Today's Questions concerned the subjects of:. What Shouldn't Jim Say - Export Education - Jim On Business Confidence - Airways - Treasurer On Business Confidence - Gang Intimidation - ERB Independent Appraisal - Maths And Science Standards - Maori Affairs Ministers - Phillida Bunkle's GE Successes - Regional Confidence - Auckland Gridlock - Te Waipareira Inquiry - Shop Trading.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
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.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What advice, consistent with the Coalition Agreement, would she give to New Zealand businesses and international investors so that they can determine whether Mr Anderton is speaking as Deputy Prime Minister Helen Clark of her Government or as Leader of the Alliance?
A: My advice to business and investors is that the government's macro-economic, fiscal and monetary policy position is at all times that stated by the Minister of Finance.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National) What instructions has she given Jim for when she's away?
A: As I said yesterday the former PM had poor experience when she was in government as a coalition. We looked at that and decided to run things differently. If anyone is in denial it is the leader of the opposition who is in denial that she ran a failed government.
Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Has she seen any reports about how the previous coalition was managed?
(John Carter - the government doesn't have responsibility.)
A: Given the crisis of confidence does she consider it is responsible for her to be leaving to attend a policy-fest leaving loose lips Anderton in charge?
(Speaker - personal reflection next question.)
ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: What are the expected outcomes from recently announced export education initiatives?
A: The government is paying $3.2 million a year to support export education. This sector earns around $500 million a year. We expect this to be able to double to $1 billion in four years. We think this area can earn $1.25 billion for the economy in about 4 years. We will get leading edge technology too and community benefits. This policy is a winner.
OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Is he concerned about the latest drop in business confidence; if so, what action is he prepared to take to address this problem?
A: Of course I am concerned. The drop started in early 1999. In the latest survey however the Manfacturing and Agriculture sectors expect to grow. The lower exchange rate will encourage the export sector. Statistics out today show a 12.8% increase in wholesale trade in the three months to March compared to 3.5% in the same quarter last year.
(Richard Prebble - he was asked about the employment relations bill and Laila Harre's views?)
The question goes to the heart of business confidence. 85% of businesses expect their own businesses to perform well. The government will not be setting up pyramid schemes of the kind discussed in that members offices. We won't be doing that.
(Speaker - That answer is not appropriate to this question.
Richard Prebble - the minister first doesn't answer and then makes a personal attack on the member. I think you should call Mr Jennings again.)
Bill English (National): Does the minister agree with the PM that the slump is due to political enemies running a campaign in Auckland?
The opposition should think about those people from Team NZ leaving the country…
(Max Bradford - what has this got to do with anything.
Jim Anderton - there is a concerted campaign of spreading misery and damaging the economy being run by the opposition benches…. Just because they do not like the answers does not mean they shouldn't be given.
Speaker - I think the minister should get to the point.)
It has been a sad sight to me to see members of the opposition gloating at low business confidence. If they feel that bad about NZ then maybe they should leave too, just as others have being doing recently.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): Did a rise in interest rates affect business confidence?
I have no doubt that a rise in interest rates does affect business confidence. But the Reserve Bank controls Monetary Policy and the official policy is that it is going to be allowed to do it independently.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does he agree the sustainable growth rate is 3.5% like the Reserve Bank?
A: I am aware that the Reserve Bank today in evidence to a Select Committee, Murray Sherwin, talked about the economy being on track to grow 4.6% this year and then 2.7% next year. This is not the depression news that the Act and National Party like to hear.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:
Q: What is the total cost to date of all expenditure on the Airways Corporation satellite-based Oceanic Control System and what is the most recent prediction as to when it will become fully operational?
A: I am advised that the total cost was $8.9 million and that it went live in September 1999.
Q: Winston: When the minister says it is fully operational. Is it operational without a back-up system? My information is that it has not been fully operational and has not been commissioned?
A: The member may raise an important issue. There has been a parallel backup system in place since September. I am advised that this will be wound down in the next few weeks. I can confirm that my advice is that airlines did request the system and that there is an estimated saving of $6 million.
