Today's questions concerned the subjects of: Brain Drain - Fiji Crisis - Current Account Deficit - NZers Caught In Fiji Crisis - Canterbury Business Confidence - Copyright In Schools - Brain Drain - ERB x 2 - Income Related Rents - Matrimonial Property Bill x 2.
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
After passing a motion unanimously condemning the attempted coup in Fiji the house moved to questions.
Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Is he concerned that in April on average 217 New Zealanders left New Zealand permanently every day, and what does this mean in relation to his "job machine"?
A: Unlike the leader of ACT I am not going to run down NZ. This is still the best country in the world to be born and to live. Net migration was actually lower over the period of the government than it was previously under the government supported by that member.
Q: Is he referring to foreigners replacing NZers? And will he confirm that the amount of NZers who left has in fact in creased 350 over what it was in April last year?
A: If we want more NZers to stay in NZ we have to provide jobs in vibrant communities. That means investing in those communities. Mr Prebble said it was inevitable that some of those communities be wiped out and now he has the gall to cry crocodile tears.
Q: Bill English (National): Is he surprised that Arts are getting more money than his new ministry.
A: This government takes a whole approach to economic development. I am completely in support of increased arts spending.
Chris Carter (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What action is he taking in response to the crisis in Fiji?
A: While NZ can't control events in Fiji it can seek to influence them. The High Commission in Fiji has been working unequivocally on this. Last night I secured the agreement of the UN to send an emissary to the UN. The Secretary General of the Commonwealth will tonight also be travelling to Suva - the UN and Commonwealth are acting together - to bring a democratic resolution to this crisis. At this stage the offer of police expertise has been declined by Fijian police. We also believe a military solution to this crisis is not possible for reasons earlier explained by the Prime Minister.
Q: Are there contingency plans in place for the evacuation of NZers?
A: I can assure the member that we do have contingency measures in place. But that would be a huge operation. It would likely we would act in conjunction with Australia. There are planes available but let me stress we do not consider evacuation to be necessary.
Q: Is he considering deploying the Police's STG or the AOS units?
A: The plans do not include deployment of any units to take the compound by force. We have offered to help with negotiation. Our belief is that any attempt to remove the hostage takers would result in casualties because of the SAS style training of the group.
Hon. Bill English (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:
Q: Why did he state that "My sentiment is that the current account deficit will hang over the currency, keeping downward pressure on the dollar.", and how does he reconcile that statement with the Prime Minister's public comments on the value of the New Zealand dollar?
A: My expectation is that because of the Current Account Deficit the dollar will not increase nearly as quickly as it did last time we had high interest rates..
Q: Does he regard the intervention of the PM as assistance he needed?
A: I haven't noticed the PM silent at any stage. The US Dollar has been going up very strongly against all currencies and the dollar is roughly where it was at the time of the election now without the US Dollar component.
Q: It is not my intention to control the excess spending of farmers but if they earn over $60,000 we are happy to thank them for the assistance in helping us fund the arts. Later he quoted Latin in response to a question on the BNZ's Tony Alexander.
Hon. Peter Dunne (United NZ) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What steps is the New Zealand Government taking to register New Zealand citizens and residents presently in Fiji?
A: If NZers do travel there they are encouraged to register with the High Commission.
Q: Is he aware that the High Commission was in fact closed yesterday?
A: The member might be aware that there was a General Strike yesterday. I regret any difficulty that caused to NZers trying to register at that point. We have set up a watch group since 10.30am on Friday and that has been operating 24 hours a day since. I would like to thank those people for their work.
Q: Is the Minister able to give the number of registrations?
A: There are two things that are regrettable. The first is that while the Travel Advisory has been issued travel agents across the country have been giving contrary advice. I would like to warn people that the situation is volatile and changeable. Only around 10% of those there have registered so far. People in the West and the South have not felt affected. I publicly ask people to take the precaution of registering. There is nothing to stop people registering before they go there. The phone no. 494 8375 and people can contact. It may take a while to get through though.
Hon. David Carter (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton :
Q: How much of the regional development fund will go to Canterbury to help turn around that region's largest decline in business confidence since the survey started?
A: Industry NZ will be looking at each project on a case by case basis. It is too early to know what proportion will be spent. I am however surprised at this member's question. He has campaigned against this type of spending.
Q: Is there any correlation between his meeting with Canterbury Business Leaders three months ago and the decline in confidence?
A: The report also said that sales increases were expected by 83% of those surveyed, this is hardly a slump. This Government is committed to $100 million a year as long as it is government. I am concerned however that the National Party would cancel this expenditure.
(Leave sought to table Canterbury Chamber of Commerce confidence survey - granted.)
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Has he received any reports on copyright issues in schools; if so, what steps has he taken to address those issues?
A: I have received a number of reports that not all schools are paying copyright fees for several resources they use. This is not a good look.
Q: Is he aware of any specific instances of misuse of copyrighted material?
