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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day 11th May

Today's Questions concerned the subjects of:. - Construction Bills - Contractors In The ERB - Disease Imports - Winz -- Native Timber - Health Reforms - Education Funding - Health Tax - Environment Media Training For Marion Hobbs - Airways Allegations - Tranzrail's 5th Fatal Accident- Infrastructure Auckland

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 11 May 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.


Question 1.

Willie Jackson (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Commerce Laila Harre:

Q: What progress has been made in solving problems surrounding security of payment issues in the construction industry?

A: A number of high profile building industry failures has highlighted this issue. Progress has been made with the establishment of a working party to develop solutions. A high level of consensus has developed in a short time at the Working Party and I hope this will lead to an early move to resolution. Inadequate enforcement provisions have a significant impact on contractors and small businesses. Our commitment to this area shows our commitment as a government to small business.

Q: Pansy Wong (National): Can she assure us that her planned changes will not make it more difficult to raise finance and increase compliance costs?

A: The solutions proposed are in line with approaches in the UK and the NSW. It has taken this government to move on this though.

Question 2.

Hon. Max Bradford (Max Bradford) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Having advised Alliance, New Zealand First and Green Party members of Parliament, in relation to contractors, that "No-one will be required to change their employment status unless they want to.", will she support changes to clauses 6 and 154 of the Employment Relations Bill; if not, why not?

A: Rather than taking up more time may I refer the member to earlier answers.

(Max Bradford - that is not a yes or a no.

Speaker - please ask a question Mr Bradford.)

Q: Assuming that is a no. Then how is it that Labour and Alliance select committee members last night that changes would be made to the clause?

A: I have no knowledge of what was said in the Select Committee. I am waiting for the final report back. I am very happy to read the answer I gave last Tuesday if the Minister is not satisfied with that. I am perfectly happy to recommend changes both to Clause 6 and any other clause to clarify the intent. I have also said I am happy to ensure the clause does not override the Sharemilkers and Real Estate Acts.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Can the Minister assure us that there is nothing to stop a union official seeking a status hearing relating to others without their consent?

A: Clause 154 does allow people to take a case to the court. That case can be taken by a union in which case the union would have to identify those affected and contact them.

Q: Can a Union take a case on their own?

A: Yes. But they have to identify and contact those whom their action affects.

Question 3.

Georgina Beyer (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Why is the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry planning to import exotic infectious organisms into New Zealand?

A: To ensure that NZ has the capability to diagnose for these conditions . The alternative is to send samples overseas which can take weeks.

Q: What precautions will be taken.

A: The organisms will be held in a secure laboratory. The laboratory reaches level three and in some respects level four security requirements. It has all sorts of special features.

Q: Why did MAF build a PC3 facility before ERMA had considered the issue?

A: The decision to build it was made in 1997 by the former National Government. The construction meets all legal requirements. The agriculture consultative committee has approved the decision. Detailed risk analysis and cost benefit work will be undertaken before the ERMA application is made and considered and a decision taken.

Q: Can the Minister confirm that building it close to residential housing is foolish?

A: I think it has been built in the best possible place. It is at the centre of the research facility dealing with these issues. These organisms will not affect humans. It is a category 1 building for Earthquakes and weather and that is the highest level.

Question 4.

Dr Muriel Newman (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What influence did the advice he received from the Solicitor-General and the State Services Commission Chief Legal Advisor, within days of becoming Minister responsible for the Department of Work and Income, have on his response to the Hunn report on that department, and therefore on the Chief Executive's management?

A: None.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT) Can the Minister deny that the real reason he will not confront Rankin is because his attacks have opened up the government to a million dollar law suit. And is that is why he is lagging behind. And that is why he is not competent to be the minister?

(Speaker - the Minister may answer part of that question.)

A: The member seems to see conspiracies everywhere. We have been very clear on this side of the house that responsibilities have been set out to the CEO and they have been followed to the letter. Don Hunn's report is a very good report. The Minister of State Services and I will be dealing with the report. I will report on operational issues including….. listed….

Q: Simon Upton (National): Is he saying that the legal advice had no affect and that it is his responsibility alone that the SSC has been put in such an impossible position?

A: If the member listened to Mr Wintringham on the radio he would know the SSC set out his responsibilities very clearly.

Question 5.

Rod Donald (Green) to the Minister responsible for Timberlands West Coast Ltd Pete Hodgson:

Q: Does he agree with the reported statement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's indigenous forestry adviser Alan Tinnelly in this week's Independent that beech is "better for furniture making than rimu"; if so, why should the Government continue rimu logging on public land for the sake of the furniture industry, when there is already 45,000 cubic metres of beech available from sustainably managed private forest?

A: I can confirm the volumes referred to. I do not have a view on the qualities of the timbers. I do know however that Red Beech and Silver Beech are good timbers for furniture and they are in more than adequate supply.

Q: Are fashions changing in the furniture market?

(Speaker - The Minister is not responsible for that.)

Q: Is the Minister aware of the thousands of jobs at risk and the export industry?

A: The government is well aware of the costs of job losses. But they are nowhere near thousands. Claims have been made there are 4000 and that is not tenable. But there is also the possibility that some of these companies can move into Beech. I have met with furniture manufactures and the person referred to (by Peter Dunne). He says his company will need two years to make a move away from Rimu.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): If there are significant alternatives then what is stopping him cancelling the Rimu contracts now?

A: Jobs. If we were to stop Rimu this afternoon say there would be job losses. We have researched this in some depth. When we announce our decision later this month it will be with a view to ensuring that job losses will not occur.