Q: Winton: Can he confirm that this system was first agreed to in 1994 and installed in 1996?
A I can confirm it was installed in 1996 and started running in 1999, so there was some delay. I am advised that the system has been fine tuned in that time. I will be happy to arrange a briefing for the member with the corporation if he is interested.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:
Q: What factors does he believe have led to the dramatic loss in business confidence?
A: It is not good to overdue the gloom. The survey results are quite good actually.
Q: Is the fall in confidence confined to NZ?
A: No there has also been a recent slide in small business confidence in Australia too there it is because of GST according to commentators.
Q: Does he take any of the blame for the fall?
A: I will admit to maybe not keeping in touch as much as I should have. But that has changed. I am encouraged that some business leaders I have been talking to say they may have overdone the gloom a bit recently. I expect fruits to emerge from these discussions shortly.
JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: What does the report on alleged witness intimidation in a Gisborne murder case involving members and associates of the Mongrel Mob say?
A: I requested a report on the effectiveness of witness protection legislation in this case. The report concludes that while there are problems the anonymity provisions they had assisted the case go ahead , the report noted that operational problems at the time in Gisborne may have contributed to the problems. The Law Commission has been asked to report on the question of whether the penalty for perverting the course of justice should be increased. I think there is a loophole there.
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: (Gerry Brownlee on behalf) When will the Employment Relations Bill be independently appraised, as affirmed by the Minister of Labour on the Kim Hill programme yesterday, and who will be conducting the appraisal?
A: I am working with officials in the DPMC to appraise the bill.
Q: Is the reason the PM has become de-facto minister of Labour because she doesn't have confidence in Margaret Wilson and Laila Harre?
A: As is well known the PM has an overall responsibility for Government Policy and a source of independent advice in the DPMC. I am seeking advice. There have been lots of expressions of interest in getting things right.
Q: Does she agree with Laila Harre in the Dominion that changes will be minor?
A: I can assure the business community that sufficient change will be made to meet reasonable concerns. The core objectives of the policy are not in doubt.
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: What reports has he received on student achievement in mathematics and science?
A: I have a report on this. Comparing 1998 results with 1994 the findings are cause for concern. There was little discernible difference in performance of year 5 and year 9 students between the two years. In other words we made no progress. The report also found that year 5 and 9 Maori and PI students performed worse in 1998. In other words the gap has widened.
Q: Nick Smith (National): Why did the Minister then cancel national testing a programme that is used in Australia and the US that National introduced?
A: We want regular, week by week, assessment not pencil and paper tests that measure things every few months and mean nothing. This result shows that the measures that member implemented failed. This government is going to make a difference. We want tests which record results week by week.
Q: How are girls performing?
A: I think in the science area girls are now performing better than boys.
Q: Why not reintroduce the TIMS scheme?
A: That scheme worked in a limited way for around 200 Maori. I care more than that.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What did she mean when she said she was "being de facto the Minister of Maori Affairs"?
A: By virtue of my role as chair of the closing the gaps committee, and by virtue of the many meetings I have with Maori, I am a defacto minister of Maori Affairs.
Q: Is part of the confidence problem the fact that she is minister of everything?
A: I am happy to complement with my efforts . I would take Dover Samuels over her show pony Tau Henare any day. It is not acceptable to me that Maori do not enjoy the same socio-economic status as non-Maori.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:
Q: What will she do to ensure that the reported 113 unauthorised genetic research projects are halted pending a proper risk assessment?
A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf): Three days after assuming office I received a letter from Phillida Bunkle on this. We have found all these projects, and they are all being risk analysed. All material has been securely contained.
Q: Do any of the experiments have risks in particular does one involve blowflies that were not properly contained?
A: I have been assured today by the CEO of ERMA that all experiments have been stopped and there is secure containment. If you have other information I think it is important the Ministry hear about it.
Q: Can the minister confirm many of these are extremely minor?
