Could she inform the rest of the members why the timeframe is not being kept to?
A: Certainly. At the request of the Australian government.
Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): At what point will the NZ Government start protecting NZers?
A: No decision has been made to separate our progress from the progress of the Australian government.
(Sue Kedgley - leave sought to table briefing notes from a briefing on this matter - granted.
Roger Sowry - where is the SOP on the Matrimonial Property Bill?
Speaker - that is a debating matter.
Richard Prebble - when leave is given to a member is the member obliged to table the document. Trevor Mallard called out "that's the end of the briefings" when the member moved to table the document. I think members should be able to table documents without being threatened.
Speaker - leave to table is permission to table, whether the member tables is up to the member.
Richard Prebble - when a member asks for leave and it is granted then is it Parliamentary for that member to be threatened by a Minister?
Speaker - my job as speaker is to protect all members. I will protect the right of any member of Parliament to do what leave has been granted to do.)
Anne Tolley (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Will she be taking any action regarding the suppression of the names of the five laboratories involved in the cervical smear inquiry and the geographical source of the cervical smears tested in those laboratories so that the women concerned can contact their general practititioner or specialist to take steps to determine whether they require follow-up treatment or investigation?
A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) No the Minister does not intend to interfere in the considered the decision of the inquiry. But the HFA has been investigating all laboratories and the results of that inquiry will be presented in July.
Q: Given that these results have been known since December is it reasonable that it has taken so long to investigate this?
A: We are not denying critical information to NZ women. If women are concerned they should contact their regular health professional.
Q: Phillida Bunkle (Alliance): When the information was presented to Jenny Shipley what was done?
A: My understanding is that no action at all was taken by the National Government when it was given this information, repeatedly.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Did his answer to written question No. 4665 (2000) represent the total number of contracts awarded to Honeywell Ltd for the installation of security facilities, or development, or upgrading of existing facilities and any other services or advice by Honeywell Ltd during the last five years?
A: I am assured by my department that the answer represents the total number of contracts awarded directly to Honeywell by corrections.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First):Why then were there five other contracts not listed valued at around $11 million.
A: I am not aware of this information.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the minister telling the house that back on March 17th he gave a total sum of $11 million when in fact the total sum paid was close to $22 million.
A: I haven't missed any information that has been given too me. I suggest the member supply the information to me.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the Minister telling the house that he knew nothing about these contracts?
A: Yes I am telling the member that the information I have in front of me is the information I have been provided.
Brian Neeson (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: Do the views of Hon Tariana Turia, as reported in The Press of 2 May, that fingerprinting of children will "pre-criminalise" them, represent Government policy?
A: No. I do agree however with the Minister's view that we should look at socio-economic conditions of youths and I am pleased to say that is what we are doing.
Q: What was the advice given to Minister Turia?
A: We have spoken about the matter on many occasions.
Q: Stephen Franks (ACT): Given a recent finding that 14-16 year olds may be responsible for most burglaries in parts of NZ has he explained this to the Minister?
A: We have had extensive discussions.
Q: Simon Upton (National): Are we to conclude there is a disagreement and that there is a breach of collective cabinet responsibility?
A: The member appears not to be aware that she is not a member of cabinet.
Taito Phillip Field (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What advice, if any, has he received on the level of funding set out in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 1999, prepared by the previous Government, for Child, Youth and Family Services for the coming financial year?
A: I have received advice that the baseline funding for the department was around $30 million less than baseline funding for the previous year when the number of children requiring care was increasing at 12% a year. I am advised that there would be a need for a reduction in 65 in the number of social workers and a reduction in the number of bed nights available for care.
Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Can the Minister tell the house how many additional requests for funding he has taken to cabinet?
A: I have been advocating for this department since the government was sworn in and I advise the member to watch what is in the budget.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): Has the Minister read pages 81, 85 and 107 of the fiscal update where the figure of $25 million of additional funding is listed for CYFS?
A: Yes I have but that does not alter the fact that the Prefu underfunds this service. Be ashamed Mr Sowry.
Hon. David Carter (National) to the Minister for Biosecurity Marion Hobbs:
Q: Has she received any reports on the means of entry to New Zealand of the varroa bee mite?
A: Yes. MAF biosecurity officials have briefed me on this. The most likely means of entry was through the illegal importation of Queen bees. The Bee Mite incursion is probably the most serious breach of biosecurity in the last few years. We are taking this very seriously. Actions speak louder than words. New technology addressing the issue of entry by mail or in luggage has been introduced and the interception rate has risen dramatically.
Q: Ian Ewen-Street (Green): What precautions are now in place to prevent a recurrence?
A: If they were introduced by the same route then they would likely be intercepted.
Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Is there a strategic framework for making funding and policy decisions for early childhood education?
A: When we became a government we searched high and low for a strategic plan for early childhood education. There was none. It was cancelled in 1991. There were four separate associate ministers in charge of this area under the last government. We intend to have a plan soon. Last week I announced we would allocate money to develop a new coherent plan in this area. This work will be done during the first term in government.
Q: Brian Donnelly (NZ First): Can the minister explain how increasing the rates for non Kohanga Reo teachers will help close the gaps?
A: No I can't and I don't know anyone who proposes to. This government is sending the State Sector Act changes to the Select Committee. The National Government took Kindergarten teachers out without consultation. I hope to have a proposal approved on equity funding for early childhood education by this time next year.
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