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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - May 17

Today's questions concern: Weak Dollar - The Economy - Petrol Prices - Airways - Maori Spectrum - Asylum Seekers - Maori Spectrum - Sale Of Terralink - TPK Report On Waitara - High Performance Sport - Public Service - Pacific Island People And Spectrum

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 17 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.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:

Q: What impact would persistent weakness in the New Zealand dollar have on New Zealand households and the New Zealand economy generally?

A: It would have differential effects on the tradable sectors and the household sector. The export - tradable - sector is assisted by a lower dollar while the household sector is disadvantaged. The dollar is not in a spin. Yesterday it went down slightly during the day and recovered. It went down further today as a result of the Monetary Policy Statement. The Reserve Bank puts rates up because the economy is growing faster.

Q: Is the Reserve Bank assisted by the comments of Jim Anderton?

A: The RB Governor makes his views on the basis of the future track of the economy. If Mr Anderton's comments have lifted the expected growth track then the rates rise might be seen as a compliment to Mr Anderton's comments.

Q: Is the minister deliberately talking down the dollar?

A: No. Yesterday it dipped slightly and then recovered and that indicates that any effect my comments have is transitory.

Question 2.

Helen Duncan (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any reports on the effects of the Government's legislative programme on the economy; if so, what do they say?

A: I receive lots of reports. An interesting one appeared in the ODT quoting the opposition finance spokesman saying that the sky will not fall on our heads with the passage of the Employment Relations Bill. I do not, unlike my predecessors, accept all my Treasury advice.

Q: Why doesn't he tell us about the Treasury reports on the ERB which say the Bill will widen the gaps between Maori and Pakeha?

A: They would say that wouldn't they. I should point out that when you have worked for a superb organisation with a superb minister then you tend to have an optimistic view on the nature of industrial relations.

Question 3.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What impact will petrol price rises in the last 24 hours have on regional development in New Zealand?

A: I am concerned about the five cent increase in petrol prices yesterday. That is why I have asked officials to monitor prices especially in regions. I notice that prices are increased in bigger steps than they are decreased.

Q: Luxton: As the self-proclaimed Minister for Lower Petrol Prices, will he now resign?

A: As well as controlling the economy I am also controlling international oil companies. I appreciate the accolades. Can I just say that I find that the coincidence of all the companies raising prices by the same amount on the same day a little surprising. They also all seem to have the same regional price variations. These companies must all have the same cost structures otherwise at least one of them would be competing on price.

Q: Rick Barker (Labour): What is he doing about it?

A: I am awaiting on an analysis of the Carter Holt Harvey predatory pricing court decision for its implications for the petrol market and particularly the situation in Tauranga with Gull where petrol appears to be cheaper.

Question 4.

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

Q: When did the Airways Corporation really decide that the Lockheed Martin Skyline air traffic control system is in the best interests for New Zealand?

A: I am advised that the technology partnership was formed with Lockheed on 3 May 2000.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is it not a fact that the Airways executives met on a yacht, a gin palace, during the Americas Cup regatta and it was there that the decision was made?

A: I have no such advice. I understand that a technical review of replacement options was undertaken in March 2000. SOE's are legally obliged to run successful businesses for the benefit of their shareholders. As part of that some SOE's sell their services offshore.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the Minister telling us that on May 3 he did not know what this was about?

A: That is not what I said.

Question 5.

Dr Muriel Newman (ACT) to the Minister of Communications Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does his decision to allocate electromagnetic spectrum to a pan-Maori trust include urban Maori authorities, when the Court of Appeal rejected the concept in October 1999?

A: No.

Q: How does he intend to define Maori for the purpose of distributing benefits and will it differ from the way Maori are defined for electoral purposes?

A: No.

Q: Mita Ririnui (Labour): How will the trust deliver benefits to Maori throughout NZ?

A: I do not want to reinforce the gaps between those who have already received settlements and those who have not. The Pan Maori settlement framework will enable the trust to assist all Maori. I have received a variety of advice form a variety of sources.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Will the Government indemnify the trust against an legal claim relating to the health effects of cellphone radiation?

A: I understand the medical research in that area is varied and I have no plan to do so, no.

Question 6.

Keith Locke (Green) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: How many asylum seekers are currently being held in our prisons, and how long has each one been imprisoned?

A: (Jim Sutton on behalf) Four. 1 for 15 weeks, 1 for five weeks, and two for 1 week.

Q: What exceptional reasons are there for keeping the Algerian asylum seeker in prison for 15 weeks?