A: I can confirm that of those unauthorised experiments assessed so far there has been no risks found. That said it is also clearly necessary - because of the expansion of science in this area - that ERMA become involved.
Q: Is this a waste of money?
A: The cost of tarnishing NZ's clean green image is immeasurable and infinitely more than the compliance costs. It is government responsibility to ensure that all experiments are authorised and have gone through the right process.
Hon JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What action will he take to restore business confidence in regional New Zealand following the largest monthly drop in business confidence ever recorded by the National Bank's monthly business confidence survey?
A: The government will announce in the budget several policy initiatives. Regional government initiatives that have never been thought of before and which have been put together in just 6 months.
Q: John Luxton (National) : Did he kiss the prince and turn it into a frog?
A: One that came out today showed a 13% rise in trade compared to a 3.5% drop under that member. All indicators show this government is still in growth mode. From one end of NZ to the other this government is present in the communities - the previous government was never seen.
Q: Does he agree with Laila Harre about small changes to the ERB?
A: If the member is so keen on development in the regions why has the opposition voted against our measures to introduce regional development. This government has decided to freeze tariffs for 5 years. This has given protection for a number of industries which would otherwise by under a lot of pressure. Regional NZ can take heart from the fact that they no longer have a government that ignores them but rather a government that listens to their problems.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport :
Q: What is the Government doing to tackle the problems of traffic congestion in Auckland?
A: Congestion in Auckland costs up to $850 million a year and causes environmental harm we are moving fast to help this. Bus lanes, new traffic systems and traffic management are some of the strategies that are being used. What is he doing about the Tranzrail corridor. We believe the parties are making progress we have indicated we will not sit by and allow the matter not to be resolved. The rail corridor must be fully utilised. Parties are meeting and it is essential an agreement be reached soon.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): Will he assist with the Greenway proposal?
A: Transit NZ is assessing all proposals including that one.
Q: Will the PM shortly become the defacto minister of Transport too?
A: We are working to resolve these issues. It would have been great if the last government had done something to deal with gridlock in Auckland.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:
Q: Can he confirm that the committee has an inquiry into the Waipareira Trust and will the inquiry enable the committee to investigate any allegations by Mr Dennis Hansen about the Waipareira Trust?
A: Answered in Maori - laughter -
(Point of Order Mita Ririnui - the references the member used came from my region and it is appropriate that I do the translation.
Speaker - we have someone here employed to do this job and I am going to ask him to do it.)
A: Translation: Because of Mr Prebble's situation being without substance he will be given the answer shortly.
Q: Is the reason the chairman has been telling the media that he will close down the inquiry because he is involved personally in the allegations?
A: I do not want to pre-empt the committee's decision. But it is prudent to suggest that with reports back from the SFO, Police and Others I will be raising the question of whether it is necessary to have an inquiry into whether we have another inquiry.
(Winston Peters - I want a supplementary.)
Q: Winston Peters: Will the chairman answer whether he thinks it is appropriate that investigation be made into Mr Hansen's allegations?
A: To the best of my ability I will repeat what I have said in answer to the first question - via Hansard.
Q: Doug Kidd: Why is the acting chairman ( Willie Jackson the deputy chairman), who gave an assurance to Mr Hansen that he would be heard again, party to a move to seek to abandon the inquiry?
A: In the event that there is substance to any of the allegations, then this matter has been travailed over the last eight weeks in public and in minute detail. The continued prejudice to the trust must be brought to an end.
ANNE TOLLEY (National) to the Chairperson of the Commerce Committee David Cunliffe:
Q: Will the committee be resolving to report back the Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill by the due date of 30 June 2000; if not, why not?
A: This bill has not been under active consideration this term. The committee has yet to consider whether to seek an extension on this matter.
Q: Is it the intention of the committee to progress this bill to help places like Napier?
A: The member is a new member (so Cunliffe - great laughter - Speaker - order ) and should be aware that under the Standing Orders it is inappropriate for the chair to speculate on matters which are yet to come before the committee.