A: I understand the Beatles and Joe Cocker song, "She came in through the bathroom window", is being considered for use by the National party as a replacement for "Wild Thing".
Hon. Marie Hasler (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What response has he received to his call since he became Minister for talented New Zealanders who had gone overseas to come back and rebuild the country?
A: I have been described as the Minister for Talented NZers in one report. Lots of talented NZers are coming home. One is someone who has returned from Australia to lure businesses to NZ. This government has a particularly impressive programme for the development of new skills. The annual figure for immigration into NZ shows that less NZers are leaving the country than did under the country during the last three year period. I recently had a meeting with a population expert at Waikato University who says that there is much evidence that more NZers are returning after a short term trip overseas than say they are leaving for short term trips, which indicates the lengths of NZers OE's are getting shorter. The government and Ministry of Economic Development is also looking at sustainable economic development and at giving it some reality in practice.
Q: How many companies have also left?
A: I don't have figures for that.
Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: Has she received any reports about material containing factual inaccuracies about the Employment Relations Bill; if so, what are those inaccuracies?
A: Yes I have received a number of media releases from the Opposition the worst is one on 17 April from Richard Prebble which in just one page makes 12 factual errors I seek leave to table - granted. A further example is a release from Jenny Shipley on May 13th which misleads people over the impact on people with seven day a week employers.
Q: Does she accept that this is happening because the bill is poorly constructed and that it is therefore her fault?
A: According to the opposition one thing is certain everything is my fault. I have said all along that the bill lays down a whole new pathway for Industrial Relations. The Select Committee is doing a good job of looking at the bill and I congratulate them for doing so.
In my release in response to the Mail Drivers I said there is no reason for a group to be concerned at a change to their status. Some issues may require clarification, and if they do end up being recommended by the committee then we will consider those recommendations.
I am concerned about misinformation creating unnecessary anxiety and that is why I am tabling this information today. Once the committee has heard all submissions I have no objection to coming and talking to the committee.
Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: How do the good faith provisions of the Employment Relations Bill apply to unions, and what remedies are available to employees and employers for a breach of good faith by a union?
A: The principle of Good Faith underpins the bill. It is several clauses. A compliance order can be granted under clause 150.
Q: What then does the member plan to do about bikies with baseball bats gaining access to work places?
A: I have no knowledge of the incident but if it did occur it must have taken place under the ECA.
(Max Bradford - leave to table letters to the PM of 10th May - granted)
H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: Has he received any reports that indicate a need for a change of direction in Government housing policy; if so, what do they say?
A: Yes. Apart from community support I have a report quoting Alan Duff. He called the minister responsible for market rents……(Cut off by speaker.) We have made sure we had the money available to reduce rents to income relativity in state houses as contained in our election pledge.
Q: How will the Assessable Assets Income Test in the Second Schedule will work?
A: In terms of assessing income from interest in bank deposits that will be considered part of the income assessed when income is assessed. In the budget there will also be further measures to assist the position in Northland and the East Cape. As a result of the stopping of sales in Northcote there has been an cessation of a drop in the role at the local school. People who receive income related rents will not receive accommodation subsidy. We are not going to force people out of houses if they earn more they will pay a higher rent and it will be up to them whether or not they leave.
Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Will she be seeking to refer Supplementary Order Paper No. 25 relating to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill to a select committee; if not, why not?
A: Yes. I announced so earlier today.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): Why will the Minister only allow submissions for a further two months on this bill?
A: There are three issues raised by the SOP. There is the inclusion of same sex and de-facto relationships and the economic-disparity provisions. All of these have been before the Committee before and it should not require any longer than this. There is general support for the substance of the SOP. But we now want the public to be given an opportunity to express their views. I have no intention of destroying the institution of marriage. I do not think it can be destroyed by the change in language to have no mention of husbands and wives. If Justice is considered ideological then so be it. There are three matters to be considered under the SOP and there is plenty of time for them to be discussed and for more drafting to be done.
Q: Will she appear before this select committee?
A: I will leave that in the hands of the select committee to determine.
Stephen Franks (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: What is her understanding of the purpose of provisions to redress "economic disparity" in proposed amendments to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill?
A: The economic disparity provisions give the ability to allow a 50/50 split. If for example a partner has given up a career to look after the kids and is left with custody it will address that situation.
Q: How will she address the problem of the clean break principle?
A: With clear language and I hope the member will be able to assist in that when the provision is considered by the select committee.
Q: Is it possible for a partner to be awarded both a 50% split, and alimony for an indefinite period?
A: I think that it is inappropriate for me to discuss this while it is before the select committee.
(Speaker - ruling -on the question of a Labour Minister answering on behalf of an Alliance Minister on a question about the the coalition. One approach is to defer questions. This requires leave. Ultimately it is up for the Government to decide who should Act for another minister.
Speaker - application for a debate on the Fiji Crisis rejected.)