Question 6.

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

Q: Has she received any reports which suggest that the potential for certain of the structural changes to materially reduce transparency and accountability will also have significant downside risks in terms of motivation and resultant performance; if so, what was the Government's response?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf…) I have received lots of reports and as they have been received and considered they have been released.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National) --- long quote from a report -

A: As the former minister may remember no government makes a decision without a range of advice. What is different about this government is that after a decision has been made it releases that advice. This government has learnt a lot since coming in. The $20 million cost of the SMS failure in Waikato is a classic example of how things have been run in the past.

Q: Will the minister confirm that one of the letters released is a letter to Karen Poutasi that says the government only wants advice it will agree with.

A: No.

Question 7.

Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) o the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What reports has he received regarding funding for education initiatives in the 2000/2001 financial year?

A: I am advised that some areas were not funded in the previous budget. The previous government took a radical approach to promises, and a conservative one to funding them. This has caused considerable anxiety and means that we are forced to fill in the gaps before we can look at our election pledges.

Q: Given his praise of the School Support Unit will there be more money for it?

A: The member will find out sometime in the middle of June.

Q: Is he the only one with these problems?

A: I understand from my late night discussions with the Minister of Finance that several other votes have similar problems.

(Speaker - Trevor Mallard's answer to a question from Donna Awatere was not appropriate.)

A: I know a bit about accruals accounting and that member (John Luxton) is showing a bit of ignorance in that area.

Question 8.

Dr Lynda Scott (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why is she floating the idea of a new tax dedicated to fund healthcare, as described in the Marlborough Express on 10 May 2000?

A: (Ruth Dyson..) Why not. The Minister pointed out the benefits and disadvantages of this approach and asked for debate.

Q: Does the Minister believe a health tax is consistent with the commitment to no new taxes?

A: Yes it is absolutely consistent both with the promise and post election delivery. The government has called for public debate and discussion a decision will be made after that discussion. There were articles in several publications on this and at some time in the future a decision will be made.

Q: Will she give a commitment any change will not be made in this term of government?

A: This is not in anyway in consistent with our pre-election commitment. It is clear that no new taxes were discussed in this option. And I would have thought the member would know the difference between creating a dedicated tax and creating a new tax.

Also having a dedicated tax is consistent with a proposal suggested by the previous minister Bill English.

Question 9.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Is it the Government's intention to privatise Airways Corporation, as alluded to on page 17 of the 1998/99 Airways Corporation annual report?

A: No.

Q: Have Airways corporation been pushing for privatisation and is the reason they failed to tender for equipment in a contract awarded to Lockheed Martin because they are locked into an attempt to tender for a large part of British Air-traffic Control? And further that Airways Corp staff stand to make Millions if such a deal goes ahead? In short are a group of people using public money for private profit?

A: The member raises further serious allegations. I would appreciate any documents concerning those that the member can supply. The government's clear policy is to retain and build the value of SOE's for the benefit of All NZers.

Q: Can the Minister confirm that they have settled for a new Air Traffic Control system that has never been tested and that NZers are being used as guinea-pigs for the UK?

A: I am not aware of that. If that is true then I can assure the member I will take action.

Question 10.

Hon. Maurice Williamson (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: Has she received any media training for her Environment portfolio this week?

A: No.

Q: Is that why she is on page 2 of the Dominion sniffing recycled excrement? And has she ever heard of the old adage when you are in it up to your nose - stop sniffing.

A: I am sorry that with so many serious issues out there that question time is being trivialised. I will use any means to get across the important messages relating to waste management.

Question 11.

Tim Barnett (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Is she concerned about the adequacy of occupational safety standards within the railways?

A: I am very concerned that five Tranzrail employees have been killed in the last 7 months. We have announced a review of the health and safety act to fix a problem in this area. At the moment Tranzrail are covered by a lower standard that stipulates safety at a reasonable cost. This is not good enough.

Q: Max Bradford (National) What has she done to progress the small amendment necessary to fix this problem?

A: As I just said the government has announced a review. Now the former Minister has brought it to my attention however I can reveal that the former minister was approached in 1997 and last year to do something about this and he did nothing. I am also convening a Ministerial inquiry into this.

(Max Bradford - the member has deliberately distorted the material.)

Q: Max Bradford (National): Will the Minister table the totality of the correspondence on this issue since 1997 in order to correct the deliberate distortion she has just made?

( Bradford - I withdraw that but I would like the question asked.)

A: I don't have all that with me. The fact remains you did nothing when you had the opportunity.

Question 12.

Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: When she stated, in response to oral question No. 11 yesterday, that any review of Infrastructure Auckland, "will take time", did she mean that she believes it will not occur in the term of this Parliament?

A: No.

Q: Does the Minister now accept that more progress would have been made on the Regional Growth Strategy if she had not spent five months undermining IA?

A: I appreciate the member needs to be told rather often. (Speaker - just answer) As the member knows well there has been lots of strategy because we are prepared to work in partnership with Local Government.

(Sandra Lee - I didn't understand that her answer was beyond the Standing Orders.

Speaker - We are just trying to get a reasonable flow. I will determine when the limit is breached. When a personal reflection is made then that goes too far.)

A: Any review will involve wide consultation and that will take time if it is to be useful. I was not advocating abolishing IA earlier this year. What I was doing was discussing whether it was set up for privatisation by the National Government. To ensure that Auckland's assets are not used to further the interests of the National Party.

(Speaker - order.

Sandra Lee - what was wrong with that.

Speaker - the last sentence went to far that was my judgement)


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