Today’s Questions Concerned: R&D Taxation – Economic Indicators – Independent Contractors and the ERB – Budget Projections And ERB – Home Detention – Victims Package – Rural Hospitals – Northland Mental Health – Export Credit Guarantees – Electricity Inquiry – Fruit Picker Shortage – Working Holiday Visas - Employment Bill Select Committee
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
Notice of Motion: Congratulating David McGee Clerk of the House on being made a Queens Council. Passed with tributes paid former Speaker Doug Kidd. And current speaker Jonathan Hunt (who signed McGee’s appointment.)
See separate item on Ministerial Statement on Solomon Islands.
Solomon Islands Ministerial Dtatement
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: Does the Government have a mandate to make research and development expenditure tax deductible?
A: The policy the Labour Party campaigned on was that we would provide incentives and that is what we will do. Labour’s policy was that we would provide incentives to fund R&D and we will do so, on Thursday. Government investment in R&D is similar to the OECD expenditure average. Private Sector Investment is lower. However the level of reporting may be affected by the tax deductibility of it. The Australian system is extremely complex and is not one we want to replicate. One of the problems with deductibility is that it only impacts on businesses that are making a profit. It doesn’t help smaller, start-up, entrepreneurs.
Q: Can the Minister assure the member that the compliance costs for applying for assistance will be low?
A: I can assure the member they will be lower than the Australian system.
Q: Wasn’t the tax deductibility specifically in the Speech from the Throne?
A: The Speech might like to be looked at closely on this. It is correct to say the original policy reflected a means of implementation which the government has chosen to change.
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What economic indicators have been released in the last week?
A: The National Bank regional survey shows growth accelerating in all areas but the major cities. This shows the recovery is now being led by the export sector. This is good because a domestic recovery is not sustainable at current levels of current account deficits.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): What about the trade statistics and the high level of imports? The April Trade Deficit when normally there is a surplus?
A: Consumption growth is tailing off. The trend-line for exports is substantially ahead of that for imports. This government has no intention of acting against imports in a way that might damage the economy.
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
(Leave sought to postpone question – denied)
Q: Has the Government agreed to leave the law as it currently stands regarding independent contractors in order to carry out her undertaking that no contractor will be forced to change their employment status?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I intend to suggest amendments to make it abundantly clear that no-one will be forced to change?
Q: Will he accept a recommendation from the Select Committee to leave the law alone in this area?
A: No such recommendation has been made. In the government’s view the law as it stands is not sufficiently clear. Courts should be able to look behind the substance of an employment relationship and consider it. I also note that of the 18,000 submissions to the committee 14,000 submissions support it.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Do the Budget projections taken into account the impact of abolishing the Employment Contracts Act, renationalising accident insurance and increasing taxes; if not, why not?
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does the Minister believe doing these things will have a positive or negative affect on growth and jobs?
A: I am very confident that more balanced IR law and ensuring that superannuitants will have slightly higher disposable incomes will improve growth prospects.
TONY STEEL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Did he discuss an extension of the home detention scheme with his Cabinet colleagues before his announcements in the weekend?
A: (Phil Goff on behalf) On behalf of my colleague the Minister of Corrections. I have not discussed this with any of my colleagues and I have not announced any decisions. I have just discussed the future use of home detention. And announced my intention to continue the home detention scheme. I note that it was the honourable Nick Smith (National) who in fact suggested to the Select Committee that home detention may on occasion be considered for serious violent offenders in some cases. To date 275 people have started home detention. 92% are on rehabilitation programmes . 33% are in employment. Seven have returned to prison.
When the last issue came up I said that any member can talk about options that may be considered. Every minister has a responsibility to consider all options put to them. The Minister is considering the same proposals that were previously put to Nick Smith who apparently took them seriously too.
Q: Tony Ryal (National): Was the Holme’s Show wrong when it accused me of writing to the Select Committee not Nick Smith?
A: Yes. But I understand that it would have been approved by you as Minister of Justice.
JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: How will the victims of crime package, announced yesterday, assist victims?
A: This package will make significant improvements to the rights of victims. Victims’ Rights will be mandatory. The package includes funding for education to ensure victims are aware of their rights. It also funds the Department of Courts to provide $6+ million of services to victims. Victims will be in future entitled to be consulted over the final name suppression given to offenders in sexual crimes. Presently there is mandatory name suppression while some victims do not want it to be granted.
Q: Nick Smith (National): Was there another mistake on the Holme’s show concerning restorative justice?
A: I admit to no mistakes on the Holme’s Programme. The work on this was obviously done by the National Government. The work on restorative justice is valuable and I condemn the opposition for now jumping on the band-wagon on this issue. No restorative justice conference takes place under the programme without the victim’s agreement. In the Timaru pilot programme all the victims supported the programme and all the punishments arrived at were approved by the victims. This programme empowers victims.
(Nick Smith – leave to table the Speech to the Throne – refused.)
Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Can she guarantee that the Government will not close rural hospitals?
A: This government has no plans to close any rural hospitals.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Will the Minister then resign if one of several (listed) hospitals closes?
A: These hospitals are in negotiations with the HFA over their funding. Part of the problem in Tuatapere for example is not funding related, it is that the last mid-wife has left the district. We have approved a substantial increase to the rural premium to insure services are provided to rural communities. We do not have a maximum time of travel, but it is considered that there should be a golden hour to services from everywhere and that is, in general, in force around NZ.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does the Minister have reports that go to the core of how many closures there were between 1990 and 1998?
A: This was answered in an answer to a question in 1998 from Jenny Bloxham.
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Has the money allocated for mental health services in Northland in the current financial year been fully spent on mental health services; if not, why not?
A: I have been advised that the HFA has issued all contracts, but that the service deliverers have had problems obtaining sufficient staff. In a recent report to me the MHC showed that a number of HHS’s published a surplus in mental health spending. We do not approve of this and the HFA has been instructed to look at this. NZ will continue to have a significant problem with recruiting and retaining staff in this area. The problem lies in workforce planning.
Q: Will the Minister confirm that the processes of monitoring were implemented under the National Government?
A: Yes. But it was a shame that it took so long for National to get around to doing so, because unfortunately for some time money was not spent where it ought to be. Of course we would be concerned that money would be spent for some other purpose. For many years mental health money went to prop-up elective surgery.
Hon JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:
Q: Does the Government have a mandate to bring in export credit guarantees?
A: Labour campaigned on a proposal to introduce a scheme.
Q: Given the promise and the claim there is a mandate, why has the idea been shelved as stated by the Minister of Trade?
A: There has been no shelving of such a proposal. A paper will be going to cabinet on this shortly – within the very near future.
Q: So the report in the Independent is wrong?
A: I have been often misquoted in the Independent so I would not rely on that one from Mr Sutton either.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:
Q: What are the key findings of the ministerial inquiry into the electricity industry?
A: The inquiry has done an excellent job of running a ruler over the industry. The inquiry has made several recommendations that are imaginative and cognitive of progress made by the industry in recent months. The government will be examining the recommendations over the next six weeks. Should there be a need for legislation we will progress it this calendar year. At this mornings Press Conference David Caygill said that NZers needed to be assured they had a reliable and reasonably priced industry. The inquiry is worth what it cost to find that.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Will it stop spillage of Southern Hydro water when gas assets are being used in the North Island?
A: There are a range of issues in the area of energy efficiency in the report. The specific issue of whether spillage will occur against an unconstrained Cook Straight cable was specifically excluded in the terms of reference given by me.
GERRARD ECKHOFF (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: How many people were registered unemployed in Napier and Hastings in March and April 2000 and why were they not directed to local orchardists who were, according to the chairman of the National Pipfruit Growers Inc, "short of over 1,000 pickers in Hawkes Bay this year"?
A: On the 31st of March 7225 were unemployed on 7 April 7302 were. This was a drop of 3000 over what it was in December. This was due to the filling of 2000 jobs by WINZ and others who took work through friends and relatives.
Q: Why was the work capacity test axed?
A: Because it didn’t work. Unlike the previous administration we appointed a seasonal coordinator to develop a strategy for employment in this industry. We were proactive. 85% of growers said they wanted WINZ help. WINZ had 12 work brokers working with industry. Of the 85% growers contacted they had no shortage of Labour after being contacted by WINZ. Our experience is that NZers given the opportunity and skills will go to work. The “No Hassle” policy has been extraordinarily effective. As far as I am aware workers were paid properly if any information to the contrary is available I would like to be given it.
CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: What recent changes has she made to the working holiday visa scheme?
A: We have doubled the number of visas available. This will allow us to introduce more countries and numbers of placements from countries. There are significant benefits for NZ. A pool of potential migrants, a boon for tourism and a pool of seasonal labour.
Q: What advice has she had on the impact this will have on the labour market?
A: I got the same advice as the previous government. They did nothing. I acted. There is no evidence that there will be Labour market displacement. No research has been done here, but the Australian research on this point did not reveal any substantial labour market affects there.
Q: Arthur Anae (National): Does this include Pacific Island nations? And if not why not?
A: The current scheme includes….. list. We are negotiating with lots of countries… listed. So the answer is no.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Chairperson of the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee Graham Kelly:
Q: Will he suspend the next meeting of the committee until the Government has consulted with the Employers Federation, the Council of Trade Unions and the Alliance over changes to the Employment Relations Bill; if not, why not?
A: No. Because, not only has the meeting been called, but the committee will deal with matters that the committee needs to hear about in this bill, in relation to standing orders.
Q: When will he finish taking his instructions from the Minister of Labour?
A: As I have said many times I will continue to discuss issues raised in the committee with the Minister – according to standard practice. The committee will receive a report from the Department of Labour, also in accordance with standard practice, which we will deliberate on.