A: Most claimants are granted work permits to enable them to work or apply for benefits. The refugee in question came on an admittedly false passport. He claimed refugee status in Australia and was declined. He was sent back to Auckland and claimed refugee status again. He admitted destroying his Algerian passport in Malaysia and paying $5000 for a false Italian Passport. He has an appeal pending following having his application refused.

Question 7.

Hon. Maurice Williamson (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: What is unique about the 2GHz block of the electromagnetic spectrum that it warrants Maori being given special rights of access at a discounted price?

A: Recognising the intense interest and affection the member has with 2Ghz. The block of spectrum allows Maori to enter into an industry in which they are at present un-represented.

Q: What other assets will Maori get discounts on?

A: There are no plans for claims to highways or oxygen that I know of. The trust will be required to enter into a commercial venture. The objects will be to increase Maori participation in the knowledge economy.

Q: Which principle in the Treaty of Waitangi was followed when the government decided there was no valid claim to the spectrum?

A: That issue was debated comprehensively within the government and the decision was made to reject the opinion of the Waitangi Tribunal. I receive many sources of advice. Some I take and some I reject.

Question 8.

Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Pete Hodgson:

Q: Has he received any reports on the sale of Terralink New Zealand Ltd's property services division last year; if so, what do they say?

A: Yes. The information indicates that in February last year the board accepted an offer for a staff buyout and the shareholding minister accepted that decision. While the Minister had limited powers he did have the ability to stop the sale and he chose not to. I am aware of a report that says the decision was within the purview of the board alone, but I understand that the Minister also had the power to stop it and chose not to.

Q: Ian Ewen-Street (Green): Can the minister assure the house that the sale was not fraudulent and if not why not?

A: I can't personally give that assurance. I am aware that the Select Committee has decided to take further action and I will watch that with some interest.

Question 9.

Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: When was he informed, and when did he tell the Prime Minister, that the report she received from his department on the Waitara shooting was incorrect?

A: I received a report this morning that two aspects of the anecdotal evidence of one particular incident in the report were incorrect. I have passed that on to the PM.

Q: Why should the house have any confidence in the reports of TPK?

A: This government does intend to give TPK more power of scrutiny of other departments. As to the remarks of the member he would be better off reading the report and understanding it before he comments on its implications. I have communicated my concerns to the CEO of TPK and he has assured me any further reports will be thoroughly researched. The PM was talking about a history of poor relations between the police and the community in Waitara.

Q: Will TPK be apologising?

A: No. But can I say that there are a number of inquiries currently underway and the member should wait and see what they say. He may find the apology is due from the other end.

Question 10.

John Tamihere (Labour) to the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure Trevor Mallard:

Q: What funding, if any, is in the 2000/2001 baseline for high performance sport?

A: No provision for ongoing funding of high performance sport was made beyond July this year. This government has allocated $16 million to support the network of high performance sport programmes. This funding will increase the number of athletes with support by 150%, and they will have secure funding for four years through to the next Olympics.

Q: What support is being given to Outward Bound?

A: I intend to have the progress of the Hillary Commission in this area looked at carefully. I must say that the commission has become more focussed on traditional sport than on outdoor recreation and we need to look at that.

Question 11.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: How many people employed in the Public Service, including the education sector, are covered by collective employment contracts?

A: As at June last year 65,000.

Q: Will the government allow those workers to enjoy their traditional rights to voluntary unionism.

A: Yes. My understanding of the legislation is that no one will be forced to join a union. This government is committed to working with the public service.

Q: Has the government costed the costs of trade union education stop-work meetings?

A: Yes we have and we consider it a really important investment in a good working environment.

Question 12.

Taito Phillip Field (Labour) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Mark Gosche:

Q: Has he received any recent reports that would concern him as the Minister responsible for Pacific Island Affairs?

A: Yes. The reported comments of Jenny Shipley that Pacific Island people climb in other people's windows are deeply disturbing. Mrs Shipley's refusal to apologise only worsens the matter. In direct contrast to his own leader Mr English said that new voters in the future will be young and brown and that if the government does not get their votes then they will not be re-elected.

Q: Arthur Anae (National): If the government believes that spectrum will close the gaps why was nothing granted to Pacific Island peoples too?

A: Given that that the previous government spent lots on a Pacific Visions conference drawing from the community what they wanted, health, education, housing. Why do the opposition fail to understand that not all brown people are the same? I urge the member to read the report and find a mention of spectrum - there isn't any.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Is this afternoon the first time he has heard of the idea of providing spectrum for Pacific Island people?

A: The patronising attitude of people like that explains why they are over there and we are over here.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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